Sunday, January 28, 2007

ON SAFARI IN KENYA

I awake, stretched in a swag on a concrete pad next to a large shed. I decide to get up when the ants finally become too much to bear. I stomp around, brushing them off. Mickey T lays asleep in his swag, head up against the extruded green aluminium sheeting of the shed. It's been a big night. A man suddenly appears around the corner and fills an enamel mug with water from a tap, just above Mickey T's head. The man wears a khaki shirt with "Conservation and Land Management" embroidered just above his left breast pocket. He gazes down thoughtfully at the slumbering figure of Mick, then across at me, then at our car which i parked neatly in the centre of the concrete pad at around three o'clock that morning.

"If you're going to camp illegally overnight at Coral Bay, chaps, try not to do it right next to the Ranger's office." Mickey T awakes and looks up at the Ranger. "Mornin!" Mickey T says brightly. The Ranger smiles, and, with a shake of his head, disappears. It is around eight in the morning. We drive to the main beach, spread a large sheet of canvas out on the sand under an overhanging ledge, and resume our slumber.

Mickey T lived and worked in the surreal resort community of Coral Bay for 18 months, as a deckie on a charter fishing boat. In the resort town of Coral Bay the growl of quad bikes is a familiar sound. As the main mode of transport, quads have a big plastic basket up front for your dog, fishing gear, towel and whatnots. Riders don't wear helmets, simply because there are no police. I like this place already! On Mickey T's prodigal return to Coral Bay he is treated as something of a celebrity. Partly because his photo was recently published on the front page of the local community paper, pulling a ridiculous air on his kiteboard in the Carnarvon fascine, and partly because he is, in fact, a celebrity. We are plied with liquor as we distribute mangos and other less legal horticultural produce amongst the locals.

The "local community paper" has a distribution of thousands of square kilometres. Exmouth, Learmonth, Carnarvon, Monkey Mia, Denham, Shark Bay, Useless Loop, Gascoyne Junction, Murchison and Coral Bay. That's right - Useless Loop. There is, believe it or not, a Useless Loop Primary School. One can only speculate on the self-esteem of its students.

The fishing around Coral Bay is tremendous. Views from the beaches are spectacular. We arrive on the main beach to find a good-looking young topless girl standing pressed up against some dude who alternates between rubbing her bare breasts and her scantily-clad backside. It must be the heat, i'm thinking. It's a different kind of heat up here.

After our exploits at the beach i stagger about the front bar of the pub with my trophy fish, while Mickey T transfixes locals with a demonstration on how to climb from a sitting position atop a barstool, through its legs, and up again to sit on top without once touching the floor or falling over. Which i guess would involve touching the floor. As a piece of bar-room acrobatics, it is pure poetry. Our expedition takes in a jam session with local musos, an absurdly delicious seafood platter, a conversation with a local pioneer of the community (i was here when that pizza oven was installed, she says proudly), swimming, and copious amounts of alcohol. But it is our safari into Kenya that i find the most interesting.

Kenya is the shanty town where Coral Bay workers live. So called because of its Third World ambience, and because its occupants are constantly being asked, "Hey, kenya do this? Kenya do that?" We weave our way through a maze of vines, caravans, shacks, dirt bikes, rusting four-wheel-drives, walls woven from palm fronds, and sun bleached women. Down the aptly-named Butterfly Alley we find the abode of Mickey T's friend Noodles. Noodles is Coral Bay's resident graphic designer and signwriter. We very nearly mistake the slatted wooden doors of the outdoor shower for the front door, which could have been embarrassing, as there was someone showering at the time. We kick back in Noodles' airconditioned lean-to, have a drink (needless to say), and watch a bizarre documentary about an undersea research team whose members swim about inside a mechanical great white shark. Jimi Hendrix and Al Pacino circa Scarface stare down at us from timber veneer walls.

Kenya is an microcosm. Everybody knows everybody else. People know who is having sex with whom and who has uploaded video footage of said act to the web. Megarooting Ave, where Noodles lives, is in the new part of town. Dunrooting Ave is where the oldies live. Both areas are clearly signposted for the benefit of drunken resort tourists.

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

that's it, I'm moving up there...
That is if I make it back from Thailand, with Raoul, Das and Mr Grey

Demo

Mark Roy said...

Now that will be a trip worth documenting ... be sure to say hello to the girls at the Soi Cowboy for me.

Mark Roy said...

NOTE: During one of my heated conversations with Minister for Planning Alannah MacTiernan, i brought up the subject of Kenya. "The workers need better accommodation," i said. "Have you ever been to where they live? It's like a Third World community. They call it Kenya."
In her usual droll manner, Alannah replied, "Kenya? We call it Soweto by the Sea."