Out of the Outback - Australian Hitchhiking Loop (Part 5)
I woke up just outside of Alice Springs where I'd camped for the night. I was just off the road down a short hill in the trees, hours earlier dealing with a passing dingo and other bumps in the night. Now the sun was on the up and up, I followed suit, sorting my backpack and getting up to the road.
I began walking the now familiar outback style of road, long and straight. This particular stretch had a slight rolling straightness to it in the up and down sort of way, and a few more trees than normal, I nice variation. As cars passed I faced them and stuck my thumb out walking backwards, soon enough one stopped for me.
I jumped in the backseat, an older friendly Japanese man and his daughter in the drivers seat. She spoke the better English of the two, although neither was great I was still able to get a sense of where they were going - forward.
We stopped at a petrol station when one appeared, the man pulled out a pile of change from the car and said for us all to get some drinks. He dumped the change on the counter while him and the woman behind the counter sorted it out. I got a sarsaparilla, which they'd never heard of, but thought was pretty good too.
We kept cruising through the outback, me nodding off here and again catching up on sleep missed the night before, not having to worry about conversation as much with the lack of common words between the three of us.
We stopped again for fish and chips, the Japanese man was buying again, this time with bills instead of coins. I was excited to have a proper meal, also entertained by eating fish in the center of the country, about as far from the sea as possible. While we ate here managed to tell me his story of going to Argentina when he was younger, backpacking around having a great old time. He gave me his card afterwards, he was the President of some oil company back in Japan.
They kept saying they wanted to go to "Debbie's Marbles", some sort of site along the road. They asked if I'd go in and ask for directions since my English was better. Inside I went to the counter where a beautiful girl stood looking bored, but content. She noticed me and smiled, I asked her for directions.
"Devil's Marbles?", I nodded realizing the real name, "Just keep driving and you'll see a big sign pretty soon, it's not far, you can't miss it", still smiling and I thanked her and reported the news to my new Japanese friends. I wondered what a beautiful girl was doing out here in the middle of nothing, so far from anything that the simple petrol station diner was actually not only the hub, but the only thing. This seemed to be a trend, these lone girls amongst the senior men and women typically spotted behind the counters as well. I asked some, typically they answered with reasons being to make some extra money for a few months or more, and they seemed happy enough, a rescue mission was not in order.
We got to these Devil's Marbles, hugely reddish round rocks, looking like marbles, piled all over the place, on top of each other at times seeming unnatural, but apparently natural indeed. We moved through them quickly as they snapped off photos, photos almost more important than their own eyes getting a taste in the moment.
We kept cruising until we hit a town that was some ten kilometers from the junction I was looking for, I would go right there, towards the coast, going straight meant the top of Australia, Darwin. They were going to settle in this small town the rest of the day and continue to Darwin the next day. I thanked them and walked to the end of town, which took all of three minutes.
I kept walking still, but a car stopped right away to give me a ride, a middle aged man who said he worked at the truck stop by this junction I was aiming for. We went down to a park first where he said he had to meet a guy about car parts. The guy never came after 15 minutes or so he said he'd give him another five minutes and then we'd go.
I was interested in how he passed the time out in the middle of all this, I doubted the odd beautiful outback girls had any interest in him and the only bar in town seemed sad at best. He said it got lonely at times, but when he really wanted to help could take a trip up to Darwin when his boss allowed. He told me once he went up there and asked people where to go, they pointed him to a beach, so he went and wandered down not seeing much of anybody until he walked to his left and while, at which point he saw everyone and everyone was naked. He said this was a thrill and kept him going back to Darwin. I asked if the girls were beautiful, but he corrected my assumption saying that there were only guys at the beach.
We started cruising out of the park again, no one with car parts came for him. Some small talk ensued and during one gap in conversation he just blurt out, "Yup, I gotta go to Darwin and find me some Sex!", and the way he said it was funny, getting louder as he said it as if finding the confidence as he spoke.
Clear to me he was fishing, I kept to talk of kangaroos and other outback talk. Once at the junction, he said he'd take me a little further as we made the right turn. I noticed the sign with places down the road, the next rest area was more than 100 kilometers, just a rest area and still worth the signage. As we drove along few minutes not even really saying much, I asked, "So are we going to a petrol station or something up here?".
We kept driving for what seemed like longer than the 10 minutes that it actually was, slowing down and pulling over he said, "I thought there would be more to see in this direction. I'll turn back here". I hopped out of the car, essentially in the middle of nowhere again, really desert, not a petrol station even for at least 10 minutes behind me by car and who knows how far into front of me. As I grabbed my backpack from the backseat he said something about a blowjob, figures, I thanked him for the ride, shut the door and started walking. I heard him start driving again, spin around back to where we'd come from, then heard the car stop and the door open. I looked back a second later half expecting him to be grabbing a shotgun from a backseat, too perfect, but he was only taking a piss and looking back at me. I kept walking, soon hearing the door close and the car drives back towards the junction.
Given the frequency of cars and trucks coming my way, I guessed I'd have just one more shot at getting a ride or else I'd be camping the night off the road here. Soon it came, far in the distance, I got ready for them. A pickup truck towing a boat I saw as it came closer. As it came closer still my thumb extended, they didn't slow down, passing me at regular speed I saw a man posing with a goofy grin and his thumb up, I was mocked as a closer to the night. I had a sense of change in the very last moment as he passed me though, and suddenly he slowed and stopped and I had to run just a bit up to the truck, he was getting out and met me next to the boat, showing me where I could put my bag in the back and asking what I was doing out there.
I hopped in and we got to riding, he was heading all the way to the east coast with plans of stopping the night at Barkley's Homestead which was just another hour or so up the road. Maybe I'd imagined his mocking look, or more likely he'd thought I was some sort of other type of crazy person and seen something in my eyes as he drove past that told him otherwise.
The guy was in the army, spending much time around Darwin, but off to see some family now with some time off. We stopped at the homestead and pulled around back to the camping area, he set up his tent and me my bivvy sack nearby. "Come on, I'll shout you dinner, you could use a good meal", and great thing to hear.
We went inside and had a big meal, chicken burgers with the works. It had been a great day I thought as I ate, covering lots of kilometers and twice eating a proper meal due to the generosity of the road. I slept well on soft ground for a change, a full belly and knowing I had a ride first thing in the morning.
First thing in the morning came just before sunrise, he was ready to go. We hit the road and he tossed me a drink and breakfast sandwich he'd snagged before going, life was good. Sometime before noon we hit the town of Mount Isa, this was a proper big town, bigger anyway, with grocery stores and more than just one block with a petrol station and perhaps a bar - we were getting closer to mainstream civilization again.
I parted ways with him there, and couchsurfer lived there that my friend stayed with and it was possible he was around and would be able to host me for a night. Had I stayed with the army man it would have only been for another hour until he took the road that edged further south towards Brisbane when I was to take the road towards Cairns further north.
I found some internet, the reason for McDonalds, but it seemed this couchsurfer was out of town. I wandered the streets a bit to get a sense of the town and soon decided that I'd stick to the road and keep on going.
I walked to the edge of town and kept walking until finally someone picked me up, a psychiatrist from Rockhampton. We carried on great talking about travels and his work until he hit the turn off he was going down, the same one the army man would have taken. He wrote his number on a map he gave me saying if I was ever to pass through town I could look him up.
This was about 3pm, I know because I looked, and I walked a good long ways after standing by the junction became a bore. Traffic was low, when I was still at the junction 3 out of 4 cars and trucks were heading the Rockhampton way, as I walked there were less and less cars to be seen, and eventually night came on. I had to camp, no one would pick me up in the darkness, no one would see me.
Morning came and I kept to my walking. Road trains passed me without hesitation, too difficult for them to stop anyway. White work trucks passed every so often, not hesitation there either. It wasn't long until I'd taken my last sip of water, and soon after that I was a zombie hauling an increasingly heavier backpack through the desert, holding a map that suggested I was hundreds of kilometers from anything, even a pile of dirt a meter high - just road.
Although my water situation wasn't looking good, I knew I wasn't without hope, if need be I could jump out in the middle of the road like a lost maniac forcing a car to stop and begging for a sip of water. I wasn't yet this desperate and I knew I wouldn't have to be. To prove this, a car coming heading the opposite direction, heading back towards Mount Isa, slowed to a stop next to me, "Are you ok?", a German couple on holiday.
"Yup, I'm just hitchhiking towards Cairns, kinda slow right now... you wouldn't happen to have any extra water would you?"
They smiled and hopped out going into their trunk where they pulled out a giant bottle of cool water and making me incredibly happy. "If you see a biker up the road coming this way", they told me, "Tell him hi! We just gave him some water too, really cool guy". I thanked them up and down and they drove off as I chugged half the bottle.
I felt incredible suddenly, my backpack weighed nothing, colors were brighter and life was perfect. Five minutes later a car came my direction and stopped for me, a guy my age on his way to Port Douglas for a new job, he'd be passing through Cairns, all was sweet.
We cruised through the desert swapping travel stories and the like, a lot about Ireland and other great places he'd been. We stopped short of Cairns come night and had a big pasta meal in a restaurant area. I drifted off to sleep under the stars, the great stars I enjoyed throughout Australia just about every night.
In the morning we kept to the road and soon he'd be dropping me off in Cairns and continuing north himself. I was back in a big town, back to the east coast, out of the outback.Off I went into the city to see what I could get into, more good times ahead.
Also from this trip: