Woke early. Over breakfast there was a discussion about the shorts that 'Sare' had chosen to wear to school.
Dad : "You're wearing a jacket which proves that you think it's cold. Why don't you wear dacks instead of those very thin sports shorts?"
Me : "Because she's a girl?"
The same argument was taking place at the same moment in kitchens in Guadeloupe and Galashiels.
Saw my first echidna. Dead. Gruelling 15 mile ascent from Mansfield at 1,000' to about 3,000'. I was done in as I sat in the shade, watching a fox chasing a rabbit, cruching on the Woolworth's chocolate, which tasted like crayons dipped in sugar. I wouldn't have minded so much if the hill was a simple affair of up for 15 miles and down for 15 miles; but no, this one toyed with me; up and down, up and down. I was running on empty and the tiniest incline was a struggle. Then, of course, the adreneline-rush descent, during which I passed 20 racing cyclists going up the other way. It had been horrendous for me going up on my own, dawdling, stopping for drinks and feeds; but the thought of going as fast as possible AND racing against other people at the same time... No, not for me. From Whitlands it was flat, with the wind on my tail. Sweet rapture! Passed by vineyards, orchards and pretty houses, en route to the other side of Wangaratta.
This land is thick with sex. Scotland is barren in comparison to the shenanigans of the creatures that abide here. That noise I heard before was frogs and they croak all day and night, as do the crickets, or so it seems. Horny buggers. I also noticed quite a few dubious sounding mountains and other features hereabouts : Mount Darling, Mount McKinty, Lickhole Gap... While I'm on this subject, last night Michael told me a story about the time when he was employed as a refrigeration engineerat a naturist reserve. It didn't bother him when they asked him if he wouldn't mind taking his clothes off. Hard at work he didn't pay too much attention to the jiggling flesh around him, and most of it was wrinkly, and he was in his twenties. Later, he saw a smartly-attired female and took in her beautiful figure. Then he realised he'd seen her many times before without her clothes on and hadn't thought anything of her.
Arrived at Couchsurfer Mary's house, at the end of a track in the countryside. There was no answer at the door and neither of the phone numbers she had provided yielded anyhing more than an ansaphone message. It was a good thing that she had left her mobile number in one of these messages, because it was then that I realised I'd written it down wrong. The perils and pitfalls of numerical dyslexia. The house I was standing outside was a summer house and she lived back along the track and off to the side, hidden from view. She wasn't in though and I was greeted by a message under a boot from her housemate :
"Och aye the noo! Come on in. We're shutting up chooks next door."
Chooks are chickens and the note was left by Mary's housemate, who soon arrived with her partner, on holiday from Yorkshire. They seem to get by just fine with him over there mostly and here for a few months every year. What a lovely, cosy house, which Mary had helped to build and featured interior mud walls and Mary's homespun crafts. The best thing about it was the all-round views of wilderness, with no sign of civilization in any direction, afforded by the big panes of glass. Mary soon arrived, her six foot, athletic figure revealed by a spray on gym outfit. Mary works in environmental sustainability, and like the other two - and every other person I've stayed with - she's chatty, cheerful and fun. Delicious homemade meatballs for dinner, with pasta and about a hundred different types of vegetables, all grown in their garden. Of course there was the de riggeur wildlife warnings. The only bit I can remember is how a kangaroo can rip a man down the middle with one swipe and when chased into water they have been known to hold a dog underwater until it drowns.