Week 38: Driving Around Australia in My Van

Friday 21st September 2018

Reading time 5 minutes 29 seconds

Remember where you are. This is Thunderdome. Death is listening, and will take the first man that screams.” – Aunty Entity

Before Brexit there was Y2K. Like billions of others I survived the ‘Millennium Armageddon’ so I decided to drive around Australia in celebration. 

As a child I was a seasoned ‘caravaner’ so like a tortoise was ok with driving and living in the same thing, and I did the logical thing and bought a camper van. 

I wasn’t alone for the trip and my companions consisted of my new girlfriend, an old pal who was like the sister I never had, and my sister. We had a Lonely planet guide, a road map of Australia (that when unfolded was bigger than the van) and a huge sense of adventure which was almost as big as the map. 

One day, whilst driving through the desert, we passed an advertising billboard that announced “The Meteor Crater” was close by. In Australia this is all relative given it’s quite a sizeable place but someone* shouted, “Let’s go there”. We did just that and arrived 2 Hours later at another sign. This one stated we were “close” and it was “suggested” that you need a four wheel drive from this moment on. The same someone said we had four wheels and could drive so on we went.

This section of the journey was “off road” and thanks to my Sony PlayStation I’d had experience of this fun type of driving before. However, there weren’t any PS One games simulating driving a camper van through sand and the enjoyment abruptly ended when I slowed down the van sunk and we became well and truly stuck. We were stranded in the middle of a desert which our Australian friends affectionally “The Bush.” I’m still not sure why as there were only a few bushes. The sand was also “affectionally” known as Red Dust.

Was this how we died? The Wills family and their pals found weeks later dead from dehydration. They’d make a movie of our final days and it would be like Capricorn One or possibly The Inbetweeners 2.

We called a van meeting and discussed our options and assessed our available skill sets; 

Hairdresser. IT guy. Office administrator. Office administrator with a degree and who had completed basic training in the armed forces. 

Only one of us had skills that’d be of use, unless we ended up surviving here for years in which case we’d all have great haircuts and up to date admin. 

Army girl stated that the number one trick of survival was to stay with your vehicle. Everyone agreed that this was a good strategy, so we sat and waited for salvation but in reality, death. After ten boring minutes of not being saved, and talking about whether we should drink each other’s urine, we decided that we didn’t want to die here and that we should go find help. Given it was a 50+ mile walk to any hope of salvation two needed to go and two had to stay. 

We eventually agreed that my girlfriend and my sister should go. I’m unsure how we reached this decision, but I think myself and army girl decided what was best as we clearly had much to offer the world and there were enough hairdressers and sisters. They seemed expendable and if they didn’t make it I’d probably find another bunch of people to love. 

We bid them goodbye, for what might be the last time, and off they went minus the sun lotion which I had to hang onto seeing as I’m a partial ginger. My girlfriend was fairer skinned than me but I’m sure she’d be OK.

A while later (it was actually 40 seconds but seemed like forever) we noticed a dust cloud moving towards our location. Ride of The Valkyries by Wagner was playing somewhere in my head. Our intrepid explorers had returned and were standing beside us. They hadn’t even tried to out run whatever it was.  
The tension mounted as the cloud approached. 

As it neared the heat waves made it seem like a metal beast. It was like a scene from Mad Max and when it finally stopped we were looking at an industrial JCB type vehicle. The tyres on it were bigger than the VW Camper.

A man stepped down. 

When I say Man, I mean MAN as he was unshaven and rugged, and he oozed masculinity. He bowled over to our pitiful group removed his cowboy hat which revealed a bandana. Us girls all giggled a little bit and I may have played with my hair in a coquettish manner. I pointed to our van and became the child from the AA advert “it’s in the sand!”

Our testosterone fuelled observant saviour announced we were stuck and that he’d help us. My sister, who has more manners than I, offered him water but he refused explaining that he didn’t drink while the sun was up. It was Crocodile Dundee, the vampire version. 

Like his good self his industrial machine had two huge arms. They extended from either side of the vehicle and cleaned the track of loose red dust. He then dragged our van to safety (in my memory he did it with his teeth but in reality, he probably used his manly bare hands.) 

He enquired where we going as we were in the middle of nowhere and there was nothing for hundreds of miles. His observation skills were fading. Maybe he needed that drink.  
We told him about “The Crater” but had now decided to head back to the main road as it’s too dangerous. 

He snorted. 

The roads were clear up to “The Crater” as that was his mornings task. He said he would clear the road for our journey back but it would take a while, so we may as well go and see “The Crater” as we’ve a few hours until the sand returns. He then climbed into his monster of a machine and rode off like a true hero into the sun.

We had another van meet. 

At the top of the agenda the girlfriend and my sibling highlighted their mild annoyance that we had sent them off to their premature deaths but they were good sports about it and haven’t mentioned it much since. 

Second item we agreed that we should drive to “The Crater”. 

This turned out to be the biggest disappointment of any trip ever as it’s just a big dent in the desert that’s filled with a lot of sand. 

We pilled back into the van. I wasn’t going to sink again so this time drove at high speed to the highway. We had survived and were not going to have an Indie movie made about our lives, and deaths, and would go on to hairdress, work in IT and whatever the other two did. 

While writing this story I spoke to my old travelling companions and we all laughed while telling each other our version of the tale. “The Crater” may have been rubbish but the story it became has entertained many a person on more than one occasion. I was also informed that I was that *Someone

Picture: Me surround by Red Dust in the “Bush”