All posts tagged adventure

The Hike of Death

Published 17 April 2012 by Miss Dilly

I took this one! The actual day of horror (and only here shall I admit, some enjoyment).

 Before I go on, like all my stories, the title was the most frightening part.  I tend to exaggerate and probably have let a lot people down with the fact that I didn’t actually almost die.  But never mind that, keep reading, who knows what could happen.  I’ll die someday.

This is another Australia story.  As many have probably heard Australia has some of the most dangerous animals in the world.  And like the paranoia of being caught wearing mismatching socks by Tim Gunn, I was a tad worried of these famous buggers.

Now I hadn’t completely willingly signed up for this bush walk.  There was an information session.  And let me tell you- they are fronts, not for human trafficking, but clever plots to force people to experience nature whatever the cost.  I went by myself, it was in the upstairs of some rickety building.  There was loads of people there actually (a good ruse to throw me off the kidnapping track) and three small tables with 55 plus year old men sitting at each one.  They tell you about the various places they’re going, about the guides and the difficulty, blah blah blah.  Here’s where it gets crafty, he says to me ‘it’s an 18 K (about 11 miles) walk with hills and maybe would I like to go on the beginner one instead?’ Pft! I say I’m a third of your age and have been hiking since I’ve 6, I think I can handle it.  Okay, I’m much more polite in person, but he still had me right where he wanted me- the ego trip.  The next thing I know I’m thirty dollars poorer and awake at a god forsaken hour where I am loading on the bus with the other sad saps.

The group contained a variety of people. Some other visitors in this dangerous land, a few veterans of bushwalking and the locals who decided they wanted to get out of the city and meet people, generally in the 40-60 year age range.  A very friendly woman sat next to me on the bus, we talked about lots of things.  I’ve never had a problem with talking with people older than me, I always find they have so many more stories to tell.  And older generations don’t normally tell their stories like they’re trying to show you up and try to prove their life is so much more exciting than mine.  I also get to avoid the annoying drunk stories where the young story teller always has this strange juxtaposition of ‘I did something pretty bad and I’m ashamed, but it’s so funny and cool, obviously.’ Then they look at me ‘like why aren’t you laughing?’ Oh yeah I forgot, I just thought you were being an idiot.  ‘Ha ha’.

So after a couple hours on the bus we arrive and start the hike.  The environment is so unique.  I love it.  Do you know what is also unique?  Leeches.  It was a heavily treed area and a fairly moist day.  You walk, minding your own business and leeches fall from the leaves and land on your hand, arm, neck, leg – any exposed skin and suck your blood.  I kid you not.  They’re the size of your pinky and are dark black.  The key is to let them finish their business because if you knock them off before they’re done you just bleed and bleed. When they finish they will clot the bite so they can save you for an after dinner snack.  As you may have guessed, you shrewd reader you, the reason I know this is because not 10 minutes into the walk I was visited by the leech from hell.  I was agile; the first thing I did was scream.  The second thing was wave my hand back and forth wishing it away.  The third was flicking it off with my other hand.  Luckily I actually saved myself, it hadn’t bitten me yet. I laugh, recovering quickly, hiding my inner torment at the incident.  Everyone had a nice laugh at me and we walked on.

Brown Snake. Sound innocent? Look innocent? Think again! One of Australia's most dangerous snakes.

Farther down the way we’re getting spread few and far between.  There is a bit of a commotion up a head and the few people I’m with as well as myself have no idea what they’re saying.  One person stays behind and as we approach they put their hands out like they’re about to stop a train and say quietly there’s a snake on the trail.  We all freeze.  Looking around, I don’t see anything, which is not exactly a good sign.  I say ‘where is it?’ she put down her crossing guard hands and looks around.  The lady literally shrugs, says ‘walk carefully’ and walks off.  I mean I don’t think she realized that she just created an invisible wall that none of us really wanted to cross after that.  I mean what if the snake leaped (yes leaped with legs) out of the long side grass as we passed? An older man who hadn’t heard about the snake passes us and walks on by.  We hold our breath and say goodbye- he was a brave man who gave his life so we could pass and continue on our walk.  But he lives (major plot twist, I know)! So a couple people tread carefully, then this Irish lady I had been talking with goes and then I follow.  I didn’t want to be the last one, that’s always a bad sign in horror movies – I’ve done my homework. I thought I heard a rustle as I walk by and I peer closely, well as closely as one can when one is dashing by like a maniac.  I’m convinced the snake was still there and I’m also convinced it was Australia’s deadliest snake.

The next scariest thing was a hiker’s worst nightmare.  Blisters.  I was borrowing hiking boots, not a very good idea at all. Stupid, stupid, stupid, in fact. If you learn anything from my story today- never borrow shoes for an 18K hike it’s just… anyone, anyone? Yep, stupid.  Remember that first 10 minutes?  Well my heels were already rubbing.  By the second hour I was in agony, limping.  I brought up the end and I’m surprised I made the whole walk without taking off my shoes.  I didn’t look, I did not want to see the horrible wounds I had inflicted upon myself.  Some people cut their wrists, I do blisters apparently.  As much as I love complaining to my friends, I try not to inflict it on the general population.  So no one really knows that my feet are killing me so much. Towards the end one of the guides comes to me and says ‘can you go a little faster, please?’ I was in the back straggling with the dreamy eyed metaphysical-ist and the out of shape Hawaiian shirt grandpa.  So when he said this to me I must admit I felt a bit targeted – what about these guys?! ‘No! I’m not going to go any faster, you don’t know the pain I’m in and you hat is bothering me’.  Obviously, I am much more polite in person because I cannot really ever come up with witty poignant comebacks.  When we were back on the bus, I take off my shoes and peel off my socks which are sticking to the back of my feet.  The blisters cover my entire heels and they’re ripped open and honestly just sad looking.

So I made it out alive, by a fairly wide hair, but a hair none the less.  When I got home, I was changing out of my muddy clothes and on the back of my right calf I found a lovely reminder of the day: a large dried blob of blood and then tracks of blood down my leg.  The second leech from hell had been more successful than the first. Brilliant.


Aussie Rules Football Virgin

Published 25 March 2012 by Miss Dilly

Australian Rules Football is huge.  Every man, woman and child watch the Grand Final in Australia, except of course for those that don’t…regardless, it’s a big deal.  For those of you unfamiliar with the sport, it has some similarities to American Football, and absolutely no similarity to what most of the rest of the world considers football (aka soccer).  Aussie Rules is fast moving, chaos where they score points and it involves very muscular young men in tight, short, shorts running around.  It’s fantastic really.

So I was in Australia during the climax of this national sport.  The day of the Grand Final I’m walking around a in a suburb of Melbourne and I see a sign at a restaurant saying ‘help wanted- inquire within’.  I was just visiting, but I kind of wanted to find a job to make a little extra money.  I inquire within.  I spoke to a rather tall, large man of 30 or so years who asks what I’m doing that night.  I had to choose between making a few bucks and watching the Grand Final on TV.  In a panic (decisions!), I blurt “nothing”, crass money wins again.  So he says I can come in for a paid trial. It was just a sport, which I really knew nothing about, so might as well try to get a job.

I arrive promptly at 5:00 at the restaurant. I’m led to the kitchen in the back, it’s kind of quiet.  A server told me to go in the back and look for the man I met earlier, we’ll call him George.  I walk into the blindly bright kitchen and ask for if George is around. A young man doing prep nods toward a hallway on the side and says he’s probably out there.  I start to walk down a dark hallway, I was about to put my hand up to the wall to sense where I was going, but there was just enough light to see the wall and I decided to risk tripping, bumping or squashing something in lieu of touching the wall.  Down the hall there was a store room and a door a jar, I open it.  I had just opened the door on quite the vignette; three men huddled around the small outside space.  The only thing making it seem less like a boy scouts meeting and more like a Godfather scene was the cigarettes hanging out of their mouths. As I opened the door the conversation stopped immediately, despite me feeling of uncomfortableness I say “I’m looking for George”. The guy I had met earlier got an expression on his face that looked like he picked the shortest straw and then realized it was worm.  I’d found my mark. He leads me back to the kitchen, I don’t know what it was about him, maybe his stature maybe the faint scent of smoke he emitted or maybe the snaggle tooth and eye patch (that he didn’t have, but based on his personality I think he could have worked the look pretty well) that made me uneasy.  He hands me over to another man who is person who will be giving me directions from now on. Apparently, I was already a handful.  I’d be washing dishes and doing prep work.

The Boys

The Boyscouts (if you can use your imagination to mix the two of these)

The grand final was being broadcasted on the radio.  There area few other younger guys in the back doing some prep work and then putting plates together.  We all listened in respectful silence to the match and no one could touch the radio except the main chef who was one of ‘the boys’. I felt very out of place amongst these guys, I looked around at the thought of returning to this kitchen and nearly put my head in the industrial dishwasher. Now you may be thinking I‘m exaggerating and was being introverted, and you would be right.  But cross my heart, it felt very much like I would need some sort of initiation involving candles and tall buildings before they would accept me being there and actually carry on a conversation.

I focused on working, the only thing that broke up the mundane work was listening to the game, it turned out be an exciting match.  I was rooting for the Geelong Cats.  I wasn’t quite familiar enough with game to picture what they were describing so most of what was being said sounded like something like this: “Mulligan runs around Randall for the kill, releves towards the backside of the queen and somersaults for the crowd, the crowd goes crazy he runs like a snake on a barbie and ends with a beautiful butterfly finish- two and three-quarters points for Geelong”.  It sounded like the appropriate time for me to ‘woo hoo’, so I did, quietly.  And I continued to listen and enjoy what few words I could manage to understand.

What I didn't get to see..

I was cutting up an assortment of herbs as the game was finishing up.  One of the servers, who stopped in to get a listen when he could, missed the end. He asked me who won and I told him Geelong. I asked which team he was barracking for and he seemed slightly surprised that I knew anything about Aussie rules football.  For a brief moment I thought maybe I could pull off being ‘one of the guys’, but that feeling quickly faded as a streak of panic crossed over me- I thought I may have told him the wrong team won. And as I went back to cutting my herbs I listened with the fine-tuned skill that many of us master in relationships- selective listening.  Who knew it would come in handy? But I listened intently for key words, luckily I told him the right team! If I hadn’t I think I probably would have been hoisted then and there right out of the restaurant, banned for life from the establishment anywhere within 25 feet.

So I got to spend my first experience with Australian Rules Football was in the back of a hot kitchen with a bunch of sweaty guys.  While it would have been nice to actually see the match, it was still the saving grace for a rather miserable evening. And by the way the restaurant never called me back, can’t say I was surprised- my herb cutting left a lot to be desired.

Over Night, Part I

Published 15 March 2012 by Miss Dilly

One hostel, one night, one room, one girl.  This is a survival story, with a less than threatening plot and extremely imagined danger to my life.  With that said, it’s a mildly amusing story.

I had been on a full day tour trip in Australia to a place called Phillip’s Island. I signed up for a two day tour where you stay overnight in a hostel nearby, however I only found out after that I was the only one signed up to do so. The rest in the group of 25 were going back to the city. The next day I would be picked up by another tour guide and a new group of people.  The main event on Phillip’s Island is hundreds of little penguins coming in from the ocean to their home in burrows on the surrounding hilly area.  They come in around sunset and after dark.  While the day was chocked full of fun and the penguins were downright adorable, that isn’t the main part of my story – for today.  By the time penguins came in and everyone got their full enjoyment stalking the little creatures, the tour group was getting ready to drive back to the city by 9:30pm.

The guide was a 20 something guy with a black cap and an pseudo enthusiastic attitude that said ‘I like you guys because I’m getting paid but I hate this late night gig where I could be kicking back with my mates and drinking a few beers instead.’ I mean yes, tour groups are uncool.  Actually they’re checking out the flabby back side of uncool with envy; they scream tourist and practically ask to be subjected to commercialism at least fifty times throughout the day, not to mention putting up with your co-travelers where you always get that one person who wants to be tour guide and tell everyone, everything they don’t actually know.  On the flip side, tour groups also bring together such a variety of people from all over the world that there really could be a tour group to tour the tour group.  So if you’ve already weighed your options and have decided a tour group is the way to go, you pay all that money to stick out like a sore thumb and take a few thousand pictures then you want an enthusiastic guide that can tell you a few interesting tidbits.

Now, honestly I wasn’t sure exactly how the whole overnight thing was going to work and the more I talked to the others I thought maybe I joined the wrong tour and there was no overnight stay. So I approached the laissez-faire guide and ask about the situation around 3 in the afternoon.

Him: Oh yeah! That’s right, I’m not sure, let me look at my papers.

Me: Okay cool.

Him: Yeah so actually after this I’ll be taking you to the hostel

Me: [I nod contemplatively] Really? I thought I signed up to go the penguins today

Him: Oh right, you’re doing The Prom tomorrow. Okay yeah so after the penguin I’ll drop you off at the hostel.

Me: Thanks

His lack of information left me feeling weary, but I got on with the rest of day quite well.  As we’re getting started on the drive back to the city, I have my fingers crossed that he would remember to drop me off.  His announcements pre-departure that night included no mention of that portion, so I was concerned.  I would be staying on the island for the night, and as we neared bridge that would lead off the island I contemplated saying something, but I decided to wait until we were off the island, I didn’t want insult him. Although based on the day’s events I wouldn’t put it past him to forget.

[Because it’s kind of a long story I broke it up.  I’m sure every reader will be absolutely nail-biting in anticipation as they wait- will he remember?  If you aren’t, I understand, but I will still be posting Part II in a couple days.  Cheers] 

Taking the Bus

Published 10 March 2012 by Miss Dilly

I enjoy taking the bus, it’s nothing less than live theatre, packed with action, drama, a few laughs and involves the audience. The entire bus experience starts with the walk to your bus stop.  On this occasion it was a Saturday morning in Seattle.  With my friend who was the one who knew the bus system we walked to the stop in crisp weather.  We had to side step a disheveled couple that appeared to be holding hands instead of strategically separating to make use all four arms to carry the weighty grocery bags. Some people like to live on the edge.  I also choose to believe they were holding hands as a front act like everything’s fine after just fighting over which can of peas his mother actually likes better (I’m sure she reminded him of the last Pea Incident, where they still have to tell their friends that the stain was from the dog which they don’t have any more for some reason unknown to their friends).  So we’re a couple minutes early to the stop, we’re waiting with a college looking guy with a classic literary book that he looks like he probably uses to hide his cellphone while he checks facebook in the library and an older woman going through her mammoth handbag looking for a bobby pin, I’m sure.

I get out my quarters, since I was only visiting Seattle for the weekend I had to pay the old fashion way, I’d even get a transfer that I’d have to keep track of for the entire day.  I was counting out my money and doing a little self pep talk because my last experience on the bus in Seattle went something like this:

I start putting in quarters, but am unsure how much it actually costs to ride the bus. My two friends with their savvy swipe cards had already walked to the back of the bus.  So I look up at the bus driver, he’s already annoyed that I am paying with quarters instead of swiping a card.  There is a shuffle of feet behind me and a middle aged man uncomfortably watching me from the front row seat.  It appears that he has a standing dibs on the spot and rides the bus from the first stop to the last.  I smile look friendly as possible and say “how much is a ticket? I’m a student?” When in doubt I always throw in the student bit, it’s some kind of apology to society. That I obviously just don’t know what I’m doing yet and probably just drink too much on the weekend thought it would be way hipster to pay with something called cash. And despite the blatant stereotyping, one can really get some attitude out in the world and by admitting to being a student you somehow admit that you’re not a full-fledged citizen yet, so it’s okay.  Obviously it’s a load of bull and maybe a slight exaggeration to the average joe, but I have had instances of success for claiming my student-ship and receive a knowing resolution expression on the face I tell.  So I can use the stereotype to my advantage, when need be. Unfortunately that was not the case for today, the bus driver literally said nothing to me.  He looked at me narrowed his eyes and gripped the steering wheel until he looked like he should start talking to someone named Marty, his liger copilot, instead he grunted and nodded towards the coin slot.  I put in all the quarters I had, took the transfer and dashed to the back of the bus.  I gave my friends dirty looks and said how could you ditch me back there, I was nearly mauled by his liger! I put in $2.25 and later I find out my ticket should have only been $1.25, as a student.  Okay a dollar may not seem like much, but to a poor, fake hipster, not actually drunk student who could use that dollar to actually buy a day old scone it was a big deal.  I was resolved not to let this happen again- I had considered going to the group therapy meeting for the victims of Seattle Bus Bullying held downtown once a week, but thought I’d brave the scene once more to right this wrong, like a true city rat.  And that’s where this fine Saturday morning bus ride comes in.

Yes, this is me as I boarded the bus

The bus pulls up. I do the first step right, hold my ground as some young bouncy women walks up and wants to get on in front of me.  Somehow (and by that I mean I actually didn’t really hold my ground against the pushy public) my friend and I get separated, she looks back and I reach out, but we’re just too many smelly bus-riders away from each other, she had to go on without me.  It was better this way, I had to complete my quest alone.  I step up to the plate.  I look at the coin feeder, don’t put any money, look up at the bus driver without smiling and attempt to have a look in my eye that says ‘I’ve battled your kind before and I’m not afraid’ (which may have come off more like ‘the crap doughnut I didn’t have this morning isn’t settling well with me’) and said how much is a ticket for a student? He replies with a frog in his throat ‘a dollar twenty-five’ and not a word more. I put in my quarters and started to walk to the back of the bus, in which I could only imagine was slow-motion, until the beautiful victory scene was broken by a grunt coming from my nemesis and I turn around quick (should never have your back to the enemy) and see my transfer waving like a truce flag.  Oops, I back up, bumping into the passenger trying to get on behind me. I didn’t want to be soft, the legendary stories don’t normally end with a smile and a thanks, but then again legends don’t normally have to get back on the next day and trust their lives in the hands of highly irritable middle aged men driving the population of tomorrow.