If you ever find yourself at the Overlander Roadhouse south of Shark Bay on the North West Coastal Highway, just keep driving. There’ll be nothing there that wasn’t drenched in grease and 5 minutes down the road you’ll find the Billabong Roadhouse, next to the hotel.
The people are lovely. The food is unbelievable. Gluten free options, fresh fruit smoothies, mango and macadamia chicken filo wraps and a wall of tattoos – it’s not a billabong, it’s a bloody oasis.
At night time, several hours and several hundred kilometers later, I can’t find my wallet. This is nothing new. I loose it several times a day but this is some kind of last straw that breaks this camels back. I tell Chris I don’t want to eat at the fish and chip place, or anywhere in public, because I’m about to cry like a child. I storm out of the car, find a beach to sob on then call a girlfriend. Afterwards I wander back to find Chris at a bar, talking to a bona fide sailor. This guy has a long white beard, a red face and the proper sailor hat – he’s the real deal. I can’t remember his story but Chris reckons it was a good one.
We get takeaway and watch episodes of Community in the van and say we’ll look for the wallet in the morning. We don’t find it.
Chris gets on the blower to all the roadhouses we stopped at and it’s the lovely Jacque at the bloody lovely Billabong Roadhouse who comes through with the goods. What a good sort! He hands the phone over to a bloke called Mark who is running a tour group down to Perth the following morning and is more than happy to bring my wallet with him. What a champion!
A few hours later I get a call from Mark, who apologetically explains that something complicated has happened to his bus. He tried to fix it himself and did something even more complicated to it. He’s stuck in Kalbarri until the mechanic comes the next morning. ‘I’m so sorry love,’ he says repeatedly, ‘It’s me own stupid fault.’ What a gentleman! We decide to hang around in Geraldton until he gets there the next morning.
A few hours later I get another call from the even more apologetic Mark, who explains that his mechanic has to go to a funeral in the morning, so he’s going to fix the bloody bus himself. I ask him what he drinks so I can buy him something to say thanks, but he says ‘You don’t need to get me anything love, that’s just the Australian spirit for ya isn’t it?’ What a man! He’ll be a few hours late so we decide to have a lazy breakfast in Geraldton and meet him at the Greenough Wildlife Park 20 ks out of town.
As we drive into the Wildlife Park it’s like preparing for a blind date. What do I say? Am I dressed OK? How will I know what he looks like? Chris is concerned that we don’t have a gift for Mark and grills me to show genuine gratitude. No sooner had we jumped out of the car than I get a call from Mark and see him waving from the park.
We trade yarns. He tells me he always brings busses to this park because it’s run by two volunteer ladies who rescue injured animals. Chris wanders off to feed some kangaroos. I bump into Mark again and tell him our emu story. With his finger he demonstrates where to cut the neck of an emu to kill it quickest and dares me to put some bird feed in between my teeth for the emu at the park to peck out!
I give him a Museum of the Long Weekend postcard and tell him his face’ll be on the internet in a few days.
Here’s Mark and me with my wallet, carefully transported in a plastic bag for 377 kilometres! What a holiday hero! Mark, if you read this, you’re a legend! Hope your bus got fixed up alright and wishing you many more happy trips up and down the WA coast!