Come with us now on a journey through time and space… So were the opening lines of each episode of the surrealist British comedy, The Mighty Boosh, although these words could be emblazoned on a banner in the front windscreen of the Inner-West’s notorious 370 bus service from Coogee Beach to Leichhardt.
This bus service seemingly resists the laws of physics and the pull of time, transcending epochs and continents to assert itself as a natural mechanism of the universe: slow, eternal and inscrutable in the face of analysis by our most brilliant scientific minds. It has a sister bus in Naples, the notorious circumvesuviana, which circles the mighty and terrible Mount Vesuvius, creeping along slower than geological processes. It is a bus that makes Odysseus’ decades-long journey home in Homer’s epic The Odyssey look like a slightly side-tracked Contiki tour.
And so, while the majority of my friends list completed unpaid internships or took jaunts through Europe, South-East Asia and the Americas over the previous Summer, I decided to embark on a far more arduous, dangerous and challenging journey, but one – I hoped – would ultimately be more rewarding and offer me many revelations and an inimitable feeling of existential homecoming. I decided to ride the 370 from Annandale to Coogee Beach, cleanse myself in the salty water of the ocean, and take the bus back home from the beach to my home in Annandale.
December 2015, ten-o’clock on a Sunday morning. A beautiful, sun-drenched day that promised an oppressive heat, judging by the ominously rising screeches of cicadas from dawn. Waiting at the bus stop on Booth Street I whip out my phone and check the TripView app – I see the next three services are all running 15 minutes late, and I walk to Newtown. I arrive before the bus at Newtown station, and wait a further ten minutes before three services arrive simultaneously.
On the bus now, and the mood is tense, grim – you could strike sparks from the huddled mass of humanity, towels and togs in hand, jaws solemnly set, eyes straight forward, determined that finally, this time they would arrive at the coast.
We go through Newtown, St Peters, Alexandria, Kensington and I cease to recognise streets. Then the bus breaks down. We all stand on the side of the road as the two other services that arrived together at Newtown station pass us by, filled to capacity. I walk some way down the road and hitch-hike the rest of the way to the beach and hurl myself into the sea.
The cool, salty water soothes my spirit momentarily – until I remember there is still the journey home…
(This reporter did eventually arrive safely back from Coogee on the 370, some months later, in time to file this piece the following October).
Words by Max Schintler