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Sydney & Back

I have to post about our road trip to Sydney the weekend before last - and before they recede into the background of memories. Long drive, and in a way I was reminded about my countless Delhi-Jaipur trips or Delhi-Pushkar trips. Different experiences but each unique in their own way.

The first thing that you notice here are how good and well-maintained the roads are. And if, some parts of the roads are on repair, you are warned well in advance by sign posts and speed limits which are followed strictly. Was I impressed? Yes, but guess what, I missed the ocassional bumpy rides, the potholes and bullock carts and camels on the way.

Driving to Sdyney via the Hume Highway takes nine hours, and apparently, it is not one of the mosts scenic drives. The breathtaking drive is via the coastal route, which takes longer. I found this one beautiful, nontheless.

For miles on end, I saw cattle, sheep, horses grazing on vast stretches of green, an ocassional pond, small hills and all kinds of trees. We also passed through some of the bush-fire ravaged areas of last year and they were stark by the saplings of trees planted and tall barren black trees that looked, at a glance, like some dark figures standing. I asked Lolo where one earth these 'stray' animals came from. Not stray, I was told. They belonged to farmers, not that I saw any sign of them. Well, some of these farms stretch to as many as 20,000 acres and the animals, all marked, graze and live in the open. I thought aloud, what if they got stolen? "Not very easy to knock off a cow, no?," came the reply. But, of course!

And then I also spotted some lovely houses. I thought, who in his right mind, would live in between nowhere - no malls, no people, no town nearby. I was again, reminded of Sumer, a power plant near Barapani in Shillong which had few engineers' quarters, one market place and one tea stall, a favourite haunt of  the power plant workers. A handful of families lived there. It was so scenic and beautiful and it was a place my aunt took us every weekend in the early '80s because my cousin brother was working as an engineer in the Power house. He had a lovely big cottage on a hill top but what lingers about those memories are my constant state of fear because there were hardly any people. I even felt scared to be left alone in the huge bathroom!!

But ask an Australian and most will tell you how they love farm life and the solitude of things. A farm experience is on my wish list though but with good and big company!

Onward, we broke our journey into two parts, drove four hours from Melbourne and stopped the night at a town called Holbrook, a submarine surprise for me. You wonder how the submarine came to this quaint sparsely populated town. And then you see the museum and all the information put up which says during World War I, when Australia was in war with Germany, Holbrook was known was Germanton. Obviously, you couldn't have an enemy name.

So, the story goes that about this time a certain Lt Norman Holbrook became the first naval Victoria Cross winner of the war for his gallantry in sinking a Turkish battleship with the submarine he commanded. It was soon decided that the town could do no better than be named after a great war hero, and so in 1915, Germanton became Holbrook. Ever since then it has maintained a special link with submarines, according to writer Bill Condon.

After a dinner of roast pork and steak at the town's popular cafe, Lolo and I did a tour of the submarine. There were a few onlookers like us and after a fill of photo ops, we retired for the night. The next morning after breakfast, we drove four-and-half hours after a break for lunch and gas fill and reached Sydney's western suburb call Blacktown. And in the process, missed one of the worst storms of the decade that hit Melbourne.

On the way back, we did a nine-hour run stopping at a few places. There were Mcdonald's, KFCs, Subways and very good rest areas for truck drivers which had well-maintained toilets. Over here, truck drivers have a strict log book and cannot drive for kms on end. But what I also missed was the dhabas and a stop for 'karak chai'.

After two days of fun and frolic with some of my friends, and ten days later, I am still a bit Sydney sick.

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