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            <<  Airlie Beach, 9-Jul-2013  >>

The worst day of this journey

How I lost my camera on super boring drive between Brisbane to Airlie Beach. Bright side: platypuses in view!

Iím more than 1000km from Brisbane now.
Iím in tropics.
Iím without bidis.
Iím without my camera.
FUCK!!!!!! FFFFFUUUUUCCCCCKKKK!

Congratulations Mr. Fucking Idiot Marcel Strbak!!
Wallet and debit cards - gone.
Driver's licence - gone.
And best of all - my Canon 5D Mark III camera with L lens, which I†bought less than a year ago for 3 700 EUR - gone.
Did someone steal it? No, Mr. Fucking Idiot simply forgot his bag in Noosa, and found it out 3 hours and 200km later...
Somebody please shoot me! Right now!!!

I headed north from Brisbane towards Whitsunday Islands and Cairn. And since itís loooong way to drive I thought that it would be good to see at least something along the way, although knowing Australian East Coast by now, I knew that thereís not going to be anything super special, just small towns next to beaches, full of German backpackers. Noosa was recommended as a nice place, but after checking pictures on the internet I thought that I would skip it as it didnít seem to be anything extra, but then, on last minute as I saw the turn-off sign and I anyway needed a driving break and so I changed my mind and went there. BIG MISTAKE. I only stayed there 1 hour, checked the beach, yes, nice, but same as anywhere else in Australia, walked through the town, yes, just like other small seaside towns in Australia, not ugly, but not overwhelming either, and then, just before I left I decided to use the public toilet near the beach. I ďfinished my businessĒ, hopped into the car and continued heading north and north. Almost 3 hours later and more than 200km away I stopped in a resting area and wanted to buy something to drink. I checked my pockets and suddenly I got into panic Ė hey, whereís my wallet! After a second I realized that I put it in my backpacked and calmed down and started looking for the backpack. And suddenly, I realized the unbearable truth. My backpack was gone, together with my wallet and camera and I must have left in at the bathroom in Noosa. Oh my god! I immediately realized that my camera, which I bought just 1 year ago, specifically for this journey, was gone. The whole 5 months in India and Nepal cost me the same amount, which I just lost now in one single day.
I returned to Noosa, which took me another 3 hours, and of course it was gone and the police station was closed by then and so was the visitor center. I stayed in the hostel to check it in the morning, but I had zero expectations.
In the evening I smoked my last bidi, and so, from now on I am camera-less and bidis-less. But in tht e hostelís bar I met a French traveler Helen, who soon turned out to be my new travel companion, but not from Noosa.
Shit, before, when I worked as manager in management consulting, losing that camera would be still a major fuck up, but I could afford to get a new one, without completely ruining myself. Now, that Iím unemployed, and many a thousand EURs were spend on this journey, this is a major fuck up.
But the major blow was not the financial loss. I just canít believe that I really did it. That I forgot the most expensive thing I had ever bought on a fucking public toilet. Thatís just unbelievable.
Knowing myself, that I always lose things and forget thing here and there, I always place all my stuff on highly visible places, so that I donít lose it, but this time, as the floor was wet, I put the backpack in a corner and there it stayed, as I was playing with my cell phone when I was leaving.
Sri Aurobindo (the guru from Auroville near Pondicherry, if you remember) said ďthe things you lose, you donít deserveĒ and he was right. Yes, man should only travel around with things which he can afford to lose, because shit like this simply happens while travelling and yes, I expected to lose that camera one day, but always thought that it would be stolen in Latin America, I never imagined that I would be so stupid to just lose it on my own. Thereís no words to describe how I feel about myself.

Luckily, although there were 2 debit cards in the wallet, I still have one more left, which I always stored in different place from those 2, so I didnít lose access to my money, and there was not too much cash in the wallet, maybe 100 EUR, but losing the driverís license is a fuck up, because I can only get a new one in Slovakia (luckily, I still have my international driving license, which is however probably invalid without the national driving license, but I should be able to work this around by reporting it as stolen and getting some paper from police which will allow me drive around Australia). But above all, itís the camera. Thereís no way I can buy the same camera again. And I also lost my paper notebook with personal notes along the wayÖ

So now I have to decide what to do, if to buy a very cheap model of Canon DSLR and cheap lens so that I donít have to be worried that it would be lost or stolen again (I mean, that the financial impact of that would be minimal) or if buy Canon 6D, much cheaper version of my previous Canon 5D, with almost same parameters. As I found out, here in Australia cameras are much cheaper than in Europe, so I could get Canon 6D and the same lens which I had for just about 1800 EUR, which is still heaps of money, but definitely much less that 3700 EUR that I paid for my previous camera.
Anyway, I hope I have kick-started someone photojournalism career. But the person who found it was a real asshole. He didnít return anything, not even my driving license. And as there was my ID inside, if he would just google my name he would have known how to contact me.
Shit happens, and I just lost a possession, but this is a big shit. At least I lost only some pictures from Australia and not my photos from Nepal and India.
Minor satisfaction is, that before I lost it, I took almost 50†000 pictures with it. That camera is engineered for 150†000 photos till it breaks into pieces, so in 1 year I already used it up 1/3 of its lifespan. Has it been any normal camera and not a professional one, it would probably be dead by now, after those 50†000 photos and all the travelling around.

After reporting the loss at the police station, checking lost and found in visitorís center, talking to lifeguards, calling city cleaning services and checking all the trash bins and rainforest around and all with no result I left Noosa and drove north (again). After 400km I found a rest area where I could sleep and next day I drove another 700km and made it here to Airlie Beach.
During more than 1000km from Noosa to Airlie Beach I didnít see ANYTHING (with one exception mentioned later), except the road, trees and sugar cane. Australia is unbelievably monotonous. The highway copies Pacific Coast, but itís always approximately 50km inland, so there is no ocean scenery at all. From Melbourne to Airlie Beach, some 4000km away from each other, the scenery almost didnít change. Still the same dry grass and same eucalyptus trees and same low rolling hills. The only change happened during the last 500km when sugarcane suddenly replaced almost everything else. If US mid-west has its corn, Australian East Coast has its sugarcane. All around, all around.
I crossed Tropic of Capricorn, so Iím officially in the tropics now, but it doesnít really feel like that, mostly because itís still just 22íC, so relative cold for tropics.
The drive from Brisbane to Airlie was one of the most boring time in my life, I felt like a truck driver. Itís quite an irony, that I lost that camera on this completely pointless drive.

Anyway, I said that there was one thing which I did see. Yes, there was.
PLATYPUS!
Based on Nikís advice (thanks again Nik!) I made a detour through Eungella National Park to see the platypuses. It was also the only interesting part of the drive, as suddenly the road turned inland and steeply climbed some hills to what Lonely Planet claims to be the oldest rainforest in Australia. It pretty chilly there, and the rainforest was really nice, but the highlight was going to see platypuses, as this national park is the best place in Australia to see them, as they are incredibly rare.
They are so cute! And so small! I always thought they were bigger. The stuffed sample which we had at our high school (I always looked at it in awe) must have been fed growth hormones or what :-)
Without the camera, I could only take pictures with my iPhone. All around me were photographers with Canon 5D with super zoom lenses and there I was with my iPhone, trying to make a photo of 20cm big platypus 10m away. I felt like complete idiot :-) But idiot or not, I have seen platypus, one of those things that I always dreamed about but never expected to really happen. And the end, this is what the journey is really about, not the pictures, right? Heh, now Iím smart that I donít have the camera :-D


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     MARCEL STRBAK | www.strbak.com | www.facebook.com/marcel.strbak