Sunday, August 29, 2010

This Story Explains Me Pretty Well

I'm starting to think I might be a tad impulsive. Ah, who am I kidding, we all know I'm impulsive. I have the natural self-preservation instinct of a chicken. Anyone who's owned chickens knows they'd most probably just sleep as their beloved was being murdered next to them by a fox and then act surprised when they get eaten next - if they actually wake up for it. I'm fairly certain when a chicken is being eaten alive at night, it opens an eye and goes, "Gee, I'm being eaten. Oh well, as long as he doesn't wake me." So yes, my point is, this appears to be the level of self-preservation I have.

So this introduction leads me to my next story; where I somehow ended up in the rainforest with a complete stranger showing me around with a machete. Logically, this would be a very bad situation, right? Like - hello, 24 year old woman by herself with a strange man in a forest - clearly I have no sense of danger - or I have an incredible sense of adventure. My mother prefers the word 'wrecklessness'. Whatever you call it, it's gotten me into some crazy situations. Not all I've loved, but most of them I have.

So let's back up. My fiance has been talking on and on and on about this excavator he's been wanting for ages that's bogged down in some guy's back-alley hidden farm. $1500 and if he can fix it, he can have it. Apparently this is an excellent deal for excavators are expensive. I have no idea. All I know is The Boy asked me if I could go drive 2 hours after what amounted to enough sleep to barely function in normal society. So of course, by the time I get there, my already meager sense of not dying was lowered below it's usual reserves.

So we meet these two swagmen, right. Now, for Americans - swagmen are Outback bush ranger types without the ranger bit. They love the land and wear big boots and cut down trees and sleep under the stars and grow beards and, well, are men. Think Brokeback Mountain, but less gay. Or more gay - I haven't really figured it out. But these are the men that eat out of cans of beans they heated over a fire and since they don't have a fork, they just use their dirt-encrusted hands to scoop the beany goodness into their mouths. Those kind of men. Real men.

So they meet us with our white ute and trailer carrying a boat (this is another story) on their own four-wheelers. As they lead us through this huuuuge pathway between state forests, I start noticing bizarre looking orange trees. Bumpy little oranges dot the pathway. So do bizarre animals, trees, rivers and funny-shaped natural structures. Point being, I wasn't in Kansas anymore, Toto. As we're following these two swagmen on their four-wheelers, they are using a machete to cut down overhanging trees and branches, leading us up this windy dirt road for miles.

So, again, just to be clear - I don't know these men's names. I've never met these men. Neither has my fiance. My fiance's father, who is with us, is probably the only person who has someone at home waiting for him in case he turns up missing - but since my fiance had the address, she probably didn't really know where he went. So as we're bumping through a rainforest path following two men with machetes I came upon the realization that, hey, they could kill us and nobody would even begin to know where to look for us.

We finally get to the destination and, lo and behold, there really IS an excavator for my fiance to look at. Well, I'll be damned. So - not being one for digging things I got a bit bored and started poking at the four-wheelers, which the men had gotten off at this point. I mentioned to one of the bushmen that I saw some really funny orange trees and did he mind if I picked some oranges.

"Ah those be bush lemons mate! Not oranges. I've got a million of 'em. I'll chop down 10 trees and you can take 'em home with ya if ya want!"
I was a bit taken aback, "Uh that's not, er, necessary. I'd rather just pick a few."
He looked at his partner and pointed up to the hills, while still talking to me, "Well there be some juicy juicy lemon trees up in the mountain but you need the fourwheeler to get them. Hey Sammy, take the girl on the four-wheelers to get some lemons from the good trees!"

So, let me elaborate again. Bushman #1 says to Bushman #2, hey.. take this lady on a strange vehicle up a mountain, far away from us, so she can pick lemons. Oh, by the way, she doesn't know your name, my name, or if the machetes we use have ever killed people. Did I mention I'm impulsive?

Instead of the normal human reaction of, "Oh this is probably a bad idea." I went, "Cool!! I can drive a four wheeler and pick lemons!? Awesome!!!" Logically, at the time, this made perfect sense to me. Now, mind you, we're in a fucking rainforest. So there's no paths, no tracks... and a lot of logs, creeks and bumpy things. Oh, and I've never driven a four-wheeler except once and it was on flat land. I have, however, ridden dirt bikes. Once. So logically, I think, "This can't be much different, can it?!"

So after ten minutes trying to figure out why the clutch was actually a brake, I got the girl going at a level that was reasonable. However, my first task appeared to be 'cross this 6' deep gully with a river in the bottom of it'. "Okay!" my lack-of-proper-judgment-brain said to me, "I can do this!"

So. Riding a four-wheeler is pretty much exactly nothing like riding a dirt bike. Except the part where you hit the throttle and pray for the ever loving grace of G-d that you're going to make it over the top of the bend without falling over backwards and ending up underneath a four wheeler, in a ditch, covered in river, on fire. There's a joke in that last sentence.

Before I decided it was a brilliant idea to make my first trip on a four-wheeler to cross a freakin river, my fiance decided to give me advice.

"Now remember, when you're going down, lean back. When you're going up, lean forward."

Yep. That's it. Not, "Hey and if the jolly swagman decides to cut off your neck, be sure to roll your head this way so we know to run." or, "If the river starts to carry you away, hold your breath as long as possible." No, this is not the advice he gives me. "Lean forward on the up and back on the down," was the best he could do.

And me? I thought this was excellent advice. Because, apparently, as compulsive as I am - he is just as equally trusting. Go! Go risk your life crossing dams so you can pick lemons with an unknown swagman carrying a myriad of knives, but just rememeber, lean back on the down and forward on the up. Yep. That seemed good advice to me.

Glynn's father, who is probably a bit more logical than us, handed me a knife 'for the lemons' he said. So I pocketed this tiny little golden utility knife feeling perfectly safe that against a man with a machete, this would be adequate protection. Did I mention I'm impulsive?

I don't know how I managed, but I crossed the gully with the river in it just fine. Maybe it's because I leaned forward on the up. Most likely it's because I just went, "Shit shit shit shit shit," and hit the throttle. And of course LEAPED over the top edge of the gully. Which, if you've ever done it, is exactly what makes you love the damn vehicles. So, with a renewed sense of "Fuck yeah I can totally do this!" I followed the jolly swagman deep into the jungle to pick fucking lemons, man.

You know what's awesome about open-air vehicles that cover raw land? That the thing you want to do, as opposed to the thing you should be doing are two completely different things. So when you want to lean into a corner, you really...really...shouldn't. I wish I could draw you a picture but imagine me, young redheaded female, on a massive 4-wheeler, pretty much sideways on the side of a mountain leaning into the corner before going, "Shit, I think this is how you fall the fuck over." and suddenly trying to counter balance in the opposite direction.

I guess just picture a redheaded praying mantis stuck to a flying rock, sideways. Got that picture in your head? That's what I looked like. Oh, and I wasn't wearing a helmet. Of course. I was in the damn jungle and in the damn jungle YOU DON'T WEAR HELMETS. Got that? Although I don't know why I'm mentioning this. There's fucking machetes in this story - I don't think the helmet was really my biggest problem here.

So we got to the lemon trees. I know, I'm a bit surprised they existed too. Did you know that bush lemons are absolutely covered in spines? Yeah well I didn't.

(Photographic Evidence I am not dead)*

So we come back with our bags filled with delicious bush lemons and my man is still checking out the escavator. I tell Swagman #1 that I really loved his land and it was very pretty and I thanked him for the lemons. This is when he said to me, "You should see the waterfall!"

"Waterfall? There's a waterfall!?"
"Yeah mate, up in the forest on the mountain. She's a beaut. 8 feet deep and just beautiful."
"Do we have time to see the waterfall!?" I look at Glynn with big sooky eyes, just begging him to let me go out with a strange bushman carrying a foot-long blade once more into the forest on a vehicle I've never driven up a mountain over rocks with no helmet. Yeah, read that again. Glynn said, "Yeah sure, you can do that!"
What a good man.

So Swagman #2 takes me back up the mountain, but this time on a different path, a much less travelled path. Okay, it wasn't even a path. It was a bunch of broken twigs leading the way; and every now and then the swagman would stop and break more twigs 'to help guide the way again'. So when I say I'm in the middle of nowhere, I am not kidding.

Once more I am sideways praying mantis. Upside down praying mantis. Downhill praying mantis. Basically, I was slowly climbing a barely-trecked mountainside on this vehicle that couldn't go past 14km (because, yes, at this time I also thought "how fast can this thing go?" - however it might go up to 15 or even 16, considering I was going uphill on wet rocks at the time). This is when the swagman stops and points, "You see these trees lining the path? Yeah they're poison, I'd put on me jacket if I were you. This is why I wear gloves, mate."

Poison. Trees. What. The. Fuck. Australia.

Also, at this point I'm really praying the cut on my head really DID come from the lemon tree. After what seems to me to be about half an hour, we have to get off the vehicles and start walking because the four-wheelers valued at around $17k each couldn't go across this part even though they had just trekked up a fucking mountain. Dude.

Next thing I know I'm jumping down huge gullies, skipping rocks across gushing rivers and at one point I kid you not, I had to cross a beam of wood the men had cut around a rock to serve as a 3" deep platform you could hold onto the rock for balance and cross to get to the other side. Mind you I am wearing little platform shoes made of rubber and a trenchcoat, along with a glittery studded Guess top. Mind you, Swagman #2 was wearing steeltoed boots, utility pants, a Drizabone coat, thick leather gloves and was carrying a fucking machete. I still had my tiny gold utility knife. You know, for the lemons.

Finally the swagman says to me, "Here she is."

In front of me is quite possibly the most beautiful natural thing I have ever seen. A giant slab of water-worn rock rests atop a carefully balanced boulder, a sheet of thick crystal clear water slicing across the air. The rainforest trees, with their thick wet foliage and thick twisted vines encased the entirety of the waterfall in it's roots. Soft green luscious moss splattered the shiny gray wet rocks like something carefully painted by only the finest of French artists.

The best part. The best part was the sounds. If you closed your eyes you felt like you had turned your favourite Sounds of the Rainforest CD on surround and managed to have million-dollar speakers. It was the live version of a natural symphony. The music of the rainforest was incredible. Cicadas wrote lovesongs in the trees. Parrots played among the twisted vines, announcing their adoration for the waterfall in playful clucks. The waterfall pounded on the rocks in front of me, the sounds of rushing water heavy and thick and so incredibly close. The hairs on my arms stood on end.

"Cleanest water you'll find. You should try some." he said as he pointed to the fall with his knife.

I couldn't help it. I had to do it. I climbed down the last couple feet to the base of the fall and skipped the slimy slippery wet rocks across the gushing river and shovelled both hands directly into the gushing water. Three times I drank from the beautiful pure rainforest waterfall, the splashes soaking my coat and hair with beads of crystalline droplets. Feeling as if more than three mouthfuls would render me 'greedy', I pulled away from the moment. I swear I could hear the ripping sound of my brain being snapped back into the real world.

I climbed back up the fall, back across the wooden plank, back through the rivers and gulleys, back onto the ATVs, back sideways down the mountain and back into the real world.

So this is the story of how I followed strangers into the rainforest without knowing a thing about what I was getting into and having one of the most beautiful moments imaginable. I'm fairly certain that when you do something so wreckless, there should be consequences, not rewards. So I'm guessing this will end up being the story of how I got Cholera. Watch.

*Textual evidence I exaggerate greatly.

No comments:

Post a Comment