Look at a map. Australia is big. Now look at an orange-peel style map (less pretty, more accurate) and take another look.
Australia is big.
In Australia, road trips historically result in drinking your friend’s urine, and possibly using their mummified corpse as a shade cloth. This might be why road trips in Austalia are epic and life threatening rather than fodder for a hilarious comedy (with the exception of Priscilla Queen of the Desert and Bran Nue Day). But I digress.
Because even Bear Grylls describes urine as “not my favourite”, MY road trip was from Canberra to Sydney, on a very nice, very safe, very well-travelled road with beautiful scenery all the way (and no desert). The journey only takes three or four hours (depending on which part of Sydney you want), and there’s plenty to see along the way:
1. The amazing disappearing lake.
Lake George is only thirty kilometres from Canberra (sometimes I drive there and back, because there’s a pretty lookout and it’s nice to get out of the city without having to go far). Every so often, it disappears. Completely. I’ve driven past it many times when the water was right up against the Federal Highway. But for the last eight years, it’s looked like this:
For several years now, it’s been used to graze sheep. More recently it’s been populated by three zebras in an effort to encourage drivers to “Stop, Revive, Survive”. A part of me suspects that drivers who didn’t stop and rest would see zebras, get distracted, drive off the embankment into the dead lake, and end their lives with a curious zebra looking at them. But what a way to go, right?
We didn’t see the zebras, but we saw something even more impressive: water. The far corner had a genuine body of water – perhaps a kilometre long. The rest of the basin looked like this:
At various times it’s contained fish, bombs (seriously! Don’t you just love military testing?) and corpses (although it’s only 1-7 metres deep at the best of times, it’s a killer). It’s also very salty. Rumours abound that it’s secretly linked to Lake Titikaka in South America, but that is clearly just an excuse to say “titikaka” with impunity. It’s possible that it is actually linked to Yass River, but who cares about that? The original name for it is Wirriwa, meaning “bad water”.
2. The amazing disappearing sculpture.
In November last year, CJ dropped me off at the small town of Collector to meet some writers. It was one of the most terrifying nights of my life. Dust shrouded the moon and stars, and the town appeared deserted. There are no streetlights. The only light spilled from the door of the skeleton- and spider-filled pub (called the Bushranger pub due to a historical gun battle – the kind with unquiet ghosts). We drove along the rough road through the centre of town, and just as we passed the pub faces sprang out of the pool of darkness on the other side of the road. Faces that weren’t quite human.
We’d stumbled across one of the most fantastic and endangered sculptures in the world: Dreamer’s Gate.
It is twenty-four metres long and seven metres high (that’s 120 feet by 35 feet).
It is endangered because the artist is not an engineer (and also not a lawyer or diplomat). The sculpture is literally rubbish – made from scrap materials and chicken wire and concrete. It’s also not stable, and may fall at any time (possibly onto the neighbour’s house – I spoke to a neighbour, and she is Not Happy). The town has begun legal action against the artist – so visit it now, before the dream falls or is destroyed.
3. The amazing moving sheep.
Yep, it’s a giant sheep. It used to be closer to the road, and now it’s in Goulburn. I’m unclear on the reason why they moved it, but I do know it was quite a day. You can go inside and look out through its eyes.
4. The unforgotten soldiers.
Each rest stops along the way is named for someone awarded the Victoria Cross. So stop at one, stretch your legs, and remember someone who sacrificed so much.
5. The amazing unforgettable city.
I hear Sydney has, like, some stuff in it.
Play along at home: Drive from Canberra to Sydney. Or just read Bill Bryson’s “Down Under”. It’s hilarious.
Tomorrow: Make a New Year’s resolution in another month.
Thursday: Three-Ingedient Thursday.
Friday: The godparents (hi guys!)