The vast majority of backpackers struggle for money. Fact. Broke, flat broke, we take on the most ridiculous jobs to make some cash or simply beg the parents to please send over another $50 so we can eat tomorrow. I had been lucky my first part of my trip. The euro had been so strong, I could spend and spend but the amount on my account would hardly decrease. I shared costs with two others and our amazing van could drive on gas, which halved even the pricey fuel costs. We also ate as cheap as possible and sometimes, we were lucky enough to get away with sleeping for free at camp sites. Otherwise we’d sleep out in the bush somewhere. So I can’t say I was really struggling at that point in time.
Still in Margaret river, enjoying beach and life’s perks with the other crew we met down in Perth, one person seemed a bit down. Turned out Ben had a bit of a story playing on his mind. He had left Wales for a change of scenery and had moved to Melbourne. During his 6 months there, he unfortunately was the witness of a horrible crime. The suspects were aware of what he had seen and were afraid he’d turn them in. So they tried do track him down and called him up to scare him with death-threats on a daily basis. He didn’t feel safe and was forced to move somewhere as far away from Melbourne as he could. He came to Perth to find his close friend Owen and go from there. Now in Margaret river without a job and money flowing faster than expected, he was down to his last $200. Not only that, but the people looking for him seemed to have found out where he was and he had to move on quickly.
He decided to do what all desperate backpackers do, farm-work. Hard work and long days, but most of the time you could get your accommodation and meals for free and pay was not always that bad. I went along with him to find job agencies and notice boards. We walked all over Margaret river, going in and out of job agencies but no one could really help us. The fruit picking season had just finished in this part of Australia and we would have more luck trying up north or east. Finally one lady gave us a list of phone numbers from farms possibly needing work. I told Ben I’d try and help him as much as I could. We found a shady spot in the park and both worked our way down the list, ringing absolutely everyone on it. Not much going on at any of them so far and you could see Ben’s hope just evaporating from his face. Until we found this one farm in Broome. They wanted him and if he could be there as fast as he could, that would be great. I had never heard of Broome and imagined it to be this small speck of dullness out in the bush somewhere. We looked it up and it was about 3000 km north from where we were. His face dropped again. How was he going to get there with only $200? His dad seemed keen to help him out but just simply didn’t have the money.
That night Dick and Mark said that we would probably head off tomorrow. I explained the situation Ben was in to them. They had gotten on great with each other, so I asked them if it would be a good idea to take him with us. “Yeah, why not? The more the merrier!” The next day I told Ben my idea. He sounded really excited, but also a bit in doubt. He had no money to burn and didn’t want to be dependent on us. He also wasn’t sure if he wanted to leave his friend behind. Fair enough. I left him to think about it, but did mention that we would be leaving this afternoon. After buying our supplies and getting the van ready to go and still no sign of Ben, we came to the conclusion he wouldn’t come along. I wrote him a note and stuck $200 in it. John was hanging out with us at that point and I gave it to him, saying not to hand it to Ben till we had left. Naive maybe, but I just really wanted to help in some way. I never knew if I was going to get it back one day, but at least this way, I knew he wouldn’t starve to death.
As we were packing up the last bits and pieces into the van Ben rocked up with the news he wanted to come. Such good news. Not only would he be getting to Broome, he’d also see the whole west coast of Australia! We grabbed his stuff from the hostel and I got my note back from John. Not mentioning the whole thing to Ben. We explained to him he didn’t have to worry about money. We were however, heading south for a bit first, before driving up to Broome. This was still our big trip and we weren’t going to rush it. He understood and said he had already called the farm to let them know it might take a little while longer. We said our goodbye’s to the rest of the group and set off to the next, unknown destination. Three guys now, what had I gotten myself into?;)