`Oh my god! That is insane! Look at those colors!` I shout out enthusiastically to my fellowship in the campervan. The sun is slowly setting in the valley. Leaving a spectacular sight of red and gold in the sky. I quickly pull the campervan over at a viewing point so we can properly suck in this breathtaking sight.
There´s a big sign saying Queenstown. The view is absolutely spectacular. "Is there anything good things to see over here?", Isabel, my Dutch bestie who flew all the way down to come and visit me, asks me. Lieze (our Flemish flame and colleague blogger) grabs her lonely planet from the back. “Queenstown”, she says out loud.
“Copper was discovered here in the 1890s and mining has continued ever since, but today – thankfully – pollution is closely monitored and sulfur emissions are controlled. The town itself retains a rough-and-ready pioneer feel and though clearly suffering the economic aftershocks of mine closures it is trying hard to reinvent itself as a tourism destination.”
The landscape is indeed a massive contrast compared to the rest of Tasmania. Where the rest of Tasmania is full of deep lush green hills, fairytale forests, charming hills and calming lakes, this valley more reminds us of the moon`s landscape. There is no single tree, bush or flower in sight, just deep red sand and rocks forming a mysterious and fascinating sight.
“Shall we quickly get some groceries and fuel before it gets too dark?”
Warren suggests (the longterm fans might remember him from the diary episode Breathtaking Colombia. We all agree and drive our beloved campervan down the hill into the valley.
It is quite in Queenstown, very quite. Abandoned almost. You would nearly expect some tunes from an old western film to start playing and dust devil rolling through the street. The few lost souls that do roam around, are walking with their heads down and seem to be in a rush to get back home asap. We make a couple of loops around town and finally bump into a little supermarket. It is not much, but it has everything we need. The few people in the supermarket create an odd vibe. They stare at us like we are from another planet.
“He…psttt… have you ever seen that horror movie, the hills have eyes?” Warren whispers softly. “Where a young traveling family ends up in a small abandoned town. It reminds me a little bit of this place.” “Ow shoo it! You make me scared! Come on, let's go. Let's make some food and then see where we can park for the night.” I tell Warren.
As convenient as a campervan can be. We turn on the kitchen stove in the middle of the street, straight in front of the supermarket. A little less than 15 minutes later, the food is ready to serve. In the meantime, the supermarket closes for the night and the last customers make their way home. Warren and I go to the front seats to start our research for a good camping spot and Lieze and Isabel show off their dishwashing skills in the back.
We have only used free campsites so far, with the luxury of a drop toilet and a refreshing bucket shower in the ocean, river or lake. So after 5 cold autumn days, it was time to find something with a !HOT! shower!
“KNOCK KNOCK”.. somebody knocks on the window. I get spooked and spontaneously drop the whole stack of maps and brochures that are on my lap. On the other side of the window, it is pitch black, but I recognize the vague contours of a man. He signs me to lower my window. “Hello, mates. How ‘r uz guyz doing? Lost? Can I help yuuz buds with anything?”, he says with a strong Ozzie accent. “Uhm… well we are looking for a place to stay, preferably with a hot shower to warm up the cold bones.” I answer. “Aw Mate. Perfect. We have the oval here in town. Free camping and public showers and toilets. Bee's knees mate..” And before I can interrupt our ‘mate’ already pulled out his phone and opened up google maps to get us directions. With my eyes, I try and beg Warren for help, but his answer isn’t more than a pair of raised shoulders. “Ah it is all good sir, we’ll find something for sure. Appreciate the help, sir.” I try politely, but this doesn’t stop him from getting us to the oval. Giving in seems to be the only option, so I promise him we’ll go the oval to have a look. That seems to satisfy him and he finally leaves.
Lieze and Isabel continue showing off their cleaning skills and Warren and I try (unsuccessfully) to contact all campsites in the area. Then again ..’KNOCK KNOCK’. This time on Warren’s window. He lowers it down. It is the same man. “Hi Mate do have a drivers license on you?” he asks Warren. “Uh… Yeah?!” Warren answers with his eyebrows raised in astonishment. “Ok cool mate. That is all I wanted to know.” And without any further explanation, the man leaves again. “Let's get the f%ck out of here guys. I don’t trust this guy at all.” I shout out to the rest of the fellowship while I quickly pack up the stack of brochures. Everybody agrees and we quickly pack up and leave.
“We only need to top up fuel before we leave this town. Otherwise we won’t get far.” Warren points out. Lieze, our top-notch navigator. Gets her google maps running and directs us to the nearest gas station. Although… gas station is bit of an overstatement. A gas pump in the middle of the street would be a better description. It is dead quiet on the street. Every house has its curtains closed. There is not a living soul to be seen. Then all of a sudden, there is a big white jeep turning towards us. “OMG that is him. That is that guy.” Isabel and Lieze shout out. Warren quickly pumps the last bit of fuel in the tank and jumps into the car.
While driving off. We keep a close eye on the mirrors. “Is that him following us?’ Warren asks. “Wha Oh my gosh Warren hurry up!” I beg him. Warren laughs at my stressed out behavior. “Hi girls, ever heard of the backpacker murderer? The guy that made random backpackers disappear around Australia? Maybe this is him..?” Warren giggles. “Warren stop it!” I shout out. “Honestly I can’t sleep if you keep on talking like that!” But as with any car ride. I couldn’t keep my promise for long and before I know it my eyes close down and the rhythm of the road has hushed me into deep dreams.
“Sanne... Sanne... Wake up!”, Warren whispers. “We found a campsite. It is perfect. Come and check it out.” I open up my eyes and try to orientate with my sleepy brain. Warren has parked the car in front of the hot showers and next to a little shed with a fireplace and kitchen in it. For the very moment, I felt like I had just stepped into heaven.
After a long hot shower, I managed to put all the freights and stress from earlier away. I walk into the shed. Warren has already started the fireplace and Isabel and Lieze started cooking. I haven’t felt so clean, fresh, warm and cosey since days. “Tea?”, Lieze asks me and she hands me over a cup. While I take a sip my memories take me back to what Max told me at Gold Coast. “Otherwise it is not an adventure Sanne.” I tell myself. “Gosh what a day, what a day,” I say to all. We laugh. “Ah well. Gives the good stories.” Lieze says.
And I couldn't agree more.
After a burn-out it was time for a change. I quit my job, sold my stuff and bought a one-way ticket to the Dominican Republic. What was supposed to be a 4 month adventure turned into 2,5 years and counting......
Photo by: Vanessa Marques Barreto