Monday, November 14, 2011

Paring Down

My palatial estate a/k/a roughing it
I peeked out of my tent at six...drizzly day.

Hell. I don't need that. I need a dry tent that I can pack. 

I jumped up and got to work to beat the rain. I had a 23-kilo luggage allowance. I knew I had under 15 kilos in my regular pack, but how much would all this stuff add? Anyway, how much is a kilo? I know how much a pound is but what the hell is a kilo anyway?

Yeah, I know mathematically what a kilo is. But I wish my instincts could measure one the way they can measure pounds.

My original plan had been to stop by a secondhand store and donate the entire lot of camping gear, but then my writer/journalist friend Amanda was coming to Oz with her BF, and they were going to camp in the Blue Mountains. Why bother lugging a tent over when they can just as easily donate mine to the charity shop after they've used it?

So I'd carry all that I could to Sydney and hand it off to her there.

But I had too many things. I didn't know how much would make up the eight spare kilos I had still allocated in Virgin Blue luggage, but I knew that a folding $5 chair, a $4 tarp, fifty-cent plate, bowl, mug, cooking pot, coffee press, tea towel, ten-meter extension cord, sleeping bag, whisk broom, self-inflating fake Thermarest, and 3-person dome tent would put me over the limit.

The tea towel went straight into the trash. Then the dishes went, and the $5 chair. For good measure, I ditched the extension cord (heavy) and the tarp. These I left in the camp kitchen with a note.

"Free to good home. Or lousy home. It doesn't really matter to me."

I whisked out the tent, then carefully folded it, wiping down the bottom as each bit was turned up from the ground. I rolled it up—no, that wasn't right. I tried again, this time on the nearby picnic table. Now it fit into the tent bag. I put the sleeping bag, mat, tent, and coffee press into the blue IKEA bag and packed it all into the Hyundai's rear. I showered, had my breakfast, and was approached by an Australian man.

"You sure were particular about packing that tent," he said.

I reddened but muttered "I'm taking a plane tonight." That satisfied him.

I made a stop at the post office to send off the latest batch of souvenirs, then headed to the airport to drop off my rental car. My flight wasn't until almost midnight, but the car was due back by 2 p.m.

A man covered in titanium oxide sunscreen checked the car in.

"Oh, by the way, the back passenger tire has a slow leak," I said without thinking that there might be consequences.


Turns out that something like this gets you charged $55 in Australia. I went into the terminal—in a kind of a huff, and somewhere along the way, the coffee press fell out of the IKEA bag (one less thing to carry). I marched up to the Europcar desk.

"There is no way of knowing that I did anything to that tire. It's a slow leak and the morning I noticed it I hadn't even driven the car the entire previous day. It could have been the last renter! The cap was missing on the valve—ONLY ON THAT TIRE. Why? Because someone's been messing with it, and they didn't report it because they didn't want to be charged, like you're charging me—for being honest!"

The guy behind the counter actually listened to me and agreed I had a point. I could have run over something that caused the leak. But there's an equally good chance I didn't. I had even taken out the excess insurance, which is like third-party deductible coverage and it would have reimbursed me the $55, but I resent the idea that a flat tire is a chargeable item at all in Australia. Shouldn't they just be glad I called it to their attention? It's not like I drove the Hyundai into a wall.

We agreed that the boss would call me, and for now I wouldn't be charged. I stormed off to check-in, where I learned that I was three kilos underweight! I could have kept the chair after all.

I took the bus into Perth to use the Regus office there for a while—I love that I can go to their offices all over the world—then returned to find an airport power point to charge up my laptop.

I found one, right by the baggage carousel. Kind of a weird spot to hang out, but here I am, waiting for my red-eye to Melbourne, where I'll connect on tomorrow morning to Tasmania.

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