‘Never eat soggy weet-bix’ was a common phrase used to teach Australian children, at least in my generation, the order of North, East, South and West.
Almost 5 Years ago in mid April 2007 I drove solo from Penrith – a city located at the foot of the stunning Blue Mountains and 60km inland from Sydney, on Australia’s east coast – to Fremantle – an eclectic city south west of Perth, 3960km from Penrith and the primary port for Australia’s west coast, Western Australia. I was running away from the place I called home for 23 years in search of a fresh start. A change. An escape! The ‘plan’ (a fitting word given what would soon take place) was to stay 10 months and take a break from my architecture studies, which I would have returned to at the beginning of the following year, if I wasn’t still on Australia’s best coast, its west, almost 4 years later.
My fleeing – or my ‘flight’ (my leap in the hope I would grow wings on the way down) as one of my best friends once described it – from east to south to west quickly turned into my life’s biggest adventure and a story of, as cliche as it may sound, self discovery. I escaped only to find myself.
The moment I reversed out of my drive-way, as I watched my father wave goodbye from the front door step, I felt relief. Knowing my new life was at the other end was scary to say the least, but a scary I wanted and was completely looking forward to. I simply turned on the radio (triple J when reception was available) and drove. I felt so free and I really don’t think the drive would have been as spectacular, arresting, engaging… this is me with my thesaurus open attempting to find a suitable word and having no luck. Put simply it would not have been something worth creating a blog about, on the eve of the sequel to my one man odyssey, if I had someone with me. At least at that point in my life anyway.
I was forced to take it all in. It felt like a coming of age thing. Like going walkabout I assume? I fell in love with Australia. I saw the sunset over the Flinders Ranges and tried to skip stones off the Great Australian Bight – obviously impossible, but as a guy who played baseball for the best part of his life and had just spent 2 days driving solo towards the world’s most isolated city, Perth… what else do you do when you see loose rocks, a wide open space and an ocean who’s next stop is Antarctica? – I saw colours change and blend. I saw the road alter from what I always saw a road to be – bitumen basically – into something else. It slowly became like a boardwalk in a rainforest guiding me through my surroundings. In places (South Australia’s Flinders Ranges) it felt like I was in a car advertisement being filmed and this commercial like TV smile, I had no control over, would just overwhelm me. I saw Australia’s longest stretch of straight road – the world infamous 146.6km Nullarbor (Eyre Highway) and the venue for my self portrait shown above – disappear into the horizon. I did 3960km in 4.5 days and I would have done it over again the next day if I hadn’t just reached my destination, a place in which my heart would very quickly settle itself for good. A place I would, and still do, call home.
Only hours into my expedition, given my passion for photography and the new found love for my surroundings, I decided to film for 30 seconds from the same perspective every 50km, with my little point and shoot Canon digital camera, along with taking still photos – the perspective equaled window down, averaging 110km/hr with camera in hand as I rested it on the top of the drivers side mirror and pointed it forward so as to capture the roads centre fade around the next corner. The road – my boardwalk – was my constant, unchanging companion in an environment of continual change. The Australian road was the unanticipated star of the show and had no option but to be ‘centre stage’. The plan (again a fitting word) was to join all of these 30 second clips together and use some sort of editing software, something I had no clue about, to play it at 10 times the speed creating a short film capturing my ‘flight’ west in fast forward. Sadly after much effort the short film never eventuated, but its title was ready, eager and awaiting its completion.
EAT SOGGY WEET-BIX
It seemed perfectly suiting being a self confessed weet-bix kid, combined with the teaching methods mentioned above and the route taken – east to south to west – to receive the honour of representing such a life altering journey.
Eat Soggy Weet-bix, my blog – whilst paying homage to the original – is your door step into the sequel expedition, its events, experiences and photography, with the Australian road returning as its star. Although, now 5 years on, the term ‘pilgrimage’ – a journey to somewhere special, holy or sacred – may be better suited as the sequel is not about my escape, but my return home.
This time… home – my holy place – is in the wind-screen, not the review mirror.