Monday, February 22, 2010
FEAR AND LOATHING ON HINCHINBROOK ISLAND!
Living and working on an island paradise was a dream come true. After taking care of the daily whims and requirements of the resort guests (and my staff), I’d escape to my haven, my little house positioned at the end of the track leading up to Cape Richards on Hinchinbrook Island. Without lifting my head off my pillows, each morning I woke to commanding views of the ocean and islands beyond. My house, distanced from the guest accommodation, the restaurant and staff quarters, offered well-earned privacy at the end of my days; days that commenced as the sun made its first dazzling bow on dawn's horizon. Regularly, the curtains drew towards a close on my nights around midnight, and many, many times much later.
At the start of the track leading to my home, hidden amongst trees, stood a cabin that housed the resort’s chief maintenance man, Ted. A “man’s man”, Ted was a 'true-blue' Aussie bloke. He was a man of few words. I was a woman, and his boss, and because of that I knew, from the beginning of our working relationship that subtlety would be required if I wanted to gain his trust, respect and loyalty. I never questioned Ted regarding his duties. I had total faith in his abilities. At the end of his working day, I’d make a point of sharing a beer with him. It was my secret plan to gain his trust. Over a chilled can or two, our conversations covered all subjects, but I never pointedly asked him questions about his job. Eventually, Ted relaxed and opened up freely. I learned what was happening out in the 'field' without being his “boss”. I was the first, and probably the last, woman for whom he has worked. We gained a mutual respect of each other, and of the individual roles we played in the successful operation of the resort.
Early mornings before my staff and guests stirred, the resort office demanded my undivided attention. Daily rosters, sea plane and boat arrivals, orders, bookings and general clerical duties commandeered my time. My daily “uniform” of casual attire, comprising Jamaican shorts or long t-shirts ensured comfort and coolness in the tropical heat. Every afternoon around 5pm, I went to my dwelling for a refreshing shower, before changing into 'smart casual wear” for the evening. My evenings were spent mingling with, and enjoying the company of the island’s guests. I treated my guests as if they were dinner guests in my home. Many interesting, fascinating people from various walks of life, and from all parts of the world holidayed at Hinchinbrook Island Resort.
One busy Sunday I was unable to escape the resort during the day. Sales/Marketing representatives from the now defunct Ansett Airlines, a national airline arrived by seaplane that afternoon to conduct a familiarization of the resort, visits that were regular procedures by airlines or tourist operators to enable an assessment of the resort and what it had to offer to the potential clients.
Exhausted after a busy week, I felt I’d talked enough, smiled enough to last me two lifetimes. I wanted to become a hermit, even if only for one night. Rarely, if ever, did I take time-out for myself. Because the airline representatives were staying for two days and nights, I excused myself from dining with them the first evening of their visit. With fingers crossed, and a white lie formed, I confessed that I had "paperwork to catch up on”, promising I’d dine with them the following evening. Finally, I fled the madding crowd and the restaurant at 7.30 pm, returning to my abode for the first time since early morning.
Relieved and weary, I climbed the spiral staircase to my open-plan bedroom. Without turning on the lights, I discarded my clothes before reaching to turn on the television. I'd not watched television for months. Reaching to switch on a wall light next to the television set from the corner of my eye I noticed movement on my bed. I turned and discovered "George", the 18-foot long python that had been named by my staff! I’d never set eyes on "George" before that night, although I’d been told many stories about him. To say I wasn't thrilled to meet him up, close and personal, is an understatement! He definitely was the wrong “George” to find lounging on my bed! (Where’s Clooney when you need him)?
I froze,unable to move or think. Blasphemous words and worse (but appropriate) issued rapidly from my mouth.
In shock, I stumbled about looking for the clothes only moments before I’d abandoned! Locating a long t-shirt, I grabbed "Ruska", my twelve-year old ginger cat. He was a house cat, rarely wandering outside other than for his daily ablutions. I placed Ruska into the bathroom, locking the door behind me. I then rushed down the spiral staircase, my feet barely touching the stairs!
I scrambled along the rough track to Ted's cabin, calling out in a strangled voice, “Ted! Ted! Snake! Snake!”
Ted appeared, laughing, an affliction that continued all the way to my house. I followed up the rear scolding (and cursing), telling him it wasn't funny.
“George” in all his massive glory was still squirming and slithering over my bed when we arrived!
Gripping a broom, I was ready for combat! Ted’s enjoyment continued unabated.
"Get the camera! Get the camera!" Ted spluttered.
Using all the descriptive language I could muster, I informed him the @#*#$@# camera was in my @#*#$@# office over at the @#*#$@# restaurant, (you get the general idea of the state of my mood, I'm sure) and that there was no way I was leaving while “George” insisted on being my house guest - an uninvited, unwanted house guest!
Our lively exchange continued for minutes that seemed like hours; me, shouting at Ted, and Ted laughing hilariously at my panic and distress. As “George” tried to slide under my bed, my shouts became more frantic and much louder.
Eventually, Ted grabbed "George". Manhandling the monstrous reptile, Ted flung it off my deck to the bushes and rocks below. I looked on, a trembling mess.
Weeks later, I spent a night on the mainland. Returning to the island the following day, Ruska was missing. Broken- hearted, I never saw Ruska again. To this day, lovingly he remains in my thoughts.
The mistake we made was not transporting "George" by boat to another side of the island, far, far away. A lesson well-learned; a lesson I wish I'd never had to learn. Everything appears easier and clearer in retrospect.
If I've told this story before, please forgive me...you've probably forgotten it, anyway! Just a refresher!
Painting by me of Orchid Beach on Hinchinbrook Island...the main beach of the resort at Cape Richards.