The Indian Willobie Sailor
The Midnight Shift
Our Cradle Mountain lodge has this van, and they pile in the tourists around 10pm for an hour long animal spotlight tour. ($30 per couple) This involves some tourist riding shotgun with a large torch (flashlight) and the tour guy spotting animals, then talking about them endlessly.
The tour guide made it very clear that because it was wet, rainy and windy we had a poor chance of seeing anything. If after a few minutes on the road, we didn’t see any animals then we could “come back to the lodge and spot us all drink wine.” Fair enough.
Before even leaving the carpark (parking lot) we saw a willobie and a womat. Then we proceeded to see every single willobie and wombat family member on the island, hundreds of them, and nothing else. Willobie. Wombat. Willobie. Look two Wombats! Willobie. You get it.
That was the tour. Nikki fell asleep on my shoulder. But my initial conspiracy theory thoughts were further enhanced when a woman from England, also bored to tears, yelled from the back of the van “How come all the trees are dead!?” Nikki popped up from my shoulder, for this interested her very much.
For about the 10th time, we got a different answer. The tour guide responded, “well actually, they are over watered and too high an altitude, so they are slowly dying off…look our 50th wombat !” he belted into his mic and pointed away from the looming tree death. Distracted, most of the tourists ooohed and ahhhed over the fat, slow animal eating grass. I had seen plenty of wombats so I pushed further. “They all look dead, every single tree. How come no one really knows why the trees are all dead?” His answer was straight from the coffers of top secret tourism agency 101. “They are not all dead mate, just most of them. Look another Wombat!”
In all my travels, there are two things you can count on. First, obstacles will arise and you got to plow thru them and there is always something good on the other side. Second, taxi drivers will screw you.
We got picked up at the airport by a taxi. I had a bad vibe immediately. Nikki made small talk with him as I noticed he had put two water bottles in front of the meter so you couldn’t see it. Nikki, “do you know of any good meat pie places, sir?” Cabbie, “No, I am Indian, I eat Indian food, we don’t eat meat pies, you guys from America like McDonalds right? There is one! You can find a McDonalds anywhere here. You go to McDonalds, no meat pies.” End of friendly conversation attempt.
Hint. When they ask you how quick you want to get to your destination and start talking tolls. They are beginning to set you up. So, we go thru a toll, and he starts pressing all these buttons. Bing, bong. Ding, Dang. Except, the buttons are doing nothing. I think the button he kept hitting was checking the air pressure in his tires.
Upon arrival, I double checked the meter, and got Nikki to the hotel door anticipating a cabbie holy war, And went to settle up.
“With tolls and airport fees you owe this much” Cabbie says. No, I saw the meter add the tolls when we went under and your airport fee was on the meter at the beginning. “How could you see that, sir? My bottles…” I cut him off… “Exactly you (insert your favorite filthy word)…” and I increased my language and stepped towards him. I was not in the mood. Turns out, either was he. He matched my body language and put his hands behind his back, like a soccer ref. Here is where it gets funny.
I have a HUGE backpack. About 4 feet tall, weighs about 60 pounds (all of Nikki’s Koala food). The bag is between us, and we are scrunching it together, like a American/Indian luggage sandwich. I start to yell like Tom Cruise in “A Few Good Men”…”TELL ME THE TRUTH, I WANT THE TRUTH, THE TOLL IS INCLUDED!” (language edited for family blog content) “YOU GOT TRUTH, THIS IS NOT AMERICA, TOLL NOT INCLUDED” At which, being a proud patriot, I scream back “Don’t Mention My Country you bleep, we don’t all eat McDonalds and your toll tales are all lies!” The debate has taken a turn toward childish comments about fast food, I guess. His response “your bag is pushing up against me, it is heavy” and I respond, “your damn right, it is an American bag!” Many Sydney’ians had stopped on the street and were watching the events unfold, when I determined this was the most ridiculous conversation I had ever had, so I paid him what was fair and walked away, nearly getting hit by an Audi in my blind bag spot. I hustled across the street to Nikki with a mischievous grin, she said nothing but just shook her head from side to side.
Our hotel is in The Rocks of Sydney. It is a few blocks from the harbor, and a very nice area full of cool stone streets and old buildings made hip again by tourist dollars. No one working in Sydney is from this city. It is a very diverse crowd, with young people coming from the States, areas in Asia, England and other parts of Europe to work and holiday.
The Rocks was the rough part of Sydney for many years, full of sailors on leave and vagabonds. In 1841, near our very hotel, the police set up a watch house to try and stop some of the drunken crime. On their first arrest, a bunch of drunken sailors rioted, broke down the jail walls and freed their shipmates. I think I like this part of town.
So off to the oldest pub in Sydney we go, “Fortune of War” is the name and our goal is simple, start our own modern day drunken riot. Thick musty carpet. Wood bar stools that squeak and sway underneath you. A bartender straight out of a Harley Davidson commercial, who bounds the bar to take pictures of our pretty women, then says bluntly “now go buy a bloody beer.” I like this place! My first Toohey’s on draft is pulled. Aussie beer is still bitter. Just like my jealous feelings as Nikki gets a Guinness, made in Ireland, and her eyes sparkle in memory of her Irish trip not long ago.
The group of Sydney business folks behind us is loud. After a couple pints we get louder too. The bar maids are quick to snap at you, the beer flows easily and your tab is held with just your name. I think I will curl up here for the night.
There has gotta be something wrong with this pub, right? Some hidden bastardly child? I go in search of the man behind the curtain. All the newspaper articles on the walls confirm it, been around since 1830. I tried though, but this place looks legit. Off to the restroom then. WAIT A SECOND. What the hell is this? On the way up the stairs and around the bend. Things got real modern. Granite tile, new faucets, modern urinals and hands free soap!? What the!?
There is another hallway here, let’s go explore, shall we? And there it is…the evidence. The modern bathrooms led to an even more modern wine bar, owned by the same bar folks and attached by a hallway of gleaming, shimmering modern metal. Green ferns hanging, pour your own $18 wine by the glass, wine sommeliers with black and white outfits, Duped Again! My beloved bar was a front for the snobby wine mafia.
Never the less, we had a few more pints and stories. Then took a walk down to the harbor. Strolling off the beer buzzes, breathing in the cool ocean breeze…I think our time in Sydney will be good.
Listen To Your Wife
“I am tired of these hot and wet hikes. I am going to need a Koala or some sex in the city shopping to get my fix stat” Nikki on our final day in Tasmania (I think she was ready for some city pampering-we would leave for Sydney the next day)