Travel trip #1. Always sit at the bar.

“I’ll have a scotch and coke, thanks. And a story.”

People who sit at the bar after ordering their drink or meal are either locals or travellers who are up for a chat. Both are a source of information, adventure, amusement or frustration.

I met the owner of the Tatts Hotel in Winton 18 months ago when I sat at his bar. Three strangers, also bar-sitting travellers, and the boss ended up having a rather large night.

Paul immediately recognised me on my return this week. He’s lost 12 kilos since I last saw him so he wasn’t as familiar to me. He quickly sidled up to me and the chatting began, right where we left off. About 60, he’s the best publican I’ve ever met – he’s a ‘people man’. The pub’s steaks are easily the best pub steaks in the country, his staff the most efficient, the pub is character-filled, and his friendly, welcoming ways earns every repeat customer he gets. And there are a lot of them. Myself included.

He buried his wife, aged 56, just a couple of years ago. Always an active, smart, worldly chap, he continues to travel and pursue his hard core extreme interests, dodgy knees ‘n all.

Paul’s just returned from a caving expedition in Borneo. He didn’t see daylight for three days. He, his guide, and two others climbed and abseiled within a series of 55 metre high caves lined with bats and with a carpet of cockroaches. His enclosed suit fended off the shit of thousands and thousands of bats, his pack held everything he needed for three days, including port. You see, he was tethered from the cave ceiling to sleep. (The cockroaches make it impossible to sleep at the bottom of a cave.) After making a rope cradle for a bed and, without any cushioning or pillow, the port would help him sleep.

Knowing Paul would not let his screwed knees stop his adventurous endeavours, a young, innovative sports doctor worked with his stubborn client to ensure he’d make the trip. A weight loss program and controversial platelet injections directly into knee did the trick.

A similar regime (but increased six-fold) will be in place next year when he tackles Borneo’s most difficult and highest peaks and, after that, Galapagos.

Not bad for an ol’ western Queensland publican, eh?

Put the Tattersalls Hotel in Winton on your bucket list. Order a steak (medium rare) and make sure you sit at the bar because that’s were the stories are.



A camel tow

When Glenn Bainbridge from Winton in far western Queensland noticed his six camels had been in the good paddock for too long he decided they needed some exercise.

So he and wife Sue hitched them up to a homemade wagon and hit the road.

Pulled by Teddy and Blondie, the cart is packed with everything the Bainbridges need for a few months on the road.

Four other camels tied to the wagon will take turns pulling it.

Just a few days into the journey the destination remains unknown.

“Just going on a trip, a working holiday, there’s no time limit, maybe Alice Spring or may change our minds. We don’t know,” Mr Bainbridge said.

While the camels adjust to life on the road and get fitter they will travel up to 25 kilometres each day, however that will increase soon.

“In their peak they’ll be doing 30 kilometres in six hours.”

Mr Bainbridge admitted the interest his camels attracted from passing traffic could be difficult to manage.

“If I hear a car coming up behind us we pull off and let them pass.

“I try not to stop because if I stopped for everybody I’d never get anywhere.”

A good night’s sleep: No Bull

imageThe amount you pay for a motel room is directly proportional to the said motel room’s wall thickness.

When you quit your job you have become mindful of expenditure. While planning to sleep in my swag or a tent most nights, I simply couldn’t be arsed setting up a campsite in the dark and while tired. I treated myself to a motel room on the main drag into Rockhampton, Australia’s beef capital.

And what a treat it has been!

Paper thin walls meant I was woken by a woman discussing bread. I went to sleep to the sounds of a guy talking on his phone. He kept on thanking his caller for ringing. Over and over.

I can feel every spring as I lie on this mattress. The sheets are white, crisp and clean though. It’s always with trepidation that I slowly peel back the sheet, as if waiting for something to jump out at me. There’s no carpet or even a little cake of soap in this highway motel.

I’m looking forward to heading west towards Longreach today, for it means I’ll be able to roll out my swag tonight. And I know who has been between my sheets.

Serendipity: a chance meeting and an affirmation

imageserendipity: “The occurrence and development of events by chance in a happy or beneficial way.”

My little adventure was off to a slow start. A late night/early morning drinking and chatting meant my northern departure was delayed. After driving the most boring road in the country (the Bruce Highway) for five-and-a-half hours I’d had enough. I checked into a dodgy motel in Australia’s beef capital, Rockhampton.

200km behind schedule and a little knackered I walked into the Great Western Hotel, a brilliant pub with the heads of stuffed bulls ‘decorating’ the walls as well as dozens of photos of bull riders in action. Out the back is a huge bull riding arena. I think you’d struggle to find a vegetarian meal in this pub.

I instantly recognised a guy at the bar. I worked with him 16 years ago. “Lisa!,” he excitedly said as he opened his arms. A hug from him was quite a treat. He is a favourite of many. A kind, gentle nature, sparkling eyes, and a genuine smile has always made the girls swoon. Now in his mid-40s, with a peppering of grey, he still makes the girls swoon. SWOON.

A 15-minute chat followed as we stood at the bar, him with a lemon lime and bitters, me with a scotch. He’d just finished walking across the Simpson desert, fundraising for YoungCare. He and his adult son rode motorbikes around Cambodia – his son decided to stay. Mr Swoon plans on retiring soon, moving down to the coast with his new partner, and going off the grid. His prognosis is two-eight years, thanks to a brain tumour.

He told me of his adventure plans. Among them are Cradle Mountain and Everest.

“You’ve got to live life, Lisa.”

I smiled and nodded. Yes, yes you do.

When knickers are like friends: decluttering to hit the road

imageClutter: a large amount of things that are not arranged in a neat or orderly way : a crowded or disordered collection of things.

Getting rid of most of your possessions is a taxing task that leaves you wondering if you own them or do those possessions own you.

Packing ‘your life’ into boxes that must fit into a single 4WD is like fitting my size 14 arse into size 10 knickers. No matter how much I try it’s still not practical or comfortable, nor is it necessary. I’ve reached an age where I’ve realised no one really cares how big my arse is and, if they do, they’re not my kind of people anyway.

If you had to pack your life into a vehicle, what would you take and what would you sell on Gumtree or give to the Salvos? And if you had 32 pairs of knickers would you pack them all?

While I’m still coming to terms to the ridiculousness of that number, I’ve likened my assorted range of knickers to my eclectic group of friends.

There are the trusty, faded, comfy ones that don’t let you down; the frivolous, frilly, pretty ones that only see the light of day on special occasions; the uncomfortable g-strings that you don’t really like but you’ve got to grin and bear them because they’re practical. There are the knickers that used to fit but you (and your ever expanding middle aged arse) have grown out of; and then there are the undies that you just can’t throw out because they’re part of your history (Come on. Don’t deny there’s at least one pair in your drawer that holds a memory).

Ridding yourself of possessions and underwear is an exploration of self and what’s important to you.

For the record, for me, trusty and comfy wins every time.

Let’s have a count. How many knickers do you have? Which pair is your favourite? Why?

Gumtree or dumbtree?

imageGumtree is an online selling system that is an eye-opening indictment of your local community. There are people among us who blatantly disregard the common elements of a polite and decent society while trying to score a bargain and therefore reign superior.

I sold every piece of furniture in the above photo via Gumtree, much of it just three months old. This is what I learned while doing so…

If you want to become ‘at one’ with Gumtree you have to abide by these basic rules:

At no stage be polite. When contacting a seller always get straight to the point. And, while you’re at at, forget any form of punctuation.

Haggle, even if the price placed on an item is exorbitantly cheap. Three month old furniture in perfect condition offered for half price is not a bargain. Make sure you attempt to screw the seller for ever dollar you possibly can. They owe you, after all.

If the seller refuses to negotiate on her as-new, half priced furniture you have every right to behave like a child, stomp your feet and walk out of the apartment in a huff.

If the advertised article is offered at no cost you should expect free delivery as well.

In conclusion, if you use Gumtree to buy anything, all elements of human decency are null and void.

What happens to your teddy bears when they can’t come along for the ride?

imageGetting rid of most of your belongings ahead of any big move is a challenging mission. Many possessions are practical while others offer a reminder of times gone by.

It’s taken a while but I’ve given away or sold most of my possessions or, as I call it, ‘stuff’.

Stuff has two values: sentimental or practical. My old teddy, Yogi, is nearly 50 years old. There are lots of once loved, cuddled, slept-with and cried-on teddies for sale on Internet selling sites like eBay, but a new home will never, ever be as loving as their last.

After much soul searching and exhausting all avenues to find Yogi a new home I’ve been able to secure a roof over his head in my old bedroom at my dad’s place.

I was deeply touched by the friends who offered Yogi a home in their children’s bedrooms – proof that people are inherently aware of the significance of a dear childhood friend, even if they do smell of moth balls and sawdust. I like to think our childhood teddies, and our treatment of them, shaped a part of our future.

Dollars and dreams: the reality of life on the road

imageToday is pay day. More importantly today is one of my last pay days. Every second Wednesday a couple of grand lands in my bank account for me to spend as I choose. No kids or mortgage means I get spend it as I choose, even save some. I’m hardly a slave to fashion so very little of it goes on clothes. I buy lunches most days, eat dinner out every other day and am partial to the odd bottle of scotch or a few drinks after work. My major expenditure is rent and paying off an investment loan. I’m not really sure where the money goes but I do know that as pay day draws nearer I’m certainly looking forward to it.

Throwing in a perfectly good job isn’t a good move if you’re a materialistic sort of person, nor is it for anyone easily daunted by the prospect of not knowing how you’re going to pay your next phone bill.

I’ve spent most of my savings on a second-hand 4WD – one that will become my new home, carrying everything I own.

Work will set my travelling route. I’m hoping to get a month’s worth here and there with some travel, hiking, learning and exploring in between. I can pull a mean beer and love being outdoors. If fruit picking and directing traffic is good enough for backpackers then it’s good enough for me.

Yes, I wonder if quitting my job is career suicide, particularly at my age. I’ve spent 4.5 years with the ABC as a rural reporter and executive producer. In that time I’ve earned a very good reputation for being innovative, hard working, reliable, a team player, and a good manager. I’m hoping my reputation will secure me short-term ABC contracts from time to time.

The biggest hurdle I face is re-evaluating the role of money in my life. In theory, it’s relatively easy to spruik “money isn’t everything”, but I’m not silly enough to think that life without a regular wage will be easy.