It was early evening by the time Sag and I neared Wilsons Prom. Between Christmas and the end of January accommodation in the national park is completely booked out (you have to apply for it in July) so I got us a room in the nearest big town. The name Opal Motel made me expect faux-glamorous shabby lodgings (gold threads and cigarette burns in the bed covers, that sort of thing) but actually it was very clean and comfortable accommodation.
We checked in then got straight back in the car for a drive along the coast. You really do get a sense of how big and empty Australia is when you’re out in the countryside. The horizon swept around us in an uninterrupted circle, no hills or houses to break up the vast stretch of green-brown fields. We stopped at Eagle’s Nest, a rock formation in the sea between Inverloch and Cape Paterson, and got out for a walk. That area of the coast reminded me of Northern Ireland, which I visited with my family shortly before coming out to Australia.
It wasn’t late by the time we got back to the motel but since we’d decided (Sag decided and I reluctantly agreed) to get up at 6 the next day, we went about getting ready for bed. I wriggled in under my bed sheets, which were tucked in tightly under the mattress in typical hotel style, and lay there like a mummy with my arms pinned by my sides while Sag prayed. He asked if I wanted to join him but I declined. I wondered if I should leave the room to give him his privacy but I was wedged between the sheets and by the time I’d worked out what kind of ninja-like manoeuvres it would take to get me out of there, he was already finished.
“Good night,” Sag said, leaning over my bed to kiss me.
“Good night,” I said, turning my face so that his lips landed on my cheek. Then he lay down on my bed beside me with the too-tight bed sheets stretched taught like a sheet of cardboard between us.
“How about I just stay here tonight?”
“No!” I lifted my head off the pillow as much as my restrictive bed linen would allow.
“But I won’t do anything.”
“Either you get into your own bed, or I’ll get another room.”
“Ok, sorry, sorry!” Sag leapt up as though he’d been burned and went over to his own bed.
“Please can we not talk about this again?” he asked.
“Fine by me,” I said.
The following morning my alarm went off at 6 but I didn’t feel much like making life easy for Sag so I stayed in bed for another hour. We still made it to Wilsons Prom in good time.
It was absolutely beautiful; an impossibility of greens and blues. Even the areas that had been destroyed in the 2009 bush fires were dramatic and impressive looking: ash grey branches poking up through the pale green regrowth. We walked through rainforests and along beaches where the rounded quartz crystals in the sand made it squeak underfoot. I forgot about what happened the night before and just enjoyed being there.
In the car on the way back to Melbourne, Sag apologised and asked if I would see him again. Although that incident didn’t put me off looking for travel companions online – I went on an amazing road trip recently which was also organised through Gumtree – it did put me right off Sag. I had to say no.