Wednesday, 20 April 2016

Drive to Nowhere

Monday, 6th April 2016 - 1am.

You see it on Tumblr all the time. People saying they wish they could just get in a car, take their friends, and drive. How they want to just start driving at night and see where they end up.

Well, my best friend and I actually did it.

We were bored. It was very late and we were wide awake, FaceTiming another one of my closest friends, Aoife, who lives in Canada. After roughly an hour talking to her, we decided to go for a drive. We didn't know where we were going, and we didn't really plan it. Chelsea, my best friend, had no suggestions, so I suggested getting on the Great Eastern Highway and seeing where we ended up. In hindsight, we probably didn't think this through, but it led to a surprisingly memorable night.

For a tiny bit of context, the Great Eastern Highway is a 591 kilometre long highway that runs from Victoria Park in Perth's central region, to Kalgoorlie-Boulder, a large mining town at the center of the goldfields. It's a long, largely remote, and sometimes treacherous highway that offers visits to unique country towns in the Wheatbelt, and amazing views of the landscape out in the areas where you feel like you're the only person left on Earth.

So we left. The drive to Midland via Reid Highway, which is the way I go to get to Great Eastern Highway eastbound, was quick and full of chatter. We were excited; we'd never really done anything like this before. We had a playlist full of music, a few snacks, and a bottle of water each. The ascent up Greenmount left our ears popping, and before too long, we had sailed through Mundaring and Sawyer's Valley, and were officially on our way.

There is something really magical about driving on a highway at night. For me, there is something especially magical about driving the Great Eastern Highway at night. I couldn't really tell you why. I've always had a bit of a fascination with roads, even though they're just flat plains of sealed tar. For me, Great Eastern holds a sense of grandeur. While it's not the only link, it is the most direct route out of Western Australia to head for the Eastern States. It's a vital road for the Goldfields and the Wheatbelt region, as many trucks use it to carry goods and produce to and from Perth, providing a thriving economy. And most of all? There is something beautiful about driving through rural Australia.

We kept driving, the only things visible to us being whatever was illuminated by my high beam headlights. We passed the turnoff for Chidlow, followed by Gorrie. When we passed The Lakes, a sign lit up by my headlights read 'You are now leaving the Perth Metropolitan Region'. By now, it was half past one. I looked at Chelsea and asked if we should keep going.

She said yes.

The road curved and rose and turned and fell. A few road trains passed us, probably glad to be back in Perth for a good night's sleep. A few times, I ran over the rumble strips while giving trucks a wide berth at the tighter turns in the highway. We blew past Wundowie, through the sleepy town of Bakers Hill, and when I saw the sign for Clackline, I knew we were far away from Perth.

Eventually, the road widened out and streetlights came into view. We had reached the turnoff for Northam. The army base was visible over the trees, lit up brighter than a Christmas Tree. I knew going any further than Northam would constitute getting home at sunrise, so I took a right and we headed into the heart of Northam.

Northam was dead. Absolutely quiet. Not one person to be seen. Granted it was half past two in the morning, but in Perth at half past two, there's always people wandering around.

Realising there was nothing to do or see, we decided to turn around and head back home. On the way out, we passed a sign that read:

Perth         99km

I laughed, upon realising just how far we had come.

The drive back felt faster, and we stopped for a photo of the city while descending Greenmount Hill back into Midland. By 4am, we were tucked up in bed.

It was a little pointless in the end, but not for nothing. It renewed my love of country driving, even though I couldn't see a thing. I now have some night time highway experience, which, when you live in Perth, is an invaluable skill to have. And I realised that night just how badly I wanted to explore this beautiful state and share it with the world.

And so Beautiful Wanderlust was born.

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