Tuesday, February 17, 2009


I want to give everyone another Aussie geography lesson, this time on a place that is close to my heart, and old gold rush town of Cue in Western Australia. Cue used to be host to a very excellent arts festival, at which I had one of the most cherished times of my life, which is why I want you to know about it.

If there is one thing we learn in life is that it is not always about where you are going, but how you get there. So hop into the SUV with Susan and Clara, two of the grandest Irish imports one can travel with.

Cue is supposedly a 6 to 8 hour drive outside of Perth along the Great Northern Highway… unless of course, you take the wrong road when in a town called Wubin the highway suddenly forks into two unmarked options.

Option A, is on more of direct continuation with the road you are currently on and is beautifully paved, also like the road you are currently travelling on.

Option B jets off at a slightly awkward curve, and is more “rough” in appearance, as if to suggest a local thoroughfare and not a major northern highway.

One road takes you to your destination of Cue, the other road takes you to a town were hordes of 8 year olds mob your car while their parents are drinking in the pub.

Which one do you choose?

Option A, right?

So merrily we roll along Option A... for hours. It is starting to get dark, and we don’t seem anywhere near where we should be after driving for that amount of driving time.

What is that? You say, “Weren’t there any signs?” Well yes, but they all look like this:

Each regional town or shire is given an alpha code, the number below it is how many kilometers until you reach that town. Never having been out of the city, no one in the car knew which alpha codes belonged to which town.

Despite that fact that we are looking at the road map (thinking we are still travelling the Great Northern Highway) and comparing the town names on the map with those on the kilometer markers, and wondering to each other “Why didn’t they give the towns an abbreviation that matches the letters in the actual name?”

Running low on fuel, we finally reach a town that has a small grocery /craft /fish and chip /gift shop, a pub, and BP petrol station servo)… all open and bustling. Famished we decide to eat first and get fuel on the way out.

It was in this “restaurant” that we discovered the reason why the alpha codes did not match the towns on the map was because we were way off course… actually we were headed in the opposite direction.

Fortunately, the town we were in is the beginning of another road which will put us in the right direction without having to track-back. The downside was there are no towns or homes or any sign of civilization anywhere on this road, so we need to fuel up before heading off.

Only, on the way out of town, the previously bustling servo is now closed and locked up tight. No amount of desperate knocking brought it back to life.

Just as we were contemplating spending the night in the town, a large group of 8 year old kids appeared and started to harass anything that crossed their path. When the police pulled up, the kids swarmed the paddy wagon and started to rock it back to forth to tip it over.

Why is a bunch of 8 years old running around town after dark? Because all of the parents are getting plastered in the pub… on a Tuesday.

Deciding that we may actually have enough petrol to make it to the next town (which is an undetermined distance away and may or may not even have a petrol station) we head down the dark, and lonely road.

Of course as most of you may know, or should know, it is highly dangerous to drive on an outback road at night. Kangaroos, road trains and the sheer darkness can be deadly… plus, there is a bottle of wine in the back and it was calling our names.

We found the nearest clearway off the side of the road, pitched our tent and swag by the gleam of the headlights, made a small fire and popped the cork off the bottle of wine.

If you have never seen the night sky from the Australian outback, you are missing out on seeing the universe… literally. The middle of the Milky Way passes over this area of Western Australia.

Gazing into the galaxy while sitting on the red dirt makes one feel connected to universe and earth. In that euphoric moment there are no questions of why or how, only instinctive contentment and belonging.

"This ecstasy was disturbed when there is some ruffling in the bushes. In the pitch dark of the outback, this can only be one of two things… a crazy murderous mad man or a crazy murderous mad woman..."

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