Here’s the deal: Scott and I can rent a six-sleeper, near-pristine camper van for five dollars a day, and get paid for filling it with gas, so long as we deliver it from Sydney to Cannes in six days (1,743 miles—yeah, we aren’t switching to the more sensible metric system!), so that a rich family there can rent it for heaps of money. So that’s what we’re doing.
At the rental business, Scott and I chatted with an attractive, wisecracking older lady named Lynne. She would be the one to approve us to deliver the camper van, which is the only way we can afford to drive up the coast. She had us watch a video about the van’s maintenance, which could have been shortened to: “If [blank] isn’t working, just call the number on your keys and we’ll help you out, mate.” Scott and I grew on her quickly. “You aren’t typical of most Americans,” she said, “because you are thin.” We all just laughed and we talked about how fat Americans are, and how we appreciate how all portions are automatically smaller in Australia. “Yes, and.” Lynne asked us if we would mind taking some boxes of personal belongings and office supplies to an associate who just moved from Sydney to Cannes. Following improv’s life lessons, we agreed, and we were given a free GPS (which quickly proved to be absolutely, totally, utterly necessary) and some folding chairs, which haven’t gotten any use yet.
We have the outline of a plan: go from Sydney to Byron Bay, Byron Bay to 1770 (which is the actual name of an actual town), 1770 to Jubilee Pocket, and Jubilee Pocket to Cairns. From there we’ll rent another camper van by the same method, and deliver it to Alice Springs, which is in the middle of the country, which means it is in the middle of the desert.
While laughing uncontrollably due to joy and the idea of fulfilling his life purpose, Scott drove the monster of a vehicle through the busy Sydney streets, where the city most resembles a sky-scraping metropolis. Scott said that he felt like everything he’s learned and experienced in his life has been leading him up to this adventure, where two twenty-three year olds drive someone else’s property through unfamiliar territory in order to just see what the opposite side of the world has to offer. He is Santiago hooking the marlin in The Old Man and The Sea. And I’m glad he feels this way, because I’m a novice adventurer; Manolin, Santiago’s apprentice and friend.
Leaving the city was somewhat stressful, but we made it over Harbor Bridge, and out of Sydney alive, to enter what I guess is called the bush. It’s kind of like a lazy forest, vaguely desert-like with thin trees and lots of shrubbery. The landscape eventually evolved into shores near rivers (which looked, actually, just like parts of Missouri), and then back into the bush, and repeat. There are signs everywhere to watch out for various creatures that might cross the road. Kangaroo is most prominent. But we also saw deer, koala, and “aged pedestrians” crossing.
After I MacGyvered a device for us to listen to music (my computer, sitting in the bed above the front seats, powered a set of external speakers, which I hung from the curtains next to the driver and passenger seat’s shoulders, and was plugged into my iPod, which was close at hand, because our computer speakers are quiet, and Australian radio sucks as badly as American radio), and we had listened to tunes for a few hours, Scott and I decided it was dinner time. We had skipped lunch, so it was around 4:15 pm. The nearest place to stop and eat was the creepy town of Coolongolook, New Wales. We found a restaurant called “The Salty Dog,” which was a divey-looking seafood restaurant, and chained off cars from parking there. We parked near a vacant playground (just adding to the creepiness) and stepped over the chain. A woman and her children surprised us there, and told us The Salty Dog was supposed to open at 4:00. We said we’d come back, because we wanted to eat a place that looked like murder. We explored an underpass, which was covered in murals of varying qualities of art. It was mostly painted to look like an Australian jungle, but there were also poorly painted interpretations of American cartoon characters, a demon riding a skateboard, and also Limp Bizkit. The Salty Dog still wasn’t open, so we ate at a restaurant attached to a gas station, which only sold pies. And I mean meat pies, because that is what a pie is here: full of cooked animal. Kind of like a home made Hot Pocket, minus the inherent diarrhea. Scott and I ate crocodile pie, wild boar pie, and kangaroo pie. Kangaroo was the best of the three.
After almost ten hours of driving, which Scott did on his own, because homeboy just loves to drive a camper van, we reached the ocean and Byron Bay. It had already been dark for several hours when we arrived in Byron Bay. We spotted a light house and tried to camp there, because there’s nothing not awesome about that, and so our house on wheels awkwardly swerved up a narrow street, only to find that the lighthouse was blocked off. We were disappointed and only then realized how tired we were, so we found a street to park on, and slept there. Day one complete.