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Published: February 23rd 2014
His face just about sums it up for me.
There are very few places I have very negative opinions about, but of these places, I would choose Bundaberg to be blotted from the map first. To paraphrase Dickens, ‘it is the dullest and most stupid spot on the face of the earth.’ To paraphrase my journal of the time, ‘some days you finish by going up in fortune, some you finish worse off, today was the latter.’
I was dropped off by the arsey bus driver on a pleasant enough morning off the Greyhound, intending on a one night stay. I hadn’t booked anywhere in advance, for the first time during my trip, for the quite inane reason that I wanted to feel reckless and like a carefree traveller just for once, and rock up somewhere, ready for fate/life to take control and have an adventure. Laden down with my two backpacks, handbag and bag of foodstuffs therefore, I thought I’d better try and find a hostel.
Across the road from the bus stop was a likely looking place, though without an open and welcoming looking reception area I had to scout up to the place like a poacher after the lord’s prize buck. Some punk came up to me and asked if they could help or something. Like it was their house and I was some rain-soaked desperado with a broken down car asking for a phone. I asked if they knew if there were any rooms, they said reception opened at 3. It was 10 in the morning. I asked if I could leave my stuff, they said they didn’t have a key for the store room. I didn’t even get my foot through the front door.
Lugging all my stuff around town for 5 hours did not appeal to me so I walked through town looking for anywhere else and heading all the while to the only place that looked like it might have been available during my pre-arrival internet searches. It was quite a walk. When I got to the other side of town I half-wished I’d stayed on the grass outside that punk kids’ place and waited. It was run down and depressing. Again, there was no open door policy so I had to knock and wait until eventually the manager let me in. He looked like a grey avocado and not in a good way. Bowling me over with his generosity at letting me stay in his ‘establishment’ for one night only instead of the usual minimum week, he handed me a sheet, pillow case and room key. I was watched all the while by his polar bear/wolf cross dog sat by the front door. This was gonna be a long night.
So I hoiked my stuff upstairs while my heart sank to my knees and I saw the room. There were 6 or 7 other girls already in it and about 12 girls worth of detritus. There was skimpy clothes, toilet bags, shoes, knick knacks, electronics, pictures, plants and half-heartedly hidden food among god knows what else everywhere. Even on what was supposed to be my bed. On seeing me enter the girl that had been sat on my bunk got off, scowling, and I was able to unload some of my stuff. They were not impressed at my being there. I was not impressed at my being there.
I walked back into town for food and found the centre lacking any joie de vivre or even joie de existence. I settled for a cafe, and I pronounce that caff not café, that had a deal on lasagne and chips $8.50. It came with an eccentric salad: lettuce, tomato, raw cauliflower, pineapple and orange with dressing... The waitress gave me too much change, I didn’t say anything, I needed that dollar more than her, and she was miserable company. I checked my map and headed then to the Tourist Info Centre, which itself was a lengthy hike, especially on dissipating enthusiasm. By the time I got there it was mid afternoon and the woman said most places were shut or would be very soon, but if I had time in the morning I could go to the ginger beer factory or the brewery for a tour. During the long walk back I swung by the ‘zoo’. The best of it was a few emus and the fact that there were benches so I could forestall by return a little longer, even if it was to be in a damp grey bird zoo.
I resigned myself to a long night in. Back at the hostel I read a little in bed and got out my sleeping bag liner that was my emergency fall back if a bed looked rank but as I only had one sheet given me this would have to do for a top sheet. A girl came in who seemed a little spunkier than the others and asked my name. We were both called Heather – it broke the ice. She said it was cold at nights and I’d need more than a sheet, so she lent me a blanket. That was one of the nicest things someone had done for me so far, and not just in Bun.
I packed as fast and early as I could the next day and put my stuff in the storage room, glad that telepathy had not yet evolved. I knew it was a long way, but I thought I’d try walking to the ginger beer place. I should have sucked it up and paid for a taxi. It poured it down with rain almost the whole way there. My map went limp, my hair went limp and my mood turned black. I also got a little lost. In the end I had to call a taxi anyway, $10.70. It really wasn’t worth it. The tour was a self-guided wander round the dated exhibits. If it had been free I’d’ve taken maybe 5 minutes, but it was $9.50 so I took my time. The prose was clearly designed for kids, with ageing interactive features like ‘smell this’. They all smelled like Old Spice to me. Plus I was the only one in there for a while, so I couldn’t help but feel conspicuous. At the end of the tour there was a tasting, where I guess a family of four might have fun tasting the dozen or so different flavours of fizzy drinks they make. On my own, I had to taste them all in a row. It was like playing shots and each time I won no matter how much I tried not to.
Got a slow bus back into town so had to rush to pick up my things, avocado was out so a woman let me in and a practically sprinted out of there lest I miss the greyhound and be stuck in Bundy for another night. The bus was late so I got sweaty for nothing. I was past caring at this point though, because I was leaving, and before long I was back on my treasured Greyhound and rattling down the highway to Hervey Bay. Things can only get better right?
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