A Christmas Tale From Australia by Kevin Scanlon

Christmas is an exuberant holiday, is it not? All the joys of seeing your whole family in our tightly knit sweaters while feasting up and opening gifts from one another. Along with that come all of the Christmas joys. Decorating the tree, bedazzling the house with lights and wonderful decorations, and playing outside in the cold, snowy evening, or watching it from the inside trickle down and cover the street until it looks like a giant white blanket. This is probably what you and I are used to, being as though we both live in the Northern Hemisphere where December 25th is Christmas during the season of winter. In the Southern hemisphere where Christmas takes place during the summer, the holiday is just one big cook out where all of the family members are in shorts, eating outside, and the Christmas decorations are summer oriented, with Santa Claus dressed in shorts and a life vest, riding water skis pulled by a giant fish. Seeing as we’re so used to it being in the winter, it’s kind of hard to imagine right?

During one Christmas, my immediate family and I took a month long vacation down to Australia to see my aunt, uncle and their three kids. They live in Sydney which is on the eastern part of the continent and when I arrived, the temperature was 94 degrees. It was a very hot and humid Christmas. The strange and exotic creatures I spotted on our way to the house included lizards, snakes, scorpions, and exotic spiders. Part of me was very creeped out and wished I was back in N.Y. but the other part of me found it very interesting. As we were inside with the A/C turned on full blast, we all chowed down on the typical Christmas day dinner which included roast beef, asparagus, and many other nutrients. Then we had our apple pie from America, opened our gifts and went to sleep as we awaited the arrival of next morning.

It was the 26th and it was 95 degrees out. My cousin who was a huge motorcycle enthusiast loved traveling cross country and he knew that I was very much into long distance traveling as well. So he suggested to me that he and I should ride our motorcycles from our current location (Sydney) to Perth, which was at the other end of Australia, and back. He explained how the trip would probably take around 4 days to finish because it was a little over a 1000 miles from Sydney to Perth. I agreed to do it. So we packed our stuff into a couple of back packs. His backpack included extra gloves, first aid kits, bandanas, towels, and four water bottles. Mine included a few pairs of underwear and about six bottles of gator aid. I figured as long as I had my iPhone and my credit card, I didn’t need anything else. Ha Ha.

So we took off the next morning, I followed him through the beautiful streets of Sydney where we passed tall buildings and beautiful pong trees. As we got off the highway where literally everyone was going over 80 mph, we reached the desert where we spotted many exotic spiders that were almost the size of tarantulas. Out of all the creatures I saw on my way there, I had a feeling that these spiders would give us the most trouble. My cousin felt indifferent because he’s used to seeing creatures like this but for me, just looking at them as I was creating a dust storm through the rocky Australian desert made me feel like I was in a Stephen King movie. They were of different colors, some even red and grey, and had these weird doll eyes.

So there we were, a couple of adventurers riding off in the face of fear. We made it about 300 miles from Sydney all the way into the dirt trails of the Australian Outback located in the middle of the continent. My cousin was riding with purpose, speaking through a radio headset telling me where we would go and which shortcuts to take. At that point I have gotten extremely confident on my motorcycle and dare I say cocky. Cutting over a big patch of land, my cousin decided to show off with some cockiness of his own and went airborne over it as he likes to be the daredevil at times. Unfortunately his daredevil antics didn’t pay off because as he hit the ground, his bike landed awkwardly on the side of its tire and caused him to crash and burn like Evel Knievel. Fearing for his life, I slammed on the breaks, skidding up dust, and ran as fast as I could over to my cousin who as it turns out, ended up with a 5 inch cut on his left knee. The injury was very minor but his bike had a broken handle bar and a popped tire so now he couldn’t ride it anymore.

So I’m bandaging this guy’s knee up as the day was getting shorter and we were thinking we should head back home on my motorcycle and quit the journey since it wouldn’t look good having two grown men riding several hundreds of miles on one motorcycle. As I was putting away the first aid supplies, suddenly I felt something sharp and painful go right into the top of my left ankle. I was bit by an exotic spider, the same ones that I’d been worrying about the entire trip. So after I was caring for my cousin, he all of a sudden started caring for me and he noticed that the bite was swelling out of control. We were now two guys in the middle of nowhere with only one motorcycle and a bad spider bite.

So he had to get on my bike and I had to sit right behind him. We then had to ride a few hundred miles back to Sydney to see a doctor. It was maybe the most humiliating experience of my life. My fleshy white arms were wrapped around his waist and I was softly weeping over whether or not I was going to die of a spider bite. As we made it back to civilization just outside of Mungo National Park about 25 miles away from Sydney, we spotted a doctor’s office and went inside to find out that I was bitten by a Red Back spider, which was very common around Australia. The bite wasn’t too severe and the doctor prescribed us antivenin which made it go away in a couple of days.

After we got back to the house late at night we both had to hear it from the family who were none too pleased with how we went about our business. His parents screamed at him for being so reckless on a motorcycle and my parents screamed at me for not noticing the big red spider before it took a bite out of my leg. My parents never trusted me on a motorcycle again or on a cross country trip for that matter. After all that went down in the Australian Outback and all that went down back in Sydney when explaining our failed adventure to the family, the only thing left on our minds were, “man this has been such a wonderful start to a Christmas vacation.”

All in all I have learned to be a more careful person. My sense of adventure has not gone away but my use of common sense has prospered. Looking back, I realize that riding two Harley Davidson motorcycles through the dry, dusty lands of the Australian Outback wasn’t the sharpest idea. My cousin and I both knew we were taking a risk but we were absolutely certain we would make it to the other side of Australia without a scratch. To me life is still a game that we play, but I understand now that it is very dangerous and one little mistake could mean your life. I am more cautious about where I go and what I do in the future.


About the Author,

Kevin Scanlon

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My name is Kevin Scanlon and I am a John Jay College graduate with a Bachelor of Science degree in Criminal Justice. I am 22 years old, born and raised on Staten Island, NY. I am a keen observer, researcher and writer with dreams of working for the FBI or in a legal capacity to make a difference in the world we live in.