My bank had given me a scare earlier in the week when they froze my credit card. They froze it after I tried to book the Great Ocean Road tour because they thought it looked like a suspicious transaction. This didn’t make sense to me, since I had told them I’d be travelling around the world until the end of April. What made it more annoying, though, was that this wasn’t the first time they’d done this.
My first thought when my card was declined was that perhaps I’d miscalculated my budget, and my card was actually maxed out. If that was the case, I was going to have to pack it in early and head home. I cancelled my car rental and looked at the cost of a flight from Melbourne to Toronto.
Thankfully, before booking anything, I Skyped my sister, had her call my bank, and put them on speaker phone so I could speak with them. Again, this was not the first time I’d done this. This was when I found out that they’d frozen my card. I reminded them that I was travelling, and they immediately unfroze my card. You’d think they’d have this sort of information on file.
Now I had to re-book a rental car. Of course, the prices had gone up significantly. This was irritating.
I also read that parking in Sydney is exorbitantly high. Natalia had even told me that I could expect to pay $50-60 per night. Forget that. My solution: Hitchhike to Sydney and rent a car on my way to Byron Bay.
I researched the best way to hitchhike from Melbourne to Sydney using Hitchwiki and did as the site told me; Trevor and I took a train up to a northern suburb called Craigieburn and started our journey from there. The site said it’d be easy to catch a ride onto the Hume Highway from Craigieburn.
Trevor and I got to the intersection the site mentioned, and struck the classic hitchhiker pose: sexy bare leg stretched out, and the thumb extended.
Within the first two hours, only one jeep pulled over–and he could only take us as far as the next exit.
We finally got a ride from a guy who was on his way to a meeting or something work-related. Like most people who pick up hitchhikers, he’d hailed his share of rides in his youth. Now he’s married, has a couple kids, and runs a couple of successful businesses. Those adventurous days are behind him, but he remembers them fondly.
He drove us for about twenty minutes and dropped us off at a gas station. He suggested this would give us an opportunity to ask drivers for a ride as they slowly pulled out back onto the highway. Unfortunately, there wasn’t much traffic flowing out this station. I started doubting whether or not Sydney was a realistic goal.
Then, as always, the Strumbellas knew just what to say:
“We don’t know the roads that we’re heading down
But we all know that we’re lost and we’ll find a way
We don’t know, if we leave, when we’ll make it home
But we all know if there’s hope it’ll be okay”
It’s one of my favourite songs off their latest album. There’s a reason I like to listen to them when I travel.
With some newfound positive thinking in mind, Trevor and I walked just past the onramp that led back onto the highway, and hoped for the best.
About twenty minutes later, a truck pulled over. A middle-aged mechanic/fixer-upper-guy pulled over and let us in. He’d also hitchhiked when he was younger. He had a full head of long and curly gray hair, and a beard to match.
The man was of a dying generation that built everything with its bare hands. We talked about that generational shift during most of our fifteen minute ride. The extent of my handyman skills is IKEA furniture. That’s all I’ve got. If I ever need to fix or build anything, I only need one tool to fix it, no matter what the problem is: My phone. That way, I can call somebody to fix it for me.
The guy dropped us off on the side of the highway and continued on his way. The sky looked like it was ready to drop a heavy rain at any second, and the spot where he’d dropped us off didn’t look too promising. Sure, there was room for somebody to pull over, but they’d be driving at top speed when they did it. I much prefer being on an onramp, because when they’re going so fast, they don’t have much time to decide whether or not to pick you up.
Enter Lynette and her beautiful Mini.
Lynette wasn’t supposed to be driving down our way for work, but she did.
Lynette is in her early 50’s, though she could honestly pull off early 30s. The woman’s got some wicked genes. Or more likely, I think what keeps her looking so young is the fact that Lynette is overflowing with nothing but love and positivity. That’s probably why we hit it off so well. The two hours that Trevor and I spent with her just flew by.
She eventually dropped us off at this apparently famous pub called Ettamogah Pub. It’s apparently taken from an Australian comic that appeared in the defunct Australasian Post magazine. There are a couple around Australia.
Before leaving, Lynette offered that if we couldn’t land a ride to Sydney, that we could just call her and she’d come pick us up and give us a place to sleep for the night.
I was too late for lunch and too early for dinner at Ettamogah, so I settled for a slice of cake.
The server made me feel bad about missing Bagan while in Myanmar. She had just been there with her father, who happened to step in while we were talking. The pictures really did look beautiful. Maybe next time, Myanmar.
After cake and a beer (don’t judge me), we headed back to the highway.
Trevor and I were on the highway for about fifteen minutes before Patrick drove by. I was confused at first, though. A car driving in the opposite direction waved frantically to get my attention. Then he pointed down the road ahead of me. I looked, and sure enough, a good 30-40 yards ahead of me, there was a bald guy walking in my direction. I picked up the bags and hurried towards him.
Patrick is originally from New Zealand. He’s a loving family man. He was actually heading back to his family in Brisbane when he drove past me, and he figured he could use the company to keep him awake, in case all the energy drinks didn’t do the trick.
Patrick and I got along great. Our conversation led us down many winding roads. By the time we arrived in the suburb near Sydney where my Air BnB for the night was located, we had become good friends. I made a mental note to message him later and ask if Trevor and I could stay with him for our last two nights in Australia.
Y’know, Doctor Seuss talked about the places you’ll go, but he never talked about the people you’ll meet along the way. Somebody needs to get on that.