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Exploring Australia

by Ashlea Bicknell about a year ago in travel · updated 3 months ago

A small-town love

“You should come to 'The Dale.'”

This was the message that started it all.

‘The Dale’ was Armidale and it was in New South Wales, 8 hours’ drive from Sydney, Australia.

“We can get drunk together and you can meet all my friends. You’ve got the reputation of being the fun sister.

Flying over Armidale

Nobody knew where Armidale was and I got so tired of explaining it. I just started referring to it as the middle of nowhere.

I didn’t know how true it was until I was flying over the top of it.

I looked out the window of the tiny plane and only saw huge spaces of green nothing. Just acres upon acres of farmland.

I saw an occasional house but compared to the expanse of buildings I saw when flying into Sydney, this seemed very abnormal.

I started to wonder if this was all I’d see when I landed.

The plane began making its descent to the airport. Or that was what they said over the intercom. But when I looked out the window, I didn’t see anything that resembled an airport. No tarmac. Nothing.

‘Maybe they’re just gonna dump us in a field.’ I thought.

Finally, after what seemed like hours of green, I saw a tiny strip of tarmac.

‘That’s it?’

And it was. Accompanied by a toy-sized airport.

It was one room that only consisted of a couple of seats, a snack bar, toilets, and a check-in desk.

Nothing like Sydney’s huge, fast-paced airport, which was overwhelming to navigate.

The first thing that hit me was the heat.

It wrapped around me like a blanket.

I felt sweat bead at my hairline.

I pushed through the sweltering haze and made my way to the entrance of the airport. Or glorified house. That title suited it better.

Daniel was waiting just inside.

We didn’t hug because I didn’t like physical contact.

We had that generic post airplane chat of ‘how was your flight? And the like, while I got my bags.

We hopped in his car that was parked on a grassy bank and I was consumed by the heat once more.

But now I was locked in with it because Daniel's car had no air conditioning.

By Nikola Jovanovic on Unsplash

We stopped at a pub because Daniel was hungry.

He ordered a steak and I ordered nothing.

I wasn’t hungry because of how tired I was.

Getting up at three am and lugging two bottles of scotch that Daniel ordered from duty-free, which I had to pick up in Wellington, would do that to you.

His steak was delivered to our table and Daniel started cutting it up, while I watched the Television in the corner.

It was playing the Lotto draw for that afternoon.

Then I heard it. The sound that made me want to die inside.

The screech of metal cutlery against a ceramic plate.

I looked back at Daniel with my teeth clenched.

“Could you not do that please?”

He looked up from his plate, puzzled.

“What am I doing?”

I explained the sound and how much I despised it.

He laughed. Then stopped when he realized I was serious.

“Are you kidding me?”


He just looked at me like this was the worst thing I could’ve said.

He then proceeded to make the noise again just to be a dick.

I know this because he was smiling while he did it.

I clenched my jaw and glared at him.

“I said stop it.”

I almost got up to leave. To go home. But I realized I couldn’t. I wasn’t anywhere close to home.

I was stuck with my brother for over a week.


By Alec Krum on Unsplash

The house was on a suburban street. This was a huge contrast to what I had been greeted with when I was flying in.

I expected miles between houses, not metres.

It was oddly comforting because it reminded me of home.

The house itself was blue-grey, had two driveways and a set of stairs leading up to its interior.

There was a balcony running along the front of it.

A little seat with metal floral patterns across the back of it sat on the far left.

I saw a white carpet, two beige leather seats, and one black leather couch when I walked in.

I would find myself sticking to them every time during my stay there.

Looking through an open door, I saw a second lounge room with another set of couches, which had soft throws tossed over the backs of them.

The kitchen was separated from the lounge room by a wooden island, which I would stain with red wine at one point.

My room was small and had the internet router that flashed all hours of the night and a single bed from Ikea, which was lumpy under my back.

I didn’t sleep well that night, but not because of the strobe light router or the lumpy bed.

I kept jolting myself awake all hours of the night, scared I was going to wake up with a Huntsman spider sitting on my face.

I woke up the next day looking rough and Daniel thought it was because of the $3 wine I had drunk the night before.

I was standing in the bathroom that wasn’t the one assigned to me.

My bathroom was the one I shared with Daniel, which consisted of a toilet, sink, and shower.

The bathroom I was in had a counter and mirror, so I had claimed it for the moment.

I was fixing my makeup, which the heat had melted off my face when I heard an unfamiliar voice conversing with my brother.

Daniel said something about his 1988 Toyota Camry and I saw this as an opportunity to make my presence know to the unfamiliar person.

“Every time you say Camry, I hear camera,” I called through the open door.

They stopped talking and I went to stand in the doorway of the bathroom and put a face to the voice I had been overhearing for the last five minutes.

If I said I did a quick once over, I’d be lying. I took my sweet time eyeing this boy up.

He stood there with a smile that showed off the gap between his two front teeth. His hair stood up in spikes like he had just woken up and maybe he had.

One word that described this boy was beautiful.

“Hey.” I hope I sounded more put together than I felt. I had never been so instantly attracted to someone.

“Kyle this is my sister, Ashlea.”

I stepped forward and shook his hand. ‘That was a little formal Ashlea, but just go with it.’

“Kyle’s pretty cute,” I said to my brother, while we hung out in the non-leather couch lounge room.

It was cooler in there it seemed.

Daniel looked up from his phone, with a face that was a mix of disturbed and frustrated.

“Don’t you dare do anything. He just broke up with his girlfriend. You’ll only hurt him.”

I frowned. “It wouldn’t be that bad.”

“Ashlea I said no. Also, he’s my mate and that’s just not right.”

We sat in silence, but in my mind, I was fuming.

I always get what I want and this was no exception.

The music was blasting only through the back speakers because the front ones were broken.

It was playing a Little Mix tune because that was the only music taste Daniel and I had in common.

Daniel said we were going to a small town called Uralla. It was fifteen minutes’ drive out of Armidale.

The main reason we were going was for the brewery.

I didn’t like beer unless it’s mixed with a bottle of sparkling lemonade, but there wasn’t much to do, so I was keen to go somewhere for the evening.

I could hear Daniel having a conversation with Kyle, who was sat in the backseat.

They were both shouting over the music while I stared out at the asphalt road and the clusters of trees that lined the guardrail.

I heard the music being turned down and looked back at Daniel.

“What’d you do that for?”

He opened his mouth, but an Australian drawl answered before he could.

“I couldn’t hear anyone.”

I turned to face the Adonis in the backseat.

“Pussy,” I said, then stuck my tongue out to show I was joking.

Without any hesitation, he flipped me off.

I grinned and did it back.

I could see my brother looking at us in my peripheral.

I was waiting for him to start whining about how Kyle was his friend first. I wouldn’t put it past him to do such a thing.

I looked out the window once more, the sky was divided. One side was bright blue with no clouds in sight, while the other was building a wall of dark grey.

We arrived in Uralla and it was even smaller than I was anticipating.

Driving up to the brewery revealed that the buildings looked like they were built in the late 1800’s.

They were two-story structures made of brick in varying shades of brown and had pastel yellow wood panelling over the top windows.

Some looked to have flat roofs, while others were rusty orange and were raised up from the body of the building then flatten out on top.

They all had chimneys extending from them and it made the buildings look more like houses than shops selling antiques or advertising real estate.

There was decorative woodwork adorning the front of the buildings, ranging from pastel blue to the reoccurrence of the pastel yellow from before.

There were green curved street lamps that reminded me of beanstalks because of their colouring and how they towered above me.

I expected the road to be made of bricks too, but it stood out by looking like it was recently laid tarmac.

The brewery was made of dark brown brick and white signage that read ‘New England Brewing co’.

The doors and windows were painted the same white, but the door had a logo of a ram with wings hovering stationary above it.

A sign that had brewery printed in bold black lettering, stuck out the side of the building to direct people to it.

The door was open so we walked right in.

We were greeted with the booming voices of men and women and the shrill voices of children scattered around the place.

There were cylinders, some silver and others looking like old fashion beer barrels, connected by pipes that extended out the top of the cylinders, which linked up to the pipes running along with the building’s wooden ceiling.

The floor was grey concrete with colourful chairs littering it.

Daniel walked up to the bar and ordered without much thought, while I stood just behind him wondering what I was going to enjoy remotely.

Everything was, well, beer. I saw a list of wines chalked in on the blackboard and decided I’d order one of those.

“I’ll have a glass of wine.”

Daniel listed off a bunch of wine names that didn’t ring a bell for me.

I stared at him blankly for a second, then told him red.

Alcohol was alcohol in my book.

We picked a table by the window. The early evening sun highlighted the scratches that ran over the dark painted wood to show that it was the colour of pine sawdust underneath.

I sat in the seat that put my back to the door and propped my feet up on the table’s support beam that ran along the bottom of it.

I took a sip of my wine and tried not to cringe.

I didn’t want to look like an amateur in front of Kyle.

He sat opposite me and Daniel stood at the side of the table, seemingly like he was separating us.

Kyle took a dig at me for being New Zealander.

He had a grin, so I knew he didn’t mean it.

I teased him right back.

“You can’t talk to him like that, it’ll hurt his feelings.”

“He insulted me first, I was just defending myself.” I crossed my arms because this wasn’t fair.

My brother looked at me. “I remember when you were twelve and you were too shy to talk to any of my friends. This is weird.”

He said this every time Kyle and I had a conversation.

It was getting exhausting.

Not long after that, we left.

My glass half-finished because I preferred the five-dollar red I had back in Armidale.

As we drove out of Uralla, I watched as the ominous wall of grey consumed the rest of the bright blue sky, but I noticed a rainbow amongst it too.

Daniel wanted me to meet all his friends, so he planned a party.

He was in and out of the house the day of it, so Kyle and I shared each other’s company.

Music filled the room where it played through the speakers of the Television.

I was dancing around the room, already a little bit drunk because it was five pm or close enough to.

By Jakob Owens on Unsplash

Kyle watched me from the black leather couch, his eyes seemed full of wonder.

I had never had someone look at me like that and it made me feel warm or was I just blushing.

It changed to a slow song and I moved back over to Kyle.

I pulled him up from the couch and he looked confused for a second, his blue eyes wide.

I didn’t say anything, I just placed his hands on my hips, wrapped my arms around his neck, and slowly swayed.

The afternoon sun seeped through the windows and highlighted the dust surrounding us, making it shimmer.

The music wrapped around us and it seemed time had frozen at that moment.

I wanted it to last forever, but all good things come to an end.

Daniel’s car pulled into the driveway and time resumed once more.

I felt anxiety grab a hold of me and not let go. Usually, I would have been able to push the feeling away but there were just so many people in the house that I didn’t know.

Everyone had a beer so I grabbed my trusty vodka and made a vodka and coke.

More vodka than coke it seemed.

I sat inside sipping my drink while looking out the open door as Daniel greeted all his friends.

I decided I should probably say hi so I didn’t seem rude, but upon greeting them, I felt like they thought they were better than me.

Looking down at me because I didn’t spend my time writing theses.

That was the extent I communicated with those people and wandered over to Kyle, who was sitting at the top half of the garden in a lawn chair.

Three vodka and cokes in and I was hanging off Kyle affectionately.

“You know when people see your tattoo you could just say it’s my cat's name.” I slurred.

Kyle had a little tattoo on his chest, which was his ex-girlfriend's name.

It turned out to be the same name my cat had, so my drunken self came up with a less regrettable story to accompany the tattoo.

Kyle nodded along, while I stole a sip of his apple cider.

By Klara Kulikova on Unsplash

The night started to get more fun as it usually does when I get plastered.

I stole kisses from Kyle when no one was looking and he would tell me to stop, but never refused me when I leaned in for another.

“Daniel might see.” He would say when we pulled away.

“I don’t care,” I said as I pulled him in again.

The night ended badly as it usually does when I get plastered.

I sat just behind the sliding door that leads to the backyard and listened to Kyle try to convince Daniel why it wouldn’t trigger the apocalypse if he and I ended up together.

Earlier I had asked Daniel why it would be so bad. Hypothetically of course.

He replied that it was disgusting and disrespectful to him.

I frowned. I didn’t think it was disgusting.

Through hushed whispers, I heard Daniel say that the main reason Kyle and I would never work was that I was “kind of a bitch.”

I felt my blood run cold, then skyrocket to boiling point so quickly it made my head spin. Or maybe that was the vodka. either way, I was infuriated.

I ran outside and started shouting obscenities.

Screaming exactly what I thought of him calling me that awful name.

Daniel jumped up and was quick to tell me to be quiet because, “Ashlea, we have neighbours.”

I made an effort to yell louder, so the neighbours would in fact hear me. “I don’t care! How could you say that about me?!”

Daniel took only a second to retaliate, “Because it’s true. I think you only came here for yourself. You didn’t come here for me at all.”

I shuddered and my voice came out shakier than before.

“That’s not true.”

And it wasn’t. I had come here because I had missed my big brother.

Daniel stormed inside and I collapsed onto one a lawn chair, sobs shaking my body.

Kyle sat on the grass in front of my shaking figure and looked up at me.

He looked like he didn’t know what to do.

I didn’t either.

Daniel apologized for what he said, but not without adding, “but that’s what you get for listening to other peoples’ conversations.”

I looked away and rolled my eyes.

‘I wanna go home.’ I thought.

A day later I was saying goodbye to Kyle with a hug. I tried to steal one last kiss, but Daniel was lurking nearby so I couldn’t.

Then I got into Daniel’s car one last time, so he could take me back to the mini airport.

Soon enough it was time to board a tiny plane to Sydney.

“Have a good flight.”

I looked back at Daniel. “I’ll try.”

If I had known this would be the last time we would properly speak, maybe I would have said something more substantial.

But I didn’t and the moment passed.

When I was waiting for the next plane that would take me back home, my phone buzzed.

It was a message from Kyle.

“It was fun having you here. You’re a pretty cool chick.”

I smiled.

Amongst the grey, there was a rainbow

Thanks for taking the time to read my story. It truly means a lot. Feel free to drop a like if you wanna see more content like this and subscribe if you want read more content by me :)


Ashlea Bicknell

Writing has always been and will continue to be one of my biggest passions

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