I left Adelaide at noon on Thursday, March 19 and took a two-hour bus ride to a ferry terminal located about 100 km southwest of the city. I then boarded the SeaLink ferry for Kangaroo Island, which is Australia’s third-largest island, after Tasmania and Melville Island. After a 45-minute crossing of the Backstairs Passage, I arrived in the “two-street” town of Penneshaw (population: 304). I didn’t have high hopes for the full-day tour that I had pre-booked for Friday but it turned out to be spectacular. (See photos below.) Unfortunately I didn’t get much sleep on Friday night and as a result Saturday #38 was not one of my best.
I know, I’ve often said, “a bed’s a bed” and “I can sleep anywhere,” but my experience at the converted 1960s motel that lives on as the Penneshaw YHA was different. To be fair, the hostel wasn’t the problem. The problem was Klaus.
I had a four-bed dorm to myself on Thursday, but on Friday I shared the room with one other guy, named Klaus. Having one other person in a room designed for four or even six is normally a cause for celebration. In this case, not so much. Klaus snored, farted, and scratched himself most of the night. When he wasn’t snoring he was yawning, humming, muttering or cursing under his breath. Constantly. In German. There was no ‘off’ or ‘mute’ button. Klaus was always ‘on.’
He wasn’t in the room 10 minutes before he decided that he needed a shower. I wasn’t about to argue with that decision. I almost volunteered to toss his pungent clothes in the wash for him, but I decided it would be less confrontational if I just opened a window.
While Klaus was in the shower, I propped the door open in hopes that I might coax a breeze through the room. A girl who was in the hallway, and who had presumably arrived on the same ferry as Klaus, peered into the room and remarked, “So you got the knuckle-dragger, eh?”
I knew exactly what she meant. Klaus was so hairy that he made the cavemen from those Geico commercials look like Olympic divers.
Klaus was in the shower for close to an hour. When I used the bathroom a bit later I couldn’t help but notice that an orang-utan had been sacrificed in the shower. There was long, reddish-black hair on the floor, the walls, the door, even the shower head. He must have been shedding.
Now, I pride myself in being able to travel for two years with one medium-sized backpack and a daypack. Klaus, on the other hand, arrived with a very large backpack, a small backpack, a daypack, camera bag, rubberized duffle bag, padded iPad case, and approximately 15 plastic grocery bags stocked with more clothing, shoes, boots, and toiletries than your average Canadian Target store.
I noticed that he had unpacked several English guidebooks so I assumed that he probably spoke a bit of English, although to this point he hadn’t spoken a word in any language. As he lay on the lower bunk, and I on the upper bunk, I decided to be civil and start a conversation.
“Are you traveling right around the world?” I asked.
He thought for about 10 seconds befor replying with a curt “Yah.”
“And travelling alone?” I asked.
“Have you been to New Zealand yet?”
“How did you like it?”
“I’m headed to the outback on Sunday. Have you been?”
“Anything you’d recommend I see or do in Alice Springs?”
At this point I began to wonder if he understood a word of English.
“Klaus, did you skin a Kangaroo and grind him up into sausages while you were in the bathroom?”
I don’t know how many times Klaus shuffled back and forth to the bathroom during the night but when I stopped counting at 3:30 he’d made at least eight trips. I slept from about 3:30 to 5:00 when a cell phone started blaring David Hasselhoff’s big hit, “Looking for Freedom.” It certainly got my attention.
There was much crinkling of plastic between 5:00 and 6:00, and presumably more shearing in the bathroom between 6:00 and 7:00 as the shower ran constantly.
Around 7:30 I realized that he was dragging his collection of luggage out of the room. I was made aware of that when he hit the end of my bed each time he passed, and there were at least six trips to the parking lot between 7:30 and 7:45.
I left the hostel in search of a coffee at 8:30 and there was Klaus, standing at the end of the parking lot with his stack of luggage. He was noticeably upset so I went back inside and found the manager who spoke a bit of German. The manager quickly determined that Klaus had been waiting over an hour for a shuttle bus to take him 200 meters down the hill to the ferry terminal. There was no such shuttle bus on the island and Klaus had missed his ferry. He’d have to wait until the next boat at 7:40 that evening.
At that point I felt sorry for the guy. I know how I felt a few times in South American when I couldn’t speak or read enough Spanish to be sure that I was catching the right bus or buying the right train ticket. Even if he did understand a few words in English, they would be of limited use in a place where accents and slang are as prevalent as they are in rural Australia. I decided to ask him if he’d join me for coffee. I knew full well that he wouldn’t understand, but at least it would make me feel better for asking.
“Wanna go for breakfast with me?” I asked.
In almost perfect English, he replied: “Sure. First let me see if the hostel can store my bags for the day. Then the bacon and eggs are on me!”