My younger brother Ned was want to travel in his younger years, I know not why for I was, and still am, not, but our father was want to travel across Africa an awful lot in his younger years, mainly to avoid the German Army who were doing war things several hundred miles to the north of him, but you never can be sure.
And so when in his twenties our Ned saved up lots of pennies in a big tupperware bowl under his bed until he had enough, along with the proceeds of selling his drum kit, to travel freely abroad with no plans to be anywhere specific in the style of a backpacker rather than as a traditional holidaymaker who always knows where he is going and when he is coming back.
Our Ned took with him his then girlfriend, now long suffering wife, Jenny and we waved them off at the bus station in Leeds one evening and thought “Well thats the last we’ll ever see of them then…”
They traveled first to Canada and set about traveling across that rather wide country via the use of Youth Hostels, that marvelous international brand of shit hotels where the customers don’t really care as long as its very cheap to stay there, its a unique brand and no other hotel chain gets away with it, an amazing concept.
They quickly realised that the tub of pennies wasn’t going to last for very long and so decided to take some paid work to help them on their way and with the help of numerous notice boards in numerous youth hostels came to realise that there is a sub-culture within the youth hostel association of free publicity for local businesses who offer paid casual work with no questions asked, specifically questions like “What is your name, where are you from, and do you have a work permit”.
One of the better prospects that they discovered completely by accident was the fact that in very wide countries, like Canada for instance, the likes of Hertz and Avis will often rent out a car or van which is to be driven from one side of the country to the other, but then the rent-or does not want to go back and so the car or van is stuck at the wrong side of the country – pin a notice on a youth hostel board promising a backpacker that they can have four days free car or van hire if they pay for the petrol and drive the vehicle back to them – solution.
So they did this in Canada and then traveled right down the Western coast of the Americas on foot and on bus before flying off to the Antipodes and in doing so found themselves traveling up and down the Eastern coast of Australia for a bit.
A few months later and with worn out shoes they were sent an address from home of someone my dad knew who had gone to live in Perth, Western Australia, it was Madge and Irvin, you know, Irvin the window cleaner who had buried all of his cash in the garden and then forgotten where, yes I’ve told you the story, it was Madge who taught their daughters dog to drink sweet tea, you remember now ?
Anyway, they are in Sydney and want to get to Perth to visit Madge and Irvin and when they check a map they are told thats its only a mere 3934 km and they think about that sort of distance for a while because us British folk don’t get to see numbers like that very often, not when you’re talking about still being in the same country anyway, you can travel 100km in either direction, west or east, from my house and fall in the sea at both ends.
So off down to Hertz they pop and put the word out that they are available the next time a vehicle needs to be transported across the width of the country and a few days later someone rings the youth hostel and asks them to pop down to the office, so they do.
Its good news, for on the morrow they will have a van that needs to go back to Perth which is exactly the place that they want to be, its a Ford Transit style van and that won’t be a problem will it , and our Ned replies that of course it won’t in fact its better because they’ll now be able to sleep in the van during their six day journey across the most inhospitable terrain known to man, the complete derelict wasteland of a desert that comprise most of the interior of that country.
The following day they turn up and in accordance with the usual terms of these sort of things the company will only insure one person to drive so Ned volunteers and Jenny lets him for who wants to drive 3934 km’s when they can just sit and admire the scenery for six days instead ?
So having signed the papers and promised to be in the Perth office in six days time they are taken out to check the van over and they throw their rucksacks in the back and it then that they both notice a teensy weensy problem.
Its only got one seat.
There is one seat for the driver and, well, thats all, nowhere for a passenger to sit at all.
And so thats why Jennifer spent the next six days sitting on a rucksack on the floorbed of a Transit van unable even to see out of the window because the rucksack wasn’t high enough to see out of the windows, while our Ned sat behind the wheel without having to turn the wheel for six days because the road from Sydney to Perth is one long straight road with no corners, and its why she complained all the way there because the road is mostly concrete and ridged with little grooves so that you get a constant vibration and annoying humming noise inside an empty Transit van and after just one hour let alone six days, you start to wish that your tightwad boyfriend had just booked two airline tickets instead.