Saturday, February 18, 2012

E-Tome Part Deux: The Slowening

"Well, I'm back."

(A bag of delicious hemp seeds for the first person to correctly identify the above literary reference AND decipher the puerile Hollywood referencing in the title of this, my second e-tome.)

I'm back in the spare room in Goonengerry, promising you, dear friend, that this e-tome will be HIGH IMPACT, in fact PACT WITH TOP ANECDOTES and even, dare I say (I do) ALL KILLER NO FILLER... there will be at least one NEAR-DEATH EXPERIENCE - not including the FISH HITTING ME IN THE HEAD incident - plus TWO LEECH STORIES and a potentially numerous CASUAL MENTIONS OF THE "BEARD". And all this in a GUARANTEED LOWER WORD COUNT (claim may not be accurate) than the first e-tome.

When we last left the story, your hero was bravely negotiating the faunal deathtrap that is the hinterland of northern NSW. Now make an extra-strong coffee and strap yourself in for Part Deux!

The Germans and I spent a sunny afternoon in Nimbin. And why not, after all? We are consenting adults. Hard to find good drugs in Nimbin though - on the main street at least - unless you want to buy them from the guys with the zombie eyes. The old woman offering cookies and mushrooms seemed nice, as was the guy in Happy High Herbs who sadly reminded me that Philosopher's Stone is no longer legal. But we are health-conscious, sporadically law-abiding folk and so, after a brief visit to a sparsely attended market where the undoubted highlight was three women singing accapella (is it still accapella if they hit wood blocks on every second downbeat) songs like "Shakti Woman", we bought some picnic food and headed to a swimming spot by the creek.

Later in my trip, my Uncle Neil caught me by surprise when he told me he had attended the Aquarius Festival at Nimbin in 1971. He then went on to explain he had been there with the Christian groups trying to save the hippies from eternal damnation, and that when the hippies had surrounded the tent and threatened to burn it down, angels with fiery swords had appeared and protected God's faithful servants. At the time I was somewhat lost for words but, looking back, it seems possible the two groups had been drinking from the same waterhole. But I digress.

On the drive back from Nimbin, we made a spontaneous decision to go to Queensland. It sounds crazy until you realise that Queensland was, like, 50 kms away. So that night Sarah, Marco and I camped once more at Brunswick Heads, or, as we soon came to call it, as loudly and as often as possible, 'Bruns' - before starting the drive north in the general direction of Agnes Water and the Town of 1770. According to the Lonely Planet, it is the 'next Byron Bay'. Warning signs NOT HEEDED.

It didn't seem that far on the map, but Australia is a big place, hey? Not to mention all the roadworks... Still, a few weeks' driving through potholes had completely changed my political philosophy from socialist ravetopia to "full employment through a permanent national road-building program", so I took my medicine with good grace. And a dose of Phillip Pullman. After a swim at Caloundra we made it to Rainbow Beach - on the mainland just south of Fraser Island.

And there we met the schoolies. And they were just so... cute! So friendly and not even that drunk - probably because every time word went around of a party on the beach, the police turned up and confiscated all the grog. We mainly talked to a funny bunch of boys from Maryborough (a middling size town nearby), of whom as many were coolies (they'd left before year 12) and or toolies (their older mates) as actual schoolies. And when girls walked past one of them would skate over casually and then chicken out from actually making conversation. They thought we were cool because we came from so far away, had tattoos (OK, I don't have tattoos myself, but some of my best friends do) and looked like drug dealers (Marco).

So off we drove the next day with the scent of hopeful youth in our nostrils - for a vain attempt to see the turtles at Mon Repos, the desert vibe of Bundaberg which drove us panting into the nearest MacDonalds (I had a McFlurry) and finally, with fists pumping in the air, to Agnes Water... of which we quickly formed the impression that it was the next Noosa, not the next Byron.

But happy days nonetheless! Travelling with the Germans was a joy: so much nutella, so much banter, so many opportunities to say "I go to the toilet"... there was the time I panicked and forced them both to help me look for my glasses in the dark sand around my car, before feeling in my back pocket... the beautiful headland at 1770, where Captain Kirk and Mr Banks had landed all those years ago (not a joyous spot for indigenous locals, then)... and so much bodysurfing in underwhelming swell. The best waves were just south in the Deepwater National Park, where we spent a fun arvo in 1-2ft while birds divebombed into schools of fish - one of which, it is true, leaped out of the water and hit me in the head. A strange occurrence, and one that had me questioning my place (or otherwise ) in nature. It remains an open question.

I was due in Brisbane for a family do, so we headed south again via Poona west of Fraser - a strange campsite by the river where the sandflies vied with a fishing party obsessed with the Foo Fighters to see who could be the most annoying locals. By this stage I was sleeping in my tent to stay cool, as overnight lows were around 23 or 24, and with the music pumping until well past our bedtime (9pm) I just read by headtorch and rejoiced when the the Counting Crows came on. Torture is a relative concept.

In Brisbane I lived like a king for two days. My Dad has cousins in Brisbane, and although we have only been occasionally in touch over the years it was lovely to join Dad and Annie and all the family for my Aunt Pam's 70th birthday. My four (second or whatever) cousins were all there, a lovely bunch of boys who are all over 40 with families and jobs but very funny and playful with each other. I ate more seafood than I care to admit - including one prawn that bled on my bread when I ripped of its head - and a Moreton Bay Bug that looked a bit... chopped in half. And then fish. And chips. And fish kebabs. And cake. There may have been some more fish, but I made my excuses and drove into the Valley to meet the Germans for one last hurrah at the Dub Day Afternoon, where my friend Joe Lorback/ Comrade Dubs was playing... a lovely event with just the right amount of non-dub to keep us ravers interested. And surprising run-ins with mates Yasmin and Kaoru. And silly sober dancing which, at the ripe old age of 31, is apparently the order of the day.

A tearful farewell session with the Germans in the Brisbane CBD: one last iPod on shuffle, one last mango, and a tangy pineapple to boot. But in case you missed the memo: The Germans Are Coming To Rainbow Serpent!

The next few nights were spent with Dad's cousin Carolyn and her partner Anna, with whom Dad and Annie have stayed many a time in Taringa. I slept on the balcony, which was dry and mozzie-free and glorious. Carolyn told me a whole bunch of family history which was surprisingly fascinating - all these ancestors living these mostly forgotten lives! Thank god for Facebook: now we are all immortal. Dad and Annie did their morning walks up and down the hills, and on the second morning I boldly went out for a run - scarcely making it past them on the last climb before home.

Ew new (as Theresa would say), this e-tome is completely extra control...

I had a sweet couple of nights at Lennox Head with Joe and his housemates Dave and Emily - and the lovely Natalia who is now back in Melbourne. I jumped from a rock 10m high into the water at Dalwood Falls! I ran barefoot along the beach and made my calves sore! I made a deicious pasta feast with Joe and borrowed his copy of Bass Culture: When reggae was king (almost finished). I went to all nine op shops in Ballina. And I got to skype Theresa WITH VIDEO!!! I've been missing my beautiful girl a lot.

Saturday was Daniel's birthday, so I brought the Goonengerry crew (including Phoebe's indomitably pregnant friend Mikhaila) down to Byron for Joe and Dave's first reggae pool party at the Aquarius Backpackers in Byron... also on Blonderer's special day, we ate chocolate pancakes, hit the beach at Broken Head for the first time, swam and ran around the headland for a mad bodysurf at the next beach south which may or may not have been a beat... not knowing it was his birthday, I had found China Mieville's first novel King Rat for 50c in Ballina - a Pied Piper fantasy novel set in London's 1990s jungle scene... Bo!!!!

ANyway, I'm bored again DAMMIT!!!! And I haven't told the story of the leech (it was only on my ankle, and there is video footage), or Dan's leech (it was in his ear when he ran the Minyon Falls loop), or me and Dan running Minyon Falls (about 8km) sans leeches and sitting atop the 100m falls at the end... or all the healthy food we've been eating in two large meals a day... or Phoebe and I trying to improve Dan's djing... but I'll just end up with the (so-called) NEAR DEATH EXPERIENCE, which took place at Bruns yesterday.

Dan and I drove down to Bruns for a bodysurf, despite the inclement weather. There were a few waves the around breakwater, and a southerly was blowing them towards the rocks - so we got in about thirty metres down. The water was warm and we caught a few waves, but after swimming back out I realised we were out of our depth, being swept towards the rocks... and it was all looking a bit dicey. We tried to swim away from it but had no luck, at which point Dan (being super-fit, a strong swimmer and an all-round gentleman) offered me the fins he was wearing. These I put on as the waves buffeted us around, and then we spent a few minutes trying to swim away from the rocks again... to no avail...

Now in case you didn't know I grew up by the beach, am experienced in the surf and a reasonable swimmer. I am generally confident in the water but this was fast becoming the dodgiest ocean situation I'd ever gotten myself into. We decided to try to surf towards shore, and Dan caught a little wave and managed to get out on the rocks - only cutting his leg slightly. I was further out and briefly tried to do the same, but it quickly became apparent that this was more dangerous than the alternative - I almost got smashed on the rocks and had to backpedal fast.

In the back of my mind throughout the last five or so minutes was the idea that I might have to go beyond the breakwater and try to swim in the head of the river. I was getting knocked around by waves and at one point swallowed a fair bit of water, was feeling buggered and a bit panicky, and decided to give it a go. As soon as I stopped fighting the current it quickly swept me around the rocks to the head of the river, where I floated on my back and used the flippers and the current to kick my way into the river (where we'd swum many times before - thankfully the terrain was quite familiar).

Dan was on the rocks where a few fishermen were also standing, and we gave each other the thumbs up because once inside the river, although still tired, I knew I'd be fine. I still had to swim a fair way into the protected beach, but I'd rested a bit and that only took a few more minutes. he dived in and swam the last fifty metres with me - and then went off to try to bodysurf further down the beach while I got my breath back and got changed, feeling a bit spooked but relieved.

So there it is, my brush with death... not really, but a dicey situation and one that should have been avoidable by sitting and watching the surf before we got in, as Dan said afterwards.

I'll leave it on this note. I'm alive and well, and in fact healthier than I've been in ages... tonight we're dining at Mikhaila's place, tomorrow Dan and I go camping for a few days, on Saturday surfing with Joe and Dan, maybe a doof at Broken Head after that... and next week I start the trek down to Melbourne to meet Theresa and hopefully enjoy a short camping trip with her before our longer trip to Tassie in January...

If you made it this far, HAVE A GOOD HARD AT LOOK AT YOURSELF! Seriously, get a life wtf. But I love you for it, and hope Part Deux has lived up to its predecessor.

Missing all my friends and family, and looking forward to seeing you all soon :)

Love Seb xx

P.S. The 'beard' is a day-by-day proposition... some days I think it's a goer, other days not so much... on a good day you can almost see it from a distance of more than a metre, in a certain slant of light, if you know what you're looking for...

P.P.S. I have lost it!!! I almost forgot an awesome dinner with my beautiful buddies from the student activist days, Edmee, Jess and Kim up in Brisbane... see my iPhone photos for proof... love you guys!!!

1 comment:

Chris H said...

Great posts and good to finally know what happened on your voyage à proximité du début du siècle. The sunny, paradisal scenes reminded me of:

(a) The first chapter of Fly Away Peter when Jim wonders through the lush, bird-filled estuary near his home, but without there being any risk of you rushing off to the Western Front.

(b) Budgie's Year 11 lecture on Lord of the Flies, of which all I can remember is that there is more than one adjectival form of paradise, including paradisal and paradisiacal.

(c) Paradise, Adelaide, from which His Holiness Ray Clark floated into school each day.