The Final Stretch Down the Coast - Australian Hitchhiking Loop (Part 7)

I wandered to the road, just north of central Cairns with my thumb pointing southbound. It can be tricky getting rides from the opposite side of town and heading through sometimes, but this time a teacher and her daughter gave me a ride a little ways then a quick ride came from a woman who's husband works at the UN, she got me clear out of town to the wide open.

I walked over a long bridge making my way further out, as I walked I saw the French girl's van pass by me, I figured I'd see it eventually. She'd offered me a ride as far as Townsville, but wanted a handful of bills for it. Hitchhiking, on the other hand, is free, usually not too much slower (sometimes faster) than driving yourself, and mainly, offers much more opportunity for unpredictable good times.

This point was proven soon after some walking down the scenic road a ways more when an awesome little red buggy pulled over for me. The guy driving this was as chill as they come, his name was Clint and he was wearing a teenage mutant ninja turtles shirt - all was right in the world.

His destination was Townsville where he had some work with his security company. After some talking he offered to let me stay in the motel suite he had for work down in Townsville given that we'd be arriving late and driving into some wet weather. I settled in and enjoyed the ride, wind blowing all around us and wide open scenery all around.

Storms and flooding had wreaked havoc on the area, Clint pointed out some of the damage as we cruised on down. Eventually we came into a storm ourselves, nothing in comparison what had wrecked the area, but heavy rain none the less. In the tiny buggy Clint had a couple full length water proof coats ready for just such an event, we slipped them on an kept cruising into the night. I couldn't help but feel like we were on some sly mission, partners in a crime movie or something.

We laughed our way all the way to Townsville and pulled into the motel where a woman he knew greeted us and we stopped into the room. He grabbed some pizza for us down the road after a while and we chilled out for the night relaxing in the room.

In the morning Clint gave me a ride towards the south end of Townsville and then went further still until we hit the first truck stop where he got us a big breakfast, I was liking the big portions these types of places had. Clint scarfed most of his down and took off for work, I thanked him for everything and took my time finishing the rest and filling up nicely.

Outside there was light intermittent rain, I walked across the road started walking a bit with my thumb out, it didn't take long for a guy my age to pick me up on with way to the next big town. He was a roofer who got flown out a ways from Darwin to aboriginal communities for work, weeks on, weeks off. He had dreams of South America and was saving his money up to go big once he got there.

I got a ride pretty quick from where he dropped me off and found myself near Mackay, walking alongside the rad I got a ride from an older man, then a woman into town, then a toothless Denmark born North German raised guy with a Bangkok Harley Davidson shirt. He dropped in a parking lot near the busier part of the road on the edge of town.

I walked along the road as spurts of traffic came by, eventually someone flipped around and scooped me up, this would be the breakaway ride after all the short little scooter rides that got me across the town. The guys name was Shawn, he told me all about his hitchhiking days and we swapped stories all the while as we headed towards his destination, Rockhampton.

Weeks earlier, when I was with Mandie (which is who I was heading back to on this massive Australian loop), she'd mentioned her friend Bridget in Rockhampton saying she'd be up for meeting up. As we got closer I started digging through my pockets sorting through the scraps of papers with scribbles of names, numbers, ideas and doodles of all sorts. I couldn't find her number and a call to Mandie from Shawn's phone resulted in a voicemail.

As time would tell in the weeks to come, this would be for the best, and as it turned out for the immediate time at hand, among the pocket scraps was another name and number next to the word Rockhampton. A psychiatrist named Gene had picked me up a week or so ago when I was heading to Cairns and written his number on a map he gave me saying I had a place to crash in Rockhampton if I ever I was to come through, a phone call to him proved he meant it.

Shawn and I got to town right before sunset and Gene pulled up right as we pulled in to a meeting point in town, off I went to Gene's house. He lived with his older mother who seemed to need a careful eye and a sly smile, but didn't talk much even though she seemed the type to talk your ear off if she wanted, the way older women like that can.

Gene and I sat on the porch out back starting on a case of beer talking about all sorts of this and that. The town had been flooded and he had stories of that, pointing to places and saying how he'd been paddling around. He told me about his daughter and her music (he'd given me her CD when I first met him), he even told me about seeing some other worldly spacecraft a while back when camping with some friends of his.  He whipped up some tuna sandwiches and we steadily finished the beer in the house until sleep was the only reasonable option.

I got a shower in when morning came and there was cereal and toast, then a good early start to another day of hitchhiking in my final leg to Mullumbimby, to Mandie and the GLO dance. He dropped me off in a busy spot and I got to walking. A truck pulled into the wide shady shoulder and I ran up and opened the door only to find the trucker hadn't stopped for me, but for a food cart up ahead. I kept walking and soon a car stopped, for me this time.

The guy was on his morning commute, but drove me a bit out of the way to show me an ANZAC memorial and tell me about some history of the area. He dropped me at a junction and I waited a little while until a young couple picked me up. They didn't go far, but got me up to where the highway picked up a bit more and wrapped up some homegrown pot for me.

I walked down a ramp to the main road again and up the hill alongside the road thumbing traffic. At a narrow part a car passed and slowed, pulling in a ways up the hill from me where they had room to do so. I raced up and met Bobby and Sam, two guys heading to Brisbane coming from Rockhampton where Bobby just bought himself a new motorcycle, this was being driven by another friend who was ahead of them at this point.

They were all back and forth jokes from the start and we carried on laughing. Sam had did a stint in prison and told us about the pedophiles all in a cage of their own getting harassed viciously by the rest of the inmates. He'd also done some hitchhiking, he told a story about some women who picked him up going on some curvy mountain roads, "Her driving was Shocking!", I loved the was Aussies said that, "Shocking". He carried on saying, "She pulled over finally and asked if I wanted to drive, 'Yes, you are shocking!' I told her".

They were happy to find out that I had some pot, we pulled over and they pulled out some beers while we rolled a cone and took a short break. Down the road we got to the town of Gin Gin where we stopped at a pub and met the third guy of their crew who had the bike parked outside. The all ripped on each other and argued the way good friends do in joke, Bobby taking most of the flak, we had a few beers over this until getting back on the road.

A little more down the road we stopped at some place they knew of to get some jerky. Bobby took over on the bike and the other guy took over driving in the car. Him and Sam complained about Bobby the whole way as we cruised. It got dark and at some point we lost track of Bobby on the bike behind us and were driving pretty slow until we finally pulled over before the next gas station to make sure we could get his attention to stop and fill up. We waited a good while and they started to think something had happened to him since he wasn't on bikes much and especially not in the dark. On top of that his phone was in the car with us.

After a good long wait he at last appeared and saw us on the side of the road, Sam and I had just finished the last of the homegrown as he pulled along. They gave him a hard time, he said he'd stopped for pies to warm up. We all went the extra kilometer to the truck stop and filled up on gas, then continued on to Brisbane, Bobby had earlier said he could put me up for the night.

I drove his car as we shuttled the other guy home and got back to Bobby's where his wife and frantic little dog were waiting. Scraps of pot were gathered from ashtrays roaches and who knows where else to equate to a couple bong hits and Bobby relaxed, Sam and the other guy said that was the only time when Bobby was normal. He seemed like a nice guy to me in any event, but he had just given me a great ride, a place to stay and as the door bell rang, pizza too.

In the morning there was coffee, a shower, more coffee and then Bobby gave me a ride to what he thought would be a good spot. We weaved through streets as he relied on his flaky GPS which happened to have a "sexy" mod giving directions in a porn star voice, "Take a slight left, heerrrrre, oh you make me horny!"

I was left walking on the busy freeway that luckily had a shoulder wide enough to build a small house in. Luckier than that was the quickness in which I got a ride from a young guy heading for the gold coast. That got me out of the madness of roads coming together in the big Brisbane area, at the next on ramp I got a ride from two excited young guys who only took me two exits, but one in particular was pumped to meet an American traveling in this manner because of his plans to visit Texas for some reason unknown to me.

My next ride great, a guy going to one of the next towns who described himself as a "chatter box" and lived up to it. He must of enjoyed my flow of listening and where it guided his chattering because he took me clear past his town and a good ways all the way near Byron Bay and to the turn off to Mullumbimby, he said he would have taken me all the way into town, but I assured him that it would be all too easy to catch a ride from that turn off up into town.

I was right there, the first car picked me up, a guy and his crystal obsessed son. I mostly talked to his son who was 10 years old thereabouts, and by the time they dropped me off I was being invited to his crystal sharing birthday party, even though I knew I'd be long gone by the time it would come around. They drove me right up into the forest to Mandie's place, a slight breach in the sacredness of her hidden sanctuary up there, but they were clearly good people and I was happy to be back where I'd started this loop.

I relaxed in the paradise that is the Mandie's home eagerly awaiting her to get back home herself. Once she got home there was a nice hug and tasty food to be had, plenty of tea of course. We sat next to the fire as I told her the whole story from the moment I left to the moment we were talking now. She listened to me so intently, I was filled with warmth and energy more and more as I recounted all the rides, the orange pill, the beers, the water shortage in the outback and everything else. Something really struck me about that, how focused she was. When you talk with someone there's so much else that can be processed at the same time, whether it's driving, what you'll say next, something you've been reminded of, the scenery or things in the room - you're still there and carrying on with the conversation without missing a beat, but it's those times like this one where you can feel all of someones energy that perpetuates itself into one big glow of happiness.

It was a hell of a trip, and it was only the first part of my Australian adventure. There was still the arrival Nick, the GLO dance, love to find up the coast and, as if I hadn't hitchhiked enough, a trip clear to the north and all the way across to the west with plenty of entertainment along the way. The good times keep on rolling.

Australian Hitchhiking Loop
Mullum to Melbourne Orange Pill (Part 1)
Cruising Sand Dunes and Kissed Properly (Part 2)
Through Adelaide Towards the Outback (Part 3)
Into the Outback (Part 4)
Out of the Outback (Part 5)
Cairns Party and Train Tracks (Part 6)