HQ Fire Brigade Visit

Last night was quite the partially expected adventure. While meeting with a friend at Circular Quay (Sydney’s ferry launch), a young gal sat in the bench across from us. I had bought half a kilo of grapes and my friend and I didn’t make it through them. When he had to go, I walked across and met Wendy, a Canadian from near Vancouver, BC finishing up three months of traveling in Australia. She was spending her last night in the city enjoying the ambiance and not really keen to go ‘home’ to her sisters friends sisters house, a less than exciting elder couple.

We had a good chat about traveling and learning about who each other was, when finally I asked what the time was. I explained to Wendy that I wanted to head up north to drop in and surprise my old bushie mates. The bushies are the Australian bush firefighters, volunteers who were out battling the blazes in the Blue Mountains earlier this year.

It was nearly 6pm and as I told Wendy about where I was heading off to and that it was going to be tricky getting there because it’s out in the sticks of Sydney. With the slight hesitation on her part, not really knowing what this all meant, and still not wanting to end her night, I invited her to come along.

It all started fine. We took the ferry across to Manley and then a long bus ride up to Mona Vale. It was nearly 8pm and our recent conversations had covered foods we liked in various travels. Sushi was popular between us, and with out stomachs regularly reminding us of their existence, a sushi shop appeared before our eyes as we got off the bus. We popped in and had a mixed dinner platter of sushi.

Bellies full we were now looking for a cab to get us the rest of the way because the bus we wanted was now out of service. Seeing no signs of cabs, I suggested we hitch a ride. Wendy was game so we started walking up the road of our destination and stuck out our thumbs.

After about a kilometer of walking along, waving my hat and trying to look needy of a ride as cars whizzed past, Wendy and I discussed what must be a very common conversation amongst hitchhikers. We don’t look like trouble, do we? Nah. These people were just being selfish.

Finally, A ute (pickup truck – from utility truck) finally pulled over and the cab was full of what looked like three yard workers and they were happy to have us jump in the back cargo space. I told them I would just bang on the roof when we got there.

Wendy and I had a good time talking about the stars because we were really out in the middle of nowhere now and when there were no cars behind us we could really get a good look at the sky above as the wind from the movement of the truck blew into the back of our heads.

When I banged on the top of the cab, it looked like we were in a more desolate place from where they picked us up. Wendy and I thanked the boys in the cab and turned perpendicular to the road and disappeared into the native eucalyptus woods. It must have seemed peculiar to our ride-givers, but it was sort of a “don’t ask, don’t tell” kind of relationship.

Just through the stand of trees was my old fire station and we snuck in through the back gate and into the ready room where a few of my old mates were sipping coffee and chatting it up. Then a silence fell upon the room and a startled but happy (in that classic Australian accent) “Hello? What are you doing here?” came from the group.

It was great to see them, they were fascinated that I had dragged someone I had just met through the ordeal of getting there and they took her under their wing and some of them gave her a tour of the station all the while catching up and getting the latest news and all.

About the author

Adventure Correspondent Cameron L. Martindell is a freelance adventure travel and expedition writer, photographer and filmmaker who founded Offyonder.com in 2000. He has contributed to Elevation Outdoors Magazine, The Gear Junkie, National Geographic, The Christian Science Monitor, The New York Times, The Washington Post, Outside, Backpacker, Wired, Australian Geographic, Mountainzone.com and others. He has been to all seven continents and lived on five of them, including a four-month stint at the South Pole. Cameron has more than 10 years of mountain search and rescue experience, is an Eagle Scout, has been an Australian bush firefighter, competes in sailing regattas, plans national and international youth programs, guides Oregon rafting trips and Australian bush backpacking trips.

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