I am not used to being a passenger. The fact that i am peeling flakes of sunburned skin off my left arm is testament to that. What am i doing on this side of a vehicle? Being a passenger makes me kind of nervous. Especially when the road trip is a thousand k's. I don't know what to do with my hands. There should be a dummy steering wheel for passengers like me. A pacifier. Instead of this stupid glovebox. Who wears gloves when they're riding in a truck anyway?
The only sensible use for a glovebox is to store the porno mints. These mints are so hardcore they have a XXX rating. Bob always has some in the cab of his truck, and since i always eat most of them, i stock up with a few packs before we clear town. We have been on the road for about an hour. You sure you're not tired? i ask. I will ask him this same question roughly once an hour for the next three days. But always the same grin, and always "No I'm fine." I suck another mint pacifier.
For the past few days, whenever anyone has asked Safari Bob what he is up to, he has jerked his thumb at me and said, "Getting this bloke sorted out and up to the Tropics." And so far he's done a good job of it. We drive through an ancient landscape populated by zamias and Carnaby's cockatoos. I've always thought the landscape round here was pretty special. I've driven along Cockleshell Gully road a few times, and the flat rolling green hills always looked strange and miraculous to me. As it turns out, the Kwongan Heath region around Badgingarra contains more diodiversity than a rainforest! Untouched by glaciers, it sat above sea level for 200 million years without any of those annoying mountains popping up to interfere with the relict terrestrial species. Like Prickly Moses (acacia pulchella). I see the ancient cycads standing on the hill as we race by Coomooloo. A two-metre zamia takes two thousand years to grow. Those things were around when Jesus was a lad, i say to Safari Bob. Jesus, says Safari Bob. You tired? I ask. He looks at me and grins. Nah, I'm fine.
We pull into the mining town of Eneabba to look for gas for the camping stove. There are two old women at the servo shop, who fall silent as i enter. One holds a cup of tea in an enamelled mug. The blue jiggly bit of the teabag hangs over the side of the mug by its thread. The other has no tea, but is sporting a pursed mouth that looks very much like an anus, its thin deep lines drawn in tightly to a puckered centre. They simply stand and stare at me. Am i still wearing the Andy Warhol wig, i wonder? I check. No; i'm not. Hello, i say. The women continue to stare. The puckered mouth of the woman behind the till makes her appear slightly mollified and disapproving. Can you fill a Primus bottle? i ask.
They stare. Finally the woman behind the till barks, "You've got to go to Leeman for that. You would have been better coming up on the Leeman road. They've got gas at Leeman. You should have come up that road." Oh, right-o, i say. I think we can make back it down to Leeman. What time do they shut? "Eight!" anus-face shouts. I thank them very much and turn to leave.
"That's what i say to them," anus-face is saying to the tea lady as i go out the screen door. "I say, you should have come up the Leeman road. We don't have gas here ... "
Lake Indoon is on the Leeman road, so we pull in to check the gas bottles, and look out across the freshwater lake. Miraculously, one of the gas bottles actually contains gas. It's blowing a gale, so we tie tarps up around the gazebo like an Arabian tent, break out the Heineken, and crank up the free gas BBQ. We throw our swags down right down in the gazebo, hang the gas lantern from its roof, and make ourselves at home. We cook up a feed and Safari Bob produces, from nowhere, a ukelele. New Year's Eve is tomorrow and the road trip has begun in a salubrious fashion.
But we will spend New Year on the road. Literally. Midnight on the eve of 007 will find Safari Bob and i lying in the middle of the still-warm North West Coastal Highway under the nearly full moon drinking Glenmorangie Scotch Whisky handcrafted by the sixteen men of Tain and home-made scotch whiskey handcrafted by the famous John of Bindi Bindi. We will sleep it off on the banks of the Murchison River, and i will attempt to wash away a year of sin with an early morning swim.
Safari Bob will further enhance his growing reputation as an Artist with photographs like these, and of the devastating rollover at the top of this post. You really must visit his photo page. But in the meantime, we will suffer the extremes of ukelele exhaustion in the heat of the salt lakes, the indignities of getting bogged and being forced to dig the truck out of a sand trap in Kalbarri using planks of wood and about twenty metres of heavy chain while all around us thousands of teenagers go crazy on alcohol and drugs, run the gauntlet of the traffic police, and endure the perils of Knobby Head.