Eight solid hours of driving through 35degree heat and I hit the ferry well after dark.
“Didn’t think I’d make it,” I say to the bloke who steers me on.
“Last one for the night,” he smiles, and I cross the Daintree River into the tropics.
The ute is still fizzing and popping as we cross.
‘I can’t believe it’s gotten this far,” I tell him.
I love the machine more every time it starts.
I’ve spent a month pushing through Rugby heartland, and can’t wait to see what lies beyond even that. There is always some sport, some activity that keeps people people. That lets them be sociable and gives them reason to prowl.
“You look like you’re here for work,” the bloke says.
He’s friendly and I like him, just like that.
The ferry isn’t a ferry, it’s a punt. A concrete thing on a winch cable, that takes about four minutes to cross, and I’ve already used one up. It takes another 30 seconds to convince the bloke to have a kick with me, even though I’m not even meant to be out of my car.
“Have you played?” I ask.
“I’m from England,” he says.
I can be racist when it comes to Pommies, I know it. There’s no excuse. It didn’t stop me from dating two of them, though.
Not at the same time, of course.
“It’s all good,” I tell him.
He looks worried.
“What if it goes over the edge?”
The ball’s red and smells of leather. A croc will probably eat it. This cheap-arsed $19 dollar bladder has been drowned in oceans and rivers and floodwaters, and baked in deserts and stuck in river mud. Travelled from the bottom tip of a continent to its top. It would be a fitting end, I thought.
“It’s all good,” I insisted.
I lobbed him a handball. He marked it like eggshells.
“Give it a kick,” I said.
He did, all mongrel-like. It bounced and skidded off my fingers, doing a little hot-potato dance towards the edge. I dropped to my knee to smoother it, like a big, dumb donk in the wet, lobbed him a kick he couldn’t miss, and we were there.
It was stupid, in hindsight. How the hell would I replace an Aussie Rules footy this far north? But most things in my life are stupid in hindsight.
We talked a bit more when we docked. Not for long, he had to take the punt back across and lock up for the night.
“Hope to see you at the pub,” he said, and meant it.
“I’ll be there,” I meant it back.
Fuck hindsight. I’d made a mate, an English mate, punting on the punt, in four minutes flat.
Now it’s late. I’m in a cabin in the Daintree rainforest, sweating under a fan that sounds like it has a crook back. Tomorrow, on dawn, the long days of hard work start. Everything heat, rain and humidity. There’s lots to do before the wet season drops, washing everything out.
It’s too hot to sleep, So I’m sitting in my sweat, listening to geckos making the sweetest sounds.
I’m as happiest I’ve been in a long time.