Death Rides with Us: The Road to Ilfracome

Blogging | January 1, 2013

The road to Ilfracome is lined with death and near-death. Huge buzzards rip at rotten roos and fly away at the last second, avoidng by the narrowest of margins merging with the car's grill and joining us for the rest of the trip. It's a terrifying drive filled with nothing but death and the chance of death.

The chance of death increases when you share the road with me.

We got off to a good start. Blythe was munching her Chocolate Billabong and I was slickly changing through the gears like a natural who had just started driving a few weeks before.

We pulled out of the Caltex servo (that's a service station btw) and we were soon charging on at breakneck speed down the highway.

"Should I change to 5th?" I asked.

"Yeah, I reckon," replied my instructor distractedly as she fiddled with her ipod and nibbled away at her Billabong.

I looked down at the gears, found 5th for the first time and in the space of about 2 seconds had smoothly nudged her there.

70...80...90! We were really flying now!

A red 4x4 travelling on the opposite side of the road was fast approaching. Following the advice of my instructor, I remained within the lines and passed the car safely. They never knew how close they had come to the end.

It struck me then just how much you rely on other people not to kill you when driving, particularly when driving to Ilfracome.

It seemed that here on the road to Ilfracome, more than in any other situation I had encountered, there was a great burden of responsibility resting on me to ensure that I didn't fuck up and kill a family of 5 along with myself and my instructor.

Everybody shares this burden on the road to Ilfracome, I thought. Make sure you don't kill yourself and everyone else with some gross act of negligence or stupidity.

Having realised, during my epiphany, that the most important thing to do whilst driving was not kill anyone, I came very close to doing myself and my instructer in, as it were. Twice.

Both times involved swerving to miss a perceived obstacle.

The first was a rather large dead kangaroo in the road. Unlike many of the roos that line the road to Ilfracome, this one had yet to merge fully with the asphalt by way of repeated runnings over. Having seen the roo for some distance and received no instruction from my instructor, or indeed asked for instruction, I decided to impress her by taking the initiative to protect our vehicle by swerving around the obstacle at the last second or two before impact..

"Why did you do that?" asked my instructor, shaken from her apparent reverie.

"I don't know. I just thought..."

"Don't do that again. Just go over it. If you're worried, slow down."

"Oh, OK."

"Never swerve like that."

"OK, sorry babe."

The second near-tragedy occured on the road back from Ilfracome. Perhaps it was the same roo. Some hawks had decended and were feasting as we approached.

They showed little sign of moving.

We continued on.

Still they feasted.

They had just started moving and we were almost upon them when...

"Oh Jesus Christ!" yelled my instructor.

I paniced and swerved to avoid the hawks. Even as I did it, I realised my mistake; I had ignored sound and reasonable instruction.

The wings of vultures fluttered around the trembling car as we drove over the corpse. For a moment all was lost and we were driving down the highway to our premature deaths. We would be food for the vultures ourselves.

But we came through the other side.

"I told you not to do that!" admonished my instructor.

"Sorry! But when you said..."

"Don't do that again."

"OK! I don't no what I was thinking. Sorry babe!"

We made it back safely but I'll never forget the road to Ilfracome: how death precedes and succeeds all things there, how it is mashed into the roads repeatedly by road trains and 4x4s, how it rides with me when I needlessly swerve to avoid things and how I somehow managed not to kill anyone, including myself, and thereby add to the carnage it experiences daily.

All in all, it was a successful driving lesson.


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