It was the third time the bus broke down. Somewhere right outside a small mining community in Western Australia, our bus had enough and it wanted us to know. So with an explosion and plume of smoke, the bus came to a crashing halt. What a way to start my backpacking Australia experience. Not even a week in the country and I was going to end up living a real life version of the Hills Have Eyes.
It was the end of a journey filled with calamity that began back in Perth. During our first stop, while still inn the outskirts of Perth, our problems began. The bus wouldn't start. Our driver tried again, looked under the hood, did something, and said, "Okay, we're ready to go." But not that ready. The bus still didn't go. We were going to have to push. It would be the first of many times that would happen.
Down the hill we pushed and the bus suddenly came to life. We ran into the bus, each secrely praying this was just a fluke. Our wise driver tried not to turn the bus off during the trip for fear of this happening again. It was a well founded fear because soon, at the famous Pinnacles, our bus turned off. Out we went again, pushing as hard as we could, getting our bus moving and continuing up the west coast. This time it took a lot longer to get going but we were still moving.
In the town of Geraldton, our driver stopped to get the bus fixed. We took an extra long lunch break. A few hours later, he came back and assured us the problem was solved. I wasn't sure what the problem was and, when he explained it in car lingo, my unmechanical ears couldn't decipher what he was saying. I was just happy the bus was moving.
However, the bus ride from hell continued and our problems didn't stop. Pretty soon our air conditioner stopped working and we were forced to drive in a sauna, the bus amplifying the 100 degree desert heat. This wasn't what I had expected, though I dealt with it better than some of my other riders. Having experienced worse delays in Asia, I wasn't too bothered by this. I had learned to expect the unexpected. I had a book and after all, I was still in Australia, about to spend 2 months traveling -- nothing could be that bad.
Our bus always seemed to be on its last leg and finally, that leg gave out with a large bang. The bus clicked and clacked, grinding sounds were made, and smoke and dust filled the front of the bus. We all knew what had happened though none dared say. The driver pushed the bus for a bit longer but eventually, he resigned himself to the fact that we weren't going to reach the next town. The problem with breaking down in the outback is that there aren't many people around and, if you breakdown too far from the last town, you might be without cellphone reception and stuck there for hours. Unfortunately, that was our case. We were stuck there until a car passed to help.
It was early afternoon when our engine exploded. We entertained ourselves by drinking (another passenger had brought a few beers with him), playing trivia games, and playing the occasional frisbee game. Hours passed and the sun moved further down in the sky. We were getting anxious. What if a car didn't come by? What happened if night came? Thankfully, not long after the panic set in, a car finally drove by. Our driver flagged it down, explained the situation, and told us he was going to get help in the previous town. We would be out here for an hour by ourselves. This was going to be a long hour. Luckily, we still had plenty of beer.
True to his word, an hour later, our driver returned with a tow truck. Half our problem was solved. The half we still needed to solve was how we were going to continue on with no bus. We were told that the earliest we could get our bus back was on Tuesday. Not a big deal if it wasn't Thursday. I wouldn't mind spending a night in this sleepy mining town but not four. None of the other passengers were keen on the idea either and, after some phone calls, our driver found a four wheel drive that we six would have to cram into. It was going to be long ride up to Broome but at least we had a working car and were now on a way with one great story to share for years to come.