This morning I woke up early, had a banana hotdog (my fancy name for a raw banana wrapped in a bread roll) and decided to check out life in the suburbs on a typical Monday morning.
I expected shiny sedans pulling out from driveways, husbands waving to their wives and kids bounding down the footpaths, lunch boxes in hand. But almost no one was around. Just lots of tidy brick houses on streets named “Honeyeater” and “Emerald” and “Sandlewood”, next to green parks of transplanted turf. And all so eerily quiet.
Across the road from a glistening mega mall I found a real estate display village. It was a chance to see these houses in their true form: as models of homes, prototypes of living.
The developers had gone to great lengths to make each house look different. A squat grey home with a pebble garden stood next to a classic red brick house with a veranda. Despite this, all the houses were united by a niggling similarity. It took me a while to figure out what it was. Then I realised that although the facades were different, the dimensions of the houses were all basically the same. The result, to my eyes anyway, was that everything looked mass-produced.
On the way back to our campsite, I saw a billboard for the housing estate we had ridden through. The tagline read “free-spirited living”. Really?
After packing up camp, we took the road through Nar Nar Goon, Garfield and Longwarry onto our next destination – the town of Drouin.
The scenery quickly changed. Rows of neat brick houses gave way to fields of grazing cows. The land looked lush and green. Homes became homesteads, with long driveways and horses in the front paddock. At a bend in the road, a flannel-shirted farmer helped two men in blue overalls wrestle an alpaca to the ground. We were entering the countryside – or so it seemed.
Then, just as we passed the hill into Drouin, I looked to the right and saw something that shattered the illusion. Nestled among a gully of gumtrees was another brand new housing estate, tiled roofs glinting in the midday sun.
Even 100 kilometres from the CBD, you can’t escape the sprawl.