Thursday, April 3, 2008

It's a long way to the shop...if you want a sausage roll

Six months ago, I wasn't filling my days sipping cappuccino and eating tiramisu. Back then, I worked as a marketing specialist for Australia's largest telecommunications company, Telstra.

As part of my job, I had to drive around the Northwest of Western Australia frequently for business. I didn't really think too much of driving eight hours to Broome but with no direct flight, driving was the only option. (My city dweller friends, thought this was ridiculous as like most city people, they complain bitterly about a two hour drive). Sometimes my husband and I even drove to Perth for holidays with the car packed with suitcases, aeroguard protective insect spray and our beloved white dog which would end up a dusty red coloured beloved dog by the end of the trip. We managed the drive in 16 hours non stop and usually went through five packets of lollies and ended on a sugar high.

Yesterday my husband and I drove from Florence to Monza which is a town just out of Milano. The drive took us five hours because of the traffic and due to what looked like new roads, our trusty GPS decided to take us through not one but three autostrada toll crossings and needless to say, the wrong way.

As my husband was driving, I was commenting on just how different the landscape is in comparison to our outback Australian road trips. Driving in North West Western Australia meant sometimes you wouldn't see a car for hours and when you did, they waved at you excitedly and you always waved back. If they didn't wave, you would muffle something along the lines of 'bloody rude tourists'.

Petrol stations were far and few between and it was not unusal to see a sign warning you of the lack of available fuel or water for the next 300 kms. Definetely you would see a whole array of amazingly beautiful wildlife that you try to avoid hitting including kangaroos, lizards, emu's and the number one crusher of cars, the big bulls that navigate into the middle of the road and look at you accusingly when you drive past. One less assuming animal you also tried to and failed to avoid was the humble fly and when you opened your car door to get out for a stretch you would literally be covered in flies...sounds quite glamorous doesn't it!?

Yesterday's five hour drive was molto diverso (very different). There were hundreds of cars zooming along the autostrada at high speeds, car horns beeping at those unfortunate enough to decide they want to overtake at normal speeds and no signs of our Aussie bouncy kangaroos on the side of the road. We did see a husky (for those that don't know this is a BIG dog) sharing a ride on an open scooter with his owner. If only I had my camera out as I can't explain how funny (and dangerous for the dog) this looked. And when we stopped for a break at a roadhouse and I stood ready armed with my can of fly spray, not even one fly greeted me.

Driving in outback Australia , you need to choose your roadhouses/service stops very very carefully. Future travellers, consider yourself warned. Criteria should include:

  • Is there a working air - conditioned toilet?

  • Has the toilet been cleaned say ...this decade?

  • Is the petrol going to cost you more than your car repayment this month?

  • Has that Australian meat pie been there for longer than 24 hours? (23 hours you say? ok two please)

So I braced myself for the worst when we veered off the autostrada into the My Chef roadhouse. Now, I know Italians live for food, but I'm sure their standards drop at the humble roadhouse? Surely there would be the usual suspects - stale cakes, some day old fries and half frozen icy poles?

We walked in and felt like we stepped into another small Italian city full of bustling Italians. The espresso aroma wafted into our tired faces, the patisserie bar beamed with fresh cornetto con marmolada (my favourite croissants with jam), the wood fired pizza oven was in full swing and there was a choice of five different pizzas (try the margharita, it was good!). In another section, there were salami's hanging from the ceiling and a selection of fresh fruits, pasta's and cakes.

Now onto the toilets. Now everyone that knows me knows that unfortunately I am a germophobe at the best of times. (It makes for interesting travelling). So you can imagine my amazement at walking into clean toilets with self flushing toilets, automatic taps and even a lady sitting there waiting to clean after me. There was not one red back spider looking at me doing my business and no cockroaches squashed on the floor.

My Northwest WA readers will surely understand when I say 'Nanutarra road house, you have a lot to answer for!'.

This morning I woke up and I had that sense where I didn't know where I was. We have lived in six different houses/hotels/apartments in three different countries in the last five months due to my husband's engineering job, and that doesn't include the hotels we stay in for trips away or his business trips. But as I opened the room service breakfast menu and saw a selection of cheeses and salami's with boiled eggs, I could almost smell the strong aroma of a macchiato. My senses returned to me and I quickly realised that I'm in the wonderful pulsating heart beat of Italia. But why then, does my heart hurt writing about my true home and love, Australia?

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