So Fraser and I started hitchiking north today. Destination Surfers’ Paradise (not sure if it actually has the apostrophe, but it makes me feel better).
We left Sydney kind of late. Partly this can blamed on our (but perhaps I am unfairly maligning Fraser here) normal slowness to get started. Partly we can also blame our por judgement in deciding to stay our last night in Sydney at the house where they were having a party to celebrate winning the Australian National Ultimate Champs.
In either case, it was not until well after the breakky hour that we got on to the train (the wrong train, as it turned out – we had to switch) and not until around 2 o’clock that we emerged onto the highway near a place called Waitara.
It wasn’t the best place in the world to get a ride from. There was not much room on the side of the road for cars to stop. But there was a lot of traffic heading north and it was not terribly long before we got picked up by a guy heading to Gosford (which is not far, but it was better than standing still).
So, with our packs in the back of his refrigerated meat truck, we had our first hitch-hiking conversation. It was quite a complicated story. Fraser was going to visit his brother and his partner (not Fraser’s partner – his brother’s. English is so inexact on personal pronouns) in Surfers’. I was heading for Russia as the first stage on a world tour, but just going to Surfers’ on the way.
Our ride was a nice bloke – a meat distributor who commuted every day fron Gosford to Sydney. He finished work around 3pm (so he was always home to meet his kids from school, which was nice).
He told us about a truck that had overturned on a bridge. I was not real exact on where it had happened (people just seemed to mention place names and assume that you knew where they were).. But it was somewhere in New South Wales, and the truck had dumped 140,000 bottles of beer into the river under the bridge.
A lot of them were broken (as you can imagine), but apparently lots were not. And the beer company could not sell then now. So enterprising Australians were diving down under the bridge to grab themselves a few coldies. I could have saved a lot of money in Australia if I had taken my own beer supply with me.
The next ride was an old guy going to some tiny town just down the way. He ‘wouldn’t have been allowed to pick us up if his wife had been in the car’ – quite apart from the fact that he would never have been able to fit us in, since most of the back seat (indeed, most of the car) was taken up with a ladder. I was pushed up against the side of the right back door, my life being gradually squeezed from me by the aluminium frame beside me. Fraser had his knees around his ears trying to cram his legs in the tiny space in front of the front seat. You can cope with quite a lot when you are getting the ride for free.
And there we are on the side of the road again. Second ride of the afternoon (remember that we are under two hours from Sydney, so ride quantity does not equal ride quality). But we get another one pretty fast anyway. This guy offers us a job. He organises workers for wineries (doing pruning and picking), and so he’s saying “why don’t you come and work for me for a month”.
It was kinda refreshing to think that I could take it if I felt like it (since I had nothing that much else to do). But I figured I was going to Russia, not to the Hunter Valley. And I had only been unemployed for a few short weeks. So I politely declined.
Then we score a dream ride. Glenn takes us from the turnoff to Cessnock (around 2 hours north of Sydney) all the way to Port Macquarie (which was exactly where we want to go), dropping us off at the hostel where I am sitting writing this.
More amazing, he is picking us up again tomorrow morning to give us a lift to Coff’s Harbour. That is more than just a little bit handy. He talks at the speed of light. It is quite difficult sometimes to understand him. Fraser and I have to take turns sitting in the front seat talking to him. He has travelled the world. He snowboards a lot. He has had extraordinary health problems. Complex. Detailed.
Day 1 of hitching in Aussie went very well, me thinks. It ends with a swim in the hostel pool, some cheap eats at the local pizza place, and some sleep.
And just think, if we hadn’t started our hitch-hiking late, we might still have been waiting on the side of the road for Glenn.