As Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, has clearly proven, no great Australian road trip would be complete without car trouble. While we weren’t in the outback, and I’m afraid I’m neither a drag queen nor predisposed to break into random song and dance, I now know what it feels like to be stuck in the middle of nowhere.
The Megalong Valley (it is quite large, so the megas not even an overstatement) is a beautiful and remote valley full of not much, located a few hours west of Sydney. Other than some tearooms and horse farms, you get miles and miles of rolling hills, mountainous cliffs, and greenery. This makes it a prime location for wildlife spotting, if you can get past the brambles in the bush which automatically dig themselves into your shoe, pants leg, or exposed skin the minute you step foot outside of your car.
Kangaroos and wallabies, apparently not put off by these brambles, consider this a very desirable spot to make their home. Of course, with my luck, I only managed to see one kangaroo the whole day. However, he was very tall, I’d say at least 6 feet, and watched our car approach with a mix of disdain and suspicion. I’m pretty sure he wanted to attack, but instead watched us intently; ears perked up, and then hopped away, as they tend to do. Other than him, the only other wildlife I encountered was a snail, who (I’m not even kidding), turned upside down and died after I had been watching him crawl around for a few minutes.
Perhaps I should’ve taken the dead snail as an omen of things to come. However I did not, and we continued our merry day of barbequing in the sunshine, wallaby spotting, and de-brambling ourselves.
Leaving early afternoon, with the intention of making it to an early evening rugby match (spoiler alert: didn’t happen), we set off back to civilization, first on the dirt track road then back to pavement. After pulling over at a particularly scenic spot for photos, I noticed an unusual smell one does not want near a car- that of burning.
(Note- eons ago, taking a Greyhound from NYC to DC, we got about as far as the NJ turnpike before the coach starting smoking and literally caught fire, resulting in a several hour wait on the side of the freeway. Maybe I deserve it for (a) riding a Greyhound or (b) being in NJ, but I therefore consider myself a veteran when it comes to smoke and automobiles)
Closer examination revealed some smoke, along with the burning smell, coming from the rear tires. As Max then noted the location the car was squarely on a large field of bush and tall grasses. That was now smoking.
OH MY GOD IVE STARTED A BUSH FIRE!!!! The Australians have massive problems with forest fires, with most rural areas having their own bush fire brigade. Starting a bush fire is surely a deportable offense. Customs will find out. This could even affect US/Australian relations.
However, my panic was too soon and it didn’t come to this. The car was quickly moved, the international relations fiasco was narrowly avoided, and the equivalent of the AAA was able to sort out some minor brake-pad type issue fairly quickly.
I should also mention the car had the courtesy to break down within walking distance of the only café/pit stop in the area, so we weren’t in any great danger. All in all, the day turned out alright (except for the snail).