The Scarlett Guide To… People You Meet Travelling

Sometimes booking things on a whim because it “might be a laugh” can turn out into the best experience of your life. Like a spontaneous trip to Paris – Paris is always a good idea!

Getting a 45 hour train from Brisbane to Cairns, on the other hand, certainly isn’t – as I realised almost as soon as I set foot on the platform!

All of the romantic notions that I’d had of the cute meal car, the interesting people I would meet and the endless wine I’d be drinking whilst chugging through some beautiful scenery, were immediately shattered when I realised I would be sleeping sitting up like the elephant man for two nights and introduced to the array of strange people that occupied this sort of travel.

That said, if ‘interesting’ people is what I wanted, I certainly got what I paid for.

After my initial encounter in the meal cart, in which I was accosted by a group of drunk elderly travellers, I vowed to keep myself to myself for the rest of the journey… a vow that I was forced to break after, just a couple of hours away from Cairns, the train broke down


You know in Stephan King books when a selection of random people find themselves thrown together somewhere weird… and as the sun begins to set, they gradually start to get picked off one by one…well, at the time, this felt like the same situation – I was just waiting for someone to go ‘missing’.

In the ten hours (did I mention that? Ten fucking hours!) that we were stranded in the middle of nowhere, I met “Woo Girls”, elderly drunks, a fortune teller and even a clinically obese guy who introduced himself as “you can just call me “fat boy” (have you any idea how awkward that is?)  But just in case you ever find yourself in the same situation, here are just a few of my favourites that you should definitely look out for…

The Artful Dodger…

…Also known as Elsie; a little old women with a penchant for gambling. In the ten hours (Seriously. Ten!) I spent with her I can honestly say she was probably one of the funniest, most interesting women I’ve ever met – a wolf in sheep’s clothing. Not only did she teach me to play bridge, she also managed to win $50 off me in less than an hour (she gave it back to me), whilst simultaneously drinking half a bottle of gin single handedly, telling me about her adventures in Paris with a mystery man she barely knew and insulting random people. Had she been 30 years younger and me 30 years older I think I would have found my soul mate. One of the funniest moments of my entire trip was after Andrew announced, “I’m going to put my ‘guns shirt’ on as I always do when there’s a cute chick around *WINK*” to which she replied “Oh darling, ‘guns’? No arms would be more attractive than the ones you’ve got.”

Who’s Andrew I hear you wonder…

The Delusional Backpacker…

Andrew; For forty hours I had managed to avoid his advances – those weird little winks and offers of “you can have a bite of my egg sandwich if you want” (erm… no thanks) as I walked past were greeted with one of those please-don’t-come-near-me-nods… but as I was sunbathing, 20 minutes into our ten hour stay at a platform (sorry, last one I promise. Fucking ten hours though. Imagine what you could do in ten hours?) a dark shadow was suddenly cast over me…

Now I understand the whole backpacker mentality; I know you can meet ‘new friends’ everywhere, be it on trains, planes or auto-mobiles… but there’s a line guys. Sometimes people don’t want to talk to you, OR look at your 7000 photos of people we don’t know from the last 8 months, OR hear stories about people they never have, or ever will meet… OR think because you’re so ‘well travelled’ that you’re automatically the most attractive person in the world.

In all fairness, Andrew was just a very socially awkward 20 year old, who didn’t get the hint that he was irritating everyone and I should have just felt sorry for him. Unfortunately he’d immediately set himself up for a fail by boasting about some of his ‘conquests’ while hunting; the deer he’d shot and the crocodile’s he’d wrestled (I actually think there’s was something about a bear thrown in there but I’d already switched off.) Unfortunately he’d picked the wrong “chick” to hit on being a vegetarian, who volunteers at an animal rescue centre and goes to animal rights demonstrations and all… so he was always going to get publicly ridiculed.

The Photo Guy…

This is the type of person that has an iPhone for the soul purpose of showing people funny photos and inappropriate videos. I didn’t ever learn his name, but our first meeting was the moment he approached me with the statement (in the broadest Australian accent I’ve ever heard) “Do ya wanna see a picture?” Almost convinced he was about to proudly display an image of his penis, I froze to the spot. Luckily it was a photo of a dog… in a tree. Assuming it was one of Australia’s strange creatures I ask what it was, to which he replied, “…jast some stupid dog that loikes to cloimb trees!”  Incredible.

The Frat-Boy-Turned-Adult…

This guy was hysterical; as soon as we found out we would be stranded for ten hours (you knew I was going to get it in again, didn’t you?) he disregarded any attempt at maintaining his composure by going straight to the bar and ordering 10 cans of XXXX. After the 5th can, and I kid you not here, he began to squash the empties with his forehead, yet still avoided getting too involved in the conversation; only chipping in with the odd sarcastic comment. I can honestly say I’ve never been more intrigued about a stranger in my entire life.

After FIFTY-FOUR HOURS on that god-forsaken train, a coach arrived to ship us off to our various hotels, and the Cairns adventure began…

11 comments… read them below or add one

Melissa January 28, 2012 at 1:34 am

Holy freaking CRAP you spent over TWO days on a train?! I think I would have completely lost my sanity by then. Kudos for making it through that alive!


Lauren Alissa Hunter January 28, 2012 at 11:41 am

HAHAHAHA OH MY GOSH I LOVE IT! I feel like I can relate to basically EVERYTHING you just said– I’ve been on these horrible train rides (and no, they are never quaint or darling but always involve fondling and grime), and I’ve been broken down on buses in foreign countries and I have met these same exact sorts of people. Lovely lovely lovely. Good stuff. Life happens in the moments you never plan on, indeed!


Whitney Soup January 29, 2012 at 2:05 am

yeah – you’ve gotta stop romanticizing people. they’re all “interesting” and that’s it. lol


The World of Deej January 29, 2012 at 1:46 pm

How many hours were you stranded again? Great story…I recently took my first bus trip and it was pretty much the same. I had a name for everyone by the end, and I didn’t like a single one of them…


Jenn January 30, 2012 at 11:24 am

Oh what an adventure!! You are brave to even purchase a train ticket. I would have opted for flying–and I hate to fly. The last train trip I took was really not so bad. Short sweet–to the point. No interesting people to speak of–BUT the train station–that was where all the weirdos were!!

Cheers, Jenn


Jen January 30, 2012 at 1:40 pm

Melissa: I know, It was the fact I couldn’t wash my hair for two days that nearly sent me crazy!x

Laura: Thanks honey, You have my sympathy!x

Deej: Haha! Thanks, I’d love to hear your tales of transport freaks!x

Jenn: I wish I had have! You’re right you always get the best idea of the freaks at the Train Station! x


Stefanie January 30, 2012 at 4:58 pm

Oh my God, I think I would have gone insane! I took a train from Tennessee to New Orleans (about 8 hours) and I thought that was horrible. I was cold and uncomfortable and tired. Times that by almost 7 times? Hell to the No.


Sondra Crane January 31, 2012 at 12:26 pm

Great story and is interesting to read. I had a bad experience on a bus trip but mine only lasted overnight.


ShimonZ February 1, 2012 at 3:53 am

A wonderful travelogue… You didn’t happen to keep Elsie’s cell number, did you? I was turned on by the description…


Jen February 1, 2012 at 9:25 am

Urgh Stef, that sounds bad enough! Worth it to get to New Orleans though – so jealous!xx

Sondra: Thanks for the comment :) It’s horrible sleeping on public transport isn’t it!?x

Shimon: Haha! I love your comments! I’ll try to dig it out!x


k~ February 3, 2012 at 6:25 pm

This was a fabulous write. I love the way you made mini chapters of the characters. 54 hours… (looks around) where’s the rest of the book 😉 Elsie sounds like a bit of a lifesaver!

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