Two Savages in Southeast Asia

Feeling Like Port Dougl-ass

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Today we rented a car with the intent of booking it up to Daintree and Cape Tribulation. Our travels were sadly cut short by a series of panic attacks, and we had to settle for a trip up to Port Douglas and Kuranda.

As someone who drives primarily in California these days, driving stick in Australia is challenging. First, you’ve got the whole left side of the road thing. This means the wheel is on the right side of the car, which means you have to make distance judgments accordingly. It also means you have to shift with your left hand instead of your right – but the pedals are in the same order, so you have to switch hands without switching feet! Roundabouts go clockwise, right turns require a green (or protected turn) light, and you pass on the right. Fortunately, there are helpful signs everywhere to warn us crazy right-side drivers of all these peculiarities.

Anyways, we were half an hour north out of Cairns when I started to really feel weird – it’s been a stressful last couple of days, what with the 36-hour flight and sleep deprivation and seven-hour jet lag and whatnot, and I guess it got the better of me. I had to stop and let Valkyrie drive, and then we headed to a doctor in Port Douglas for a prescription to take the anxiety down. As we waited for my appointment, we had some time for a historical walk around town; there’s a bunch of signs about the original settlement there. Port Douglas was passed up in favor of Cairns for a railway line connecting inland to the panning/mining operations, and so Cairns ballooned into a midsize city while Port Douglas remained relatively quiet.

Still waiting, we snagged an Australian trio of meats: kangaroo, emu, and crocodile. The kangaroo was tough and gamy, but we hear that’s just because it was overcooked; the emu was a bit better. (We’d both had croc before in the Florida Keys, and I recall it being better there.) Maybe we’ll get a chance to try them again from a better place…

After seeing the doctor (which out-of-pocket was still cheaper than seeing my GP for a visit on insurance back in the US!), we decided to switch gears and try for a jaunt into the Atherton Tablelands. We got as far as Kuranda before I freaked out again, and we had to head back to Cairns.

I’m hoping this is just related to driving plus jet lag, and that it will pass. For the meantime, I’ll do what I did previously for anxiety: limited sugar/alcohol, no caffeine, 30 minutes exercise daily, regular relaxation breathing practice, and B-complex/C vitamins to further regulate stress. We’ll see how that goes, but today was pretty awful.

Learn Australian

  • overtake: to pass, e.g. in a car. There is a legal distinction between “overtaking”, or legal passing on the right, and “undertaking”, or passing on the left (which is usually illegal.)
  • stocktake sale: as per Wikipedia, a sale of inventory from previous seasons, often at heavily discounted rates.
  • shire: a local government area in Australia, mostly in rural or more remote regions. Not to be confused with Tolkien’s Shire, although the meaning is somewhat similar. You may recognize this also as the suffix of certain place names in the UK, e.g. Worcestershire.