When I left school, my first job was in the graphics department at Waikato University. I was a trainee – a drafting cadet. I learnt a lot and it was great swanning round campus looking like a student but getting paid – though not a great deal. After a year I got extended leave to go to Australia.
My flatmate Mac was already over there and was in love with the place so my other flatmate, Geordie and I joined him for the summer.
Geordie was a big lad from Newcastle (England) and his mum had baked him a cake to take. In those days you didn’t need a passport between NZ and Aus and it was all good – till we arrived in Sydney and customs saw Geordie’s cake. We watched them plough their grubby hands through it to make sure there were no drugs or weapons.
Mac met us and we stayed in Coogee for a couple of days before buying a cheap old Holden and heading up the coast – road trip.
We had the best time on a low budget with a tent and an old car. We saw snakes and kangaroos and met lots of characters.
I turned 19 in a pub in Forster where we ate prawns like they were chips and drank Tooth’s Old. Then I went for a swim in my jeans and nearly drowned.
We did the whole Byron’s Bay area – Broken Head, Mullumbimbi in a haze but sobered up when we got kicked out of Brisbane for sleeping in the car.
We were heading out of Byron’s Bay back to Sydney when we saw them on the road. This straggle of strange looking people – three girls and a guy, all had brightly dyed hair. We stopped for the first girl and she stood there by the car, unable to vocalise while the others ran up to join us. We let them in.
The guy with the bright red hair in the front with Geordie and Mac – and the three girls squeezed up in the back with me’ I remember the one who couldn’t speak shaking next to me – her bloodied bare feet in half a big watermelon we had on the floor.
Then they told us their story…
They had been travelling up from Melbourne to Brisbane with another couple in a stolen car and it was all a big joke till something went down. The other two took off with the car and the shotgun and the rest of them were left stranded at the side of the road.
The white haired girl said – “We have something of his though”.
They all laughed, except the one next to me – she just looked down at her feet.
They wanted us to take them back to Melbourne.
We played along with them pretending everything was normal but that we were heading inland to Lismore. We said we could drop them in Balina. Luckily they had friends there.
When we finally got them out of the car, I noticed the odd girl had my jandals on her bloody feet.