Go left






























You have been treating this journey as a metaphor. You saw it as a search for self-awareness, a voyage to the innermost reaches of your psyche. You were seduced by the free-wheeling, easy-riding Zen mythology of the road. You went in search of a nation’s heart and soul, expecting to find hordes of drug-crazed bikies, red-neck vigilante gangs and a succession of bug-eyed psychopaths with elaborate politico-paranoid fantasies. You wanted to be titillated, thrilled, threatened and traumatised. You wanted to be taken for the ride of your life.

Instead you found coaches. You found Swedish hitchhikers practising their English. You found a cowhand with a taste for condensed milk. You found rooms full of old ladies wearing coats the colour of scented soap. You found Japanese motorcyclists, dressed like 21st century samurai warriors, eating chocolate doughnuts. People stepped tentatively across the landscape, afraid to look up and distrustful of the earth beneath their feet. You found brown legs and soft hair that smelt of a conditioner you once used. You found easy-payment options and an air freshener that looked like a rock.

You expected to get away from it all but discovered instead that everywhere has become somewhere else to stay. Lonely places for a lonely planet. You cruise the streets looking for fake Spanish villas and mock Tudor facades. Vacancy. No Vacancy. Everywhere is family-owned and operated, and the rooms are repositories for all the things you thought you’d left behind: a bedspread like the one you used to pick holes in, linoleum with the same pattern as the stuff in your old kitchen, an electric fan like Grandma’s.

The local hostel is full of permanents but if you’re lucky, you might get to sleep on the floor of the TV lounge room.