As we drive along a potholed track, I see the side mirror reflecting red dust as it billows behind the car like a Valkyrie’s cloak, eliminating any trace of the biting sun. In front, infinite blue envelops the empty, dry landscape. I instinctively duck as cockatoos swoop in front of the 4WD. After two days all we’d seen was red dirt, kangaroos and birds. My husband and I are literally in the middle of nowhere.
A month before we had decided to undertake a tour of the Australian outback, following any road that inspired adventure. Kitted out with enough food and water to last us several weeks, we were ready to survive temporarily off-grid. However, after hundreds of kilometres and zero signage, this track was a lost cause, so I switch on the GPS to find another route.
Tapping my thigh, hubby grunts, “Look.”
Ahead are two trees joined in an unnatural alliance via knotted rope. Guarding these trees is a conspiracy of ravens, cawing at our vehicle. Pulling to a stop, we stare at two dingo skins swaying in the breeze like a macabre butcher’s window.
Eyes wide, “That’s weird,” I say.
“Ha, it’s like Wolf Creek.” Despite being silent for most of our trip, I now wish he’d remained quiet.
Moving forward we see a lopsided arrow made of fence palings, weathered to silver by the harsh desert winds. It reads – The Club in the Scrub. Like a beckoning finger, it’s too intriguing to resist.
As we drive, the scrub becomes thicker, sunshine darkens to shade and birds fall silent. Eventually we enter a driveway, neatly lined with white rocks, leading to a rose garden. Next to the garden is a corrugated iron shack with a giant ‘P’, indicating where to park. I’m so bewildered by the neatness of a suburban garden in the desert, that I don’t realise the irony of a ‘P’ in the back of beyond.
Being city-slickers, we obey the ‘P’ and park next to the first vehicle we’ve seen in days. We get out and stare at the worn-out car, coarsely brushed in orange paint. Our noses wrinkle in unison from the smell of mould emanating through the smashed windscreen. Abruptly I recoil as my eye is drawn to a web swinging in the corner of the window frame, where a spider is spinning its trap.
“I guess we’re the first to arrive?” I say to hubby. Reverting to his erudite self, he motions to the path leading to the front door. Feeling surreal, I enter.
“G’day and welcome,” says the girl behind the counter, as she polishes a beer glass.
I barely get a yes out before we hear more G’days and turn around to see two heavily bearded men dressed in blue singlets, khaki shorts and surprisingly clean boots, sitting at a round table. A sign on the wall says No Thongs. Apparently, there is a dress code and it’s followed.
“Would you like to toast Bruce?” says one of the men. “It was his birthday yesterday.”
“Happy birthday Bruce,” I reply, noting the man’s slur.
The bartender calls out, “Bill, take Bruce home. Your missus will be calling and I ain’t your babysitter. Birthday’s over mate.”
We watch as they stumble out of the bar and pile into the orange rust bucket. After a few attempts, the engine turns over and carefully avoiding our car, they disappear up the driveway – the rear displaying an alarming sag.
“They’re lucky Sergeant Pete isn’t up for a round today. Did you park by the ‘P’?”
We both nod.
“Good, some people ignore it, but cars can get damaged.”
“How?” I ask.
“Because, we’re The Club in The Scrub. We’re the best desert golf club in the world, but you don’t want a ding in your flashy 4WD do ya? Would you like a round? There’s no green but we have 18 holes, marked by flags. The opal fields are close, you can visit those after lunch. I make a mean steak sandwich.”
Not completely mollified by ordinary conversation, I ask, “What’s with the dingoes up the road?”
“Bloody Steve. Thinks he’s a comedian. They’re wild dogs. Our farmers have had calves getting killed and we shoot them. Steve likes to scare the tourists. You know, after Wolf Creek? I’ll send someone to take them down.”
Sheepishly I look at hubby and grin. We pay for a round of golf, beer and steak sandwiches. I know we’re in for a great adventure.