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Reports

Thursday, 6 June 2002
--> Mission Beach, Australia

Mark told me I could never do what I was doing in the United States of America. For example, hitchhiking is illegal. And I could easily be arrested for having no money on me also, he told me. “It won’t matter who you are, the American authorities easily jail people who travel without a budget. It’s called vagrancy.”

Geoff is Melissa’s uncle and he is a tour guide who takes people along on tours through the surrounding areas of Mission Beach. Melissa told me about him yesterday and I got really interested in the places he visits. “Why don’t you go along, tomorrow?” she asked.

There I was this morning. After a partly sleepless night because a heavily snoring roommate, I was standing ready at 10am. Together with the American artist Mark Mironov and his German girlfriend Ingrid we got on an unofficial tour through the region. After a quick visit to the supermarket in cane town Tully, Geoff drove us to the Murray Falls, up the Murray River.

In the summertime there’s normally so much water, that entire pieces of land in this area are flooded. “If you are stuck you’ll have to stay at home and enjoy your beers,” Geoff said.

To get to see the waterfalls from above, we walked a 950m long trail straight through the rain forest. And as it was also raining, this was a real rain forest experience to me. But the top of the hill gave us this great view on the falls and the Murray Valley.

Back down again, Geoff prepared coffee at the picnic area – made with natural river water. Water like this can’t be any healthier.

Another big drive later ended up at the Alligator’s Nest. It’s not a nest and there are no alligators in Australia, but that was the peaceful place where two little streams blend together. If the weather would be a bit nicer, we could have been swimming in that clear creek water, but it was just too cloudy today (and I didn’t really want to cough away the next weekend). This was the place where Geoff opened his eskie coolbox and where we had a lunch bite with breadrolls, chicken, pasta salad and pineapple juice.

This was also the place where we had some fine conversations. Mark told me I could never do what I was doing in the United States of America. For example, hitchhiking is illegal. And I could easily be arrested for having no money on me also, he told me.

“It won’t matter who you are, the American authorities easily jail people who travel without a budget. It’s called vagrancy.” That surprised me. It seems I’ll have to prepare a lot before even stepping on foot on the American soil. I know the USA is a very tight country with its laws and regulations (what sometimes make me wonder why they still call it the ‘land of the free’), but not to be able to travel the US depending on its people’s hospitality, really would amaze me. Would I need a car sponsor?

Mark talked as a former American, as he spent most of his life outside of the US. He lived in The Netherlands for quite a while, then moved to Sweden and met his girlfriend in Germany.

And of course, we ended talking about America since 9/11 and about how that country became a Fear Factory. “Life is based on being fearful,” Mark explained me. “Life is based on being fearful against anything that they don’t know about. The ‘land of the free’ is a nice Disney-tale. The American media decides what you have to believe.”

“I tell you, 80% of the fear in America is created through the TV. If Americans would stop believing all that (like turn of the TV) and travel a bit more, they’d be much less frightened of the unknown, because they learn more about the world we live in.”

It was as Mark was reading my mind.

“You aren’t free in the US,” Mark laughed, and I understood he could only say that after leaving those states. “It is said on TV, it’s sung in a song and the wind catches the red-white-and-blue flag. But a few looks at life in other countries learned me how everything – I mean everything – in the US is controlled. Freedom my a**!

After this inspiring lunch Geoff took us to El Arish, next to a town on the Bruce Highway, also the name of the oldest pub in Queensland, where we enjoyed a few beers and chatted with the bearded locals. My tan would never be that coloured like theirs, as most of them work in the sugar cane fields.

Half the day had already passed when Geoff dropped us back at Scotty’s Backpackers in Mission Beach again. The sky had cleared up after the rainforest walk, but now it was pouring down again. Not just a little bit, but really tropically hard. It’s not hard to believe that this area is the wettest area in entire Australia.

Mel provided me another ‘free of charge’-meal ticket for tonight, as she had invited me to stay for two days. Great!

I enjoyed a good kangaroo steak for dinner (it tastes just like any other steak) and watched some more World Cup on TV, together with most of the guest of the hostel. In the back of the restaurant the “Hard Banana Bar” is located. It’s a pub which has two pool tables and a little dance floor. The digital video jukebox ruled the atmosphere.

Tonight it was Toga Night and suddenly, while just drinking a beer in a corner, a few ladies surrounded me and packed me in pink bed sheets! The rest of the night happened to be very enjoyable, as I wasn’t the only one walking around like a mummy, what whatever really happened has to stay a secret. Nevertheless I can proudly say that I won the limbo-competition on behalf of the men.

Have pain in back now. Good night Mission Beach!

Ramon.