I studied abroad in Western Australia my junior year of college, mainly because I couldn’t speak any language fluently except English, and for dumb ass American kids who took Spanish in school for 8 years and still don’t speak it fluently, there aren’t a ton of alternatives. My choices were limited to London or Oz, and as I was making my decision, I imagined Australia as this really warm, tropical place with friendly kangaroos jumping around and that sounded more fun than London, which I imagined as a rainy place with an uptight Queen Mother. Looking back, I scratch my head at my complete ignorance about both places, but you might as well know my train of thought so you can get an idea of where my head was at. (hint: up my ass)
So my program was on the Western side of Australia, which is the un-Sydney, un-Melbourne, un-Great Barrier Reef side. I didn’t realize that when I picked it, but you can see a theme forming which will be present throughout this post. I didn’t realize a lot of things at 19. However, I must say that I loved Western Australia, especially the wine country. I studied near Perth. For a city of its size, there are a lot of nice, fun, law-abiding citizens in Perth. In fact, there were only two major crimes that took place in Perth while I was there: the first was committed by an American sailor (go figure) who was in port at Perth and the second occurred was when I, and all of my girlfriends, were sexually assaulted by the dancers at the Gobbles male strip club.
I thought going to a male strip club would be like going to a normal nudie bar, except that I could expect a lot more fat, horny middle-aged women instead of men there. I thought the dancers would just do their little dances on stage and act dirty and take some clothes off slowly and we’d all giggle and laugh until we paid one of them extra to pretend to do stuff to our friend, just to torture her, but no actual touching would be allowed or encouraged. Like most things in the southern hemisphere, it was actually totally the opposite. At Australian male strip clubs*, or at least this one, the men don’t dance. They just get you wasted on free cheap champagne and then they force you to do things in, around and directly to their junk that you really have no interest in doing. And they bring you on stage to do it, just in case someone in the back row can’t see you being molested in your chair or they need a better angle for their camera. There is a lot of body grease involved, and to this day the smell of it makes me wretch. I wasn’t prepared for so much oil and I still think they could have at least handed us ponchos on our way in so our clothes didn’t get ruined, but alas, they gave us free glasses of pink champagne, and let the sexual assault begin. That’s all the time I will dedicate to one of the most traumatizing events in my life, since this story is about almost murder, not pretty much rape.
*(I thought that it was just an Australia thing, but then I read about Aunt Becky’s American experience recently and apparently the vileness of male strip clubs is universal. You learn something new everyday).
So I find myself on the wrong side of Australia if I want to see anything that people usually go to Australia to see. So my friends and I plan a two-week excursion to the other side of Oz for our break. First stop is Cairns and the Great Barrier Reef. The travel agents we recruited to help us gave us this little brochure with all of these vacation packages you could sign up for. Knowing if we didn’t sign up for a package we might just drink the whole time and never leave the hostel, we set out to find an excursion that would appeal to a group of four women and three punks men who wanted an “adventure”. Somehow it was determined, by one of the males no doubt, that the excursion named “Rainforest Outback Adventure” was a good fit because we could see a large variety of Australian flora and fauna that way. I wish I had not already finished two Strongbow Whites when the plans were made, because I can guarantee that there wasn’t a single thing that was described in those 3 days that was even remotely something I would sign up for sober. You see, I like “adventures” that entail being clean and having clean bedding and bathing in clean water with soap and taking long naps and reading several books whilst sipping red wine and eating a nice steak while a chiseled, shirtless man with an Italian and/or South American accent massages me. THAT, my friends, is an adventure.
Adventures I generally shy away from include dust, large and/or flying insects, poisonous snakes, sweltering heat, body sweat, any sort of hiking/mildly strenuous exercise, drizzly rain, red mud, eating or touching rainforest vegetation, camp food, and large wild animals, unless they are in a secure zoo enclosure or on TV. Apparently, the “Rainforest Outback Adventure” turned out to be the latter kind of adventure, with an added surprise bonus of drunk wild boar hunters. Now when I judge a new “adventure” opportunity, I check for drunk wild boar hunters, and I avoid those. So, I learned something. Indeed, Oprah. It was a “teaching moment”.
Okay, so we go to the place we are to start our adventure and a guy about 30 years old who looks, acts and talks exactly like the caricature of a mix between Crocodile Dundee and the Crocodile Hunter welcomes us. We call him Dundee for the remainder of the trip. There are about 9 of us in our group – us and a nice old British couple. Dundee is a man of few words, and he is hard core. He straps on his machete and hops into the front seat of this Hummer-like/bus thing that we will use to travel the rainforest and outback the next few days. As we drove away from the busy tourist town of Cairns, a single, slow tear ran down my face in anticipation of what was sure the be the worst three days ever, and they didn’t disappoint. Little did I know they were almost my last three.
To be continued….** Click here for Part II
**I’m sorry I can’t tell any story without going off on several tangents. Brevity isn’t my strong suit. I feel the need to tell the WHOLE story, because if I left out the parts about theft, Speedos, very large ants, Aboriginals, rifles, machetes, and of course, your friends and mine, the drunk wild boar hunters, then it just wouldn’t be a Love story. Please be patient with me.