Sydney's oldest road and Australia's first intercity highway, over 3 million commuters each year drive Parramatta Road. A dominion of strength and power, this iconic stretch is fringed by working-class pubs and a glut of car yards. The heart and sole of Australia’s motor industry, it is a bustling protectorate where unwritten rules apply for the benefit of a handful of well connected car dealers. Resembling some sort of mad Derridean mindscape, flags, billboards, and other votive signifiers of a devout car culture dominate. From Haberfield to Homebush, a staggering 67 per cent of the adjacent land use is devoted to motor retailing and services.
From its earliest days, the rough clay track stained in human blood and death enabled the movement of military personnel between the townships of Sydney and Parramatta, lying eighteen miles to the west, making it a pathway to the continuing land wars further inland across the mountains. Back then, Parramatta was not a part of Sydney's metropolis but rather a country town considerably removed from the spirited settlement built around Sydney Cove. A slow and cumbersome trip, the journey between the two centers was regarded as something of an ordeal for travelers. Segments of the road, then, were still unmade and travelers reported the trip by regular coach to be a bone-shaking experience; its clay foundations rising up periodically to resist the civilizing process. It had been claimed that no road in Australia had had more curses bestowed upon it; beginning with the bushrangers trudging its path looking for victims to divest of their valuables, to countless potholes that sprouted regularly. A rash of floods forced the stretch to later become paved.
Named after the Aboriginal expression "Head of the River," the ’Battler’s Road’ was commissioned back in the 1790s by Governor Phillip. Kept in chain gangs and controlled by the lash from cruel colonist soldiers standing guard, white prisoners of the Empire were kept busy from sunrise to dusk, using European tools in a foreign land to establish the road.
Today, the frustrations of a highly mobile and technological society desiring independence is heartfelt if but in spirit by the colonist planners long buried in their coffins. Absurdly heavy traffic and a general impression of concrete, steel and noise characterized to monolithic proportions is what Parramatta Road has become — a dreadful nightmare and notorious emblem of all that is ugly, noisy, and abrasive in life. Few car experiences are as dreaded as the trip along Parramatta Road, whether up or down. Ironically, it took less time for travellers of yore to cover the same amount of distance than modern-day commuters, forced to tackle the journey by car during peak hours.