The long, twisted road to Brisbane had been calling my name for ages, a siren song drowned out by the white noise of floods and plagues. Yet, I finally succumbed to the madness, embarking on a nine-day odyssey of asphalt, sweat, and steel to reach the sun-scorched hellscape of the Queensland capital.
The first leg of the journey found me collapsed in the dusty arms of Narrandera, seeking refuge in the eerily vacant Star Lodge – a long-defunct hotel turned into a bizarre, booze-free sanctuary for weary travelers. The metamorphosis had bestowed upon the old haunt a new kitchen and a lounge room in place of the ‘front bar,’ the ghosts of drunken revelry replaced by the uneasy silence of the sober.
My next stop was the surreal town of Bingara, where time seemed to have taken a wrong turn and stumbled into the twilight zone of art deco. Here, I discovered the Roxy Theatre, a relic of a bygone era, and the Royal Hotel, a madhouse of booze-fueled chaos. My route to this peculiar outpost was an ill-fated adventure in itself, a misjudgment that led me down a dirt track riddled with creek crossings and an overwhelming sense of foreboding. Surely, there must be a better way to reach the depths of Brisbane…
Three days I spent in the belly of the beast, Brisbane, a city teetering on the edge of modernist oblivion. My temporary lair was the Brisbane Manor House, a ramshackle den of travelers and vagabonds hidden beneath the veneer of a Queenslander. The days slipped by in a haze, topped off by a party on Friday night.
The party’s aftermath left me reeling as I embarked on the grueling trek to Tamworth, the heavens unleashing their wrath in the form of a torrential downpour. My arrival at the Tamworth Hotel was a sodden mess, forcing me to brave the raucous bar scene in search of sanctuary. A small blessing arrived in the form of a heated room, offering warmth and solace as I prepared for the next leg of my descent into the unknown agrarian heartland.
The original plan was to reach West Wyalong, but my battered body screamed for mercy, leading me instead to the haven of Forbes. The skies threatened rain, but the storm never came, allowing me a moment’s reprieve in a cozy motel. A David Bowie documentary provided a fleeting glimpse of hope amidst the encroaching darkness.
The final stretch back to Melbourne was long and arduous, but the previous night’s rest fortified me for the task. In retrospect, four days would have been more reasonable to endure the hellish ride to Brisbane on two wheels; the three-day gauntlet was a cruel test of human endurance.
And so, my journey came to an end, a fever dream of miles and madness imprinted upon my soul. The road is a harsh mistress, but her allure remains ever potent.