Welcome to Crazy Bob's Jungle

Trip Start Nov 29, 2012
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Where I stayed
Crazy Bob's Jungle

Flag of Australia  , Queensland,
Saturday, May 18, 2013

One must question one's sanity at times like these. Just a week ago, I escaped hell on earth aka Gatton which probably be renamed 'Shat On’ and now I’m back in the sticks, or to more precise, Crazy Bob’s Jungle. Now, don’t get me wrong, Bob is a really nice chap. He really is accommodating and generous. But he really is the wrong side of completely and utterly deranged. Crazy Bob contacted me while I was in Gatton and offered to let me stay with him at his house in the rainforest. Like me, he enjoyed writing and said he wanted to swap stories and poems with me. There was one word however that I’d missed on his host profile page on Help Exchange website when I read about his place and that was the word ‘rustic.’ Somehow, in my utter stupidity, I had not really comprehended what that word actually meant. 

 Well, I can reassure you reader that now I most certainly do.

Crazy Bob came to pick me up in Noosa in a clapped out Toyota ute which wouldn’t have looked out of place in a horror film. Alarm bells were ringing deafeningly in my ears even at this stage but on first introductions, he seemed quite normal. Or so I thought. By pure chance, a French girl called Valerie was also staying at his house so I wouldn’t be entirely alone with him. Thank goodness. Crazy Bob’s jungle was about thirty kilometres away from Gympie whose name I later learnt is derived from Aborigine for two things, the Devil and ‘Stinging Tree.’ A local tree that is notorious for stinging people who brush past it. Not the best of starts ever one must concede. Crazy Bob’s house was miles down overgrown tracks well off the main road with stunning views of the rainforest all around on majestic looking hills. Strangely, the landscape reminded me of Northern Malaysia. And that my friends was pretty much where the similarities ended.

We arrived at dusk and from what I could see, Crazy Bob’s was your average traditional outback house on stilts with what appeared to be a woodshed underneath and steps leading up to a quaint looking veranda with chairs. I could smell the surrounding pine trees and could just make out banana, papaya and eucalyptus trees in the twilight. There was also a faint whiff of wood smoke, one of my favourite smells from my childhood. Going inside Crazy Bob’s house was like stepping into the Woodcutter’s Cottage from Snow White. In the corner of the kitchen was an antiquated wood stove with a pile of logs beside it, genuinely like something from a Disney fairytale. The living room where I would be sleeping had no sofas as such but around twenty gizzlion layers of dust, cobwebs oh and no less than THREE pianos, a grand piano, an upright and rather bizarrely, an organ that had been pilfered from the local Presbyterian church. Like you do. On this organ was propped a self portrait of a nude woman whose body was slate gray against a black background. The picture was worn in such a way that it looked like she was crying. Spooked didn’t cover the half of it.

On the way to the house, Crazy Bob had mentioned that he loved the rustic life and led a very, what he called, frugal lifestyle, in all aspects of his existence.

By this time, it was around 6pm and as it was Queensland in winter, it was already pitch dark. When it’s night time in the sticks and the moon isn’t out, it’s so black it’s difficult to see even a couple of metres in front of you. Unfortunately for me, I needed the loo and asked innocently where it was. Valerie told me that Crazy Bob had what Australians refer to colloquially as a ‘dunny’. For those of you whose Australian slang isn’t quite up to scratch, a dunny ladies and gentleman is an outside toilet which was in the garden in a shed about one hundred metres from the house. Turned out the shower was in there too. Oh reader, you should have seen the look on my face! I was completely horrified beyond belief. Posh git that I am, I was well and truly appalled! To add to my misery, one had to don a head torch to go to the toilet. To be fair, it wasn’t a hole in the ground but the handwashing facilities really were rather basic. An old cattle trough with a tap that looked as if it predated Medieval times. As for soap, fat chance! Most hostels don’t even have soap, let alone an antiquated cattle shed that has been slovenly made into a makeshift bathroom in the sodding rainforest!

After the quickest pee and dash back to the house in the history of mankind ever, I made the sensible and informed decision never to visit the jungle bathroom after nightfall ever, EVER again. But rather than dwell on my traumatic experience, I had other things to worry about, this namely being dinner. While Bob had been telling me about his frugal lifestyle, he’d also mentioned that he was a vegetarian, which in theory didn’t sound too bad. As a backpacker, one’s diet ends up being mostly veggie, over the last week, I had been surviving off noodles, tea and Smartbuy* margarine. So I figured that some vegetables would probably do me some good. Ha. Dinner on my first night at Crazy Bob’s consisted of one slice of bread, one slice of cheese with curried mung beans on top with huge hunks of onion through it. Seconds anyone?! You’re probably thinking I’m a completely ungrateful sod but I honestly never thought things would be so ‘rustic.’ As a saving grace from hunger, I had the ‘luxury’ of toasting some more Smartbuy bread on the wood stove for dessert. Lucky me. After dinner, I had a chat with Crazy Bob about life in general. I told him about Scotland, the UK and Europe and asked if he’d visited. I quickly discovered he wasn’t a fan of travelling and had something devastatingly negative to say about every country on the planet, even his own. I felt a bit downhearted at how bloody minded he was being, he seemed to think that his house in the rainforest was the only place in his opinion worth visiting and everywhere else in the world was cack. I asked him how he could justify such a statement having never even been to these places. He answered that he’d read about them and that was enough for him. Honestly, some people.

I was in bed by 9pm in relative luxury, a single mattress with about ten million layers of blankets. But bloody hell were they needed. The house was absolutely FREEZING and muggins here had drawn the short straw of having one’s bed right up against a draughty window. With had no curtains. Joy. I went to bed wearing a thermal baselayer, a hoodie and pyjama bums and still felt cold for a good half hour, even with a sleeping bag over me and huddled under the layers in a vague attempt to stay warm. Sob.

I awoke the next morning gripped by the throes of panic thinking what the bloody hell am I even doing here? Why am I putting myself through this?! It was at that moment, I decided I would leave.

Unfortunately for me, I didn’t get really get much choice with breakfast. It wasn’t quite as rustic as last night’s dinner but really wasn’t my thing so to speak. Disgustingly sour grapefruit from the garden with the cheapest muesli imaginable. (my late bunnies, Biscuit and Smudge used to eat better food than this muesli, I kid you not). This was accompanied by thickened cream and optional extras including brown sugar, desiccated coconut and bizarrely, chocolate peanuts. I surprised myself in eating it, hunger does truly strange things to your eating habits. After breakfast, I was absolutely desperate for a cup of tea. Since being on the backpacker circuit, I can no longer function in the mornings without one. Crazy Bob however only had unpasteurised milk from the dairy down the road (of course he did, being the loopy bugger that he was). I cannot drink tea without milk and although I seriously considered it, I just knew I couldn’t sacrifice my morning brew and made the decision to bite the bullet and just use the milk anyway (which for the record when he’d collected it from the dairy the night before, was still bloody warm from the sodding cow). 

As a part time lactose intolerant, let’s just say things for the next few hours, didn’t go so well in the gastric department.

Add an outdoor toilet in the garden to the equation and you’ve got yourself a severe epic fail right there. Oh dear.

Amidst my chronic stomach cramps, Crazy Bob didn’t really help things by deciding this would be a good time to show me his collection of dead animals. This macabre bunch of ‘trinkets’ as he called them included wallaby and dingo skulls, a preserved owl skeleton that had fallen into a water tank and a rat that he’d ploughed down in his tractor and numerous snake skins. He also had a dingo’s jaw which he’d plucked teeth out of his for previous visitors who had requested them as souvenirs. Although I managed to escape an excursion to the jungle citing ill health, I wasn’t able to avoid a trip to the dairy at the bottom of the garden. This, Bob told me was one of three types of accommodation available while staying at the farm. Apparently there was also a ‘jungle hut’ and even a cave if you were feeling particularly adventurous and wanted a full on ‘rustic experience.’ And I thought the house was bad. Crazy Bob genuinely couldn’t understand why I didn’t want to stay in the dairy instead of his house. For a start, it was completely derelict and full of insects, dirt, mould and goodness knows what else. The place wasn’t even waterproof and was full of holes with battered looking chairs and a mattress that looked like it’d been stolen from landfill. There was a septic toilet out the back that one had to flush with a bucket. And I thought the outdoor bog was poor. To my amazement, Crazy Bob showed me a diary written by people like me who had had the nerve to actually spend a night or more in this awful place. I was genuinely astonished. It was freaky enough in the daytime let alone at night. Crazy Bob told me a lot of lesbians stayed there, how their sexuality was relevant was a complete mystery, all I could tell from looking at the place was that they must have been as mad as its owner to even considering shacking up there overnight. 

I had a civilized lunch of bread, butter and jam (all things I’d thankfully had the foresight to bring with me, even if Crazy Bob disapproved) The reason I’d come to the rainforest in the first place was to write. I figured the solitude would provide the opportunity to work on some ideas for poetry I had. But every time I sat down with the laptop, Crazy Bob would be chuntering away at me about something or other, in the entire afternoon, I had about an hour to myself to write. 

But one of the things that amazed me about Crazy Bob’s was Valerie, the French girl. She was so tolerant of it all. She’d been invited to come along to work on his website, her job back in France was as a web developer and she was working freelance in Australia while she was travelling. Needless to say, she was leaving pretty pronto and I quickly decided that I would go with her. She had been there for nearly two weeks and I seriously admired her for sticking it out for so long. This was my first full day and I was already planning my escape! She was even brave enough to have a shower OUTSIDE at night in the PITCH DARK! I had a serious amount of respect for her. I didn’t even dare step outside the house after 7pm. At dinner this evening, which was boiled potatoes, pasta, noodles, onion and curry sauce which bizarrely tasted of dirt,  Crazy Bob was adamant that he wanted to take me and Valerie up to the jungle hut with only moonlight to guide us. I told him I wasn’t having it and there was absolutely no way it was happening. He practically begged us but I refused. It was bad enough going to the dunny in the dark, let alone the sodding jungle. Imagine if we trod on a snake? Can you imagine?! He was wittering on about how he would even go barefoot. After a while, he gave up, much to our relief. 

As we sat eating our ‘humble meal’ as he kept referring to it, I was overcome by a terrible desire to laugh, simply at the sheer absurdity of it all. It was overwhelmingly bad, I spent a good ten minutes desperately trying to stop myself giggling. But when Crazy Bob started talking about the Gympie Dump I just couldn’t contain it any longer and burst out laughing, it was just too funny. Thankfully he laughed with us but deep down, I don’t think he found it amusing in the slightest. I think most of his worldly belongings have come from the Gympie Dump to be perfectly honest…

After dinner, Valerie and I were discussing our plans to leave, I explained that I thought backpacking was bad enough but being in the sticks, especially in the rainforest with a complete crackerjack of an Aussie is another thing entirely. She made a very valid point in that if I spent any longer than a few days out here with Crazy Bob, I’d end up like the skeletal owl in his dead things collection. Regional work is certainly not worth starving to death on a diet of mung beans and Smartbuy muesli that’s for sure….!

*Smartbuy is the equivalent of Asda Smartprice or Tesco Value food, basically the crap that is shovelled off the floor from the real food. Yummy!*
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