This entry has less to do with motorcycling, and more to do with me keeping myself occupied for the last 4 days. I think it’s worth writing about, so I hope it’s worth reading about.

Tuesday (Day 3) morning wasn’t a thing. I fast-forwarded to the afternoon by riding out the much needed McDonald’s induced coma. When I woke up, Jared said he’d show me the area he now calls home. We went to the 4×4 tracks a little less than 10 minutes away to get the car a little muddy, which made our efforts visible when we pulled in to Northerlies Beach Bar and Grill later that evening.

We were joined for dinner by an old friend from my blurry days at uni in Auckland; and one of the other chefs on his day off joined our table. After losing a game of pool embarrassingly badly, I enjoyed discussing the parallels of a kitchen’s dynamics and those of an office, or any other small and tightly knit team. Conversations about sauteeing, reverse searing, and selecting meat cuts made my mouth water as I contributed marginally to them: not so great when you want to avoid spitting on people mid-conversation. These guys are incredibly opinionated and passionate about what they do. This became obvious once the food started to arrive.

3 entree plates were brought out, on the house. I don’t even know what I ate, but I just shovelled food into my mouth in an ecstatic state, while making inappropriate noises. Then between the four of us, over the next two hours, we went through: a 300g Wagyu Rump Cap, a 460g Aged Angus Rib on the Bone, a Lamb Rack mains, Swordfish mains, and interestingly, a plate of fried chicken. Oh, and some drinks I don’t remember.

Jared insisted on paying for the table: “because for the first time in my life, I can”. It was a bit of an emotional moment for me. I couldn’t be more grateful, or happier. When I lived with him, I’ve seen the guy struggle with 16-18 hour days in a high end establishment in Auckland, doing what he loved, while getting paid in the thing that peanut butter is made of. I’m glad Northerlies is looking after him as an employee as much as they looked after us as patrons.

After dinner, we went out to the town centre and engaged in a bit of the usual intoxicated backpacker leg shaking. We called it a night after some Pad Thai from some hazy looking takeaway on the main street at 3 am.

On Wednesday (Day 4) morning, Jared told me to get ready and jump in his car; we were going 4x4ing. Dingo Beach, a small town a little less than an hour away from Airlie Beach is a small town ravaged by Cyclone Debbie last year. They’ve recovered surprisingly well. There’s some fun and challenging 4×4 tracks just west of the township. We spent an hour and a half getting stuck and unstuck in the hills, soaking up the reef and ocean vistas, then returned to Airlie Beach for burgers at Little Vegas.

Apparently Wednesdays are ‘Twilight Sailing’ nights at the local sailing club, so we went there in the afternoon. We were introduced to a man of few words with 3 missing fingers on his left hand, named Kevin -he even abbreviated his double-syllabled name to ‘Kev’. We jumped onto his sailboat. I had just downed an espresso I made, and I had never sailed before, but when Kevin asked for a volunteer who didn’t mind doing some work, my hand involuntarily went up.

I was the grinder for the entire duration of the race -yes, we were racing other boats. I had to jump from one side of the boat to the other depending on the direction of travel in relation to the wind, and secure and wind the sail ropes on the winches as per Kev’s orders. I felt cold beads of sweat forming on my head in no time. They stayed there for the rest of the time on the water.

The crew was an interesting mix. Jared and I were the guests, with a Gold Coast based stage-rigger-cum-father who happily joined us anyway after being told his kids couldn’t because they were too young. There was Kev who said little, his eyes gazing into the distance, his hands always on the wheel steering the boat. His significant other, presumably, whose loud laughter at her own jokes went for on a few cackles more than they would demand from everyone else. A friend of theirs, an older gentleman who was even quieter than Kev; I think “I’m Jim, nice to meet you” was literally all that came out of his mouth. Then there was a motorcycle mechanic turned charter boat owner/ operator who expressed envy of my trip to come, full of interesting conversation about being one of the few young folk living on a sailboat in the marina.

And then there was an absolute character. I’ll call him Popeye, because Popeye was too drunk to introduce himself at the start, and he ensured he stayed that way until the end by keeping his lips constantly moistened with ‘Bundy and Coke’ from the chilly bin esky. Look, I really enjoy drinking with Australians: I’ve done it all over the world. And I can understand an Australian drawl, debatably, and on a case by case basis. But Popeye didn’t talk like a normal Australian. I felt like he pronounced all his words with absolute perfection with his mouth closed, while infusing them with rum and coke. And then he opened his mouth, and they all fell out together, dribbling into the ear canals of those within earshot. My communications with Popeye were therefore restricted to the angry look he shot me with when I wound the wrong winch at the start, and every thumbs up thereafter when I didn’t.

After not coming last in the race, Kev spoke some words which allowed me to steer the boat as it coasted back into the marina.

Early dinner that night, with entertainment provided by another flatmate from NZ who now lives in Airlie Beach also: a reunion of sorts. Check out Carlee’s music, and her business. I’m incredibly impressed with this talented and driven lady; you show them how hard kiwis work, girl!

The next day (Day 5), I did my personal admin: posted the camera to my folks in Brisbane, wrote up the Day 2 journal entry, went to the gym and squatted 140kgs for 4 sets of 5 (still got it), didn’t ride my bike, and got an early night’s sleep.

Today is Day 6. I slept a lot, woke up at 0800 and booked a cruise to the Whitsunday islands. I went snorkelling at the Border Island Reef, and if I hadn’t used the bathroom before jumping on the boat, I would’ve shat myself when I saw my first wild shark a couple of metres under me. I spoke to the tour operators after I got back on the boat, and apparently Blacktip Reef Sharks are not dangerous, and are about the size I described at maturity. I saw beautiful corals, fish I won’t bother going through the pain of describing elaborately, and some sort of eel-swordfish cross that I lost track of.

Whitehaven Beach was our next stop. We have nice beaches in NZ also, so I decided to go for a walk on the rocks at the south end of the beach, and then ran up to a lookout point where I caught a glimpse of paradise from. I enjoyed walking on the fine white sand on the stretch of pristine beach after that. Thoroughly recommended, a close second to just about any beach in NZ.

I thought the crew girl on the boat was kinda cute, but I’m glad I didn’t ask her out for a drink, otherwise I wouldn’t be sat at a bar having a beer on my lonesome as I write this.

Jared’s gone off to some hippie festival called Mushroom Valley, whose other attendants I’d have little in common with. I’m off home now, and I’ll head towards Cairns tomorrow morning. I’m in no rush and will stop wherever I can pitch my tent up at 1600. There’s even more to see and do north of here, and I can sense my bike missing me being on it.


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