When I told people I was heading into the vast expanse of the Australian outback, most suggested it wasn’t a great idea to do it in a 26-year-old Japanese sports car. I was determined to prove them wrong, and to show that positive thinking and a 1.6L V-Tec engine can overcome any obstacle. The del Sol and I inspired countless people throughout Narrabri and Lightning Ridge, and as we crossed the border into Queensland it looked like we’d achieve what most thought impossible. Then the del Sol shat itself and started shaking around like a wino without a box of Sunnyvale, an hour’s drive from civilisation. I was fucked.
Miracles do come true, however, and we managed to limp into the far-flung outpost of Dirranbandi before the wheels fell off. After shuddering into the Dirranbandi Caravan Park – which is a wonderful oasis in the middle of a harsh land – I set about taking care of the two most pressing issues; fixing the del Sol and getting mad drunk. With the nearest mechanic 100km away in St George, and no towie for days, it looked like I’d be getting to know the local piss parlour pretty bloody well.
Nothing’s much of a walk in Dirran, so I grabbed a couple of cans and took the scenic route to the booze emporium. For such a remote spot, it’s a classy little town, with some nice houses and a delightful walk down by the banks of the Balonne River. With only 640 residents, there’s not much chance of being trambled by a horde of people on the way to the shops, and there’s a great bakery with cracking pies. There’s even a train station, although you’re more likely to see a lentil-munching, blue-haired lipstick lesbian in Dirran than a choo-choo these days.
With the sightseeing sorted, I fronted up to the Dirran Pub, which looks like it was knocked together across several decades from whatever was available at the time. The locals are a friendly bunch, even though I was the only fella in there without a hat, so I ordered a XXXX and chatted to them about the footy. The beers were going down easier than a single mother behind Wyong station, and so after an hour I trotted off to the little boys’ room. I barely made it through the door without ruining my shorts, and immediately sprayed about 30 litres of ex-XXXX all over the brasco.
The feeling of relief did not last long. I opened my eyes to see a massive red-headed bloke rising before me, his jeans soaking and smoke pouring out his ears. His battered face was a darker shade of crimson than his hair, and he was clenching and unclenching his football-sized fists like he was about to knock my teeth out my arsehole. I was starting to wish I’d just pissed my pants at the bar.
“Look, Bluey, I’m sorry,” I stammered, backing away from the monster. “I’ve got a bladder problem. I thought the place was on fire and I was putting it out. I’m European and this is actually a sign of respect in my culture. I’m…”
“You’re a fuckin’ idiot, that’s what you are,” snarled the flame-haired hardman, and I nodded emphatically in agreement. He loomed over me, and I wondered whether my parents would ever receive the closure of being able to bury my corpse. But the beating never came. Instead, my tormenter stepped backwards, crossed his arms and gave me a huge smile.
“You ruined my pants, so gimme yours,” he demanded. They weren’t going to fit a bloke his size, but I took them off as quickly as possible and tossed them over. I was a bit embarrased because I was wearing a g-banger, but mainly I just hoped he wouldn’t try to bum me.
“Now, you look thirsty. Go out and order yourself a nice little drinky-poo. You seem like a banana daiquiri man to me, and make sure they put the little umbrella in there.”
As I turned towards the door, the colossus poked me up the arse with an oversized boot, sending me tumbling back into the pub. My new mates chuckled when they saw me, and that became a roar when they noticed my ballsack hanging out of my g-string. I thought I’d die of either embarrassment or a good old-fashioned poofter bashing, so I scurried towards the front door – until I heard someone clear his throat behind me. Rusty was there, of course. “I thought you were getting yourself a drink,” he boomed, so I slunk back to the bar as the locals cheered.
“One banana daiquiri, please,” I whispered, and the barflies leant in as they wiped tears from their cheeks. I looked over at the giant and he nodded back at me. “And put one of those little umbrellas in it, please. I’m feeling festive.”
The rest of the bar lost their shit, slapping each other on the back and spilling their drinks all over the place. The big red-headed dude was cracking up harder than anyone. All I could do was join in on the giggles, and the daiquiri was so nice I ordered another one. It ended up being a top arvo, and the big fella wasn’t such a bad bloke once he realised I could take a joke. He had plenty of stories to tell about rooting sheilas and bashing dickheads, and even became a bit emotional when he told me about a mate of his who used to live near me, at Terrigal.
My time in the remote village of Dirranbandi opened my eyes to the ancient beauty of the outback, and to a different way of life that most Aussies haven’t experienced. The people are warm and friendly, hard working and honest. It’s a tough place to live, with devastating floods, overwhelming heat, and a startlingly limited selection of Pinot Noir Rosés at the bottle shop, but there’s something wonderful about Dirranbandi.
If you’re travelling north from Lightning Ridge, don’t just roll through to the next town – stop for a night or two, enjoy the hospitality at the caravan park, get drunk at the pub, listen to the river bubbling by and the birds in the trees. Chat to the locals and hear their stories, there’s no better way to find out a different, more genuine side of our wonderful country. Most importantly, don’t piss on anyone’s jeans while you’re there!