I remember this day like it was yesterday. Driving through Great Ocean Road, my heart swells with so much love for this coast, for Australia, for all the strangers I get to share this adventure with. I am in awe for a while and take many photographs. I don’t know why but I am more afraid than usual to lose these moments but I stop and remind myself this is my now and far better than having photographs to help me forever remember is knowing I got to live it to the full.
We stop at many places, each one beautiful in its own way but I cherish the hours spent in the bus more than all else. The sun is hot on my skin and too bright sometimes my eyelids felt heavy. The sky is the only constant and everything else fleeting, the scenes changing from the endless ocean to trees so high up I’m almost sure they kissed the sky. Sometimes we pass through some villages with homes so quiet, and then Scott tells me to watch out for his favorite backyard and then I see it — water falling from a point in the mountains, and a simple lone house standing a few meters in front. I cannot help thinking it’s all but a dream, but here I am, and I think maybe dreams are just a different reality.
Scott and I talk the entire time while the 23 other nap in the back between tiring stops. I feel sleepy on some moments but we share random thoughts and stories, I secretly think the rest are missing out. He is one of the silliest guys I’ve ever met yet, but he has so much depth too. I wonder why I feel so drawn to him until after a few hours of endless conversation and all the stories link in my head and I realize he’s a nomad. He tells me stories about life on (and off) the boat and I shift my attention between him and the ocean, taking in all his words as I try to imagine it all.
On each stop we are greeted by an even greater adventure — walking through rainforests, playing with friendly parrots, watching the Earth’s natural creations. I meet someone new each time. The firsts — a wonderful Indian family, doctor parents, two equally beautiful twins Aashka and Aastha and their youngest mathematician boy Satvik. Their parents proudly mention their boy is ranked thirteenth in the world and I almost choke on my hot milo thinking of more than seven billion people in the world, and this boy right across me ranks thirteen in the world. I try to stay cool as he genuinely says ‘no but I’m not good in English, that’s why’ and I propose he can do all my math assignments for me while I do his english ones (of course, they don’t know I’m out of school yet) and we all laugh at the thought.
There was too friends I meet over yummy pizza lunch and share wonderful conversations with throughout the rest of our trip — there’s Mayu who is from Japan living in Sydney, Cyrielle from France who finally fulfills her childhood dreams of visiting Australia, sweet Hana who is a Japanese too. The boys on the other hand come from different parts of Europe and Asia. In time, everybody’s happy and hyper, now more comfortable with each other, cracking jokes out loud and taking photographs together. It felt like we were a family.
We are headed to our last stop — Scott’s favorite, Loch Ard Gorge. He gives everyone an entire back story before he quickly removes his microphone and excitedly tells me how much love he has for the place. I am so engrossed with its name, I don’t expect much. After all we’ve witnessed nonstop beauty all throughout the day. We walk down a steep staircase and all I see is a shallow cave and lots of sand, but I turn back and I just stand there, literally, in awe. I’ve never seen anything close to all the beauty that place holds. It’s too raw, so untouched by our imperfections and I revel in all of it as I catch a glimpse of the mightiness of the Greatest Artist who made it all happen. I want to cry. I really do. I feel blessed in all ways, and the littlest sometimes unnoticeable things all of a sudden matter most here. I am grateful for sight. I am grateful for my heart. That it continues to pump blood through my veins. That circumstances have brought me to this moment. I lift my camera up to take a photograph, and then my silly uncle stands right in front of my lens and makes the lamest of all poses and I laugh. We all laugh a lot during our entire stay there.
It is near nighttime when we make our way back this time on another route but the sun is still high up and restless. Everybody is asleep as we pass through a small town, and then onto what seemed like an endless scene of wide open fields full of lazy cows with heavy breasts, sometimes herds of sheep and horses. My world is so different from all that I am seeing but I appreciate this all the more because of where I come from. Scott and I are silent for a while. Maybe he knows I needed this time all to myself.
The sun is setting so slowly and a haze of sleepiness hits me hard. By this time we stop for dinner and eat at a noodle house before continuing on our trip back home. It’s finally dark and it’s pitch black outside, our bus orange-lit and sleepy. Time seems nonexistent as Scott and I continue to talk about our lives and our passions, Australia and the Philippines, adventure, technology, how no one has the right to tell us who we are, how we humans are sick with discontentment. From time to time our bus becomes lighter. We first drop our Indian friends off at a gas station. They each give me hugs and their e-mails and tell me they wish I can visit them in India soonest. I let them know I will do all that I can to see them again, as well as their beautiful country.
The moment I’ve been dreading the entire day has come and we are in front of our hotel. I give Scott a tight hug as he tells me ‘I miss you already.’ I find comfort in knowing he won’t forget this friendship no matter how short-lived. I smile and thank him for everything. I look back and everybody’s wide-eyed. I want to give each one a hug but time won’t permit so I say all the thank yous and it was so nice to meet yous I can until I was out the bus and in the cold.
While we pack, my family and I share stories and fill our stomachs with lots of steak (made with love my be uncle, Ed) and fresh fruits for midnight dinner. They are worried about how stressful our early morning flight would be. I know it’s all going to be great no matter, and I smile a lot because I realize I’m only like this now because I’m still young and have all the energy.
We stay up so late, I can’t sleep and feel I won’t wake with only two hours of sleep, so I grab the city map and learn the lefts and rights of Melbourne’s CBD. It’s too soon to leave, I want to see the rest of the city but I also have so much excitement for Gold Coast.