The International Writers Magazine: Greyhound Days
to Byron on the Greyhound
Richard Cooper can't get no sleep
or bus? Despite the similar prices I went for the greyhound bus
option owing to greater flexibility on the way.
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all the movies were poor, out of date and a great substitute for sleeping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
Richard Cooper on accents
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