by The Telegraph, April 20, 2018
Bradley Hillas wins our weekly Just Back writing competition - and £250 - for his account of an eventful, yet rewarding, drive through Australia.
Australia rewards the foolishly rash traveller with adventure. For $500 (about £275), my friend Steph and I bought an old Mazda and set out from the north-western town of Broome with 1,864 miles of the unknown before us.
Our first stop was Karijini National Park, a monument to the vast pressures and epochs of time that have crafted its immense geology. There we scaled the warm rocks and flung ourselves into the natural pools below.
The first setback followed soon after. One morning our car wouldn’t start. We realised that Steph had filled the engine with diesel instead of unleaded. Within minutes I was on my back, detaching the fuel tank from the Mazda’s belly. Once that was free, I had to siphon out the diesel. Steph apologised repeatedly while I had the hose pressed to my lips and fumes wafting in my throat. “It’s OK,” I said between sucks. “It could happen to anyone.” We laughed.
Days passed, and we put it behind us.
BANG! Fear flushed our faces as Steph pulled over. A tyre explosion. Easily replaced by our spare, but why had it happened?
No sooner had we moved on and – BANG! Again? The next roadhouse was 12 miles away, and we had no more spares. What we had in abundance was stubbornness.
We drove on, watching chunks of torn rubber fly off and scatter on the road behind. Once the rubber was exhausted, sparks spat from the rim as it ground against the asphalt, forcing us to stop.
But we still had the previous tyre. It’s a strange thing to fit an exploded tyre to your car, yet that was our solution. On we went, wincing at the crunch of deteriorating rubber.
Australia rewards with serendipity. It just so happened that the roadhouse we crawled up to had a scrap yard full of old cars. We scavenged some spare tyres and moved on.
At Carnarvon we spent $500 on fixing the misaligned wheels. Halfway but weary, we swallowed our fears and carried on.
The stark beauty of the outback soon rekindled our wanderlust. Kangaroos bounded across the road that stretched to an endless horizon of red earth. At Monkey Mia we waded into the ocean to commune with dolphins. At Nambung at first light, we saw the Pinnacles – thousands of vertical rock formations set aglow by the morning sun.
Finally, like a city of dreams, Perth’s gleaming skyscrapers winked the sunlight as we counted down the final miles.
It was evening by the time we joined the crowds at Langley Park, just as the West Australian Orchestra began a free performance of the 1812 Overture.
We toasted our victory with wine and revelled in a moment that felt like it was composed just for us.
How to enter the next round of Just Back
Email your entry, in 500 words (with the text in the body of the email), to [email protected] For terms and conditions, see telegraph.co.uk/tt-justback . The winner will receive £250 in the currency of their choice from the Post Office.
The Post Office is the UK’s largest travel money provider, offering up to 80 currencies in more than 11,500 branches with 0 per cent commission. All currencies can also be ordered online for next day branch or home delivery. Check exchange rates at postoffice.co.uk/travel-money/currency-converter .