Today, I want to talk about the silly things we do, and wonder what we were thinking and how did we survive?
I moved to Sydney, Australia in September 2004 from Singapore. When the time came to buy a car, my friends recommended that I buy a four wheel drive (4wd). At the time, I didn’t know what a 4wd was but it sounded alright and everyone was recommending it so must have been the right thing to do.
I bought a Toyota RAV4 (3 -door version). The next stage was to put it to some good use so, I decided to venture into the ‘Australian bushland’ to celebrate my first new-year break in Australia. I bought a book of national parks in NSW and after some browsing, settled for “Yengo National Park” (I liked how my tongue rolled when I said the word Yengo).
I knew I could always rent a tent in a campsite so I didn’t really have to prepare a lot, just carry some food, water and I was ready to explore Yengo.
I left home at about 8am towards my first stop Wisemans Ferry. When I arrived there, I got really confused because I couldn’t find the road to get to the other side of the Hawkesbury river. I drove around for a while but the road was nowhere to be seen. After talking to the locals, I realised that there are such things as “vehicular ferries” that would take me and my car to the other side. I became really scared. What if I wanted to return but the ferries didn’t operate at that time? Well– I took the risk and continued on (after all so many other cars crossing the river would be stranded too).
After crossing the river, I took the St. Albans road to go towards Yengo, stopping at Settlers Arms Inn (the second oldest pub in Australia, built in 1836) for a long lunch. It was nice talking to the locals and I think I spent a bit too much time there. When I left, it was already past 2 pm. I continued on the dirt road towards Yengo.
I had never driven on a dirt road surro0unded by a forest before this. There was a dust of cloud behind me, which was fascinating to see. I felt exhilarated and in that ‘high” moment, I saw a sign: “for 4wd only”.
Of course, it would have been good to know what 4wd meant but who cared; as long as I had the vehicle that could take it, I was going to be okay. I think it would be good to mention at this point that I had completely forgotten to take a map with me. As I am writing and reflecting on this, I can’t help but think that this is exactly how tourists get in all sorts of trouble in Australia.
It didn’t take long to get dark, and it didn’t take long for me to get lost. My only hope was a miracle that would get me out of there. In my desperation, I tried to accelerate the car on the 4wd track and my car got out of control. One side of the track was a rocky mountain and the other side, a beautiful valley. I wasn’t ready to explore either. I managed to stop my car just a few inches before hitting the rocks. I let out a big scream, took some deep breaths and tried to calm down.
Then, I remembered that I had seen a “private property” sign so I went on to trespassing and crying for help. I was lucky to find a decent man who first, looked at me like I was a lunatic and then, explained the way out to me. It still took me two more hours and a few more cries of help but I finally managed to find the road and get to a nearby town called Wollombi.
I still had to find a place to stay and by the time i found one, it was already 8pm and I was extremely tired, yet I was alive and in one piece.
I never had the opportunity to rent the tent at the campsite, and I was quite happy not to find the truth at that time. And don’t worry, I have learnt my lesson. I never go anywhere without informing my friends and making necessary arrangements.
Don’t try this at home 😉