I awake, horribly flungover. Which is like hungover, only a bit further over. Safari Bob, pictured here trompe l'oeil style at the Gascoyne Hotel, drags me about on a pub crawl through the windy streets of Carnarvon. We start at the Gassy, carry on to the Troppy, and wind up at the Sandy, somehow bypassing the Carny. At the Gassy the waitress mislays our meals: Safari Bob's reef'n'beef and my seafood chowder fail to arrive, probably because we are only ones eating, or at least hoping to eat, outside. Our choice of seating utterly confuses the staff, who apologise. "You got blown off," says the waitress. A quaint piece of the vernacular that i am still struggling to comprehend. Blown off? Something to do with these unrelenting winds? Perhaps a common fate for deckies out here working the tugs and the trawlers?
Whatever. Upon realising their error, the hotel staff ply us with free scotch and dry. Thus begins an epic tale of beverage consumption that ultimately leads us out to the boondocks, to face the double cranberry vodkas of the Sandhurst Tavern. Which, when mispronounced 'The Sand Hurts!' to the taxi driver, strikes us as overwhelmingly funny.
It is here we meet Belynda. I am struck dumb by her beauty. Did you know "Balinda" means "white woman" in one of the languages of Arnhem land? And she is predominantly Causcasian-looking, but has obviously had a bit of the native in her lineage at one time or another. As she pours me another drink, a smile briefly curls the corners of her perfect mouth, then she shakes her blonde hair with a haughty toss of her head, and departs to the other end of the bar, her slender body springing lightly across the beer-soaked rubber mat. I watch, mesmerised, over the clinking ice of my cranberry vodka. Meanwhile, the bar has grown slowly higher. I turn to face a large orange hibiscus that blooms next to me. "Sheez boowdiful," i mumble to Safari Bob's shirt. The tropical heat, the slowly circling ceiling fans, the alcohol coursing through my veins ... and those jungle drums! It is all conspiring to send me slightly troppo. Like one of the early colonialists of Rangoon, i believe i am going native.
But, as Kipling knew, gardens are not made by singing 'Oh, how beautiful' and sitting in the shade. Enough of the wanton waste and decadence of these bars. To the plantations!