Travel Tale: To Airlie Beach, Australia
I’m still traveling solo. A 10-hour bus ride brings me to Airlie Beach in the darkness of night. The bus stop is void of taxis and buses. My motel is three miles away. I’d get lost trying to walk it, and possibly get run over while pulling this stupid red suitcase on plastic wheels. Can’t call a taxi. Don’t have a phone. Don’t have Marilynn either!
Ricki, a young mate I met on the bus, lives in Airlie Beach. His phone has a dead battery, so he cannot call a taxi either. “I live five minutes away,” he says. “Walk to my house with me and I’ll drive you to your motel.” Australians are very friendly.
An envelope with my name on it hangs in the dark at the closed motel office. At least the flashlight on my cellphone works. The envelope contains a key and manual of rules, such as: Any smoking will result in fines and immediate eviction. No partying. No swimming on beach without a stinger suit. No house cleaning services, this is self-catering. No noise after 9:00pm. No working girls permitted. And my favorite… “We have sand flies, and recommend that you apply sand fly repellent.” It’s time for a beer.
So, I walk into “Banjo’s Bar and Bistro,” a neighborhood joint that sits conveniently across the street. After a few cold pours, folks start looking familiar to me. “Meatloaf” from that rock group, and Jeff Daniels from the movie “Dumb & Dumber” stand out. (Jeff is “Drunk and Drunker”) When Meatloaf leaves his woman to get more drinks, Jeff hits on her. “Hands off!” Meatloaf yells several times from the bar. Jeff goes away. He returns a few drinks later and hits on her again. Meatloaf warns him, but Jeff persists. They end up in the parking lot, and Meatloaf connects an effective left/right combination that bounces the back of Jeff’s head from the asphalt. Jeff wobbles away. I say to Meatloaf, “Nice combo!” He replies, “Go away.” Luckily, I understood the Aussie accent that time.
Travel brings rewards. Simply seeing different things is good enough. In the morning, I stroll along a boardwalk that parallels bays, marinas, and waterfront cafes. After walking it many times, sodden in sweat, I wise up and rent a bicycle.
In town it’s a backpacker party, with many blonde Scandinavian gals and guys wearing bathing suits, all quite young. Although soothing to the eye, I feel uncomfortable. Two local, older Aussies call me over to sit with them. No agenda, just some friendly chatter, quite common with this culture. Too bad I cannot understand a word they say. Goes like this: “Ewe gongabilly lewie lattie?” “What?” He repeats. I lean forward. “Huh?” The other guy says, “Froumthestatesareyagoing.” I grasp that one. “Yes, Arizona.” They start laughing and say, “Donald Trump!” We toast to the entertainment of American politics. I’m sorry, Trump fans, but he’s an embarrassment abroad. As soon as people detect my American accent, many of them laugh and say, “Trump.” I just shrug and laugh along.
Back at Banjo’s, my favorite bar, a cold pour with a grass-fed steak (don’t all cows eat grass?) delights immensely. Friendly locals call me to their table. Here’s a fragmented summary of what I could understand, and yes, I’m writing notes and they seem to love it: “Meatloaf” just married his woman two days ago. Australian rugby is so tough that the World League won’t play with them, because of the lack of rules. They think that NFL players are a bunch of sissies because they wear pads and helmets. Aussies fist fight each other (like my generation used to do) and are friends afterwards. They don’t shoot each other like Americans do now. A snorkel and dive tour operator explains that Scandinavians, Irish, and Scottish cannot swim, maybe on account of the cold water in their countries. “The Chinese look like they’re playing hack sac when they try to swim.”
Ranchers and opportunists shoot Dingoes on sight. There’s a $50 bounty for females, $25 for males. Dingoes kill livestock. (I suppose that the Dingo did eat that baby)
I ask about Fosters beer. Hadn’t seen it anywhere in Australia. “That’s sheetsatthebongodakeg, Mate. Biddersbeatoepdilly.” I’m catching the accent.
About immigration… “We have sex with our farm workers. You Americans can’t.” What? Huh? I need further explanation. “Young Scandinavian girls come and do Farm Stay labor, and get paid enough money to travel around for a year. Americans get Mexican families struggling to make a living.” I wonder if they are considered “working girls.”
Australians are as tough as they are friendly. Okay, let’s travel on, and hop a bus for a 19-hour ride to Brisbane. “Stiatunedmate!” Ron Mitchell