I was seriously considering doing this trip “naked,” with just the clothes on my back and the camera in my pocket, but in the end I did the sensible thing and wound up throwing a book and a jacket in my small backpack and setting off. I didn’t bring any shower gear and thus look a little scruffy, but that’s a badge of honor I wear with pride. Hygiene isn’t necessarily the first thing to go when you’re minimalist-backpacking about, but it’s usually the second or third.
Sir Donald Bradman was, and pardon my French; la merde mère-affectueuse. Universally regarded as the greatest cricketer of all time, Bradman is also one of
To say that Bradman is to Cricket what
I got to my mate Gundy’s hometown just in time for lunch. The mayor has a neat little café right in the CBD (well, “CBD” is being generous) and he cooked me up one tasty bacon and egg roll for very reasonable price. A lifelong resident, Len Tozer is in his seventh year of mayorship. More importantly, he was polite enough to make 10 minutes of small talk with a certain American.
I spent the whole afternoon just walking around. I kept finding myself wanting to ask people if they knew my mate Sam McIntyre (Gundy). I sort of expected him to be the Fonz of Gundagai and, ridiculous as it sounds, I kept thinking/hoping that somebody would say hey – you know Sam? Howize? He’s a top bloke, he is. Lemme buy you a milkshake….
I wandered past
A bit of quick history: when whitey first settled the Gundagai area, all the natives lived up in the hills and told the gringos to do the same. But nobody listened and, sure enough, the mighty Murrumbidgee flooded something awful (that initial flood still stands as
I took a gander at what used to be world’s largest timber bridge and saw the Dog on the Tuckerbox (DoT). You can’t leave Gundagai without seeing the DoT. There’s a few great songs and poems about it but basically this bloke was going twixt Sydney and Melbourne (Gundagai is the halfway point) and everything that could go wrong was going wrong.
Then, five miles from Gundagai, his dog and jumped up and sat (early versions of the poem put an “h” between the “s” and the “a”) on his food-box. Due to the root-for-the-underdog character of this great country, the DoT event has been celebrated for over and century and immortalized in statute.
Still, it’s five miles from Gundagai and, although I was fully prepared to walk the ten miles there and back, the visitor’s center pointed me to Collin, the town’s answer to public transportation. Basically, Collin drives a city car around, taking people where they need to go for enough coin to cover petrol and insurance. Dad & Dave was an old radio drama and early movie series about the hardships of life in the new country (think Laura Ingalls Wilder). I was really excited to see that statue (also in Gundagai), but fear of vandals (see what gun control does to a country?) prompted the city to move Dad & Dave to storage.
Heck, I figured I was halfway there; I might as well hop the train to olde Melbourne-towne (again). This officially racks me up to about $600 worth of traveling on my $250 unlimited-travel rail pass. BTW, it’s Mel-bin, not Mel-born. No, I don’t understand it but I respect it. After all, I’m not from Our-gin.
In six months of hardcore traveling,
I made my way back to the US Consulate, this time with passport in hand. I was rebuffed for taking a picture in front of the sign (the rules must’ve have changed since my last visit). Apparently that’s a security risk. I can’t possibly see how: the whole city knows which building is the US Consulate and if they’re hiding crucial State secrets in the lobby, my congressmen is going to get one angry letter signed Joshua Kirk Fenton, adventurer extraordinaire and proud voting citizen of the republic of the United States of America. I was told to delete the photo but I’m going to press my luck and the first amendment on this one.
Anyhoo, I was then told by a different security guard that visiting hours are only between 9AM and 2PM and that it was 2:30PM and that I was out of luck. This made my laugh – am I expected to believe that I’m only a citizen of God’s Greatest Country between normal banking hours? This may just be me (a few people have told me that I’m somewhat, well, “unique” is the kindest word used) but I consider myself a real live nephew of my Uncle Sam 24/7/365 – 366 if it’s a leap year.
Snubbed just the same, I pressed forward on foot, continuing onward and eventually reaching St. Kilda, the beach I didn’t get to see in March. It was a little cold but absolutely beautiful (in that strange Australian way). I was rather proud of myself for walking the whole way (a good 7 clicks). I passed the time people-watching and humming slow Jimmy Buffett songs and generally feeling sorry for myself. Then I grabbed some cheap Chinese food and caught the midnight train to