‘Lindsay, get the shotgun!’
Hello again, now we did say on our home page we'd take you through the highs and lows, it appears we’ve hit a low.
Leaving Airlie Beach and heading in the direction of Mackay, all fully loaded and excited, we managed to get an hour and a half down the road, close to Mount Ossa, when Stanley decided to have a hissy fit and came to standstill. In true Pommie style my phone had no credit and Nathan's had no signal (bizarre seen as mine had and we are on the same network) it left us with no choice; Nathan had to walk to the nearest town and phone the RACQ to come and rescue us. The first time Nathan set off it only took 15 minutes before he arrived back safe and sound with the number for the RACQ. Now here comes the problem with living in Australia, getting a mobile signal can be quite difficult, and after 20 minutes of standing in various positions we gave in and off Nathan went again. This is where I admit again how I’ve watched too many horror movies, Nathan had been gone for at least half an hour longer this time, I was hot, stuck in the middle of what seemed like nowhere and thinking the worst as lots of rather large trucks hollered past. Needless to say when a car pulled up innocently checking I had water I’m afraid I was a little standoffish and waved him on rather quickly when in actual fact the water would have been a nice refreshment seen as ours wasn't in the slightest cold. Another 45 minutes later, and not soon enough, Nathan finally arrived back in a rescue truck and soon after we are being towed to the garage in the middle of nowhere for a long awaited verdict.
Bad news; the car needs a new radiator which won’t arrive till the next day, but as a good will gesture they offer us the backyard to camp in, (your thinking not so bad hey?) turns out a new radiator is the first thing Stanley needs as this will allow them to test if the head gasket has blown. Now those of you that know Nathan will know that Shane has nicknamed him Jonah, something to do with every car he touches eventually have a rather big problem with it. Well Shane; I’m starting to believe this. The only good thing about this day was that we'd bought fresh steak and potatoes earlier, so with nothing else to do but camp out at the back of the garage we ate our supplies and caught the last of the day’s rays.
Even more bad news, you guessed it, it’s the head gasket (arghhhhhhhhhhhh) and the mechanic at Calen (the place in the middle of nowhere) is telling us between $2000-3000 to fix it (remember this is Australian dollars). So thinking straight away that we can probably pick up another car for cheaper we abandoned ship as the saying goes. Now you have to imagine that in the months we've been here we’ve acquired quite a lot of camping gear and trying to decide which to take with us and which to leave behind was somewhat of a nightmare. We ended up laden down with various accessories! The mechanic dropped us off in Calen, and when we say Calen let it be known that all that existed was a shop and a pub, where we agreed that we would call him in a few days after we'd arrived in Mackay and pondered on our next plan, a new car, the Greyhound bus or pay out for Stanley. Once we’d waved the mechanic off we soon discovered that the next bus available to Mackay was lunchtime tomorrow; its 11am! Obviously we retired to the pub. Up until this point we hadn't really felt like traditional backpackers having had the freedom of our making our own time by having a car, and the thought of having to bus it the rest of the way round Australia with our bags was somehow not appealing.
Remembering Tony and Lenore's last words; 'If you are ever in trouble give us a call,' I figured this might class as our first bit of trouble. Tony, ever the wise one with words told us to get a beer and leave it with him, apprehensive and tired we befriended a fellow traveller from Newcastle in New South Wales who gave us a lift to the closest caravan park, St Helens. After a short wait for the owner, Dennis, we awaited a verdict of fully booked! But as we are discovering over here, (and at first I thought it was something to do with mine and Nathan's willful faces) it appears the sun makes people a lot friendlier and therefore willing to help you out. Dennis did a little phoning around and managed to persuade a regular couple who were due to postpone for one night so we could rent their cabin. Amazing. Now here come the highs again, as we are paying for the room the phone rings only for Dennis to pass the phone to us, how bizarre, who would know where we were? It was Tony; I told you that Calen was a small town, meaning it wasn't exactly difficult to find us. As it happens before locating us here Tony had first called the number I’d left as my contact when we arrived at the White Cockatoo in Mossman; Tony meet my mum, mum meet Tony, just a shame it was 5am UK time hey. Top news though, Tony's managed to find a place in Mackay that can tow the car and fix it for $1000. Yes! Let’s have a beer to celebrate.
The next day Dennis dropped us at the bus stop, the Greyhound bus arrived, luckily the driver had just dropped 40 backpackers back at Airlie Beach so it was pretty much empty and 40 minutes later we arrived at Mackay. After sussing out a place to stay (quite difficult as it had to be close by as I wasn't dragging the bags too far!) we found ourselves at YHA Larrakin Lodge. What a dump! Dirty and crowded, plus we had to sleep in a 12 bed dorm which was an experience in itself with one guy coming to bed drunk and somehow managing to fall into my bunk. I’d compare it to feeling like I was on a school trip where you have to whisper in the evening as you don’t want to be told of by the teacher. I actually did get told off for having the light on to read my book when apparently people wanted to sleep, seriously, they only had to ask! Next day we went in search of the highlights of Mackay (there aren't any) and to find Stanley. A forty minute walk later we found him, all lonely in the garage who was telling us we are looking at at least a week’s repair time. Time to find new digs! A walk back through the Botanic Gardens meant we discovered and booked ourselves a small cabin at Premier Cabin Park, closer to Stanley, a reasonable price in fact cheaper than the hostel, and bonuses that included Rainbow Lorikeet feeding twice daily and a pool. Can you imagine 35-40 small parrot looking birds flocking around your head twice daily, not as pleasant as it first sounded. So as we said earlier, Mackay really doesn't have much to offer, and what does sound remotely appealing would require a car; we don't have a sodding car! Dad this place is on par with Hayle!
Ok so enough explanation marks. We found a semi professional Tennis Tournament happening not so far away and managed to watch a few games. (KIA TOURS if that means anything to you at home?) On the way back to the Cabin Park we discovered that the marina was little more than a smelly fishing hole and figured it best we stopped searching for highlights that didn’t exist, and instead bought some food for that evening. This is where we got this journal’s entry title from. As we left with the food shopping, preparing ourselves for another night of nothingness, a bird for no reason at all took a nose dive straight at Nathan's head, oh how he bled, and all I heard amongst my tears of shock and laughter were; 'Lindsay, get the shotgun!' I wasn't sure if he meant for the bird, or for me, either way what I did know was that it was time to move on.
After a few days of lounging round the pool (oh come on, what else are we supposed to do), which was followed by a few days of rain (out came the playing cards, with thanks to Dave who has shown us the rules website which makes it much more interesting now), and things finally take a turn; Stanley is ready. Who’d have thought for our first year’s anniversary that our present to each other would be a new head gasket? We did go out for an evening meal at The Shamrock Hotel after Nathan had found $20 on the pavement that afternoon. We were drinking a schooner relieving our pain of shortly having to hand over a wad of cash with a schooner, where we also got talking to a woman who gave us a contact in Brisbane for Nathan for Scaffolding, she also bought us the bottle of wine; I just don't know how we meet these people. Next day we collected Stanley, paid the $1000 which we thought was a little odd as the bill came to this exactly, not a dollar over, and took him on his test run where he is running spot on now. Back to the Cabin Park we headed to pack up and let Mel know we are finally leaving when a call from Tony comes in checking on Stanley. It seems we really did do something right in our first few weeks here in Australia, Tony and Lenore had agreed with the garage that whatever the excess over $1000 they would pay. Amazing, we can’t thank you guys enough, we're on the open road again.
The next installment will follow shortly and will include our journey to our helpx job at a farm stay in Gatton where we are staying at the moment. We hope all is well with everyone, and final notes to you mum; no lifting too early I know what you are like, little bits at a time. Love, Lindsay and Nathan.
I’d spent some time thinking about how life has changed since this journal entry in 2006 and concluded that over the years there have continued to be many lows that have been followed with highs. While often, and understandably, we tend to put focus on the lows desperately waiting for the highs, the reality is we don’t need to wait, but instead continue as we are, riding the rollercoaster of life, embracing it all as best we can, and if we think about it long enough, the good times always follow. Our lows in the journal were written as staying in a town that had little to offer while waiting on our car being repaired so we could seek the adventure that made us feel alive. Being 38, and if I was in that very same situation now with Nathan (obviously we are talking minus two children, a mortgage and job commitments), I would savour the time being able to stay in one place with no time restraints. I’d play cards, I’d lounge around in the sun and I’d continue to comfort eat but maybe swap the potatoes for salad since discovering how too much starch (amongst other things) affects my body having PCOS. What felt mundane in our fast paced twenties today would be a welcomed ‘pit stop’ in the craziness that is parenthood and adult life full of responsibilities and pressures created by society that we choose to either adhere or rebel against rarely stopping to find time for ourselves; or is this just me? I didn’t know it then, but as terrible as we made Mackay out to be, we actually have never forgotten it. Reading this journal made me smile, because despite the obvious frustrations we had to move on, our reflective memories are different. I remember those brightly coloured birds with all the fun of feeding them. I remember the cabin and the laughter in it thinking back to Nathan’s amazing Mohawk he gelled into his overgrown hairstyle, and the time it gave us to plan our next route with many a bottle of beer late into the evenings. On our recent adventure in Australia having made our first wee stop in the campervan with the kids, we pulled up next to a Greyhound Bus about to depart, the tanned and wide eyed backpackers we saw boarding gave us a warm feeling, one that came from remembering our only journey on a Greyhound Bus from Calen to Mackay, we of course remember the struggle of all the baggage we were carrying but more so the feeling of being free; would we do it again? Not the hostels, you’ll soon learn of my experiences with bed bugs and cockroaches, and ideally not to Mackay, but the two of us on a bus backpacking, oh yes, bring on retirement. Even the mention of Hayle had me smiling. On a family holiday in Cornwall, Hayle was recommended to us, off we went on the bus, and almost as soon as we’d got off we realised it was an error – absolutely nothing to do whatsoever – and another hour until the bus returned. At the time I remember the disappointment, but for years after it continues to give us a memory that we recall and laugh about. I hear it’s actually a great place these days, and if we are passing perhaps we’ll stop by for ‘old times sake,’ grab a selfie as is in the in-thing, but then again I can’t see us passing any time soon.
A brief mention on my use of exclamation marks and grammar is worth noting here. I loved English at school and college and passed with great results (some great results), but very clearly had little reason to write once I’d finished until I began my travel journals. I write then as I do now; how I speak. When I look back over the emails that friends and family sent it was wonderful how much they became a part of our journey, but none more so than my mum’s. Her emails were rife with spelling errors but never once did I pull her on these, the spelling errors were part of who she was, her story. She knew she’d made mistakes but she didn’t care, what mattered most to her was following our journey, all be it from thousands of miles away, and sharing her news knowing that we’d read and reply. One of my favourite jobs after we returned from backpacking was working as a PR Coordinator where I met a girl who has become a long term friend. She actually intended to dislike me as I’d been offered the job ‘because of the people you know,’ rather than actually having any previous experience. I quickly learnt the ropes and won her over, having made a promise that I would learn how to correctly use an exclamation mark. It seems the simple answer is almost never, so for the sake of writing correctly I have toned them down from a sentence ending with six, to one. That’s OK right! This friend also has the same name as me, different spelling, so when Nathan highlighted in my last journal that I am misspelling his cousin Cheyne’s name I almost autocorrected it until I realised having read a snippet of the following journal that I do apologise then. I figured all of this is further proof that I’m not changing facts or stories as we revisit together today. I’m fairly confident Cheyne who died unexpectedly and suddenly a few years ago would be smirking at us as the Jonah jinx (see previous blogs if you are unsure of this reference) continues into 2019; this year alone we’ve paid to have new ABS and airbag sensors fitted, I think I’ll be forgiven for the misspelling of his name as he’ll know how costly this is. I’m not sure my friend will ever accept my bad grammar, but she does accept wine.
I began writing this last week in a coffee shop while waiting for Nathan to return from the hospital after hearing the news his Dad has terminal Leukaemia; just like we felt in the journal above, we’ve hit a new low, one that’s not comparable, but that’s the point isn’t it, whatever low you are feeling at the time has the same results; our mood becomes affected. Sat there in the same chain of coffee shop, different location, three years earlier I remembered waiting for Nathan to come and rescue me after learning that I’d miscarried our second baby, I’d become paralysed in time, unable to move for fear of breaking down. I’ve always said time out for a coffee isn’t just a coffee, it’s impossible to predict when a memory will resurface and while I sat with the reminder of how difficult that moment was I knew why it had resurfaced; a reminder that together we are stronger. I have no doubts that as our tears fell on both occasions that the people sat around us wondered why. I in turn have witnessed tears in strangers, but what came to mind is that almost certainly as we grip those cups of half-drunk cold coffee that we are all waiting to be rescued with the kind of hug that makes everything happening around you fall silent, the unfamiliarity of your own personal surroundings allows you the time needed to compose yourself, and when you are ready to breathe again. I’m not going to pause and wait for the high, I know it will come eventually, we’ll find it in the kindness of strangers (the woman who bought our bottle of wine), in friendships new and old (the generosity from Tony and Lenore), or the constant in our lives (back then the emails from my mum), instead I will choose to live in this moment continuing to make memories, surrounded by friends and family who are waiting with shoulders (and hopefully warm coffee) to support us when we need it. We’ve been here before, some might say too many times, perspective becomes blurred, but in the end, it’s not the years in your life that count. It’s the life in your years.
To Isabel and Zack; Whether you are driving here or abroad always have breakdown cover, the one time you use it, you’ll be so greatful. I’d also recommend befriending a mechanic, becoming a mechanic or reading up on the actual workings of a car to save the awkwardness of being ‘ripped off.’
To Mum; Thank you for always being my first emergency contact, be it 5am calls from Australia, or the female stripper who I’d booked for a friends 21st birthday turning up on your doorstep because I’d forgotten to edit my home address on the booking (true story). I hope when the time comes that whoever I answer the door or phone to on behalf of your grandchildren that I remain as poised as you always were.
I am a 'wannabe' Nomad who currently lives in Sheffield with my husband and two children. I genuinely love exploring new places but finding time to fit this in is tricky so more often than not I'm found in the closest independent coffee shop because nothing cheers me up better than a decent coffee.