3. Keep Your Bonnet On: Plunging into the Wild West


The next morning, we explored the high street of Hughenden which boasted a small row of shops with questionable titles. Each was named practically for what it sells such as ’Drapes’ or what the store is like ‘Pharmacy’, ‘Newsagents’ or my favourite… ‘Shop’. Admittedly, these are very helpful; imagine a scenario in which you are lost in this heaving, overpopulated town (not quite), and you are on a desperate hunt for somewhere that sells ‘videos’ or ‘camera films’, and due to poor signage and misleading shop names, you stumble into a ‘laundromat’ by mistake. Interestingly, there was a colossal, disused windmill planted in the middle of the high street, much to the surprise and curiosity of every out-of-towner passing through. It was evidently the town’s proudest feature, keeping in with the wild west image that seemed to extend the further we travelled into the outback.

The disused windmill in the middle of Hughenden High Street
Turns out it’s pronounced ‘Hugh-enden’ not ‘Hug-henden’ much to our embarrassment and the confusion of a fuel service attendant.

The further west we plunged, the more barren and bizarre the towns became. I was half expecting the next sighting of civilisation to be that of an Amish village. I could only imagine the reception we would have if we were to rock up in our oversized, oil-guzzling Land Rover; probably a furious community of old folk in bonnets and breeches brandishing pitchforks and flaming torches. The uncertainty of what awaited us in the next town sparked excitement and amusement on the journey; it was all part of our grand Australian adventure.

During our outback trip, I scribbled most of my notes in the front seat of a shaking Land Rover as we hurtled at 110km down an unfathomably straight road further into the unknown. The highways are so direct and so long that the very edge of the horizon dazzles in the sunlight like ripples in the water, like a mirage in the desert. It was scorching hot. As the sun blazed down on us, we trailed gradually closer towards Mount Isa. We planned to stop at regular intervals and explore other idyllic towns and communities along the way. This was the true beauty of driving; we had our freedom.

Even in the middle of nowhere, there is always one bloody traffic light.
The book of illegible scribbles (blame Jenny).

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