This Small and Lonely Planet

by Ant Stone on March 15, 2010

in Australia

‘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 GrantourismoHomeAway 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.

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{ 16 comments… read them below or add one }

lara dunston March 15, 2010 at 8:16 pm

Love it! Wonderful stuff!!

Thanks for entering – and good luck!
.-= lara dunston´s last blog ..Weekend Eggs: the Jerez edition =-.

Matt March 15, 2010 at 9:56 pm

This is a sad story, but it made me smile. Sad because it reminded me of the random moments that happen when you ‘let go’ which mostly happened when I was travelling (which I am no longer)

Then there was the Reb moment, which made me smile because she was so right ‘you are still an idiot!” 🙂

V.Nice post.
.-= Matt´s last blog ..Drink For A Cure – [March 13th] Help Raise Money For Cancer By Going To The Bar =-.

lara dunston March 17, 2010 at 1:05 am

Ant, sorry to be a pain, but would you link specifically to this post (rather than to the site URL)

That way it will show up in the Trackbacks list at the end of the Competition post, making it nice and easy for the judges to work their way down the list of entries and click their way through to each post.

.-= lara dunston´s last blog ..Flamenco Guitar 101 =-.

Nomadic Matt March 17, 2010 at 6:22 am

great entry! good luck in the contest!
.-= Nomadic Matt´s last blog ..Nomadic Matt’s Travel Secrets =-.

Ant March 17, 2010 at 9:04 am

Thanks guys — here’s hoping. I could do with a flash holiday home, if only to pretend for a moment that I’m the Lord of the Manor (instead of a dorm room or tent)

Vi @ Travel Tips March 18, 2010 at 6:04 pm

Nice story, good luck in the competition!
.-= Vi @ Travel Tips´s last blog ..What to do in Sydney in March =-.

Ant March 19, 2010 at 1:56 am

Thanks Vi — it’s such an exciting contest! They’re offering great prizes, you should have a crack at it.

Meeting Gary was a real highlight of my time in Australia. There’s so much more to him than one can fit into 500-words!

Carlo March 21, 2010 at 10:24 am

Great post Ant, best of luck!
.-= Carlo´s last blog ..20100220-cuba5 =-.

Ant March 21, 2010 at 11:15 am

Cheers Carlos, I believe you’re in the mix too. Good luck.

jessiev March 21, 2010 at 10:16 pm

what fun – these stories, the ones where life DOESN’T go smoothly, is the essence of travel, for sure. 🙂 good uck!
.-= jessiev´s last blog ..Musical Superstars in Orlando =-.

Ant March 22, 2010 at 3:44 am

You’re absolutely right, Jessiev. Travellers much prefer the tales where they nearly died, to the day they wandered through a botanic garden. Thanks for the comment. Come back again soon.

Ashley Hooker March 23, 2010 at 4:04 am

really fun writing. i look forward to reading more! good luck, ashley

Ant March 23, 2010 at 4:40 am

Thanks Ashley. I’m pleased you liked it, have a flick through the backlog you might find more stuff you like on a similar slant.

Lisa @ The World is Calling March 29, 2010 at 5:07 am

Ant, what a fun, serendipitous experience! Thanks for sharing.
.-= Lisa @ The World is Calling´s last blog ..View on a Venetian Neighborhood =-.

Gazza September 23, 2011 at 4:18 pm

The secret of life is sharing experiences with friends in your favorite places …whether you are on a train, walking in the street or hitching a ride on the side of the road…unless you stop, look them in the eye, smile and say “G’Day” you may never realise your best mate may be passing you by and thus missing a great time to enjoy life…
don’t just take opportunities…make them…

It was great meeting you both on the side of the road….

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