Shelia's Diary's Part 3: A long way to go

Trip Start Jul 20, 2007
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of Australia  , New South Wales,
Friday, July 4, 2008

After the last entry I studied our map of Australia and started panicking. We were attempting the full Monty down the East coast but after a month with the car we had barely even taken our shoes off. Some serious driving was required and Shelia duly obliged by leaking oil everywhere. Maybe I should stop slapping her arse. When we finally started making progress it was like watching an England friendly: everything was so predictable and repetitive. From Arlie Beach to Brisbane we drove past over 1000km of sugarcane fields and dead Kangaroos lying by the road. Every hour or so we would come to the same indistinguishable tin pot pseudo ghost town: a deserted main street containing a unwelcoming pub, a couple of boarded up shops, and a string of 70year old wooden houses with verandas overlooking the road. They looked like sets from a Clint Eastwood film. Did anyone live there? We weren't hanging around to find out. To make matters worse every Australian truck driver fancied a bit of Shelia and cruised along the deserted road 1meter away from her rear end.

After some hardcore driving we reached the town of 1770, my favourite place in Australia. It was a small quiet seaside village but we were befriended by a huge group of Australians on holiday and spent long days on the beach getting stuck into Australian sport, and longer nights making monumental fires and watching the Aussies vomit after too much Bundaberg rum. I had a surf board for a couple of days but found it far too frustrating. Wherever I was in the sea a wave would come a smash me backwards. Get up, get back on, paddle out 10m and then BANG! your back where you started. The Australians made it look simple and were clearly enjoying watching me get wiped out by a wave every 15seconds. Hoping to compound our misery they produced a rugby ball but had they conveniently forgotten the last 2 World cups? The 5 a-side beach rugby game was ridiculously one-sided. We destroyed them. Buoyed in confidence we hit a driving range and took aim at the wild kangaroos hopping around at 200yards. Bringing on the Happy Gilmore's, I repeatedly missed the ball, the pigeon threw his wood 70yards into a forest and the penguin bent his driver.

Back on the road we continued towards Brisbane, stopping only to laugh at the Wicked campers going the other way. Some hire car company has been making a fortune by buying the crappiest smallest oldest campervans about, spray painting them with some dodgy artwork, then charging double the going rate for a camper - backpackers are always the most susceptible to cheap gimmicks like this. On the boot they paint a huge distinguishable slogan that ranges from the predictably shit: 'a beer always listens and never argues' or 'what can do the work of 5men? 1 woman,' to the embarrassingly awful: 'good girls get fat, bad girls get eaten' or 'whats harder than a pitbul with aids? the man who gave it too him,' and finally the plain abusive: 'lawyers come from anal intercourse' and 'save a whale, harpoon a Jap.' I don't know whether to laugh or cry.

After a stopover in Tin Can bay where we hand fed wild dolphins we reached Brisbane, a city we were told would be dull and boring. It reminded me of Leeds: rapidly developing and full of little jems tailor made for all day drinking. It was the deciding game of the state of origin rugby league so we had our own little Australia day and ended up in a huge courtyard wearing our maroon Queensland jerseys and chanting with a thousand other Aussies. To continue my previous analogy, the English equivalent of this match would be Northerners vs Southerners at football. With the deciding game delicately poised at 2-2 (Rooney pouncing on a David James howler to level the scores after a Neville own goal put us behind), Phil Jaglielka surges from the back and crosses for supersub Alan Shearer to win it with 5 minutes to go. The pub erupted as Queensland won the game but we took our football analogy too far and spent the rest of the night chanting "Northerners, Northerners, Northerners..."

Give an Englishman a few beers and they will start chanting. As the rain came down in Byron Bay we ended up in a England vs Australia Connect4 international challenge. All the songs from the football terraces at Deepdale and Oakwell came flooding back and soon the Aussies were on the receiving end of a barrage of abuse - "Me, me mum, me dad and me gran......," "if I had the ass of a sparrow......" "shall we sing a song for you......" "your shit and you know you are.......", "your mums your dad, your dads your mum, your........" Eventually they told us to shut up and argued 'we don't have songs we just beat you' to which we replied "where's your banter gone, where's your banter gone."

I nicknamed Byron Bay 'Wopperville' for the type of backpackers it attracted and the $81 parking fine we received for 'not parking at a 135degree angle (rear to curb). Is that not the daftest thing you have ever heard? I want to meet this traffic warden and his pocket protractor. We stayed long enough though to venture to the most Easterly point of mainland Australia and watch 10m+ humpback whales splashing about in the ocean less than 100m from the shore. From this distance you got an understanding of the sheer size of these mammals whose annual migration makes our own journey look like a stroll in the park.

Back in the 1960's, hippies took over the small farming village of Nimbin and ever since it has become a must see on the backpacker route. We were expecting a chilled out town full of characters but it was probably the scariest place I have ever been too. Groups of pale faced skinny weirdos hung around the streets offering you drugs and then laughing when we said no. We took refuge in the Nimbin museum but this turned out to be like a scene from a Tim Burton film. I don't think any of us had felt so intimidated.

Reasons why England's great #4 - English (Northern) banter

An American wearing a huge sombrero asked us if we knew somewhere nearby to eat. He had been to a Mexican restaurant but it was too expensive so I said to him "is that why you stole their hat?" He launched into a 5minute defensive explaining how much the hat had cost and where it was from etc. Does no-one else understand sarcasm?
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