Outback: I Will Always Love You…

Two weeks of driving through The Outback have sadly come to an end – I would cry tears but every part of my body has dried up and started cracking…

It’s been hours of driving between Road Houses – looking at the scenery change from light dust to dark red dust, from yellow tufts of dried grass, to great big trees with white bark (which somehow manage to stay so white they look like the guys who invented Oxy Clean practiced on their bark).

It’s been even more hours of sleeping in awkward positions due to lack of a head rest and a full cramped van of 22 people.

It’s been many nights drinking out of the cooler in the back as we chugged along at 60kph, belting out songs at a volume that could be heard and rejected by all The Voice judges around the world, crossing our fingers that we would get to our hostel before morning (pitstops alleviated aforementioned drinking, and came with statements like “it’s a snake!” which struck fear into everyone’s bladders until statements were corrected with “it’s a stick!”)

Predictably, what brought our group together was our shared incarceration in Coco The Van (we love you Coco, even though you did try to ditch us, twice)

Once joined at the hip like a chain gang, we went swimming with Manta Rays, attempted to swim with Whale Sharks, practiced our best “Elephant Seal” impression as we tried to pull ourselves back into the boat….and hysterically laughed over nothing as we snorkelled, and then chocked from inhaling salt water.

We also hiked through gorges, wading through water so cold we all kept our hands up as though keeping our elbows dry was really going to prevent hypothermia, and saying “oh it’s so cold!” as though something could be done about it, as our guide said, “watching you guys is LOLs, I love watching backpackers suffer”

Here’s to a fantastic trip with fantastic people: there is no one else I’d attempt “I Will Always Love You” with (#returnwhitney because we are terrible). And also, no one else I’d let call me Grandma.

The Jolly Swag People

Sometimes in The Outback, there are no hostels, there are only Roadhouses – basically gas stations with over priced instant coffee (something you pay five dollars for and then try and give away), bacon/egg sandwiches, and crucially – patches of grass. 

It’s on these patches of grass that we set up swags – the Australian Wanderers version of a tent. Meant for a lone person, or if you’re feeling social, you can opt for the Queen Size, these rollups unfold into cacoons with a mattress on the bottom. You simply put your sleeping bag inside and you’re good to sleep. Super practical for nomads who don’t have time to set up a tent in the dark, or on a global scale – combating the the homeless problem, they can keep you snug as a bug as you look up at the sky and sleep. 

In my opinion, the only thing that was sways you into the “not having a good sleep” category is whether you remember to wear socks to bed (and possibly put on a hat) – oh, and obviously, if a spider crawls in with you (knock on wood).

And for anyone that remembers all the lyrics to “Waltzing Maltida” – now we know what a Swagman is…

Oops Coco, You Did It Again

Coco, you did it again. 

For two days after your hospital visit, you were running fine – you could reach a speed of at least 80kmph, which is 40kmph than you went before, your horn still sounded like an old, dying goat, but you at least got us to our destinations before we finished the beer. 

And then, upon leaving Karijini National Park, in an area with no phone service, you squealed like a dying pig. Most of us thought the sound belonged to a Rihanna song, but when you started sputtering, we all realized:

“Coco is dead”

The wheezing sound was followed by a giant whooshing of “air” sound, which none of us could figure out, Coco wasn’t thirsty for oil or water, and if she was just PMSing she picked a horrible time. None of us felt like giving her hugs, we just gazed into the Outback and thought about who we would eat first. 

Luckily, some Park Rangers with big tool bags came to rescue us, and after several minutes under Coco’s hood, they proclaimed “your gasket’s fucked, mate.” As in, somewhere along the way we actually lost the gasket.

We had some 800 plus kms to go before she could get to the doctor, so the diagnosis of “she’ll run, but like a pig” was not met with the best enthusiasm.

So, here we are, driving along with our prescription note, hoping Coco can hold it together for another day…

If You Ever Need a Good Prank…

If you’re ever in need of something slightly evil, but not evil enough to get anyone super pissed off…may I offer:

The Disappearing Mattress Trick

– find the room of your intended (in this case our Guide)

– remove mattress (in this case a Queen size, supremely comfortable piece of furniture that would make a 4:30am wake up call slightly more bearable) 

– store mattress somewhere close by 

– replaces sheets, pillows and blankets over the frame 

– keep drinking until you intended declares, “alright guys, early morning, I’m off to bed”…and then keep drinking until they come back and ask “where the f is my bed?”

– tell them, with a straight face, “it’s on the roof.”

– be prepared for war to be declared 
To quote one friend “sounds like college.” Welcome to 1999, everyone. 

Is There a James in the House?

If you join a tour Mid-way, you must be prepared for hazing – you are, after all, joining a travelling fraternity full of inappropriate comments, clothes that haven’t been washed in ages and bedrooms filled with multiple people.

When we found out that four people were joining our (now bonded by a virtually broken down vehicle, alcoholic consumption in said vehicle and late night road-side pit stops), we demanded names and the right to Google. 

In our gleefulness at being provided such vital information, we only managed to remember one correctly, a James Walsh – not the easiest person to find on Facebook because, unsurprisingly there are 4 million people named James Walsh. 

We went old school and started yelling, “James?”, “James Walsh?” Around the kitchen (on the assumption that he was staying at our same campsite). Two hours into this gag, Sammy tried his name in a German accent, and we heard and English guy say, “Why are you saying my name in a German accent?’ from a table a way. 

And yes, that was James Walsh, and we were caught. We gave him an appropriate welcome, said that we were excited he was joining us in two days, and then we went back to our rooms, armed with a visual, found him on Facebook and screen shot it to everyone. We stalked him. 

And the next day, when we were all on our Whale Shark cruise, while the rest of the boat was spotting a Blue Whale (biggest animal to have ever lived), Ana yelled out from the top deck, “It’s James Walsh!” – and there he was, on the bow of another boat, looking fully embarrassed as a bunch of people yelled out “James!!!”, at a pitch much higher than “Blue Whale!”

Welcome to the group James, just be glad we haven’t all changed our Facebook profiles to your face and sent you friend requests, yet.