Moving from the outback to a remote tropical island
I’m currently at the airport, embracing one of those beautiful transition periods where I move seamlessly (ha!) from one surreal experience to the next. The sun is just coming up across the runway, the tips of planes illuminated pink in the morning haze, and I’m so very excited.
I’m off to live on a desert island, can you believe that?
I’m flying to Cocos Island – which is actually a collection of smaller islands, most uninhabited – up near Malaysia, though still a part of Australia technically. I’ll be helping out with a small organic food company, Cocos Tropical Foods, in exchange for food and board and the rest of my second year visa work signed off. There will be also be a paid bar job on the side I’m told- for when I’m not busy exploring the pristine beaches and kayaking off to any of the 27 islands.
Just, wow. As if chasing bulls around the bush and playing cowgirl in the outback for two months wasn’t enough… I’m now going to live in paradise for a couple months too. I am so utterly blessed, and I have Gumtree to thank for all of it!
Of course, I still need to write about my wild outback adventures, and that is something I plan to do over the next week. Watch this space, I got some stories…. But while I have a spare half hour before my plane boards, here’s the latest in this crazy narrative that is my life…
I left the Kimberley with a good friend of mine almost two weeks ago now (to come back to Perth to catch my flight to paradise) and I miss the outback terribly.
I can’t fathom it, I spent two months craving some real shops and some civilisation, and now I’m in the midst of it, I find myself yearning – unexpectedly – for the rugged, wild, remoteness of the bush.
I find myself stood in K-Mart, blinking deliriously in the bright light, staring dumbfounded at all the useless crap, wondering what it’s all for, craving something rugged and real. I can buy anything I want… except the stars of another outback night.
I sit at intersections in the city and look at all the little cars, hoping to see beaten up Ute’s covered in red dust, but of course I never do, and inexplicably it makes me sad.
It somehow got under my skin. The dust and the heat somehow warmed my heart and painted it red.
The callouses are peeling off my hands, my bruises are fading, and the red dust has washed off my car in the rain of a dismal Perth winter. The bright lights blind me, the traffic stresses me, and no one uses the C word as a term of endearment.
Did I ever expect to miss these things? Not in my wildest dreams. But the transition happened so quickly, and the week has not been without its dramas…
Back to civilisation
I attended a rodeo, said my goodbyes, picked up a German in Broome (as you do), and drove across Western Australia in two days. BOOM.
Just to find myself rushed to hospital the moment I got to Perth…
I’m okay now, but it wasn’t the best of times. I’m just eternally thankful I had team Germany with me- who my mum is convinced is an angel- because he did a lot of driving at night and got us to Perth a whole day earlier than I would have otherwise achieved on my own. Meaning I would have endured all my troubles at the side of the road somewhere in the baked wastelands of interior WA. Alone.
Our friends are everything, aren’t they? Thanks Joe, you saved me.
So what happened?
I got back to Perth with crippling stomach pains, and I wrote them off as IBS, given that I had been squashed behind the wheel for two days straight. However, the pain intensified to such an extent that it was all I could do not to cry out in pain. Then it became localised to my right side, and no position gave any sort of relief. The tears streamed down my face, I grit my teeth, and I rolled on the floor in agony… till my housemate decided she had had enough and drove me to the emergency room.
This was pretty embarrassing, because I was in such utter agony that I was causing quite a scene, but somehow I found myself on a bed in the emergency ward, a morphine drip in each arm, a swarm of young staff poking me.
The doctor in the emergency room was young and delicious, and in my morphine and agony induced delirium I found myself clinging to his hand and staring longingly into his eyes.
Where are you from?
He asked huskily.
I’ve been in Fitzroy…. The place where dreams are made… I’m a cow girl…
I slurred like a drunk, and then gritted my teeth attractively and emitted a low growl of agony as another excruciating cramp swept through my abdomen.
He leaned in close, still holding my hand, eyes gazing deep into mine, and asked, ever so softly, as I waited for declarations of love and sweet nothings:
…When was the last time you opened your bowels?
Under normal circumstances I would have been mortified to be asked about my bowel movements by somehow so hot, but I was in quite a state, so I just stared back deranged, and continued to claw at his hand in my agony-induced terror, a victim of my morphine induced loss of inhibitions.
He leaned in again, his brilliant eyes locked on mine
Mel, I need to know…. Have you had any peculiar discharge?
The night got no better.
I screamed in agony till about 1am. I was a crazy person, drunk with the torture of whatever was going on inside me, crying and writhing on the hospital bed. It was, indisputably, the worst night of my life to date. I wouldn’t wish that misery on my worst enemy (if I had any) (that I know of).
In comparison to that pain, breaking my wrist was a 1. That… That was a 10. With a morphine drip in each arm and whatever else they had been feeding me. Indescribable. I begged them to knock me out, just bop me on the head and be done with it.
Suddenly a few hours later, the pain just stopped. It was like somehow had flipped a switch, and I passed out exhausted.
The next morning, feeling pissed as a fart, greasy, stinking, and slumped in a wheel chair, I find myself, to my abject horror, being wheeled into the maternity ward.
Oh please, oh no.
New-born babies’ screams pierce my ears, and the panic crawls up my oesophagus to spread itself across my cheeks in a hot flush of utter dread.
Turns out the gynaecology ward is attached to the maternity ward. Turns out I had cysts all over my ovaries, and some of them had exploded.
So there you go.
I spent two nights in the hospital, alone, not allowed to eat or drink anything, desperately confused and miserable, wearing the same clothes I had been in for four days. I kept expecting the cowboys to walk in and drawl ’how ya goin, doll?’… but they didn’t. Instead I just went for some tests and some scans, and depressed myself with the idea that I wouldn’t be making it to my desert island at all.
I came home after two nights, draped in misery and confusion, feeling utterly sorry for myself and completely bewildered. My mind was a state of pure discrodia, accustomed as I was to heat and dust and outback living…. Where were the cattle? And the smell of calf milk formula? And why were my hands so clean? Didn’t I need to feed the weiners today and get smoko ready?
Just how much morphine had they given me?
I suppose it is also worth mentioning that I hadn’t eaten properly since Thursday night, and it was now Tuesday morning. I felt weak and frail. Fragile, like I was a chipped vase. Lifeless, like a deflated balloon.
But I was okay, I would get better, and there are plenty worse things that can happen to people in life. It was time to rest, and look forward to the next adventure.
We regret to inform you
It was a few days until my energy and mental faculties returned, during which time it transpired that my flight had been cancelled and put back a week. Something to do with a runway problem on Christmas Island where I was to change flights.
Perhaps I should have been annoyed, but do you know what I felt? Relief. In seven months I had not stopped, not once, rushing from one mad thing to the next, always working hard, and now, stretched before me like an enormous feathery carpet to the leisurely heavens, was a whole week to do nothing.
It actually took about five days for the pain to go away, and when you are in pain constantly it is incredible draining, so this week was an incredible lifesaver. Quite aside from the fact that I got an absurd amount of life admin done- I did my tax return and everything.
I went shopping.
I spent $400 on a whole new set of bright crop tops and flowing hippy trousers, among many other things.
I regret nothing. I worked hard for that money- as evidenced by my existing clothes, which were but filthy rags- and I had saved virtually every penny of my cattle station wages. While my colleagues drank and smoked their pay, I did no such thing, squirrelling it all away for moments of beautiful reward, just like this.
It made me feel so normal again. What can I say, but when you are told you might have polycystic ovaries and that your woman bits are a bit messed up…it upsets you. You feel like damaged goods, like half a woman. So perhaps it’s wrong that I felt a little less broken when I twirled in front of the mirror in a bright little playsuit, but there you have it. Who wants to feel sick and damaged when they could feel pretty?
I had two massages, courtesy of Groupon, and finally got all the knots dug out my back. I don’t need to tell you how great that felt!
And then, for the next week, I pretty much just worked on my writing and on building this website a little more. I’d been wanting to do it for ages, but my life is crazy hectic, and to have the time to just sit in bed and work on my own little project was divine.
One day I just sat in the garden, wrapped in a blanket, drinking my bodyweight in tea as I skyped friends and downloaded loads of new music. Heavenly.
I think sometimes we can get so caught up with rushing about from one thing to the next, or working long hours, that we miss these small pleasures in life. We miss taking time to just sit and reconnect with what makes us buzz, and, in my case, we can miss the time that our bodies need to heal.
I like to look on the positive side of things, and that’s why I’m eternally grateful that my flight got delayed and I was able to take the time to restore myself to full health and work on something I’m passionate about. And sleep. And eat chocolate in bed.
And now, after almost two weeks in Perth, I am so utterly ready for another new chapter! I packed up my car and left it with a virtual stranger (YOLO), and I’m back to lugging around an engorged backpack. Stuffed with deliciously bright new clothes.
I cannot wait to get myself into a small community of island dwellers, to learn how to windsurf and kite surf, to snorkel, to have all sorts of beachy adventures, and to experience something utterly unique. And of course, I cannot wait to get away from the cold of Perth, and go back to living in my bikini once again…
Come at me island life!!
Stay tuned for updates from paradise! (and my belated tales of outback living)!
Footnote… guess what? My flight is delayed…. Love ya Virgin.