Australia - Round The World Tour 3 2004 Day 330 (140)
Tuesday 1st February (2005)
We got a head start on the day by getting up earlier than usual this morning. I was eager to call the airlines to make the necessary routing changes to our flights so that we can arrive home by the end of April. This will give us nearly four and a half months to prepare for the birth of our first child. Hopefully, this will be enough time to find a job, earn some money and then find a place to live before Sandy gives birth. I’m really worried about imposing on John & Lisa as it is and the thought of doing so to the point of a new-born in the house is really starting to worry me quite a bit now.
The One World Global Explorer round-the-world flight tickets that we have are operated by an alliance of airlines. The primary two are Qantas and British Airways. I know from first-hand experience that Qantas charge what they call an ‘administrative fee’ for making any changes to a ticket – even those changes that are freely allowable. Bastards! With this very much in mind, I decided to skip Qantas and give British Airways a call to make the necessary changes. I knew there would be a stock US$75 per ticket fee for routing changes but I didn’t want Qantas to hit me again with their administration fee so I was hoping that British Airways would make the changes without any such junk fees. Unfortunately, it seems that Qantas and British Airways are joined at the hip nowadays and despite the travel agent telling me that there would be no such charges, even the British Airways agent I spoke with told me that they too now have a policy of charging the same AU$75 administration fee per ticket. Bastards! The day had barely begun and already I’m in a bad mood. Little did I know just how horribly worse the day was still going to get.
I spent about ten minutes on the phone with the British Airways ticketing agent and we were well into making changes to the still complicated itinerary when I lost the phone connection. Bugger! I quickly called back, and spent another ten minutes waiting in the queue I might add, but was unable to find the same agent again and I had to start all over again with a new woman. At this point, the housekeeping boy knocked and asked if we were staying for another night. I’d paid for the first two nights but we arrived back so late last night that there was nobody around in reception to pay for this past night. I told him that we were staying for the five nights as previously agreed and that I would be down to make payment later this morning. He seemed fine with this and left. Anyway, the next British Airways agent made it further into the necessary itinerary changes than the previous attempt but the only way she could see to get us close to the Galapagos Islands, which we still very much want to visit, was to spend two nights in Bogotá, Columbia. I was none too pleased about spending a couple of nights in Columbia so I asked her to persist with finding an alternative option. This she did, after a while, and we now have the route laid out like I was hoping for. All I need to do now is to cancel the separate flight coupons that take us around the islands of the South Pacific. I still have no idea if these are refundable or not.
My day was starting to brighten up a bit by the end of my phone call with British Airways when I received a voice mail from the woman at the hostel reception desk. She had left a message basically telling us that she had given our room to a new guest and that we were to vacate the room as quickly as possible. What the f…! I went straight down to see what was going on and the woman there seemed to have had a very bad night or something and was hell bent on taking out her frustration on someone – us in this case. She told me that since we hadn’t paid for the room, we had no right to keep it. As patiently and humbly as I could, I explained that we were out all day yesterday and that I’d told the housekeeping boy that I would be down this morning to pay for the remaining three nights but the bitch (and yes, I feel it necessary to use the word in this case) just seemed so completely intent on offloading her frustration onto someone that there was just no reasoning with her. To all intents and purposes, this woman had completely changed into a different person and was throwing out negative verbiage left right and centre. She had been so kind to us when we first checked in and we certainly haven’t given her or anyone else at the hostel any reason to dislike us since. I asked her why she was being so mean and negative towards us but nothing I said was making any difference. She had for some reason made up her mind that we were no longer welcome and we had to go. In the end, the only thing I could do was to walk away. Had I stayed there any longer, I feel sure I would have slugged the cow. Sandy was by now practically in tears at this blatant unjust and unfair treatment. We reluctantly went back to our room and packed our things. My blood was truly boiling by now and I was about ready to snap. I simply cannot abide being treated unfairly or unjustly without cause and I was close to punching someone. I haven’t felt this angry in years. Indeed, rarely at all have I ever felt as angry as I was at that moment. I took all the heavy stuff to the car and Sandy followed with the smaller bags. I had to go back inside to get the foodstuffs from the kitchen and in doing so I passed the cow on the way in. She started to say something and I turned and yelled at her not to talk to me. How I restrained myself from punching her on the nose right there and then I still do not know. On the way out, she told me (told, not asked) to go to the front desk to settle up the bill. I told her that I saw no reason to maintain my end of the bargain if she didn’t and stormed out. I think I heard her say that she would call the police. I think I may have told her to go for it or something like that. I saw her approach the car from the corner of my eye as I sped away down the back alleyway. I dare say she was trying to catch the license plate number (which is already on the registration slip I completed at check-in). I guess all of this now makes us fugitives on the run. It took me a good ten minutes of aimless driving before I calmed down enough to a more rational level again. It was at that point that I realised that I still had the room key with me. Oh well.
Now that we were in the car with all our things, it didn’t seem to matter where we were headed so we made a snap decision to head for Wave Rock deep in the heart of Western Australian. Who knows; perhaps getting out of town for a couple of days to let the heat die down a bit is a good idea after all. The truth is that this woman could very well make life difficult for us. She could call around to all the other hostels to warn them not to take us as guests or she could call the police and report us as threatened. Since she has our car license plate number, this can be tracked to the car rental and the fact that we are due to return the car at the airport the day after tomorrow. I’m already starting to ponder the various scenarios where we show up to return the car and then watch the clerk read something on the screen before eyeing us suspiciously and then asking us to wait a moment whilst she just ‘makes a quick phone call’. The police will then arrive and take me into custody, handcuffed of course, making us miss the flight. Then, after several days of incarceration, sharing a cell with a burly redneck that keeps repeating his name ‘Ben Dover’. After barely making it out of jail alive and minus my shoes, there is the hearing in which the judge decides to levy a huge fine before deporting us with a lifetime ban on ever returning. So, as far as anyone knows, I left the rental money in our room, OK? What happened to it after that in an internal matter between them and their house keeping staff.
Wave Rock is one of those attractions for which there are always leaflets and brochures in all those leaflet and brochure displays you see at information offices and hostel reception desks. It’s nothing more than a huge rock that erosion and time have joined forces to mould into what looks like a huge wave that is just about to roll over itself. I had estimated the distance to the small town of Hyden to be around three hundred and fifty Kilometres. Since most of the distance was open road, I guestimated about three to three and a half hours of journey time before we got there. With a couple of stops along the way, it ended up taking us over five hours! We did stop at a small town (they’re all small) after about three or four hours to inquire at an information office about accommodation options. Our guidebook was quite scant on this subject, giving only a couple of relatively expensive options, but I felt sure we would find something to suit our budget. Oops! It turns out that even though this particular attraction pulls in something like one hundred thousand tourists a year, there isn’t so much as a backpacker’s hostel or anything like it here. I was starting to get worried at this point. After all, it was getting on in the day and we had just driven four hours solid through a whole lot of nothingness to get this far and we were still over an hour away with no idea of where we were going to spend the night. It never seems to matter how dire the situation is, however, a way out nearly always presents itself. We found a campground right near the rock and they still had one self-contained caravan unit available so I reserved it quickly.
It took us well over another hour to reach the small town of Hyden and then, finally, Wave Rock itself. Since we came all this way, it seemed fitting that we take a look straight away before the sun set so we drove over to the car park and bought a AU$7 (€4,27) ticket to place in our windscreen. The rock is quite impressive and, funny enough, looks just like it does on all the brochures. I’m not convinced it was worth the five hours drive through a vast expanse of emptiness to get here. Perhaps the Hippo’s Yawn rock formation just around the corner would bowl us over? We went to have a look. Nope! There are apparently some sort of caves nearby so we may check those out tomorrow before returning to Perth. Tomorrow night will be our last night here before we fly off to Adelaide to pick up another rental car and start our trek down the Great Ocean Road towards Melbourne – assuming I’m not in jail by then.
We went to check out our self-contained caravan and although there is no bathroom, the camp-site toilet block is just a few metres away and Sandy thinks she will be OK for tonight. We’ll see how she feels about that by tomorrow morning after she’s made eleven thousand trips there and back. We both had a meal on the way up here but we went into town nevertheless to see just what options there were for food. None! Well, okay, there’s this one expensive place and there’s the snack counter at the one and only petrol station in the area but other than that, we’re on our own. There are barbeque grills here at the camp-site but in our haste to retreat from the hostel this morning, I forgot to remove the food from the fridge. We still had a couple of pork chops, which would have made a nice supper. Oh well. Sandy nearly had the chicken at the petrol station snack counter; only they didn’t have any chicken. Here in the middle of nowhere, we are well and truly out of cell phone range. By the time we get back to Perth tomorrow afternoon, who knows what sort of threatening voice mails I will have waiting for me.