Saturday, 27th June 1987

The provisions that I had purchased for my 36-hour coach trip amounted to a loaf of bread, a large piece of cheese, some smoked ham and a small jar of piccalilli. Carrying them I turned up at the bus depot in Darwin and boarded the “Bus Australia” coach bound for Queensland. There weren’t many fellow passengers; just two people from the hostel, Richard from Manchester and Jessica from Hull plus a Japanese girl and a German girl.

We left at 11:30am and the first part of the journey to Three Ways was fine and pretty uneventful. We watched Where Eagles Dare on the bus video system, stopped off for a quick swim at Mataranka and discussed Boris Becker’s demise at Wimbledon.  I made myself a few sandwiches; cheese and piccalilli and ham and piccalilli. We reached Three Ways at 11:30pm.

From Three Ways Macafferty’s took over with a different bus. It was an overnight trip and, feeling full of piccalilli, I found getting to sleep a little difficult.   I dropped off eventually.



Sunday, 28th June 1987

I woke to an amazing sunrise and soon found that we were just outside Mouth Isa.   We had breakfast at the roadhouse at Isa with a view of the “Copper City” mine dominating the background. We pulled away again at 8am and I spent much of the day watching more videos (Smokey and the Bandit was one) and eating cheese and piccalilli sandwiches and ham and piccalilli sandwiches. It took almost another 12 hours to get to Townsville and it was almost 7pm when we finally arrived there.

Map from diary

I phoned the Globetrotters hostel and found that they had some beds left. It was a very modern hostel. The guy in the next bed to me was Richard, a Brit, who was looking for work in Cairns.  He had been there a few weeks and hadn’t had too much success with it he told me.

Despite its bad reputation, I found Townsville to be a very nice modern city with a modern mall and a relaxed atmosphere. I went for a meal at “Tony’s Roasts” and enjoyed a  smorgasbord of roast meats and vegetables which made a welcome change from the piccalilli.

On the way back to the hostel I bumped into Victor. It was just amazing how many people I kept bumping into on my travels. It seemed that every day would bring someone new. Someone who I had previously met in Kakadu, in New Zealand or in Melbourne perhaps.  At first I thought this was odd, Australia was such a large country after all.  But thinking about it,  it made sense.  Australia had a limited number of settlements and we were all staying around the same sort of hostels and places.   I agreed to meet Victor for coffee the next day.


Monday, 29th June 1987

Whilst I was waiting for Victor I went to the Post Office to check my Poste Restante and in the queue I met Jandreau from Kakadu. I had a relaxing coffee with Victor at Charlies Restaurant and we caught up with each other’s news since leaving Sydney. After lunch I made my way to the bus station.

At 1pm I left Townsville on a Macafferty’s bus bound for Cairns. My seat mate was a charming lady of 60 years who talked nonstop for the 6 hour journey. Her stories were fascinating. She told me about the sugar cane fields we could see burning from the bus window. She had grown up among them and she told me all about the cane tram system of little railways they used to transport the cane.

She told me all about her life in Queensland during the war years and all the changes that had happened since then. It was a wonderfully informative ride, but when she offered me cheese and jam sandwiches I began to miss the piccalilli just a bit.


We arrived 2 hours late into Cairns at 7pm. There was a hostel courtesy mini-bus in the bus station car park. It was a clever idea. I jumped at the opportunity of a $7 a night bed and a ride to the hostel. The hostel that the bus led me to was called the “Tourist Hostel”.

As I was checking in I heard a familiar voice and I turned around to see Scottish Michael from Melbourne. We headed out to the pub together and he told me all the news from the hostel in Melbourne. Donna was pregnant and Peter the landlord was about to be prosecuted for running an illegal hostel.


Tuesday, 30th June 1987

I spent most of Tuesday walking around Cairns and basking in the sun next to the pool at the hostel. In the evening I went down to the Jetty to watch the marlin being landed.


The hostel had quite a weird collection of people. There was Neil, a patriotic Bristolian, and his girlfriend Pat. Phil from the Melbourne Chapman St Hostel, 2 Irish guys: David and Tony. Tony had an ear infection apparently a result of his diving course.

Then there was “Spook” who was Scottish and who had clearly had too many drugs. He spent most of the time muttering to himself. The rest of the residents were dole bludgers from Sydney who spent most of the nights smoking dope and most of the mornings lying in.

In the Australian General Election – Bob Hawke was kicked by Pro-life protesters.


Wednesday, 1st July 1987

On Wednesday morning I took the Hayles Minerva launch for the 90 minute trip over to Green Island and spent the day peacefully; swimming, sunbathing and snorkeling. The snorkeling was fun and there some absolutely beautiful fish and coral views.

I spent the evening in the Strand Bar talking first to David, an Irishman, and then to a girl from St Albans.   It was all very pleasant, although when I returned to the hostel I found Spook totally stoned and proposing to leave all the gas rings on the cooker lit all night.


Thursday, 2nd July 1987

I made my way to the station at Cairns and boarded the 9:30am train to Kuranda. The trip would take me along the beautiful Cairns to Kurnada Railway.


There were many highlights along the way but Barron Falls was definitely the best.

Barron Falls (Post Card)

Kuranda reminded me a little bit of the Lake District with its gift shops and vegetarian restaurants.


I had a lentil and potato pie, walked around a bit and then decided that I had seen enough. I decided to hitch out and very quickly I secured a lift with a guy who had recently been demobbed from the Australian Army. He was now trying to find work in Cairns. He was a great chap and the drive back to Cairns took us through some lovely scenery slightly different from the train ride up.

I spent Thursday afternoon relaxing by the pool.  In the evening I headed into the Backpackers Restaurant in town with some Swedish girls to watch Martina Navratilova defeat Chris Evert in the semi-finals at Wimbledon.


Friday, 3rd July 1987

Friday began with a long lie in. Eventually I summoned the energy to walk out of town and get to a place that could be considered suitable to hitch from. It was 11:30 and it took me 30 minutes of holding out my thumb before I got a lift. It was just a short one to Gordonvale and it was from a middle-aged chap who told me that his great pleasure in life was flying to Manila to catch up on his “rooting”.

He dropped me by the side of the sugar cane fields. I waited half an hour before a Holden Kingswood pulled up for me. It was driven by two New South Wales guys and their dog, Bruce. It was a four and a half hour drive, but we made it all the way back into Townsville.

I went back to the Globetrotters and found Richard where I had left him a few days before.  He was still looking for work.


Saturday, 4th July 1987

I began Saturday with another long lie in. I eventually made it out to have a look around the aquarium. It was quite fascinating. It was full of sharks and reef life and a there was a really cool bit where you could walk through the centre in a glass tube.

Later on I boarded another Hayles Boat to take me on the 20 minute ride across to Magnetic Island.


The boat ride was choppy and I was joined by Tom and Claudia, the Danes. Once on Magnetic Island, we boarded the bus for Geoff’s Place. I left the Danes at Geoff’s Place trying to pitch their tent and then I hitched about 10km to the other side of the Island.

It took me 3 lifts, one in a mini moke, to get to the other side into Arcadia and finally into Picnic Bay. I got a bed in the Hideaway hostel for the night for $6.  I sat in that night and watched Wimbledon again. Martina Navratilova beat Steffi Graf.

Smoke Visible

Meanwhile the Reef Link catamaran caught fire off Townsville.


Sunday, 5th July 1987

I left the Hideaway early.  I went back via Picnic Bay town centre to the Sphnynx Lookout and watched the smoke still coming from the catamaran fire. I then hitched in a Ute to Nelly Bay to begin a bushwalk across the island. It was a really beautiful walk and I finished it with a 4X beer in a bar. I then caught the early evening launch back across to Townsville.

I spent the evening at the Globetrotters watching Pat Cash win Wimbledon (the local support was pretty crazy). It was like watching him doing it in fog though as the TV reception was pretty bad.



Monday, 6th July 1987

I woke early again and traipsed out of Townsville to begin the hitch to Brisbane and Sydney.  It was a total distance of over 2,000km.   I began my trip in a red Ford Falcon driven by an old man. He dropped me at 11am just 2km outside the town and left me outside the local crematorium and went inside to attend a funeral.   I waited an hour until a railway signalman picked me up and took me to Bowen 200km south. We spent the time talking about Politics. He dropped me at a roadhouse just outside Bowen.

I only waited a few minutes before 2 girls driving a big station wagon picked me up. Their car had no windscreen at all and luckily they only proposed taking me to the south side of Bowen. Even so we were buffeted by gales coming in from the front. How they could drive around in a vehicle like that, god only knew.

A gas tanker picked me up next. The driver told me he was returning empty from Bowen to Mackay and he was an amicable enough chap. We chatted on all manner of topics as the sun slowly set on the burning sugar cane fields. He dropped me 3km to the north of the town and I decided to try and hitch through Mackay to Rockhampton. I soon got a lift through Mackay from an Englishman in a Ute, but as it was getting dark, I decided to give up on Rockhampton and I walked back into Mackay.


I went to a pub and had an excellent counter meal of ham steaks washed down with some 4X. Instead of looking for accommodation I decided to buy a coach ticket for the 2am service to Rockhampton. This would enable me to keep moving south and save money at the same time.

The TV lounge at the bus station provided a comfortable place to spend the evening. When it closed at 11pm I went across the street to an all night café.

I was accompanied by a stray dog.  He had seemed happy sitting in the TV lounge but as I made to leave he got up and followed me across the road.


Tuesday, 7th July 1987

I sat in the café with my new canine friend watching the midnight buses come and go. Macafferty’s, Greyhound, Ansett and finally my “Deluxe” service south. It arrived at 1:30am. I climbed aboard, found a seat and fell asleep. I slept for pretty much the whole 4 hour journey and we arrived at Rockhampton just before 6am.

The bus passengers were supposed to have their breakfast in the Leichardt Hotel but I didn’t join them. I crept into the washroom and had as near as I could to a full wash and then headed out to a garage for a bacon sandwich, a coffee and a chat to a man from Windsor.

My thumb was already out at 7am and after 40 minutes I got the first lift from a road gang supervisor in a 4 by 4. He took me 30 km south. Next a Ford falcon driven by a Government Health Inspector sped me another 130km.

Two Aussies accompanied by a Danish farmer picked me up next. They took me from a sign that said “Brisbane 530km” and dropped me at another one that said “Brisbane 380km”. They had been on holiday in Great Keppel but they were heading inland and going nowhere near Brisbane.

By now it was noon and I then had 3 short lifts of about 30km each. A Yugoslavian Ice Cream Man took me into Childers. His van was fool of tools and he told me he was a former motor mechanic. A railway sleeper maker then took me half way to Marlborough and then a frozen food rep in another Falcon got me all the way into Marlborough.   It was still only 2pm and I was only 280km short of Brisbane.

After a longish wait of about 90 minutes another Yugoslavian picked me up. This one I couldn’t understand much, but when he said he was going to Brisbane, I didn’t care too much.

It was all a bit hair raising and I spent the next 3 hours listening to his Cliff Richard tapes, whilst he supped whisky, sucked on lemons and pushed his little Chrysler estate car to the limits. He passed juggernaut after juggernaut with little visibility in the teeming rain. The only things he talked about for the whole 3 hour journey were the weather and the state of the road surface.

He dropped me 4km north of Brisbane just after 6pm and I took a bus from there into the very posh looking Roma Transit Centre.   The Roma Street hostel was full and so, accompanied by a Canadian girl and a Japanese girl, I trudged around the corner to look for a bed in a dormitory at the Paddington Barracks Hostel.   I got one and I fell asleep pretty early and pretty quickly.



Wednesday, 8th July 1987

 I spent the day sightseeing in Brisbane.


I traversed Brisbane’s centre having a look around the shopping precincts and meeting opposition leader John Howard, who was out canvassing, in the process. I visited the beautiful new art gallery complex on the south side of the town and then ventured out on the train to look at the Castlemaine brewery.

I had a Chinese takeaway nearby and then caught a train back to the Paddington Barracks. Brisbane probably deserved more of my time, but I was too tired, and I caught another early night.




Thursday, 9th July 1987

I woke up early and with all the morning commuters I headed to the central station. I caught the little electric train out to Beenleigh and found a place on the Sydney-bound Pacific Highway to hitch south from.

It was like trying to hitch on the M1. The traffic was far too fast.

I was wondering what to do when a middle-aged German couple stopped and offered to take me 40km south to Surfers Paradise. They were nice enough and we talked about their time in New York for most of the trip.

Frustratingly, they dropped me right in the centre of the town. I decided to try and hitch out of the centre and to my surprise, after only 30 minutes, an elderly man picked me up and took me out to Coolangatta. We got on well and he told me he had served in the Australian forces in WW2 in Papua New Guinea and had then actually settled there for a while after the war.

He took me back to his house for coffee and biscuits and we watched the early morning showing of Coronation Street together.  He dropped me, just inside New South Wales, at Tweed Heads.  He promised me it would be a good spot to hitch on from. It was 10:05am by then.

As promised, I didn’t have long to wait at all. An American Girl with a VW Campervan stopped and took me 28km south to Murwanbah. She dropped me on the brow of a hill next to a sign that said “940km to Sydney”.   That was my lucky break.

After less than a 10 minute wait a blue truck chugged to a standstill on the hill. “Sydney?” the driver asked. “Sydney” I replied.

The driver’s name was John and he later explained that he wouldn’t have stopped for me unless I had been on the brow of a hill.   12 hours after he picked me up we pulled into Hornsby in the Northern suburbs. John was a real laugh and we talked the whole journey. He was an ex boiler maker, had toured Europe and on his return had bought a van. He had now set himself up transporting mattresses backwards and forwards between Sydney and Brisbane.

The Sydney system train brought me into the Centre and eventually to Kings Cross. I caught a taxi to Bondi and arrived outside the Braemer flat at 1am. I unravelled my sleeping bag and fell asleep on the landing outside Sean’s flat.


Friday, 10th July 1987

When he opened the door at 6:30am to go to work Sean found me asleep on his landing. As he ushered me inside the flat he mentioned that this was the second time in a year.

Most of the people had moved next door to flat 4. I fell asleep again on Sean’s bed and woke at 11am to surprise Josie. Josie had just returned to Sydney herself and was sleeping on the floor. She explained that Declan and John shared flat 4 with Brian, Rob and two other Irish guys.

I went into Drakes on Friday night and met Martin from Kodak. He had cut his thumb off, so I consoled myself that I wasn’t the only one with missing digits. We adjourned to the MLC and thence to Gresham’s, a pub near the Queen Victoria Building, where we continued to get drunk.  I crawled home drunk on the train and slept on the floor in Flat number 1.


Saturday, 11th July 1987

I spent Saturday morning with the hangover from hell and only just felt well enough by 5pm to go out again. We went to the New Tai Yuen. We had a wonderful meal washed down with a few wine casks and then we taxied to Kings Cross.

This was to be my last ever night in Sydney for sure and so we headed straight to the Rex for some final drinks. At 1am we negotiated our way into a strip club and spent 2 hours watching stripping and live sex on stage. It was seedy and tacky but it had to be done.   We finally trundled home in a taxi and I spent my last ever night on the sofa at Flat Number 4.

Indian Pacific