By Susan Wells
Jenni and I went way back. We’d known each other since third grade.
She had been living in Queensland for a few years and had decided to do a road trip to Perth, then further north, via Melbourne for a couple of months. She had brought Cruiser along with her, part German shepherd and part dingo, with the personality of a princess and a penchant for travel.
We were 19, it was the last half of the 70s and life was good. After a couple of months working and partying in Melbourne it was time to leave. I quit my bank job and asked Mum if she would fix up my bills. She agreed, the adventure was on, the road was waiting and the other side of Australia beckoned.
We left one morning in the little Corolla with our three-man tent, sleeping bags and pillows, a few pots and pans and not much else except clothes. Lots of clothes.
We drove from Melbourne to Adelaide in one go. Scenery became more interesting as we approached the outback, away from the towns and traffic and housing estates outside of the cities. Getting to the Nullarbor was a buzz. We stayed a few nights along the way, pitching the tent as we went.
We went out to Cactus Beach, navigating the sand track in the Corolla as if in a four wheel drive. Cactus was on the Great Australian Bight, out from the highway. We sat on the beach until sunset watching surfers paddle out to chase the perfect wave. Water sparkled like a thousand diamonds and then the next set would roll in.
Less traffic travelled the Nullarbor in those days, although the road was much narrower in places than today. Trucks thundered past, often overtaking our small car, and their headlights in the dark dazzled mercilessly as they approached from the opposite direction.
We shared driving, mostly. Cruiser either sat in the back or adopted her favourite position with both paws on the console between Jenni and I. We listened to Steve Miller Band, Led Zeppelin and Santana and other 70s tapes over and over again on the car cassette.
We were on the Nullarbor one night at dusk. Kangaroos were jumping around all over the place. A big one clipped the front of the car and then took off. We pulled over onto the gravel to examine the damage, which wasn’t as bad as we’d thought and then decided to pitch the tent.
It was very quiet and still, apart from the odd truck lumbering past. Pink hues appeared with the sunset in a brilliant indigo sky stretching out as far as the eye could see.
The start of our journey …