Waltz My Matilda All Over Pt.13

10 Sep

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I awoke freezing, with the morning sun, it not being past 6am. I shook some dreams away and had to double take my surroundings. Where?…

“You slept under the stars remember!”

I staggered back into my dorm, disturbing my room mates.

“Oh Adam’s Home! Where you been?”

“Slept in the bush, under the stars lads.”

“Oh Cool!” Back to sleep they went.

So I was buzzing, telling people what I did. For them, I was probably a crazy Aussie, but its something that I had to do! I got a good reaction.

What would this last day on Fraser be like? As the rest of the trip had panned out, everyday was a mystery. I didn’t gloss over the itinerary at all. We’d be down the beach, hurtling along.

“Oi Kev! Where we going?”

Today it was Wobby Creek. Significant for its sand blown, dunes that tumble down to a fresh water lake. So in Kev fashion he offloaded us and sent us up the track into the bush. I, as before, lead the way, not caring for the banter. I wanted to be out in the bush alone, with occasional company. This time it was Jess and Ollie. It was nice to break away from the pack. The walk was 45 minutes until you emerged into what flet like Arrakis from Frank Herbert’s  sci-fi epic, Dune. In fact as I later realised ( for those who know Dune lore) I was in the company of Jess and Oliver (last name) Duncan. In the book is Lady Jessica and Duncan Idaho, strolling the sand (below). Synchronicity follows me everywhere.

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Myself and Joris, another Dutchman, hiked further than everyone, through the bush, to the lookout above all of this. We sat above a spectacular scene, with the dunes rolling into the water, beyond the scrub we traversed, right back to the blue Pacific. Amazing.

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We hiked back down, me faster than him. I played my music, wanting a music-scape to hike to. From the start of the track I played ” Reflection by Tool, an Eastern style, prog-metal masterpiece. As I emerged back into the dunes it culminated to such perfection, I was ecstatic. (10 minute walk, 10 minute tune).

We all swam, chilled and chatted. Fraser was almost finished. I hiked back solo, with my music, in deep thought. It was like meditation. There was movement up ahead. Not our crew. As it turned out, the stag party from the night before was on the way. Seeing all theses faces, sharing a wink and a smile, it was “Wog”, the drunken rambler who offered me a beer.

“Here mate, its thirsty work, this walking!”

“So, you don’t remember me Wog! I walked you home last night”

” So you did! Hey cheers! Enjoy!”

So, back on the beach, drinking XXXX Beer ( Queensland’s beer of choice) I saluted Fraser, waiting for the crew. It was now time to depart, back to the mainland.

On the way back, we snapped a Dingo, curious as to our goings, as if to send us off.

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The ferry back lasted merely 10 minutes, yet we managed to spot a dolphin pod, behind the boat. Magic followed us everywhere. Driving down the roads we were only on 3 days prior, yet I felt it to be years ago. what a magic few days. I was still barefoot. Still in my Fraser element. I wouldn’t don my shoes until back at Noosa.

Farewelling Kev, cleaning the cars, and on the bus back to Noosa. Everyone was friends now, smiling, reminiscing. I enjoyed the bus trip. I remember Jose Gonzalez’s music playing the whole way, enhancing a serene drive, and everyone’s mood.

Back in Noosa, for another night, back amongst the Byron crew, exchanging stories, recommending Fraser, buzz still humming. Katie asked how I was.

“Katie mate, I am BUZZING. Buzzing on the beauty of this country. That was spectacular.” 

She laughed at me. She didn’t get it. But we’re all different.

I went out that night, wanting to celebrate with the Byron crew and the Fraser crew. We all ended up at the same club. I wouldn’t see most of them again.

The next day I was content. Leaving. But strange enough. South was my bearing. For the first time in a month and half I was travelling down the coast instead of up. strange feeling. For me, Cris, Kirsten and Katie-May (Dave was still journeying north) were on a familiar route. Way back to where we met. Back to Byron. Back to – The Arts Factory

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Waltz My Matilda All Over Pt.12

8 Sep

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Saturday morning dawned deliciously. I wasn’t sure whether I’d somehow slipped into the northern hemisphere for summer or it was perpetually perfect up here on Fraser.

After breakfast we saddled up the cars and journeyed further up the beach. I loved it. With a varied playlist blasting out the window, sea air waking everyone up and the sun warming our faces it was joyous. A fun game was staring at the ocean. For it was alive! Crawling with marine life. A whale spouted and we got excited. Then boom! One jumped. After about half an hour we spotted enough for us to not shout but simply gaze. This was everyday Fraser.

We arrived at the Maheno Shipwreck mid morning. It’s the most photographed shipwreck in the world. You could literally walk amongst it, if it wasn’t so dangerous. It had been wrecked on purpose early in the last century and was left to ruin. Scavengers had stripped it of it’s wares and time had eroded it slowly. Glorious.

A further trip back to Eli Creek was amazing as well. Pure fresh water floated out of the inland to meet the shallow pools on the beach. You ran along the boardwalk, some 200 metres, jumped into the creek, slow moving and shallow, drank as you waded and emerged ecstatic on the beach. I’d run across the sand highway and swim in the ocean then return to the fresh water, face beaming. This was life. For a winters day it was warm. No shoes or shirt. Just sun and fun.

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After here it was an hours journey back down the beach to the Champagne Pools, a rock pool teeming with life, where the waves crashed over it’s lip to refresh the water, creating a fresh bathing area, un-stagnated. Swimming amongst crabs and fish and diving I to deep water.

Whilst driving we observed a small shark beach itself, chasing bait fish. We thought it’d committed suicide till it wriggled back to freedom. There was also the curious stingray that was meters from the shore, observing this band of curious humans. And the fishing? Too easy! Kev, had randomly pulled over, got his rod and pulled in 4 – 6 Tailor fish in 5 minutes. They were leaping from the water!

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Our next stop was lunch. A short and sweet picnic. I only mention this because of the wild Kookaburra I was hand feeding like a tame parrot ( below). The Jackasses of the bush. I loved waking up to their silly laughing calls everyday.

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After this we ventured to Indian Head, at the tip of Fraser. Kev simply let us stroll up a pathless, jagged cliff face to who knows what.

” Let me know how many animals you spot from there!”

This was the only part of Fraser one would need shoes but I was still barefoot. This aspect I felt important. Connecting to the land. We walk on leather or rubber all day and don’t feel the earth between our toes. It energised me for certain.

So, here at the Head you are gazing down into the shallows between two cliffs, beyond are boats sailing, sailing the Sapphire Pacific, whales leap from the water, dolphin pods are feeding and frolicking, stingrays are chilling and getting their sun and I’m SURE a shark lurked below it all. All I could do is sit in wonder. I couldn’t fathom somewhere more beautiful and lo! And behold my camera was full up. Surely a sign for me not to tarnish this beauty with sub par photography.

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I walked back down shaking my head:

” It’s all too beautiful “

I enjoyed my last night on Fraser amongst the travel crew and a wild bunch of gentlemen on a stag night. We prepared the caught fish for Kev and he cooked the greatest fish I’d ever eaten. The hunter gatherer life indeed.

I alternated between drinking in the dorms and the pub. The pub was crazy, a gallery of drunken Queenslanders. I felt very Australian, dancing to AC/DC, then heading back to the rooms to mingle with the other crew. A bunch of us walked a drunk home, as we were scared for his safety after dark. For Fraser has a significant amount of Dingoes, wild dogs that although look cute, aren’t to be underestimated. Earlier that day we witnessed one chasing a young foreign couple down the beach to which Kevin interfered and rescued. Like a documentary in motion. A funny sight, but potentially a tragic one.

As we walked the drunk home (he was nicknamed Wog. A somewhat derogatory term for a person of European Descent or birth, but in this case an affectionate term for a nice guy, by his mates. Bloody Australians! Insults are generally signs of affection) I observed the stars in all their glory. I couldn’t believe it!

We wandered after dark onto the beach and observed them, away from the light pollution from camp and civilisation. Drunk on cheap wine, the stars and an unforgettable day we were all joyous. Jess said:

” Adam you are SO lucky to live here”.

I could not agree more.

At this stage I felt bold. Bold enough to fulfill that nagging idea planted by my friend Colin all those weeks ago.

” Find somewhere like this, somewhere you won’t be bothered and sleep out under the stars. You’ve got a sleeping bag man, do it!”

I went back to my room and grabbed my sleeping bag and just strolled off into the bush, quite safe behind the dingo fence. I plugged my iPod in. The last thing I remember is falling asleep under a billion stars with the song ” Under The Milky Way”, by The Church, one our countries finest tunes.

This was heaven. Up there and on the ground.

Waltz My Matilda All Over Pt. 11

7 Sep

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To go onto Fraser Island, one needs a Four Wheel Drive. Being entirely a sand island, the worlds biggest, it is a treacherous place for all vehicles, so skilled drivers are required. I had no plans to drive. All other members of our group, ( a little over 20 folks, plenty British, some Dutch, Austrian, American and Israeli) had that opportunity. We were in 3 cars with the first being lead by Kevin the tour guide, an interesting dude, one i got to know and learn from.

Our first stop was Rainbow Beach, situated on the mainland near the southern tip of Fraser Island. We had a safety brief and we then got appointed our cars. I saddled up front, amongst Dutch and Austrian girls and an American couple.

After a short drive we emerged onto a sand bank, our first experience with sand driving. The three cars were then parked on a ferry, which navigated the short stretch of water towards Fraser.

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You drive off, essentially into the unknown. The cars need to stay close to the wet, tidal water on the hard sand, but driving into the water will essentially void the insurance on the cars, the salt water ruinous to the cars exterior. Kev gives no indication of how far we are to travel, where we are going. Just endless miles of sand. I found it to be supremely bizzarre. No roads, signs, buildings, only the occasional vehicle. It was like the experience of seeing a mirage in the desert. No real backdrop to give one perspective. Just endless miles of sand.

We rounded a corner then went inland into the main town of Eurong. We had some lunch and dropped our gear off and were straight to Lake Mckenzie, further inland. The going is slow but very beautiful. Trees are changing from gum to pine, the roads are dunes, one way and narrow, the maximum Speed limit is 30km. Any car coming the other way must navigate back to an inlet in the road for our caravan to pass. It’s a different world man…

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Lake Mckenzie is one of the biggest perched lakes in the world. ( A perched lake is made of pure rain water, the layers of sand and vegetation underneath making a bed for the rain to stay and not filtrate below. There are no tributaries that feed it). In the world are approximately 45 of these lakes. Fraser Island has 33. It’s honestly one of the most stunning places I’ve ever witnessed. The water is fresh and pure, not irritating like salt water, and cleansing to swim in. The group, in an effort to get to know each other proceed to make a human pyramid. (I’m on the second layer on the most right!)

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We then drive inland after the Lake, to Central Station to go on a rainforest walk that blew me away. This was the central logging area on the Island and the trees here are enormous, varied and very spectacular. Kev instructs us to walk along the track for 30 minutes. He and some other members would take the cars to the other end. As the token Aussie I took charge. I felt a responsibility to lead from the front. I had this strange persona from here on. I was extremely friendly to everyone but I felt this was my time for self exploration. I ventured away from the group and observed the natural beauty. The deep green of the forest, shining into the clear waters of the stream below. Bare footed ( for all of Fraser was sand. I barely wore shoes for 3 days.) Dancing along sandy paths, skipping across massive logs, I was giddy. I was in my own head. My smile emanated outwards. I thought:

” This is still Australia. It’s not Victoria, but it’s still my land more beautiful than I’ve ever seen it. “

Everyone is starting to be friendly and I see bonds forming. It’s nice. But I can’t help but draw away and explore. Kev, our guide has done this all before. He hangs back and smokes and occasionally naps. He is a fellow Aussie so we share a few private laughs, watching the Europeans operate. He’s a bit of an enigma. He’s an Aussie ” bloke” but he’s definitely a decent fellow too. He’d fish the next day like a boss, dragging in fish after fish and reveal he’d owned a seafood restaraunt as he slices a fish like a pro. He had travel stories. The gentleman. And the mans man.

That night we, as a group enjoyed beers at the one and only pub on Fraser, next to our dorms. I was loving the casual atmosphere, the faces around, becoming more familiar. There was nice chats with the young American couple from Washington, Jack and Mary. It was good to see Americans out and about. They seem less represented than our European cousins. But a hoot nonetheless. They dragged in a wild child from South Australia, Matty, who was holidaying by himself. He gave us some good old green. Jack declared his love for Matt, who didn’t as yet, score some weed in Oz. We got high, laughed, played pool and drank. I made friends with the bar man Corey, who would put on any song for me and supply us with free shots.

We had to get some sleep, with more adventures the next day and more eye opening scenes.

More Fraser to come 😉

Waltz My Matilda All Over Pt. 10

4 Sep

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I arrived in Noosa, fresh of mind, body and spirit, finding my lodgings easily, and immediately impressed by it’s open aired spread. Plenty of places for car parks, temperature perfect. I was beaming. My happiness increased when I saw the Family ( Dave, Kirsten, Cris, Katie-May), who’d just arrived as well. We’d been apart only a few days but all had random adventures.

It turned out the creepy kiwi had come back to the Gold Coast hostel/dungeon of doom and threatened to rape everybody in a meth fuelled rampage. Cris was the only one in the room so I dodged a bullet there!

It was nice to have friends around. We sat by the pool, drank, laughed and soaked up some Vitamin D. It was cool watching people try and slack line the pool. Each night I enjoyed beers in the Hostel Bar, KB’s, entertaining the numerous Europeans around.

The following days we enjoyed Noosa on it’s pristine beaches. The bush literally meets sand and the coves turn numerous corners so one can find a beach relatively unpopulated. We hired a paddle board, had a go, fell in numerous times, laughed and returned. Tick that off.

When my white body had enough of the sun I left the group to walk along the heavenly coast to Noosa National Park. For as much company I’d have,
I needed equally to embrace an environ, solo. Yin it and Yang it. I traversed the coast and by a whim followed an inland path. By myself for nearly all of it too. Here I was amongst a ceiling of green and a backdrop of sapphire watching cockatoos, birds I couldn’t name and one MASSIVE monitor lizard. Gorgeous stuff.

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For a while I had my sights on Fraser Island to be my furthest northern point before making the descent back home. I didn’t know all that much about it, except that it had a unique ecology. As I read on Wikipedia it is the largest sand island in the world. Ok, sure, let’s do it. So through the Noosa Nomads I booked a tour, not expectating it to be the absolute pinnacle of the trip. I’d be amongst Europeans. Everything would be catered for. I’d leave my car at the hostel and let someone else do the logistics.

The following days were a relaxing time . I frequented the bar quite a bit. As I recall the night before Fraser, live music was on. The posters showed a dreadlocked somebody playing as a “one man band”. As it turned out I said hi to him nearly everyday at breakfast. He was a resident. Me, oblivious until the night of the gig realised this . “Well DUH it was him”, as he was setting his stuff up. Multiple didgeridoos, guitars, percussion, loops. I had a feeling about this guy.

Jay Hoad blew my head off. He sung about Australia and since I was seeing it first hand all his music resonated. The didges warped into psychedelia, his lyrics were personalised seemingly to my own experiences. He covered my favourite Taj Mahal song, ” Fishin Blues”. I remember thinking as I danced manically to his song, Australia:

” This is me and my country converging. I feel like the trip is reaching a massive crescendo”.

I danced on.

Earlier in the night a rather attractive girl asked me a simple question.

” Hey, are you Australian?”

“Yes, why?”

She walks away and I shortly find her and prompt her.

” Explain? “

She jokes about and says that she wants an Aussie husband because she doesn’t want to leave here, she loves my country. I love it too! So much more that I was on the trip.

“Well sure we can get married!”

Janet ( Dutch) and I get along along well, joking about weddings and having nice chats about music. I’m rather drunk and annoyed at myself that I’m probably being an arse. I should go to bed but I’m enjoying it. But eventually I need to leave and sleep, before an early rise to Fraser. I’m saddened that there’s a chick I dig, but we’re passing each other. Travel will do that.

As it turns out she’s in my room. I wake up drunk, frantically pack and wish her a goodbye she never knew I gave. She’s sleeping deeply like I wish I was. But it isn’t the last I’d see of her.

Fraser beckoned me now. I’d go on to have an experience I’d never forget.

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(Sand art, Noosa Beach)

Waltz My Matilda All Over Pt. 9

2 Sep

I recall driving out of Brisbane in a strange mood. A lack of sleep. An unsure feeling of where I was going. A lack of food. It took a few hours to get in the car and hit the road. I milled around in the hostel in a bit of a down mood. But I don’t back down from a challenge. For adventure was always around the corner.

I was on the main highway north when the GPS veered my way west. I thought I was due north? How far was this veer I wondered.

The roads were quieter. Narrower. It was around this point I developed my mantra:

“Just have faith. You’ll get where you’re supposed to be.”

The scenery was astonishing which calmed me. For here, an hour from Brisbane and an hour from Noosa ( my next stop after this), were the Glasshouse Mountains. A place not only to be seen but felt.

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Arriving at Bryce’s family farm, I soon learnt he’d be another hour. He told me via phone to head to the Woodford pub and kill time. Practically famished, this agreed with me. It was 15 minutes away. I later learnt this was a famous festival town, the pub, the centrepiece, but boy did I feel foreign. I was a little off the beaten track, recovering from Brisbane. These were different folk to the south. But that’s part of the journey. I do enjoy that stranger in a strange land feel. It’s part of travelling even in ones own country.

Winding back to Bryce’s after an average meal, I encountered the most stressful point of the journey thus far. I pulled up to his driveway, to the side so he could get in. BAM! What the fuck?! I got out, and looked under my car. The left tyre had gone down a culvert ditch. I had no traction, forward and reverse merely spinning the tyres. The car on a precarious lean. I was as far away as I’d felt from home and civilisation, with my car in serious trouble. I think in hindsight I was stressed from the drive and the bodily damage done in Brisbane but my stomach had sunk to my feet. I had nervous shakes. I called Bryce. He wasn’t far away, but puzzled. I didn’t know how to explain the situation. Stress started to overwhelm me. I turned around to notice an elderly man in a 4WD coming down the road, stopping.

“In some trouble mate?”

“Oh just a bit. She’s not moving.”

” Not a worry, I’ll winch ya out.”

Within 5 minutes of the incident the problem was solved by the one and only car I’d seen for half an hour. This man was as I found out, a fellow Victorian, living north, appearing out of the blue to save me,and disappear just as quick.

Bryce emerged in another 5, laughing.

“Hey mate, stressed out? “

I could only laugh, explaining the relief I had. This stranger appearing to drag me out of a literal ditch.

“We have tractors, mate you were never screwed!”

I could only laugh more.

We drove up to the house. It was all good! I was in a mates house, a clean bed and food. And what a house! A villa in the country, tennis court, pool, clear view of the surrounding scenery. Things went full circle that day.

So I reminisced with another relative stranger, one that I’d connected with on the previous adventure. He was another well travelled individual, one with many tales and perspectives on our country and abroad. And he had THAT view.

A home was what I needed, after the raucousness of Brissie.

I awoke refreshed, thanking him for the night amongst his family. Much, much needed.

Mate, how do I get a good view of those mountains?! This place is magic!

He directed me to Maleny, a mountain town that looked over the valley to the Glasshouse Mountains. It was a chilled drive, winding roads, pristine weather. I remember playing Vance Joy’s EP all the way. They being a Melbourne band, the lead singer, playing for my suburbs football team. I loved this fact. Their song Riptide is enormous, winning a countdown, famous across Australia. All from my hood! I’d always strum it when playing my guitar. I felt connected to that song. It’s simplicity, and smooth delivery, background tuning to my Glasshouse ride.

The view of the mountains was unreal. I took the rainforest walk, nearby. I spotted wild bush wallabies, called ” Pademelons”, listened to a thousand flying foxes shriek in the trees, wild birds in harmony and me alone amongst it all.

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I connected back with nature. Oppressive cities weren’t what I was chasing. I sat and simply stared at these strange formations. Sacred to the indigenous people and now to me. I felt healed from them. I was glad I had a friend who lived adjacent to them.

Now Noosa was next, reuniting with my family after a few crazy days on my own wave. The highest peak of the journey was fast approaching.

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(not my image)

Waltz My Matilda All Over Pt. 8

1 Sep

The Gold Coast is a popular destination for overseas travellers but not what I’d call indicative of genuine Australia. The main section of Surfers Paradise is crowded with those corporate neon signs, that belong in any city in the world nowadays. The Big M, the Colonel, Starbucks etc. One can sit on a pristine stretch of sand but be forced to move once the sun is obscured by high rise apartments and tourist trapping restaurants. The promise of not needing to chill here for too long was good however. This was our come down arena. We were staying in the backpackers section of a cheapish hotel. We had full access to pool/spa/sauna. Our agenda was set. Relax and recover from Byron.

The boys (Chris/David and myself) were put in a subterranean room, one of the poorest excuses for accommodation I’d witnessed, fully tiled floors with a drain in the centre? We guessed it was a former shower stall turned bedroom. Vibes. Very poor. The room came complete with a token creep. A kiwi, lurking in the corner, drinking alone and watching everyone. We didn’t spend a lot of time here, opting to be near the spa, or the kitchen.

The girls had a nice dorm to themselves for equal price to our disdain.

So the days were spent relaxing, drinking lightly, enjoying a quiet smoke or two. We cooked a nice, cheap barbecue, watched Surfers do it’s thing and watched rented movies.

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Chris, me and Katie-May

For after here I would return to my own adventure. Something that excited me greatly. I’d meet my brother and his friend in Brisbane for the weekend, to attend my first ever home AFL match ( Australian Rules Football League. A semi religion in Melbourne) I supported an interstate team purely because my team folded and merged with a northern team. They were the Brisbane Lions. And we were playing the Gold Coast Suns at the Lions home, the Gabba.

So I left my crew, excited by warm weather and exiting the Gold Coast, excited for some familiar faces. It was about an hours drive to Brisbane. I’d arrive early Friday, park my car and wait for my brother Jake and his mate Dippy and we’d enjoy ourselves. Drink, chat and explore. The game was Saturday afternoon.

The next few hours were frustrating beyond belief. Brisbane isn’t a massive place but the traffic is highly aggravating. One way streets everywhere. Missing your turn would mean a silly detour back to where you started. This happened many times. My hostel was on the corner of a busy street and missing it would mean a trip over the bridge to the other side of town and
u-turn back to start again. I arrived in a temper and was greeted with some attitude by the folk at the hostel who double booked my car park. Not great first impressions of Brissie. A few beers and some raucous Irishman fixed my mood and my companions arrived. We caught up, mostly me discussing my trip. We’d venture to their hotel and pre drink before finding somewhere to merrymake for our first Brisbane adventure. We eventuated back at my hostel bar. The crowd was international and a blast. They boys got a taste of my life. Drinking with various people from around the globe. Enjoying banter and being Australian amongst internationals is always a good thing.

I woke highly hungover the next day. It was game day so we’d enjoy beers later on. Firstly though, I was picked up and taken back to their hotel where we would relax in the spa and enjoy a lovely view of Brisbane. After few beers at the pub we’d head off to the game. The pub was actually a place where Lions supporters gathered pre-match. Grand choice lads.

I was extremely pumped for our first home ground experience. It didn’t disappoint. We witnessed one of our biggest wins of the year against the rivals from down the road. The night was complete with a tropical thunderstorm. Classic Queensland weather. Tick that off my bucket list.

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We attempted to go out that night but it didn’t live up to the previous one. We had a serious drinking day and I was due to head off on the Sunday. No idea where to. So we had an early night and I went back to the hostel. I suppose keeping sober would be ideal for the drive the next day!

Id been in discussion with a travel mate, Bryce, one of the memorable characters from Europe. He lived on the Sunshine Coast. A further hour north. I wanted to catch up and he said come along!

So, happy to exit another city I hit the road north, the end point yet another mystery. And more strange adventures ensuing.

Waltz My Matilda All Over Pt. 7

26 Aug

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Byron to me represented connections. The issue of the blue teepee was solved. I’d seen that my friend on Facebook, Chelsea was staying in it as recently as THAT very morning. She’d checked out and left. Gone back south. Ships in the night we were. I messaged her a photo of the teepee. She was pissed we didn’t meet up. But she courteously said I should find her friends later in the afternoon! Wicked. Here 10 minutes and magic was already afoot.

So Byron and me were finally face to face. It was probably about halfway through my Aussie tour. I’d planned to stay here the longest, pre-embarkation. I booked four days at first. I felt a haircut was in due order. This was a grand excuse to suss the town out, as well.

My first impression of Byron: This place was thronging with folk from else where. It was campervan city. There were more dreadlocks than one could hope to see in any given town. It was all interesting. A young guy asked me on the street.

” Hey mate, do you know where the Coles is?” ( typical supermarket in Australia).

” Nah mate sorry, I’m not from here either!”

There was a mutual acknowledgement. Who was from here?

Returning with supplies, planning to cook dinner and find these “new friends” I ran into my busking buddies. Again. We chopped up some food and chatted. And I chatted to anyone else around. Everyone was chilled. There seemed to be an array of characters here. Some like me, staying a few days. Others living at the edge of the camp, holed up for years. It was certainly more than your average backpackers.

As I relaxed and smoked, Chelsea’s friend, Kirsten, found me and I was swept into a crew. We, 2 weeks later were still travelling together. I called them the Byron Family. We were all in Byron for different reasons. They all seemed to meet in the teepee. And thus beautiful connections were birthed. Kirsten, Dave, Chris and later Katie-May ( with Kelly, Annie, Alex and Jason) all were a part of my life. Brief but intimate connections. We knew each other and laughed with each other. We spoke about life. We all had similar philosophies. By the end I saw parts of me in all of them. From here on, it became our adventure not just mine. We were all on the one wave.

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The day after this I sat with Minna for breakfast. An English pixie, a delight to hang with. She wanted an adventure. She wanted to find a waterfall nearby. So me, having the car, drove to Killen Falls, a hidden gem. A cave with cascading water, flowing beautifully. I took her down to the coastal walk with some ciders and we sat and watched the sunset as dolphins leapt in pods. I couldn’t even word my contentment. I was falling in love with my own country. Attenborough documentaries were never this nice.

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Having a guitar handy proved to be an asset. I could bring it out, strum a tune, hand my axe around to others and relish the joys of music. There was one night I strolled past some strangers singing some accapella soul. Sam Cooke would have to be my favourite singer ever. I ran over and joined the chorus:

“Baaaaaby, bring it to me, bring Your sweet loving! bring it on home to me!”

Cam, my soul singing soul brother invited me into his clique and we basically jammed out and shared our music tastes, which were essentially the same. The connections just kept happening. We shared turns on my guitar. That’s when Rod joined us. A big burly Welshman that cut an intimidating figure of 6 ft 7″, he simply wanted to play and sing. I offered it and he sat away from the group. We were still chatting when I heard his singing voice to which I shut EVERYBODY up. It was one of those talent show moments when someone you wouldn’t expect to blow you away sits down and does that. He was chilling everyone out with Wicked Game by Chris Isaack, closely followed by a Britney Spears cover which we got raucous too, till we were asked to leave the common area. Far too much noise.

It was certainly a place of change. For 6 months I’d sported a beard. Come Byron, I was as close to a lumberjack as I’d ever been. It drew comments which I enjoyed. But I was being asked what I looked like, sans beard. One day I joined a crew for coffee:

“Hey Adam, you swore you’d shave your beard last night.”

” Bullshit. Shaving it is not an option!”

Truthfully, I was feeling the trim for a while. All things must pass. Indeed the beard too. I feigned a toilet trip, grabbed a razor and shore it all off. Who was this cat in the mirror!? I returned and sat as if nothing had happened. The reactions were gold!

The next few days were alcohol fuelled, dope inspired fun. I got to karaoke for free beer at the brewery ( singing Gloria and Voodoo Child I believe). Rod one the night which I was rapt about. That way everyone got to hear his pipes. I had awesome chats with many people. But I felt the energy was winding up. My body wanted reprieve. I hadn’t supplied it with enough water and nutrition. Skipping meals. Eating crap. Getting drunk before I could cook a decent meal. I couldn’t keep extending my stay. I was nearly up to a full week of Byron. There was more adventuring to be had beyond here. The last night I was there I was stone cold sober. Dave said him and a few people ( the subsequent Family) were shipping north the next day. I said I’d follow them. No idea where. I stupidly had a joint before bed. It’s fair to say I had a waking nightmare, trying to sleep. Facing my demons. Why was I trashing my body, wasting money, when I had new environs to explore each day? The answer I concluded on,was that I was trying to get lucky. Thinking with my manhood instead of nurturing my soul. For the real kick in Oz and what I wanted was to see were things that I couldn’t just experience on any night out. Nature! Fuck it! I’m not up here to sleaze about. Relinquishing that urge to party, would increase as I went north. I wanted something else. I was happy I had that introspective moment. I dozed off. Uneasily.

The next day was tough. Packing. Goodbyes. Laundry. All on a shitty nights sleep. The self dialogue of the night before thrust me forward. Happier than the last few days, I was finally leaving the Arts Factory. It was turning into a circus. A personal one. That place has magic in it. It was a delight. There was nuances in very moment there that I’d reflect on. The best part of it was being ones self. Most folk were that, there. Individuality reigned supreme. But like a river I had to keep rolling.

” Oi Dave, where are we actually going today?”

” Surfers Paradise man, hours drive. You ready?”

Sure I was. The adventure had stagnated. I was ready for more. In an hour I’d cross the state border and I’d be well back on track.