The awesomeness of people

Walker on Uluru It doesn’t take a tremendous deal to make me happy. Some would say in fact, that I am easily pleased. Which is, I think, a rather good thing. The little things in life are often the best. Although the big things are good too. I am clearly waffling already. I will get to the point, via a roundabout tale of cake and eggs.

Working as I do, in a holiday park, has a myriad of benefits. One of the minor benefits is that from time to time, people leave things behind. I’m not talking big things here, like wallets or phones, as obviously we go through a process of attempting to re-unite those with their owners, no, rather I am talking about perishables and consumables.

Things like eggs, for example, seem to be left regularly. Add that to the prodigal output of eggs from our own on-site chickens, and I am sure that my cholesterol levels have never been so positive. Beer is another item that is left from time to time, although sadly not with enough regularity to make it a staple. A recent score involved a lot of chocolate cake. But all of these things pale into insignificance against the most recent thing to be left behind, which wasn’t actually left behind at all, but rather purposefully given to me, as there was no scope for taking it, due to it’s fragile nature.

To put you out of your suspense, you should know that I am talking about a beer glass. But not just any old beer glass – no! – a yard of ale beer glass no less. What else would a traveller need to leave behind?

For those not familiar with such things, this is a glass capable of holding nearly a metre’s worth of beer, totalling 2.5 pints, or 80oz. It was presented to me by a rather scruffy looking traveller chap (I am not exactly one to point fingers in this area it must be said), who said he had no room for it, nor anything he could think of to do with it aside from give it to me. I goggled at him for a while in disbelief, before taking it off his hands. There then followed a vague attempt to give me a mouldy mattress, but I was less keen on that idea.

Obviously, I have no idea what to do with a yard of ale glass either, but still. The very process of owning said item makes me feel rather more complete as a person than before I owned it. So much for the minimalist lifestyle I had been aiming for, and dreams of down-sizing to a 40litre backpack for my next travelling phase. Still, not everything in life is going to align perfectly.

This sudden gift got me to thinking about the kindness of strangers upon my travels, and the various other gifts that have come my way over the last couple of years. Such is the nature of travelling, living on a budget, that often the most incidental of items are the ones that stand out from the rest. The ones that break the routine. The ones that change my day somewhat. Usually, therefore, the ones that I can consume. And so, without further ado, here are a few glimpses of how awesome people can be, the kindness of strangers, as it were, as I have experienced it from my travels.

The curious incident of the chicken in the night time.
The location was a small campsite around half an hour drive south of Adelaide, in Australia. The date was the 24th of December, 2009. Shortly after finishing a rather wonderful dinner, a gentleman appeared out of the darkness, brandishing what could only be described as a bag of delight. Contained within this bag were four rotisserie chicken that he had just purchased. His logic, he explained to us, was that the supermarket had been selling them off for a quarter of the usual price, so he had bought four, thus allowing him to give three  away at no extra cost. He enquired as to whether or not we were interested.

Part of the South Australian coasline. I don't have any photos of nightime chicken feasting, or the park I was at, so this will have to do!

I should point out that I was fairly full at this point. However, I had been travelling for six months with a vegetarian. Meat was not a regular feature at our dinner table. And certainly not meat with such a beguiling aroma. So beguiling in fact, that my vegetarian travelling companion came closer to abandoning his cause than he had ever been in his 22 years of vegetarianism. He managed to steer clear of those rocky waters however, whilst I feasted in gratitude, as the kind stranger wandered off into the night. I never even knew his name.

The red wine in exchange for power
We were camping in the middle of nowhere in Limmen National Park, scene of a week long four wheel driving adventure in Australia’s Northern Territory. The only other signs of life in the campsite came from two ladies travelling in a rather spruced up Nissan Patrol, of which I was somewhat envious. I wandered over to say hi. It turned out that their vehicle was suffering somewhat from a flat battery, and a failed alternator.

One of the lost cities of Limmen National Park

We moseyed into life, and parked our steed next to them, at which point jumper leads were produced and life was breathed back into their beast. They decided not to hang around, and headed off to the township of Borroloola, a few hours south of us, to get more serious mechanical assistance. As they were leaving in a cloud of dust, they pulled to a halt, and a hand grasping an excellent bottle of Australian red was thrust at us. Our time and effort had cost us nothing, but we drank in style under the outback stars that night.

The buttered chicken in the middle of nowhere
Well, I did spend a lot of time in the middle of nowhere whilst heading around Australia. The buttered chicken was actually a culmination of a fairly awesome day of being the recipient of strangers kindness, started off in the morning by a lovingly presented bacon and egg sandwich from our neighbours at the Daly Waters pub, who took pity on my somewhat hung-over attempts at a peanut butter sandwich.

Sunset from our camp of the buttered chicken

The buttered chicken gift occurred just about 200km west of the town of Borroloola, right in the middle of outback nothing in the Northern Territory. Again, we were the only people at a campsite set on a rise in the midst of hundreds of kilometres of endless bush. Just as the sun was setting, another vehicle pulled in, and a middle aged couple hopped out. They asked if we’d mind them running their generator for a while, to power their microwave. Somewhat astounded that they had asked, we of course said it was fine.

Within seconds of the generator starting up, the most amazing aroma started to waft our way, and I couldn’t help but enquire quite what it was they were creating. The answer was a giant bowl of buttered chicken being proffered at me. My poor old travelling companion was again left in the cold – the vegetarian lifestyle clearly not the best for this sort of thing.

The early morning beer
I alluded to this story briefly in my recent interview with the lovely folks over at Working Holiday Tips Australia. I was camping (I camped for a year, so many stories start with this line…) in New South Wales, not too far from the incredible sand dune known as the Stockton Bight. Despite the general heat and humidity, I had decided to go for a stroll along a coastal path of no more than 10km. Not too far into the walk however, I started to realise that this wasn’t exactly a well trodden path. Every few metres giant spider webs blocked the path, manned by menacing looking giant spiders. (Spiders in Australia don’t appear to come in any category other than menacing.)

Clouds over the Stockton Bight, the largest moving sand dune in the southern hemisphere - New South Wales - Australia 2

After attempting to make my way past a number of these, I concluded that it wasn’t worth the effort, and hot and bothered, turned around to return to the camp. As I walked, clearly looking rather flustered, a gentleman hailed me from the back of his ute. You, he said, look like you need a beer. I didn’t consult my watch, but I knew we were on the wrong side of midday for this sort of thing to take place. As it was, the sight of a chilled can of VB being proffered my way sent shivers down my spine. I accepted it gladly, and went on my way. Never was VB drunk so gladly.

There were, of course, many other times that people we met went above and beyond what you would expect from strangers. I would like to think that we reciprocated these kindnesses with other people on the road as we travelled, thus balancing our karmic debt. Giving, as they say, is as great a gift as receiving. Unless it’s a yard of ale glass.. in which case receiving is definitely best!

Have you had any similar experiences with the generosity of strangers? Let us know in the comments below, or head on over to the site’s Facebook page for more community discussion!

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