A Little More Like It

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

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Flag of Australia  ,
Sunday, May 22, 2005

The second day in Exmouth dawned bright and sunny with no signs of that looming, ugly grey cloud that had flooded the place out the day before. The rivers of water in the streets had dried up and disappeared into the cracked red earth, as well, so Julia and I planned to hit the beach we'd been trying to visit the day before. The bus left at 1:30 and by that point it was (pout) a little greyer but still warm enough to lie on the sand, attempt a bit of a snorkel (too nervous to go too far by myself, especially when I saw a large, grey wavy shadow in the distance; might have been a ray, but I didn't want to wait and find out and flippered frantically back in the fifteen feet to shore), and chat with the few other people out on this isolated beach.

By about 4:00 we were done with the beach life; a German guy we'd met had snorkelled out to the reef on this side of the cape and discovered that Cyclone Vance, in '98, had devastated much of it and left a lot of the coral dead. Any real snorkelling would have to be done on the west side of the cape, where the real Ningaloo Reef begins. Back in Exmouth (and somehow having managed to avoid paying the $10 for the bus trip to the beach; everything is expensive in Exmouth, but sometimes you end up not having to cough up completely) I got an email from Ian explaining that his fishing trip had made him stupid (paraphrasing) and that he'd just now figured out the bus schedule and would be in Exmouth that night at 3:30 am. Kelly and Victor, an American girl and a British guy staying in my room, agreed that fish and chips at a cute little outdoor cafe in town would be just the ticket for that night, and we went and stuffed ourselves on fish and chips and salad. As we all had the night before, everyone was in bed and sleepy by 9:30, and I set my alarm to wake me up at 3:00. Fortunately I jerked myself awake at 2:50 and turned off the alarm, so as not to wake the rest of the room at that ungodly hour, and snuck out to wander down to the tourist centre where the bus drops off.

At 3:30 (on time, unlike my bus) the bus pulled up and Ian spilled off, wearing only socks on his feet. "Oops," he muttered. "I left my shoes on the other bus." Well, it was a good thing I'd brought his flip flops with me from Port Hedland, then, but he'd have to walk to the hostel in bare feet. On the way he filled me in on the saga of the NW de Grey fishing boat, and what a saga it was: after four days at sea with Chad, the skipper, two Japanese backpackers who spent a lot of their time convulsively vomiting, and a crazed, heroin-addicted woman as the mate, the boat broke down and had to come in for repairs. (This I already knew). At this point the two backpackers unceremoniously jumped ship, not even so much in reaction to the nausea as to the intensity of the work. They get up at 6:00 in the evening and work all through the night, until about 9:00 in the morning. The nets come up filled mostly with prawns---but partially with other things, including at one point a turtle so big it took three people to lift it, a few tiger sharks, sea snakes, and obviously, quite a few nasty sea-germs, because Ian had managed to get a couple sea-boils on his arm. "I know exactly how much pain you must have been in when you had them, now," he muttered, showing me the scabbing remains of one and the raised welt of a new one. They separate the prawns out from the rest, throw them into a very, very cold freezer, and continue on with the work. There's no cook, which basically means that Ian became the cook, as the only one interested in eating well-cooked, solid meals. Soon after they'd gone out for the second time, Ian was promoted to an 18% share of the profits because he was doing engineering work in the engine room, as well as the fishing work. The skipper must have been counting his blessings in getting this guy, since the "mate" was getting progressively crazier.

Finally, after excusing Ian of "reading her mind," the woman was sacked, cursed the boat (no kidding), and disappeared. Now they needed some new crew, and itn came in the form of an old man, a Vietnam vet who was legally blind and not much in shape for the hard work on a fishing boat. So not much improvement over the previous situation. Through the rest of the weeks they would be given stop-gap crew members, many of whom would quit after only a few days of working, moaning that it was too hard. (A second crew member, upon quitting, also cursed the boat. So now it's doubly cursed and, in fact, the curses seem to be working). Ian heard a story about a man who'd gotten a job on the boats after coming out of prison, and after the first three week stint, announced that he wouldn't be coming back: he'd rather be sent back to prison than go out on the boat again.

"You know that makes you certifiably crazy, what with the wanting to go back again?" I pointed out. "Yup," Ian said. "I don't think it's too bad. Anyways, the food's good, and I get to order in whatever I want in the way of supplies. I've ordered lots of apple pie for this next time." I wonder if he realizes that there are probably easier ways to get an unending supply of apple pie.

Finally back at the hostel room, we snuck in and passed out until the next morning.
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