Sunday, March 15, 2009


I have decided there is one major problem with doing touristy things … tourists.
I guess it can be boiled down to a simple truism on group dynamics. When assembling a group of strangers, irregardless of size, there will be at least one who grates on every other person’s nerves, seemingly without their knowledge, or at least beyond their limited capacity to care. I would simplify it even more if I could decide on the correct descriptor (although asshole is definitely a front runner).
I have seen this proven time & again during this trip. For example, when entering the very beautiful and thought-provoking Tomb of the Unknown Australian Soldier in the Hall of Memory at the Australian War Memorial in Canberra, I was decidedly un-shocked to see a young woman in a miniskirt giggling as she lay down suggestively beside the Tomb for a photo-op. I thought the security guard was going to have a stroke. I think perhaps his lecture on respect (& the lack thererof) was wasted as language was a barrier.
Another example would be the group of rowdy Aussie blokes on the trail to the Three Sisters rock formation in the Blue Mountains. Perhaps they thought a nice nature hike needs yelling, swearing and overall drunken good times to add to the majesty of the natural wonder. I believe I will have the vision of one of the larger revellers sporting the Borat-inspired green over-the-shoulder Speedo burned on my retinas forever.
Last weekend was exemplary, however, as I was privileged enough to share a two hour tour with a whole family of such creatures.
The Jenolan Caves are a group of spectacular caverns, in the Blue Mountains area. We had heard that it was really something to see, so we set aside a Sunday to do it. We booked the longest tour so we could really have a look around & were pretty geekily excited about it.
As we met our guide at the bottom of a steep staircase he introduced himself & talked a bit about what we would be seeing, and how we would be taking approximately 1300 steps. We then headed on our way. I heard a little whiny voice behind me as we climbed the stairs … “ Oh, 1300 steps is a lot, I don’t think I can do that. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10 … ooo, those were hard … 11, 12, 13, etc.” OK, a bit grating but it sounds like a kid. Kids are whiny … I accept that … here we go …
As we enter the first section of the cavern I was able to isolate the voice to the young boy (~12) repeatedly touching the walls. Of course, the tour guide was repeatedly telling him not to do this as this was the first rule of cave preservation.
It was during the test of wills between guide and boy that I had a look at the family I would get to know so well. At first I thought it was grandfather, mother to the boy, friend/brother/antagonist of the boy (also ~12), little sister (~7), older sister of the boy and her boyfriend.
I did amend my opinion of the older man as grandfather after repeated groping sessions of previously mentioned mother’s behind, Perhaps creepy older 2nd husband/boyfriend rather than blood relation?!? He was definitely more interested in handling the mother than handling any child discipline.
During the entire tour the first boy & his sidekick, talked while the tour guide did, touched the walls, stuck their hands in the water, had farting competitions, ran ahead, etc … and were completely ignored by the mother. She did slap one of the boys in the head for teasing his younger sister, but that was the extent of it. She had a stylized tattoo of Buddha on the back of her neck so maybe she was taking a resistance through non-violence stance (oh, except for the slap). I did hear someone else in the tour mumble something about wishing they had a baseball bat … hmmm.
Despite these shenanigans, the children were not the worst … that title fell to the oldest daughter’s boyfriend. He also took great joy in his partner’s physical assets, which was uncomfortable enough without thinking that this was happening in front of her mother and younger siblings. When he was not so carnally engaged, the most inane things would come out of his mouth. His first gem was “That guy must use the same bad jokes for every tour”, which was heard by all, including the tour guide. Towards the end he commented that the tour would have been half as long without all the stopping and looking, again heard by all. He laughed uproariously at the farting & fart jokes of the children half his age. He also talked while the tour guide was talking, mostly about how he hoped the restaurant outside the cave had steak & beer. Ad nauseum.
As Brian & I were driving home on the windy roads back from the caves, we spent most of the time discussing the family and their wacky antics. After pausing for breath, I asked Brian how he liked the cave? Hmmm … very cool, but ohmigod that guy was such a jerk, etc…
This made me a bit sad. I will probably always remember that family every time I think of those majestic caves. *sigh*
I think I will have to make an oath from now on …
I will no longer pay more attention to other tourists than the tour & No more wasted space in my holiday memories for assholes … hmmm, good luck with that!

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