Expat Magazine


By Thebangtoddowenwaldorf @BangLiving


“I hope this works.  She hasn’t been started in a long time” Jeremy said with a cheeky grin as he tightened the rusty nut back onto the battery terminal.  “Maybe I should put some petrol, ah nevermind I didn’t do that before” he said as he turned and got into the old blue Suzuki.  He turned and the old blue four wheel drive sputtered briefly before Jeremy got back out and began loosening the top of the intake.  He poured some petrol from the jerrycan into the cans nozzle and added a little of the liquid into the exposed opening in the engine bay.  With a fading sputter as the battery we had recharged all day was quickly loosening power the little four wheel drive came to life. 

I knew she would start.  Actually, I didn’t know.  I just felt like she should start, because we had talked about it since the evening before.  Jeremy grew up in Airlie Beach, and he had a secret look-out to show me that no one knew about, especially no other travelers such as myself.  The only thing stopping us was the old Suzuki four banger that hadn’t been started in months.  She had to start.  She just had too.

As Jeremy went to get a canister of water, which I would later learn was for the front wheel that “gets stuck” and heats up, I found some rope and tied the bonnet down to the front of the car.  “What are you afraid it will pop up while we are driving?” he said with a smile.  “Not really, I just figured the rope was in there for a reason.  Come on, you can’t tell me I’m the first to think of tying the hood down!” I cracked back at him.  I opened the thin metal door and hopped onto the foam exposed tattered passenger seat.  As I closed the door I felt an itch on my arm and glanced down to find the lining of the door protruding out and onto my arm.  “What, don’t you like the fancy leather interior?” he said.  “Are you kidding?  I love what you have done here.”  Our spirits were high.  The anticipation had led until now and we did little in the way to hide our excitement with each comment to one another.

We were going up.  I didn’t ask any questions.  I knew that whatever Jeremy had in store to show me I would discover soon enough.  He reached down to the black ball shifter and put it in gear.  Immediately the old blue Suzuki came to life and we zipped down a windy path behind his hill-top home in the valley of Palm Grove which resides on the other side of a valley of mountains near Airlie Beach famous for its Whitsundays and sailing charters. 

“She can go where most four-wheel drives can’t.  That’s why she is the best.” he said with affection towards our rusted out mountain chariot.  I explained that many of the places that I have traveled in Australia that has vast land had one of these same vehicles.  He showed a little surprise.  I don’t think he was surprised to hear my confirmation to the vehicles off-road worthiness but perhaps that others knew this little secret.

I became weightless.  The little ute bounced up and over one protruding obstacle to the next.  I began laughing and I held onto the dashboard grip handle that was only attached at one side.  I laughed again.  It couldn’t be helped.  We went up higher and higher up the long roads.  “It looks like we won’t need the chainsaw.” he explained as I looked back just in time to grab it from falling out of the rear of the vehicle which had no hatch.  “Someone else has been here recently.”  He gave me an explanation that it was a local authority and what they do but the thrill of going down the sharp crevice embankments and through dried creek beds and right back up the other side riddled with large loose rocks commanded my excitement more than the story.  As we moved on large bladed fronts and palms and other types of flora vanished beneath us and at times joined us through the windows.  The aroma of melting rubber filled my nose and I looked at Jeremy as he knowingly acknowledged my glanced and stopped the car.  He bent down with the canister of water and popped back up.  “Do you hear that?” he asked enthusiastically as I heard a sizzle much like oil in a frying pan.  I looked at him and he had a boyish smile.  The wheel had heated up and began to seize.  It was locking up and the water was quick fix on what ultimately could prove to be a problem that could render the vehicle immobile.  Yet the mid-forties big kid looking at me didn’t see this as anything to be concerned about. 

There it is again.  Life is too short.  Why worry?  Thank you life for these subtle lessons.

With the ute parked behind us we pushed through dense foliage.  Sharp blades of a plant stuck me like pin needles.  I had gotten used to this plant.  Jeremy explained to me that people come and buy its blades from him and send it back to America to sell to florist shops for flower arrangements.  “I get a dollar a plant every year and I do nothing.”  The plants cover one hundred and forty acres of his land.  As we pushed different plants aside Jeremy explained to me what they were too.  He loves growing various plants around the world.  His passion for it makes you want to listen to him about it.  His passion becomes your passion.  My hand cleared away a thick frond and then my vision was once again met by this man who was now standing on a large boulder.  Beyond the boulder I couldn’t see, because there was nothing.  It dropped off further than I can say.  I was greeted with a painting.  Thousands, maybe millions, of trees canopied mountains that rolled into one another like the waves of the ocean.  Huge trees were made to look like they were smaller than blades of grass and in this open valley there was no man-made structure.  It was pure untouched land and in the very center was a snaking river which leads out to the ocean and the Whitsunday islands.  I didn’t say much.  I didn’t have too.  Jeremy knew the value of this treasure he shared with me.  “Not many travelers to this area get to see this”, I remembered him saying to me in regards to the thriving tourism industry of the town that was now below us beyond the very mountains we towered over.  I looked over at Jeremy to say something but before I could part any words he had already unrolled of a map with the layout of the mountains and that energetic big kid was alive and enthusiastically showing me each mountain and valley and far off ocean islands within our view.  My enthusiasm, in a much failed attempt at matching his, hung onto every moment of it all.  “Look, some eagles!” he said as he pointed to three far off eagles hovering above the mountain crests without a single flap of the wing.  “It’s the northward current” he said to me as if reading my thoughts about their wings not flapping.  Then I remembered that Jeremy used to windsurf and won competitions in Papa New Guinea.  “I could stay up here forever.” I said.  “Mmmm” he replied in the familiar Aussie way that I have become accustomed to.  In these moments the world and everything in it had slowed to a stop as the two of us stood in silence from that overlooking ridge.  You know, maybe life doesn’t have to be so short after all.


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