This morning we woke up in paradise.
“I feel like I’m hatching from an egg every time I get out of that hammock,” Ash said, struggling free of hers, slung in a line of four.
We ate the oats that hadn’t spilled through my backpack, with water and bananas.
We hung around (literally) in hammocks talking smack at our campsite. I relished the energy of these three great ladies.
Ashley- The oldest in our quartet, with some delightful life experience up her sleeve. Running on German time, topped with good humour and utterly settled into herself. Whatever you need she probably has in her backpack. Nail file, sardines, pack of cards. Choosing to really live in Colombia (not just say she did, while only talking to other foreigners)- with a Colombian family in a small town down south, taking Spanish lessons and saying “yes” to most cultural opportunities that come her way. My partner in crime while we learned scuba diving, always up for a dark ale. A proud Newfy. Constantly bemused by Fiona.
Fiona- A Ugandan/Boston glamour with a whacked-out view on the world who makes me laugh at least once an hour. Often times more. Youthful, inquisitive and refreshingly strange. In a word, unique. Looking wistfully into the horizon she will declare, “Logic is the greatest threat to imagination,” before laughing at herself. A total babe, often found posing bikini-clad, with beautiful black skin, against scenes of ocean, coconut trees and bunches of bananas, so every time I glance up I‘m confronted by a postcard. More to her than you first garner – perseverance and enjoyment for life, and some street smarts. Going to live an interesting life.
Meg- The calm energy that flows through our group. Unflappable, caring and with a laid-back Aussie humour that makes me ache for home as though I’d just had Vegemite. Patient as a hunting hawk and far more mature than her age would normally dictate. A real giver and over-packer. Brought more shoes to Colombia than I put in storage at home. A definite island of sanity for me in the wash of loud, strange experiences that is Colombian life. Known to prefer bike or skateboard to feet. Heart of gold.
Last night we’d built a failing fire on the sand. Green kindling the only at our disposal. Bear Grylls would have shaken his head, then asked his camera-man for some kerosene.
Our fire failed slowly as we spoke Spanglish with three chicos from Bucaramanga. They worked in hospitality, they told us, offering around rum and mandarins. They taught us some cool slang to say to our students, and were impressed we already knew ‘chichipato’.
We had beers and salad for dinner. Like all good athletes.
The next morning I caught the aggressive little waves, scrambling free before they pounded my head into the pebbles and shattered baby shells that made up the beach.
I met Juan Stephen from Medellin who was there with his surfer girlfriend. What a place for romance. He had a nipple pierced and an assortment of random tattoos. Probably the look I’d create for myself if I were a young, Colombian surfer bro. Good on you mate.
I was due to meet my housemates in the desert that evening. Little did I know how many forms of odd transport lay ahead of me.
It was April Fool’s Day.
I tried to text them; “Won’t make it, just jumped off a bus before he’d stopped properly and have broken my ankle. On way to Santa Marta hospital L Battery almost dead. Call later.”
No service. Dammit paradise!
And April Fool’s Day runs out at midday.
I lay on the beach with Meg. The rainbowed threads of her Mexican blanket mirrored my mood. Amazing what good company can do to the spirits.
Red toenail polish, chipping off, poking through white sand. Blue and white waves biting the coast. Palms and peace and nothing but.
It was perfect here. And perfect doesn’t find you that often in the average week.
A guy was trying to surf in the 3m stretch between the breaking waves and the shore. I hoped he knew what he was doing. They were the kind of waves that enjoy snapping boards and necks.
I scouted out a green coconut, shook it for milk. It sounded just perfect. A hombre at the little juice bar on the sand cracked it for us. Hammering his machete down in expert blows. Ending with all his fingers still attached, sweet coconut water and a stack of the white fruit.
I sat in utter delight munching that white flesh.
A great guy told me something a great girl told him; People have reservoirs. We need to fill these reservoirs up with the good stuff, so we can drink from them in the shitty times.
Two days of the great conversation that female friendships are made up of.
Fiona regaled us with tales of her kingdom and Queen from Uganda. Whose name she didn’t know. We traded ridiculous banter. We talked about how Ash and I had made each other laugh underwater until we had to swim in opposite directions, lest our instructor refuse to certify us for scuba. Meg patiently corrected my Spanish.
I walked out to the road just after 1pm to flag down a bus and begin hoofing it up north to the desert. My reservoirs full to overflowing.
Never put up with bad people in your life. There are too many good ones out there.
Location of paradise: Parque Los Angeles, circa Parque Tayrona, Colombia.
I’m A Coastie Now Bra
I moved to the coast with about three times as much gear as I’d lugged through South America for the past five months.
That is to say, not a whole lot.
Luckily coasties aren’t too fond of clothes, probably they were already starting to regard me as a native. The more skin, the more native.
I sat above Mooloolaba’s main beach and surveyed my new home. I liked to think I looked like a seasoned water woman scanning for rips. Probably I looked more like an unemployed 20-something eating her homemade sandwich.
Wind took up my hair to dance, sun bit deliciously into my back and with each white crash of wave I felt the pull to leave Australia growing a little weaker.
What a place.
I’d hoped to knock off work earlier to work on my tan and put my head beneath that famous blue water. No wonder travellers came here and never left.
And when I say work I mean unpaid trial. I’d been a coastie bra for four days now. I hated being idle.
After stressing about work on day one, I peppered the Mooloolaba esplanade with my resumes. On day two I’d been lined up for four trials.
Anything over two hours I requested pay for. Café trials meant making plenty of coffees under the boss’s watchful gaze…which meant I scored two free coffees per trial. I spent the day buzzing.
Unfortunately for me I’d just spent the past two hours working (unpaid) at a place that’d never heard of me. Ha! Let me explain.
These types of occurrences were commonplace in my life.
My phone had rung the night before.
“Hi, Lisa, it’s so-and-so from the something-mumbled Café Mooloolaba, just wondering if you could come in for a trial at 9 tomorrow morning?”
“Yes, certainly,” I said, scrawling ‘9am Café Mooloolaba’ on my growing list.
Shit yeah! Beachfront workplace.
The sun had a bite even at 8:30am. I stood high on my bike as I glided down Mary Street. If a car pulled out I’d have gravel for a face, but how good that wind felt, blowing my worries away.
My short legs pedalled me valiantly past dawdling holiday makers in too-bright prints. At the sound of a bell they seemed startled. A bike on a commonly used bike path!
I changed into hospo blacks, chained my bike and headed to my future workplace.
“Hi, I’m Lisa. I’m here for a trial this morning.”
“Oh, I didn’t know anything about that,” said the sprightly manager.
“My boss must have forgotten to mention it.”
I made coffees, learnt the till and took orders on the iPad. I was killing it, and we discussed the roster at the end of the shift.
I hadn’t been climbing or waitressing in months and my weak fingers rebelled every time I made them carry three stacked plates.
But it felt so good to be working after three idle days I would have almost paid the café to let me do the trial.
“Well thanks for coming in, you did well today and we’ll have a look at the new roster this week,” said my future boss.
I headed off, coffee in my belly and success on the horizon.
I sat on the beach to delete job rejection emails from Seek, which had the habit of collecting there each day for me. Like unwanted children.
Four missed calls from a coast number. Obviously someone had been gobsmackingly impressed with my resume.
A voice on the other end answered then handed me to her manager whose first words were “are you all right?”
“Yes….shouldn’t I be? This is Lisa…”
“What happened this morning? You were supposed to come in for a trial at 9am,” answered the owner.
Aaaaaah. Yesterday’s phone call. The trial at Café Mooloolaba was actually a trial at Envy Café, Mooloolaba.
We rescheduled for the morning and I walked back into Café Mooloolaba to explain I had just worked two hours for them without them contacting or meeting me ever before.
The barista who’d showed me the ropes looked at me with pity, the manager laughed and wrote my number on a docket.
Well that’s one way to get noticed at a place you want to work….rock up and work for them whether they ask you to or not. Fingers crossed….
That arvo I had lunch with my Nanna – collected in a real car for the occasion – what a treat. She was wearing a patch on her chest to help against memory loss. Oh science!
She told me life was no good when you got older unless you stayed cheeky.
“Each time one of the nurses puts it on I’m a bit cheeky with him,” Nan said with a twinkle.
“Raymond,” I tell him, “you get lower are lower each time!”
That arvo I pedalled off to my second trial, a German place on the esplanade where the owner made me taste Underburg, a German apertif that had the kick of cognac and the aftertaste of cloves. It was made on herbs. Not bad.
I managed to smash two expensive looking wine glasses.
“Ooooh, I’d hide those,” said the cherub-faced kitchen boy, clearly delighted there was a bit of a scandal on.
I stuffed them under a milk carton in the bin and got back to the coffee machine.
“I’ll just take the rubbish out,” he called to the chef, giving me a co-conspirator wink.
The place was dead. I studied the menu (food is overpriced on the coast!), wiped the same non-existent puddle of milk and watched the clock.
“How do you feel about not wearing your nose ring?” the owner asked.
“Our customers are quite conservative here.”
Obviously I hope I get the other job…. You know, that one that didn’t know they were auditioning me.
“Ok,” she said at 4pm.
“We’ll be in touch.”
It was too cold to swim so I lay on the beach and read Bill Bryson’s In A Sunburned Country.
I lolled raucously to myself like all lovers of literature do.
He was a cracking travel writer – this book on his misadventures through our sunny country. In one chapter he is walking through bushland in the middle of Sydney when he hears two dogs, barking threateningly.
“They were coming toward me at some speed. Now the barking said, “We are going to have you, boy. You are dead meat.”…Note the absence of exclamation marks. Their barks were no longer tinged with lust and frenzy. They were statements of cold intent. “We know where you are,” they said. “You cannot make it to the edge of the woods. We will be with you shortly. Somebody call forensic.””
Oh Bill. I imagined him trotting in terror through our fine bushland.
Suddenly sand sprayed across my face as three little boys tackled each other.
They were nippers from the Mooloolaba Surf Lifesaving Club, which sat proudly over my shoulder.
They ran back to their larger flock of nippers, clad in hot pink rashies. They looked like the good molecules on those indigestion adds.
Stoopid little nippers. One was standing on the 3m wall below the surf club, looking down at the sand.
“Ashton’s gonna jump,” yelled the nippiest of the nippers.
Ashton ran to the edge, reconsidered and backed up.
“Do it Ashton,” yelled his fellow good molecules.
Like all good young Australian boys he bowed almost immediately to peer pressure and leapt.
Luckily Ashton broke the fall with his face.
He dusted the sand off like a little trooper and was sweet.
I watched them doing their nipper activities. Line up, like a bright pink intestine, clasp their mini ironman boards and run into the waves. Paddle, run back up the beach, drop the boards and race each other to the finish.
An exuberant freckled lad took the lead but lost a few second swivelling his head back to enjoy the struggle of his fellow nips. Come on freckles, commit bro. Ashton smoked him.
I pedalled home up my hated hill, the mountain bike trying its best. A man on a road bike overtook me.
“Bit easier on this one,” he turned around to grin. Sitting pretty above his tooth-floss wheels.