Serendipity rules (Day 14)

Okay, so it was not the best possible preparation for a big day of hitch-hiking. I ended up out on the town in Brisbane until just before 4 in the morning.

But I did have (nay, share – so you can ask my companion if you don’t believe me) a rather surreal experience on the way home. Let me tell you more.

Tuesday night (actually Wednesday morning), around 3am, a little chilly, but not cold. Town was basically deserted, apart from those miscreants like the man from Geraldine and me who are making our drunken way home.

From a distance we espied a figure on a lonely street corner. Surely it was not playing the violin. Could it have bene a she? But she was (playing the voilin that is), and she definitely was (a woman that is – and an extremely attractive one too). The early Wednesday morning crowd does not seem likely to be the most profitable busking audience. So even were her musical taste exacting, and her pitch perfect, we might have had cause to question her business acumen. But there she was, never the less.

So we danced a little in the pale moonlight, made a request or two, and left off for home in different directions, we two wondering if we really had seen a red-haired busker, playing to a tiny crowd in the wee hours of Wednesday.

Speaking of surreal, I met two people in Nrisbane (they were staying at the same hostel as me) who were meeting in person for the Very First Time, having met on the Internet playing on a mud (like dungeons and dragons, but online). How strange would that be? Parenthetically, he seemed much keener on her than she was on him. But what do I know?

So I was in Brisbane. Heading for Airlie Beach (which I am now spelling correctly) for a look at the reef and the Whitsunday Islands, and then heading west to Darwin across 3500kms of nothing. It would actually have been shorter to go straight from Brissy to Darwin, but to not see the reef seemed a little silly to me (given that I was so close to it, and all).

The travels started today with very bad hitchiking signals. My friend who met me in Brissy, the Lonely Planet (twice – I read a couple of different books), the woman at the train station information desk, and two of my dear friends (who would far rather I took the bus) all cautioned me against hitching anywhere in Australia.

In fact, the woman at the information desk told me that it was illegal. While I haven’t done the research necessary to establish the truth of this point, I do have some empirical data that cast some doubt on the clerk’s opinion. Many times when I have been on the side of the road the police have driven by. And while they have not offered me any lifts, they have not stopped to arrest me either.

So anyway, by the time I reach the appropriate train stop (far enough out of town to be a good place to hitch from, close enough to town to be cheap to get to, and with a station that is close to the motorway), I am saying ‘why am i doing this?’ to myself.

Fortunately, all was well. Even better than well, actually. I walked to the motorway, and waited less than 5 minutes to get my first lift. They were going bugger all distance down the road, but they rearranged all their luggage to fit me in. Thanks guys.

Then 5 minutes later a guy pulls over and announces that he is going to Gladstone (my ‘wouldn’t it be great if i could get to there’ destination for today). So I hop in, we talk all the way (a good 5 hours), he sorts out for me to stay in his mate’s spare room (he is staying here too), he shares his dinner and even buys beer for us. Tomorrow he promised to take me back to the main road before he goes to work. How amazing is that?

So here I am sitting on the couch, watching crap US tv, drinking beer, and all of it provided by someone who doesn’t know me from a bar of soap (or at least a bar of soap he had spent the day talking with). Yay for the world.


Karma is not universal (Day 8)

Scott picked us up from Woo-woo-woo-woolgoolga. He took us several hundred kilometres all the way to Surfers. He had been driving all day and needed a rest, hence the stop in the National Park, which was exciting in itself (particularly given the noisy parrots that we saw this morning, about which Scott knew quite a lot).

He saved us from hitchhiker purgatory, rescued us from the ignominy of supper at the dull Thai place, and restocked our motivation from the inexhaustible stores that spring from serendipity. Not only that but he drove many, many miles out of his way to take us right into Surfers.

But he must have done something bad in a previous life. Because shortly after dropping us off (while we were on the other side of the road repacking my bag) Scott reversed his van into a Porsche that he could not see, which had just pulled in behind him.

The car in front of him was too close for him to get out without reversing. And it was illegally parked. His van was too high to see the super-low car that pulled in behind him after he had checked that the space was clear. The driver did not have the presence of mind to beep his horn, and his cries were drowned by the noise of the traffic on the main road.

I really hope Scott has insurance.

Not everything is as you might expect (Day 7)

Day 2 of the big hitch started with some unusual pickups. First (and most unusual) was the woman who had a tiny wee car and two small kids in it. Most unusual.

And then we (two big strapping lads with orange hair) got picked up by a (good-looking too) woman travelling by herself. Admittedly she was not going very far. And she had the worst Australian accent I have ever heard. But still it was odd.

In Woolgoolga we encountered the first hitcher sink of the trip so far – 4 hours were we stuck there. It was so bad that we wrote a song about it. Pretty simple. The words go:

‘Woo-woo-woo-woolgoolga, we hate you’

Sing it with feeling. And the bland Thai place we had dinner said ‘see you soon’ when we walked out the door. Clearly they have cornered the desparate hitchiker segment of the market.

Still, we did better than the surfer dudes who were stuck in the Big W for 6 1/2 hours. Just when things were at their most desparate (we were considering setting up tent in the park nearby, and expecting to be stuck in the big W until some days after our death), we got a lift all the way to Surfers.

I am writing this in my tent in Yuraygir (sp) National Park (where we have paused for the night). We are engaged in the age-old game of trying to rid the tent of mosquitos and sandflies. The mosquitos are winning. And judging from the number we have killed that have had our blood in them, we will carry the scars of battle with us tomorrow.