It was another early morning in the Kimberley. I was awake at 5:15 am and ready to go at 6:30 am. I sat next to Suzanne, my Adventure Tour bestie, on the truck. She was 42 and from France (but living in Belgium). We had been developing a great friendship over the last week. We hadn’t sat together on the truck yet, so we made it happen.
Suzanne and I talked about why I chose to leave my job in LA and how long I planned before pulling the trigger. It wasn’t something I did out of the blue – I thought about it and prepared for a year. You can read about the decision here.
I taught Suzanne American slang, and sometimes it was unintentional. For example, I say “dude” and “man” a lot, and she started to pick it up too. She would speak them with a deep voice and really pronounced, so it cracked me up every time. She also pointed out that when I tell stories, I say, “he goes” and “she goes” instead of “he said” and “she said.” One day she came to me and said someone taught her AF and bat-shit crazy. It was hilarious trying to explain the difference between bat-shit crazy and just your regular run-of-the-mill crazy.
Suzanne has been to the U.S. a few times, but just to major cities like New York and LA. She told me how she was so confused by our tipping guidelines – who to tip and who not to tip. I’ve heard this from so many people from Europe and Australia. She finally got the hang of tipping in the U.S., and her dad came with her one time. He didn’t like tipping and tried not to tip at one restaurant. Suzanne told him, “If you don’t like it, you shouldn’t come to the U.S. That’s how they do it here.” I tried to explain to her that I’m not too fond of the tipping culture, but servers in the U.S. are paid less than minimum wage (usually around $3 an hour) because it’s a job reliant on tips.
Suzanne had been on the research side of academics, and the last year she was teaching at the same University. She told me how she’d worked incredibly hard the last year in the transition, and she needed this vacation. We agreed to meet up in the U.S. at some point so I could show her around from a local perspective.
We had a lot of driving to do that day. We made a brief toilet (and stretch) stop, and then a couple of hours later; we stopped for gas. Most of us bought coffee and a snack. I purchased a toastie because I love them. They’re basically grilled cheese with other stuff in it. As we all sat outside on two picnic tables, Damien told us that the area was known for pink diamond mines. We would make a stop in Kununurra soon, and we would have a chance to browse and buy a diamond (if you wanted to spend $30,000).
Damien was in a good mood and was being playful. He told us that the best gift to give a woman isn’t a diamond; it’s a decorative soap. We all laughed, but Damien kept his composure as if he were dead serious. He went on in length describing how he’s given decorative soap to women, and they just can’t get enough of it. “You can’t go wrong with it,” he insisted. People looked at him like, “you’re joking, right?” I jumped in, “Especially if it’s from a crappy motel.” Damien finished his rant, saying, “The women will swoon.” It was nice seeing Damien in a good mood. He can be very charismatic if he wants to be.
We stopped in Kununurra for lunch. Damien went to the grocery store to buy more groceries while we all split up to buy our own snacks. We also had the chance to go to the bottle shop for more alcohol. The group set up our tables and chairs on a grassy area and ate the usual. I had cell service for the first time in many days, so I tried to catch up on some things.
After lunch, we continued driving. The scenery was getting much more impressive as we wound through mountains and trees. I talked with Suzanne some more. She pointed out that I have a little bit of a Canadian accent. I laughed, “I know. I spent so much time in Canada last year, and now I inadvertently say ‘about’ and ‘how’ like a Canadian. It just comes out.” People in Australia usually guessed I was Canadian. Suzanne is smart and knows a few languages. I could tell that she was curious and was soaking up the American and Canadian nuances.
Our next stop was at Lake Argyle. We had the option of paying $40 to go on a boat cruise. Damien highly recommended it, and we all agreed to go. He said he wasn’t going because he doesn’t like boats. Damien stopped the truck, turned around, and told us we could bring beers with us on the boat ride. Then he said, “Maybe you can use Christy’s ‘cooler’ (they call them Esky). That is if it’s still on the roof!!” He smiled at me mischievously. I looked at him and flipped him off. He just laughed.
We all went inside to pay, and I was one of the last few people at the counter. Damien went inside and stood near me. I bought some cookies at the store at our previous stop and asked if he wanted one. He said sure, grabbed one, and told me that he liked that kind too. Things were so pleasant with him, I hoped they wouldn’t turn sour.
The 20 of us boarded the boat, and my cooler came in handy, holding all of our beers. Our driver was Mitch. He was young – only 20 years old. He had a surfer look to him with curly, long, dark blonde hair. He was attractive and fun. I sat next to Oliver in the back near Mitch. As we drove around the vast lake, it was like we had it all to ourselves. We went fast, so Mitch could only talk when he stopped the boat. Here’s what I learned:
- Lake Argyle was formed by the Ord Dam and is Western Australia’s largest (and Australia’s second-largest) freshwater, man-made reservoir.
- It is 980 square kilometers and impounds 10.7 million liters of water.
- It’s 18 times the volume of water contained in the Sydney Harbour.
- Forty million liters of water go through the dam every second.
- There are over 30,000 freshwater crocodiles in the lake.
We stopped at an island, and Mitch threw food to some Wallaroos. He said some scientists have been doing tests, and they bred a wallaby and a kangaroo to get a wallaroo. They were adorable and excited to get the food pellets.
After speeding across the lake, we stopped at a large rock. Mitch said, “Legally, I need to tell you that you cannot jump off that rock into the lake. You can swim around the boat for the next 15 minutes. But if you were to jump off the rock when I wasn’t looking, I would advise going up on the side there.”
Oliver, Brock, James, Kayla, Linda, and Suzanne jumped into the water, climbed the rocks, and jumped into the lake. I didn’t wear my swimsuit and wasn’t too keen on swimming with crocs, so I stayed in the boat drinking my beer. They had a blast, though.
The next stop was to watch some crocodiles on a sandbar. Mitch gave us bread to feed the fish, and they swarmed the boat! He said they’ll jump a foot or two into the air if we hang our hand over the boat with the bread.
The final stop was on an island to watch the sunset. Mitch pulled the boat up to the sand and rocks, and we all got off. I sat on a large rock near Suzanne and Sophie. Mitch came over and sat next to me. Then Brock and his dad James came over. Mitch told us how he left home at age 15 and worked on a tuna fish boat. The money was under the table, and they were out to sea for ten weeks. They seldom slept, and the guys gave him speed to stay awake. He made $35,000 in those ten weeks. He was young and spent all the money too quickly.
Mitch does tours at Lake Argyle in the tourist season. In the off-season, he works on the east coast on a mega yacht for a rich and famous person (he couldn’t tell us the name). Mitch has certifications in maintaining the boat’s mechanics and has experience fixing and driving all kinds of boats. He makes good money, and the owner lets him party on it.
Mitch was a really cool guy, and even Brock was fascinated by his story. Mitch told us that grandmas on his tours are always trying to set him up with their granddaughters. As Mitch told us his stories, the boat suddenly started floating away. He raced out to the lake, got into the water, and climbed aboard. Mitch got the boat back to shore and took off his wet shirt. I think everyone on our boat thought he was a cool, charismatic dude full of adventure.
We watched the beautiful sunset, which radiated yellow, orange, and finally red. It was a perfect thing to add to our adventure. We all drank our beers, laughed, and enjoyed the view.
By the time we arrived at our campsite nearby, it was dark outside. It had been three days since I was able to shower, so I thoroughly enjoyed the warm water. I wasn’t on the dinner crew that night, so I walked around the campground and gazed at the stars after my shower.
I was wearing the new cowgirl hat that I got in Broome when I walked to the dark side of the truck to get a beer from the cooler. Damien was near the cooler, getting something out of the side of the truck. Nobody else was on that side. We could always see each other in our peripheral vision, likely noticing our heights. With only slightly turning to look at me, Damien quietly said, “Nice hat.” I replied, “Thanks,” and walked away.
You could cut the sexual tension between us with a knife. I have never felt such powerful tension with someone. Perhaps it was because I hadn’t had any physical touch in almost a year, and in the previous three years, it was virtually non-existent.
Part of me wanted him to grab me and kiss me. He was strong and dominant, something I wasn’t used to, and I liked it. My ex-husband was extremely passive, which drove me crazy. Damien was growing some facial stubble now that we had been on tour for a week, making him more attractive. Another part of me wanted to avoid him for fear of getting hurt. I should have said something clever and flirty. Instead, I walked away.
For dinner, we ate chicken curry, which was tasty. The bar at the campground was still open, and there was live music. I decided to check it out with Alex, Phillip, Suzanne, and Sophie. As we approached the bar and could hear the live music, Alex said, “Christy, you haven’t dated this musician too, have you?” We all laughed. I explained that I had not dated this musician.
We enjoyed the evening, talking about relationships. Alex was surprised that I had been married and divorced. He said he had a serious relationship, but it ended. I showed them Tinder and what sort of guys were in the area. We had a fun time opening up about our personal lives.
It was time for bed, and I got into my swag near a tree, but not directly under it. I was near Suzanne again, but the space was small, and other people were nearby. Like every night, I could hear snoring, so I put my earplugs in. The wind was incredibly strong that night. The sound of the tree blowing made it difficult to sleep because I kept thinking there was a tornado.
The wind gusts kept hitting my face, and the lights from the campground were super bright, shining in my face. I got up and got my eye mask out of my bag, and it helped a little. I also grabbed the flap of the swag at the top of my head and pulled it over my face for protection from the wind. Unfortunately, it tossed dirt all over my face.
I barely slept that night. Mostly because of the environmental factors, but there was too much going on in my head. Between the tension with Damien and talking with a few people about relationships, I couldn’t stop thinking about it. Damien appeared in a dream and kissed me. Each day he got nicer, more considerate, and more charismatic. I was afraid of the power he had over me and the effect he’d have on me. But I knew it was too late – my heart was going to pay for this.
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Post Edited By: Mandy Strider