Damien, the tour guide, told the group that we could sleep until 6:30 am, but people started getting up at 5:30 am. I reluctantly got up and got dressed.
As I was loading up bags, I sneezed several times and said it was my allergies. Damien quietly told me, “You can have some of my medicinal honey. I have a jar between our seats. Take a spoonful, and it will help.” Hmm, is he perhaps in a better mood? I got a spoon and climbed in the truck to get a scoop of honey. A day later, others found out Damien had a jar of honey near him, and they said he was stashing it. They wanted it too. Damien told everyone that it was his personal jar, and he uses it for medical purposes (he had a scoop each day).
We drove to another gorge, and Kayla took the seat in the front near Damien. I sat in the last remaining seat, which was the first in the passenger section, on the aisle. I was right behind Damien, with the rectangular opening between us. When Damien got into the cab, he looked at Kayla and, addressing her, said, “Maybe you can fix the stereo.” As he said it, he turned his head towards me and gave a slight smile. Innocent Kayla asked, “It’s broken?” Damien raised his eyebrows at me. I said, “No, it’s not broken. Good luck.”
People in the back heard me say good luck and started laughing. Someone said, “You mean with Damien?” I hesitated, and to avoid conflict, said, “With the radio.” Damien turned toward me to address their comments. Looking at me and smiling, he said, “She danced with the devil and lost!” I sternly replied, “I would still be a contender, but I got booted from the front.” Poor Kayla said, “Sorry.” I assured her it was fine.
I sat next to Phillip from Belgium. We talked about our travels and his jet lag. Shortly after landing in Sydney, he had to perform at a concert and then do some teaching. Australia is so far away from most places that jet lag is real.
We arrived at Addock Gorge and hiked for 20-30 minutes until we arrived at a natural pool. It was green and murky. It was also super cold because of the shade created by the gorge. Only about five people got in this time, and the rest hung out on the rocks on the side. I got inside, and after a while, it felt refreshing. Damien took off his shirt and laid on a large rock in the sun. I didn’t realize how ripped he was. His back and chest were incredibly defined; he had a six-pack and no body fat.
I swam for a while, but everybody was out of the water, so I got out too. I was letting myself dry off a bit when Kayla started climbing a rock wall in her bikini on the other side. Oliver and Brock followed behind her. We all wondered who would win Kayla’s heart. Alex joined in, and soon they all disappeared. I felt tired sitting on the rocks waiting for them to return.
We hiked back to the car and then drove for 30 minutes to another gorge. After a 20-minute hike, we arrived at another pool surrounded by rock walls. There was a dead kangaroo on the side of one of the walls, and it smelled awful. When the wind blew, we’d all cover our noses and mouths. There were a few other people there enjoying the pool.
I got in and swam around in the cold water. It was hot outside, so it felt good, but the initial dip was always painful. Damien climbed a tree and set up a rope swing on one of the large branches overhanging the water. Several people used the swing to jump in. Damien looked like Tarzan on that tree. Days later, Brock saw a guide from another tour and laughed, saying, “Their guide is like Jimmy Fallon. Our guide is like Tarzan.” Damien did look (and often acted) like the king of the jungle.
Linda hurt her knee as she tried to climb up to the tree, so she had to sit it out for a while. I offered her some Ibuprofen, and of course, Damien jumped in. “Everyone wants to take drugs all the time. Especially Americans. When I was sick on my last tour, people tried to give me drugs.” He shook his head in disapproval.
I spoke up, “I agree Americans take too many drugs. It’s because the pharmaceutical industry is the largest lobby group in congress. They run congress. More people are addicted to and die from prescription drugs than heroin and cocaine combined. But sometimes you need drugs like Ibuprofen. It will help the swelling and pain so she can walk back.” Linda didn’t take me up on my offer because of Damien. But before bedtime, she took some from me and felt much better in the morning.
This back and forth with drugs became an inside joke with Damien and me for the rest of the trip. I gave bandages and ointment to Suzanne for cuts on her feet from her shoes. I embraced it and took on the persona of an American drug pusher/medic.
On the hike back to the car, I talked with Armelle. She was 50 but looked like she was in her early 40s, was from France, and worked in insurance. She didn’t care for her job, but said it’s much harder to change careers in France. We had a great discussion about Artificial Intelligence in the workplace and if it will end up controlling all of us like in the movies (Terminator and 2001: A Space Odyssey).
We arrived back at camp with a couple of hours of free time. I walked down to the river and saw other campers swimming. I knew there were crocodiles in the area, so I passed. I was back in my tent, rummaging through my bag on my hands and knees. Someone from behind me said, “Is your fearless leader, Damien, around?”
I turned around, and it was a guide from another group. I answered, “The last time I saw him, he was lounging on some rocks by the truck.” The tour guide thanked me and said, “Are you giving him hell?” I replied, “I’m pretty sure I annoy him every 20 minutes.” The guide walked away, saying, “Good!!”
Suzanne and I decided to do some laundry together in the washing machine, and I asked Damien for some rope to hang our clothes to dry. I took a shower, and the water was cold again. It was still hot outside, so I didn’t mind. There was an incredibly annoying girl from another tour in one of the three showers singing nonstop. She kept repeating the same line, “Pink like a unicorn. Pink like a unicorn,” in all of her various vocal ranges. Then it was Aladdin, and then “I can’t help falling in love with you.”
I was on the verge of snapping when Sophie asked, “Do you guys have hot water?” We both answered no and finished showering. Later, Sophie told me she couldn’t stand the singing either and only asked the question to try and get the girl to stop singing. How narcissistic do you have to be to think everyone wants to hear your loud, crappy singing?
It was time to cook dinner, and my group (the crocodiles) were assigned to cook. To help split the work evenly, we divided into groups to take turns cooking and cleaning at dinnertime. The five of us (Susanne, Aremelle, Kayla, Phillip, and myself) gathered around the tables and asked Damien how we could help. I was feeling feisty, and as he walked by, I said his dirty shirt was terrible. Seriously, the shirt used to be white but was now a patchy, nasty brown color. It was too big for Damien and had several holes in it, especially on his shoulders.
Damien turned around and said, “My grandma gave me this shirt.” I responded, “Like ten years ago.” Damien smiled and walked away. A minute later, he was cooking and asked what time it was. I answered, “Time for you to get a watch!” People laughed, and I could see they were happy that I was giving crap back to Damien. He looked shocked and asked why he was being picked on all of a sudden. I laughed and said it’s because he’s getting what he gives.
In the past, I’ve been criticized for being too opinionated and too argumentative. So I tried to keep the peace for a few days with Damien. Then my true self took over, and I pushed back. Maybe it was the alcohol. Damien actually seemed to like it and was being playful. I didn’t know why, but he was in a much better mood.
While dinner cooked, most of us played Heads Up that I had on my phone. It’s a game where you put the phone against your forehead so others can see the words on the screen. They have to give you clues about the word so you can guess what it is. We were all getting into it and having a blast. Grace was really good at guessing at the charades, which were hilarious to watch.
We ate lamb for dinner, and it was delicious. As we loaded our plates, Damien rushed off to shower before they turned off the water (which happened the night before). The group always finished the food, and I didn’t want him not to get his dinner after he spent hours cooking it. I got a plate and filled it with food. Then I put another plate over it to keep it warm.
When Damien got back from his shower, we were all still eating. I told him there was a plate for him, and he looked happy. He grabbed it and sat across the table from me. Phillip, Suzanne, and Linda were also at our table, and we all chatted.
Phillip told us that he was married for three years, but his wife left him for a friend. They didn’t have any children, and he was happy about that since it would have been a messy divorce. Suzanne talked about her job and not having kids. Her parents always asked when she’d have kids, which drove her crazy. Now that she was 42, they have finally accepted that she isn’t having kids. Linda told us about her health issues and allergies. I told her that she needs to see my sister in St. Louis, Missouri, because she specializes in all of that.
While Damien helped clean up, the four of us talked about relationships and why the 30s is the best decade. You’re wiser and make more money than in your 20s, but you’re still physically able to do a lot of stuff.
It was a wonderful evening, and I was happy that I was on the tour. If I had driven myself, I wouldn’t have known about all of the gorges and would have been too afraid to swim in the pools alone. The people on tour were fun, and it was nice to have company. We went to bed shortly after dinner because it was late. I slept so well that night that I was dreaming. Maybe it’s because I had gone three nights in a row with little sleep, and I was simply sleep-deprived, but I was so happy to sleep through the night and woke up feeling rested.
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Post Edited By: Mandy Strider