Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Adrift - In The Abyss

“If you haven’t booked accommodation, then good luck getting some buddy” – My not so good friend.

I’m patient; I wait until all the passengers have unbuckled their seat belts, jumped to their feet and wrestled past the person they have just spent the past unknown hours befriending. The overhead compartment doors fall open and they struggle to maneuver the oversize hand luggage in the isle between them and the person ahead. All of this to queue up and wait awkwardly for the cabin door to open. I’m amused thoroughly at the instincts of people in distress. You would swear there was a freshly killed animal outside and it was the last meal they would have for months. Button up shirts, ironed pants, more make up than a kiss concert, but break someone’s barriers down, make them vulnerable and watch the animals come to life. I enjoy the irony. Twenty two animals clawing at the cage door trying to get back to their flat screen tv’s and treadmills to redeem their civil structure. One solitude passenger sitting, preparing to lose his.  I'm on a plane full of animals with only one passenger  intent to live like one.
                I step outside with a great leap mimicking Armstrong’s lunge on the moon. The humidity hits me like a brick to the chest. I should have expected this, I knew this was coming, but the panic rushes through my veins anyway questioning my motive to live in a foreign environment.  'Am I built for this? Will I survive? Stop being a pussy and get on with it you wimp'. I know what a harsh and deadly environment feels like and this isn’t it, not yet anyways. I keep walking. I keep walking straight past all the people with the massive carry on luggage being inspected by border security and quarantine; my seven liter hydration pack doesn’t raise an eyebrow. Nothing to declare, nothing to hide, nothing to hold me up.  22kg on my back, 22 kg slung over my shoulder resting on my hip, and 5 kg strapped to my chest. I burst out into what possibly could be the smallest airport parking lot I have ever seen. There it is, I’m face to face with the jungle, palm trees, vines, and ferns fighting for life on the forest floor. I wait a moment and look around, I recognize all the faces I have previously studied and walk off like I know where I’m going - I don’t. Those same looks cross past their faces as they see me walk off towards the road. I’ve been less visually shunned walking through the shanty town of Soweto in South Africa. Small island mentality, I must remember that.
                The road is long, the temperature is hot, my bags are heavy. I set the sun to my right shoulder and convince myself I’m headed north because I’m not hungry enough yet for it to be past mid-day. Shit, I should have done more research or prepared better. I don’t want anybody to see me because I don’t want to exist. Popularity is not what I seek with an itinerary to disappear.  Every car that passes I feel the heavy eyes studying my figure and circulating the rumors before its words have left their mouth. To my left, to my right the jungle consumes every inch of forest floor. I just want to have a look and be consumed by it. A few attempts to wrestle my way into the foliage leaves me spiked, bloody, and full of thorns. No machete, no map, no provisions.  I abandon my plan to be invisible. I need food, water, and most importantly information. A car pulls up next to me on the road and I recognize the older lady in the passenger seat as one of my fellow trauma patients from the flight here. A younger woman gestures me the offer for a drive. I’m shocked. I had myself convinced I was invisible. I look down at my duffel bag and feel the internals digging into my hip, I look at my white knuckled fingers helping lift the 65 liter back pack slowly sawing between my shoulder blade and collar bone. I feel the ache of my spine, the sting of the thorns in my skin. I look up at her and my eyes speak a single word. I accept defeat. 'Yes', make that two words, 'Yes Please' I had a feeling it would come to this. A down side of being young and stupid is that reality is often clouded by fantasy.
               My newest friend on the island, the fifteen year old son of the generous woman helps me with my bags out of the car. I feel ashamed for resorting to a drive and being discovered on my big adventure. On the flip side I’m not a dehydrated corps laying ten paces from the road side. I didn’t need to walk into town with this Winnebago on my back. The humidity is at least 200%, I don’t even know if that’s possible but that's what it feels like. Dressed for a Perth winter I need to shed the denim and alleviate myself from this sweat bath. I walk through the doors to the visitor center, the air-conditioning brings new life to my breath, I had nearly gotten used to the heat – 'you’re not fooling anyone kid'.  I drop my bags in the lobby and make it clear that I’m not coming back for them anytime soon. Food, water, and information are the only things on my mind. I don’t care about the shortest history book ever written, I don’t want any post cards, shirts, or memorabilia of things I don’t deserve to flaunt. Give me a map, distances, terrain, elevation, flora, fauna, I want them all. The lady behind the desk is friendly, kind, and charming. I can tell she likes her job. She can’t help but to ask what the bags are for and I simply tell her I’m a backpacker. She’s kind enough to wait a full three seconds before bursting out into laughter and resumes enough seriousness to repeat her question. 'Ugh… common people, don’t pry for an answer you don’t want to hear'  I flirt and charm for the information I want while tip toeing around the truth to my presence. My resources are diminished and the only information I get is that the information I seek is only obtainable from the National park office on a Monday, the grocery store is closed on Sunday, the pub stays open late on Saturday. Thank god it’s Friday!
               I rearrange my bags and take only valuables, clothes, a sleeping bag, and my tent. The sun is well past my left shoulder and my stomach tells me I’m about two meals past breakfast. The race is on. The one thing more primitive than food and sex, I need shelter. My thirteen dollar dome tent that boasts for two and only sleeps three quarters of one is no match for monsoon rain. The tropic rain swings more than a banks doors on pay day with more rain falling in the span of a half hour than what Sudan gets in an entire year. I start to walk, I’m not really sure where, but I have a feeling I’m headed to where I need to be. I make my way down a gradual decent to Flying Fish Cove, the only real beach with sand on the entire 180 km of coast line. I find a nice little patch of grass surrounding a tree that would reward a tired set of legs and rest for a stiff back. I’m on a mission for shelter but sometimes one must stop to put progress into perspective. Similar to the Muslim Salat-ul-Maghrib (sunset prayer), I let the beauty of the Indian Ocean take my breath, the wind take my sweat, and the sun my eyes. Just as the sun bathes in the far off water do I recognize the disparity unfolding right in front of my own two eyes. Three Australian war ships loaded to the nines with heavy weaponry cross each others paths. A mat black Zodiac occupied by military SAS escorts a small wooden boat into the shelter of flying fish cove. I have a hard time understanding what’s going on in the fading light. The boat is packed full of boxes, yellow boxes. The boat gets tied to a mooring by the military zodiac allowing it to pivot in the wind. A side view displays itself shedding a nice silhouette of its cargo… those aren't boxes, those are people, shoulder to shoulder wearing yellow life preservers. 
Who are these people?
Where have they come from?
What the hell is going on here?

My own words slap me across the face
'Don't pry for answers that you don't want to hear'


  1. Totally amazing and scary at the same time:/ My heart was certainly pounding!!! awesome writing skills Joe! I look forward to the next chapter in your real life Adventures!!! Love it and thanks for sharing. Xo

  2. Just make sure you don't spend all of that time writing, and you actually get some adventuring done. Otherwise, very well written, I'm impressed, carpenter.