Port Headache

Trip Start Dec 03, 2004
Trip End Nov 31, 2005

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Flag of Australia  ,
Sunday, May 1, 2005

Number one reason I'm glad that I'm a backpacker, and not a tourist: I don't ever, and would never consider, paying $17.00 for a breakfast consisting of eggs, bacon, sausages and a grilled tomato with a bit of cereal on the side. Or $13.00 for a continental breakfast of yogurt and fruit salad and toast. That is what people are willing to pay for the breakfast service at the hotel I work at. Also, people are willing to pay $165.00 a night for a room. That would get me almost two weeks of accomodation and while I don't get a mint on my pillow each night, I don't really want one, and I still have a swimming pool and an ocean view where I'm staying.

The job's pretty easy so far; the worst part is that some days I start work at 6:00 in the morning because that's when reception opens. They've been throwing me at any activity that nobody else has time to do: photocopying, taking charge cards in the bistro, entering the faxed reservations into the system, and so on. Today (my second day) I've been allowed to answer the telephone and start, slowly, checking people in although checking people out is still too complicated for the likes of me (you have to ask if they've used the minibar, you know).

I click about in my pumps and pleated skirt looking very professional and saying "Accor's All Seasons Port Hedland, this is Catherine," into telephones and "You'll be in room 9, sir, that's on the second level in the Welcome Block, behind the courtyard, and can I just take an imprint of your credit card?" and that sort of thing all day and feeling very silly indeed, because it is the opposite of what I think travelling should be about. Why are they spitting out all this money for what seems like not very much? Will I ever grow old and desire to spend my time in "luxury resorts," wasting money? I hope not. (I mean, I know I'll grow old, but not the other thing).

Is "Port Headache" (amusing nickname from some kid at the backpackers) really a headache? Well, the town is very red. The dusty earth is an orangey-red that chimes in harmony with the rusted industrial equipment chugging away in the distance, and the deep rust that clings to the top of the huge ships that patrol the harbour. The palms die in the heat and dry away to browny-red husks that drop to the dust and turn chameleonically invisible. The only time the city becomes beautiful is after nightfall when the ships in the harbour are all lit in a display of life-affirming brightness.
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