Broome with a View

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Our Adventure Tour through the Kimberly pulled up mid-Sunday afternoon, and while the trip was over, Richard and I arranged a get-together to have a cold, frozen drink at the Sunset Bar and, well, watch the sunset. So, one $14 cocktail later, we sat on the grass and watched the sun blush as we admired its beauty and it began the long journey to Europe and around the world yet again. Dinner was calling our name, so we were off to the Roebuck, which had a decent roast meal on, and slowly our last night together as a whole group wound down. I wasn’t sure how long I wanted to stay in Broome, but I had seen Alex’s $400/night resort and thought it could be fun to try a job there, so I walked up early the next morning and applied there and booked myself some accommodation while I was at it. No, not at the resort. At another hostel that didn’t remind me of the place I’d had my stuff stolen in Surfers.

Simon, that is my Canadian compatriot from the Darwin-Broome tour, and myself went into town to look around and I got a call for an interview the following morning. I also got my photos backed up on a DVD and updated my Facebook among so many other things. Nine days is a long time to be without Internet; and a Laundromat. So we washed the filth and red sand from our clothes and met up with the others again, though we missed the sunset and the picnic. Simon and I went for dinner and drinks at Divers Tavern instead and chatted with a real honest-to-goodness vagrant that had been traveling Australia since he was 19. He was now in his late 60s and could use a shower. Anyone worried I’ll keep traveling forever should take solace in my reaction to this gentleman.

The next morning I had my interview at the Cable Beach Resort and was offered a job, which I had to think about. It was my third day in Broome and I was already getting a little bored. But it was nice to be offered a job regardless. Simon came by for an interview that morning and also was offered a job. We ran into the Dutch ladies when we got back to the hostel and apparently Louise (the 78 year old) hadn’t slept in 2 days because of a toothache. To make matters more pressing, they were setting off the next morning for a 9 day journey to Perth which would leave them far removed from any medical assistance. Their attempt to get a dental appointment had failed as they needed an appointment, but I figured there must be a miscommunication since their English was a bit on the broken side so I called the dentist myself and explained the situation and managed to get her an emergency checkup. Simon and I brought them there with a cab and made sure they got in alright then got lunch in town.

I’d also seen a special on a trip down to Perth stopping at all the highlights and checked into it. It wasn’t with an official company, per se, it was a tour guide that worked for Adrenaline Check and was taking a bunch of people down the coast at the end of season for $450 to cover his costs. I checked into the company and everything looked fairly legit so I booked it – the trip is usually $1600 but was costing me $450 and I could hardly pass it up. So I leave Broome on October 1. I decided I’d still take the job and see how it goes. If nothing else it’ll make the days pass faster and pad my new Australian bank account. I arranged to meet up with Peter from Adrenaline Check, and my nerves were running a little higher. He not only seemed anxious to get my money, but was going to be showing up in some jeep, and I was supposed to pay him the cash. I arranged to only pay part of it as a guarantee that I would be going and had Simon hang back and take down license info and photos. While I was meeting with Peter, Simon apparently had the Dutch ladies walk by feeling much better, albeit Louise had left a tooth behind in Broome. They gave Simon $10 to buy us each a beer which was quite nice and not needed, but it did make us feel good.

We met with the others and went to Mangrove for the sunset view, which is non-existent from there. However, the sandflies were out in force, which was almost as good. Back to Coles for some groceries and then a picnic on Cable Beach, back to the hostel for Billy Madison, and then Simon and I said goodbye to all the others who’d be moving on towards Perth tomorrow. The next two days were about as interesting. I sat by the pool, decided not to take a job at the resort after all (for all the training, I wouldn’t be doing anything useful for them for that week and I felt quite guilty), and then a few of us went to watch The Bourne Ultimatum (again) in an open air theatre. It got really lifelike when a low flying plane buzzed us just as they were at an airport. On Thursday was the Staircase to the Moon, a festival that celebrates the way the mudflats make it look like there are stairs leading up to the rising full moon. I went to the Mangrove Bar early (5:00) and got a front row spot. It would’ve been a pretty big step because there was only one stair that night, which was a big disappointment to everyone there. Still, it was cool to watch the moon rise.

Friday, Simon had the day off, so we went to the beach with a boogie board after I moved back to Cable Beach Backpackers again. There were a few good waves and it was, surprise surprise, a nice relaxing day. Saturday was more of the same except that I went to the beach with some backpackers I just met and did so at night. This was great! But I’m getting ahead of myself. That morning the footy finals were on, and the one team I’d seen play and decided to support, the Geelong Cats, were playing for the gold. Divers Tavern was full but I found a spot on the pool table and watched as they made history and won the cup. It was at this point that I knew that the Roughriders would be winning the footy back home, too. Now, back to the beach party that night. The full moon shone on the water, the surf crashed in, and we sat in a big oval around two campfires because there were 60 of us. I left the beach around 3AM and was asleep by 4:30 since there were still people milling about the hostel that I had a drink with. Sunday gave me one last chance to enjoy Broome and get things sorted before heading down to Perth (hopefully) with twelve other adventurers.

Broome (and Beyond) Photos

Broooome, Brooome, Broome!

Saturday, September 22, 2007

It’s one of the most remote and untouched locations in Australia, so basically the world. To cross in anything less than a 4WD is madness… possible, yes, but not seeing much but road. As Betsy and I separated in Surfers and there were no backpackers with 4WD or even remotely able to tackle the famous Gibb River Road, much less go off that road to the even more famed Bungle Bungles. So it was that I found myself boarding the Adventure Tours 4x4 at 6:30 AM on a Saturday morning for what would probably be the most remote camping/wilderness trip I’d do in my life. Or at least until I get to Antarctica… I was happy to find our group was pretty cool and friendly. A fellow Canadian, Simon, a couple really awesome Melbourners (Alex and Richard), and some really bubbly POMs, Georgina and Steph that I met straight away. I’d be meeting the others and finding out that they were likewise terrific soon enough.

Our first stop was Edith Falls, a great place to swim… if you don’t mind fresh water crocodiles. Only about 7 of us went in, amazingly I was one of them. The fresh water ones tend to be quite shy unless provoked, it’s the salties you have to watch for. Of course it’s quite possible that a salty could be in the water somewhere, but they do comb the national parks fairly often. Still, between my skepticism that they could catch every salty out there and that fresh water crocs would leave us alone, I made sure to stay in the group. Who says humans aren’t pack animals? Safety in numbers. Still, I can’t believe I went in, though the fact that it was 35C was probably a big influence. It wouldn’t be long before I considered this ‘warm’ instead of ‘bloody hot’, but for the moment, I was swimming and enjoying the opportunity.

We picked up a bit of beer in Katherine and Simon and I led the charge by cracking open three on the bus, showing the Canadian propensity to party and alliterate. We had chicken tandoori for dinner around the campfire with flies and beetles buzzing around everywhere. I can’t believe that I’ve gotten to the point that I’d scoop a beetle out of my food and just keep eating, but there you have it. There was a time when the whole bowl would be declared a biohazard and dumped unceremoniously in the nearest garbage. Our guide, Adrian, spent 10 years living in Kakadu and Arnhem Land with the aborigines, so he brought out the didgeridoo to entertain us for a while. Simon, Steph, Richard, Adrian, and myself stayed up to midnight Melbourne time in honour of the greatest city in Australia, and then I had my first sleep in a swag. That is a sleeping mat and blanket combined but with nothing over your head, so you just fall asleep watching the many stars in the middle of nowhere… and hoping that nothing crawls into your swag or onto you over the course of the night. It was beautiful and amazing to sleep under the stars, and there were almost no bugs.

The next morning, Simon and I reloaded the swags (we appointed ourselves in charge of the top of the bus, which gave us the chance to climb on top of the massive 4WD twice a day to at least load and unload swags plus the occasional firewood stop). We were on the road before 8. Adrian took us to Keep River National Park, not a scheduled stop but really great. He is really knowledgeable too and pointed out lots of things we’d have walked right by without noticing. Another drive brought us to the second largest lake and largest manmade lake in Australia, Lake Argyle. It is huge! We went for a swim (yup, crocs included) and did some cliff jumping which was quite refreshing in the 42C heat. Then off to Kunnunura where we camped in a nice campground, had another delicious Adrian creation for dinner (no beetles!) and called it a night.

It was my turn to sit in the front and also our first day doing some rough outback road to the Bungle Bungles. I couldn’t have picked a better day. However, our first stop was, again, Kunnunura, where we stopped to get shoes for one of the older Dutch ladies on the trip as her shoe had fallen apart on the previous day’s walk. Soon enough, we were on the road for the wild. I chatted with Adrian, our guide, who apparently is also a painter, author, and one of Australia’s foremost experts in aboriginal rock art. We got to the Bungle Bungles around 2:00, after a very beautiful drive in. We had lunch by a river crossing which had dried out, and the temperature at 10AM was 36C in the shade! By the time we got to the national park, the temperature was 42C in the shade and near 50 in the sun. Somehow, 42 doesn’t seem as hot as I thought it would be. I guess I’m getting acclimatized pretty quickly. That said, the night before in the swag, I had to close the corner because of the mozzies and I awoke in a pool of my own sweat. Literally. Gross. Anyway, we set up camp, Alex and I went on a photography trek, and then our group went to a lookout to watch a beautiful outback sunset on the Bungles. This was probably the best day so far.

I would find myself of a similar opinion on the next day as well. We were up by 6, did a few hikes in and around Piccaninny Gorge including the famous Cathedral Gorge, then broke for lunch. The walks were beautiful, especially Cathedral Gorge, and Adrian played his didj in the vast natural amphitheatre. And did I mention how stunning the scenery was? If not, I’ll mention that it was beautiful on the ground. And absolutely amazing from the air. I took a 50 min helicopter ride with Alex and Michael and it was indescribable in beauty size, beauty, and variety. The helicopter had no doors which was both fun and refreshing as the temperature had climbed to 44 in the shade and, by Adrian’s estimates, mid 50s in the direct sun. I also got a quick lesson on how to control a chopper but didn’t have to use my newfound skills as our pilot survived the trip.

We did a second walk that afternoon into Echidna Gorge and were amazed not only that the temperature dropped about 10 degrees, but also that 34 felt ‘nice and cool’. Seriously. It was a long, hot, and busy day, and I fell asleep briefly and accidentally with my legs crossed like I was doing yoga and got a little too relaxed. Then dinner and a real sleep.

A mixup left us short of supplies so we backtracked to Kununurra to get some more then hit the road for El Questro station and our first day on the Gibb River Road – a 600km dirt road through the heart of the Kimberly infamous in its rough and remote nature. We took a walk through Amalia Gorge to the Ochre Road and had a swim before returning to the cattle station ‘homestead’/campsite for some happy hour beer and another great meal. Plus a much needed and very excellent shower. We woke up before the sun was even up to get a great spot in Zebedee Hot Springs, and a great spot we got… right at the top. The temperature was about 35 which would’ve made it cool and refreshing midday. Either way, a great way to kick off the day. Simon and I were joined by the Swiss girls (Anita and Cheryl) and we basically had our little pool to ourselves. After breakfast, we stopped at the Colburn lookout, looking over Pentecost River and the mountains we’d been camping under. Then, an unscheduled stop at Hora Valley, where Adrian showed us some really remote rock art.

He’s a great guide, Adrian, if you haven’t guessed that already. Even when he stopped for a smoke he showed us some great bush tucker – Rosella petals. Then to Barnett Gorge, another place even Adrian had never been, which was lined with red rock and absolutely beautiful. We camped the night at Mt. Barnett station and Michael and Richard gave us a great ‘Swiss show’ after dinner. I fixed a broken tent and Alex and I slept in it though it was quite hot and uncomfortable, at least it kept the mosquitoes at bay.

What was probably the best day of the trip through the Kimberly started rather innocuously with a 4km walk to Manning Gorge. We had to put our stuff in a Styrofoam container and float it across to do our walk. When we got to the other side and the end of the walk, it was just incredible, probably one of the best swimming holes in Australia. Of course, this was after Adrian stopped to show us the delights of billy goat fruit (not bad) and dentist fruit (bad, but a mild anesthetic hence the name). Simon and Adrian did a 14m jump which I couldn’t bring myself to do, but I did a 12m one. Again, an amazing amazing spot. We stopped again for supplies at Mt. Barnett roadhouse before our next stop at Gavan Gorge. Adrian and I jumped from a tree hanging about 7m above the water. There was also a rope from below that you could swing out onto the water with. Lots of fun. Then, back on the road, we ran across another Western Exposure bus. Richard stole some firewood as a joke while I provided a distraction. The whole thing was pretty hilarious, which is why Richard is the “king” I suppose.

In the middle of nowhere, we stopped again and spent the night. Quite remote and unmarked, but Adrian took us to see some rock paintings and burial sites that are not even recorded or known to most of the world. And when they are listed with the museum, the exact location will be known to only a handful of other experts in rock art for their protection. Yes, we had a terrific guide indeed. After the educational quotient, we went for a sunset swim and some beer, and then Simon and I had to come up with a Canadian show right before dinner. It turned out pretty well considering the lack of notice, at least I think. We toppled the monarchy (King Richard) with a well thrown swag, Ranger Dean identified some native bush tucker for the tourists, we poked fun at the Swiss, and of course Australian beer/water/VB. The Swiss also had a game where Alex and Angela had to rub a rope and discuss aloud what the thought they were doing, not knowing that they were a couple on their honeymoon. Much more funny than it sounds. Finally, Adrian had a game where you say two words and try to guess what they have in common by coming up with two other words that also share this trait. Mine was fish and sheep. Some thoughts animals, others that the second word started with the last two letters of the first. I’ll put the solution at the bottom of this post.

Already a week had gone since leaving Darwin, and we woke Saturday morning refreshed after a quiet and bug-free night. Our first stop was Imintji Roadhouse, where I discovered that Geelong was still cleaning up in the footy playoffs. It was a little oasis with a green lawn and flowers surrounded by red dust in all directions. Refreshed and refueled, we were off to the Bell River Gorge, which took us on a walk overlooking the waterfall and then across the river and down the cliff for a swim – our last swim on tour. Going back up, one of the Dutch ladies finally had enough of the walking in the high-40s temperature and I helped her along a bit, but I’m really impressed with how well they’ve done considering that they’re all in their 70s and the one I helped is 78!

We made camp that night in Windjana Gorge, quickly tossing firewood and swags to claim our spot before heading off to Tunnel Creek, a 750m long underground river passing through the Napier ranges. Then camp, and ‘Empire night’, where we all had to do a skit. They were all pretty bad if I may say, including ours. Our final day in the bush and it’s just as well we’ll be in Broome tonight, I haven’t showered in 4 days nor shaved in 9, my clothes are now all one colour (dark reddish brown) and my hands and fingernails have been painted a matching shade. I slept really well on my swag last night and didn’t dream for the first time this month. We packed up and took a walk through Windjana Gorge, home of 100s of crocs, a beautiful and massive (and dead) reef from a time when Australia was underwater, and more. There were too many crocs to even think about thinking about swimming here, so we walked and moved on to our last stop. A boab tree that had once been used as a prison.

This is no fairy tale, though. They’d round up aborigines, particularly young males to keep the older ones in line, and keep them here overnight on the way to be a slave in the pearling ships. Nearby was a huge windmill-fed trough that used to give water to 500 cattle at a time as they were driven across the land. And then, we were back in Broome. The trip was over but we didn’t say goodbye. Not yet. The end is part of the beginning of a new story, coming soon to a blog near you.

Oh yes, and the answer to what fish and sheep have in common? Simply that both were plural.

Darwin-Bungle Bungles Photos
Bungle Bungles Land Photos
Bungle Bungles Air Photos
Bungles to Broome Photos

Evolving in Darwin

Thursday, September 13, 2007

I arrived at the top of Australia, Darwin, at 12:30 AM and was at my hostel just after 1. You'd think I'd be tired and ready to crash, right? Wrong. Not in the least, though it didn't help that the room was warm, smelly, and filled with a couple 'heavy sleepers'. So, after making up my bunk, I went for a walk around Mitchell and Smith street (the two main strips), checked out the Northern Territory Parliament building, and went to sleep. The next morning, I walked around some more and decided the city centre didn't have much to offer, so I rented a bike and rode out to East Point. The ride was well worth the effort despite the fact that my seat was too high and not really adjustable without tools. There were rock cliffs, nice beaches, and a beautiful little lake that looked like it belonged in the African savannah. I didn't make it in time for the museum, but it was such a beautiful day I was happy to enjoy being outside and rolling around.

Since Darwin seemed to have little to offer that you couldn't find at the bottom of a pint glass anywhere, and since I'd been unable to find anyone crossing the Kimberly with a 4WD (the ONLY way to do it), I booked a tour to Broome for Saturday (it was Wednesday). I wanted to do Kakadu and Litchfield, but Kakadu was sold out unless I waited until next Saturday to leave. Well, I was already getting bored of Darwin, so I booked Litchfield for Friday and resolved to actually relax and enjoy the heat and humidity by the pool on Thursday. And that's just what I did! I resumed Islands in the Stream, my second attempt at a Hemmingway novel, had a Malibu-pineapple, and sat in the sun until I could take no more. In the pool, I represented Canada in the Aqualympics(tm) which I'm proud to say we swept, winning all but one event in which we tied Ireland. I met three English girls that came in after and Tom, who represented England, and the five of us hung out in the pool all afternoon.

It was Thursday, the night of Darwin's famed Sunset Beach Markets, so the lot of us (Gemma, Jill, Rebecca, their friend Natalie, and Tom went to see the sunset and grab some eats. We just made it for a beautiful sunset, and I tried camel, barramundi in okra, satay squid, loukoumathes, some African dishes, fresh fruit juice, and basically went to town. Incidentally, camel tastes just like you'd think it would. Awful. There was a really cool didj-drum combo that I could've watched all night, but we wound up going out to Schenanigans instead. I had to be up early for my tour the next morning, but I promised them I'd go out and have one drink. Which turned out to be a jug, but what can you do... who wants to get technical? I saw first hand why people love the party in Darwin, and we had a blast out on the town. All said, a great day, I need to learn to have more days like this where I'm actually on vacation and not traveling or running here and there. Someday...

Friday was my final day in Darwin, and I spent it on the Litchfield Dreams tour, checking out Litchfield National Park. We stopped at the Jumping Croc Cruise first, which was more what I was expecting from the Daintree Croc Cruise I did a month ago. Lots of crocsand literally everywhere - and they actually get them to jump out of the water snapping at food. There wre also lots of birds around and I felt, not for the first time, that I'd been transported to Africa. From there, we did some swimming in Wangi Falls, had a photo op at Florence Falls, and swam again in the Buley Rock Pools, my favourite stop of the day. I found a pool with some good jumping and went for it, most of our group wound up hanging out in this pool. Plus, you could relax in the falls quite nicely. Finally, back to Darwin where I did some internet stuff (man, do I hate using the computers in cafes), played cards with the English girls, and called it a night. 6:30 the next morning, I was off to Broome through the Kimberly, which could very well be a new highlight of Oz. Stay tuned for that and more, coming soon.

Darwin Photos
Litchfield National Park Photos

27 Ways To Lose Your Luggage

Monday, September 10, 2007

With Kirsty, Dan, and Matt gone and my bank account dwindling, I was eager to sell my car as soon as possible and begin my trip to Perth. So it was that I spent the Saturday morning of Sept. 1 putting new tires on Betsy. Unfortunately, this didn't cure her whining and the verdict was that it WAS a bearing after all. So more money to spend on her, but that could wait until Monday. It was, after all my birthday, and Catherine called me up to meet. We went to Wet 'n' Wild for the afternoon, which was pretty fun. Well, okay, I didn't think any of the slides were all that exciting, which I guess must mean that I am actually 27 and not 17 as I'd suspected as recently as that morning. That's one theory. The other, the one I believe, is that the waterslides here just don't match up to West Ed's. I'm still that kid, somewhere in there. After the waterpark we went out on a big multi-hostel pub crawl that was a really good time, too. We partied late into the night, which, at my new age, could mean I stayed up past midnight, but nevertheless.

The next day was so nice and I had a meeting to go to at 2 in the afternoon, so I grabbed a boogie board for the morning and hit the surf. It's not quite as fun on your own, though, I don't know why. Too easy, I suppose. I'd rather be surfing as there's enough challenge for me to entertain myself at getting better. The meeting was for a timeshare sort of arrangement, though I wasn't quite sure of that going in. I thought it was for a travel club, but regardless I went and wasn't interested and got $75 to spend at the Post Office sending my stuff home. Woohoo! After last night I was pretty happy to sit at home and caption photos, something I'd not had time to do since leaving Cairns because I'd been with people the whole time. Monday came and it was back to car stuff. I got Betsy a Road Worthiness Certificate remarkably easily and then Catherine and I met to go see Lucky Miles, a story about what they call "boat people" here. People who save and save to get a trip to Australia and get unceremoniously dumped on a beach in the middle of nowhere with nothing but desert and certain death waiting. It was very well done and not as depressing as I made it sound - actually, quite amusing at times. Her parents invited me for dinner, so we went there later and had an absolutely terrific meal. It was a greek-style chicken pie and I ate a lot. Hey, I hadn't had a home-cooked meal in a long time.

Tuesday, Sept. 4. I got my wheel replaced and gave Betsy a good wash. As I drove away, I remarked at how much quieter she was. And then it squealed so piercingly that it was turning heads and having people cover their ears on the streets. I turned right around and got that little adjustment done (a stray piece of metal was rubbing), and now Betsy was ready to be sold. I just needed to put up some posters. While I was waiting for the work to be done, I hung around in the Australia Fair shopping centre and went to see the Bourne Ultimatum. EXCELLENT movie, one of the better ones I've seen in a while. And I mailed a bunch of stuff home, which was probably a good thing.

Wednesday, Sept. 5. I printed and put up posters that Betsy was for sale, and after having searched for an internet cafe where I could connect my laptop and upload my photos, I finally found one! That said, I was going to Byron Bay tomorrow and I knew plenty of places there to do it, so I wasn't too worried, but that was my plan for the night. I went back to the hostel to grab my laptop and ended up hanging out with everyone for a while. They were going out on another pub crawl and I didn't feel like it, though part of me thought it would be good for me to go out instead of sitting on my laptop for once. Try to be more social. Still, I decided against it, but then I spilled something on my shirt and when I went to change shirts I realized I'd put on my "night on the town" clothes. Alright, I guess my subconscious made the decision for me. I went out on the pub crawl and it was a great time. Only Rob stayed back from our room because he had work in the morning, and Johno because he had no money. I stumbled in around 2:30 and crashed.

Thursday, Sept. 6. I was off to Byron Bay today, so I woke up early enough to have a shower, then started packing my stuff. Now where did I leave my wallet? I didn't want to bring it with me because it's bulky in the pockets, so I just took my license, some cash, and a credit card (just in case). I thought I'd put it in my backpack, but I left in a bit of a rush, so who knows. I'll find it when I get my stuff together. I continued to pack and decided I should give my phone a little bit of a charge before I drive off. But where is my cable? I had a blue bag for all my cables, laptop charging, camera charging, you name it. Usually that's in the front side of my backpack? I must've taken it out. I looked in the closet. No. Shelf? No. Under the beds? No. Maybe I put it in the back pocket where I keep my laptop, though I never do. It gets too cramped in there. I unzipped the pocket and my stomach dropped through the floor. My laptop was gone. There's no way that was misplaced. It never leaves its hiding place, in a non-descript case inside my pack. I looked around the room. There were expensive sunnies sitting right by my bag - and didn't I leave my backpack in the closet? I always do, but I did leave in a rush... crap, crap, crap. I start to feel sick and panic sets in. Under beds? On my bed? Frantic searching. In the closet somewhere? Under stuff? I check the trunk of my car, maybe I left it there? No. Crap, crap, crap.

It was obvious I'd been robbed, but I spent about 1 minute in denial before I woke everyone in our room up and told them the situation. They all checked and their stuff was still there. A several hundred dollar camera that had been sitting on the floor, two hundred dollar glasses, another laptop. We all agreed it looked suspiciously like someone knew what was in my bag. And back to that, the thief had gone through every pocket of my backpack. They'd taken their time, taking what they wanted, leaving the stuff that was useless to them. Cables for everything, even. In addition to my laptop being gone, which, incidentally, housed all my photos from the last nine months, a video I was making, all my music, blog posts (these posts since Cairns have been scribbled hastily in a notebook before I could forget them), you name it, I also lost my iPod (yeah, I could buy a new one, but not with music on it), my watch from Melbourne, my wallet with travel insurance, credit cards, calling cards, cash, and so on, and my camera. Oh, and yes, I did have a backup of most of my photos and things, but that was stolen too. I guess keeping it in the same bag as my laptop wasn't too bright to begin with.

Anyway, I searched all the bags in the room. I woke up the people in the neighbouring room and searched their bags. I called the police. I called home. I cancelled my credit cards and talked to the police when they showed up. They concluded that it was a break and enter because the door and window were wide open at 2 AM, even though there were zero signs of forced entry and it didn't explain why the thief was so selective in only stealing my stuff and having time to sift through the bag. Basically, they couldn't be bothered, that much was obvious. They made a show of taking IDs from everyone there, but all of us had been out at the pub crawl the night before. The only two people who hadn't they were quite uninterested in, in spite of the fact that one of them had presumably been in the room when this thief of theirs came in from outside. And as for the story that they hopped the fence to avoid being seen, well, I tried it and don't think so. Not easily anyway.

I was panicked, I was sick, and I didn't know what to do. I searched cars, including Rob's van when he pulled up. Nothing. I walked into town aimlessly just trying to think and calm myself down. I've had this happen before, when I was in Ireland. Life went on, I'll be fine and it will suck but worse things could befall me. But despite knowing this, I was still sick. Nauseous. I was pretty sure I was going to throw up. Concentrate. Do something! THINK!! OK, there are two options. If it was stolen from outside, it was probably a neighbour who could see I had a laptop. Though I guess it could've been someone who stumbled on my bag first when they came in the room and decided they'd gotten more than enough. Or heard a noise or something. I don't buy it, though. It just doesn't add up. Most of the people staying with me agree. The other option is it was stolen by another backpacker. But where would they stash it? They'd need a friend to keep it, or a vehicle (hence my search), or a place. Johno had no friends I knew of nor vehicle, though it turned out he'd been dating a girl for a while and just gotten a job the day prior, hence his absence that morning. Rob had a vehicle, a job, and presumably friends. The others were out with me. Though it could've been someone in a different room, too, or someone that came home early. Still, I found out that Rob hadn't paid his rent in some time and he'd mentioned leaving for work in the morning that he would be that night. And when everyone got beer that night, Johno, who didn't come out the night before because he had no money bought a cube of it. I tried to get over it enough to think straight and hatch a plan. Theories but no facts.

Friday, Sept. 7. That morning, I decided to check out the neighbours. It was hare-brained, but worth a shot. My first stop was the crackheads that stayed across from us and could see into our room. They had their music going loud, so I thought I'd pop in all friendly. "Ah, I thought maybe we were having a party here, it's pretty dull over in the hostel. Thanks, I'd love to come in. This looks like a nice place, how much do you pay? I pay too much to stay in a hostel. Oh, really, that's not bad. And how big are the bedrooms? Do you mind? Yeah, not bad at all! Thanks for that, enjoy your party up in Brisy tonight" And so it was that I determined they didn't have it. I went to the other neighbours and came up with excuses on a case-by-case basis, but got invited into each of their homes. The only snag was one recluse that invited me in and wanted to show me how far he was in Gran Turismo. He'd wracked up some huge amount of cash on the game and every car oevr the course of two years, and his pale skin verified his story. I hatched another scheme that required my absence and drove down to Byron Bay for the day and poster for my car. The weather was pretty poor down there, but I had a good roommate, Tim (AKA Shaggy), and we went to see a movie to get my mind off things. Ratatouie was not horrible but not good nor great. Tim had wanted to see Le Vie en Rose but I'd wanted something lighter. It was absolutely pouring down when we got out of the movie, so we went right back in and saw Le Vie, which was excellent, very very good.

Saturday, Sept. 8. I drove up to Brisbane and looked around at camera shops, discovering that not only had my camera been discontinued, but a new one was coming out in a couple weeks. So I couldn't find anything like my stolen camera anywhere. Same with the iPods. New ones had just been released, so the old ones weren't on shelves and new ones weren't going to be in for a week or two. I stayed in a room with three Irish girls and one Japanese girl, and the Japanese girl and I went for a drink that night. I'm surprised how many Japanese girls I've met traveling on their own, it doesn't seem like something their culture would foment.

Sunday, Sept. 9. I canvassed Brisbane, car posters in hand. Other hostels, laundromats, travel agents, anywhere with a wall or notice board. I walked all the way to the West End and Southbank, which were pretty nice, and then from there to the Valley. One of the pubs had a big screen for the Geelong footy finals and also a live band, and I thought I'd stop there, have a well-deserved beer, and watch the game and band. There were no seats but one guy around my age was sitting on his own and I asked if I could join him. His name was Scott and, coincidentally, he was heading to NYC and Canada tomorrow and having a going away that night. So we watched the game together, some of his friends joined us, in particular Liam, who had also done a lot of travel. We drove to another bar and had pizza, drinks, and I met even more of Scott's friends, and it was a great night. I even forgot my laptop troubles for a while. Liam invited me to couchsurf at his place anytime I needed and I told Scott to visit in Canada, and then I got a lift back to Tinbilly's hostel.

Monday, Sept. 10. I drove the Irish girls down from Brisbane to Surfer's Paradise today, stopping at a place I had found on the internet in the middle of nowhere that still had my camera in stock. The salesagent was really helpful there and gave me a decent discount as well as helped the girls recover their accidentally deleted photos. So, I now had a new camera, travels could commence. Oh, and I'd gotten a call about someone interested in seeing Betsy, which was why I was stopping in Surfers on the way down to Byron. New camera in tow, the girls and I had lunch in Surfers and then I met Aidin to show him the car. He was with a friend (both were Irish) and they walked around the car once, we talked about it, and they asked if $2000 was as low as I'd go. They wanted it for $1600. I got them to pay $1800 and Betsy was sold. I just had to run my day's errands. I popped on the internet and found a cheap flight to Darwin for Sept 11, i.e. tomorrow. Then I drove down to Byron Bay to mail off my didj home (it would be difficult to carry around without a car) and pickup my passport, which I'd left in a safe there. I drove back up to Surfer's Paradise, packed my things from the trunk and did a last check for any other valuables, sold the car and said goodbye to Betsy, and grabbed a bus to the train station for the last train to Brisbane. Liam, my new friend from Brisbane, helped me organize times and picked me up from the train station. THAT was a busy day. Brisbane to Surfers to Byron to Surfers to Brisbane again, plus I sold my car, booked a flight, and had lunch with some friends. Whew.

Tuesday, September 11. Liam was at work all day so I had the place to myself. I got all my laundry done, and luckily he and his flatmates have some great taste in music, so I was able to burn a bunch of it onto DVDs for when I DID finally get an iPod. Plus, with a high speed connection, I could download a few other things that I had lost musically. Liam drove me to the train which I took to the airport that night, and I was off on a flight to Darwin. Yes, my stuff is still stolen, still somewhere, maybe in Surfers. I tried anything and everything I could think of. I searched rooms, bags, neighbours, cars. I asked questions and hatched schemes, two of which are still in operation to this day (Oct 27, a month and a half later) and I thus can't talk about. I hope to find my stuff, and if I'm lucky even be able to get some photos and personal things that can't be bought back, but I had to move on because every day was just this overwhelming feeling of helplessness and shattered hope. But I don't expect to, or I'm trying to let go of my hope, because the sooner it's in the past, the sooner I can move forward again. Hopefully a few days in Darwin and the outdoors will help with that. Plus, I have a camera again. Photos will resume on the next post.