We’ve stayed in a lot of jive places.
We’ve even enjoyed most of them.
There’s often charm to bamboo floors with cracks between and glimpses of water beneath your feet, or a room painted in the bright hues of Fiesta dinnerware with a scorpion artistically placed at just the right angle on the wall above the bed. I’ve enjoyed staying in rustic cabins, and even in funky little concrete flat rooms in south central nowhere-Laos.
Something about paying $15 a night for the entire family increases the charm and decreases expectations, proportionally.
We’re in Marlborough tonight.
Don’t ask where that is, no one knows, not even the people who live here. Suffice it to say that it’s roughly 11 hours drive south of Cairns. Somewhere between the fifteen wallabies we didn’t hit at twilight and the one we surely would have if we’d kept going.
There are one horse towns, and there are one donkey towns.
This is a half… donkey… town. Yeah. That’s it.
If, by some unlucky chance, you’re looking for the motel in Marlborough, it’s at the pub, next to the general store. You can drive back out to the highway, if you want, and enquire at the caravan park, but they’re going to tell you that two kids will have to sleep on the floor, and the restaurant is going to be totally closed at 7:30 p.m. when you arrive at 7:32 p.m. So you’ll be headed back to the Marlborough Motel.
It sounds romantic, doesn’t it? Old-Western-y?
It sounds like there should be weather beaten men in cowboy hats at the bar, a half dressed bar-wench, country music blaring, a blue haze of Marlboro cigarette smoke, and double doors that swing both directions. It has everything but the doors.
The walls are covered in graffiti, but the restaurant is open until 8 p.m. and you’re only going to get slightly dirty looks from the cook for rocking up at 7:45 p.m. and ordering six full meals. The bar maid looks like she belongs in NYC instead of here: bleach blonde hair, black plastic rimmed glasses, red lipstick, a short couture dress that speaks to style she came by in Vogue magazine, not anything local. Her hugely gauged ears are out of place. Her arms are scarred from wrist to elbow. She keeps looking at the clock, and then at the door.
We waited for our meal and watched the youngest to bar patrons: Neither of whom could walk a straight line to the juke box: country song we did not know, followed by John C. Mellencamp, followed by “A whiskey for my man and a beer for my horse,” followed by “Old Time Rock & Roll,” followed by something reminiscent of “A tear in my beer….” Her teeth are lovely. All eight of them. She has two big roses and “Emma” tattooed on her shoulders; her shirt carefully chosen to frame the tatts in that extra classy style. Her man is stumbling and almost drooling. They sing along loudly. I smile and say, “You know, it’s really too bad they don’t have karaoke, you’d be great at it!” She takes this as encouragement and warbles as she sings. It’s a beautiful thing.
The kids read the graffiti on the walls. I wait for the questions. They do not come. We’re too tired.
Because I’m known for my eternal optimism, let me begin by listing the selling points:
- The food was not bad (although a bug did crawl out from under Ezra’s steak, he ate it anyway… the steak, not the bug)
- The showers were almost hot (and they came with free frogs, lizards and spiders)
- The sheets are clean
Those three positives aside, this is the WORST hotel we have EVER stayed in, and if you’ve been following along for a while, you have a little perspective on that.
- $50 a double room… times three, natch: $150 AUS
- The floors are painted down plywood and the walls are painted clapboard over 2×4… imagine a wall you’ve not quite finished yet but you’ve framed up.
- The shower and toilet rooms are shared… and truly frightening, open to the outside with see through windows, tin roof, free critters, as mentioned previously
- The floors in the bathrooms are an artistic tri-colour blend of peeling paint
- Above the rusty sink hangs a sign casually mentioning that you’ll be ejected if you wash dishes in the sink or the tub.
- There are dirty streaky hand prints on anything white.
- The six panel door leading somewhere undetermined from the back wall of our room is patched with plywood and has peeling paint.
- The smoke alarm is two wires hanging from a hole in the ceiling.
It’s like something out of a comedy movie of a road trip where the lead characters pull over because they’re out of options and get stuck in this totally creep-tastic hotel with a crazy lady who hasn’t seen real people in too many months. Or a horror movie where… well, we won’t think about that. I was quite shocked that the prices weren’t listed by the hour, to be frank. It’s that kind of jive.
So, here we are, on our adventure of a lifetime, having just ticked the Great Barrier Reef off of our epic bucket list, brought solidly back to the reality of open-ended family travel by the country music blaring from the bar room through the paper walls.
My one consolation is the half bottle of (really good) tawny port left from our winery tour of the Barrossa Valley that needs to be finished up tonight.
Which brings a Dave Matthews song to mind…. “S’cuse me please, one more drink… make it strong cuz I don’t wanna think…”