First Day in Exmouth
Trip Start Mar 14, 2009
34Trip End Ongoing
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Where I stayed
Which is how we found ourselves in the company of Bazza, Stecky et al, arriving in Exmouth at the ungodly hour of 4am. Stecky pointed us in the direction of our hostel and uttered those words which I like to think of as the travellers’ curse - tell someone who is carrying a over-stuffed rucksack that ‘you can’t miss’ X destination and you will guarantee them two hours of wandering around an industrial estate.
Our hostel had the cruel checkout time of 9.30am and we were a little concerned that we wouldn’t wake up in time, so exhausted were we from the journey and the late night. We need not have feared. Two stunningly chavish chavs woke the whole dorm, and possibly everyone else in a two mile radius, by embarking on a ear-shattering screaming match along the lines of ’I already fackin’ toldchu dat, Michelle. You neva listen to me. I ain’t fackin’ tellin’ you again.’ Sunlight streamed through the wide-open door as they smoked and flounced about performing the little rituals of chavism that I’d rarely seen up close, at least since leaving school in Sunderland. They spent 45mins straightening hair and applying make-up in order to go to the beach. That’s right, the beach - where there is wind and water and sweat and sand all ready to undo any beautifying efforts you are silly enough to attempt
You may be wondering why nobody said something to these girls. Why no-one, lying in their bunks, awake much earlier that they had intended to be, told them where they could shove their straightening irons. I think we were simply mesmerised - such chavs are a force of nature, like the mass migration of buffalo at Masai Mara in Kenya. You have to let them run their course and simply observe in wonder. I also think that if they had been one iota less rude and inconsiderate than they were, we would have been angry. As it was, they had taken it to a new level which was simply comic and even on three hours sleep I was laughing into my pillow.
This laughter was short-lived and was possibly hysteria brought on by lack of sleep. There was only one thing to be done and we did it. We found a café and ordered the largest coffee and the biggest cooked breakfast on the menu. We stayed there all day and whenever a wave of tiredness washed over us, we ordered something chocolaty.
That evening, we were to meet Zach who was to be our couch surfing host in Exmouth. Zach is a sergeant in the US Air Force, stationed in Exmouth to observe the sun and weather patterns - he explained why this was to me, but it’s top secret and if I told you, I’d have to kill you. Zach’s life in Exmouth brought home to me what a lottery a career in the armed forces can be. While Zach’s comrades risk life and limb in Afghanistan and Iraq, he snoozes in an air-conditioned office until he is called upon to make a weather report. In his spare time, he hangs out at the community house, where Uncle Sam has provided a gym, a pool table, a foosball table, a home cinema and a barbie. At night, he returns to his huge, three-bedroomed house, provided by the military free of charge, all bills included. He spends his weekends surfing, spear fishing, snorkelling, canoeing, camping and sailing with equipment bought and supplied by the American tax payer, available for him to use whenever he wants, totally free. I’d sign up, but knowing my luck, it would be Afghanistan for me. The only caterpillar in the salad of this perfect scenario is that Zach has to live in Exmouth, which he describes as America in the 1950s.
On our first evening, feeling revived by a shower, I allowed myself to be talked into a drink at the town’s pub, which was an interesting experience. I met a very friendly bikie from Perth. He was a member of the God’s Garbage club - he had a very chunky belt buckle that made this clear. He was anxious to assure me that, despite what I may have heard, not every bikie gang is involved in drugs, guns, murder and crime. Some, like his, are simply into bikes. The reputations of bikie gangs in Australia is fearsome - not a week goes by without a high-profile murder hitting the headlines, including (during my time in Oz) a shootout at Sydney airport. But Derek was very friendly and we had a nice little chat - his enthusiasm for bikes, his friends and the community they built around their shared passion was evident. His friend, a giant ginger lump who looked like an extra from ‘Braveheart’ was a little more like the bikie stereotype I had read about. He did an interesting line in impressions of Aboriginal people and declared Australia to be the ‘best fucking country in the world’. When I inquire which other countries he had visited, it transpired that he had made this judgement based on precisely zero overseas travel. Hmm - enough said.