International Writers Magazine: World
Thailand nearly a month ago was extremely surreal and rather hard
to let go of. I was still stuck in Thai mode for a few days until
I realized, abashed and confused, that shit, Im in Australia!?
Im afraid further stories of the last sector of bewildered
and brilliant weeks in that wonderful place will have to be postponed
to a later date, for Im on to a new chapter right now
although the book on Thailand is definitely still open.
Upon my first hesitant
step on foreign soil once again I arrived with the anticipation of seeing
my new home with the nervous excitement of a new life for a full year,
the longest time I will have spent in one place other than Vancouver,
Canada. To my relief, there, awaiting me at the airport was a beautiful
Stallion: actually an 86 Mitsubishi but disguised as a make shift
camper van. The improvisation and careful skill to make it not only
road-worthy but also suitable for living in was highly impressive, right
down to a bed and fold up kitchen set! Home sweet home.
Ever since I was 14 years old I had always wanted to run away
and live out of a Volkswagen van on Venice Beach in L.A., now my dream
was finaly coming true, but under more promising circumstances. Responsible
for this set up was a knight in shining armor: actually more of a tired
young man who drove for days to meet me at the airport, (whom also happens
to be a former roommate, co-worker and yes you figured it, a lover from
back home a year ago.)
He was swift to take the reigns and immediately show me some of the
city before I crashed from the time difference. I hadnt slept
in over 30 hours as I had to fly from Bangkok to Hong Kong then to Sydney.
One would tend to become a little delirious after three countries in
a row, but I was more than awake to comply with staying up to see Bondi
Beach nearby. I had assumed it to be quite spectacular as it is world
famous, though much to my dismay it seemed a bit over rated. I reckon
Wreck beach in Vancouver is far better, in fact. But nonetheless it
was a new beach I have never seen before and despite the fact I couldnt
swim in the inticing cool waters as I had been freshly tattooed in Bangkok.
I was relaxed and happy to be there, even though I was sweating from
the humidity, jet lagged and missing Thailand.
Being a roadie was a lot of fun, though sometimes had less glamorous
occasions. Finding a spot to park and sleep without getting spotted
and therefore kicked out, ticketed or towed can be annoying, as pubs,
beaches etc, are always in the busy areas where we could not overnight
park and anywhere else would have been a far too drunken walk.
We usually got away with residential street parking though, very clever.
One night in a National park we had to close the doors as possums (we
think) were climbing on our roof. Reckon they wanted a snuggle with
us! Our plug in cooler (or esky in Aussie) was broken and spoiled all
of our food by actually heating it up rather than cooling our ingredients
in which to feed off for days. Finding public showers at beaches or
community centres was no problem, just not as luxurious as a private
or hot wash. We hung up our laundry on the doors to dry in the sun,
our clothing was kept in tubs underneath our "living room",
the space between the bed and the seats that is, and soon enough we
changed clothes like professionals! The toilet was the best and worst
part. I was used to squatt peeing in Thailand, so doing it outside the
back of the door was no big deal, except that passers by could see you,
which did occur more than once in my case.
The van had a given us a lot of grief as well no less, finicky as to
when she wanted to start or not, run on gas or not, leak water or not
despite all her troubles she always managed somehow until the problem
was momentarily fixed or something else broke down. Nonetheless the
long hours spent cruising in her were also spent appreciating her.
We slept every night in either sweltering heat, downpour rain or with
an invasion of insects every night. It was aggravating waking up itchy
from bites in mornings, but it was also pleasant opening your eyes to
outside, as we always left doors open to breathe. Towards the last week
or so of our road house expedition, our mattress and floor had been
soaked and started to smell mildewy and disgusting. Im absolutely
frantic about bacteria and manifested the fear of asbestos even, so
she, the van, needs a good cleansing. Due to financial reasons mostly,
our adventures for the time being has subsided and after a month van
living put on hold until further recreation and travels.
a few days spent in Sydney and catching up with friends both from
my travels in Europe and from my home town, in which, coincidently,
there are at least four of us here all at the same time whom I
have been lucky to see or bump into so far, (all the while neither
of us had known about each other coming to OZ until after plane
tickets had already been booked, crazy timing.) My co-pilot and
I (the knight) had decided to get on our way and hit the road
to drive down the coast via Moruya and Narooma, to visit more
Our goal was to
have an open plan, pretty much no itinerary except to drive and live
out of the van, only stopping at a few towns en route until we found
a place to settle, work, replenish wallets then hit the road again.
Admittedly I had run out of money back in October in Europe, never mind
the non existent Asia funds. Now I was broke here too. I am obliged
to pay off a truck load on my credit cards and of course, personal debts
in IOUs. But hey, money comes and goes, Ive done well considering
empty pockets. Hopefully our path can cover New South Wales to Queensland
then back down through to Western Australia within the 10 months I have
left, as I am saving one month to visit New Zealand as well.
The first town we arrived at after some R and R in the Southern Coast
of NSW we took a detour to a small town called Tamworth where it turns
out there was an annual, famous Country Music Festival. My eyes gazed
at many young girls with pregnant bellies, at old folks watching line
dancers with their heads nodding asleep, at fat couples stuffing their
faces with cheap barbie bopping to guitar rythyms, at belligerent drunk
juveniles taking advantage of drinking in the street hootin and
a hollerin; it was the most fun Ive ever had surrounded
by plain downhome folks!
The population is 50,000 but the next 10 days it was to be quadrupled
by eager cowboy-hat wearing fans ready to guzzle beers and party old
fun during the festivities also claimed misfortune in the end, as
my luck tends to go. Its extremely humiliating and sounds
completely irresponsible, so I dont really want to admit it,
but it dictates the rest of my trip over this year so it must be
told. Apparently Australia is compellingly strict with rules and
regulations. The mere fact that my luggage took a month to arrive
from Hong Kong because of fear from the DHL that my bag may be contaminated
with a foreign virus (???) please, but they are known to be overly
cautious and hence its a safe place to be.
First of all I should
tell you that I had adapted to driving on the opposite side of painted
cement quite dilligently and really enjoy the windy, scenic thoroughfares.
However I have never witnessed so much road kill before, possums, magpies,
even kangaroos! Through the forest there was an unidentifiable creature
nearly every 10 kms of manuveure, broke my heart at every sight.
One calm night, going "home" early from the bar, getting tired
from a days worth of country music and three beers in * I wont
let it go unnoticed that it was over a 2 and a half hour period and
with glasses of water to match each schooner, thank you very much* I
was inclined in the roundabout to turn in front of a police vehicle
that incidently just had to do a Random Breathlyser Test. Grrrr! In
Canada the limit is .08% but here the deservingly tight assed law --from
too many cases of blatent, drunk Aussies getting into alcohol related
accidents, the limit is therefore .05%. I was driving straight and within
the speed restrictions when the police said it was just their duty to
perform random pull over tests. I emphasise Random, but unfortunately,
just a few kilometers away from where we were going to park, there in
the van I precariously blew over. I was then taken to the station and
had paper work to be arranged for a court date
we had to stay in
Tamworth another three days after all. The morning of my plea to the
judge, anxiously waiting in the courthouse four hours before my trial
and without the re-aasurance of lawyer coercing, I had no choice but
to stupidly represent myself. I didnt do a very good job under
the circumstances as the bitch fined me $770 AUD which I obviously do
not have and then proceeded with the audacious grace to suspend my drivers
liscense for 6 months. This was certainitly awful news considering this
is while on my Australian road trip.
Bloody hell!!!! Fair enough I was in the wrong but I was harmless and
the penalty was an outrageous slap in the face. Im not in Kansas
anymore. Why I didnt do my research or wait another hour before
I took to the steering wheel, or even 5 seconds later so that I would
have been behind the police car in the roundabout, who can say? What
Fate Makes Break. Oh well, such is as is life. A harsh, learned lesson.
Thereafter hence we just wanted to leave the town festival quickly,
and then after some car troubles, running out of petrol and my not being
allowed to drive anymore, we made it though Grafton and at last to our
destination. Byron Bay is a sweet little paradise, you can tell it used
to be filled with local hippies and surfers, but now its mostly
tourists, very obvious when you have to rent a room out by the week
and have seven other roommates, as we do now (its impossible to
find a place for rent unshared as it would cost $600-700 per week in
a coastal holiday town.)
Apparently camping on Byron grounds is an offense, so after getting
caught twice our good old and extremely distinguishable van was already
recognized by authorities. We had to decide if we wanted to be fugitive
campers or stay as residents. We figured the latter, thought maybe it
was time to settle for that bit, have a real hot shower available and
get some of that stuff called "work" again. In so far found
a place rather fast, luckily with really cool flat mates regardless
that there are now a total of nine of us with only one bathroom, but
work has yet to be discovered again.
No one of course told me that you have to pay to get a job first!? I
cant get a simple restaurant or bar job (which I needed as of
yesterday) until I take training courses to qualify my skills in order
to please the government safety net. Other experience or approved certificates
do not apply. I panicked that in the meantime, as courses are not frequently
available here, that Id have to accept handing out flyers for
another competitive travel agency which no one wants to earn a buck,
but music to my ears one came up and I now am Australian qualified.
Beggars cant be choosers mind you.
So now I have a temporary idea of living. I want to get a bike and long
board to get around and get in shape, take yoga classes to strengthen
my mind, body and soul, learn to surf (almost got up first try, beginners
luck Ive realized but at least have a surf board already) and
find a damned job!
Speaking of which, Im going to hand out resumes right now
Till next time, cheerio!
© Tabytha Towe Feb 6th 2008
Alone in Macau
How does it feel, to be on your own, with no direction home,
like a complete unknown....
Towe takes Europe
Whirlwind adventures for our Vancouver Girl. Never
Fly with a hangover
Tabytha Towe in Hong Kong
Welcome to Chum Hung Kok
Sleeping Dogs Thai
Every dog you see here are either lying on the ground dehydrated and
too hot to move, or either scavenging for food.
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