By Mike Welsh
I haven’t hitchhiked since I was a teenager.
Embarrassingly long and complex story virtually expunged: I was stranded without a lift 20ks inland from the Pacific Highway on the Nambucca Valley near the tiny deserted Bowraville Racecourse (nobody told me the races had been abandoned due to heavy overnight rain).
NO mobile reception, NO public transport, NO taxis and all I had was a thumb.
I skulked dejectedly kicking stones by the side of a relatively quiet road for 20 tranquil, clean country air filled minutes, punctuated only by the odd vehicle driven by an awkward looking person shifting from one buttock cheek to another in their seats as they attempted in vain to not look at the poor old bastard on the side of the road with his thumb pointing in the direction they were heading.
I was surprised and slightly disappointed (it has been over 40 years) not to witness one single facial/hand expression intended to convey ‘sorry dude I usually pick hitchhikers up, but…’ from the passing parade of heartless bastards. Was it that I didn’t look like a trustworthy hitchhiker?. I did have a backpack but no guitar.
For all they knew I could be a disoriented person in dire need of help. A search party may well have been out looking for me the very minute they callously chose to cruise past me.
But then again I could have been the “bait” for a band of blood thirsty bushrangers, who the moment a motorist pulled over would leap from the dense bush nearby and order them from their vehicle and drive off leaving them stranded. Paranoia I know but hold onto that word.
Surprisingly I quickly accepted my lot and settled in for a bit of a wait. Just as I was framing a blog post, “Confessions of a Hitchhiker” in my head when a young dude in a battered, white, diesel belching Toyota truck/ ute came to a gravel spraying halt at my feet. Scraping a whole load of unseen stuff off the passenger seat, he offered me a lift. Thankfully he was heading to Nambucca Heads but barely five minutes into our bumpy journey, he asked if it was ok to take a short cut along a gravel road. And before I could say ‘Wolf Creek’, we were heading rallycar-like up a rapidly narrowing gravel road.
Some of you by now will be screaming “get out of the truck” and that’s exactly the thought which leapt into my head too. PARANOIA.
As I was trying to recall some of the scant detail the dude had shared during the past 4-5 minutes and furiously scanning the junk on the floor in front of me for a rope, we hit bitumen again. It was indeed a short cut. 7 ks. Turns out the dude was a decent, hardworking and interesting young man. He was involved in a very interesting job which I wouldn’t have guessed existed anymore. But that’s another story.
I learned a valuable lesson on Saturday. Check the TAB site for race meetings which may not be on.