Cap II – People on the road

I woke up early and freezing, spent half an hour in a boiling shower and stark packing when my neighbours asked me if I wanted any fruit and veggies.

“We’re going back to South Australia, can’t bring them there”
“Sorry mate, I’m leaving as well, for the same your direction!”

2 minutes later I received many apologies, as there was no room for me in the car, and a sorted ride to Mildura. That’s how I met Emil, an old, white bearded man. He helped me packing and, while asking me the same questions I would have asked to any European if I was Australian. “Does Europe feel like a whole nation? What do you think about the refugee problem?”, and so we stepped in a really animated conversation. He leaves me on a lonely road that leads to the Highway direction Adelaide, taking a picture of my backpack and telling me how sorry he feels but not being able to drive me to Alice Springs.

An old, big, bearded bloke drives me to the highway with his 4×4, where I had to wait a long while for a ride.
A truck stops and there’s David, a middle-age man full of stories and funny jokes, who also saved the life of a fellow truck driver by bringing him away from his vehicle on fire, but never got the recognition for that. He keeps me entertained for hours, hiding me and some fruits from the police at the border between Victoria and South Australia, but after Renmark our paths separate.

He leaves me on a junction, in the middle of the quietest nowhere. I could be staying here for hours or days, with nothing but dry trees around me, I think. Famous last words. Litterally 5 minutes later, I’m in a car with Eric, 20 years old mine worker, who will drive me to Port Augusta.
Driving for 4 hours, we pass through deserted areas, with dry bushes and red ground, cultivated fields with yellow flowers and bright green grass, vineyards, smoth hills and desert, desert and desert again.

Finally, I arrive in Port Augusta. There’s an Outback centre, I have a look at the road to Alice and I realize that hitchhiking there would be too dangerous for me. With any hope left, I ask if there was a bus or train going there and, surprise, 15 minutes later I finally got a not too expensive bus ticket to Alice. Relieved, I just have to enjoy what Port Augusta has to offer me.

Around 5 pm I go to Hotel Flinders, a really old style pub full of builders and constructor workers. It’s Steak night tonight. While reading my Tiziano Terzani book, four men sit at my table, with their orange jumpers. They’re Dutch, lovely people, and we keep on saying jokes, involving also the Aussies around us.
The cider helps and, at the end of the night I am tipsy and full of new stories to tell. The last hour at the pub I meet David, Samoan American guy, who invites me to visit him in Samoa. Next destination, maybe?

It’s 22.55, the red Greyhound bus is waiting at the post office and I find my seat surrounded by Aboriginal people going back to the Outback.
I’m excited.

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