Fear and Loathing and the Big Banana

Mint Green EH Holden

The Mint Green EH Holden

“Mum, I wanna come home. There’s ducks swimming in the grass outside my tent!”

We pulled onto the Great Western Highway as the sounds of You Am I’s Hi-Fi Way filled the interior of the mint green EH Holden. Our great Australian road trip had begun with rubber burning out beneath us.

‘Homebake’ beckoned us three mountain girls with its siren song to Byron Bay. We rode the Pacific Highway with festival dreams in our hearts, surf stops plotted and a campsite awaiting our half-way mark.

The old EH farted its lead-laden exhaust up the highway as I stretched along the caramel vinyl bench seat in the back; the cousins laughing and enjoying the view through the windscreen.

With windows wound down, Hunter S Thompson kept me company in the back seat. His drug-filled tales of fear and loathing painted Daliesque scenes in my mind. Sidewinder’s bass notes thumped from the stereo, and our road trip morphed into Thompson’s Mint 400 off-road race.

Excitement was high as we pulled into legendary Crescent Head. Surfers bobbed on the waves, a community of seal-skinned freedom seekers. We pitched our tent and left the EH standing guard. It’s mint green hue all summery new life. Yet its chunky brick body a sign of heavy things to come.

A peacock called out in the pre-dawn light from behind the EH’s back wheels, annoyed at our hefty intrusion. Our wheels on his turf, he demanded we roll on.

Spiderbait’s Kram slammed sticks against drums as beach breakfasts were downed, and we belched smoke in a northerly direction again. Red lights flashed on the dash as we diverted to Coffs Harbour, home of the Big Banana. Smoke poured from the chest of our mint green steed. A smoking Joe with somewhere to go, but no strength left for our final leg north.

In an unplanned campsite tragic news was delivered: the EH was dead and there was a three day wait for mechanics. Our Homebakey dreams crushed, the heavens opened up in mutual distress, dumping their heavy tears down on our tent and adventure.

We huddled inside as it rained and it rained and it rained even more. Invisible cracks encouraged a deluge into our shelter, our sleeping bags, our skin, and our dreams through the night.

The cousins huddled together keeping warm as I shivered and cried, “I hate this! I’m leaving!” And I peeled back the tent flaps as ducks swam past through the grass.

The EH watched on. Solid and silent. No saviour in sight.

I ran to a phone booth, sobbing for rescue: “Mum, I wanna come home. There’s ducks swimming in the grass outside my tent! I hate it here. I’m never setting foot in Coffs Harbour again!”

Nineteen years on, I laugh that there are banana plantations flanking my new Coffs Harbour home. Fear and loathing couldn’t stop me from taking another trip north. Only this time it wasn’t in an old mint green EH Holden.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

This story first appeared on ABC Open.

When All Else Fails, Reboot!

Talk about excess baggage!

At least it’s not the kitchen sink!

What do you do when life just doesn’t go the way you’d planned? When the job folds; the house crumbles; the relationship evaporates? When you reach that age when you should’ve been living a life completely different to the one you’ve woken up in? What do you do? Do you fall into a screaming heap – like I did? Or do you finally shake some sense into yourself, pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and see it as a grand adventure – like I’m doing?

For most of my life I’ve been terrified of ever becoming jobless and/or homeless. I’ve run like the wind from those nightmare concepts and they’ve finally caught up with me; grabbed me by the scruff of the neck and latched on tight. And you know what I’ve finally realized? They’re actually the dream of freedom that I’ve also been chasing for the same amount of time; they’re the big mamma/papa cat, carrying its kitten to a better place – I hope. Weird huh?!

Yep, so I’m a complete and utter failure. Couldn’t cut the mustard. Couldn’t make it work in the big city (and couldn’t make the big city work for me). Failure = freedom in this case, so I’ve decided to go troppo for a spell. I’ve headed up to Big Banana Land for some much needed R&R. I’m switching off my head, switching gears, and switching channels. I’ve packed my life into storage and a small suitcase and am ticking another achievement off my list: #164 – Go vagabonding!


Leg it!

Leg it!

Joseph Campbell said:

Whatever your fate is, whatever the hell happens, you say, “This is what I need.” It may look like a wreck, but go at it as though it were an opportunity, a challenge. If you bring love to that moment—not discouragement—you will find the strength there. Any disaster you can survive is an improvement in your character, your stature, and your life. What a privilege!! This is when the spontaneity of your own nature will have a chance to flow. Then, when looking back at your life, you will see that the moments which seemed to be great failures, followed by wreckage, were the incidents that shaped the life you have now. You’ll see this is really true. Nothing can happen to you that is not positive. Even though it looks and feels at the moment like a negative crisis, it is not. The crisis throws you back, and when you are required to exhibit strength, it comes.

What was the last crisis that you went through? What was your last failure? Are you able to look back at it and see the positive in it yet? Are you going through a crisis or a free-falling failure right now? If so, can you flip the double-headed coin and see the fear as excitement instead? It’s taken me a bloody long time to get to this point, and I don’t doubt that there will be more potential screaming heaps to fall into, but today I’m turning a shitty situation on its head, and turning a bucket-load of loss into a big-arsed adventure.

Will I see you on the road?

Winter Isn’t Coming, It’s Well and Truly HERE!




I know I shouldn’t complain. But I’m going to. It’s freeeezing!!! I don’t remember ever having to wear so many layers of clothing and still have to sit on top of the heater to keep warm. The way I’m rugged up, I feel like I should be guarding The Wall from wildlings with the rest of the Night’s Watch. Jon Snow knows nothing about how cold Sydney is at the moment. Even walking around in the sunshine doesn’t stop the wind’s icy needle fingers from penetrating your clothes and getting under your skin.

Even the Stark pugs are having to rug up and brace themselves agains the chill:

All this wintery weather is making me reminisce about the glorious sunshiney day of my 20th birthday (long ago in a galaxy far, far away). It was so warm on my mid-winter birthday, that I was getting around the Blue Mountains in my favourite Welcome Mat t-shirt and happily sweating like a teacup piglet. If I still owned that t-shirt and cruised around in it today I’d have bits dropping off me left, right and all around the middle.

The desire for mid-winter warmth is firing up my engine in preparation for a roadtrip North with my mutt, Django. Thankfully, the drive North will not take us to Winterfell. Instead, we’re heading into the heart of Big Banana land, which I’ve discovered really should be renamed the land of the Big Blueberry thanks to the major crop rotation in Coffs Harbour. It’s been a while since I’ve done the great Australian roadtrip up the North Coast thanks to Qantas and Virgin Australia! I’m looking forward to seeing how much things have changed (and stayed the same) over the last 15 years. Did I just write that?! 15 years?! Has it really been that long?! God I feel old!

As I thaw out my old bones on the drive up into to the sunshine I’ll be thinking of you and wondering what you’re doing to keep warm. Will you be telling stories by the fire like me? Yes, I intend to build a fire pit and incinerate some marshmallows while I’m away. Or will you be testing your mettle against the chill? Only a few days ago there was snow just 2 hours out of Sydney. Surely there are some snow men in dire need of construction. If you do decide to brave the snow while I’m away, just be sure that if some lanky dude with whispy white hair and glowing blue eyes approaches you, that you run. Run as fast as your legs will carry you; faster than a pug in a leather jerkin!