John Borthwick, Australian Travel Writer of the Year 2016, regales one of his first great adventures: hitchhiking around Australia in the 1960s. Listen up, kids. This is how it’s done.
Way back then—the late 1960s—I believed, with all the earnestness that only age 20 can summon, that my life in Sydney was dead, karked. I was already too old to succeed, but somehow too young to fail. I borrowed $20 to flee the academic, economic and romantic corpses strewn (I imagined) behind me. I would take to the roads, disappear forever. Or at least hitchhike around Australia, the circumference of my knowable world.
The tourniquets that stifle a city—mortgage belt, industrial belt, car yard wastelands—soon fell away. A ‘rabbitoh’, a rabbit catcher, named Ernie, piloting an old van, stops and we head west over the Blue Mountains and out past Bathurst to where I join him on a three-day rabbit-trapping safari, using nets and a cute but ferocious ferret. Out there on the western plains of the Great Divide, the fields of wheat ripple like ground-swell, and sulphur-crested cockatoos cartwheel down the sky, screeching through the stringy barks. Mobs of galahs. Wallabies. I nearly overdose on rabbit stew. And when I start hitching again, not too many cars.
Somewhere near Cowra, my ride passes a semi-trailer that’s overturned, spilling a cargo of cowboy boots and licorice candies. I ditch the lift and grab a pair of boots and a face-full of Choo-Choo Bars, just before the insurance agents torch the lot. I figure that now, in my boots, no one’s going to spot me as a city boy.