One hitchhiker's truckin' adventure around Australia
THERE is no roadhouse too cold, B-double to loud or highway too long for British adventurer Lindsey Cole.
A wild-at-heart backpacker, Lindsey has spent the last few months criss-crossing this great brown land with the help of the trucking community, learning the ins and outs of the trade and coming to terms with the day in the life of the average truckie.
While waiting to find her next ride north at Byron Bay, Big Rigs spoke with Lindsey about her travels and the drivers she had met while hitch-hiking her way around the country.
"The whole idea for the project came about after I walked the rabbit-proof fence," Lindsey said.
After taking on a 16,000km walk along the barrier, meeting many locals along the way, the 34-year-old became hungry for more.
"When I got to the end of it, I felt I had walked such a long way it would be wrong for me just to fly," Lindsey said.
"So I decided to hitch with truck drivers. It took me five rides to get to Perth, they were all amazing and all had fascinating stories so I decided to continue.
"It is actually quite fun.
"I liken it to endurance sports and I get competitive with myself about finding my next ride in a certain amount of time.
"I suss out situations, see which trucks are headed in what direction."
However the wait isn't always easy.
"Sometimes I wait five minutes, sometimes it has been up to 24 hours, it's all about meeting people happy to share their story," Lindsey said.
Finally with a chance to fulfil her 10-year dream of circumnavigating the continent, Lindsey decided not only to take in the best of Australia but to also take the time to understand some of the people that keep the country moving.
"They are hard-working people, all that time on the road requires real commitment and professionalism," Lindsey said.
"Part of the point of doing this was to dispel rumours and assumptions made about truckies.
"I think maybe the misconception the public has is that they don't understand the pressures these drivers have, if they are delayed it could mean they have to spend hours waiting around."
Profiling and spending hours listening to the stories of every driver she comes across, Lindsey said she was most taken aback by the isolation of life on the road.
"Everyone helps everyone else out, they miss their families and the married ones talk about their wives all the time," she said.
"Some of the wives have even started to contact me and ask for photos and follow online while their partners are away.
"Spending hours by yourself can be hard, so I think a lot of the drivers have been happy for the company.
"There was one guy who when I first met him told me he didn't have many friends.
"But in the 20 hours I travelled with him, he spoke to three of those friends for hours on end really late at night.
"We were even waiting on the line while his friend went to pee.
"They were real and close friendships that I don't think many people have, these were people that know what it's like being on the road."
Like most visitors to the land down under, the intrepid explorer has been struck by the landscape.
"Their office is pretty spectacular, the night sky is beautiful, drivers see some of the most amazing things and more of Australia than most," Lindsey said.
"And they love their country. A lot of drivers have strong opinions on the environment and the impact of mining despite the industry bringing work.
"Another driver I met collects cigarette butts as he finds them after he saw the impact of a bushfire one time."
After spending so much time on the road, Lindsey learnt to avoid most of the deep-fried gems found at roadhouses.
"I carry a bag of carrots or a bag of nuts, the roadhouses in the sticks are pretty dire," she said.
"But others I am quite impressed they have fully home-cooked meals."
Looking at the road ahead, Lindsey is calling for any drivers headed north to Darwin to finish her trip.
"I like people who want to share a story and want to be involved," she said.
"Whenever I'm able to get a lift I'm happy to jump in."
Follow Lindsey's adventure on her Facebook page, Lindsey Cole Truck Tales.