OUT BACK AND OUT OF TOUCH

When the third letter landed on the door mat my father raised an eyebrow.

He had done the same with the first, but that had an inscription ‘Australian Traffic Police’ on it. On opening this first and later second letter he could relax safe in the knowledge his third son was speeding around the outback of Australia.

In 2004, after 5 years of saving and planning I and my best friend set off around the world.

This was at a time when everything was becoming big business on the World Wide Web. A time of ‘email me’ was the preferred route of communication and texting was in infancy.

In the back waters of deepest darkest Ross on Wye the internet was slowly gaining an audience. I had set up an email a few months before setting sail but didn’t have a mobile phone so communication was going to be old fashioned postcards and letters.

After a testing time of successfully traversing around Asia and circumnavigating around the lower part of Thailand where at the time was reported to be a terrorism surplus, we made it to Singapore, not dissimilar to the towers of London and sure enough we found a bar selling Strongbow.

Brewed not 16miles form our small town in the UK it had followed us to the shiny glass and metal futuristic city of Singapore.

Our next stop was Melbourne on the lower coast of Australia in mid winter.

We had heard a great deal about the ‘Great Ocean Road’ and had plans of lying on the beaches, taking in the surf and enjoying the rugged coastline that the Antarctic Ocean had forged so many years ago.

It didn’t stop raining.

Once we had picked up a car we drove, stopping only to take a few pictures of the fallen arch of the famous ‘London Bridge’ monument and then again to pour water into our engine.

Another story tells of our blown head gasket.

After spending time in rainy Victoria we were ready for some sun.

Our route was taking us into South Australia, to a balloon party in Mount Gambia, through the botanical gardens of Adelaide and then into the road train territory of the Australian Bush.

Internet Cafes were a think of the future in modern cities, in the outback of OZ, a cafe itself was a new development.

We left Adelaide travelling north on Stuart Highway, a relatively new road considering it wasn’t surfaced until the Americans arrived in the heat of WWII.

Shortly after leaving Port Germein, which was once the proud home of the southern hemispheres longest pier at 1.6kms, our first road sign read Alice Springs (the next town of significance) 1224kms. The sign after this read, Kangaroos 1223kms.

The chance of communication to the outside world was going to be sparse.

With a telephone call from Singapore two weeks earlier we were feeling in no need to contact our parents and so the road opened up before us.

We knew nothing about the hidden speed cameras that would tell of our progress to the waiting world.

With a worried sigh of relief my father opened the first two letters plotting our journey from Singapore, his last known point of contact.

As I continue to travel he calls me every week.

We didn’t know that too much beer, too little water and the Brisbane sun were going to turn our last few days in Australia into a nightmare for my father.

Fainting against the toilet door after throwing up all night had brought me some strange respect in the hostel we were staying at.

After help from various people my best friend managed to get me to the hospital.

Sipping water as he drove me to the Brisbane Hospital I collapse on the route from the car park to reception only to be saved from further injury by my friend diving under me so I could fall gracefully upon his lap.

After various tests and three saline solutions I am an enigma and am told that I am safe to fly.

The only problem with that was I was addicted to strawberry flavoured milk. As readily available as a pint of milk in the UK and to get rid of the taste of hospital I was eager to get my hands on one.

With regret I chose to wear a pair of white cotton trousers for our flight to New Zealand.

Luckily the elderly Lady next to me chose a dress of pink summer flowers.

Just after takeoff I look across the aisle to my companion and ask if he has a sick bag, but before he can pass it to me I unselfishly share the strawberry milkshake with my neighbours.

The result was a seat position not advertised in any brochure.

Upon landing I am wheeled through customs whilst my friend deals with our rucksacks, passport control and officials.

After a lengthy discussion about the use of drugs we are united in the back of an ambulance.

Our busy few days in Australia before embarking on our flight had not given us much time to look for transport routes into the city of Christchurch, so after landing in the middle of the night, the waiting ambulance proved to be a life saver in more ways than one.

And although healthcare is free in Australia and New Zealand to UK citizens, the ambulance ride is $40NZ.

The letter fell upon my Fathers door mat a few weeks later. Receiving this letter after no contact with a travelling child is a scare that I would not like to go through myself.  I can only thank those unnamed flight attendants, the staff at both hospitals, apologise to the lady in the summer dress and embrace my best friend who looked after me constantly.

Now my father calls me every week, regardless of where I am. He could hear my phone ring this Christmas as I returned home and spent the holidays drinking with him.

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One comment on “OUT BACK AND OUT OF TOUCH

  1. […] In 2004 I travelled through Thailand with the same friend who saved me from breaking my nose in the hospital car park of Brisbane, Australia. […]

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