Straight after leaving the farm, I headed back to Winton to celebrate completing my farm work with my friends who would understand talk of mustering and Poddies. It was one of the best feelings in the world to return after four months of work, and even better when Jed congratulated me telling me she couldn’t believe I actually did it.
Arriving in Winton on the weekend of the Opal festival I was excited to see old and new faces, in particular I was excited to see Paddy wandering aimlessly around Elderslie Street (if you read the Outback Barmaid Diaries I told a couple of stories about him, one of my beloved locals). I was disappointed when I couldn’t spot him anywhere, and was heartbroken to discover later that week that he had been taken to a care home in Longreach. I shared the same sense of sadness all my friends in Winton felt when they heard this, no it might not be ideal to have an elderly man with dementia wandering around town by himself, but at least in Winton it was what he knew, and people knew him and looked out for him. There was growing tension in the town as the council was spending money on the new a Waltzing Matilda centre, a multi-million dollar project, when locals felt the money could be better spent on facilities for the town’s ageing community.
(Jim retrieving one of his traps)
Coming back to civilisation and the reality of backpacking, was quite an adjustment, more so than I expected. Living in the outback for five months meant that I hadn’t had every major convenience just a few minutes walk away, in fact when I was working in Winton I’d had to write a list of things I needed from Target so that Jed could get them from Longreach, the town next door, two and a half hours away. At the farm it was like being marooned on an island, living like pioneers but with most mod-cons but very little spare time to enjoy them. Being around Starbucks and McDonalds, and people in general felt like reverse culture shock. I was back to everything I knew before, but with no idea how to spend my days now they weren’t planned to the minute. Thankfully Brisbane’s museums were awesome, and I soon got back to doing what I usually do when I travel. However every so often I’d pass something and it’d send me back to the farm, the bulk pack of chicken burgers in Woolies, the dry patches of grass in the Botanic Gardens, the pop up sprinklers in the park. Tiny little reminders of where I’d been for the last four months.
Ticks, tits and Toowoomba
On my way back to Brisbane I decided to contact a friend who’d been working just outside the city to see if he was still in the area, luckily enough he was and we ended up planning a short stay in Toowoomba. My friend was nearing the end of his farm work, and having been off the farm for three weeks it was interesting to see someone fresh off the farm. It was good to catch up with someone who could relate to the arduous, repetitive lifestyle that farming involves, and to discuss the feeling of losing yourself in amongst the monotonous nature of the job. He had done vegetable picking and packing and I had worked on a cattle station, though our jobs were different our experiences had a lot of crossover.
To celebrate our freedom we went hiking a lot, and visited the little towns surrounding Toowoomba, always on the lookout for a beauty spot to walk through and photograph. It felt like a holiday within a holiday. I had originally planned to go straight to Noosa after Toowoomba but then had a change of heart and decided to stay in Brisbane for a couple of days, I’d left my Medicare card at the hostel and needed to pick it up.
(View from Table Top Mountain)
I crashed on a friend’s sofa for a couple of nights, and whilst bingewatching Rick and Morty I scratched the back of my neck and discovered something was stuck there. I scratched at it and there on my finger was a tiny tick. Ever since I watched an episode of House I have been terrified of ticks, add the fact that Australia doesn’t recognise Lymes disease as a disease and I started freaking out. At least I’d caught it, and managed to remove it by accident without leaving its head or mouth attached to me. It jumped off my finger, and though panicked at the thought of it being on the couch, I made plans to go to the doctors the next day to get the bite checked and went back to watching Rick and Morty.
The next morning I was lazy, I lay in the sofa bed watching weird documentaries on Netflix and began to slowly think about getting up and doing something, the tick incident barely registering in my mind. Eventually I went to have a shower, after taking off my top I went to remove my bra and saw what looked like a small scab on my boob. I went to pick at it, only to discover the scab had legs… It was the tick!
At this point I went into full panic mode, I thought I had left the silly accidents behind me when I left the farm. Why oh why did I have a tick on my tit? It had been there all night, and all morning as I had vegetated, I was fucked. My mind kept going back to the walk that my friend and I had gone on through the lush woodland surrounding our Airbnb, it had reminded me of home, and now all I could think about was when this little tick had left the bush behind and jumped on to me…
After all the horribly hilarious calamities I’d found myself in at the farm (see my last post), I thought I had left my bad luck in the outback.. Apparently not.
I rang the doctors but they could only fit me in on Monday morning. The tick, who had been there all night, plus however long it had been on my neck, was going to enjoy annoying day snuggled into my boob feasting on my blood. Every now and again I don’t mind someone nuzzling my chest, but a parasite? No thanks!
The doctors told me to leave it until tomorrow and the Internet similarly said to leave it and carry on as normal. What was normal to me? Going out for sushi. When I eventually calmed down, I took myself and the tick, who I called Rick, out for sushi.
Though the Internet said to leave the tick alone, I did try to remove it by soaking in a bath with bicarbonate of soda, no luck, Rick the tick was staying put.
The next morning I got ready to go to the doctors and have Rick removed. I was called in by a middle-aged male doctor, wearing a waistcoat. I explained to him that I had spent the week hiking in Toowoomba, and that I found the tick on the back of my neck and that now it was on my right breast.
“So you want me to remove it?”
“Yes.” I said wondering why the doctor wasn’t more concerned, considering the tick had been on me for more than 48 hours.
“Okay, we need to find some Tea tree oil.” He said and showed me through to a treatment room.
Opening and closing medicine cabinets and rummaging through boxes of plasters and gauze, the doctor couldn’t find any tea tree oil, neither could a nurse he’d called in to help, it was almost comedic the way they were rummaging around and saying “I’m sure we have some somewhere.”
Eventually the nurse found some and I had to sit with a cotton bud pressed to my boob for twenty minutes in order to knock Rick out before the doctor removed him with tweezers.
Did you know you get charged for as long as your appointment lasts in Australia? I was there for 45 minutes, it cost $100 to get Rick the tick removed.
Whilst I was sitting waiting for the tea tree oil to take affect, another Doctor walked in the room “what are you in for?” He asked. “Tick removal,” I said, “Been hiking?” He said, “Yep!” I said.
Rick the tick was later removed intact, and I was sent on my way with the instructions to watch out for fever, but other than that it was treated as no big deal, which I hope it isn’t.
I left for Noosa the next day, trying to put thoughts of ticks and tits behind me, I headed straight for the beach excited for the next leg of my trip!
Thanks for reading!