Australia outback

2012 Australia

Flies, Dips, and Burnt Rego

19 April 2012 | Mri Grout

After our third fire, we finally decided we might have to buy something to stop this nonsense (you know you're doing something wrong when your first response to your stuff burning is annoyance rather than fear/panic). So we grabbed some bungie cords, called it sorted, and headed through the Big Desert in hopes that we wouldn't catch on fire (again) and then be stranded in the actual middle of nowhere with less than a litre of water between us...Hey, at least we remembered to fill it up.

Speaking of 'up,' the Big Desert doesn't really seem to live up to its name – at least to me anyway. I mean, yes it had a sandy road, but like, it also had trees and shrubs and do deserts have those? According to every picture and postcard I've seen depicting deserts, they don't, but what do I know? Maybe it was one. After all, there was enough sand to warrant a can on a stick in some places and this being the Outback that has got to mean more than just a patch of sand deep enough to get stuck in. Like say, the lair to a poisonous desert spider-snake hybrid that can fly because why not? Australia.

Chris and Hesterr in the Big Desert
Big Desert, Victoria

But then on the other hand, I'm also pretty sure you don't find flies in the desert because there's just nothing for them to bother (seriously, why else do they even exist?) and there were a lot of flies. A bloody lot of flies. Like, I'm pretty sure once we got off the safety of the bike to set up camp, I choked down about three every half hour and swatted away a few hundred, if not a straight thousand. Hell, I even tried building a fire and standing in the smoke, but all that led to was me choking on both the fumes and the freakin' flies. So who knows. Maybe it was, maybe not, and maybe there aren't such things as drop bears and maybe, just maybe our stuff won't catch fire again before this trip is over (SPOILER ALERT: it does).

After a very bumpy, slow ride through the Big Desert with a night without water (turns out not-yet-a-litre of water is soooo not enough for two people), we decided to celebrate our survival with the purchase of a new spork to replace the one someone had accidentally lost.

High emphasis on 'accidentally' because it really was an accident. I mean, seriously, how was I – uh, that someone – supposed to know it was still in the bag she...or he...threw out?

Chris with his bluff over his whole face in an attempt to keep out the flies

Anywho, we rode far that day as Chris wanted to spend as much time as possible at the Mad Max II museum in Silverton the following day. He's a huge van of the trilogy and can tell you all about it, but since he's not here and I can't be asked reading a wiki on it, here goes with what I got: so everyone's ran out of gas, but despite that they all now drive gas guzzlers through a desert shooting at each other because no one figured out how to drive a Pruis or something. Anyway, as you can probably guess by now, since we had deterred three days to see it (aka: gave the Fates three days to decide how to screw us over), things didn't go exactly as planned...

You see, we had lost our rego (bike's registration tags) somewhere along the Junkyard Rally and having been in Victoria for the most part after that, we had yet to find a shop where we could get new ones – until now. Because despite them having originated from Victoria's capital, they just didn't have any offices in bloody Victoria (that we could find – even via google). Instead, they had them here – in the middle of freakin' nowhere mind you – but given that we were now is said 'middle of freakin' nowhere' that should have all worked out okay, right? We'll just pop in there, grab our tags, and then head off to the Mad Max II museum fifteen minutes up the road. Easy peasy. Ha!

First, we had to find the place and for some insane reason Chris decided to follow me (we have seriously got to get a data plan). For those of you that don't know just how bad that is, let me fill you in on a few things:

  1. 75% of the time I pick the complete opposite direction of where we need to go and the remaining 25% only roughly so.
  2. Even if it's a 50-50 chance I will pick the wrong one EVERY SINGLE TIME as Chris should already know.
  3. I once got lost on a straight shot (though in my defence it was the turn around to go back that got me...)
So jeah, getting it now?

Secondly, after two hours of trying to find the place and another two hours of waiting, we then had to convince them that the remaining burnt fragments that Chris had were indeed the papers of ownership. For despite the fire eating everything but the actual details, you try convincing someone that you own the vehicle because this burnt piece of paper is clear proof of said ownership and is not just a badly made forgery or thought up scam.

Mad Max 2 Museum in Silverton, New South Wales

Luckily, however, they eventually caved and so after finally getting our new rego tags, we hoped back on Hesterr (he named his bike, remember?), and rode over all 215 dips between Broken Hill and Silverton. that probably should have been the first clear clue about what awaited us at the Mad Max II museum. Tip: If a town has to resort to boasting about its potholes to reel in tourists (that's how we knew there were 215 of them; they had a sign...), then that doesn't say much about any other attractions they might have – like say a museum about a movie that seemingly everyone in Oz has seen.

Nevertheless, we managed to stay there for about two hours looking at all the photo shoots, checking out the cars out back, and arguing over whether that chic's breasts were in fact real. The sign afore it claimed they were, but seriously, how could a woman's boobs be naturally that big? No bloody way. They were easily the size of her head. How the hell did she manage to walk, let alone down a runway like the sign claimed? No freakin' way. They were huge!


Wildlife Watching in Oz is Just Too Easy

15 April 2012 | Mri Grout

Having been graced with such an “amazing” good last night, I woke up paranoid believing that surely today we were going to meet our doom. Be it some kraken in the ocean, crocodile in the toilets, or drop bear in the trees, some how in some way we were going to die that day. And we did...or at least I thought we did when the next three days turned out to be just as wonderful as the previous night – aka: we didn't catch too much on fire or wake up to the sound of a chainsaw. Man, if this was heaven then I...and that's when I realized I wasn't dead for there wasn't a single rainbow or unicorn in sight and I checked a full 360(o). 'Twas a real pity too because by this time we were getting sick and tired of peanut butter sandwiches and unicorn meat is known to be the most tender. :(

Any who...with the exception to the lack of absolutely delicious unicorn burgers and the Great Ocean Road not living up to its name (like at all), we actually had very little to complain about. And if a certain someone actually had a working headlight and if a certain someone else didn't keep falling half-asleep when she...or he...is supposed to be holding the torch so the first said certain someone could actually see, well we wouldn't have been able to complain at all.

Not only did we have a fantastic time playing in the cold sea, but we also woke up the next day to find a sleeping koala in the tree above us. Like, right above us. And it wasn't not stoned! (For those of you that don't know koalas are second cousins to the ferocious drop bears and an awake, non-stoned one means dismembered whatever-is-nearby.)

Koala sleeping in a tree

Later that day we drove past the Twelve Apostles and on to Cape Bridgewater, which hands down was the most beautiful place we had visited on our journey and it wasn't just because I've never seen water so blue or walked on an ancient volcano. It wasn't just because of the abundance of wildlife or the diamond clear skies, but more the overall serenity of the place. Chris helped too when he picked up a rock and turned to me. “Certain volcanic rock is so riddled with holes it floats,” he said as if he was a kid showing off his certain knowledge.

I shake my head and tell him he's lying for who has ever heard of a rock that floats in the water? Grinning with confidence, he picks up a piece and tosses it into the ocean. I watch in utter amazement as it arcs and lands on the water...only to sink to unknown depths.

Beautiful blue waters and stark black volcanic rock found at Cape Bridgewater, VictoriaI tried, I really did...well, I mean I would have if I had been brought up as a lady, but alas I grew up as one of the guys so instead of politely doing whatever it is a lady would have done, I erupt in laughter like this ancient volcano had so long ago. Less amused about the outcome as I, Chris turned around to continue down the path, head still held high, and with a final hoot of laughter, I bend low, snag a rock, and slip it into my pocket before running to catch up with him...just in time to yank him to a stop complete with a scream.

Within easy spitting distance there were around twenty kangaroos all staring at us as if we were some kind of intruder and I guess we kind of were. I'm not sure what was flashing through Chris' mind, but since he's never seen Kangaroo Jack, but I can tell you what scene was playing through my head at the time. You know that one where Jack's getting his butt handed to him by some kickboxing roo? Jeah, now times that by seven and give them all vests, monocles, swinging canes, and top hats. What? If I was going to get beaten up by an animal, it was definitely going to be a well-dressed one.

A hoarde of kangaroos at Cape Bridgewater, Victoria

Luckily for us though they were actually a lot more peaceful than I imagined and just lumbered off. They didn't hop like I was expecting, but walked on all fours in a really weird way. It looked so awkward – though not as awkward looking as the spiked ball of fluff we found curled up on the ground. At first I thought it was a porcupine but then realized it was too small and we were on the wrong continent. Nevertheless I wasn't going to go poke it in case it too couch 'shoot' its spikes - so I tried to get Chris to do it, but he whimped out too.

Ma says it's an enchilada but the animal, not the Mexican wrap (or however you spell it). It turns out it's not related to the porcupine at all, but rather its closest cousin is the platypus and they are the only two mammals that lay eggs.

There's also the only Australian mainland seal colony and a 'petrified forest' here, but I didn't have a good enough camera to capture the seals and Chris wouldn't let me see the forest due to 'not enough time...'


Hoola Hoop Butts & Sport Confusion

13 April 2012 | Mri Grout

Hoola hoop girl performing with her butt at the MElbourne Comedy FestivalDespite a possibly bad morning (oh who am I kidding; I got fed), our last night in Melbourne was just fantastic. First up was two hours of free comedy at Melbourne Square. We had been to a previous performance of Becky Hoops so I was already excited when I heard her name called from the microphone as everyone who knows me knows that when I get excited I get really excited. Add to that my sudden realization that her last name was pure genius because her act was hoola hooping and Chris started to think I was a psychotic idiot. Sad to say my reputation did not get better from there. Next up was some doctor and his singing tiger followed by a Swedish comedian who had me looking like I was choking to death.

My favourite act was when he stuck a metal ornament inside a rectangular box with two doors. He tilted it, opened the door he used to place the thing inside and viola! it was gone. Everyone applauded in laughter but the kids up front called him out on it because they, like everyone else, had heard the "thump" as the ball rolled from one side to the other. So they demanded he open the other door and after a few "it's totally not there" he obliged...just not before he would tilt it again and try to cover up the sound by making funny "magic noises" or attempt to pull the old "look over there." Eventually though, he opened both doors and the item was well and truly gone!

My eyes were working like bloody Niagara Falls; my lungs were shaking like a Christmas present and wheezing as if on death's door. it was no wonder Chris kept looking at me as if to ask if I was okay...that or he was wondering if he would be justified in riding off without me. I tried telling him I was okay, but I was hooting and hollering so much in between gasped words I sounded like an incoherent owl - after it had drank three entire spiked bowls of punch and inhaled a bag of some crazy drug I don't know and can't be bothered looking up. My attempt to stand after it was all over probably didn't correct that image either. My attempt to walk was alsdl;fjknasdifansdf - so bad it doesn't even deserve coherent words. Why Chris didn't bolt after that I have no idea, but boy am I glad he didn't because round two was the best - for me anyway; him not so much.

You see, I am a horrible, horrible winner; fantastic loser though. I can lose twenty times and still be up for number twenty-one. But let me win...well, let's just say that from another person's perspective a cup of water in the face would be way more than justified, maybe even a kick in the shins, a bite on the arm, a pull of the hair...

Two free tickets to a  Australian Rules Football game at Melbourne's stadium Anyway, we're about ready to call it a night when we notice a couple groups of sport fans heading in the same direction. Now normally I wouldn't have even bothered thinking about where they were heading or why, but since we finally got a good I figured we might as well try to ring this spell dry. Besides, we had never seen an AFL (Australian Football League) game before, the stadium was within walking distance, and I still had like a gazillion watts worth of energy left and yelling at a lot of strangers seemed like a fantastic way to dispel some of it.

As we stood outside the stadium watching the game on giant screens, Chris proposed a bet. The one who picked the losing team would have to buy the other a hot meal of their choosing. Me being more devious than him, however, sought to tweak it to where the loser couldn't at that time also by him/her-self a meal; instead he would have to eat the same cold peanut butter sandwiches we'd been living on once a day for the past month. Now you'd think that since I had never won a bet before in my life I wouldn't have been so enthusiastic to put that into place, but what can I say? I'm an all or nothing kind of gal - especially when we get free front row tickets on my team's side and they happen to be kicking ass. A lot of it.

Australian rules football matchSo I'm cheering at every run, rubbing it in Chris' face that I'm gonna get a hot bulgogi meal and telling him that if he's nice I'll leave him the left-over juices to dip his bread in (I know, I know. I'm a horribleperson). Beforehalf-timehewas slouched in his seat not even bothering to cheer the few times his team scored. I, however, was still screaming until my throat was raw and then some. For anyone that hasn't seen an Aussie football game, it is DEFINITELY something to see, especially in a stadium with everyone else hooting and hollering with you. It doesn't even matter if you're interested in sports (I'm not); the game is freakin' hilarious. I don't really understand it, but at some point they have to DRIBBLE the ball! Seriously. It's amazing. :D

And that Fates, is how the rest of our trip should go: fantastically easy and yet still an adventure. Or not.


The Things I Do for Food and Showers

13 April 2012 | Mri Grout

Our first true interaction with anyone outside of our travelling duo came as both an exhilarating welcome and a final sign to get the heck out of Melbourne. Granted, our first few days there had been absolute wrecks (who would have thought?), but this was like putting black, crunchy icing on top of an already smouldering cake - it looks and smells disgusting but you have to try it anyway because you just might be surprised. Though given our current luck, we'd probably just die a horrible death through an advanced form of food poisoning.

Eh, can't win them all. Besides, what's the worst that could happen? It's not like we'll run into a group of strangers written straight out of a horror story or anything. Plus, as everyone knows, a little icing is good for the soul - even if it is made by someone who has been banned from two kitchens (one of them three times...) and refused entry into another unless supervised by an adult (at the age of nineteen...). Hey! I never said it was mainstream good - "one man's trash is another man's treasure" and all that jazz; or in this case one man's bad (say vomiting on a roller coaster) is another man's treasure (the guy in the back's first meal of the day because he obviously has bad spending habits).

PS though Fate: Being cold, wet, and tired when without a place to sleep is no one's idea of "good" so you might want to work on your definition of that because frankly, you suck. And jeah, I give you that being cold, wet, and tired meant i no longer cared a donkey's wing if we were technically allowed to sleep there or not, but Chris took the blunt of the storm and still stayed up all night watching for annoying guards so...okay, so I kinda blew a hole in the whole "one man's trash is another man's treasure" argument by being such a cheapskate/easy please, but like, you still totally owe us a good. And letting us wake up does not count this time; we deserve more goodness, you know?

Or not. Semi-neutralness is cool too. Not even close to what we deserved, but you know...that's cool.

Jeah, so not cool, especially since their definition of "neutral" is about as whacked out as "The Rocky Mountain Horror Show" that plays on Halloween and about as evil as political correctness. First of all, no places to sleep. Then we find a place, but get moved on two days later (however, granted). Second, no food vans. Okay, not that bad since we can just pick up the leftovers off the ground/out of the trash after the outdoor market closes, but that means only one meal a day and at the lovely hour of 1800. Not that enjoyed. Third, it really felt like Melbourne had rounded up all the homeless and shipped them off to Christmas Island; very eerie on our end - still gives me the shivers. Fourth, the stupid crate we picked up to pack all of our newly bought supplies in so they wouldn't touch the exhaust and catch on fire was an inch too small; anyone want to guess how that ends? Bloody "neutral" my foot. Stupid, freakin' URGH!

homeless men of AustraliaSo now, after four days of bloody "neutralness," we bunker down for the night back at the rest area with plans to leave come morning. Luckily however, I sleep a lot less than Chris (my 4-7 hours to his 10-13) so I was up a lot sooner than he was and happened to overhear a peculiar group of people talking. After catching on that they were homeless (hallelujah...I mean that sucks...>.>), I jumped into the conversation and within no time got invited to not only go eat breakfast with them...

I briefly wondered if they were going to just lure us away with all the promise of food just so they could butcher us in some alleyway or sell Chris into some sex slave ring. Jeah, okay like I'd fall for tha- wait, did you say as well as a shower AND lunch?.

Yes? Hm...well, let me just wake up Chris and we can go...

What? I was hungry and they offered me food - twice...and a shower. Come on, would you really turn that down?.

Okay, okay, fine. Quick revision of previous post: if the two of us were to star as the potential victims of a serial killer, Chris would still die first, but I would be the idiot who tells him to venture into the blood- soaked Maccas and no, that isn't a chainsaw you hear coming from the back; by the way, can I have some fries with that? However, since this isn't a horror story, that about revision is moot, so there! I mean, really, what's the worst that could happen that hasn't already...in the midst of a drug dealer, someone supposedly running from the Mafia, and a guy who loves to brag about his two charges of attempted murders. I mean, he can't be that good, right? We'd be fine. Besides, you shouldn't judge a book by its cover, right?.

Right. Instead judge it by the chapter where the drug dealer just had to go "meet a friend" down that there alley while we stayed across the street and thus missed breakfast. Judge it by the sections where he seriously tried (continuously) to make us his new clients. Hell, if anything, judge it by the words and characteristics of the three men - such as their bragging of beating someone half to death, living the life in a continuous high (and I don't think he got it from just weed), and stealing at every chance their little fingers could get. Falsely said or not, such characters never let those around them have a happy ending, which is why we booked it the first chance we got and vowed to leave bright and early in the morning. Well...the first chance after lunch, a hot shower, and a wash of clothes.

What? I missed breakfast and like, we hadn't had a hot shower or washed our clothes in a month and um, die happy and all that jazz?


Seldom Seen...the People or Place Name?

8 April 2012 | Mri Grout

Okay, so maybe not the best sleep ever, but the fates balanced it by making it the best awakening - first because we actually woke up and second because we still had all of our correct appendages (I checked twice). The day was off to a good start; we even managed to leave only an hour later than planned. Jep, it looked like the fates were finally starting to understand the whole "one bad for one good" rule...or maybe not.

Seldom Seen victim turned into a scarecrow
The face is wrapped to muffle the screams.

Our first major stop was at a one-of-a-king petrol station/accommodation spot that was a good mix of whacked out and creepy. There was a string of bicycles out front tied between two trees in a triangle of sorts, guarded by a scarecrow that could easily star in a horror movie. In fact, the entire scene could. Bones were weaved into the mess and latched on to fences, and though they more than likely had once belonged to animals and humans, every serial killer tortured the neighbourhood pet. True, he could have just been a hunter, but then explain the line of roughly ten cars rusting out back. They were a fair distance away and roped off - too far for visitors/potential victims to see all those blood stains that acted as silent monuments to his previous victims. Then there was the overall look to the place. Easily mistaken for a miniature landfill it was the perfect spot to hide dead bodies. Plus, the site was guarded by chickens and everyone knows how freakishly messed up roosters are.

True, the guy might have seemed nice enough, but given that any good serial killer can make you smile even while hammering away at your insides, it wasn't that comforting. Also, he offered me a stuffed kitten as a souvenir. More than likely he just wanted to get rid of it because it was haunted, but it could have also been because it had a tracker inside he could use to find us at night for an easy slaughter or it was probably a feline version of Chuckie...or...or...jeah, I didn't take it.

Now I'm not saying you should just fly by this "pit stop" because Seldom Seen is definitely an interesting place. I'm just suggesting that if you do happen to stop make sure you're with a group, armed, and have emergency services on speed dial. He's pretty old so he shouldn't be that hard to gang up on, but he did mention having a partner...a partner mind you that we never saw because he was no doubt in the surrounding woods working on their current victim. Oh, and whatever you do, do not agree to stay the night in any of his "clean" trailers because we never did hear from the couple that did even after swapping email addresses.

Seldom Seen pit stop in the Snowy Mountains
Visit Seldom Seen during the day...if you DARE. MWUAHAHAHAHAHA!
Okay, okay, so maybe my imagination might be a little high, but at least I wasn't like Chris and acting like the idiot who ventures outside when he hears a chainsaw rev up. Stupid chainsaws. I mean, can you believe he actually wanted to dilly dally after everyone else had left? I get the place was a bit exotic and might have called for a little more observation, but hello! Being in a group was our only defence as neither of us were armed with either a weapon or a working phone. Sure, he might make a pretty decent zombie partner, but serial killer survivor? Um, no. Jeah, if the fates didn't finally figure out that "one for one" rule we'd both be dead and buried under some rubbish or maybe stuffed and offered as a souvenir to his next customers/victims.

motorbike exhaust burns the stuff beside itInstead, however, we got the lucky pass of having all of our stuff catch on fire and when I say "lucky" I really mean: "You've got to be freakin' kidding me! After everything we've been through in the last few days; not even a bloody week yet!" Politely of course, they did after all just save our lives. Okay, so maybe not so politely once we went over all the damage, but that should be justified. After all, we lost the tent, tarp, back left blinker and plastic end support of the bike, the duffel bag, a good percentage of the blanket, Chris' passport, and all of his papers. Losing all that, a small outburst should be okay, right? RIGHT!?

Obviously not according to Fate's buddy, Zeus the Dickhead. Thunderclouds specifially created for our merit loomed in the distance. Normally I'd like a good shower - so peaceful and relaxing, but normally I'm not on the back of a motorbike. Normally I'm not shivering from the cold and wincing at the rain pelting my skin. Normally I'm not stuck in an uncomfortable position for six hours and unable to change into dry clothes afterwards. So no, this shower wasn't peaceful or relaxing; what it was was a fantastic way to end our five day disaster. Fan-freaki'-tastic. Thank you Fates. That, by the way, was sarcasm.


Please Help! Two Missing P-

7 April 2012 | Mri Grout

When we finally crawled out of the tent the next morning, we were greeted quite strongly by frosty ground and chilly air. I wanted to get back inside until the sun hit its peak, but Chris wished to leave before 10.00am so we wouldn't have to spend another night in the cold, cold mountains. Despite the appeal of a half-way warm sleep to get us going, we just didn't pack or eat fast enough to set off before noon. It kind of didn't help that Chris refused to leave until we named the sheepskin seat cover we had been given the night before. I vetoed the first name (it was after my ma); he vetoed the second (it was after his uncle). Then we finally settled on Shiela. Though if I had known what the rest of the day would bring I would have called for it to be named Satan, Hel, or Loki for though I can't proof our bad luck was her fault...it's an awful coincidence in timing don't ya think?

Within a little under an hour we ran into our first problem and where it didn't seem like much at the time, it really burned us later (lols; you'll get that in a second). The plastic container we had used to bottle some left over oil into the night before had leaked over everything including the back tire. We cleaned up as much as we could, but given that it was oil, that statement doesn't really mean much. Two hours later and we end up realizing we'd just wasted the last hour as we were forced to backtrack due to the road we were on being closed. There wasn't even a bloody sign to say so! But, "Whatever," you say. "That's not that bad"...and to that I say, "We were low on fuel and the petrol station turned out to be shut due to construction." Bloody, hell right? But nope! All is not lost: turns out there was another open petrol station within about twenty kilometres - the exact distant we roughly calculated we'd make if we crossed our fingers.

Us making it should have been the first major clue that we were being played with by the gods. Too bad I didn't notice it at the time or I would've vetoed Chris' idea to head down the Barry Way like a hot potato.

Motorbike stop in the Snowy Mountains

For you to understand exactly why I would want to cancel such a breathtaking section of the trip, I'm going to have to fill you in on a few details of my life. You see the first time I went camping I was eight years old and afraid of the dark and woods. Nevertheless I was determined to do it because 1. all my siblings were doing it and 2. we were like twenty feet MAX from the house. What could go wrong? A lot. A FUCKING LOT. I was terrorized that night, so deeply scarred I never went camping again for over ten years. The next time I went, the guy I went with decided to play on the fears I had trustingly told him of and again scared the bejeezies out of me throughout the whole freakin' trip. I was jumping at every little snap of a twig because of him and his stupid stories and what ifs. Then upon arriving in Australia, I was told that if I ever went backpacking/camping I was going to get murdered. THE VERY FIRST CONVERSATION!!! I hadn't even made it to my destination yet! So thanks, thanks a lot random guy at the train station. So as you can see, I was not that hyped about camping in the first place...and telling Chris all this, all he decided to do was be a jerk by filling me in on the nightmarish drop bears native to Australia. Seriously, you'd think I'd learn.

Drop bears, by the way, are vicious creatures the size of koalas. They drop from the trees on unsuspecting passerbys just for sport. Their claws are the size of a tiger's fangs and covered with enough bacteria to give a hippo a run for their money. Their teeth mimic that of a saw; their eyes that of the devil's master. They can run as fast as a dog and like a honey badger, they just don't give a shit. Worse, they're as silent as a snake and as good at staying concealed as any crocodile. The only plus side is that they only come out at night...did I mention the sun was setting by this time? No? Well, did I mention that Chris didn't have any headlights? No, again? How about the fact that we were on a road with a straight drop on either side or the 50,000 kangaroos that tried to commit suicide by motorbike? Still no? Now knowing all that, would you believe me if I told you that wasn't even the worst of it? Jeah, I wouldn't either...until we found camp that is.

Having miraculously made it through the next two hours without getting mauled by a drop bear, crashing into a suicidal roo, or falling off a cliff edge (I jerked the flashlight...a lot...like at every tree snap...) I was pretty sure camp was going to be a blast. After all, the fates need to balance the world: one good for every bad. So there wasn't going to be a sign reading: Please Help! Two Missing P-

And there wasn't going to be any water where a crocodile could potentially lurk, just waiting for us to try to finally wash off all that oil.

And we weren't going to have neighbours because we were out in the middle of freakin' nowhere, especially not neighbours descended from convicts and armed with both an axe AND a chainsaw (seriously, who does that!?), And they weren't going to offer us food when I was so bloody hungry, food that I would have to refuse because it was no doubt drugged.

And I wasn't going to be up all night running through scenarios of what we could possibly do if they set our tent on fire or came after us with the chainsaw. Because despite all of Chris' reassurances that we would hear them before they came, I was not yelling in my head, "Not if they started it AFTER they came over!" No, I deserved a bloody good night's sleep after all that happened that day and by golly I was going to get it...right after I made sure no one was approaching the tent, chainsaw in hand...and that there wasn't a crocodile lumbering up out of the water...and that there wasn't a drop bear in the trees above us...and that the fire was well and truly down...and...and...


Riding Pillion During 2012's Scrapheap Challenge

4 April 2012 | Mri Grout

Lifelong Vagabonds motorbike pillionSomewhere along the way I'd forgotten I was working on a deadline to secure a seat on a random dude's motorbike, but it wasn't long before a reminder kicked me back on track. It came in the form of a much needed ride to Trailmaster Greg - the man in charge of the Junkyard Rally that would jumpstart Chris' trip around Australia. Hesterr (he named his bike) had been acting up lately and he had agreed to fix up all the kinks he could so she would run smoothly on the roughened dirt trails the trip consisted of. As we waited for something to dry, Greg invited us in to talk about what seemed to be nothing but reminders that I was working on a deadline. Begrudgingly I reassessed my plan,trying to find where exactly I was in completing it, when Greg, bless his soul, did it for me.

He looked expectantly at Chris as he asked if I was coming along and I performed my best I-want-you-to-say-yes-but-it-would-be-rude-for- me-to-ask-so-no-biggie-if-you-say-no expression and waited for his answer. Anyone could see it was way too fast for poor little Chris - after all, we had known each other for only what, a week and a half? Still, Greg had taken a liking to me so instead of taking Chris' excuses that would have left me behind, he turned his question to me. I meekly flashed my eyes at Chris as if to say sorry-but-I-can't-lie before telling Greg I'd love to come if I could. Whether Chris got annoyed at me for being bullied into taking me along I don't know for I was way too excited to take in his expressions.

~ * ~

The three day Junkyard Rally was even better than I had expected. It was just too powerful, too beautiful and it touched you too much - this simple pure living desire of dreams. You would have to be dead inside to not feel all the joy and passion oozing from the bikers, twice over to not understand where it's coming from, and absolutely lost to not get effected by it and want to grab on for all you're worth. You really can't help but smile at it all.

Well...unless it's nothing but dirt roads littered with fist-size rocks and two inch dips and you're screaming like a bloody lunatic inside your head the entire time. Now, I can honestly say that the Junkyard Rally was one of my favourite sections of the trip, but I absolutely loathed those extra-bumpy trails. It wasn't just the fact that my feet got caught up in the chain with every major bump - oh how I wish that was all. It wasn't even the feel of chipping my tailbone, four, five, eh six hundred times. Hell, it wasn't even knowing Chris lost control of the bike and almost ran us off the twenty foot cliff. It was the bloody bouncing.

With every medium-high bump I got tossed a few inches into the air and where that might not have been so bad if I landed correctly, did I? DID I!!?? Hell no. I kept landing a few inches to the left or right of the bloody seat, my feet got dragged across the ground for the few thousand seconds (in total) it took me to keep pulling myself back on. My stomach was in my throat and my heart in my ears and my arms were gripped so tight across Chris's chest I was suffocating him every three seconds. I was so sure I was going to fall off and get ran over by whoever happened to be behind us, or if not that, then mauled by a drop bear because that's just the way my luck ran. I was also sure, however, that this was the most fun I've ever had in my life.

Call me crazy, but there's just something about a motorbike that you can't get from a car - a touch of magic to enhance the surrounding scenery, a dollop of fairy dust to make you believe you're flying, a soothing silence filled only by thoughts and engine. It offers a peace, an exhilaration, a small flee from one's life's crisis. No wonder Chris had fallen in love with the simple magic of riding, especially amongst views so magnificently sprinkled with the dust of childhood.

White trees in the Snowy Mountains

The mountains rose like monuments to the gods, smiling down on us as we zigzagged through their passes, onward to the caves that opened their mouths wide in the distance, urging us to keep going between their chants of grace. The forests were dotted with the gold of autumn, showing us their precious secrets beside the water that glistened like dew, reminding us that life was still young. The wind blew kisses upon our foreheads, loving us like only a parent knows how as we rode along the dirt trails of a treasure map, leading to a most remarkable fortune - a secret niche, where dreams still danced with fever, still sang with real possibilities; a paradise that everyone sought, but so few managed to find.

Want to know the secret? It's knowing that this isn't something you can build with a machine or buy offsome company, that you can't keep putting it off for tomorrow or until you get 'rich enough' when you can do the same things poor. The secret is knowing that losing it is the real cause of death - not getting mixed up with a murderer half way around the world or getting that dud parachute. It's having the courage and strength to tell society/personal problems to shove it and striking out on your own to your own personal paradise.

Take some of the guys in the troop if you don't believe me. There was a paralysed rider, a man who had lost both his legs to a train when he was a kid, and one with a hook hand (seriously, a hook!). How many times do you think someone told them riding was too dangerous, maybe even impossible, that they should just let society pity and 'take care' of them? How many others with similar or even no conditions gave up their dreams because they listened to such voices? I know of at least one person - me.

I was too afraid of the pain to keep doing the sports I loved, too scared of the high spikes to really go after my dream of becoming an FBI agent and later having my own security team. Ma told me I had courage going half-way around the world on my own, but what I did was nothing compared to any of the guys in the troop. They had the real courage making their dreams come alive - if only for a few days, and I was and still am so honoured that they let me take part in it.

2012 Scrapheap Challenge in the Snowy MountainsThat final night, we had joined a group around a fire for warmth and company, but mostly warmth. You see, yo know all those ads sprouting the summer heat of Australia lasting all year long and showing the rock monolith, Uluru, smoking from the intensity of the sun's rays? Jeah, it's a bunch of bull; a stinking load of crap. Anyway , after the group asked us if we were dating and I said no, Chris made me cover my ears. As everyone knows that is the worst way to get someone to not hear something so of course I heard them mention poor Chris being able to do nothing but sleep...Um, WHAT!? Poor Chris!!?? Poor ME! That guy doesn't wake up for anything. You literally have to throw a crocodile at his face for him to even more and then it's five more minutes, five more minutes. I wake up with nothing to do for five hours because the blockhead's still asleep. Poor Chris my ass. If there's one thing he loves more than chocolate chip biscuits, it's sleep - THIRTEEN BLOODY HOURS OF IT!


2012 Australia: February