Page last updated at 09:15 GMT, Wednesday, 18 November 2009

Driver lost on 600km shops trip

Kangaroo warning road sign in Australia - file image
Mr Steward reached Melbourne before asking for help

An 81-year-old Australian man became lost on an early morning drive to the shops and ended up almost 600km (370 miles) away from his starting point.

Eric Steward told police he failed to stop because he "liked to drive".

Visiting friends in Yass, a country town south of Sydney in New South Wales state, Mr Steward left to buy a newspaper on Monday morning.

More than eight hours later, after taking a wrong turn on the highway, he asked Victoria state police for help.

"I just went out on the road to have a drive, a nice peaceful quiet drive.

"I didn't know where I was going but I knew it was somewhere, and with a bit of luck I would eventually find my wife again," he said.

A good driver

Australians think nothing of getting into a car to drive to a local shop to get a newspaper or milk. But most manage to get back home within minutes.

With Mr Steward, it took almost nine hours.

Map showing Eric Steward's journey

His wife, Clare, had become increasingly worried about her spouse after reaching him on his mobile telephone. He has slight dementia.

"He's a good driver. Very focused, I knew that much," she said.

"We eventually knew where he was when I said 'Are there any signs around?' He said, 'uh, Westgate Bridge'," she said in reference to the famous Melbourne landmark.

Victoria state policeman Clayton Smith said Mr Steward had come up to him at a service station and told him he was lost.

"Although we had to laugh. When we asked him why he hadn't stopped earlier he replied, 'I just like to drive'," he said.

Mr Steward was unconcerned about all the attention, citing age as a liberating factor in his escapade.

"It's a lot of fuss isn't it?" he said.

"When you get to 80 and beyond it doesn't matter much. He's out there waiting for us and you just got to wait your turn."

He rejected a suggestion to get a satellite navigation system.

"Why would you want one of those? You can't get lost. There is no fun in that."

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