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Read an exclusive extract from Datsun Angel by Anna Broinowski.

Chapter 8 (edited extract)

Day 1: Sydney to Dubbo – 400.2 kilometres

On the train out of Central, Peisley and I agree on three rules. We never split up; we remain platonic; and we accept every lift that gets us closer to Darwin.

Vegetable gardens flash past our windows, Vietnamese Australians clipping spinach in triangular straw hats. Gonzo adventurer Hunter S. Thompson claimed he set the record for distance hitchhiking in bermuda shorts, using his thumb to traverse 3700 miles across 1960s America. I’m going to trump that: 5290.79 miles through Australia’s deep north. My shorts are denim.

The great beatnik dream, of firebrand seekers forsaking security for freedom, ripping apart the neurosis of normality to illuminate brazen new truths, is my beacon. Thompson, Kerouac and John Waters turbocharged the act of literary drifting. They mined the open road for sex and inspiration – just as Blake, Wordsworth and Coleridge roamed the fields to feed their muses – but they did it in metal machines, at speed. Hitching for art has always been a masculine endeavour: Waters, safe in his maleness, never had a bad ride. The only thing he feared was not being able to get a lift. Bo Derek, with her perfect-10 body, hitchhiked as a teenager in sixties LA, but she was thumbing lifts to the beach. She says now she can’t believe she did it, that hitchhiking as a female is stupid and dangerous. 

I’m acutely aware my shorts, unlike Thompson’s, contain a vagina. But I feel no fear. I want what the beatniks had. I want to puncture their macho legacy and jazz-fuelled ramblings with some cynical eighties cool. And I have a bodyguard. With his bald skull, six-foot-two wrestler’s build and ludicrous Hawaiian shorts, Peisley looks like a deranged and potentially homicidal skinhead. I follow him out of Lithgow station, admiring the neat way he’s knotted his guitar to his rucksack.

We’ve rationed our possessions to the bare essentials: two towels, two mugs, two rabbit-felt Akubras, two changes of clothes, two forks, two toothbrushes, one coffee-table sized map of Australia, one tube of industrial strength Aerogard, one army surplus water-bottle, one Leatherman knife, one billy, one torch, one notebook. Squashed between these are matches, razors, teabags, pens, soap, toothpaste, tobacco, Germaine Greer’s Indian necklace and, most important of all, seven books: Hermann Hesse’s The Glass Bead Game, Suetonius’s Twelve Caesars, Carlos Castaneda’s The Second Ring of Power, Michel Foucault’s Discipline and Punish and The History of Sexuality Volume III, William Burroughs’s Junkie and Elaine Pagels’s The Gnostic Gospels. We will raise grub money busking in pubs and collect Peisley’s dole cheque on Fridays, from post offices wherever we happen to be.

I plant myself beside him on the edge of the highway and raise my left arm. Tingling with anticipation, I point my thumb north in the semaphore of the twentieth-century vagabond, made universal by the rise of the automobile. It’s the oddest gesture I’ve attempted in public, but my thumb is imbued with magical power. It will transport us 3832 kilometres to Darwin’s beautiful coves. Their fertile promise glitters in my mind’s eye like an emerald. Darwin! A sumptuous tropical dream, a decadent carnival of pirates and pearl divers and drifters. One of them is an old schoolmate of Fuzz’s who strings for JJJ and grows weed in the jungle. He’s offered us his couch. I can’t wait to join the nonstop party he calls life. The university grind doesn’t recommence till February. We have an entire month to explore everything the road throws at us, in unstructured bliss.

  • Datsun Angel - Anna Broinowski

    Datson Angel is a turbo-charged adventure into the savage heart of 1980s Australia: a place completely alien, yet frighteningly similar, to today.

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