Outing #30 – Water Water Everywhere

(Monday 8-June-2015)

Tell ya what: just now, uploading some photos for the post I’ve gotta say that little Nikon compact camera was arguably the best purchase I made as far as gear goes. Mind you, none of the camping or hiking gear I’ve bought has let me down in any way – I researched the shit out of all my gear of course, so didn’t buy any dud equipment – but can you imagine how much shittier all these photos would’ve been if I’d just used my phone camera? Here’s a random photo, just to prove my point:

I'm actually reading Cujo at the moment, and it makes me sad these huge Lace Monitors have stopped hanging around. They left once the weather cooled-off.

I’m actually reading Cujo at the moment, and it makes me sad these huge Lace Monitors have stopped hanging around. They left once the weather cooled-off.

What about this beautiful grasshopper, hiding in the folds of my backpack? Reckon an iphone camera would get that much colour-depth and clarity? No way at all.

What about this beautiful grasshopper, hiding in the folds of my backpack? Reckon an iphone camera would get that much colour-depth and clarity? No way at all.

The phone has a nice 16mp camera mind you, but *no* phone camera can capture the quality of image a good quality glass lens can, and without *optical* zoom well, why bother taking photos at all? Right?

This week's cover photo: Daisy trying to snatch the camera. God knows what she wanted with it, but they're very grabby animals - Possums.

This week’s cover photo: Daisy trying to snatch the camera. God knows what she wanted with it, but they’re very grabby animals – Possums.

Anyhoo.

On with the show

The week in town

This week in town was more social than usual because I’d already decided that’s how it was going to be, even before leaving camp.

More than food, more than coffee, more than a shower, warm bed or clean sheets I wanted to hang-out with bipedal mammalians that speak and, naturally enough, being more interested in the company of women than men I aimed to spend as much time with the former as possible. Did a pretty good job of it too.

GETTING UP THE MOUNTAIN

Having awoken just after sunrise, I sit-up, plonk the stove in the depression on my foam sleeping mat, grab the grubby stainless steel teapot I’ve been using as a cup then get a few coffees in me. After the third, I’m out of coffee-whitener. The powdered milk ran-out days ago.

I go for a bleary-eyed walk to take care of the usual “morning business”, then return to the tent to drink the last two milk-less coffees I’ll be having for hours then pack-up the remaining items that couldn’t be packed until now.

Without milk, coffee makes me gag and halfway through the second cup I nearly vomit in my mouth. I get over that metallic taste then drink some more, gag again, drink and gag. Eyes now watering, I gulp the rest and almost vomit again.

Fucken nasty shit.

I fling the empty teapot out the door of the tent, watch it hit the ground with a rattle then roll a few times before coming to a stop upside down by some trees and make a mental note to buy a replacement when I’m in town because I just can’t be fucked washing shit like that.

The stove, the clothes I’ve used as my pillow, head-torch and any remaining stuff I’d forgotten the night before all go into the backpack now, before compression-strapping it down to its smallest possible bulk. Never buy a backpack that doesn’t have compression straps: you *gotta* have ’em. If the shop employee doesn’t know what compression straps are: find a better shop.

Stepping outside the tent to cast a glance around the camp – just to see it all looks okay – I kneel back inside to check and make sure nothing important has been left behind. I scrutinize the interior – always do: can you imagine trudging all the way to the top only to realize you’ve left your wallet in one of the tent’s inner pockets? Or your phone? Or camera? Hasn’t happened to me yet, and it never will.

Satisfied I’ve left nothing I’ll miss while in town, I back-out of the tent and then – unzipping the upper-most compartment of the 48Ltre Osprey backpack at my feet – feel around in there for my wallet (I’ll do this about half a dozen times the morning I leave; a bit OCD, but better to be on the safe side, right?). I zip the tent-inner door closed, zip the rain-fly closed, slip my backpack on and that’s it: real food and people await; all I gotta do is climb a mountain to get to ’em.

Sunglasses on, I say a little “bye for now” to my camp and sleeping Possums who are – at least until sunset – oblivious to my departure, and then frown: I’ve always felt a pang of sadness as I leave, because the Possums will have nothing to eat but leaves until my return.

Still frowning, I adjust the straps on my pack and mutter a quiet reassurance to my sleeping Marsupials: “Couple days my furry little bugs”, then turn and walk away.

Camp now behind me, I have almost a kilometer of very rugged bush to step through before reaching the first man-made trail, but I don’t consider that a part of the grueling uphill trek because I like crossing that stretch of land. It’s a place nobody but me ever comes, so walking out of it is like passing through a secret garden, before joining the standard trails and tracks everybody knows and uses.

The fire trail is the first (and worst), after exiting the bush itself. It’s flat-out murder on your legs. Wide enough to drive a passenger bus down, this graded dirt trail snakes it’s way upwards at a pretty constant 30° angle and although it’s smooth compared to the narrow hiking-only trails further up the mountain, you’re literally walking up a two-kilometer-long ramp.

The T7 Fire Service trail: okay so it's not *that* ugly.

The T7 Fire Service trail: okay so it’s not *that* ugly.

Same trail, different angle.

Same trail, different angle.

Once I’ve reached the top of this ugly dirt road, I always pull-in at the creek and fill a bottle with water (to replace the bucket I’ll be sweating-out on the walk up) plus have a piss. I stop to rest whenever the urge hits me – while walking up – but I never for very long anymore: I find a minute or less is all it takes for the acid that builds in your leg muscles to subside and breathing to stabilize. Then I continue. Short breaks often works better than one or two long breaks.

Bottle now full of water, I cut up directly through the rainforest to the lowest point in Federal Pass then start walking up that. This track is somehow easier than the ugly fire trail – even though it’s much steeper in a lot of places – because it undulates: the terrain rolls slightly up and down, there’s moss-covered rocks, huge fallen trees and branches as well as very slippery logs and roots everywhere; just waiting to fuck you up. Because of these things you tend to watch where you’re walking which takes your mind off the difficulty of the walk itself.

Our shortcut through the rainforest: takes us to Federal Pass.

Our shortcut through the rainforest: takes us to Federal Pass.

A flat stretch of Federal Pass.

A flat stretch of Federal Pass.

After several hours of dragging my shit uphill I finally get to the peak in Federal Pass where there’s a ‘Y’ intersection. Well over halfway up the mountain now,  all the hard work is behind me.

The 'Y' intersection, taken with my phone. Sadly the only photo I could find of this, and you can *see* the difference in image quality but whatever.

The ‘Y’ intersection, taken with my phone. Sadly the only photo I could find of this, and you can *see* the difference in image quality but whatever.

I dump my pack, get my headphones plugged in and get some music doofin before sitting my arse on the wooden seats to have a few smokes, drink some water and think about what I’ll be having for dinner. Oh yessir dinner will be good tonight. After nine days and nights of shit-for-food (the last forty-eight hours with nothing at all but coffee), tonight I can have anything I want and – for some reason – this first day back in town it’s always Chinese take-away.

I visualize myself walking down the main street in the cold night air, passing under streetlights until I reach the Canton Palace’s brightly illuminated orange sign near the road. I turn into the driveway, cross the car-park then enter the two outward-opening glass doors – one after the other. The moment I step inside, warm air wraps me as I approach the counter to give the pretty Asian woman my order. Then, as I sit down to wait for my meal – admiring the strange collection of figurines strewn about the reception area: gold cats with waving arms, porcelain cats that don’t wave, glitter-coated unicorns, little jade dragons, Buddhas and all sorts of tigers – I further visualize steam rising from the fried pork I’ve just ordered; thickly coated with shiny, glazed orange sauce; piled-up on a bed of fried-rice.

A daydream within a daydream.

This is the longest and only real rest I’ll have on the way up, and generally lasts around five minutes. It’s also the point where I start getting really excited about getting back up to town: Just visualizing the first decent meal I’ve had in over a week actually gives me a warm, physical rush of happiness. Buzzes me out, no shit.

“One more smoke”, I say to myself, “and it’s go-time.”

Rehydrated and reasonably rested, I begin the last few hundred meters of Federal Pass; mostly downhill and a very easy walk compared to what I’ve already done. I finish the walk – from here to the top – with Hendrix, U2 and The Chilli Peppers.

Several hundred meters short of the last waterfall, I stop and toss my half-empty plastic bottle down the hill, hang another piss, then continue underneath Katoomba Falls and up around the corner to the Scenic Railway lower platform.

The Scenic Railway platform: packed with the usual herd of touristy morons, every week they're there but if I get there before lunch there's only 1/4 what you see here.

The Scenic Railway platform: packed with the usual herd of touristy morons, every week they’re there but if I get there before lunch there’s only 1/4 what you see here.

DSCN2000

I leave the last stretch of muddy trail and start walking across the railway platform, instantly aware of the sound my heels make as they impact the wooden decking (a steady thunk-thunk-thunk. I like it. Anytime I’m on a hollow floor I find myself adjusting my walk to keep it steady; rhythmic like a drum-beat. I can’t help it. I wonder if women do the same thing when they’re wearing heels) and, just like that, I’m surrounded by the first human-beings I’ve seen in almost a fortnight.

Dozens of tourists of mixed ethnicity huddled in groups of four or five: giggling, laughing, showing one another their photos, taking selfies with the Jamison Valley as a backdrop; some are trying their hardest to cajole their useless partners to leave the  platform and actually walk a trail (C’mon it won’t kill you! Let’s just have a look!); while others just stand around like they have no idea what to do now they’re down here.

Although these people mean nothing to me at all – just moving wallpaper – I still get a warm rush of excitement being back among humans again  though I keep the fact well concealed behind the most contemptuous smirk I can organize.

I light myself another smoke – paying no regard to how they feel about it – then scoff at them all scuffling around the platform. Many – having spent a small fortune adorning themselves head-to-toe in the latest mountain-themed clothing – now show no inclination to leave the railway platform at all; don’t want to get their new hiking boots dirty perhaps.

Cute little Asian girls dressed like fluorescent fluffy toys bounce up and down on the spot with excitment – furry animal-ear headbands bopping along with them – while their equally tiny boyfriends ignore them completely.

The boyfriends are far too busy being seen snapping photos with their ten-inch telephoto lenses; lenses which – as we all know – are a good six-inches longer than their little asian dicks will ever be.

I finish my smoke, toss it, then head down to the runway to stand at one of the gates while I wait for the train to come and take me away from all this craziness; these fucking ultra-cute Asian girls wiggling around oh man, yes yes I would love me summa that. I can smell them.

I begin to drool. Oh man.

Licking the spit from the corner of my mouth, I continue watching them hopping around: bunny ears waggling, beautiful porcelain skin, hair like silk. I feel a very strong urge to howl at them, but control myself.

Stupid fucking train come on get me outta here! Noooow!

Leaning on the gate in front of me I stare at the empty rail track and just as another soft drift of candy-kitten-flavored perfume floats down to torture me further, the train arrives.

KSSSSHK! SSSSSSH! KSHK!

Grabbing hold of the gate I wait impatiently for the morons who came down to alight the fucking vehicle so I can get on. While I’m watching them climb out, I scan the group and see several hotties in among the uglies, not that I care much at this point: I’m about two minutes away from being up top again, so I fix my eyes upon the trains passenger door and ignore everything else.

The gate swings back at me and the train’s vertical carriage doors slide upwards with a loud hissing sound. I toss my bag on the carriage seat and get in.

Now, I won’t even bother trying to explain what a thrill it is to ride the Scenic Railway because I just don’t have that many sardonic, cynical, mocking words in my vocabulary and sarcasm can only be stretched so thin. The ride is only two-hundred meters, costs $16 each time you board the stupid thing and Indiana Jones music blares from the internal speakers.

More than that though, the railway itself was built way back in the early 1800s for the purpose of quickly moving mining ore and other resources up the cliff-face. It was build by convicts and poverty-stricken workers – God only knows how many would have died in the construction of such a huge, mangled peice of machinery – and yet nowhere in the entire railway compound is there any mention of that whatsoever. So what should be an awesome peice of Australian history was bought years ago by a fat, rich businessman and turned into a tacky amusement park ride. I’ve ranted at the staff about it, but they don’t much care; it pays their mortgages. I don’t much like the railway at all, but after almost four hours of uphill hiking I like the thought of finishing with Furbers Steps decidedly less.

There are stacks of these inside the Scenic World "compound" that almost reach the roof. Kangaroo too!

There are stacks of these inside the Scenic World “compound” that almost reach the roof. Kangaroo too!

Fare paid, I stop at the ATM to withdraw money before leaving Scenic World and it’s ocean of fluffy animals behind, then head outside and wait at the bus stop for the obvious. As luck would have it, however, there’s a taxi just pulled-into the bus-stop and so – for another $8 – I score an instant ride to town instead of the usual hour-long wait for the bus.

I tell the driver to drop me off just past halfway-up the main street, talk shit with him on the way into town then pay him, wish him a good day and get out.

I've grown pretty well nonchalant about leeches now. This is what they look like after being stuck to my leg all the way up the mountain: fat with my blood. I don't kill the ones that are on me when I get back up - simply toss them in the bushes to breed.

I’ve grown pretty well nonchalant about leeches now. This is what they look like after being stuck to my leg all the way up the mountain: fat with my blood. I don’t kill the ones that are on me when I get back up – simply toss them in the bushes to breed.

And here we are; my day can begin.

Trying to describe the feeling of exultation at finally arriving back amid shops, people and civilization would take more words than I have time for right now, but I’ll give it a bash.

It’s like being reborn every week.

The smells of town: real coffee, freshly baked bread, fried chicken, smoke and women’s perfume all try to squeeze their way past one other vying for your noses attention and although half a dozen smells hit you at once, you can still discern and isolate every individual scent.

Your legs, having already scaled a mountain and spent the last hour or so resting, are pulsing with energy and feel like they’re strapped with twice the strength they had a few hours earlier.

Your eyes track and follow everything from happy-looking dogs to beautiful women and food you see people eating: you stare at everything you want, and when some dood gives you a look because you’re staring at his woman you just go right on staring at her; you don’t give a fuck. You smell every female that walks past, gaze at the side of their necks and you know that even though you won’t exchange a word with one another, like any other woman on earth she wants you to notice her: she wants you to be attracted to her even though you’ll never do more than walk past each other on the street. It’s the most base, animalistic compliment you can give a woman and you don’t even have to utter a single word.

Your ears hear every sound, and pretty soon I must say, that gets pretty fucking annoying. Hearing isn’t like vision and scent, and the sounds in most towns are just too much. The drone of cars humming up and down the street, the squeal of tires, the rattle of the coke truck driving past, the ear-drum-splitting shriek of some screaming baby, and the white-noise caused by a street full of people talking are all sounds I can do without.

Starting where the taxi drops me off, I work my way down the steep hill of Katoomba St – stopping at each shop to get whatever I need (smokes, a couple of real coffees, food, and anything else I feel like) – before heading further down to the backpackers: to check myself in for a few nights. I go up to my room, shove my pack in an empty locker, lock it and then leave the room.

I’ll go back out to shop for a few more things before the day is done but really, why describe in detail every little supermarket sojourn for the remainder of the afternoon? Suffice to say I’ve been out for groceries and wine, then returned to the backpackers.

Heading into the kitchen to get a couple of real, actual ground coffees in me, the first person I run into it’s my doodbro – Nishal. He’s Nepalese, and flies from Australia to Nepal and back depending on the season, though the fact he speaks English as well as anyone else I know complete with near-on Australian accent, tells me he’s spent more time here than with his yeti relatives, as of late.

Anyway having interrupted him eating his lunch on my way to the kitchen he walks in to wash his plates and tells me he’s going camping soon.

“Bro”, I tell him, “you’ve been saying you’re ‘going camping’ every few weeks for the past six fuckin months.”

“Noo this time I am”, he grins, “I am.”

“Sure you are”, I raise my eyebrows, “This time you really gunna do it, yeeeah”.

He tells me he’s planning a solo fishing expedition around the Cox’s River, and – as he carries another plate of food into the dining room, places it on the table and sits down – that he wants camping advice from me, the Bushman, before the big day rolls-around.

I raise both eyebrows at once and agree, “Sure, I’ll write you a list of shit you need” then, pausing a moment, feel somewhat compelled to point-out that the area he plans to camp probably isn’t the best, naye isn’t the safest place to be going alone; I remind him that all the people who come back from camping in the Megalong come back either bashed, sabotaged or otherwise harassed.

I’ve heard it from a half dozen people and half of those were only staying at a backpackers in town because – they said – they had been driven-out of the campsites by fuckin half-gone crazies. The last verbal report I got was from that Virgo chick a few weeks ago. She’s since told me that I’m not permitted to use her precious name at all, so we’ll just call her Lassie.

In fact, now that I think about it, there’s something strikes me very suspicious about our Lassie, who not only refuses to engage with any social networking sites, but goes as far as to insist I omit her name from my own private little island on the ‘net.

The only other time I’ve seen someone exhibit such a level of secrecy, it was to keep a plethora of friends – mostly male – from discovering one another’s existence; Splash a little stripper on that thin veneer of scattered friendships, and each ‘friend’ equated to no more than a resource to be used by the woman in question for whatever little he might have to give, but in exchange for what?

Of course that was a different person, and I’m just floating thoughts around here, allowing my focus to drift a little; random speculation for my own amusement, call it that. Maybe it’s the faint echo of behavioral similarities shared between Lassie and a certain Chinese hellcat whose name we won’t dignify with print. If I’m right, then what a disgusting way to eke-out an existence: I have more respect for the leeches I pick off myself.

I’m sure I’m wrong though: just amusing myself and although my tone might appear a touch vitriolic, I do genuinely like her on whatever level.

Usually when you meet anyone, there’s a void of familiarity that can only be softened and filled by spending time with them, but this woman felt instantly comfortable from the introduction onwards and although she’s yapped about my being interested more in the fact she was born just two or three days after me, I got the urge to nail her – with questions – well before I knew her starsign.

So Lassie reckons one of her resourc.. sorry, ‘friends’ has been repeatedly harassed while camping and although it allegedly happened closer to Blackheath, the Megalong Valley still covers that area. Of course, her friend could simply have been harassed because he’s a weirdo everyone hates.

Waaaait! Wait just a second. In just the few minutes it’s taken me to spew-forth these last few paragraphs, I’ve already come to an epiphany – a very minor one at that: all the people who *claim* some kind of “violent attacks” have taken place in the Megalong Valley are, in one way or another, mental. If I excluded all the stories of bad things happening made by people who obviously have some kind of brain defect why, I wouldn’t have one single, solid incident and so I guess the Megalong is fine, Nisha.

Anyway, *refocusing* – I’m standing in the dining room talking to my Nepalese broski about his camping/fishing trip, while he sits and eats whatever he’s eating.

We got to discussing women and one way or another my manly, muskrat scent entered the conversation. I told him I like the way my groin smells after a few days out in the bush: a good, sweet, musky smell.

“I should harvest the stuff: Scrape some off each time before I clean myself.”, I continue, “Use it as cologne or something, maybe mix in summathat orange waxy shit the Possums leak from their chests and stick it in a little container. Pheromones-in-a-bottle, Dood I’ll be beating the women off with a stick.”

Nisha grins, “I don’t know man, what if the Kangaroos rape you?”

“Welllll, I’ve never once seen a Kangaroo out there. But I’ll tell ya; Some of them she-wallabies, woo-hoo, they give me the foxiest looks”, I watch him shovel more food in his mouth and start chewing.

My favorite she-wallaby demonstrates the "come to bed eyes".

My favorite she-wallaby demonstrates the “come to bed eyes”.

“Next time I’m out there, I’ll rub myself over good with my own grime, some possum grease, maybe a bitta rats piss: Go score me summa that hot she-wallaby lovin’. Have us some little half-human babies hoppin’ all ’round the bush. Man, can you imagine that?”

Nishal’s mouth is full of food and I can see he’s got his lips pursed so tightly they’re white; cheeks moving in and out like one of those weird puffer-fish as he tries valiantly to stifle the laughter that threatens to jettison his chewed-up lunch across the table.

Then, from directly behind I hear, “Yuck.”

I turn around to find what’s probably best described as a giant potato with hair, sitting at a table hunched over a bowl slurping-up something sloppy.

“Who invited you into the conversation?”, I raise my eyebrows and ask her.

She stops suckin’ her slop long enough to waggle her stupid mop head, like one of those annoying dashboard dogs, then goes right back to pawing at her bowl.

Eyebrows still raised, I turn around and frown at Nishal, who had stopped laughing now, and tell him I’m going outside for a smoke. On the way to the back door I stop again to tell him that whichever tent he ends-up buying the Rats will just chew holes in it, so cheap is fine.

Then I tell him about my experience with Rat problems, and the easiest solution I’ve found thus far:

“Wait till they’ve climbed up into the tent-inner”, I tell him, “on the mesh part of the roof where you can see their little hairy asses, then give em a good sharp uppercut”.

Having taken a moment to demonstrate a composed version of this vermin-vanquishing technique, I carry on, “They squeal when you hit em good, but they don’t come back in a hurry. It’s the only way to deal with ’em Bro; you *can’t* be nice to bush-rats; they’ll be in your tent hoppin’ all over you every night, chewing into you’re food, shitting all over everything.”

At this, the giant potato mumbles another “Yuck” then waddles out the dining room toward the reception desk: doubtlessly to complain about that yucky man with the yucky sunglasses down there yucking-up the dining room, and I finally go out and have my smoke.

That first night saw me sit and talk with every unpartnered woman in the building bar one – well, more than one if you count the fat chicks, but since I’m no chubby-chaser, I’ve excluded them by default – a weird-looking German blonde too bland to bother with. Looked like one of those cabbage-patch creatures, sunken eyes, dimples all over her fuckin head and although she wasn’t fat, her figure was short and blocky, so I didn’t even bother.

I spent about an hour engaged in a deeply philosophical debate with a blonde English girl about why dogs are superior to cats, and – after she’d told me how fascinating and amazing science is to her – I opined that as far as I’m concerned science is not much more than the intellectual equivalent of a child’s play-set: we get it out, ponder how everything fits together, then congratulate ourselves on the solving of another of life’s apparent mysteries with yet one more theory just waiting to be proven wrong.

Many would argue that the phone I’m using to compose this journal is all the miraculous proof I should require that science is too awesome to question, even though the so-called heart of science is rational, critical thinking, not “trust scientists” and although I’m thankful technology has given me such a kick-arse peice of gadgetry, generations of scientists still haven’t discovered a way to end the common cold.

“There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.”; Now, I’m no student of Shakespearean prose; my literary tastes lean more on the contemporary side, but I concur with Hamlet on this: science is arrogant, intellectual wankery; a house built upon the kind of cracked foundations provided by the exclusive, narrow-minded, blinkered-view of colorless logic. There are indeed more things in heaven and earth, than science.

I’m getting distracted.

So after yapping with this cute but not especially attractive blonde, we concluded with the usual social niceties, “It’s been a pleasure to meet you.”, (“Oh no, the pleasure was all mine.”), yah-da-yah all that bullshit, she states that’s it’s past her bedtime, we both say goodnight and her and her friend (who’d spent the entire conversation sitting on the lounge opposite me, staring into her laptop and saying nothing at all) packed-up what was theirs within the vicinity and headed upstairs to their room.

I sit there a few moments – basking in that satisfying post-conversation-glow – but quickly grow bored, and decide that the small group of chummy-looking tourists sitting around the fire look as bored as I am. I grab my bottle of wine, my glass and my tepid cup of tea and invite myself to their sleepy little gathering.

Having walked the ten-or-so steps to the fire in the center of the room, I grab a slat-backed wooden dining chair and spin it 180° so it faces the new group, place my stuff on the table behind me then sit and survey the three people sitting here: a 30-something middle-eastern woman not worth looking at, a very beautiful English woman with blonde hair and an English guy sporting a shaved head and mildly retarded facial expression. (I managed to ignore the dood most of the following hour: though he seemed nice enough I just don’t give two shits about any other male on the planet).

I kick off the introduction informing all three that the blonde chick I’d spent the last hour or so talking to had abandoned me, and I was bored, “so here we are.” I finish my cup of tea (now cold), pour myself another glass of wine, set the bottle down and wait for the question.

Predictably enough, it doesn’t take more than a few seconds for the question to be asked and although it’s often worded differently, it’s always the same basic query, “What are you doing in the Mountains?”. The question is always the same – one everyone asks everyone else – and for me the answer’s always the same, “I live in the rainforest ten days a fortnight.”

Now, back at the start of all this I loved telling people all about my feral escapades in the valley. Most people are truly fascinated by the practicalities, the stories and the cutesy animal pics. They barrage me with questions, (“What do you eat out there?”, “What do you do?”, “Doesn’t it get lonely?”, “Don’t you get bored?”) and up until a few months ago I loved giving the answers – weaving my way through colourful stories that meandered around the point, before finally answering the question in a roundabout way.

But that was then.

Now, although I still like the way the “I live in the rainforest” line gets me into any conversation with new tourists, I groan internally at the questions that follow. They’re always the same you see, and although each tourist asks with the energetic enthusiasm of someone who hasn’t heard the story before, I’ve just about told it all a million times; so many times in fact, I find it difficult to even sound mildly interested in my own stories.

And now, sitting there by the log fire, the moment I’d told this group how I spend most my time in the jungle, the beautiful blonde (who was slouched down in the sofa until then) sits bolt upright facing me; gleaming with interest – and another round of questioning begins.

Twenty minutes later, I’ve answered all of the pressing questions the beautiful blonde had asked, along with a peppering of inquiries from the middle-eastern woman and the bald guy: who both seemed so tired of waiting for the beautiful blonde to stop for breath, well they just asked their questions right over the top of her.

Ahh, I think to myself, Now the rainforest bullshit is finally out the way we can talk about something *interesting* and while there certainly was some interesting conversation to be had, it hadn’t held my interest very long, and so again pretty soon I found myself bored with their dross, mature bantering.

In my defense, I did try to spice it up: interjecting momentarily to enlighten them to the scientific fact that men ejaculate a greater volume of semen when they’re doing fat chicks than skinny ones, but the middle-eastern woman said that wasn’t a real thing, that I was talking shit ’cause of the wine.

Anyway before long I figured it was about time for a smoke and went outside again. When I left them they were yawning their way through a comparison of places in the world they’d still like to go and visit.

It was upon my return to the living area – having finished my smoke and come back inside – I saw the two English chicks that served as a good time-sink the next two nights. I had left my bag of prawn crackers by the lounge I was sitting on earlier, you see, and a second bottle of wine sat on the floor beside that lounge.

To cut a long story slightly shorter, I grabbed the bottle, filled the glasses of these two women I’d not even spoken to, went through to the kitchen to finish my fried-rice then came back and sat down with them; on the lounge opposite. After the initial greetings and introductions they said they’d heard me telling the beautiful blonde about how I live in the valley, but didn’t want to just invite themselves into the conversation.

I topped-up the two English chicks glasses then my own in turn, put my feet on the coffee table and looked at them.

They both thanked me for the wine.

“Well”, I explain, “I’ve already had a bottle to myself, and I’ll probably start to get a bit unpopular around here if I down two bottles in a row.”

Just like in the earlier conversation with the cute blonde who liked cats, before me sat a blonde and a brunette. The blonde did all the taking, while the brunette just vegetated.

“So come-on ‘den tell us”, the blonde asks, “woss’ it like livin in tha jungle? ..”

Ugh.

“Well, I love my Possums”, I tell her, “but the novelty of living in a tent for so lon..”

“..how many Possums are there? Have you seen any Kohah-las? Wha’ abowt Kang-gah-roos? ..”

“No”, I gulp-down a mouthful of wine, “..No Koalas. Wallabies, no Kangaroos”.

“..what ‘bowt eem-yoos? There any eem-yoos where you camp? ..”

I sigh, “Nup”.

“..and doze li’el spiky finks? Wha’re’ey cawwwlled Franny, like li’el spy-nee badgers? ..”

Franny shakes her head.

“Echidnas”, I affirm that yes, I have seen a few of them, but not many.

The Q&A session continues like this of course; with the blonde shooting questions at me; her brunette friend waking-up every now and then to momentarily involve herself on the discussion, before examining her lap some more.

“..must’a seen a lot’ve snakes”, the blonde asks, “what’s the biggest snake you’ve seen down there? ..”

Now, I have to say that for a moment I racked my brain for a clever, snake-related pun that would express to her that I am indeed hung like a horse; that my penis is a thing to behold. But my brain just wasn’t feeling very snappy at this point, and I knew full-well that the little voice urging me to say something was a drunk little voice, and that letting such a thing plonk from my lips would probably be delivered poorly and sound, a bit creepy.

“Snakes’re all gone”, I told her and then – continuing the non-pervert version of my answer – explained to her that in the entire year I’ve been out there, I’ve only seen two snakes and the only reason I saw those was they happened to be basking in the middle of the dirt fire trail on days I happened to be walking to the creek to fill my water bottles.

The blonde went on asking questions for a while – in decreasingly rapid succession, until I showed her some photos of the Possums, the Goannas, Bush-rats and a few baby Currawong pics, at which point I believe the extra glass and a half of red had slowed her down significantly. I’m quite sure they’d already had their share before they ever ran into me that night and although neither looked particularly pissed, they woulda been had I bought a four-litre cask, instead just the two bottles: one of which I’d already drunk myself.

I should’ve bought the four-litre flask, really: I would’ve been drunk enough to tell her my dick is the size of her forearms, and she might’ve been drunk enough to want proof. Regrettably, that kind of outward sleaze doesn’t come naturally to me, and – although my brain is perfectly familiar with the usual spectrum of disgusting, beastly male thoughts, they very near never squeeze their way out past my prim & proper frontal lobe.

And so the wine was drunk, conversation was pattered back and forth, and finally – just before 1:00am – the party came to an end. We all said goodnight, then they went to their room while I downed a coffee and some juice before heading to bed myself. The blonde was cute, if somewhat crazy; the brunette attractive, but unjustifiably dull. Both were alright I suppose but the blonde chick – Janet, that’s her name yeah – provided all of the amusement.

The first day back in town is always a big one.

Although days 2 and 3 had their share of pretty amusing anecdotes and I’d love to scribe them all down, I’m running out of time here and down to my last lithium ion battery pack; even that is down to 45% and so I’m just gunna have to truncate the next two days and nights into a tight little ball that’ll be pretty void of detail compared to the post up till now.

Wednesday I took it easy: milling around, eating, all that. Later in the afternoon I walked to the top of town and brought my little 20ltr daypack back with a change of clothes in it, and that night – having already spoken to the English duo, given them some possum fur then showed them one of my paintings – headed down to the TV room at around midnight to find Tim Burtons version of Alice in Wonderland on DVD spinning away. A Dutch-sounding chick was in there watching it alone so I showed her my painting of Alice, explaining that although Burtons release gave me the idea for the painting I’d never got around to seeing it. So we sat and watched it. Wasn’t very good compared to his other films – Corpse Bride being my favorite – but I managed to sit there and shut my mouth most of the movie, so I didn’t ruin it with a long-winded critique as the movie rolled.

This is the painting: I've actually finished the dress since taking this photo - whenever it was - for Facebook.

This is the painting: I’ve actually finished the dress since taking this photo – whenever it was – for Facebook.

When the credits finally rolled, I went outside for a smoke; leaving my painting of Alice in Wonderland draped on one of the sofas back in the TV room. A few moments later, the Dutch chick came out looking for me – she’d brought the painting back to me.

She told me it was beautiful.

Moments seemed to crawl by as I thought of something clever to say in response to that. She just stood there looking at me, no doubt reading from my facial expression that my brain was digging for that perfectly convoluted response.

“Thank you”, I finally respond.

Admittedly, I left the painting in there for her to have a look at (viewing any artwork is better when you’re alone: you don’t feel compelled to react in a certain way, you can just look at the peice) but didn’t expect her to bring it outside to me. That was nice of her.

Pity I didn’t have any of these on-hand to show her:

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I *gotta* find somewhere I can paint: somewhere quiet; with a nice, decent sized backyard; big enough for a vegetable garden, maybe a cat or dog. Mm. Soon.

On Thursday, I walk onto Katoomba railway station, see a group of cops standing twenty odd meters away, then go right ahead and start having a smoke. There aren’t any no smoking signs you see, and since I was standing in the open air, clear view of the cloudy sky above me, I figured why not? But almost as soon as I lit the smoke all four walk over and start yapping at me about whatever. I spent the next half hour debating my right to smoke in the open air, only to be given a $300 fine anyway. “You think I woulda started smoking right in front of four police officers”, I distinctly remember asking them, “if I thought it was a finable offense?”

The "scene of the crime" Katoomba Station :)

The “scene of the crime” Katoomba Station 🙂

Apparently it’s an offense to even *be on* a train platform without a valid ticket: trespassing they reckon. You can be fined $200 just for waiting at the station for someone. That’s a whole other story, though and one I don’t have time to explain in its entirety. I’m truncating, you realize.

Thursday night was busy: I had to pack all my food for the next outing, wash and dry all my clothes and shower before finally settling down for dinner.

Friday afternoon, I walk in the local police station like I do every week to hire an emergency beakon but this time – I got a cute brunette cop today at reception – explained this ridiculous fine and queried her as to whether there’d be any point contesting it. While I’m filling-out the paperwork, she tells me I can contest it all I want, but I’ll be on camera smoking in a non-smoking area, and it’ll probably just cost me more for legal fees.

Of course, you would say that, she-cop

I tell her then how much I’ll miss my Possums once this is all over – showing her a photo of Daisy – then point-out to her that it’s probably illegal to feed native animals in a national park.

“You wanna fine me for that too while I’m here?”, I ask her.

“No, I’ll pass thanks”, she replies, “I’m just worried about what they’ll do when you’re not there anymore”

I frown at her: thinking that’s kinda sweet, before grabbing the beakon, telling her to have a nice day, and walking out.

If only the transit cops were half as nice as the local ones.

The Possums

Bobbi I think. Guido usually bites the camera when it's that close.

Bobbi I think. Guido usually bites the camera when it’s that close.

At this point, I don’t even know how long this journal entry is anymore but with three days to go and only half a battery-pack left; I simply don’t have time to finish the section about how the Possums are doing. They’re all doing fine, chatting and fighting every night. Bobbi – now in her latter stages of pregnancy – had started kicking Guidos furry butt around the place which is quite the role reversal and one Guido seems utterly perplexed about.

So accustomed to beating shit out of Bobbi every night, Guido now gets trounced by her and then just stands there – astonished – looking like he’s got no idea how things got to be so bad between the two of them.

Already a new Mum, Bobbi gets right-on doooown with the new "Healthy Options" menu.

Already a new Mum, Bobbi gets right-on doooown with the new “Healthy Options” menu.

Guido and one of the smaller Bobuck males: The body language screams out what's about to happen here. It does too, about two seconds after this photo was taken.

Guido and one of the smaller Bobuck males: The body language screams out what’s about to happen here. It does too, about two seconds after this photo was taken.

Having taught that little male in the photo above exactly who runs the show around here, Guido stomps back over for more crackers.

Having taught that little male in the photo above exactly who runs the show around here, Guido stomps back over for more crackers.

Little Daisy. Although she tries to stay out of Guidos way, she never backs down when he does come at her, even though she's only half his size.

Little Daisy. Although she tries to stay out of Guidos way, she never backs down when he does come at her, even though she’s only half his size.

Last night, I saw with my own eyes a tiny pink paw momentarily poke out of Bobbis pouch, but a few moments later – as I quickly reached inside to grab the camera –  something spooked all the Possums and they flew-up the nearest trees. It was a creepy sight, that little pink paw, but it hopefully means it shouldn’t be too long before the baby – Joey, technically – leaves the pouch and starts riding around on mums back at night.

Hope I get to see it and – much more importantly – get a photo or two of the little pink thing, though I’m not too sure about what an ultra-bright xenon flash would do to the eyes of a newborn Joey.

*********

Outing #30 – Water Water Everywhere
4.5 Guidos (2 ratings)

Jason
Animal-loving cleaner with a parrot.

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