"The true sign of intelligence is not knowledge but imagination" - Albert Einstein.
My eyes open to the sound that broke my sleep. The ceiling fan whirls around circulating the musty stale air from the top of the room to the floor in a manner that creates no relief for my outstretched naked body. My head hurts and my mouth tastes like I’ve been chewing on cotton balls. Memory starts trickling back into my head, right I’m on an island, I got put up for accommodation my first night, I found this share house and moved in. The next memory clears up the confusion about the sore head and dry mouth, oh right I found the pub and met every man woman and child who lives here. I was right about one thing on a small island, there’s no way a guy carrying a massive backpack down the main street goes unnoticed. It’s simple; I’m “the” backpacker. Since the tourism industry died after the government shut down the casino due to Asian money laundering, tourists are few and far between, backpackers are unheard of. I get the same question from nearly every person I talk to “why Christmas Island?” My answer is always equally inquisitive with “Why not?” However their eyes all question my motive for being here, so much in cases that the rumours have already been circulated.
I’m thrilled; usually when a rumour finally makes it way to its subject the reaction is hurtful for false allegations. My mischievous mind is overwhelmed with ideas to milk this rumour for what it’s worth. I’ve been on this island for two days and I have become the undercover journalist disguised as a backpacker. Word through the grape vine tells me the highest of people in the Australian federal police have been inquiring about me, doing background checks, and gathering information about my intentions on the island. Part of me feels like putting the rumour to rest and lowering my profile but the devil inside wants to stir the pot because I’ve got nothing to lose, my visa is up in two months and I’ve had a good run of the country. The inquisitive side has got me curious as to what they have to hide if their jumping out of their skin when an unfamiliar face with a bag takes a picture and asks a couple of questions. Keep them on their toes; keep them sharp, I never told them I wasn’t a journalist.
I’m back on track now, I’ve survived the weekend and I’ve made my way to the Headquarters for National Parks. Information is what I seek but persuasion may be necessary. “Hi I’m looking for any vacancies in employment” I figure it’s my best card to play to get a bit deeper in what I want without revealing my true intentions. If anyone’s going to find me in the woods it will be these people. Study their faces, size them up, take note of how hard they squeeze your hand, look into the dark of their eye and read what they don’t want to tell you. I’m filling out my application forum and talk continuously to break down the barriers present during any new introduction. Eventually I start mentally checking off my list, no poisonous reptiles or insects, no mammals that pose any threat, edible wild chicken’s and crabs cover the island, wild fruit and veg ready for the taking, three fresh water streams, countless freshwater caves, and last but not least the deal breaker. I find out the island is infested with an introduced ant that’s devastating the wildlife, the method for controlling the supercolonies is biological toxin called “fipronil”. Its effects are disastrous killing everything in its path including humans. Once again I get that feeling like I’ve somehow cheated death. My lack of preparation and planning just happened to save my life this time around. I get about all the information I can for one day and decide to source out the location the toxin bombs will be dropped another day, for now, its time to explore the untouched backbone of this forgotten paradise. Being the only tourist on the island has its advantages.