As a member of the global traveler accommodation online community CouchSurfing, I am often constantly seeking beds and other places to lay my head as I travel. Normally, with an internet connection, I’m able to ask online, and potential hosts can respond online. Within days – or even hours, I’ve usually arranged a stop-over place when it’s needed.
But this time was rather peculiar. I’d made contact with a travelling man in Australia’s Northern Territory, where I knew I’d pass one day. He was happy to receive me, and all I had was his mobile phone number as I approached the remote outback town. I called from a payphone to notify my host I was on the way, but got his answer service only. My 2nd call also ended in a voice message, and so did the 3rd.
Then I got a lift in a road train – those 53-metre long trucks Australia is famous for. I called my host on the driver’s cellphone, but without success. Next, a text reply arrived, giving me some info. I called back but there was no reception. The host texted again, and so the phone-and-text conversation continued, as the road train lumbered along at 100km/h, pulling 65 tons across a desert nation nearly the size of the continental USA.
We past patches of no cellphone reception, weak reception and spots of satisfactory reception. Bit by bit, I got directions from my host who was away on business 3,000 km to the south-east. The huge truck dragged to a halt in the burned woodland, dropped me off, and I was able to follow the texted directions to a vacant house on a drought-stricken farm, where I bedded down for the night in high humidity.
The truck driver had pointed out the isolated radio masts spaced many kilometres apart across the monotonous landscape. I knew it had been thanks to these that I’d been able to arrange a place to stay for the night in such an unusual way.