Hurrah. Chris is back from his trek across the Outback. He really is a good old boy, already regaling me with tales of not showering for 9 days, accidentally mistaking a drug den for his hostel and meeting a 23 year-old tour guide who knew absolutely nothing about the actual tour.
His photos are amazing - sunsets on beaches, impossibly-long desert highways disappearing into the vanishing point and giant, craggy blood-red rock formations - and it's really brought home to me how little I have seen since I arrived, and how keen I am to get going.
I have come to realise over the last 3 weeks that I have fallen into an old pattern. Get up, eat some Weetabix, go to work, come home, eat some Findus Crispy Pancakes, go to bed. In effect, I have accurately re-created my life in London, except on far less money and also whilst living in a room with 8 other people. So, as an experience, currently I am actually registering a net loss.
Admittedly, work is a means to an end, to fund my further travels, and it's a good job it is, because if this was my actual life (15k a year to spend 8 hours a day photocopying in silence), I would have already used my hole-puncher to bludgeon myself into unconciousness. Having said that, I do take back some of things I've said about the people here. There are a few rather witty people, but I think they are simply not given a chance to shine as they're too busy worrying about their Departmental Systems Architecture or their Info Turret Investigation Phase Matrix to engage any form of witty repartee. Shame, because a couple of them are quite sharp. I guess I just miss the bear-pit of the Drum office.
Over the next 6 weeks, then, I just to have to knuckle down, ignore any opportunities to blow the money I've saved, and store up for a January departure date. At the moment the plan is, well, vague, but I'm thinking about getting on a bus and heading up the East Coast, calling in at various towns along the way. Potential stop-overs include: Fraser Island, Townsville, Coffs Harbour, 1770 (yes, that IS a town), Bundaberg, Yepoon, Magnetic Island, Moreton Island, Surfer's Paradise, the Whitsundays, and a few more besides.....
Trouble is with backpacking is everyone you meet recommends somewhere different, and some even go so far as to claim certain towns or beaches are the best places in the known galaxy, investing their description with the kind of wide-eyed zeal you'd expect from a religious preacher addressing a congregation on the subject of the next life.
And, to confund matters, for everyone person you find who will bang on about how "fucking amazing", say, Cairns is, you'll find someone who'll declare they'd rather spend the weekend in Huddersfield than go there again. My fear, after wandering up and down Kings Cross and peering into the multitude of backpacker-specialist travel agents, is that I'll end up stuck on some pseudo - Club 18-30 trip next to a 22 year-old Ben Sherman-shirted twat called Darren (from Bolton), and a hippie, tie-dye t-shirt wearing white/middle class rasta called Camilla (from Windsor). And that is not me.
Fortunately, there are alternatives. So, I need to talk to people who are clued up, who know what I like and what I don't like, and seek out the best places, lest I end up between Darren and Camilla attempting to quaff a yard of ale through my nose.