The Locals call it 'The Bridge'

Trip Start May 19, 2009
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Trip End Ongoing


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Flag of Australia  , South Australia,
Sunday, June 20, 2010

Oh, Randy.  How I'd missed him.  My little van had been parked up in a farm on the outskirts of Melbourne for 3 months, and taking the train there, I couldn't have been more excited about seeing a hunk of metal.

Opening the door, I knew something wasn't right.  There was, well, a certain...whiff.  Peering into the back, I saw most of my belongings covered in tiny scraps of paper and even tinier poos. 

Oh Good God. 

My van had been infested by mice.  And they'd pissed over, and nested in, everything.   

At least, bless him, Rand started.  After about ten attempts.  Cat and I then drove with the windows fully open back to Melbourne in pursuit of a washing machine and van spa. 

Eventually I found a Croatian fellow who either wasn't a pro at bartering, or not yet familiar with the Australian currency, as he charged me about 60 quid to clean Rand inside and out.  I made Cat pick the van up.  Apparently the Croatian looked none too pleased.

Meanwhile, I'd thrown out about half of our belongings that had been either defacated on or eaten by mice, including Cat's copy of Twilight.  They devoured the back pages and evidently became bored, deciding to chew half a pencil instead and  leaving the rest of the book intact.   I suddenly had a newfound respect for their taste.

The smell was gradually subsiding, but it was no matter really as we were returning to work on the dairy farm in Murray Bridge, and thus trading the smell of mice urine for the ever lingering scent of cow poo.

We couldn't have been more excited to see Ron and Irene Darling again.  The reality of the reunion, though, was somewhat removed from the expectation:

Us: "Hey!  How are you!  We're back and ready to do as many hours as you need!"

Irene: "Well we just employed a couple actually."

Us: "Errr..that's great!"

Cat and I made a swift exit, invested in a bottle of pink sparkly stuff and bedded down for the night back at our second home of Princes Highway Caravan Park, only to be woken in the dead of night by the pitter patter of tiny feet.

You know how those niggling worries catch you unawares in the middle of the night sometimes?  Well, at that moment, mine went something like this:

"Dear Jeremy Kyle, I'm unemployed and sleeping in a mice infested van."

The morning brought a saviour in the unlikely form of moustached Soupy, my horse racing trainer, who brought us a caravan, complete with heater and TV, to keep us toasty and up to date with Oprah and the World Cup.

Things, too, would improve at the dairy, as Ron and Irene fitted us in to as many milking shifts as possible and assured us that our additional labouring hours spent collecting firewood and string and mesh from the paddocks, then burning it all, was a vital element of dairy farm maintenance.  Frankly, how they managed without us for three months is beyond me.

Back at Princes, it wasn't long before we bumped in to some familiar faces, and in keeping with my new trailer trash life I found myself whiling away evenings with resident alcoholic Shane, who could, at most hours of the day, be found drinking boxed port from a mug in the kitchen.  Shane's catchprase was "know what I mean love?"  I always nodded earnestly, but, most of the time, I hadn't the foggiest what on Earth he was on about.

At least we had a friend though.  The rest of the caravan park clearly weren't too pleased to have us back as rumour had spread that during our last stint there we'd 'stolen' cans from the recycling bins.  We didn't think much of it until we suddenly found the bathrooms mysteriously closed for 'cleaning' for two hours after we returned from a morning shift at the dairy, and then a note placed on our caravan door telling us off for driving in the park too fast and warning that Randy might be evicted if we didn't slow it down to walking pace.  (My insistence that the request be clarified, as the difference in the pace of a power walker and that of a person on a zimmer frame left a large margin for error, was not well received.)

It wasn't the best of times, truth be told.  Waking up for work at 4.20 when it was minus five outside didn't help much either.  But it was coming to an end.  At a walking pace.

Apart from Shane and Soupy (who, incidentally, never had any idea who Cat was when she called him, despite the fact she was living in his caravan), Cat and I had a few people, and multinational companies, to thank for getting us through it.  So here's to Heidi and Suzette, who always welcomed us, even in shit splattered clothes, at the Murray Bridge library, Stevie at Dominos Pizza, McDonalds for the joy of McCafe and free Wifi, Woolworths for its reduced roast chicken, and the Salvation Army for its invaluable charity shop trailer trash winter clothes.  Oh, and thanks too to Thomas Joncour, who at least kept a smile on my face.

After six long weeks we said tearful goodbyes to our bosses.  Giving Ron his cap I'd bought in LA and Irene the shortbread I'd carried over in my hand luggage from London, I realised there were things we were going to miss, after all. 

And, somehow, I felt a little pang when it hit home that the backpacker might never go back to the Bridge.



 
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