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The International Writers Magazine
: Greyhound Days

Sydney to Byron on the Greyhound
Richard Cooper can't get no sleep

Plane or bus? Despite the similar prices I went for the greyhound bus option owing to greater flexibility on the way.

Everyone will tell you how big Australia is. Of course I knew how big Australia was. That was until I got the coach from Sydney to Byron Bay. Now I thought they are in the same state. I knew it was a thirteen hour duration and that swayed me into taking the 'night bus' option. Foolishly due to laziness I turned up at the bus depot unprepared. I observed plastic bags with endless food supplies and pillows and duvets. Strange I thought. It had been a nice day in Sydney and it was sad to leave after six weeks.

I went on board with my allocated seat number. This was like airplane lotto - you buy your ticket and leave it to the Gods. Most of the time like playing the real lotto my numbers never came up and was always left constantly disappointed. The bus was three quarters full so there was a chance I could get two seats to myself. In the event I won the small prize - avoiding all the pre-memorised weirdo's and landing the charms of a nice Irish girl. There was a flurry of standard pleasantries around the coach before there was forced silence by the movie that was just starting. I had been warned prior to my coach experiences that all the movies were poor, out of date and a great substitute for sleeping pills. Seemingly they proved correct. I had never seen the cast before and it was as cheesy as a bag of wotsits. However remarkably it became funny in it's own quirky way and Adam Sandler seemed to rescue the ailing low budget blockbuster. This was okbut the bald headed Pierluigi Collina's scary brother look a like in front of me was blocking the view. This guy had rapid head movement. Every time I moved my head around his to see the television screen he would move it the other way. This was turning into a game of chess but I was struggling to guess his frequent head movements which in turn lead to me missing the majority of the film. He was also the only person in the entire coach to sleep with the lights on. I know some people do this at home but with the presence of thirty others surely he could'nt be scared. He was amongst friends. So with the half light slightly in my vision we continued out of Sydney.

My lack of preparation was proving a slight hindrance. In reality had I gained the mindset that the distance was the same as going from Bournemouth (in the south of England) to the Highlands in Scotland maybe it would have prompted greater preparation. I could have equally of used the example of Paris to Munich or Copenhagen to Prague. They were all of similar distance from Sydney to Byron Bay. In theory sleep could block out this increasingly worrying mindset. However a combination of hard seats, bumpy roads and a curtain rail being to my right caused a bout of insomnia that would continue throughout the night. In reality you could not sleep anyway. At three hour intervals the coach would stop in the most deserted petrol stations for forty minutes. The lights would come on and the driver would speak over the loud speaker causing even the most sleep deprived to wake. What exactly you were meant to do for forty minutes at four o' clock in the morning was beyond me.

Out of the thirteen hours of travel I managed maybe two of sleep. It was one of the most frustratingly boring journeys of my life. Motorway in darkness hardly provides inspiration with insomnia well and truly set in. I made up for the lack of blanket and pillow with the use of my trusty right hand to cushion my head. This in turn deemed in useless for ten minutes after I moved due to dumbness. At 9.30am the following morning with the bask of sunlight now pouring into the windows the coach finally pulled into the coach stop. Some say the night bus is a free nights accommodation. All I can say is that it's like sitting on a chair with thirty strangers and not being allowed to get off it for hours. Every so often someone will wake you up and make you get out to 'stretch your legs' in a deserted petrol station. Before I had been missing my own bed. Now I was looking forward to any bed. Before that it was welcome to Hippy Land.

© Rich Cooper May 2004
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