Part of the fun (challenge) was returning home after completing an inland walk along the Derwent River. Elsewhere in this blog, I have talked about the difficulty of accessing public transport away from the Greater Hobart Area.
On a few occasions, I emerged onto the Lyell Highway and with no public bus scheduled to pass, I stuck out my thumb and hitchhiked a ride back to Hobart. As in most countries, hitchhiking can be a dangerous choice but in all cases I was fortunate.
I felt the most fragile on one ride because the young and inexperienced international driver who was used to driving on the other side of the road, was driving either at or over Tasmania’s speed limit. With her perfect blond hair swinging, and her fine hands resting loosely on the steering wheel, she seemed unable to understand the limitations of our Central Highlands highway. Our road signs indicate cars can travel at a maximum of 100 km per hour on the Lyell Highway, but this does not mean it is always safe to do so. Despite being a highway, this two-lane road is narrow and does not always carry white line markings to indicate where the road meets the loose gravel or vegetated verge. In addition, this winding road requires drivers to reduce their speed to navigate corners safely. I made, what I thought were casually expressed, comments such as ‘I suppose you wouldn’t be familiar with narrow winding highways and how this makes a difference to your driving’, and ‘I know this road reasonably well and think the patch coming up will need to be taken a bit slower to avoid entering traffic if any’, and other similar comments. It made no difference and, if anything, the car whizzed along even faster. I tightened my seat belt. Closer to home she told me she planned to deviate and take a slightly longer route to Hobart. I knew the deviation was a narrow gravel road in parts and I believed skidding along such byways was highly possible with her driving style. Her decision gave me an opening to get out and say good bye without hurt feelings. I was most relieved when I stood back on terra firma and waved farewell.
On another occasion, after standing in the one spot for one and a half hours and watching traffic stream past, a very old beaten-up ute driven by an even older man pulled up. He had seen me there an hour or so earlier when he travelled west. Now he was returning home to the next town 8 kms away. Would I be happy if he dropped me there? Absolutely.
At the worst, I knew I could set up my tent in the camping ground or book into the hotel overnight then catch a bus home the next day. But life treated me better than that. A cup of tea in a civilised café was my first priority. I sat outside at a garden table in the warm afternoon sun, with a large pot of tea feeling like I had won the lottery. At the next table two men were eating a late lunch. They noticed my backpack and struck up a conversation. One was a walker who was in training for some serious trail walking in Europe where he planned to travel later last year. So we had interests in common and our chatter was convivial. Without knowing what sort of vehicle they were travelling in, I asked if I could get a lift back to Hobart. Yes they said ‘if you don’t mind travelling in a truck’. Visions of smelly cattle or sheep trucks with generations of human flotsam and jetsam distributed through the cabin came to mind. But I was smelly I supposed having not showered for a day or two, and they were travelling my way. I nodded, ‘Fine. Thanks.’
‘That’s it over there’. They pointed. A shiny state of the art new truck gleamed on the other side of the road. It took my breath away. Inside, it was clearly so new that the original plastic sheeting covers were still across all seats and everything was protected. Never in my life have I experienced a vehicle in pristine condition, and with all attempts by its occupants to keep it this way. Once we were on the road, Kevin and Adrian explained. That morning they had made a sales presentation to a local government agency hoping to inspire them to buy one or more of these state-of-the-art trucks. I have always wondered what the outcome was for their negotiations. I thought it was a superb vehicle not the least because the airconditioning could be controlled. But what do I know?
This was a Webster truck. I can no longer recall which brand and – at the risk of being the stereotypical female – I do recall it was gleaming white. Is that a help?
All of these people and more, have helped me to return home safely. I am grateful. Thank you.