Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Sydney To Suffolk Park: On The Wheel

Despite the algid New South Wales spring eve, my palms were sweaty. I peered into the darkness and took a deep breath. After a tenth glance at the rear-view and side mirror, I finally mustered enough guts to step on the pedal.

It had been five years since I was last on the wheel. I'd like to think I was a good driver for I frequently drove from Manila to Mariveles and back (about five hours each way) two to three times a week for work. I used to be a "Sales Engineer" for a construction company, and back then, one of my top clients was situated there.

But hey, five years is a really long time. And may I add, I had never driven overseas (I ain't even entirely sure if I'm allowed to drive in Australia with just a Philippine license) and on the left side of the road, so you could imagine how terrified I was that night.

Taking over. Gripping the wheel oh so tight.

We were on our way to a Suffolk Park, a quaint suburb south of famous hippie town Byron Bay, where we'll be staying for six weeks in a caravan park. About every minute, a vehicle or two zoomed past our beat up, borrowed car which we named Gumby (simply because it resembles the hue of this peculiar clay character).

Suffice it to say that, Pacific Highway at that time was far from bustling. This gave me courage. To the hubby's surprise, I kept my foot on the accelerator until I reached the speed limit. Like a kid reunited with his bike after ages, I got my groove back in a breeze.

Almost an hour into my driving, I noticed the fuel gauge indicating that Gumby's almost out. I found it odd for it showed that my tank's half filled just a few minutes back (this taught us not to trust an aging, $700 car). A quick consultation with our GPS device informed us that the next petrol station's a mere four kilometers away. This should have given us peace of mind, except, the engine died right after we checked the GPS.

Pouring petrol through a makeshift funnel made out of a disposable water bottle, which we cut up using my nipper.

I managed to let Gumby glide closer to the shoulder. The car broke down past a curve. In total darkness and with a 110 KPH limit imposed, this is most definitely a dangerous part of the highway to be in. In my head, I knew time is of the essence. I scrambled out of the car while Shervin took over the wheel, so he could whisk it out of harm's way. I pushed the car by myself with all my mortal might. And chakra.

Then we both started flagging zooming cars and trucks. It was frightening to leave Luna in the car by herself (it was too cold outside), but with Shervin wearing a black hoodie, I thought he might come off as a suspicious character to motorists. Our daughter weeped as she watched us from the backseat. Her sob, muffled.

In less than five minutes, a SUV pulled over a few meters ahead. While Shervin spoke to the driver, two more vehicles stopped by. I thanked the others and assured them that we're already taken cared of. The three men aboard the SUV are Pakistanis, and have been residents of Australia for years now. They didn't want Luna and I to be left by ourselves in the car so we all squeezed in theirs.

Free dinner from Good Samaritans: Pizza and Krispy Kreme doughnuts!

At the petrol station, we bought five liters of fuel in a can which should have been enough to take Gumby to the station so we could fill him up. Unfortunately, when we returned to our car and refueled it, it showed no response when we turned on the ignition. The Pakistanis had to make a second trip for another five-liter can. They let us wait in our car as we munched on Krispy Kreme Original Glazed Doughnuts(!) which they provided us.

It took them about half an hour to get back (we saw them miss our car, they did another lap through the nearest exit) With ten liters of fuel, at last, the car roared to life. Before leaving, they offered to keep an eye on us until we get close to the petrol station. They also gave us leftover pizza which we actually ate for dinner (uhm, aside from the doughnuts).

We bid farewell through our respective windows as we approached the turnoff.

One-hour nap at a random rest stop.

The incident left me a bit rattled but not badly shaken. In fact, I offered to drive again and even stayed on the wheel from midnight until six in the morn. Shervin was able to take intermittent naps. Intermittent because I kept waking him up whenever an Optimus Prime (gigantic truck) tailed us (cause that seriously freaks me out) or I saw a roadkill on my path.

I almost ran over a kangaroo too, so I asked him to scan his side of the highway and warn me if he spots yet another suicidal one. Most species of kangaroos are nocturnal, hence they actively hop around and feed at night. It was my first time to see them in the wild, however I was not too stoked cause yah know, I never imagined playing patintero against them with our lives as bets.

Hubby and I never intended to do an all-nighter. In fact, we first agreed to spend the night in Newcastle. We ended up driving further and agreed to sleep in Port Macquarie instead. Changed our minds, drove further and agreed to finally retire in Coffs Harbour. None of these happened because our willingness to sacrifice for a few bucks (cheapest double room in a motel is priced at $60) outweighed the idea of giving our weary bones a break.

Well actually, we both did take an hour nap at some random rest stop, quarter past six in the morning. After which, reenergized Shervin was in charge of the wheel for the last time that ten-hour drive. Two hours later, we settled in one of the most charming cabins we've ever seen!

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35 comments:

Aleah said...
November 15, 2011 at 10:04 PM

Yikes, that must be really scary! I can't imagine driving on the "wrong" side of the road either. And with no international license!! And running out of gas! With Luna to boot! haha

joniphilippines said...
November 15, 2011 at 10:09 PM

good people tend to attract good people too, God bless your family, always...

Jojie C. said...
November 15, 2011 at 10:35 PM

Wow, you got a nice experience there. I would love to do what you do, travel. But for now and until I can get my er.. thing called finances fixed, I can only dream of travelling regularly and read on sites like yours about your experiences and travels. I must say, long distance driving in a small car is not my comfort zone.

As far as driving, I am not 100% sure of the laws, but I think you need an international licence to drive or I think 21 days (I know in Philippines it something like that 21 days with out international licence)

dong ho said...
November 15, 2011 at 11:06 PM

so cool Gay. i didn't know that you used to work as a sales engineer. hmmm... luna looked like she had a great trip.

RM Bulseco said...
November 16, 2011 at 12:22 AM

Wow it just shows na good things still happen no matter how bad the situation is. And naks, kahit jan, nakapag KK party pa kayo! :))

Pinay Travel Junkie said...
November 16, 2011 at 12:57 AM

Yeah Aleah. To say that I was terrified is an understatement.

Pinay Travel Junkie said...
November 16, 2011 at 12:58 AM

Joni, hahaha! I'm glad we come off as "good people" to you ;p

Pinay Travel Junkie said...
November 16, 2011 at 1:50 AM

Dong, I don't really tell people about that job coz I'm not techincally an engineer. But I did undergo some crash course to learn about air filtration and industrial ventilation ;p

Pinay Travel Junkie said...
November 16, 2011 at 1:51 AM

Renz, YEAH! Unexpected KK parteh :)

blissfulguro said...
November 16, 2011 at 7:41 AM

thumbs up for those kind-hearted aussies :)

Gladys | ByahengBarok.com said...
November 16, 2011 at 8:54 AM

i don't think you're allowed to drive there with just a Philippine license. hehehe! glad to know there are some kind-hearted people to help you around.

Pinay Travel Junkie said...
November 16, 2011 at 10:14 AM

Haha! The hubby swears I could for about 3 months... Most backpackers who do road trips in Auz don't have international licenses as well.

But that's my hubby, he never really checks facts. Lol.

bertN said...
November 16, 2011 at 9:32 PM

On long road trips, I usually gas up when my fuel indicator hits the half-way mark and I see a gas station on the way. Mabuti na yung sigurado.

May the tribe of those good samaritans increase!I've ran into many of them myself and I make it a point to pass their kindness to others.

lakwatsera de primera said...
November 17, 2011 at 8:13 AM

Hala buti walang police, hindi kasama ang Philippines sa mga countries na recognised ang professional driving license. Yung ibang backpackers kasi from UK, Canada etc. no need for Aussie license.

Malditang "Kura"cha said...
November 17, 2011 at 9:13 AM

Right hand driving it is! Natawa ako kay gumby. hahaha! naku hindi ako pwede sa mga long drive na yan. Naka-stress. Good thing you ran into a few good samaritans. At nakalibre pa kayo ng dinner ha. wagi!

Pinay Travel Junkie said...
November 17, 2011 at 9:26 AM

Claire, no one checks past midnight. Hahaha!

Pinay Travel Junkie said...
November 17, 2011 at 9:27 AM

Maricar, galing mo na siguro drive ngayon :)

pinoydaysleeper.com said...
November 17, 2011 at 1:37 PM

sarap ng krispy kreme..hehe

Zen said...
November 17, 2011 at 6:53 PM

I'm glad that you didn't hit the kangaroo.. ahihi.. :)

Pinay Travel Junkie said...
November 18, 2011 at 3:30 AM

Yeah! But then again, there were a lot of already dead ones on the road :(

Arti said...
November 20, 2011 at 11:33 AM

An adventure, you had... It would be scary for trucks would be zooming past you, and also running over a Kangaroo.. Scary!!

Pinay Travel Junkie said...
November 20, 2011 at 11:42 AM

Yeah! It would be sooo awful to run over a kangaroo :(

AJ said...
November 20, 2011 at 8:10 PM

I had to google the meaning of algid. :) But despite the experience, I'm glad you didn't commit road kill. Or maybe a kangaroo can kill too; they're big, db?

The Nomadic Pinoy said...
November 20, 2011 at 9:20 PM

how interesting to see what drivers everywhere have to contend with down the road: kangaroos in Oz, deers in the US, camels in Arabia and well, asong kalye in Pinas.

saylala said...
November 21, 2011 at 1:46 AM

Na-se-stress na ako just thinking about right hand driving!

Pinay Travel Junkie said...
November 21, 2011 at 2:39 AM

AJ, some kangaroos are gigantic. And in case one blocks my path, I ain't got any other choice but to run him/her over. Coz hitting the brakes instantly or immediately swerving while on a 110kph speed may kill us too :(

Pinay Travel Junkie said...
November 21, 2011 at 2:40 AM

Dennis, askals scare me the most!!!

Pinay Travel Junkie said...
November 21, 2011 at 4:41 AM

Saylala, even after driving it still stresses me out :)

Bonzenti [Con Tour] said...
November 21, 2011 at 9:36 PM

Ga-ye. You have a very good experience in driving in foreign country. Its obvious with your sweat on your head.

Pinay Travel Junkie said...
November 22, 2011 at 1:45 AM

Haha! Kuya Bonz, it shows with my popping veins!

totomai said...
November 23, 2011 at 9:42 PM

strangely, i prefer RHD. :)

i think local license is accepted on a limited number of months. but that's one adventure for you.

take care always!

Pinay Travel Junkie said...
November 24, 2011 at 1:06 AM

Really? RHD drives me nuts :( And I'll never ever get used to parallel parking. Lol.

lzlpio90 said...
November 24, 2011 at 5:50 PM

That was a funny and frightful experience... Good thing you've been able to meet good men on the way...

http://mytravelanywhere.blogspot.com/

Spencer said...
November 25, 2011 at 1:00 PM

I love random road trips like this. You never know what you might see!

Redruby said...
December 1, 2011 at 6:46 AM

that is quite an adventure.such a memorable travel experience..

feel free to visit my blogs..thanks..

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