Darwin Snakes, Spider and Stuck in the Mud

 I arrived in Darwin after several days on the road having covered a lot of kilometers, long rides and interesting people. Here I was dropped off at the gates to a house belonging to a host I'd arranged through couchsurfing, a girl that I must have seen at Tent Surf (a beach party in Mexico), this I know because on her profile there was a picture of me in front of her taking a shot on the bar.

I came through the gates and to the backyard where there were a few people at the table, other guests of Amanda's. I was relieved to put my bag down and settle for a bit, swapping the usual stories of where we were from, had been, planned to do here and where to next.

I was sitting in front of a cup of tea by the time Amanda came in, energetic and used to the assorted gang of travelers milling about her backyard of various familiarity. The night came soon enough and was all easy and simple - some dinner, stories, someone picking up a guitar and so on, meeting family and other travelers as they emerged.

I got a message from Bridget when I arrived and was able to check such things, she'd apparently decided that she was going to fly to the west coast of Australia where I was heading, where her sister lived now, to see the both of us and see me off when I was to fly out to Singapore. This was welcome news and another reason to keep smiling.

My spot come time to sleep was in a tent there in the backyard, I happily crawled in and passed out.

In the morning I had leftovers for breakfast before walking towards town, a lady and her kid gave me a lift and saved me some time. I did a of wandering and pausing to read my book at the time, through town, to the library, the botanical gardens, a big park, down a path to a beach of my own and so on, lazily exploring and reading when I cared to.

The roaming about took up the better part of the day, I soon pointed my feet in the direction back to Amanda's, again getting picked up, this time by a guy not from Darwin who gladly took me right to the gate of the house.

Some travelers had left while still a few others and locals turned up, along with Amanda eventually. Some of us made a beer run and others were packing, before I knew it we were packed into a few cars in the impending darkness towards somewhere, a place to camp.

South was the direction, at least for some of the way, not much more or less than an hour and we were on rough dirt and muddy road. Times came where many of us got out and ran along the side while one drove a perfect path through the only path that wouldn't lead to getting bogged in the mud, at least one car was left behind, not being fit for the trip.

We got to the campsite and started setting up tents and cracking beers, although the beers were first cracked when we were jumping out of cars and running past the tricky mud spots. Me and another guy started cruising through the woods in search for suitable firewood, Amanda and one or two others hopped in her truck backwards to pick up people who'd abandoned their unfit vehicle.

We were camped by a little stream, the shores were littered with tiny dead fish of some sort and remnants of abandoned nets. Inside the water and around were plenty of thin snakes, apparently harmless as several people were trying to catch them and pick them up, this charge lead by Amanda who loved the little slithery creatures.

Soon the fire was going well and we were circled around, entranced by the fire and most people telling anecdotes about Italy or a campfires in Africa, swapping out languages spoken when a common one was found. I bobbed in and out of listening and searching for more firewood, there wasn't an awful lot, but between me and another scavenger in the bunch we were keeping it steady.

I wondered about Amanda, she'd been gone for what seemed longer than necessary, soon after this thought she came running into the circle, "Do you guys not know what SOS means? I've been signalling for a quarter mile!", this was referring to her flashlight blinking one two three, oonnee ttwwoo tthhree, one two three, which of course none of us could see sitting by the fire with cars and tents blocking the view.

She explained that the truck had been bogged in the mud after she'd attempted a little off roading to get around the mud. A few of us got in one of the other cars and rolled back to attempt to push it out, or at least pick up the others to save them the good run Amanda had made from there back to the campsite.

"At one point I thought a snake was attacking me!", she told us when she was still catching her breath back by the fire, "turns out it was my shoelace whipping around!", trickery in the dark.

We got to the scene of the bogged truck, piling out and going all around the truck trying to push it out but it was sunk close to a foot by now and spinning the wheels was doing nothing more than sinking it deeper and splashing a fair amount of mud around. We abandoned it, a project for the morning, Amanda said her dad had a good truck and could be a phone call away on a fresher day, this night still had fire, beer and a whole mess of people for entertainment, no point in thinking about the truck anymore. We piled in and on top of the car and cruised back to campsite.

The story was told back around the fire and we soon settled back into a circle, finishing the beer and a joint or so if I recall correctly. A guitar emerged, inevitable, some playing happened as much as it could, but it was eventually dropped as people disappeared into tents or into other conversations. At some point a spider went crawling around on that guitar, Amanda, liking these sorts of creatures, picked it up and then put it on to me, with my permission when I was assured, or told it was "probably" not poisonous. Fair enough, I let it have it's crawl through my hair and so forth for the sake of a couple girls squirming and a ride for the spider.

Some of us lasted through the night, keeping the fire going into the morning light. Long necked white birds started appearing down stream, I took a walk through the woods into a clearing to get a good look at them, blissing out for a moment on the whole scene, taking the world in through the spark of the birds and another good fire filled good times kind of night.

Two of the guys still awake gave netting a try, using the ripped nets attempting to catch some of the fish or anything for one last shot of the nights intermittent talks of having a fresh caught snack, no luck. Eventually I wandered into a tent, just as someone else was exiting it, one of the first to go to sleep who was now about to embrace a new day, I'd embrace it more after some rest.

It wasn't long, this rest, but enough as usual, some people were sitting around the evidence of last nights fire. Amanda was up at some time and we were all snacking a bit and getting closer to packing up. I'd caught up with her a bit trying to pick up the pieces about Tent Surf. There were quite a few people at this Mexican gathering, but not enough that I thought I would have missed somebody. We had many of the same stories looking back, but couldn't quite place each other. Sign of a drunken sandy weekend if nothing else.

She went out to make a call to her dad about the truck in the mud, but returned with the news that the truck was on the road and out of the mud. No answer for that one, other than some person must have come down the dirt road, seen the truck stuck and pulled it out themselves and somehow not continued down the road much more, or else we would have seen them at some point in the night. Magic if nothing else, too easy.

We packed tents and piled up again, getting in cars based on our destination. Once at the truck some of us got in there, but that became slow going. Despite the apparent magic, it wasn't enough to fix the tire, the rim or axle, or whatever it was that had the car clomping around like something awful. It was slow going, but we rode the thing all the way back to her house that way, some others waiting at the gate having arrived in one of the unbroken cars.

Back at the house it was relaxing, some more reading and the like. Some people left, some people arrived, this was the norm at Amanda's house. She loved traveling and everyone, her mother was still still coming to grips with the house being a hostel of sorts, but nice enough to let it all happen and nice to talk to all the same.

I left with a couple people for a BBQ by the water where there plenty more travelers and locals alike, as temporary as some of them were. I was happy to feast a bit and mill about for a while, nice faces and good view for the last bit of the sun. I enjoyed talking to one guy who'd been sailing around and was having an easy time hopping form boat to boat, when one had lost his attention or ported for too long, he was able to find another through word of mouth of from one of several websites he'd been turn on to.

Soon we headed back to the house, my mind more on the road than anything, a couple cute smiles from girls foreign to me keeping me from crawling away to avoid conversations too familiar. Eventually I was caught between my tent and a conversation about the differences and similarities in languages and dialects from here to there, all words to describe words and all and all a conversation a computer with simple instructions could have finished and even my mind could predict the endless predictability of. This was nothing more than a way for people to fill the air and hopefully, eventually, elude to somewhere they'd been and transition to a story of substance, perhaps. It wasn't getting there fast enough and my tent won the battle, I laid down and fell asleep to the fading subtleties of pronunciation.

The morning came as always and my mission was on my mind. After some breakfast, exchanges of information and goodbyes, I was packed and on foot again, on my own walking away from Darwin and on to the next thing, that being the west coast of the country, and as of the recent message I'd gotten, another go with Bridget. It was a long way to where I was going, with a whole lot of outback and the odd dot on the map as far as I could tell. I had to make decent time though if I wanted to enjoy the west coast, but this is easy in Australia, it's full of long stretches of road and people on the go, a hitchhiker is welcome and I was feeling up for it once again.

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