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The International Writers Magazine
:Hacktreks in Australia

Listen to your Mum and other travellers tales
Rich Cooper is just 15 minutes away from seeing a doctor

Yes the bed bugs really do bite...

I was six. She was 35 years older than me. No it's not like that. 'Mum don't say silly things' I had said after she had versed 'Night night, don't let the bed bugs bite'.
Why are old people always right? Twenty years later I had been attacked in military style precision. Nine out of the ten objectives had been accomplished. The soles of my feet, my face, the back oh my head (which Itend to rest on a lot), my arms, my legs, my armpits, my bottom, my hands, my chest. Thankfully objective ten had failed. My nose remained intact (There would be nothing worse than a zit like creation sitting on my nose, the expression talk to the face comes to mind).

So I know looked like Adrian Mole after a day out at Mcdonalds. Nice. I tried toothpaste (it works on cold sores doesn't it?), shaving gel and the other contents of my toiletry bag. Wait there is one more thing left. The sort of thing that you mum squeezes in your bag at the last minute as you are heading out of the door. TCP. The seal was of course unbroken but this was a desperate measure in a desperate situation. I pierced the top. The smell was as retching as it had always been. Just why the brains at Pfizer had decided to make this stuff smell of old people was beyond me. But I am wise. I will mask the smell with two squirts of Issey Miyake. Genius. Actually the result was as successful as a backpacker who empties half a canister of Lynx into their rotting trainers. Believe me, the lynx don't work, it just makes it worse and I know I'll smell your feet again. After scrubbing the TCP off my face I started to feel a little aggrieved. Sure bed bugs along with smelly armpits, annoying people, poor mattresses, creaky bunk beds, early wake up times, weirdo's, intercourse couples, snoring people, smelly feet (cured with Lynx), people who come into your room every night at 4am shouting their heads off about that nights conquests (by the way cockney wide boys, I ain't bitter, it's all in the past now)
are all part of the charms of traveling.

Maybe I should feel honoured that the buggers had chosen me. It's always nice to be wanted. No hang on. I looked like crator face (a term so affectionately remembered from school). I had to walk down the street on the right had side whilst my head was pointing the other just so didn't think I had a McDonalds problem. As my extensive research would tell me Bed Bugs return after seven days when they have finished living on your blood supply. In the day time they hide. They only attack at night. I was leaving this place after four days so I will never come blood to eye with attackers.
Back to the TCP and a few days in doors me thinks. Ah traveling. Don't you just love it.

Trying to get a Medicare card was proving a little taxing. Medicare is a private health insurance company who have a reciprocal agreement with the UK. This means quite simply you can go to the doctor or hospital for free. After waiting in the queue at the Medicare offices with some of the strangest and ill ooking people I had seen it was my turn. The 'I'm only doing this job for the money' miserable lady at cubicle four took my British passport. 'Where is your visa stamp?' she enquired. I felt like saying I had been a stow away on a large cargo ship but I refrained. 'I entered on my New Zealand passport' I said. Ok but you must prove you are British and have lived in the UK for most of your life. This was going to be an interesting conversation. 'How can I prove that' I enquired. 'Well, I don't know' she responded. Ok, apart from sounding quite like an Englishman, having a British passport, UK driving licence, a blockbuster video card and airline tickets saying I came from London she still was'nt convinced. It was one of these workers that was devoid of common sense, excellent at following written instructions but not all there.

After having a word with 'someone from head office' she relented and my card was secured. I made my way to the Sydney medical centre. Wow I could turn up and just get an appointment in the next fifteen minutes. Very refreshing. My medicare card had saved me from paying a sixty dollars consultation fee according to the receptionist. Sure enough within fifteen minutes I was being called in by the foreign doctor. 'What are your symptoms? he probed. 'Stiff neck, stiff back, fluctuating between being cold and hot and over thirty sores on my body' I recalled.
'Ah yeah mate, just a virus or something' whilst looking down my throat. 'Have had loads of people with that'.

Now I didn't know whether to be impressed with his speed of definition or worried that he had just been on Doctors of horrors. A virus to me could mean a lot of things. Put a few words next to in like SARS , HIV and the coronavirus to name but a few. I almost thought he said 'trust me I'm a doctor' but he didn't. I could see why you just had to wait fifteen minutes now.
© Rich Cooper May 2004

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