31. Music When The Lights Go Out

Departing Sydney, we were back in the beloved wings of Virgin Australia after our foolish jaunt with Jetstar that ended in tears. We promised never to do such a thing again, and Virgin repaid us by getting us to Cairns on time and alive, which is all you can ask for really. They also snuck in the added bonus of a free drink on the flight, at which point Katie ordered a beer for me and a beer and orange juice for her. This was both cunning and very generous, because Katie doesn’t actually like beer and had just ordered it for me. Nothing can really ease the pain of saying goodbye to family, friends and a city that was your home for 8 months – but two Peroni’s is probably the closest you can get.

Cairns was the first stop on our East Coast tour and we arrived into the airport late at night. We fell into a taxi (Katie literally, as she was carrying 23 kilos in her backpack), got to our hostel and with the pleasant surprise of a 4 bed dorm rather than an 8 bed one to greet us, crashed out.

The main highlights and activities in Cairns are, probably, the Great Barrier Reef, the Daintree Rainforest and Cape Tribulation. Unfortunately once you’ve done those, as we had in July, 4 days in Cairns tend to be a little harder to fill. The highlight was a visit to the Night Markets, where I actually purchased some clothing whilst out shopping – sending Katie into shock (for those unaware, shopping is my number one enemy in life). In the case of Cairns Night Markets I have literally been there, done it and got the T-Shirt.

The only other notable incident to occur in Cairns was a rather sombre one. On our last day we got caught in a tropical rainstorm, which turned my converse into one of the smallest lakes in Australia. We left them to dry out in the room overnight, only to find  in the morning that around 2000 ants had claimed my left shoe as their territory and seemed intent on keeping it. With it being 6am and us having a bus to catch at 7am, we had to make the awful decision to bin them and continue the journey without them. I’ll be honest, I was gutted – they’d been my most reliable footwear and they wouldn’t see the end the trip. Without even the time to give them a proper send off, we headed off to our bus with heavy hearts (and in my case, slightly shitter shoes).

After a confusing 10 minutes trying to locate the actual ‘stop’ in bus stop, we plonked ourselves down next to a group of backpacks and hoped for the best. We turned out to be right and next thing we knew we were off the bus in Mission Beach.

Our hostel shuttle arrived a little while later (in which time we managed to sneak in a sausage roll, because I am nothing if not predictable) and took us up into the rainforest where our hostel was waiting for us.

After one of the most unenthusiastic hostel welcomes we’ve received so far (in fairness, the chap was from Birmingham, so there’s not a whole lot to get excited about) we were told we had to wait 4 hours until we could go into our rooms, which was a nice touch. We sat down in the common area, which we shared with 3 other humans and 5 million bugs, and waited.

We had got chatting to some of the people who had been on our shuttle bus to the hostel and just about worked out everyone’s names and where they came from, when the 40 year old topless French cleaner started mopping the table tops.

Yes. That is the most surreal sentence I’ve ever written. To be fair, it was a surreal moment.

Just to be clear, this mop had already done the kitchen floor before it went on to the tables where we ate. We knew this, because he’d actually mopped under our table and some of us had had our feet mopped. After finishing mopping the tables, naturally he went on to the chairs and made sure they were sparkling, before carrying on with his day.

I don’t know if you’ve ever sat with a group of strangers while a Frenchman mops your feet, but it does tend to create a certain bond. Thanks to Mr Moppy, as he had been christened, we had formed a group based on our shared horror and wet feet.

I’ll quickly introduce these lovely people so we’re all up to speed. In the red corner, we have Kathryn and Megan, from Bury St Edmunds, near Cambridge. In the blue corner (because they’re Scottish), Kate and Tina, from around Edinburgh but not Edinburgh.

Our time in Mission Beach was a weird mix of a below average hostel where we were mopped by a topless Frenchman, bitten to death by mosquitos and had cockroaches the size of golf balls land on various body parts (my face being one). There was virtually nothing to do, other than scratch bites or go in the pool to cool off the bites or get bitten, if you’re into that.

Yet, I actually quite liked it. Being in an hostel like that brings people together, and it did that on our first night. If you don’t laugh, you’ll cry. So most people did a fair amount of both.

Our full day in Mission Beach was spent wandering around the town and the beach trying desperately to find something to do, which ultimately ended up with us in a bar. Later on we returned to the bar for drinks and a free BBQ, when something actually sort of exciting but not very exciting at all happened. The whole town lost power while we were halfway through drinking. Luckily, several important factors meant we could make the most of it;

  1. The free barbecue, which was the only reason we turned up, had already been cooked
  2. They were still serving Corona
  3. They gave us glowsticks

Determined to make the most of it, we were able to play one game of very dark pool;

We couldn’t tell who won, but its the taking part that counts isn’t it? We also probablyy invented a weird ‘throw glowsticks on a corona bottle’ game which actually turned out to be better;

The next morning we were back on the Premier Bus (much like a Greyhound, except everything’s 5% worse) out of Mission Beach. I’m not sure anyone else was sorry to be leaving, but I had a little pang as we left. Jackaroo hostel was so unendearing that it almost made me affectionate of it, so many flaws that I couldn’t help but feel sorry for it. It’s much the same way my girlfriend feels about me, I presume.

Anyway everyone else thought it was shit, so what do I know.

With that sobering thought in mind, we were leaving the coach, and Kathryn and Megan, at the stop for Magnetic Island, while they continued south.

As we sat in the ferry terminal, I thought I caught a glimpse of a Frenchman with a mop out of my eye. I raised my glass to him, he raised his mop to me. When I turned back to point him out to the others, he was gone.

Alex Odlin may consider ending more blogs with cheesy film endings, as he quite likes it. He also advises all readers to not try mopping table tops at home. 


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