Wales and England: Driving through the UK searching for a bottle opener.
2022’s been quite a year. In January I bought a house, which I moved into in May. At the beginning of the year I was also offered a position in a different team at work, which I accepted, and thus began six months of insanity that led me to taking several months of sick leave due to stress. That, paired with the process of buying and moving into my first house and having a lot on my plate socially over the summer took a great toll on my health. So I needed to get away, badly. Due to Aga’s work commitments, travelling wasn’t possible until September, and so here we are, going on the first and only trip I’m taking in 2022.
Perhaps it’s the calmness of the quaint villages and great landscapes of the Cotswolds that attracts me so much to the UK this year – God knows I need calmness. There is something cozy and romantic, even fairy tale-like about the waterfalls, rolling green hills, cobblestones and pubs that have outlived generations.
Dublin and Galway, Ireland: Dublin my alcohol blood levels with my pretty little Galway girls
It’s Aga’s birthday, which to her is an excuse to get out of the country for the weekend. Along with Terese and I, she decides on going to The Emerald Isle – that’s Ireland, in case you didn’t know that. This is perfect for so many reasons:
I am home. I sit on my dad’s balcony with a glass of wine in my hand. This is where I live now. My hair’s bleached almost pure white to get rid of the excess green. I have a job in telemarketing that I hate. My friends have been scattered around the country, making it harder to see them spontaneously, but like my family, they’re a lot closer now than they have been for the past few years. My plans to go back to school have been compromised by new laws, so I’m back to square one. Here I am, just trying to make a life for myself in a country that is home, yet seems so foreign to me after a long time on the road. I’m standing still, but constantly moving.
Gladstone, Rockhampton, St. Lawrence and Mackay, Australia: It was the best of times, it was the worst of times
Roadtripping isn’t too bad. Of all the places I’ve been, Australia is one of the prettiest. We have sun in our faces and wind in our hair, my feet are up and great music is pumping out through the speakers. We stop in little towns for lunch, and keep driving until the sun goes down. We enjoy the road signs with trivia questions to keep drivers awake. There’s roadkill every few kilometers. Roadtripping really isn’t too bad.
When we stop in Gladstone for the night, I direct us to a camp site through my WikiCamps app. It has great reviews, mainly about the owner being so interesting. Craig and I are driving Princess Rosie, Nick and Sharon are driving the Hippie Camper that Nick rented in Brisbane. Since there’s no place to pull over to run into the office and check in, we just drive up to a spot and park, and check the tires, which have been making strange noises for a while, before heading to reception. An old man on a bike stops us before we even head to the office to ask us what we’re doing, and not in a polite way. After a long talking to, he kicks us out, because apparently he is the owner and we have “no fucking idea how this country works”, as he puts it. We apologise profusely, telling him we did intend to pay, but we just didn’t know where to park. We leave, shaken and upset, but we find another camp site that lets us park two vans in one spot.
At this point, I am kind of miserable. Not only was I just yelled at, I am also having a shit time as soon as I leave the car. Every single time. Truth is, and I am not trying to put anyone on the spot or be mean, but me and our new travel “buddy” don’t get along very well, and I kind of just have to accept that he’s there, every single day, and I have no say in this. Sharon spends all her time in his van, making it slightly more comfortable for everyone because of the lack of room in the vans, but I hardly see her anymore. Since everyone keeps changing their minds about our route, trying to make us stay longer in little towns with nothing to do to “break up the trip”, I will have to endure this even longer than I want to. He is going all the way to Cairns with us. So I sit there, not eating because my mouth hurts (which is a different story), thinking of just getting on the next Greyhound bus and doing the whole East Coast alone from now on. I don’t say a word for hours, and then I go to bed, way earlier than everyone else, as usual.
When we wake up, we have some breakfast and wash the car a bit, and then we’re off again. We stop in Rockhampton for lunch, where I have a salad of all things, and my mouth still hurts too much to enjoy food. Since Mackay is too far away, we stop in St. Lawrence for the night, at a free camp site called St. Lawrence Recreational Reserve, that looks like an abandoned horse ranch. We arrive as the sun is setting, and after enjoying our view, we have dinner and goon, and Craig and I giggly recreate the music video to Sia’s Elastic Heart.
The next morning, I take my first shower in four days. As gorgeous as this place is, we need to head to Mackay, which will be our last stop before Airlie Beach. I intended it to be one day’s trip from Rainbow Beach to Airlie Beach, but obviously I wouldn’t want Craig to wear himself out. Mackay looks like a Californian town in the 1950’s with palm trees and retro signs. We stay in the parking lot at Far Beach, which is a long beach with a park area in front of it. It’s quite perfect, except toilets are half a kilometer away. The group has decided that we will stay for two nights. The first night, we have salmon and steak and salad for dinner with some goon (of course). The next day, I lay out by the beach, reading and finishing a book, and we try to wash our hair under a little water tab. At night, we eat pasta Bolognese and have more goon. We do more weird dancing, and basically look like we’re tripping on acid. Two locals, a guy and a girl, join us, but I don’t pay them much attention, as I am heading to the beach to get some air before going to sleep.
Since Rainbow Beach, I have been sleeping in the front seat. It makes me feel less uncomfortable and claustrophobic for some reason. Sharon sees my feet hanging out of the window early in the morning and walks up to me. She’s really worried, because Nick didn’t come home last night. We eventually find him sitting on a bench with the girl from last night, which pisses Sharon off a bit. We decide to go for a walk and find the toilets, and when we come back, Craig is still asleep and Nick has brought the girl into his van. Sharon and I just sit around on the grass, when a dog jumps out of his owner’s car and approaches us. His owner, Richard from Adelaide, chats us up and makes us coffee. He saw us the night before, thinking that Craig and I were on acid. He is such a star, asking about our trip, the vans, the guys and everything in between. He’s even been to Aarhus and knows some Danish! We end up staying in Mackay, just talking to Richard and his dog for way too long, but eventually, we get back on the road. Rosie is making noises that worry us, but she seems fine. We eventually realize that Nick and Sharon aren’t following us anymore – we have been in front on this whole trip, with me navigating on my phone. Sharon texts me to say that Nick needs to sleep, since he stayed up all night with the girl, otherwise he might crash the van. See what I’m dealing with?
We have some trouble with Rosie every now and then.She needs to change tyres, the motor makes some odd noises that could easily be adjusted by a mechanic (which none of us are), but other than that, she drives smoothly on the A1 led by Craig, while I DJ ang navigate. We stop to see waterfalls and I play a game of taking pictures of all of the signs we pass.
When all has been said and done, roadtripping could be a lot worse.