|Looking westward up Victor Creek, via Seaforth|
|Mucking around one night on Newry...where I, in fun, officiated the "marriage" of Bob and Una...don't ask me how this party started..but it was a fun night...ummm...wedding!|
|Klaus on Newry Island|
|Photo of me taken by Klaus circa 1990|
|Duplicated from a previous post...because it's a photo of Klaus and me enjoying a conversation|
|The "swimming pool" on Newry Island|
|Graham...photo taken by Klaus|
Coincidentally, after I’d mentioned in my previous story - “It’s a Small World” - that I’d relate the story about Klaus, a German backpacker who paid a visit to Newry Island for a couple of days - when looking for something else I came across a postcard he’d sent me as well as lengthy letter; both written after he left my island – well, it was mine, on loan, for a while.
At the end of this story, I include the lengthy letter I received from Klaus at the end of his odyssey - after his return to Hamburg and reality. I’ve transcribed it as he wrote it. Please remember English wasn’t his first language; but as proven, he had an excellent command of English.
I hope you enjoy my story about....
Klaus…A Young Man’s Odyssey
Bob and Una who ran the backpackers’ hostel in Mackay loved Newry Island. Whenever they could get a break from their all-consuming job they’d jump on board their yacht and sail over to Newry. I enjoyed seeing them, most of the time. Una could get a little obstreperous if she’d had a glass of wine too many; and if allowed to get away with her sometimes, very annoying behaviour. She learned pretty quickly where my demarcation line was. I do have one. It’s not set in cement; it is flexible, but it’s there nonetheless. I never allowed her get away with any nonsense. I handled her subtly. Una soon discovered it was easier to pull her head in than to stir the sleeping dragon! Other than that, the three of us shared some fun times when they paid a visit.
There are a couple of stories within that story, too…perhaps another time. (I seem to say this a lot)!
As I’ve written many times previously the little resort on the island was humble; very simple, not at all fancy; but it was inviting, particularly to those seeking such ambience; it had character. A few characters visited it, too!
Its simplicity was what I loved about the “resort” from my very first glimpse the day I arrived to the island. It exuded a true seaside feeling of old. I use of the word “resort” loosely because it was not at all similar to the images some may conjure when thinking about island resorts. Think resorts on Hayman Island, Hamilton Island, South Molle, Bali, Fiji et al…then wipe those images from your mind…Newry Island Resort was nothing at all like them!
Bob and Una hand-picked particular overseas backpackers who stayed at their hostel and would suggest they visit Newry. They sent across to me those they believed would suit the island’s mood; and who would be compatible with the crazy woman running the place! Bob and Una never failed in their choices. Throughout my time on Newry Island I met some wonderful young people from all parts of the world.
Klaus Kühner from Hamburg, Germany was one such young man.
Upon his arrival in Mackay Klaus, like many overseas’ backpackers before him, discovered the hostel. Through Bob and Una he learned about Mackay and its surrounding areas. His lessons on local geography included Newry, of course.
On an adventure travelling around the world Australia was one of the many countries on Klaus’ itinerary. His odyssey lasted eight-month. When he and I met he was still in the early stages of his journey. By the time he came to me – to the resort – he’d been “on the road” for three months.
For the first three months Klaus’ girlfriend, Andrea was his travelling companion, but she had to cut short her trip and return to Hamburg, leaving Klaus to follow his dream, in the main part, alone. Rarely, however, if you understand backpacking, are the young travellers ever alone. They make friendships along the way, often joining together to continue their adventures as a group.
Things were quiet at the resort the afternoon I received a phone call from the mainland; from Klaus, under instructions from Una. He asked if I had room for him on the island. I had plenty of room at the inn.
He asked if I’d pick him up later in the afternoon…much later. I explained to him I would prefer if he left it until the next morning because the morning tide would be the better time for me to take my boat across to the mainland. The tide would be high or near enough to being high tide.
The time he stipulated he wanted me to pick him up that afternoon the tide was going to be very low; at its lowest ebb almost, which meant I’d have to walk out to the drop-off to the deeper water in the channel where my boat was moored at all times. The far section of the ocean floor leading out to the drop-off to the deeper waters of the channel was very muddy and uncomfortable to traverse at low tide. Not only that - I’d slushed my way through the mud many times before and after, but Klaus left his arrival time for pick-up too late in the day for my liking. We’d be returning to the island in the dark; and I wasn’t comfortable with that idea. I preferred to tackle the waters to and from the island during daylight hours. I have a keen sense of self-preservation; closely followed by an acute desire for the safety of others within my keeping.
To the best of my polite ability, I discouraged Klaus; and I led him gently towards my suggestion that the following morning would be a far more suitable time for me to pick him up at the boat ramp. He agreed. He had no other choice, really!
The only guest I had on the island at the time was a friend, Graham, who was an ex-staff member of mine from my Hinchinbrook Island days. Graham lived in Cairns.
He came to Newry for a visit to see me. I put him up in a cabin, free-of-charge, nearby to the resort’s main building for a couple or more weeks. He was a friend, a personal guest and it didn’t sit right with me to charge him for his accommodation. He could have stayed in the spare room in my quarters, which were above the bar, dining and kitchen area; but I treasured my own space then, as I still do to this day. Graham had a tendency of over-staying his welcome…often!
He had gotten into the habit after our Hinchinbrook days of visiting me wherever I was at any given time. He’d originally come to stay for maybe a week, two at most, but invariably his visits turned into much longer; which, to be honest, became tiresome after a while. He’d given up work after he left Hinchinbrook, but I was still working. I had jobs; and those jobs entailed long hours, tiring hours. I probably sound unkind and a little harsh, but that’s not my intention. I’m telling it as it was; the truth.
Every time Graham visited he stayed on and on like one of those guests who attend your party, and then never know when to call it a night and head back to their own home. He did similar to his other friends; not only with me. They, too, felt the way I did; and, like me, found it difficult to say anything! He may not have eaten much, but he certainly did drink a lot, and rarely put his hand in his own pocket!
It was difficult for me to say anything to him. I didn’t wish to hurt his feelings. That was not my desire; far from it. He was a poor soul in many ways. I felt I couldn’t just blurt it out and ask him to leave; or ask when he intended doing so; or if he even intending leaving - ever! During each of his visits I’d eventually become stuck between a rock and a hard place.
To give you some background on Graham…
After his Hinchinbrook days, Graham returned to the mainland. He eventually bought a unit in Edge Hill, an inner city, northern suburb of Cairns.
I was living in Yorkeys Knob at the time. When Graham arrived back in North Queensland after visiting family in Victoria, his home state, he rang me out of the blue one day from Townsville where he’d been visiting another ex-staffer from Hinchinbrook. He asked if he could come to see me, and perhaps stay a couple of days. I said it would be fine; that I looked forward to catching up with him; to sit around and “chew the fat” over a couple of drinks. Three months later he was still staying with me in my rented townhouse! I was almost at my wit’s end!
Sadly, Graham wasn’t a well man. He suffered from a debilitating disease, the name of which escapes me – it always did, no matter how many times I asked him its name. However, I think I’m correct in saying it was Ankylosing Spondylitis.
The disease caused his bones to fuse. His inescapable fate was he’d become crippled entirely, with his spine totally fused. Think Rheumatoid Arthritis and multiply it a 1000 times or more.
Until his early 40s, long before I met Graham, he stood almost 6ft 2 inches in height; and he was a very handsome man. From the photos I’d seen of Graham from those earlier times it was difficult for me to imagine the person in the photos as being the same man I knew.
When he was a younger man he married a German girl. After a couple of years, they separated and divorced amicably. Graham was well-travelled. He’d spent a few years overseas. He was knowledgeable, intelligent and had a dry wit, and a good, sometimes wicked sense of humour.
Unfortunately, the disease began to take control of Graham’s body and life when he was in his early 40s. When I met and got to know Graham he was in his late 40s-early 50s.
By that stage he was badly crippled. He shuffled along, bent over like a person many years older than he actually was. He was in constant agony; his pain was relentless. Suffering was etched in his face; it echoed in the timbre of his voice. It was sad to witness.
However, when he was on my staff he never once let me down. Graham worked split shifts in the restaurant on Hinchinbrook Island. In the mornings he was my breakfast cook and chief dishwasher. When he finished the early shift he returned to the staff quarters to do whatever he did until he was due to arrive back to the kitchen in the afternoon for the evening shift. His duties then included dessert preparation, general kitchen-hand chores and dishwashing.
Graham was fond of a drink. I didn’t hold that against him. Alcohol eased his pain and suffering. It was not my place to judge. None of us know what we’d do if we were in a similar situation. His drinking never interfered with his work; if it had done, I would’ve dealt with the problem as I saw fit. Graham showed up for every shift, come rain, hail, shine or hangover. He moved much slower than others, but he always got the job done. What he did in his own time was his own business.
It was distressing to see his gradual decline, to know he was being consumed by a deplorable, despicable disease. During the years we covered lots of subjects during our many conversations, Graham and I. He had a love of music of all genres. Until his illness reared its ugly head, Graham had enjoyed a fulfilling, rewarding life. His disease, unfortunately, stole so much from him.
Graham and I lost contact in the late Nineties for one reason and another. Again, that’s a whole other tale. I expect he’s no longer of this world.
While I was away picking up Klaus, the German backpacker from Victor Creek the next morning Graham sat at an outdoor table on the little patio out from the bar, patiently waiting my return, a cold beer in hand to keep him company. The morning sun filtered through the trees warming his racked body.
He’d already been on the island longer than his original “intention”; and I was back in that place I knew well - between the damn rock and that other place!
As soon as I set eyes on my new guest I could tell he was a nice young fellow. I edged my boat closer to the shore. He extended his hand after climbing aboard and introduced himself.
“Hello! My name is Klaus Kühner.” His spoke fluent English; his accent no impediment.
Klaus was well-mannered, and, at first, a little reserved, which was to be expected, naturally. Being ferried by boat across unknown waters to an unknown destination by some weird Aussie woman who lived alone on island would put the fear of God into any young man’s heart and soul!
However, our conversation soon flowed freely. As I pointed out land and ocean-marks along the way from the Victor Creek to Newry Island I explained to Klaus what to expect from his temporary island home.
If he was looking for a bright night-life, Newry wasn’t the place to be; but if he was looking for peace and tranquility while being wooed by Nature’s beauty, then he was headed in the right direction. If Una and Bob had chosen him to be a worthy candidate for the island, I knew he’d be looking for the latter during his visit.
I sensed Klaus was feeling more at ease as we drew closer to Newry. He’d not only been studiously listening to everything I told him about the place he was about to spend some time at, but his eyes drank in the encompassing land and seascape, as well.
By the time I’d tied the Trojan to its mooring, and rowed ashore in the little red dinghy, Klaus eyes sparkled brilliantly with eagerness and curiosity, ready to explore his new surroundings.
Graham met us at the water’s edge. Hardly missing a beat, he and Klaus commenced chatting like “Hail fellows well met” as we walked slowly up the beach. Graham had a reasonably good command of the German language, having lived in Germany for a period of time during his marriage.
Over the next couple of days of his stay Klaus wandered freely around the island. Its inescapable laid-back atmosphere; its space, privacy and freedom to “be” suited him. It allowed him time to think; to ponder. The island presented him with an interval in which to reflect; to project and plan; to dream. Consciously, at the time he probably wasn’t acutely aware he was on a search for personal fulfillment, but subconsciously he’d already taken the first steps towards his future.
The island in its own unique, ethereal way helped direct Klaus towards the path to his future.
Even if he wasn’t conscious that he was, in fact, seeking the elusive butterfly named “personal fulfillment”, the brief time he spent on the island, amongst the whole immeasurable scheme of things, contributed in helping him realise what he was subconsciously looking for.
I like to believe Klaus eventually did find what he was seekig once he returned to his life back in Germany.
In the mornings I went about attending to my daily chores uninterrupted by either Klaus or Graham, which suited me. I was always up at the crack of dawn, prepared for whatever the day ahead had in store for me. Surprises were known to occur out of the blue with little or no warning. My motto was “Be Prepared”, like that of the Boy Scouts. It mattered not I was female not male. Island living, to my way of thinking, demands one to be always prepared!
Graham mooched about at his own speed. He’d help himself to breakfast – usually just toast or cereal, accompanied by coffee, of course. Klaus quickly learned to do similar.
After breakfast, Graham usually could be found with an icy-cold can of beer in hand, sitting out at one of the tables under the palms and she-oaks along the foreshore; or at the corner of the bar; or other times comfortably ensconced at the table out on the little patio area at the entrance to the main building. Often he’d wander down to the water’s edge when the tide was high. I’d spot him floating or swimming in the water out front. The ocean was good for his poor, aching body; as was swimming. He’d gained quite a tan during his stay.
Klaus went off alone to explore every nook and cranny of the island. I’d told him about the koalas; they also called Newry Island home, as did echidnas, and, of course, to be aware that there were snakes on the island.
Thankfully, I’d only seen one small snake the whole time I lived on Newry. My two cats, Pushkin and Rimsky alerted me to its presence. It was an unwelcome, uninvited guest. Without much ado, I rapidly made it aware of my thoughts on its unwelcome visit!
One day I did find a shed skin of a Death Adder around on the rocks past the point. Death Adders are native to Australia; and they are one of the most venomous snakes in Australia, and in the world. I was glad I found the skin because it made me aware that they were on the island.
When I lived on Hinchinbrook Island one of my staff members had previously worked at Bredl’s Reptile Park at Cardwell, on the mainland. Often he’d go in search of snakes; catch and bag them; and we’d transfer them across to the reptile park where they’d use them to replenish their venom stocks.
I despise snakes. It’s as simple as that…I can make it no clearer. I have a massive phobia about them; it’s probably the only phobia I have. Even writing about them gives me shivers up my spine.
But, rather than discuss snakes, I prefer to revert to a much more pleasant subject - Klaus.
Klaus stayed on the island a couple of days only, but he made the most of the brief time he had in paradise. When he’d return to the resort after his expeditions he’d sit with Graham awhile if I was busy. They’d talk together, or sometimes, just sit in comfortable silence.
Once I finished “taking care of business”, I’d join them; or vice versa. The three of us would loll about in the sea; revelling in the sunshine and salty water; talking, laughing and feeling a little like three Robinson Crusoes.
Newry did have an unused, water-less swimming pool. I was, under instructions from the lessee of the resort, gradually filling it in with palm fronds, grass-cuttings left over after I’d mown, raked leaves, along with all other types of plant debris. Running a pool was too expensive, fuel-wise; and water was constantly a premium commodity on the island with only one working dam for water storage. Anyway, who needed a swimming pool when the ocean was only a few strides away down a she-oak and palm-fringed beach?
The days of Klaus’ stay were hazy, lazy, sun-filled days. Our nights were spent similarly sans the sun.
On his final evening we three, Klaus, Graham and I, like Two Wise Men and the Madwoman of Chaillot sat in the little “lounge” area off from the bar area. Music flowed freely from the stereo as did the wine or whatever our chosen liquid refreshments were; my only certainty on that front being the refreshments were regularly replenished when required.
Spontaneously, with no planning the evening turned out to be a memorably, brilliant, fun few hours.
Graham drifted off to sleep during the course of the night. He often did so, no matter what the locale or where. I was accustomed to his intermittent snoring as it emanated from a lounge chair or whatever was his resting place at any given time. He’d been known to doze off at the dinner table. It never bothered me, or anyone else, for that matter. The conversations and laughter continued on regardless. Every so often, Graham would come back to life; give a couple of snorts; have a sip or three of his drink; join in the chatter for a while, and then drift off once again. The pattern would be repeated, never causing a hiccup or disturbance to the ongoing celebrations.
Klaus and I talked; solved the world’s problems; danced; laughed; drank; philosophized belted the skins of the resort’s set of bongo drums; strummed the four-string guitar; and shook the tambourine better than the girls in a Salvation Army band.
We sang along to the music, making up our own lyrics when necessary; and talked at length into the wee, small hours.
Every now and then Graham stirred and joined in with us; other times he slept, inexplicably lulled by our sometimes rather noisy presence and our obvious lack of talent at playing music instruments. The cacophony of sounds emanating at different stages throughout the evening would have been enough to disturb the fish out in the channel; enough to have sent them packing further out to the ocean depths. To be honest, however, along with our joviality; our boisterousness, were our restful moments when Klaus and I sat quietly discussing life and all matters pertaining thereto.
During the course of the evening, I discussed Richard Bach’s story - “Jonathan Livingston Seagull” with Klaus. He’d not read the story; nor was he familiar with it. I sensed so many similarities between “Jonathan” and Klaus.
Klaus was on his own personal, individual search for answers; answers to questions that would hopefully direct him to his life’s destiny. He was “trying his wings”, too – just like Jonathan Livingston Seagull. The world was his to explore; Klaus’ own self was his to discover.
I gifted Klaus my copy of “Jonathan Livingston Seagull”. Over the years I’ve given so many copies of the little book away. Naturally, I bought another copy for me…and it has pride of place, still, on one of my bookshelves. Richard Bach owes me commission.
I forget how it eventuated, but Graham decided it would be his last evening on the island, too. He would be my second passenger on board the boat when I ferried Klaus to the mainland the following day; it was decreed. His intention was to catch a train in Mackay to take him back home to Cairns.
Also, I forget how he and Klaus got from the boat ramp at Victor Creek into Mackay, a distance of approximately 50kms (31 miles). Maybe Bob from the Seaforth Store picked them up at the ramp, and drove them into Mackay because he was doing some shopping for his store in the city; or, maybe, I’d arranged for Bob (all these Bobs bobbing about), from the backpackers’ hostel to do the pick-up.
I think, perhaps, the latter was what occurred. Graham’s train to Cairns wasn’t due until the day after I’d deposited both he and Klaus on the mainland. As he then had to stay overnight in Mackay, I’d booked him into the backpackers’ hostel. Klaus intended returning to the hostel, too, before continuing his travels. He planned to head south to Sydney, New South Wales. Graham was headed north to Cairns. I feel that was the most likely scenario.
Once Graham and Klaus reached Mackay they spent the day together from what I learned later, wandering around the city centre, absorbing the Mackay tropical air; and generally enjoying their last hours together.
Klaus was an extraordinarily nice, intelligent young fellow, with an open, inquisitive mind. I’m sure the aforementioned has served him well over the years since I met and got to know him
We corresponded for a while after he left the island; and after he returned home to Hamburg; but as is the case so often…we lost contact, eventually.
By now you’ve probably drunk that cup of coffee you made when you first started reading this saga. It’s time to make yourself another one…below is the letter Klaus sent me from Hamburg…it’s self-explanatory...
Copy of Klaus’ Letter -
“Dear Lee, Hamburg 8 July 1991
I always hesitate when writing a letter to a very special friend. It’s no problem to put some lines on a postcard sent to anybody. But…in this case…it seems I have to be in the right, a special mood; and the letter has to be a very particular one; and, in addition, this language is not my familiar one.
Now, I’m writing! Time, place, environment, mood, muisic, etc., is all right and in harmony.
More than seven months have passed by when we met at Newry Island…I received your letter some days past Christmas in Auckland/New Zealand. It was a very busy day. I’ve got many things arranged i.e. the return flight to Germany. Looking forward to read your letter, I found a quiet nice restaurant place in a shopping mall at least, and I ordered a coffee, sat back and opened it in great expectation. And really! There was a letter inside, and some copies of your poems too! I was very pleased; reading your words was as hearing your voice! I felt sat back in time and place, and suddenly I was right back in “her room” at our final evening with all our conversation (conservation?) about tides, Michelmores, Dali, Bowie; with all the music we let come out of the speakers, not to forget that we played by our own on the bongos, congos and guitar….’ With all your poetry, Graham’s tempory snoring, the wine, our laughter…the dances in the moonlight on Frank Zappa’s music…I enjoyed the density of the night, the variousity (sic) of the events, the talks, but also the natural exuberance. (some of my words here base on my dictionary; but I keep on trying to find my own words to stay away from (I can’t understand what the word is that Klaus wrote here)…
To meet you (and Graham) was one of my – say – half a dozen super-high-lights on my 8 month’s journey.
My thoughts flow…I remember my phone call with you from Una’s youth hostel in Mackay. (I don’t remember his name); I wanted to come over that evening, but you felt disturbed…
But it was a great pleasure when I felt being accepted in your company (you and Graham’s), not only that! In a short time you made it possible for me to gain ground, and we were no longer 2 + 1, but 3.
But there was, at least, one big, great experience I could make! This, at least, was the main aim of my journey; to make some important steps to reach adulthood. I had been very much younger than the two of you, but you never looked on me in such a way…this was, besides knowing you and Graham (as friends), a great achievement (I hope this is the right word!). What a great feeling!
After leaving Newry Island, which is an unforgettable event in my life, it took a lot of time to get all the impressions put straight. That means I was busy in writing my “Newry Island Report” in my diary for the next two weeks. I wrote in Sydney (my next stop past Newry), in Auckland and in Russell, Bay of Island, North Island of New Zealand.
Next after the diary I
wrote (I always want to write books, but I
mainly read them!) – I read the book of Jonathan Seagull, the gift from
you, Lee. The teaching of this book fit
into my life of these days! For the
first time in my life I went out by my own on a foot path all the way to some
kind of “land’s end”, to a secluded hut (in former time inhabited by lighthouse
people), now owned by the Department of Conservation, at the foot of the last
rock, which points like a tall finger in the surrounding Pacific Ocean. I lived in that hut for five days, as long as
the provisions lasted. During this time
I never saw anybody. I mainly lived in
the kitchen-room, 50 metres above the sea-level and watched a colony of
seagulls…any better time or place to read about Jonathan?
At that time I started reading your poems, but at last at Fiji I got enough concentration and time to translate them and get the meaning! They are very good! They are something typical of Lee George…a part of her, a part of you! Suddenly, I decided to write one or two or three in beautiful letters, but I haven’t realised it yet. So, I never put somebody’s poems in calligraphy – yours will be the first! I’m happy that I’m one of the few selected that have read them (of course, I will tell my children about you!).
Newry Island had also another meaning to me: it was the point on my journey where I cancelled my wishes to do the second half of it together with German friends…it was the turning point where I felt strong and safe enough to travel by my own! (Remember that I said about adulthood?!) And so I did – and felt great!
In New Zealand, Fiji, Cook Island, Los Angeles and New York my companionship always changed: sometime I was alone; sometimes I was together with (always) nice people. It was easy to travel by my own resp. to find the right people.
Then, at the very end of February I took the airplane back via Copenhagen to Hamburg: the last flight took part in thick (winter) clouds, cold and low and grey…I felt the machine making preparations for landing, it was jerking ---
Suddenly we emerged from the clouds and the (sic) nothing but grey surface some metres below appeared, but we already had landed! It was unreal and sudden like awaking from an impressive dream…I saw the letters “Hamburg Airport” – everything was so far away, but familiar, too!
The next weeks “back on earth” (that means returning from paradise…) were like the first impressions…well-known, but buried…but it happened – what must happen: all remembrance, all my pre-journey-life-details came to life again and overflew (sic) me…It’s easy to go away but hard to come back someday…
But I’m back now, with a lot of impressions and experience; meanwhile I can enjoy my life here and I’m not intended to escape (some people I met always travel, always escape from themselves!).
I’m willed to put in the things I had learned on my journey to my life in Hamburg! And it looks good. But learning never comes to an end because that would mean, life comes to an end!
My life is as various and colourful as ever; but sometimes it’s hard, surely harder than a long journey: when travelling I have had less obligations. I have been only obliged to me (and my girlfriend, waiting for me). But now? There is my full-time job (I try for 13 months to get it reduced to half time!); there is my studies (Graphic design; I like to continue, but therefore I have to reduce my main job!); there is the finance office (taxes!); there is the woman I share my flat with; there are a lot of friends; my parents – there is this stupid telephone which makes me within reach at every time…
And, of course, there is Andrea, my lovely girlfriend – our partnership gets closer every day. She was the one I travelled with in the first three months of my journey, then we were separated for 4-1/2 months of my journey – this was, at least, no problem; so everybody thought about our partnership in absence of the other – and the result was a solid formulation! Now we decided to move together and live in my apartment late this year. In the next three weeks we have holiday; we plan to go canoeing in the hilly middle part of Germany on a river called “Fulda”, which runs through Kassel, the city I was born at.
Dear Lee, I will finish this letter here; did my Bowie postcard from Los Angeles reach you?
Some weeks ago I had a phone call with Graham; phoning with, writing to or reading letters from you or him is like contacting a dream company…or some kind of paradise…but Lee, Graham and Newry Island is reality!
I look forward to your next letter!
All the best to you,
Klaus” End of Letter.