Bundaberg, Saturday 16th November.

It’s  0500 and I’ve spent a long uncomfortable night waiting for it to get light enough to sit outside.

The air conditioning unit at the Alexandra Motel on Takalvan, Bundaberg is out of ‘I love Lucy’ and it’s so loud it had to be switched off before we went to bed. In fact there isn’t much to recommend about this Motel which we booked on line for 3 nights and immediately cancelled when we saw the room which didn’t look anything like the photograph on the web site.

Unfortunately there was a cancellation fee ( one nights charge) so we stayed last night but have booked a much nicer room for the next 2 nights at only $10 more.

The room at the Alexandra is more like a toilet block than a motel room with bare brick walls and scruffy old furniture. The book case next to the bed is held on with blue tack and the curtains have come away from the rail. In the bathroom some wag has written ‘Clean Me’ in dust on the window but this seems to have gone unnoticed by the staff.

The room was booked with breakfast which they advertise as being available in the Motel restaurant though once here we found it was only continental and had to be taken in your room. Also the out door, salt water pool is at the front of the Motel, next to the main road and is the size of a ‘Standard Foot Spa’. The worst feature though is location. This Motel is a $9 taxi ride out of the Town which makes it too far out for convenience.

We met the Girls at the Spotted Dog last night. Jaki and I were there early and the wait for them to arrive became quite intense, like waiting for a visit with an inmate at a prison, not quite knowing what to expect, excited yet fearful. Once they arrived Jaki burst into tears which set the three girls off and if I hadn’t scarpered to the bar to get a round of drinks I may well have done the same.

We spent an hour or so catching up and exchanging news. Meg and Josie were patient and joined in the conversation adding some colour with some rather good impressions of work colleagues or people from the Backpacker Hostel.

We decided to get some food and walked across the street to a Sizzler which we recognised as a cheap and cheerful chain from the USA but when we got in the bog standard Steak n Chips was $36 so we walked back toward town looking for other options.

Whilst walking back several cars full of men (not boys) were slowing down and making comments to/at the girls. Georgia advised that this happens all the time and that Bundi is ‘The Rape Capital of the World’.

There does seem to be an uncomfortable under current although on the surface the town looks clean and prosperous.

There is a large community of backpackers and the Town is full of Hostels and Bars that cater for them offering cheap food and drink in bars that seem to be off limits to other people. Why?

This seems to have created a culture where Backpackers are regarded as an underclass who work the farms picking and packing for long hours, doing the jobs very few locals want to do. Some how this has been interpreted asan opportunity to grooming and exploitation vulnerable young people, particularly women by the more wealthy population. George told stories of back packers working on farms for days and then not getting paid and having no means of redress.

The comparisons with migrant workers in the UK is blindingly obvious and a lesson for those privileged young people on a gap year in how to treat people from a different culture or background with respect. Some thing that seems to be lacking in Bundaberg and perhaps Australia in general as the military have just had to dismiss a whole load of their staff for inappropriate behaviour?

So we returned to the Spotted Dog and ordered 4 different flavoured Pizza and another round of drinks.

We suggested it was time for us ‘old people’ to head for our beds when the girls started Texting and one of the guys from the Hostel called in to see how they were?  It’s always a good strategy to choose to leave rather than be shown the door, so we got the left over Pizza put in a box, said our goodbyes and called a Taxi.

Which left me wrestling with my thoughts and fears in a bedroom with no aircon, a window that let in the light from the security lamps and the constant noise of running water from the leaking cystern.

At east it won’t be long till that nice Continental breakfast is delivered.

In fact it came at 0730 whether we wanted it or not!

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