বৃহস্পতিবার, সেপ্টেম্বর ২৪, ২০২০
আন্তর্জাতিক ডেস্ক
২৪ আগস্ট ২০২০
১:৩৬ অপরাহ্ণ
In Review: Bypass, The Story of a Road
In Review: Bypass, The Story of a Road

২৪ আগস্ট ২০২০ ১:৩৬ অপরাহ্ণ

At the age of 40, former Jesuit priest, Michael McGirr - armed with not far more than a replica of Anna Karenina, some spare clothes and a but state-of-the-art Chinese built bicycle - began to ride the 880 kilometers (547 miles) of the Hume Highway which links Sydney and Melbourne.

While the ride forms the backdrop to McGirr's book Bypass: The Story of a Road, like all good travelogue's the ride itself is basically just a frame to hold the important story around, which because the title suggests, is that the story of the Hume Highway. From its humble beginnings as a rough track across the good Dividing Range to its current state as a contemporary toll road, the Highway continues to function the main thoroughfare linking Australia's two largest cities.

Bypass takes you on an exquisite journey covering the history of the Hume, and therefore the politics that helped shape it. Along the way you meet some great - and not so great - Australian characters that have helped imprint the name of the highway into the Australian psyche. People just like the 61-year-old Cliff Young (great), who in 1983 won the inaugural Sydney to Melbourne foot race against competitors half his age. And men like Ivan Milat (not so great) who was convicted of the murder of seven young backpackers and hitch-hikers, all of whom he buried within the Belanglo State Forest.

Then there are the explorers' Hamilton Hume (after whom the Highway was eventually named) and William Hovell, who in 1824 alongside a minimum of six others, set of from Appin (near this day Sydney suburb of Campbelltown) for the primary successful quest to succeed in Melbourne. We also meet truckies; the bushrangers Ben Hall and Ned Kelly; and therefore the poets 'Banjo' Paterson and Henry Lawson. We attend a Catholic Mass in Tarcutta - officially the halfway point between Sydney and Melbourne - where aside from the priest and two parishioners, the sole people attending are the author of Bypass and his companion Jenny, who has by this point joined him on his ride to Melbourne.

We visit almost every country town along the route of the Hume Highway and learn something about each of them. Towns like Goulburn, famous for the large Merino and Goulburn Jail (where Ivan Milat is currently serving seven life sentences). We visit Holbrook and learn why the outer shell of the Oberon Class submarine HMAS Otway now sits during a public park within the middle of town. In Chiltern, we travel by the childhood home of the Australian writer Henry Handel Richardson and learn that Henry's real name was Ethel Florence. We learn too, that like other female writers have done throughout history, Ethel wrote under a male nom de plume because at the time it had been felt that ladies did not have what it took to be great writers. and that we also visit the town of Yass, and drop in the freedom Café for a meal before continuing on our journey.

Now, I even have to confess this section of the book took me completely all of sudden and was one of the good unexpected pleasures I got out of Bypass. Let me explain why.

Some years ago, I used to be returning to Adelaide from Australia's capital, Canberra, and on a whim decided to undergo the town of Yass, which is a few 60 kilometers approximately from Canberra. Because I had been on the road but an hour, and since I could see no reason to prevent in Yass, I simply left the Hume Highway, drove into town and up along Yass's main street, while all the time looking left and right taking a mental snapshot of the landscape. I then headed back out onto the Hume and continued on my way.

It may seem such an odd thing to try to, on the other hand, I'm susceptible to do odd things on no quite a whim, and this was one among those occasions. the rationale I write on it now's that as I drove up Comur Street, Yass's main thoroughfare, my gaze fell on a little dining establishment called the freedom Café.

At now I should mention that aside from putting this blog together, one among the opposite 'strings' I've added to my 'bow' is songwriting. So within minutes of passing through Yass, I started writing a song called the freedom Café*. This song subsequently appeared on my second album American Dream* and remains one among my favorite songs. Never the less, I had always regretted not stopping in at the café as I drove through town. I'm pleased to mention I made amends for that lapse earlier this year when in April, I again drove to Sydney, and this point I did stop at the freedom Café for a meal break. In fact, I ended there for a second time on my way back to Adelaide. So, as I say, it had been a pleasant surprise to examine the Café in Bypass, and know that of all the restaurants and cafés in Yass, Michael McGirr had also been drawn to the freedom.

Across its many short chapters, Bypass also introduces us to a number of the thousands of bumper stickers that adorn the rear ends of the many Australian vehicles. In fact, McGirr uses stickers as chapter headings to introduce us to each aspect of his journey. Thus, the bumper sticker THE OLDER I buy the higher I used to be, allows him to elucidate a number of his own personal story and therefore the reasons for his decision to ride the Hume Highway. within the chapter THE GODDESS IS DANCING, McGirr introduces us to his riding partner Jenny, and in DEATH is that the MANUFACTURER'S RECALL NOTICE, we pause to find out about a number of the various roadside memorials that mark the sites of fatal road accidents that line the Highway.

To conclude, Bypass may be a book that ticks tons of boxes in terms of my personal criteria for an honest travelogue. The book is immensely readable, always entertaining and informative, often surprising, and constantly crammed with odd facts and humorous anecdotes. These keep the story moving along smoothly and effortlessly - which may not always be said of Michael McGirr's monumental bike ride.

I began this review by writing "like all good travelogue's the ride itself is basically just a frame to hold the important story around, which because the title suggests, is that the story of the Hume Highway." But it should even be said, that Bypass: The Story of a Road isn't merely the story of 1 relatively short (by Australian standards) stretch of highway. it's also about the history of this country, and about the people that have helped build and shape it into the fashionable land, it's now become.

Jim Lesses may be a multi-talented Australian whose interests span songwriting and recording, movies and traveling, blogging and website development, and far more.

 

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