Australia, Fair Dinkum!
This morning I popped my tire while pulling into a campsite. I got a sunburn through the clouds and broke my camera lens on the beach. Now, I watch as 160mm of rain makes short work of my tent. I curl up in the back of my rental car and try to fall asleep.
Indeed, travelling is not always pretty. At its worst, it challenges everything you thought you knew about yourself. At its best, it does the same.
In the morning I emerge a dishevelled woman, pack up, and hit the left side of the road. After all, I'm in Australia, mate!
I fly into Brisbane early March, greeted by my best friend Laura. We met at Freshies Coffee in Fernie three years ago. Though life has brought her back to the land of beaches, our friendship knows not the distance between us. She's getting married – I've come to celebrate.
We spend that first Sunday listening to didgeridoos near the beach with the FamBam (their group of friends). Then, with a few days for a solo adventure, I drive to Springbrook National Park.
The road weaves through old gum trees. I pitch a tent and in the morning hike to Purling Brook Falls. Leeches suck at my ankles, rain drops steadily. At a local cafe I take a selfie with a kookaburra who steals my chips. Then I meet Patricia and Graham.
They invite me to their house – a bright-yellow, cozy cottage surrounded by ferns – for tea. I learn that Patricia and Graham have been married for 59 years. They love to travel and, until recently, ran a bed and breakfast in Springbrook.
Patricia asks if I want to stay the night, a big storm is coming. I tell her I'll be fine. Once at camp, the dark clouds rumbling above the eucalyptus trees change my mind. Shortly after I find myself back outside the yellow house.
“Can I stay?” I ask.
Graham lights a fire and Patricia makes beans on toast. An episode about travelling in Morocco comes on the television.
“This is incredible,” says Patricia, to no one in particular. “I think I'll go there.”
I smile. Kindred spirits.
When the storm wakes me, I'm glad for Patricia and Graham, who have saved me from guaranteed unpleasantries. We eat toast and marmalade for breakfast before I hug them both goodbye.
When I arrive in Byron Bay it rains, and my tent floods, but I am proud to be flying solo. Even if it means sleeping in the back of my car.
I make it back to Laura's in time to go to Rainbow Beach for her hen's party. It is amazing what a backyard pool, vodka-infused punch, and retro ‘80s dresses can do for new friendships. By night’s end I have achieved my first bush-jump (leaping into a shrub), a rite of passage among the girls.
We explore an enormous sand dune overlooking the ocean, and swim in freshwater pools. On Saturday night we walk to the beach and skinny dip.
When Laura and I return home, we head to her parent's for a family BBQ. The Stokies have arrived from Fernie. Liz and I joke that we flew halfway around the world just to see each other. We eat kangaroo steaks, surprisingly delicious.
Laura and I spend a day at Noosa, sip mango daiquiris and eat meat pies on the beach. We visit Eumundi Markets, watch the Australian film Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, and indulge in fish and chips.
And at the end of the week beneath an old fig tree, Laura and Adam get married. My heart is so full it nearly bursts, except for the green ant bite that jolts me from my love-drunk stupor. We dance all night, and in the morning my neck aches from head banging to Teenage Dirtbag. A successful wedding, indeed.
Before Laura and Adam leave for their honeymoon, we gather with the FamBam at the wall overlooking the beach. There are eskies, frothies, and chicken-salted chips on blankets in the grass. For the first time I understand Aussie slang. Fair dinkum!
When I hop a plane back to Canada I realize something; that you can measure your love for a country the moment you have to leave it. Oh, how I have left my heart in so many places.