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Travel Stories






A Fine Day Out

“It could have been much worse, you know darling.” I said with nervous optimism. I glanced across at my partner. She was in her deafening silent phase, the middle stage of her anger where she patiently tested the strength of my nerves. Mine didn’t measure up. I bleated out excuses that I knew could do little but aggravate this studied, professional rage.

We had been a third of the way along the scenic route from Mittagong to Wombeyan Caves (New South Wales, Australia) when I’d noticed the petrol gauge tilting perilously towards the E.

“Well we’re not going back now!” snapped Licia. “There’s not half enough room to turn round in!”

The road lunged into suicidal bends. The landscape plunged down a sheer face of rock into a deep valley on the passenger side. “If we crash with an oncoming car, you’ll have to remember not to swerve.” said Licia. She picked up the Explore Australia and began reading from it in a sarcastic tone: “The Wombeyan Caves… can be reached from a well-surfaced but narrow road…” Narrow was an understatement. There were signs posted at regular intervals along the road requesting that drivers sound their horns when approaching blind corners. This required me to beep for just about every corner. It made for pleasant driving. The roadside guards between the abyss and us provided little assurance. Where present, they were full of gaping holes, probably made by previous hapless souls crazy enough to use this road.

The all too frequent beeping and alarming roadside vista were causing Licia to have a stress attack. To relieve the beeping and visually induced tension, she would intermittently screech as would a Cockatoo in the middle of a mating ritual. These spontaneous outbursts enhanced the pleasure of our relaxing drive down the scenic road from hell.

The route was only 40 km long; however, environmental factors stretched the length of this ‘pleasurable’ journey considerably. It wasn’t all bad however. The valleys were beautiful and probably worth the trauma both Licia and I were going through. The Tarlo River was an incredible sight to see as we descended into a valley. In different circumstances it would have been nice to explore the area.

We finally did make it to the caves (well almost), but decided not to stop due to the limited amount of fuel we had left. It was getting late and I was worried we might run out of petrol before reaching civilisation. We drove on to a small town called Tarago with the fuel light shining bright and orange.

By now it was late Saturday afternoon and I really didn’t think I had enough fuel to make it to Goulburn. We spotted two small petrol stations, but were disappointed to find them closed for the day. I was getting near desperation by this stage. After being unsettled by the earlier scenic route, I wasn’t in an emotionally sound state to deal with the car running out of petrol. We stopped at a small second hand store that was still open to ask if there were any other petrol stations. Thankfully there was one that was still open. It was a little odd however. We more or less drove into the backyard of a house to fuel up. It was, I guess, a private petrol station, something all of us would like in our backyard.

It was an eventful day. Thankfully we didn’t drive over the side of a cliff, or run out of petrol, or get lost. Next time we journey to the Wombeyan Caves I think we’ll be taking the non-scenic safe road and maybe we’ll even get to have a look around.

By F.V.

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