I went on a little road trip yesterday to the Gippsland area to have dinner with a friend. I got lost. Instead of going right, left, straight, right, left and straight during the daylight to get onto the longest and best-signposted road in our country, I ended up two hours later in the dark on a corrugated cattle track in the pouring rain.
I switched back 20km to the nearest town I could remember and I ended up at the Bayles Fauna Park. Do not ask. My dinner companion was getting hungry and had a reasonable idea of where I was and sent me a revised set of directions. I couldn’t find the road in the pouring rain and by then my sense of direction had deteriorated from generally poor to completely freaked out.
I drove further down the main street looking for signage to no avail and happened upon a small house with about 40 cars out the front, all lights on and several dudes sitting on rocking chairs on the porch (it was about eight degrees outside but they seemed content). I didn’t care if they were axe murderers, radical cultists or were going to remove a kidney and put it on ice with the beer as long as they could help me get the hell out of fauna park country. I did a U-turn into the side street and leaped out of the car at a gang of young folk on the way to the party carting slabs of beer. They looked at me with a friendly but wary lack of recognition that perhaps I was going to crash the party or steal their booze, until I wailed that I really, really, really wanted to know the *easiest* way to the M1 to head east that didn’t involve the dirt roads I had already been on or going via the fauna park. They perked up and told me to go the way I came and then head in the opposite direction counter-intuitive to where I wanted to be. I was stuck between wanting to believe them but not knowing if they were honest or pulling my leg. I obeyed their instructions and got onto the freeway in less than 15 minutes, and I really, really hope they had a grand party.
Worse shit happened on the way home. I got on the freeway and sat on the 110 km/h limit and suddenly I was driving in the pitch blackness because the electrical system in my car failed. Only today has it hit home how damn scary it was with no moon, no street lighting, no vehicle lights while fanging down a road in a car I needed to stop and get off the road while effectively blindfolded. Thankfully (?) the next catastrophic failure was power to the engine and the car slowed itself while I tried to find the white line to the left to veer onto the verge.
After some bumps and slides and a near miss on the slippery grass I stopped. And breathed again. And then panicked about how the hell to get out of this mess because I was about 100 km from home and the car wouldn’t start. And, oh yes, I hadn’t seen signage or cross roads for ages and didn’t know where I was. I called my car insurance company that includes roadside assistance and the phone wouldn’t answer. I called the general number which gave a generic message about calling during business hours. I had a little cry and then phoned a nightowl friend for sane advice, who suggested joining the RACV — apparently you can join for a higher price during a crisis.
At 2.30am on the pitch black side of a road somewhere near a little place called Robin Hood (no shit), a baby-faced young RACV angel paid heed to my hazy directions and found me, poked the car with a few pointy things and installed a new battery to power the car home until what looked like an alternator prone to psychotic episodes of battery draining could be checked. I handed over my plastic card for more than $300, but at that stage I’d have happily handed over the kidney not taken by the young partygoers earlier.
I’ve never been so glad to get home. Half a forest fell out of my jeans when I went to the toilet, and I remembered that I slid down an embankment to wee while I was waiting and scratched my hands on blackberries getting back out again. I’m not going out for a while: the excitement and price are too high.