Ah, road trips... a glamorous idea proposed by a bunch of bored friends eager for a spontaneous adventure on a budget.
We most delusionally believe we’ll have a highly successful day as we cover a significant amount of ground, while always agreeing on music choice and engaging in gentle yet stimulating conversation, as we’re seated comfortably in our stylish and exceptionally reliable luxury SUV. We imagine the girls wearing pink lipstick with floral bows in their hair, while the men laugh and playfully throw beverages to each other as they jump out of the vehicle, looking fresh as ever. As the sun sets, the pretty couples lay on the beach in the laps of their significant other. There’s perfect white smiles, tanned and toned bodies, and synchronised laughter at seemingly remarkably witty jokes.
Of course, this horrendous misconception lasts about two whole hours. Fading as starvation approaches, you tire and start to get a numb butt from sitting for too long. Additionally, at this point you start to question the people you chose to invite on this cross-country journey, as you become increasingly tempted to throttle the guy that chose the painful playlist - the one he constantly has to reassure you that it is ‘music’.
Anyone that’s ever embarked on a grand Australian road trip will know it is fun for the first part, before everything starts to look the same and you begin to fully realise just how vast our country is. Yet nevertheless, a rustic pilgrimage in a beaten-up Kombi van venturing across a barren stretch of bitumen is where real adventure exists.
Amidst the monotonous terrain, you will at some point need to seek refuge in a slightly historical town scattered with bluestone structures and road signs that remind you how far we are from any other form of civilisation. At each food stop, we grab what we can and quickly build a tolerance to downing convenient, yet awful cuisine, with little to no nutritional value. A piping hot Four’n Twenty pie and a coffee which barely tastes better than watered down bitterness at 8:30am can be exactly what you need to comfortably tackle the next 200 kilometres before your next break.
However, when you have time to investigate your next nondescript township you may be fortunate enough to find that elusive hand-written blackboard displayed in the local bakery window. The one that can lead you to discover their ‘famous pie’ which people travel far and wide for. Upon discovering this Holy Grail you quickly join the queue of other ‘hangry’ road trip enthusiasts, busy keeping local business alive.
Venturing further off the beaten track, you may even stumble across the inimitable Devonshire Tearooms. This allows you to sit and enjoy the badly decorated ‘courtyard’, with its plastic tablecloths that rock a fade vintage fruit-like pattern. The scones melt in your mouth and they serve tea from a teapot that tastes real, robust and hugs your esophagus all the way down.
If you happen to power past a roadside fruit stand, swing that u-ey and sample the true meaning of ‘organic’ from an old farmer passionate about his produce. It will pack a vitamin C punch that saves you from the tiresome cycle of muesli bars and potato chips keeping you alive for the past few days.
Take my advice, next time you plan your long and potentially mundane driving endeavour, leave the pink lipstick at home. Your hair will be dirty and you may start to misjudge whether or not that smell in the car is actually from the road kill you passed a few kilometres back or if everyone’s body sweat has actually permeated deep into the car seats. I promise you, the journey will form great memories, new discoveries and bring out a real-life trip advisor within you to inform your friends of where to find the best coffee, lunch stops and convenient dinner locations anywhere between Cann River to Cairns. Because in the midst of a long-winded driving stint who really cares about anything other than the next meal?
Editors note: Inspired by our late teen era memories and maybe too much Red Hot Chilli Peppers — “Road trippin’ with my two favourite allies. Fully loaded. We got snacks and supplies” — we thought it fitting to explore the phenomena of distance’s influence of flavour. Featured below are snaps from some of the unforgettable food stops at Cann River; a bit like Gippsland’s own Panama Canal — less a postcard destination than an inevitable junction — everyone passes through, whether heading to the snow, Sydney or the Sapphire Coast. Upon arrival, practically all available food verges on Michelin Star cuisine.
Photos by Rachel Mounsey.