Tag: #australia

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…

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. 

“A Bunch of Kids are Running Up the Road”

“What do you think they’re doing?”

“I dunno mate, maybe taking pictures?”

And so was the conclusion of a radio conversation had by a couple of road workers about 17 people running up a hill in the middle of a national park, in the middle of the Outback in Western Australia. 

Little did they know that ten minutes earlier, our van, (affectionally named Coco, like Coco Chanel) weighed down by our bags, our beer and ourselves, had given up on a slope and gotten lodged in the sand.  

We pushed and pushed, put rocks under wheels, but to no avail – Coco was not going forward. She would however, go backwards. 

Lesson learned, Coco, is quite happy to carry us on even stretches, but has decided that at a slight incline we all need to go on a diet before she tries again – so, we ran up a hill. 

17 people running up a hill, looking like they were taking Instagram pictures – which I suppose is less embarrassing than 17 people not being able to push a van out of some sand. 

Welcome to the Outback.

Dear Maps, Please Be Better at Maps

Remember that Meg Ryan/Kevin Kline movie French Kiss? Where she says, “Happy, smile! Sad, frown! Use the corresponding face with the corresponding emotion!” – maps need to be like that. 

If you’re a map, there is no point in being coy, coy doesn’t get you a second date. In fact, if your intentions aren’t clear not only is your date going to get lost, but the best that you can hope for is that the object of your affection gets lost in your basement, and you really don’t want to be THAT kind of map. 

Somewhere along the way this metaphor also got lost. 

Point is, maps, even if around an island that is only 11km long, need to be good.

Cue my adventure today – cycling around Rottnest Island, an island off Perth known as a “playground” (although, like most things in Australia it used to be inhabited by convicts and was home to a fairly evil prison that did pretty evil things to the Aboriginals). Today’s mission: find quokkas – the cute, furry marsupial that looks like a rat and a hamster had a big baby. 

I had this map:

Which seemed great until I got off the ferry and was faced with signs like:

“That way to birds”

Editor’s note: blue sign does not mean you’re on the blue trail

“Places that are not on the map”

“Two out of four directions”

Four way crossing, where two of those roads go, no one knows

So, I spent most of the day not knowing where I was, but I did think of possible solutions should I get fully lost and not make it back to the ferry, like:

“Potential home for the night”

“Dinner”

Luckily, it didn’t come to that, but – maps, you’ve been warned. 

Isn’t it Ironic?

Today, I:

– lost my sunglasses

– discovered that while American malls are crumbling into haunted buildings soon to be used for a photographic coffee table book called, “America: When We Shopped Outside”, malls in (at least this part of) Australia are doing okay

– also doing okay, the CD (not the bank kind) sections 

– realized that even in a mall, finding a case for sunglasses is nearly impossible, a problem that is alleviated when realize, you’ve lost your sunglasses 

If I could write songs, today would be a perfect addition to Alanis Morrisett’s, “Ironic”

It’s like trying to buy a case,
When you’ve lost what goes in,
It’s like looking in the mirror
And seeing the past,
It’s like going to a store
Instead of clicking on a link
Isnt it ironic? Don’t you think?

RIP glasses, you were the best