I knew I would have some crazy stories to tell when I finished my trip down the Eastern Coast of Australia, but I never could have imagined what was really in store for me!
I had been staying in a hostel in northern Australia in a small city called Cairns (best known for its close proximity to the Great Barrier Reef) for about three weeks. I had traveled there alone, after my year of teaching abroad in Korea, as it was my dream to travel to Australia. I didn’t know anyone there, but I decided to take a leap and try my luck at finding a temporary job and friends who would want to travel with me. Luck struck when an incredibly kind German girl at my hostel invited me to sit with her table of friends one night on the outer terrace of the hostel. They were a wild, eclectic group of people, and I fell in love with their free spirits and enthusiasm for life. Little did I know, they would end up becoming like my family in every sense of the word: Some “family” I would love and some who would drive me insane.
One day, eight of us from the hostel went to a river about twenty minutes outside of Cairns City and rented two small trolling boats. The river was very beautiful and surrounded by lush greenery and rolling hills. We traveled down the river, stopped to have a delightful picnic lunch on a bank, and then ended at a beach that I can only describe as paradise. At the beach, you could view a panorama of the mouth of the canal, lush trees, clay rocks, kiteboarders, and a stunning span of white sand. We stayed at the beach for a while and were thoroughly enjoying ourselves. We took the cliché pyramid picture, frolicked in the ocean, ran across the beach, and were laughing non-stop.
On the way back, everything changed. I rode in the boat with three of the guys from my hostel. These three guys were quite the bunch. One was Canadian, and the other two were British. The Canadian, Mike, and one of the British guys, Lewis, were more-or-less like the ring-leaders of our group at the hostel and always came up with the craziest ideas. I both loved and despised them for their kid-like antics. The other British guy, Duncan, was more levelheaded and just laughed constantly at the other two.
Becoming exhausted from our eventful day, I had fallen asleep in the boat with my head leaning towards the edge of the boat. When I stirred in my sleep, my pink and black flat-brimmed hat flew off of my head and soared into the water behind us. I awoke startled from the feeling of the wind brushing my hair and the realization that my hat had flown into the water. Duncan was driving and proceeded to turn the boat around swiftly to grab the hat. Mike sat on my side of the boat and we both leaned down to catch the hat as we passed it in the boat. We were very near the hat when, all of the sudden, Lewis jumped to our side like a bull in a china shop, tipping the boat and sending us all toppling into a crocodile-infested river. We stood up quickly in a panic, and I could see the fear in Duncan’s eyes. He was extremely close to the motor, which was still running and sputtering. I reached my arm out promptly and pushed the boat away as fast as I could. Consequently, the flooded motor died seconds later. We both breathed a sigh of relief for a brief second until we realized we were still standing in water where crocodiles had been sighted just twenty minutes beforehand and all of our belongings were soaking in the mucky river. We quickly snatched up our things as our friends approached in the other boat. They were both worried and trying not to laugh at the rarity of what had just happened. We handed them our soaking wet belongings, including phones and speakers, and began to try and flip the broken boat over. It was full of water, and the beige sun canopy was no longer attached to one side. The mud was very deep and thick in the water, and we were unsuccessful in our attempts to flip the boat over and empty the water inside. Not to mention, the thought of standing in the water long enough to find out where exactly the crocodiles were was anything but appealing.
We decided to have our friends tow us with their boat, which had been experiencing motor issues throughout the day, and try to keep our submerged boat balanced behind. By this point, I was really panicking. We had to ride submerged in water with crocodiles for about ten minutes until we reached a boat ramp with steady ground where we could flip the boat again. Two local Aussie men, who appeared to be veterans of the river, were at the boat ramp and helped us out by providing us with five-gallon buckets. We finally got the water out of the boat after about ten minutes of scooping the water out and were towed back to the dock by our friends’ boat. Along the way, a whole array of emotions let loose as the adrenaline pumping though our veins subsided and the realization that all of our belongings were soaked and most likely ruined set in. I cried because Lewis had blamed the disaster on me since it was my hat that had fallen into the river.
However, after a bit of an argument and Lewis apologizing to me, we all were laughing in the end. We were covered in mud, bug bites, and cuts, and were being towed by a boat that could barely run. The boat owners were angry but surprisingly didn’t charge us a fine. We lucked out! No crocodile bites, no one hurt in the engine! Just waterlogged belongings and a crazy story to look back on!