I’ve always wanted to travel. The thing I failed to realise until quite recently is even though it took me till July of 2015 to travel overseas, I was already quite an experienced traveller. I’ve been around Australia twice, which is no mean feat considering it’s size and the sheer amount of excellence and beauty this country has to offer. The first time I was four years old and frankly the only memory I have is canoeing down the Lawn Hill gorge screaming my lungs out as the freshwater crocodiles and rocking of the boat further exasperated me. The second time I was a little older and I have many fond memories of the trip.
I’ve never known what I wanted to do in my life, and I’ve always got a different answer to that depressing question “what do you want to be?”. Over the last few years it has become very clear to me that my passion is travelling and adventuring. One of the greatest adventures I’ve been on was working with my father in the remotest parts of the Northern Territory. Places that very few people ever get to see and even fewer that don’t belong to the respective tribes of the area. Luckily I was clever enough to keep a journal of my time working these areas and I thought I’d share my experiences with you. These are untouched since I first wrote them and I had no spell check.
Like all good stories I’ll start with the beginning:
Day 1: “The experience of a lifetime. Isn’t that how they always try to justify you giving up a whole lot of comfort for very well hidden returns? The plan was to drive 4000 kms up north to start work in 3-4 days. Sounds tough? Yes. Sounds achievable? Yes. Was this all working off a ‘best case scenario’ plan? Absolutely. We left with the high hopes of arriving a little earlier than anticipated and this was short lived. The many hours of endless driving was testing on the mind and body, but none of this was made easier by the dull landscape. The miles and miles of nothingness. The blank dead look of a country well and truly in need of a landscaper and a hint of rain.
Every kilometre was the same as the last. Every now and then you’d see a fellow traveller but that still wouldn’t make it any livelier. The empty space of the Australian outback peering back at us reminding us of just how far we have to go and just how screwed we’d be should we break down. The real fun began when dusk fell and the kangaroos all came out to play. They look like oversized rabbits and clearly they’d been screwing like them too. We must have passed at least 5000 of them along the side of the road. We only hit 3 which are fairly good odds considering!
The heat in this country is hard to imagine and harder to describe unless someone has been through it themselves they won’t appreciate just how much like an oven it feels. The wind blowing through the windows as we drove along (which is usually pleasant) was hot and dry and as well as acting like our own personal heater it irritated our eyes and made it hard to concentrate on the road….none too dangerous hey?
The awkward positions you need to sit in for hours at a time really make you wonder why the human body doesn’t complain more often. I’m not a contortionist by any means but some of the things I was trying had the Cirque Du Soleil paying attention. The trip took a toll on many things, mainly my hygiene and diet, not showering for 48 hours and only eating fast food and sugary drinks leaves the body feeling awful and looking like a fat old mans saggy example of human form. I guess being in the middle of nowhere for 10+ weeks will allow me to eat clean and exercise daily to straighten some shit out.
The trip up north was slowed immensely when we discovered that the fuel we were using was considered ‘dirty’ and it quickly put a stop to our travel. The Landrover stopped in its tracks 90 kilometres from Barkleyhomestead in the Northern territory. I was then stranded as my father went with a kindly (or so we thought) traveller and I sat in the truck for 7 hours waiting for some sign of life to return for our rescue!
I was first attacked by the heat and flies. Millions of them. When the sun went down it became the mosquito show attacking every dark corner of my body. I was quickly covered in Insect repellant to avoid being carried away by them. So much so I could no longer smell the outback, and could only taste repellent.
We were helped by the RACQ man who obviously didn’t enjoy having to travel 200+ kilometres to save us. We were then transported back to Camooweal where we had left much much earlier in the day.
Naturally we were given a room at the local hotel. A quaint room with light blue walls and a fantastic little air conditioner that made the whole ordeal THAT much more tolerable. It was the first time we slept on a comfortable bed, or a bed in general, for 48 hours and the feeling of finally getting a good nights sleep was beyond relieving.
The next day we found out that the part we needed would arrive the next day by mail so we would have to sit tight and wait it out. Camooweal was not as bad as it could be I guess, nice people, expensive but filling food and everyone keeps to themselves.
The sound of the kids of the caravan park screaming for no reason as they enjoy the 4 metre long pool which acts as their own personal oasis in this desolate area of the world really pissed me off. How dare they enjoy themselves!? You can’t help but feel hopeless and alone when you look around the place and notice all the closed down shops and realise that without the pub, the roadhouse and the caravan park that there is nothing here of note…and it makes you wonder what the people who live here do if they don’t work at one of those three places.
The second day in Camooweal was proved just as slow paced. We found out that the part would not arrive till the next day if we were lucky. This threw a further spanner into our works…we basically have the entire tool box to recollect when this is all over. We had to pay 30 for breakfast and a further 15 for lunch essentially making us free willed slaves to our isolation. We played pool all day and sat around watching the measly selection of shows on the television. I am not usually a fan of television but when your options are working out for the 4th time that day, sitting in the 40 degree heat, drinking heavily, waiting forty years for the internet to work, or watching TV, you eventually switch it on and suffer through the brain pain.
Today I felt like I was going to die. First off we left the backward ass town of Camooweal and went onwards on our journey. Today was the time we visited even more backward ass towns that make Camooweal look like a sprawling upper class metropolis. There were two instances where I began to fear my demise. The first was when we were doing 130 kilometres an hour and the lights went out several times in the middle of the night. There is nothing more terrifying than driving at high speeds through a windy animal infested countryside without any lights to help you through it. I truly felt for my life. It was beyond scary.
The second time I feared for my life was when we finally decided to stop and get a motel room. This place was straight out of Psycho. An old hotel built in the late 19 century with stupid nostalgic junk that looked like it’d seen one too many dust storms and a few abusive clients littered the landscape. There was an attractive hostess who was let down by her tattoo that screamed country bumpkin (I later found out that she was up here from Sydney by influence of her parents to get her away from drugs). There are enough outdoor tables to seat the NATO meetings. Several cages scattered throughout that held exotic animals in some feeble attempt to act as it’s own petting zoo, the only issue is the animals clearly aren’t happy with the arrangement and i did not feel like losing my fingers to a flying squirrel (I would later discover that they had a cage marked “Australian Leatherneck Turtle” which would set you up for the surprise of your life when the 6ft crocodile came rushing out to take a snap at you). The pool is situated barely 2 metres from the front of all of the hotel rooms and would hardly contain a single obese man, it is beyond small. The real fear began when I entered the room I would be inhabiting for the evening. Originally we booked only the one and it had just the double bed…..not great for a father and son setting. Once a second room had been booked it was time to really let the horror set in. The room was ancient and made entirely of brick. Thick brick, the kind that stops all sounds from escaping the room. A high roof, and electronics made in the 70s. The bed was made out of some sort of granite and the pillows and bedspread looked like they had been previously used in a weekly orgy in which only multi-cumming porn stars attended.
The TV stood atop an outdoor smoking table transformed into a TV stand and the air conditioner sounded like an emphazemic old woman who liked yelling at the neighbourhood children.
The worst part about this place was the lack of phone reception. I am not one who lives off their phone usually but I found it rather unsettling that there was no way to get help. No reception anywhere. Not in the town, not out of town, not against the windsil and not against the bedhead. No where.
I’m sure it’ll be fine tomorrow but that is assuming I survive the night and don’t get eaten alive by ants. The T-Bone was good, that’s about the only good thing so far. Ive just discovered that the shower head sprays water in a more erratic direction than a post sex pee stream. Yay.
So the final day of our trip began with a sigh of relief as I awoke to find myself with my heart still beating, my kidneys both inside my body and no impending death. We refilled our water bottles with what would soon be discovered as treated soap tasting bore water…yum. The trip was different to the previous few days. It was a bit more relaxed and yet had an air of expectancy behind it.
We stopped for breakfast and I quickly bought my bodyweight in food as we would not be stopping between here and our final destination – except to change over drivers.
When we began the trip it was about new experiences and the opportunity to make money…now it was all about just getting there in one piece.
This final section of the trip was the most beautiful. Arnhem land is far more spectacular than anything Northwest Queensland or even the middle of Queensland has to offer. The trees are green even though there hasn’t been much rain lately. The sky is blue the dirt is red and the people are friendly. We made good time and quickly we found our way to the central Arnhem highway.
It was mainly dirt road corrugated and bumpy throughout but the scenery was beautiful and the weather wasn’t too harsh today. We stopped several times to enjoy some breathtaking panoramic views of the surrounding landscape atop escarpments. Truly amazing. The further north we drove the more marvellous it all became. I shot several videos of these amazing experiences. We even stopped to enjoy a swim in a running creek/river (To hopefully avoid crocs) where we enjoyed lunch and eventually would switch over drivers.
We made decent time and even though we stopped a few times to enjoy the surrounding environment. The closer we got to the town where I would call home for the next 3 months of my life I began to feel the effects of anxiety hit me. It had hidden itself all this time due to there always being another day to go before it became a reality.
It was now a reality. Tomorrow I begin work. I can’t begin to explain how badly I feel right now. I miss my life. I miss my futsal. I miss my bed. I miss the security of my life back in Brisbane. I’m terrified for tomorrow. I have no idea what is going to happen. I can only drive a roller well…I have never tried nor have any idea how to drive anything else and to make matters worse I don’t think my father has told them about any of this so they assume I can do it all. If they want me on the service truck….if they want me on the water truck….hell even if they want me in the land rover driving people around I’m fucked. I can’t drive manual well enough yet and they’re expecting me to do it. They’re all getting dinner and eating right now and I’m too terrified to go out and grab any.
I feel like my heart is a jackhammer. A jackhammer that in conjunction with some great heavy weight is helping collapse my chest in on itself. The fear is everywhere and there’s no respite. I just need to wake up tomorrow and accept the shitstorm that is about to happen.
End of “Arriving”
Apologies for the length! If you made it this far thank you and I hope you enjoyed it. I’ll post more a little later this week.