Sunday, September 20, 2009

The Melbourne Nadir

How do I pick up after such a long hiatus?

It's been a long break. In my last post I explained why I wouldn't write for a while, but said I'd pick it up soon after coming home. So why didn't I write sooner? Well, in many ways coming home to Denmark was a lot scarier than than I'd thought. Scarier even than leaving, which surprised me. Second, I've been reluctant to write about Melbourne, as I don't like thinking about it. But here, at long last, is the next chapter of my story.

Now where was I. Ahh. Melbourne. What was it about Melbourne that was so horrible that it took me three full months to gather enough courage to write about it? What was it that broke this otherwise infallible and god-like man of steel? Did his heart get broken? Well, almost. It was a motorbike. Again. But let me start where I left off.

In tasmania I'd been thinking a lot about the Roskilde festival, and how sad I was to miss it. Eventually I took the decision to cut my trip short so I could get home in time for the event. Renée knew I'd do it long before I knew. She's clever like that.

I figured I could do without the ten days in Singapore easily enogh, and the fourteen days I'd lose in Australia wasn't much when balanced against such a perfect opportunity to ease back into Denmark, averting the worst of the inevitable culture shock. So I changed my ticket.

However, one night in Melbourne - while trying to sleep - I almost panicked. It was an odd, out-of-place sensation. A real, horrifying, end-of-the-world-as-we-know-it kind of panic. I panicked about Hedda, and whether she'd be expecting something from me when we met again. About going home. About meeting that girl from that other festival again, and what would happen when I did. By then I didn't think of her as often as I used to, but she was still poking around in my thoughts sometimes. I panicked about whether I'd miss great experiences in Australia, and trade it for something mundane.

I suppose I was just scared shitless that I'd miss out on stuff or regret my decision. I spent some time focusing on how much fun I'd have still in Australia. All the adventures. All the fun I'd had on the festival before. All the fun I'd have with my friends back home. At last, I fell asleep knowing that everything would be alright.

Diary entry:
Tuesday the 28th of April '09. Melbourne, Australia

I'm on my way to Epping to fetch the motorbike I've bought. A Honda XR 600R. It seems to be in good condition, so I think it'll go the distance. After getting burned twice I'm a little apprehensive about buying a new bike. We'll see.

I've stayed with Grant and Kristen since I arrived in Melbourne. They're two very friendly metal-heads. They're both gamers, and I've sated my hunger for Fallout 3 for now. I've gotten a helluva lot of blogging done which feels really good. I went to town with Grant and Kirsten a couple of nights, and they have some hot friends who's unfortunately all spoken for.

Friday night one of the clubs had a viking theme going, and everybody dressed as a viking got in for free. I showed them my passport and said "hey, I AM a viking!". The doorman didn't buy it, but the bartender did.

I met Grant and Kristen through CouchSurfing. Great people both. they were planning a trip to Europe and wanted to go through Denmark up to Norway (I think), which means I'll be able to return the favor next year. Yay! They were awesome hosts, and theirs is the comfiest couch I've ever slept on.

At 600cc, this XR was the most powerful bike I've ridden to date (you can stop laughing now), but on my way back from Epping it stalled. My breath stopped, fearing another 3000,- AUD out the window. I quickly realized what was wrong though. I'd accidentally pulled the decompression lever while engaging the clutch. The two were mounted curiously close together. I made a mental note to mind my finger placement and carried on home.

Originally, my plan was to start the Australian leg of the journey in Adelaide as I had a thing or two I wanted to do there: 1) Drive the Great Ocean Road and 2) dive with Great White Sharks. But since I found myself in Melbourne already and didn't care to drive all the way to adelaide and back just for the sharks (a journey of almost 1000km each way. Besides, cage-diving was outrageously expensive), I decided to drive up the Great Ocean Road as far as Port Campbell, see the twelve apostles, spend the night, and drive back the next morning.

...In case you were wondering.

The XR600. Notice how I didn't melt any plastic on it...

If mars had water, this is what it'd look like.
I used my sunglasses as a filter. People were looking at me funny, but I think it worked out pretty well.

That sunset was one of the best I've ever seen.

Driving to Port Campbell I had the setting sun directly in my eyes and couldn't see a thing. Scary!

There's a place there called the Shipwreck coast which I was very excited about. My imagination was swimming with images of sandy, rotting and rusting shipwrecks, all exposed at low tide, old pirate treasures waiting to be plundered. Dissapointingly, it's just a name. No wrecks.

The whole trip, I was a bit paranoid about the sound of the bike. I thought it sounded clangy, but reminded myself that I had to get to know it. Still, I couldn't shake a feeling of doom. Well back in Melbourne I had it checked through by a mechanic for the compulsory road-worthiness checkout, and he told me it wasn't road-legal due to several shortcomings, including a worn out rear tyre and a weird sound from the engine.
I was devastated. I had been an utter fool going 800kms on it before getting it checked. Now there was no way of telling whether the fault was mine or the sellers. The repairs could be anything between 500 and 1500 AUD, and at the time I was sure I'd been sold a shitty bike. So I called up the seller.

I'm none too proud of the things I said, or the way I handled the matter. I tried to hold him responsible as I was terrified of facing such a loss. I knew I had a weak case, and I had no idea how I could get it off my hands in a short time. Being stuck with a busted bike in a city I'd rather have left behind days ago made me act like a dickhead. The magnitude of my selfishness hit me a week later in Sydney when the mechanic called me and asked whether I'd ever pulled the decompression lever while the engine was running. I had. Thrice. It had busted up the exhaust valves.

The fault was mine, and I'd tried blaming it on the seller, eventually getting half the price back and handing the bike back to him by using all my pathos to convince him, even though I could feel he wasn't at all happy with the deal. I felt really shitty about how I'd treated him and how stupid I'd been. I had bought the bike even as my gut feeling was screaming at me to say no and buy a bus ticket instead. I was blinded by the dream of that Big Motorcycle Adventure, and felt I had to get a bike quickly if I was going to make it all the way to Cairns. I had let my dream get in the way of reality.
By then I had no inclination to go looking for another bike. Even if I'd had the money.

I went back to Grant and Kirsten's place, cooked them dinner (a pasta salad which was making me quite famous through the south pacific), and bought a Greyhound ticket for Sydney for that evening. It would be a thirteen hour drive and I had nothing I wanted to see between Melbourne and Sydney. Maybe I felt the east coast had something in store for me. Maybe I felt time pressing (I'd been in Melbourne for more than a week. Maybe I just wanted to distance myself from the guilt. Either way, the next morning I found myself in Sydney, reunited with an old friend.


Lucas Alexander said...

What old friend??

Jophiel said...

Read my next post to find out ;)