‘You’re an idiot’, scorned the umbrella. ‘Twice — twice you’ve done this!’ it squawked. I stood still, watching rain spiral through my curly hair while taking sadistic comfort from the sky’s cold grip on my shoulders.
Five kilometres away our ute was stuck fast on the mulched bank of a quiet dirt road in the Shannon National Park, in Australia’s far southwest. We’d been lured there by the over-excited commentary of a Lonely Planet Travelcast we’d been playing through a cheap FM-transmitter.
In it, a local man was reaching orgasm describing his local neighbourhood. ‘The big forest, the rivers, mountains, the waterways — you can do everything and anything in this special little place. It’s the jewel of the southwest! It’s the bellybutton: North Pole, South Pole. Who’s in the middle? Walpole!’
Road trips in Australia, are a journey of misguided adventures. The roads are so quiet, that the moment you hear someone getting enthusiastic about anything, you blindly hurl yourself off the tarmac, and go desperately in search of it.
Unfortunately for us, I’d pulled over in exactly the wrong place to listen to the tourist radio extolling the mysteries of the burls and branches of the towering karri trees.
After three hours of fruitless thumbing, an over-sized ute responded to my disjointed SOS dance. ‘Your go’ snapped the umbrella. I plodded over and explained that my girlfriend was livid and wanted to castrate me.
The man listened patiently, then jumped out to search for a towrope in the back of his truck. He was perfectly bald, fit looking and to my surprise, he was bare-footed. His feet became a source of peace. I knew the umbrella had seen them.
‘Nope. Sorry. But let’s go take a look’ chirped the bald-headed, barefooted man. We squeezed into the cab of his ute, and drove to the scene of our calamity. There was something about his voice. Something warming. Something familiar.
Within twenty minutes, I had reverted to my true form of Feeble Boy, in the presence of a Real Man. Somehow, he’d hurtled our ute through the forest, narrowly missing huge trunks and smashing their devoted saplings. At some point, we landed back on the dirt road.
‘I know you!’ I yelped, as I shuffled back to an upright position. ‘You loves trees, and think Walpole is the Bellybutton of the World!’
I explained that prior to that blotch of stupidity occurring, we’d been listening to the topical Lonely Planet Travelcast.
He lent forward, and flicked through the Lonely Planet guidebook on our dashboard, ‘That’s me’ he said proudly, ‘Gary Muir — of WOW Wilderness!’
Moments later, Gary extended an invitation to Relaxo Rancho — his home, in the nearby hills where we would stay for the following two nights. Warmed by stories of his sepia-toned family history, and fuelled by home–cooked meals and teapots encircled by his family and friends.
As we left to embark on a fresh adventure, the umbrella came down and she smiled, ‘You’re still an idiot.’
This post has been entered into the Grantourismo-HomeAway Travel Writing Competition and you can listen to the Lonely Planet Travelcast, Valley of the Giants featuring the most excellent, Gary Muir by following this link to the Apple iTunes Store.