On the advice of the genuinely helpful mechanic at the Tallangatta garage, I did the immensely boring 4-hour drive to Melbourne and, after an unintentional detour into a graveyard (this time not the fault of the Australian roads: I just needed somewhere to park to work out where I was), caught up with Kevin and Antoinne again. It was awesome to see them: we’d first met in Kununurra, but only really got to know each other through landing at the same mango picking farm in Mataranka and seemed to keep bumping into each other in different corners of the country
My arrival in Melbourne marked the beginning of a time where everyone’s plans changed quickly, unpredictably, but in the end, in ways that worked out great for everyone. Kevin decided that his job at a shisha cafe wasn’t as fun as dragging everyone out in Melbourne and so packed it in a few hours after I arrived. In a few days Antoinne was on a plane back to Darwin to witness the wet season in all its glory – something I must do myself sometime – and David had headed off cycle Tasmania. Sometime in the first week I got time to put out adverts for my car, but didn’t have much luck seeing as most backpackers were annoyingly more savvy with car-hunting than I was, and so I quickly resigned to the fact I wasn’t going to make a quick turnaround in Melbourne and be in Bright for the January paragliding course.
Since we were relatively close to the start of the Great Ocean Road, Ekin, Kevin and I did an overnight trip to Torquay, stumbling across Bells Beach which, although seemingly in the middle of nowhere when found in the dark, was fairly popular with backpackers regardless of the usual ‘no camping’ warnings. We followed suit and, in what was the most uncomfortable sleep ever in my car, slept in the boot of the car. Sleeping 3 people in the boot of any car is never going to be luxury but we made the fatal mistake of playing shithead for ages, with the lights and doors open, so by the time we went to sleep the car was infested with mossies, who proceeded to feed on us, all night.
Next day we headed back towards Torquay and found the gem that is Jan Juc beach. Jan Juc beach, a few minutes out of Torquay, is probably the best beach I’ve ever been to: the slope of the sand is so gentle that I could wade out for 50m and still touch the ground, and it creates great breakers for body boarding as well as some alright ones for surfing too. We spent the whole day at the beach – we’d hit nirvana and there was no need to explore anywhere else – only realising at the end of the day that the lavish amount of sun cream we’d put on wasn’t nearly enough and we all looked like lobsters. Back in Melbourne the news was reporting that it was looking like the hottest day on record and, sure enough, at midnight the temperature had only dropped to 38C!
Now with an empty schedule for January, we hatched a fantastic plan: take Kevin’s car on the ferry to Tassie and spend a few weeks there, getting back to Melbourne in time for my birthday, incidentally giving me a few days to find my way to Bright in time the start of the February paragliding course. Somehow a week after having all my plans blown into the sky, everything was falling into place and working out even better than the original plan. After 4 months I was finally learning that I’d been planning to fail and that embracing the spontaneous things that backpacking threw up was the way forward..