I wanted a bit more time at Sovereign Hill, and my night at the Sovereign Hill Lodge entitled me to one extra day’s entry to the hill and the adjacent gold museum. I left a little too late to get out of town but was quite satisfied with my time there. It was certainly worth the extra paid night at the cheery "A Welcome Stranger" caravan park on the edge of town.
Traveling on bike invites people to speak with you - such was the case when I met Andrew just walking out of the caravan park office. He looked at my bike with curiosity, exclaimed something as to the effort entailed and promptly invited me to meet his mates 30 feet over at the electric barbie. My new friends were Andrew and his wife Deb, his mates Darrin and Shawn and their respective wives Virginia and Sam(antha).
I like to think mate-ship is a quality in every culture, and I certainly feel that way with my friends. However, while sitting round the table talking the piss (teasing each other) and learning about one another, it’s easy to see the camaraderie Aussies are famous for manifest itself in ripping on one another. The more you are teased, and the more you can tease yourself, the more you are accepted and liked.
I had stumbled on quite a crew. The boys had known each other for over 20 years playing footie. Aussie rules in this case; however, any sport that involves a ball and a foot is casually referred to in this way, leaving all sorts of openings for a foreigner to impart insult by making assumptions as to what sport is actually being referred to. In most cases you just listen and catch as catch can.
Darrin and Andrew met Virginia on a whirlwind tour of the States, and then, back in Melbourne, met back up with Virginia and her long time friend, Deb. Boys meet girls, and their weddings were three months apart. Sam was a newer addition to the group, and she and Shawn had been married four months, three days and twenty-six hours. Not that anyone was counting.
Thus, life goes on. People grow up or at least fake it. D and V have three kids, and A and D have two, and the whole mob of them are thick as thieves at the long weekend (Aussie labor day). Friendship, Mateship, whatever you call it, you’re rich if you have it.
PS: The women liked my accent. This was the first time in my travels that someone has said that. It felt great finally being at the other end. Virginia told me, "Don’t ruin it" by joining her husband and Andrew in a farting competition. It’s nice to know that joy of fine audible flatulence is a cross-culture common denominator.