Wednesday, June 16, 2010

At the next roundabout, take the second exit...


I can empathise with the plight of Burke and Wills who strode off into the unmapped Australian interior never to return. I felt the same way the day I was awarded my driver's licence (what were they thinking?) and let loose on the roads.

As a teen I was a a dreamer (I'm sorry, has something changed?) and never took notice of my journeys to and from, as the driver took care of that and it gave me a chance to read or just daydream to the sound of the radio.

When I did get my licence (finally, at the age of 19, because really what did I need one for, I had a boyfriend with a car, I know, am a feminist at heart, but it really was too much bother), one of my first journeys without a navigator was a quick dash across town to visit my Nan who had had a stroke. (She later went on to make a full recovery and go back to work, retiring ungracefully at the age of 74.) My co-pilot was my 15year old sister. We got there and back, but not without some anxious moments.

I would like to say my Melways became my greatest friend, but we had our moments. (Why is it legal to have more than one street with the same name?) The Sat Nav seemed to me an answer to my prayers, and it's true we have had some wonderful moments together. (Although she does not have a sense of humour, especially when I hop on Eastlink which she hasn't been updated for.) However, there have been times when we have argued. (At the next roundabout, take the second exit.) The other day in the city, she was so confused I turned her off so I could have some head space. (You have reached your destination. Umm, this is a carpark. You have reached your destination. Shut up!)

So the story of how Wills navigated his way from one end of Australia to the other — without a map or a Sat Nav — is extremely impressive and humbling to me. It's a fascinating story of pride, stubbornness, vanity, ambition, integrity and adventure which has seared itself into the pages of the short history of white Australia.

As someone famous once said 'It's the journey, not the destination' that counts.

Burke and Wills
Expedition Off the Map
Released June 2010, published by black dog books

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