If you have a mind that frequently inhabits the gutter, this post may not be what you’re expecting. It’s not that kind of Down Under.
If God had wanted me to fly, I assume my bum would feature a blue touch-paper tag with the words ‘light here and step back to a safe distance’. My bum sports no such thing, so I stand by my conviction that flying is not part of my remit. Although I did once use a plethora of flying metaphors in a heart-spun post on The Lockwood Echo’s first anniversary. Maybe I could invite my new followers to have a read here.
So flying is done the old-fashioned way like everyone else. By climbing inside a metal tube, strapped to gallons of highly explosive fuel and propelled to several thousand feet. All whilst in the company of a couple of hundred complete strangers.
I’m not a fan.
But despite that, I once survived a trip as far as you could fly before you came back on yourself.
I went to a Land Down Under.
The trip started in Cairns. Hot and tropical. Various activities were booked where I could engage with this country, its landscape and as little of the wildlife as possible.
One of these activities involved a canoe and a very large lake. My memory will swear on oath the lake was in the shape of a skull and crossbones. It smelt poisonous and it looked dangerous. And what better way to appreciate just how anti-social this lake was than to canoe across it. In canoes. In a completely inexperienced manner.
Now, being in the hot tropics, we all stripped down to swimwear. A rather splendid bikini on my part, showing not too much but not too little. Health and safety was paramount though, so we were all given life-jackets. Less than fetching, but nonetheless an important detail to this tale. The next vital snippet; I couldn’t find my sunglasses.
The organisers of the trip thought it would be fun to disembark and get down and dirty with the…….err…….dirt. An opportunity to learn something of this land, its history and indigenous tribes.
We were shown how rock ochre pigments could be made into a paste with a little water, a varied palette of paint just from the stones lying around our feet. We were encouraged to have a go at face-painting. What fun.
We took this deeply spiritual, ancient, Aboriginal artform and expressed ourselves in the only way that ignorant uncouth tourists can. Although our minds were full of wonder and our hearts full of respect for the tradition and the people to whom it belonged, there was no denying it looked as though we’d just had our first day at kindergarten. Splodges of brown, Adam Ant style stripes, yellow and orange swirls; our little philistine faces more ‘mud bath chic’ than ‘ancestral awakening’.
Cultural immersion over, it was time to head back to our digs. We paddled back to the main shore, miraculously without dying.
Remember those missing sunglasses? During the course of the afternoon, I decided I must’ve left them at a little cafe in town I’d visited that morning. As we were cycling, it seemed the perfect opportunity for me and my travelling companion to take a slight detour back to the cafe.
Inexplicably, we didn’t think anything of the need to get changed. Swimwear, of one description or another, was virtually daywear for much of my Antipodean adventure, more conducive to the water-based lifestyle I found myself living. Even more inexplicably, we didn’t think anything of the need to forgo the life-jackets. If I can canoe in a life-jacket, I can cycle in one. And one final ‘icing on the cake’ accessory, the literal ‘tin hat’ on it all, was a cycling helmet. It’s the lawful legal law in Australia to always wear a cycling helmet whilst using a bicycle style mode of transportation.
We set off. Leaving the lush green forest behind, back to suburbia and people and everyday-ness.
Let me amalgamate those elements for you. Because you are damn well NOT going to see the photographic evidence;
A very white, but slightly sunburnt girl, rocks up to a busy town centre cafe on a bicycle that she is in little control of. She’s wearing a bikini, a life-jacket and a cycling helmet. Her face is sweaty but clearly decorated (as there are no sunglasses to hide any of it) with haphazard red, brown, orange, yellow spots, splats and smudges of ochre paint. She isn’t wearing any kind of shoe. Holiday-zone oblivious to how she looks, she casually walks into the cafe, which is crowded with diners, to enquire whether she’d left her sunglasses there. She had. She takes her sunglasses, thanks the staff and casually walks out.
She catches her reflection in one of the cafe windows. Horror strikes. Crippling mortification. Her head screams;
‘What unholy bag of crap do you look like?’
Her brain back-tracks. Replaying the whole scene again. She glances back into the cafe…….
NOT ONE PERSON HAD BATTED AN EYELID!
Australia: I love you.
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