The gulf opened up in front of me on the evening of my 27th birthday. I'd gone to the Woolshed for my evening meal with Chris and Alan from the U2 Hostel, but unfortunately Chris was feeling too rough from the night before to touch any alcohol, and Alan had to get up early the next day to catch the bus down south, so before long I was left alone, sitting in the pub, enjoying the beer, the music and all those other things that I've learned to appreciate since the enforced abstinence of Zeke.
Luckily, sitting alone in pubs is a skill that travelling has taught me. Sometimes it's not terribly pleasant, and can simply make you feel lonelier than ever, but most of the time it's kind of fun, and pubs are great places to watch people. I'm finding my own company more and more enjoyable as time goes on... after all, I always shout the drinks, I laugh at all my jokes, and I never leave before I want to, so I sat there and soaked up the Woolshed's atmosphere, along with the beer.
And that was when I realised that I'm getting older; I was going to write 'getting old' there, but 27 isn't old by any stretch of the imagination, and I don't want this article to annoy when I read it in ten years. The Woolshed is a backpackers' haunt, with cheap beer, large meals and music straight from MTV. I loved the music, I guzzled the cheap beer, I ate the food, but the people... God, they were just so painful to listen to. Most of them were English, and the average age was less than my own: university student age, mainly. And I felt so old... their conversations were so empty, and I couldn't believe how out of touch I was with student culture, not because I didn't understand it, but because I just didn't want to be like that.
Was I like this, a vacuous piss head, before I started turning into my parents? I'd rather walk for 20km into the bush and settle into an early night ready for an early start, than hang around places like the Woolshed with people born after punk rock had been and gone. I suddenly realised I had to leave Cairns as soon as I'd done some diving; Cairns is the Charybdis of the backpacker scene, sucking in the unwary with its free evening meals, cheap beer and tropical weather. The number of people I've met who came for a couple of days and stayed for months is extraordinary, especially as Cairns itself isn't even worth a week; the surrounding area is worth exploring, but the backpackers who stay for months don't tend to get out of Cairns much at all.
If I'd had a car, you wouldn't have seen me for bull dust.