Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Jan. 30: Nick & Niks day of adventure

Nick woke me up with a cup of coffee under my nose. He'd gotten up at 6:30 to go for a jog & was making us bacon & eggs. The smell goaded my eyes open & pulled me, zombie-like, to the kitchen. Mmmm...

We had some time to kill after breakfast, so we borrowed the hostels free boogie boards & walked to the beach. The sand was incredibly hot; I jumped, cartoon-style ("ah ow oh!") until reaching the cool wet sand ("sssss" the sound of my feet steaming). The water was refreshing & warmer than we expected, but there were absolutely no waves. We lounged on the boogie boards, rocking on what little current there was, dragging our toes in the visible white sand.

Nick made a video playing at the stereotypical Aussie adventurer: "I reckon we're wave chasing, mate. Blimey, she's a beaut!" and turning the camera to reveal a bathtub-sized wave. It was pretty funny.

Unfortunately, at that moment his brand new smashproof, waterproof, advertised-as-indestructable camera decided to fill with water. Water sloshed around the screen and later, when nick opened up the battery slot, about half a cup poured out. So that kinda fouled the mood.

Walked back to the hostel where we met up with one of the owners, D, who had offered to take us up in his single prop plane. He drove us out to a field posing as a landing strip, with three child-sized airplanes adding to the rouse. Nick & I looked at each other, both screwing on confident smiles to reassure the other, yet behind them, we oozed trepidation.

the actual plane, Nick standing under the wing

The Skyhawk plane had seats for 3 people, upholstered in peeling 70's brown. The gears & dials in the cockpit were identifiable by stick-on tags made by a handheld label-maker: altitude, speed, GPS. Someone had written on the door, above the handle, "open --> locked" in black marker. On the fold-down sunshade above the pilot's seat was taped a sheet of typed up instructions with the heading, "flying in the event of door loss." I swear I am not making any of this up.

the cockpit & the door

It did not inspire confidence.

BUT, as D was a family friend and, as I whispered to Nick, he wouldn't put himself in danger, we climbed up and strapped ourselves in.  The plane wheeled around and sped down the grassy, potholed landing strip, his adorable family waving us on as the tires left the ground and the sky roughly took hold of the wings.  We were in the air, bouncing around with every cat's paw bat of the wind and unable to hear much of anything since D's headset was on the fritz.

He tested us with the first hard bank, turning so the right wing was practically 90 degrees from the ground.  I guess we took it well, because a few minutes later, he told me to hold my camera flat on my palm & started climbing up.  Nick said at that moment, he knew something bad was coming, but I was oblivious --  until suddenly he cut the engine and we plummeted in a nosedive.  My camera hit the ceiling, as did Nick's backpack, that had been resting innocently next to his feet.  I screamed (Nick managed to maintain his manliness and only a low yelp escaped him) and then nervously, uncontrollably laughed as adrenalin surged through me, causing my hands - which I just realised were clutching the seat & the door frame, respectively - to shake.

A few minutes later, he nosedived again.  I still was completely unprepared.  Again, I screamed & that weird vibrating laugh took over me; again, Nick managed to not scream, but I think his fingerprints are probably still imbedded in the back shoulder of my seat.

I will say, although I was shaken, it was an absolutely brilliant view.  Water coasted under us in varying gorgeous shades of blue and, even at that height, was still clear enough to see the sandbars and depth beneath.  Acres of undeveloped land, trees, bush.  Snaking rivers, a few with tiny ant-sized fishing boats navigating their curves.  The small bright community of 1770 scattered along the beachfront like thrown jellybeans.  At one point, he flew the plane down low on the beach, so low that we thought he might land in the surf, but we stayed just above the sand, watching the tide roll in and roll out through the blur of propellers.  It was beautiful.

We were in the air for about an hour.  He didn't pull any more funny business - thank goodness because I didn't fare quite as well with it as I thought I would - but I was completely ready to be back on the ground by the end of it.  Life's lesson learned: I will never be a pilot.  At least not a pilot of a tiny prop plane.

But I am supremely grateful for his generosity; he took time out of his day & took us up there for free, and it was definitely a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

We stopped off for a pub lunch with D and then back to the hostel where we collapsed, exhausted.  Adrenalin has a funny way of providing you with, then depleting you of, energy.  I dozed on the bed for about 10 minutes; Nick lay on the floor, under the fan, taking advantage of the breeze.

Then it was time for our next big adventure:  Scooter Roo.  It's a motorbike tour of 1770, but the fun of it is that they're scooter engines affixed to bodies made to look like Harley-Davidson bikes.  The guide is straight out of a pot-smoking, boot wearing biker gang, skinny & tough, like old leather, with a handlebar moustache, bandanna-covered skull and tight jeans.  Really nice guy, though; loves his job.  There was a large group of us going out, about 23, and a lot of us (girls especially, me included) were nervous about it, but after the first couple minutes, I realised it was easier than riding a bicycle.  And SO fun!

Regrettably, I forgot my camera so we couldn't take any pictures of us riding.  :(  This is from their website.

The bike tour was three hours in total - fantastic - and although we rode on a few main streets and at first had to stay in a line, we soon went off onto back, forested, streets and were allowed to pass each other, climbing up to 90 km per hour (50 mph).  I now understand the appeal of a bike: the wind in your hair, whipping around your skin, like an exfoliating bath of air.  We stopped a few times to look at kangaroos, and then rode down to the beach, where we dismounted, walking like bikers, and enjoyed some sweet chilli & sour cream wedges on the rocks during a pale sunset.

Riding back, I passed the slow people in front of me & the rest of the group was invisibly far ahead; I screamed down a stretch of road at 80km, feeling the freedom of the road.  Glorious.  Caught up to the front group of speed demons (in which Nick was, of course, maintaining his leader status - he loves to drive fast) and we all cruised in a pack; it felt like we really were a biker gang.  A biker gang of ragtag backpackers and some pretty girly girls, but a gang nonetheless.

I don't know how it's possible, since we were on bikes, the wind rushing into our ears, the entire time, but somehow Nick knew everyone on the Scooter Roo tour by the end of it.  As we left, he was calling out goodbyes to everyone by name, asking if the girls who were scared or had fallen off were ok, wishing people good trips to their next destination, which he also knew.  I just shook my head.  The boy's got talent.

That night, back at the hostel, Nick and I spread our adventurous legs out in a hammock, munching on salty & sweet snacks and reading out loud from our book.  Took some time to chat with the other owner of the hostel, G, and a few fellow travellers, but mainly just relaxed in the low light & the swinging breeze.

Today I am so happy & grateful for:
~ saying yes to new experiences
~ the generosity of D & Scooter Roo to give us free trips
~ beautiful places

xo! n.


  1. The scooters sound awesome. I need to find a scooter tour through rural England or something!

  2. Scooters in Charleston!
    Way cool....maybe.


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