Day 7, my last full day on the island, arrived after I'd slept the sleep of the dead. Heading inland towards the west, I arrived at Lake Wabby at 8am, a time well before the arrival of any tourists. Lake Wabby is an interesting place; it's the deepest lake on the island, and it's slowly being encroached by a massive sandblow that's moving about three metres a year into the lake. It's a serene place, with its green water and surrounding forest, and after a refreshing stop, I struck into the forest in the direction of Lake McKenzie, which I reached without further ado after some 14km.
Lake McKenzie is idyllic, with crystal clear blue water, white sandy banks and a lovely camping ground nearby, and after setting up camp and securing my pack out of reach of the dingoes, I made my way down for a swim and some people-watching at the lake's edge. McKenzie is one of the most popular tourist spots on the island, and watching the day trippers get towels and thongs stolen by the prowling dingoes was fun in itself, especially as the rangers had made every effort to warn people not to leave anything around by putting up big signs plastered on all the pathways. Then there was the Irish couple; the man dived straight into the icy water, but the girl got up to her waist and refused to budge any further, despite about half an hour of good natured cajoling by her boyfriend. I even heard the Aussies sitting next to me taking bets on whether she'd go in (she didn't) and whether she'd put her head under (she didn't). Humans are a wonderful species, but I wouldn't want to own one.
That night I had one other camper in the hiker's area with me, dreadlocked Vince from Malvern, who turned out to be great company. As he unfurled the story of his travels, I had déjà vu after déjà vu as he described exactly the same experiences as had befallen me. Nice job (computer graphic designer), nice life, got bored, spent a few months saving, sold everything and bought a one-way ticket to Sydney, bought a cheap car and set off round Australia to explore, would have a year in Oz and six months in New Zealand and then who knows... sound familiar? We lit a fire and boiled up the billy – my first attempt saw a charred log collapse, tipping the billy of water all in the fire, creating clouds of ash and a desperately sullen fire, which is not a recommended course of action – and yarned the night away.
And as you do, we got onto the subject of our respective jobs and how we liked or disliked them. I told him how I preferred magazine work to newspaper work because there's more time to do a good job and, besides, on a no-news day, newspapers will publish any old crap just to fill the columns. 'Well,' said Vince, 'they've got plenty to write about now, eh!'
'Whaddya mean?' I said.
'Shit, you won't have heard,' he said. 'Princess Di's dead.'
'Yeah, nice one Vince!' I replied.
'No, I'm serious,' he said. 'Car crash in Paris. Happened a few days ago...'
Amazing. It happened on Saturday and I only found out on Wednesday night. After the news saturation it got in Australia, I must have been the only person in the whole country who didn't know. As they say, 'unless you've been on another planet, you'll know that...', but another version is 'unless you've been bush, you'll know that...' It quite blew my mind to be reminded so vividly just how cut off I've been for the last week.