By Tom Clynes
Warm beer won’t win you any friends up here, mate. Trucker Garry White’s Australian torture trek fuels the fridge.
Authors note: I stumbled onto this fun story on my first visit to Oz. It’s still one of my favorite pieces, and I often feature it in my keynote talks.
Hidden under the rainforest canopy at the top of Australia’s Cape York Peninsula, Pajinka Wilderness Lodge is a tropical retreat for wildlife lovers, bird watchers and fishermen. The lodge lies just short of the northernmost point in Australia, at the tip of a slender green finger that stretches up from the wide brown continent toward New Guinea. Locals call this spot simply The Top.
After a day in the sun deep-sea fishing with Pajinka’s manager, Alan Geary, a few guests cooled off at the lodge’s outdoor bar. Someone brought over a round of XXXX (Queensland’s home-brewed beer, pronounced “Four-X”) and asked Alan a question of essential interest:
In a place where the temperature rarely dips below 90 degrees, a place far too remote for electrical lines, how is it that the beer at Pajinka is always cold?
Alan answered with a tropical syllogism. For good conversation, he said, you need cold beer. To get cold beer, you need electricity. To get electricity, you need fuel for the generator. To get fuel to The Top…you need Garry White.
Three times a year, Alan told us, “this bloke Garry” pulls his full-size tractor-trailer rig out of Cairns and heads up the peninsula to the fuel depot at Weipa. There, he fills the tanker with diesel for the cattle stations and aboriginal settlements in the distant north, and for Pajinka. The 1,500-mile round trip—not a single foot of it on paved roads—takes him through the continent’s most inaccessible wilderness. He has to plow through jungle rivers, chain-saw through downed trees and shovel his way out of truck-gobbling mud holes. Every time he stops to change a flat tire or replace an axle, he’s bait for leeches, wild boars, taipans and giant crocs.
“It’s a well-known fact,” said Alan, “that he is the world’s toughest trucker.”
Author, photojournalist and National Geographic photographer speaker Tom Clynes travels the world covering the adventurous sides of science, the environment, education, and archaeology. His work appears in National Geographic, The New York Times, Nature, Popular Science, The Atlantic, and other publications. As a keynote speaker, Tom works with organizations that want to catalyze creativity and engagement at their events, inspiring audiences and bringing them along on assignment to some of the world’s most intriguing places. To contact Tom and discover more about his memorable and inspiring programs, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.