Well, in the last week I’ve spent about five days driving.
There’s not a whole lot that can be said for that much highway.
But we’ve made it from Melbourne to Canberra to our childhood home in the Blue Mountains, and then back in the same direction.
The long haul through country New South Wales and Victoria is like a churn through Australian colonial folklore. We lunched in Chiltern, a town all too willing to cash in on its proximity to Ironbark, and we found no trace of any barber around. Chiltern is also incidentally one of the few words that has managed to stump me in Articulate.
We took the Road to Gundagai, and found a very quiet small town winding down on a Sunday afternoon, with hills surrounding that reminded me of the monstrous Sentinel Hill in H.P. Lovecraft’s The Dunwich Horror. It wasn’t so worrying, in truth, as Tarcutta, which touts itself as the true centre point between Sydney and Melbourne despite the popular myth being that Canberra was built in such a place, and I have to say the real median has a slow buildup of dereliction that evokes an inland Innsmouth. The place feels haunted for all the traffic it sees, though it stands on the false grounds of a mythic capital that never was.
There’s also about five turnoffs for Wagga Wagga, spread over maybe a hundred kilometers, which is a bit strange. Gives the feeling your going in a big circle.
My insomnia got worse across these myriad towns, though we stayed in familiar places with friends and family. Part of that must have been the strange exhaustion of driving that leaves your mind burned out but your body unable to rest.
There’s Glenrowan too. They have a monochrome image of Ned Kelly in his famous armour on the road sign. We didn’t stop.
Imaginary readers, I wouldn’t usually post something as aggressively referential as this, though I don’t imagine my analysis is anything particularly special.
The point is that this road is a terrifying object, to my mind. You move along it, and you and hammered with the scale of this place when you see just how much colonist culture is crammed into a thin stretch not far off the Eastern seaboard, what a tiny part of this country has provided so many of our stories and how much of our discourse.
There was more than once that I pondered just how much trouble we’d be in, how far we were from help, if the car were to break down along that road. I can cover ten kilometers in an hour at a run. For how many hours, I do not know. You ask yourself if that would be enough. You find yourself asking these questions, or maybe you don’t. Maybe that’s just me.
The land is huge and it is hungry and so many of its stories fail to reach our ears.
Strange how much can be said of a stretch of highway.