Having exhausted the delights of last year’s Adelaide’s Fringe Festival, my travel buddy Amy and I set off for a three-day adventure to Kangaroo Island. Not at our best in the mornings, we apprehensively clambered aboard a van at 6.30am. We looked at our six similarly sleepy ‘playmates’ for signs of common interests – fashion sense, reading materials? Besides Mitch, our large, older, blond and married tour guide, it turned out to be an all-female group, which brought the usual mixture of relief and disappointment.

Deciding that it was a long enough trip to get to know the girls at a later stage, Amy and I hunkered down in 
the back of the van.

Ominously, the heavens opened just as we set off and Mitch appeared to take this as a sign to speed terrifyingly down the slick motorway. It also appeared to be his opportunity to introduce the timetable, hollering descriptions of activities and allaying weather-related concerns by screaming, “as for the rain… Australians are outdoors people! We are not wimps, mate! The rain means nothing!”

Clutching each other in the back, we prayed for some kind of intervention, as wimps we undoubtedly were. Maybe this wildman was wanted by the police and we just happened to be in his getaway vehicle?

Alas, we soon arrived on a deserted beach, where the military orders continued along with the freezing rain and we were about to embark on our first surf lesson. Mitch, of course, was our surf teacher. Looking incredulously at the wild sea and united in horror at the thought of getting into the water, the group quickly became friends/allies while squeezing into damp, sandy wetsuits. After a couple of weak attempts at repeatedly leaping up from the cold wet beach onto our boards, we were deemed sea worthy and struggled through crashing waves.

After an exhilarating and hilarious experience, involving no one getting close to standing up and many gallons of seawater ingested, Mitch called us back onto the beach to get changed. Falling over each other to get into dry clothes with repeated flashings of naked bums and tums cemented the group’s unity. Strangers only hours before, we now felt like members of a special team. Through adversity we shall conquer! Thank goodness we were an all female group. Gathering us up in the van, Mitch promised dinner and drove at the usual high speed towards ‘home’.

From the outside, our camp looked enticingly like an authentic outback ranch complete with campfire and sports equipment. Inside however, the bedrooms were packed full of tiny, stained bunk beds scattered with random unfamiliar clothing. Assured that we had exclusive use of the camp, we tentatively brushed down beds and moved clothing into the hall. Later, as we sat in the lounge cradling hot teas, an unknown man burst through the doors screaming that some “bastard’’ had “stolen” his clothing and “chucked” it into the hallway. Oops.

With burning cheeks we hurried off to find Mitch, who ushered the scary dude away with a carefree “no worries, mate, come with me!”

Collective warmth towards our wildman grew from that point on. He cooked for us, talked endlessly about absolutely everything and took us on our various activities with admirable cheer despite the continuously foul weather. In the evening we sat around the campfire, drinking red wine and singing. He showed us an amazing trap door made by a spider, and dug one large hand into the sand to produce a ‘pippie’ (shellfish/mollusk) for us to eat (raw). Leaving the camp on our final morning, we weren’t surprised to witness Mitch leaping out of the van to wrestle a giant road-kill kangaroo onto his back. He turfed the poor creature up and over into scrubland and then washed his hands, without breaking a sweat. He appeared to us girls to be the epitome of Australian manliness.

Oh Mitch, you beaut!

February 6th, 2012