An audio and video podcast of my trip hitchhiking around the world by sea.
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Henning to Habibi

Once again the rain greeted the rising sun. The Henning cab wasn’t leaving until 11:00 and I refused to let the rain dampen my spirit. Laced up my runners, put my-pod in a plastic baggie and took to the streets. It’s a good feeling-rain running. The world is your own. Parks are empty. Streets are quiet. From the back roads of Cairns to boat docks, and along the water’s edge, I ran until rain turned to sweat. That’s when I met my first Aborigines.

A small group was huddled beneath a park awning laughing, carelessly exchanging jokes. My kind of people. I veered my course as close to the party as possible without being obvious. As I approached, the conversation became staring. “Hey, come here!” I heard over the background music of my ipod. Perfect. I pulled the D-train into the party station, yanked out the ear buds and introduced myself. “Where you from?” “United States,” I said. Of the three men and one woman, all had weathered but gentle faces. One was more interested than the others. He asked me where I was running to (in the middle of a downpour), observed how white I was, then shared some of his favorite Jackie Chan movie quotes. We shared a few laughs then I shook hands and found my way back to the hostel, where I spent my final moments in Cairns.

I wish I could explain the feeling that pulses through your veins when hour after hour you watch kangaroos emerge and vanish mystically in an ocean of grass, or the way time slows when your gaze turns to eucalyptus tree tops only to realize they are filled with cuddly koala bears. I wish I could… but I’ve never felt anything like that. Unfortunately, the only “animal” spotting in 9 hours of driving was one lifeless ‘roo on the side of the road… which I still feel a bit guilty for getting excited about.

When we finally stopped it was in Airlie Beach, gateway to the Whitsunday Islands, which pains me to remind you is where the Island Reef Job was based. It is also appeared to be the Mecca of backpackers. The streets were crawling with young adventurers from all over the world. Every window was filled with a picture of a sailboat, a beach, a couple of models lost on some sandy paradise. What started a simple stroll to stretch our legs, ended in feelings of want. I guess after a full day of driving, and a couple days of rain, Mandi and I both started to feel like there might be more to Australia than the backseat window. Then this:

3 days-2 nights on S/V Habibi (meals included)/Snorkeling on Great Barrier Reef/Whitehaven Beach/2 nights at Airlie Beach hostel/2 nights at Hervey Bay (Gateway to Fraser Island)/3 days-2 nights self-drive and camp on Fraser Island—Cost: $299 (Aus Dlr) per person.

Mandi and I stared at the pull-up display like orphans at a candy shop window. “What do you think?” Mandi asked. I licked my lips, swallowed and we bought our tickets on the spot. I was a little sad to break the news to our German friends  (Henning-the driver, the guy who stared out the window and never spoke, and the other guy who sat in the front seat asking for advice on his love life) but it was a sadness easily cured with a drink and trip on a sailboat.

Tomorrow, I board the great Habibi and sail the Great Barrier Reef!


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