13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
Duel in the Sun.,
This review is from: Cold Beer and Crocodiles: A Bicycle Journey into Australia (Paperback)
Cold Beer and Crocodiles (crocodiles barely feature at all!) is an excellent travel adventure that will appeal to anyone who cosily enjoys the vicarious experience of someone else battling to survive in an extreme landscape: in this case, the Australian Outback. Having lived in Australia for 15 years without developing any emotional attachment to the country, Roff Smith quit his job at Time magazine to undertake a mammoth 10,000 mile round trip of Australia, the rationale being to try to find the 'real' Australia and 'real' Australians, engage emotionally "with the country I'd lived in as a stranger all these years". His chosen mode of transport, a 21 speed touring bicycle would let him get close to the land, experience Australia, its sights, sounds and smells.
In the early stages of the venture, Smith expends much pedal power sloughing off the Sydney suburbs and running the gauntlet of heavy, aggressive traffic. City and suburbs sloughed off, six months of gruelling Outback travel follow: its when he hits the furnace of the Outback that the words blaze off the pages as he is plagued for months on end by flies, thirst, dust, scorching heat and feelings of loneliness; is passed by huge triple roadtrains, horns blaring, barrelling down desert highways; witnesses spectacular thunder and sizzling forked-lightning desert storms; bivouacs in scrub under night skies "full of stars as sharp as needles"; works in sheep and cattle stations in the guts of the country - the barren interior; visits an Aboriginal community; picks melons; duels for weeks on end with the vast, hostile expanses of empty, reddish plains baking under the blistering sun ("so much nothing out there - just miles and miles of nothing"). Surviving to the next roadhouse is the order of each day!
On his travels, Smith encounters a mixed bag of characters (mostly helpful) slap bang in the middle of nowhere - in remote roadhouses, isolated settlements or in outstations hundreds of miles of sand, scrub and spinifex away from the nearest town. If the idea of living on the edge appeals to you, then you'll certainly enjoy Cold Beer and Crocodiles. Now try "One For The Road" by Tony Horwitz, another equally good and well written travel venture into the Australian Outback but this time from the very different perspective of a hitch-hiker. Both books highly recommended.