A long time ago in an era of gaiety far, far away I, as a wide-eyed but essentially blinkered 18 year-old decided one day to up-sticks and travel the world (in the sense that I worked for six months to pay for it all and planned it all in advance).
Because I was interested in seeing different cultures and meeting people whose life experiences were fundamentally different from mine, I of course spent 95% of my time in countries primarily full of white people that spoke the same language as me with a slightly different intonation.
At the end of it I really felt like I had grown as a human being, not least because I was still going through the long awaited and much promised “growth spurt” (Mum, thank god you were right, “Oi Runt!” can so easily be misheard – and is strangely often still shouted at me), but also because I lived off local cuisine, such as the McDonald’s ‘Aussie Burger’ and Hungry Jack’s ‘Kiwi Burger’ (which didn’t contain any fruit or any flightless birds – disappointing).
But the most life-changing and narrow horizon-smashing moment of all was the day in fuck-it’s-hot-and-why-would-you-want-to-live-in-this-backwards-shitholeville when I was offered the chance to go on a camel trek.
I jumped at the chance, overwhelmed with the romance of it all. I saw myself trekking across breathtaking vistas of wilderness, dressed like Lawrence of Arabia, eating “tucker” on wind-swept mesas, sleeping under the stars whilst dingos stole my shoes (so I could wake up in the morning and hilariously shout “Dingos took my booties!”), getting lost and getting found barely alive by a remote aboriginal tribe, learning their ways and eventually becoming an honorary member of the group and ultimately riding back to “civilization” like a mash-up of Avatar, Dancing with Wolves and Last of the Mohicans.
I arrived at the ranch and was greeted by an Aussie Alpha male who seemed to think he grew up in the Wild West. He looked me up and down and said “We goner need a big’un for this fella! We don’t want him to be the pom that broke the camels back” – to be fair he didn’t say this exactly, it was less amusing and more hurtful.
I then had to put on a helmet (where’s the fucking headscarf?! I screamed inside) that was the kind that the odd kid at school had to wear when he rode his girls bike past the packed school bus stop, accompanied by his mum. Why she put him through that I will never know! How can a loving act be so cruelly evil?
I was taken out to my trusty steed. It was covered in what looked and smelled like shit, and it tried to bite and kick shit out of me. Not being able to get on I was helped up by Aussie Cowboy Man who pushed me up by my arse onto the humpy, humpy bastard. It really added to the vibe of the thing that I had been forced to wear leather chaps over my surf shorts.
This all happened in a small paddock. Now I know things are on a different scale in Oz. They are always shitting on about fields of wheat bigger than Wales. This paddock was about the size of a paddock you’d expect to find at an E. Coli’d up city farm, and was surrounded by teenage Japanese tourist girls who’d got bored of wandering around an Aussie ranch and looking at shit.
But numerous indignities over my trek finally began. I was led around the paddock on a piece of rope, until I pleaded for it to stop. The Japanese, who are famous for not staring, pointing, and laughing (for them it’s pretty much the rudest thing you can do) stared, pointed and laughed.