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  • “You are standing in kangaroo poo,” she repeated herself, long and slowed.

    Pauline is a petite French girl with brunette hair and a timid nature - a rare gem when you consider that she was one of us. Backpackers, that is - a practice that I’ve noticed usually yields the louder and bolder personalities. Not to say she was in the least bit boring - in fact, she packed a hell of a punch. But not all of us aim to leave such vehement footsteps behind. And that’s a good thing, I think. She had to repeat herself three times for me to be able to hear her. It wasn’t necessarily her accent that prevented clarity, but more of a combination of my acute dumbness for listening, and her soft spoken nature.

    “Ah shit…” I mumbled.
    “What?”
    “Oh, nothing. No pun intended, I guess. Thanks.”

    I sidestepped, carefully not to move too quickly. I was aware how intently the roo only feet in front of me was eyeing me. I’d heard stories about how badly they could mess you up - lunging forward to grab out with their special arms, then leaning backwards to gut their victims with the razor sharp claws of their powerful hind legs. But I wanted a damn picture. After all, it was a wild kangaroo chilling on a golf course.

    Lambert - an intelligent, well spoken and hardy French man who Pauline had joined up with along the way, had walked into our dormitory at the Home at the Mansion only hours before. Within minutes of meeting them, they accepted our offer to join in an expedition along the Great Ocean Road. Along with Leon - a Dutch man who I’d bumped into the previous day (that I’d mistakingly been calling ‘Neil’ and he was too polite to correct me), the car was looking pretty full, and excitingly diverse. Jimmy and I had been bored the previous day when we decided on a whim to rent a car and take the trip. The company was more than welcome. After all - this is what it was all about.

    I’d be lying if I said I didn’t dream of sunshine, open windows and having to continuously push my sunglasses up my nose because all the sweat that would make them slide down my face. It was cold, for a lack of descriptive imagery. It was cold - the wind bit from a jaw that housed dozens more teeth than the average mouth that would normally bite, and it was constantly threatening to rain. But the moments that the sun did come through made it all worth it. In fact, the weather was a fairly accurate representation of how I felt about my time in this country so far.

    Every day has had a pattern to it. For the past 4 mornings, I’ve been waking up just as the sun was beginning to rise, and I’ve been filled with nothing but uncertainty and the fact that this wasn’t quite what I was dreaming it would be: Australia was not the tropical land that was brimming with opportunity at every corner. But it was nothing a hot shower couldn’t sort out. As the hours went on and I found myself exploring, I was able to realize that the adventure I was dreaming of was there; I just had to find it.

    After the kangaroos, the road left the city of Geelong far behind us and met the coastline to our left. The car buzzed with different accents the whole way. It was at this moment that the sun won it’s battle through the clouds and glistened off the ocean. It was a straight, flat-way slab of earth as massive as the sky with mountains in the distance. But none of our eyes had processed as far as the ocean in front of us.

    Our next stop was a lighthouse that was planted on the cliffside, overlooking a noiseless view to the sea. We parked the car and began our ascent up the hill. But my eyes wandered down the beach to an offbeat path that led to the rocky shoreline, and my feet followed. Behind me, the group was chatting away, but still following without missing a beat. To be honest, I wouldn’t have minded if they had all wanted to go on ahead to the lighthouse - I had no interest in it. I wanted to be able to feel the mist from the water that crashed against the rocks. I wanted to be a part of it. I didn’t want to be too high up that I couldn’t feel that.

    Once there on the shore, I climbed as much of the rock as I could. It was as though every possible angle of those rocks were sharpened specifically to refuse such an activity, though. The porous, barnacle-ridden stone made for easy traction and good holds. But it was like climbing a pile of knives. On the top, though, I could feel the strength of the sea smashing into it. I looked up at the rising surf as the wind picked up.

    I think I’d made it made, somehow. It didn’t take long for the waves to rise to impressive and terrifying heights. As if daring a soul to try to enter.

    The road from there transformed from the familiar, lovable and easy-going flat plane - it clung to the sides of cliffs and tumbled down steep hills that snaked rapidly through rain-forest and bush.

    “We are in no rush!” cried Lambert clearly enough for Jimmy to hear in the driver’s seat.
    “Are you serious!? You think I’m going fast?” Jimmy had only ever driven a stick shift in the UK and was still warming up to the car.
    The car jerked around a cliffside as we climbed higher.
    “Slow down, man!”
    “I have too much to do in life to drive slow,” Jimmy mumbled so that only I could hear.
    I felt Leon’s head smash into the window in the seat behind mine. In the boot, I heard my camera dislodge from it’s case and tumble into the wall.

    It was a bad road for me to begin driving on the left. It seemed that between Jimmy and myself - having been used to driving an automatic, but only on the right side of the road and on the opposite side of the car - it was only fair that I give it a go. Mostly for the sake of everyone else in the backseat. As crazy as Jimmy liked to drive, I trusted that he knew what he was doing. But after 7 hours, I knew that everyone in the back had gotten over the initial rush of the scenic landscape and simply wanted to nod off.

    “You know that driving on the right was basically America’s way of saying ‘Fuck you’ to Britain, right?” Jimmy began.
    I mistakenly glanced sideways at him and veered offroad a little, then had to correct.
    “I knew that Britain did it first, but I thought it was just a matter of preference,” I confessed what little knowledge I had.
    Jimmy is a smart man and naturally curious. “Well think about - roads existed before cars did. And back in the old days, most people who traveled by road usually traveled on what? Do you know?”
    “Horses?” I shot out.
    “Yeah, exactly. And it was usually taught that most men were dominantly right-handed,” he continued shifting in his seat to face me. “So, when you’re on your horse and you mean to draw your sword with your right hand, it would be in the proper place to defend you. You see - it makes no sense to ride on the right and completely inconvenience yourself to have to draw your sword, then reach over your body to do anything when the moment counted.”

    As much as I wanted to point out the lack of demand for wielding a sword in a car, what Jimmy was saying did make total sense. And after about 10 minutes, I really had no trouble at all driving on the left. Although, there were some turns where the backseat would vehemently remind me that I was turning into the wrong lane.

    I would have realized eventually.

    The day moved on to be the adventure that I’d been craving - koala sightings, attacks from wild parrots and other exotic birds, more roos, loads of ocean views, and a lunch on the harbor of Apollo Bay. And all of it with people who, only days ago, were complete strangers to me. That morning I’d woken full of doubt, like most of my days out here have begun. But today I found the adventure that burned inside me. Even as it began to rain on the shoreline of the 12 apostles, I couldn’t help but fall in love with where the world found me at that moment.
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