While backpacking Australia, I pitched in with three other backpackers and bought a car. It was a 1981 Peugeot named Albert, and the former owner gave it to us for 1000 bucks. The car overheated during long drives. There was no air conditioning. The windows got stuck if you tried to roll them down.
But it was our car. It took us from Coffs Harbour to Sydney, all the way through Melbourne to Adelaide, then back to Coffs. I drove it to Brisbane when I needed to renew my tourist visa and to Dorrigo National Park when my family visited. In the six months I was co-owner of the car, it covered over 5,000 kilometers – not bad for a car that had been born in the same year I had.
Buying a car in Australia opens up new possibilities and can bring about some uniquely Australian adventures, particularly when it comes to the native fauna. Late at night, Albert’s lights were often the only ones on the road, restricting our visibility. The four of us were extremely startled when, suddenly, a kangaroo appeared about ten meters in front of us, illuminated by the headlights.
It froze. We screamed. The driver swerved. There were two small bumps as the car ran over its tail, which prompted a new round of shrieks.
We were lucky; the kangaroo, not so much.
Shortly after I returned to America, Albert was sent to the junk heap, where he was compressed into a tiny hunk of metal. I like to think we gave him a good last hurrah, a nice wind down to a long life spent ferrying travelers around the beautiful countryside of Australia.
Minus that business with the kangaroo, that is.