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Living In A Land Of Carjackings And Murder Was Less Stressful Than Driving In Sydney

This morning I asked my wife which experience she found more stressful: Papua New Guinea or Canterbury.

My cousin was here from Ireland a few years ago and summed up Sydney drivers like so: "It's like everyone has a boat, but they're like 'beep beep get outta my f**kin way I need to get to the beach and relax on my boat'."

Flash forward a year and there's this huge bloke who's blocked me and my wife Tracy into a cul de sac in Canterbury, and he's out of his car and challenging me to a fight.

Minutes earlier, apparently, we'd gotten in the way of his boat ride. We were cruising down a wide but quiet street and old mate was right up our bums, so Tracy pulled over to let him pass.

Admittedly I gave him a sarcastic thumbs up as he passed. "He's on his way to pick up his boat," I said, or something like that.

Suddenly, old mate screeches to a halt and gets out of his car. "Why'd you stick your finger up at me?" he yelled.


He comes at us. "Do you wanna fight me?" he shouted.

People who know me sometimes confuse my lyrical and silky Irish tones for exaggerated flair, so you can take this cold-hard-print as gospel truth; this bloke was a giant. He looked like Bane from Batman but with a moustache and a slightly shorter jacket. Bull shoulders coated in fur emerging from a tiny Silver VW Polo like a dreadful cosmic joke.

He starts coming towards us. "Get out of the car, pussy". Or something.

At the time, Tracy and I were home in Australia on holiday from our jobs in Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea, one of the world's car jacking capitals.

We didn't need this shit.

Tracy reversed the car back 50 metres, then drove around him and through a STOP sign to get away. She'd had some near misses in Moresby and wasn't going to take it from this bloke.

So we continued on our way. But this guy hops back in his car and starts chasing us through the streets. We end up in another cul de sac with his car across the street and him out of it blocking our only escape.

"Come on, fight me! Why'd you stick your finger up at me?"

Tracy and I had only left the house that day to pick up some work equipment from home base. Clutching my shiny new tripod I make for the door handle. I'm pretty stressed at this point.

The People's Republic of The Inner-West was, after all, our oasis after an extremely stressful year in PNG (a mutiny, a political crisis and guns, guns, guns in my face, while Tracy got two strains of Malaria, and I lucked out with one.)

So I was stressed, Tracy was stressed and Bigger Bane from Batman was stressed. Something had to give.

"I'm gonna batter this bastard" I told Tracy, who suddenly (and wisely) locked the door.

"Nah," she said.

She reversed the car again, getting caught in a fast but complicated three point turn. Old mate advanced, stepped in the way and raged "c'mon", and then suddenly Tracy found herself driving towards him.

He jumped out of the way but grabbed my arm through an open window. Tracy pushed on, mounting the curb slightly and suddenly we were clear. She ducked around a few corners at speed and we were home. Safe.

It didn't occur to us to call the cops. Sorry about that. Again, stressful year in a country with sub-standard policing. If it happened again I'd be onto them in a shot.

Back In PNG, a year after our Canterbury drama, Tracy had another frightening experience. She was returning from a late night party with friends when a car suddenly pulled up in front of them.

A group of men, weapons in hand, got out and suddenly made for their car. Tracy's driver reversed, blowing a tyre on the jagged stump of a worn-out roundabout.

With sparks flying they drove at high speed through the pre-dawn darkness to the DFAT residences at Konedobu.

This morning I asked her which experience she found more stressful: PNG or Canterbury.

"Canterbury," she replied. "In PNG it was somewhat expected. It's opportunistic and born out of poverty and desperation. But in Sydney it was just pure malicious, vindictive rage. I was not prepared for it to happen. That bizarre Sydney driver rage."

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