The Trials of Tribulation

Trip Start May 19, 2009
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of Australia  , Queensland,
Tuesday, August 24, 2010

If there's one thing I can tell you about Australia, it's that it's big.  Really big.

Alright, smart ass, you know that already, right?  Well, allow me to explain. 

Sure, Google Maps might show you, or maybe you've got one of those postcards stuck to your fridge that shows how the whole of Europe fits in the damn place, but, put simply, one year, and 30,000kms, after buying Rand in Perth, I was about to finish the loop.

Yup, you only really appreciate the behemoth that is this country once you've hit the road and driven every last inch of bitumen and dirt until your sweaty bum's become etched in the carseat.

Somehow, my trusty 1986 van had carried me safely from the unspoiled beauty of the West Coast, with its picture perfect white sand beaches and awe-inspiring National Parks, into the untamed outback.  From there; the sunbaked Earth of the Top End, the thirst of the land was slowly quenched, and, hour by hour, the vast terracotta plains reluctantly gave way to the verdant rolling hills of the South. 

But then just when you think you've seen it all, and played every hand, the vast land Down Under slams down a trump card.

Now, as the winding road carried us further North into Queensland, all the time clinging to the windswept coast, the towns of the over-trafficked East Coast became fewer and farther between.  Where once your eyes could follow the roll of tumbleweed across the arid flat Earth of the Red Centre like something from an old Western movie, now imposing mountains stood tall, swathed in a lush green.
Welcome to Cape Tribulation, where the rainforest meets the sea.

For Jess and I, there was really only one item on the agenda: a whole load of nothing, with a hefty side of sunbaking.  It was convenient, really, as there isn't too much else to do in Cape Trib.  Jess would be heading home soon and couldn't bear the idea of looking like a Finn in Finland.  I just needed a holiday from the holiday.

Even a dip in the azure ocean was out of the question thanks to the crocs that had taken up residence in three of the five bays in an area of no more than 5 square kilometers.  Neither Jess nor I were keen on challenging that statistic.

And so we found ourselves whiling away lazy days on the snow white sand, only dragging ourselves from the supine position for the odd stroll.  We stopped to take snaps, and somewhere along the way Jessina discovered a new passion for creating phallic sculptures from any debris the ocean cared to wash up. 

Yup, she really was the girl with a one-track mind.  But then, in the absence of arse, at least there's art.

With a lot of backpackers with too much time of their hands, it came as no surprise that our hostel had something of a party reputation. 

As it turned out, though, this was mostly down to the staff, and I'd rue the day I camped next to their living quarters.

One evening, I found myself drifting peacefully into the land of nod in the back of Randy, listening to the gentle sway of the palms above me, and the chatter of the nocturnal wildlife.  Just as I was contemplating taping the tranquility and making my millions by selling relaxation CDs to city spas, my idyll was interrupted.


"Steeeevviiiieee!" a woman shrieked.

"Kylie, just tell me what I did wrong!"

"You don't understaaaand meeeeeee!"

I turned and realised my view of this street theatre was inconveniently obscured by the fence.  And so followed half an hour of a monumentally one-sided drunken argument during which, I must admit, I failed to understand Kylie either.  To my great relief (with a slight twinge of disappointment), the slanging match ceased as quickly as it had started...presumably either because Kylie had passed out, or Stevie had decked her.  Frankly, I wouldn't have blamed him.

Once again, I found myself at the mercy of slumber....


...until a dog started yapping behind the fence.  I turned round in bed only to see a shadowy figure standing at the back of Rand.

Suddenly my breathing quickened.  Grabbing the duvet to my chest, I felt grateful that I had an empty bottle of red next to me.  Not that I'm sure what I'd have done with it, as I'm not really in the habit of glassing people.  But this was fight or flight.

The conversation went like this.  (I would add here that this flies in the face of my reputation as a wordsmith, but it is,at least, authentic):

Me: "Who the f**k are you?"

Potential Rapist: "Who are you?"

Me: "What the f**k does that matter?

Potential Rapist: "What's your name?"

Me: "Seriously, what the f**k are you doing?"

Potential Rapist, now peering into Randy: "I think I got the wrong van."

Me: "Yes, I think you did."

Potential Rapist does not move, for what felt like the longest thirty seconds of my life.

Me, now clutching bottle under duvet: "OK.  F**k off right now."

Eventually, he did. 

But let's rewind here.  I'd driven across the whole of this bloody country, and I'd free camped in some pretty dodgy places, from isolated National Parks to unlit brick monuments at the side of the highway, and I'd never felt threatened.  Here, for the first time, I did.  And it wasn't Wolf was some idiot traveller high on Wolf Blass. 

If you don't buy that, though, let it be a warning to you never, ever, to wake me up in the middle of the night.

Sure, the Land of Oz is vast, but sometimes, with drunk backpackers around, it just ain't big enough for the both of us.
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