– Sorry for the delay guys, been a bit busy (lazy) lately…
It has been a week since dad left to return home. I can’t blame him for doing it, but I really have been miserable. The combination of being so isolated from everyone and everything, the unyielding heat and the presence of the biggest bully i’ve ever encountered in my life has done nothing to help my fraying emotions. The isolation and the heat naturally came with the job, but I should not have to deal with Chris.
He is a particularly unique individual and quite intimidating. The man is incredibly muscle bound and totally bald to the point you wonder how he survives out here without a hat. He is about 60 years of age and has used every year of his life to hone his overbearing personality. His stories are of him being the best, or of his previous bosses being morons. Apparently nothing has ever been his fault,and subsequently since he arrived everything has been my doing, and his arrogance is only eclipsed by the fear he instils in me daily.
For some unknown reason I’ve been left out here in the most remote part of Australia with this protein guzzling grand dad for over a week, and it’s started to wear me down. It’s not the breakfast he demands (bacon, eggs, toast, double shot of coffee with “a lot” of sugar), and it’s not the lunch I MUST have delivered to his machine on time. It’s not the dinner that must be ready by the time he finishes his shower. It’s not the fact his laundry must be done and dried before the next storm hits. It’s the way he threatens with every breath if these things are even slightly mishandled. This man is a father…I pity those poor fucking children. Before he came to camp I was warned he is volatile and has been known to commit acts of violence during arguments, so naturally being alone out here isn’t ideal and I’ve been on eggshells ever since.
The situation came to a boil yesterday and I’ve decided I have to leave this job. We’ve been having trouble with the grader breaking down and naturally i’m the one who has to taxi about. So in between camp management, breakfast, lunch, dinner, refueling, 100km drives to find reception and report progress daily to the bosses, digging 500 metres of trenches for drainage, and coffee trips for Chris, I am now the designated tools and parts taxi, wonderful. Unfortunately yesterday the weather decided to join the fray and the results were none too thrilling.
On the final pick up of Chris for the night, the storm hit the camp and what we came home to made my heart stop. The trees were straining against the howling wind and threatened to give way at any moment. The camp was pitch black. Not a light in sight. The constant gentle hum of the generator on the back of the rusted parked trailer was eerily silent. I couldn’t help exclaiming as I came to realise the situation, and my “Oh shit” was met with Chris asking me what i’d fucked up this time. I ignored his negatory quips as I navigated my way through the blackened camp and switched off the generator. It wasn’t hard to figure out that the fuses had blown thanks to some idiot leaving a powerboard on the ground. I quickly found the puddle and the highly dangerous soaking board and reset the camp. I have to say the sound of that generator restarting and the lights returning was the sweetest thing I had heard in over 5 months. I’m just thankful the thousands of dollars worth of meat hadn’t begun to defrost and I wasn’t electrocuted and turned into tonights BBQ. I wouldn’t be able to handle the irony.
That night was the last straw. Even though the boss and one of my friends are returning tomorrow, I really can’t take it anymore. I’ve been organising with family members to orchestrate my exit strategy. With the ten minutes of reception I get a day I’ve been reporting daily results, and setting up my reason for leaving. My parents are going to explain they need me back to take care of someone ill in my family, and the next time I report in I should be free and clear!
7 days later…
It has been a week since my last entry and it shall be my last night in the Northern Territory. The plan worked out perfectly, and I’ve been organised to leave tomorrow morning to get to the airport in Gove to fly me home to Brisbane. My stint is nearly over. None of the bosses really minded the fact I have to leave, and I have to say they were incredibly helpful in getting it all organised. I can only imagine my parents did a real number on them when they called up.
The days have become easier since my boss and a few co-workers returned to the camp. They all knew Chris would be a nightmare to deal with and I think most were surprised I was still alive/sane by the time they drove in. One of the best memories of the last few weeks was having them all tell him to F#%K himself as he was trying to bully me into doing things for him (when he was the one who fucked up). The first thing the boss did was give me work around the camp so I never needed to see Chris during the day. Subsequently the days returned to being peaceful and my last week here has been spent fixing machinery and finding some sort of peace again out here in the wilderness.
The only downside to all of this is I’ve just found out that Chris will be the one taking me to the airport at 4 in the morning. This should be an interesting ride since he was certainly none too happy to find out he had to do it and also stay in Gove for the week. Yikes let the awkward escape begin!
3 days later…
The last few days were both insane and amazing. We woke up at 3.30am to leave the camp by 4 which would hopefully give us enough time to comfortably get to the airport for me to check in. We were wrong. It was pitch black still as the sun hadn’t even begun to rise and the chill in the morning air was refreshing. There was nothing refreshing about the sound of our tire bursting as Chris drove over a spike in the road. I’ll never forget the sound of the impact and the hissing of the tire in the dead of the morning. The dread feeling that we were in the dark and around 25 kilometres from the camp so walking back wasn’t really an option if I wanted to get on that plane. People would be out here to work in around 4 hours but again that would be too late. We were frantic trying to get the jack and spare tire out of the 4×4 before the air pressure sunk us too low to the ground. If that happened we would never recover, especially not in the black of the early morning, and time was certainly not on our side. If it had been a less serious situation i’d have remarked how this all reminded me of an Indiana Jones type complication, and we only had minutes before the hat remained in the tomb.
Unfortunately I am not too familiar with Toyotas having never driven one and I wasn’t aware of where to find the jack/spare tire or how to get the spare tire loose. I had to learn all of this on the fly and while absorbing constant abuse about being a useless shit from Chris. Lessons I shall not soon forget. Our first two attempts to set the jack up were failures thanks in part to the uneven ground we’d found ourselves on. The third time we got it set up, or so we thought, when the 4×4 rocked and fell off the jack. Chris was under the truck at the time and was lucky to not get crushed. Naturally this was my fault and I was met with something along the lines of “You are totally useless, dangerous, and you do not belong in the bush. I don’t care what the others say about you, I think you’re hopeless out here and it’s good for everyone you’re leaving”. I really wanted to lay into him but my mature side kicked in when I realised the moment we get this fixed, I only have 3 hours left of this torture. I refrained from using the tire iron on his face.
We eventually got the jack in place and went about changing the tire. Our spare wasn’t ideal but it’d have to do, luckily there are tire places in Gove, if we manage to get there. Once the tire was on we set off just hoping nothing else went wrong. We no longer had a spare tire and we had passed the point of anyone coming out here today to work. Our only options would have been to run 45kms in either direction (one to reception, another to camp) and we didn’t have enough water for a 45km walk in the heat of the day. I closed my eyes and hoped. The sun was rising and the beauty of the landscape was in full effect. I struggled to appreciate it as Chris sped over the uneven ground at breakneck speeds. The crusier was all over the road and one incorrect angle at this speed hitting the corregations and we would end up wrapped around a tree and almost assuredly dead. We hadn’t spoken a word to each other since his outburst about my pathetic existence and the silence was incredibly awkward. I was never comfortable. I spent the entire trip gripping my hands together and closing my eyes in a kind of desperate plea for survival. The only time I opened them was to look over and see Chris asleep at the wheel. Yes, my driver and the apparent god of all was asleep at the wheel. The moment I realised this the cruiser started to veer off the road and skidded towards the treeline. It was at this time Chris opened his eyes again, the daze of an abrupt awakening across his face, and realised what had happened as he corrected the path and slammed on the brakes. Needless to say my heart rate was going nuts and for the first time since I’d met him, Chris looked ashamed, and scared and he had no one to blame but himself. The rest of the trip there seemed to be an air of understanding between us, an understanding that it was all an act.
We arrived at the airport with enough time for me to check in and our goodbyes were civil. I was just too excited to nearly be out and clear to be angry with anyone. I was clearly so excited I think the people handing me my ticket thought I was suspect. I’m sure I seemed insane, but to hell with them. As I sat in the only waiting room in the airport looking out at the bushland surrounding the single runway I was overwhelmed by a sense of freedom. A feeling that I was now safe. I had been on an adventure these past months. I had seen some truly beautiful places and met some truly inspiring people. I had worked hard every day and made my money. I had endured more than I bargained for and survived some hair raising experiences. Now all I have to look forward to is returning to my normal life. Boarding the plane was a joy I couldn’t hide and somehow the 5 hour flight flew by (heh). I was nearly brought to tears seeing Brisbane again and stepping off the plane I knew I was home. I knew I had made it.