An Extraordinary Encounter While Exploring Mackay Australia


As I walked through the doors of this older building that was now a restaurant and karaoke bar, the ex-nun I was with, who was in costume as a streetwalker, introduced me to everyone at the tables where we would be sitting. As the introductions ensued, she came to a man who appeared to be in his late twenties to early thirties. She introduced him as the head chef. As our eyes met I could tell immediately, that my presence made him pretty nervous. He was noticeably uncomfortable, and his impression of me made him a bit flustered. I decided in that instant, I was going to sit right next to him. His name was Mick, a nickname for Michael in Australia, and I noticed that even sitting, he appeared to be quite a large guy.

As the night went on, he hardly said two words to me. I asked him a couple questions and got short, simple answers in return; I guessed he was a man of few words, or at least with me. He was up and down from the bar to our table, sometimes talking with those he knew, and he even got up a few times to sing karaoke. As he gave it his all and belted out Mustang Sally, everyone got up and danced, including me. With his six foot five, strong athletic frame and medium brown hair, he had a considerable presence and didn’t appear to shy away from attention. However, in the next moment, he’d sit back down towards the back of the room a bit removed from everyone else and exuded a more mellow, relaxed presence.  When he spoke had a strong Australian accent and it was abundantly obvious from his rough, rugged exterior, he was very country.  After a few hours, I said goodnight to everyone, and left with the neighbor who brought me.

A couple days later I joined my neighbor for a beach walk and, out of the blue, she casually mentioned Mick knew I wanted to explore Queensland. She advised me it wasn’t the safest to do on my own, so it may be wiser to allow him to show me around a bit. She gave me his number and asked me to give him a call. That evening I decided to give him a quick call before I started to make dinner. I figured it would only take a minute. After all, he hardly had anything to say when we met. He kept me on the phone for an hour, and asked me a million questions! Amongst the million questions, he asked me what kind of things I liked to do and what I wanted to see. We decided he would pick me up at around three in the afternoon the next day, after he got off work. It was quite convenient that he worked an early shift and was off by two in the afternoon.

The next day he showed up in a giant ute, a truck with a flatbed on the back, a popular vehicle in Australia. We went to a lookout with a beach down below, and after exploring the beach we grabbed dinner on the pier. I remember looking at him, as he was inspecting some rocks up at the lookout, and asking myself if I could possibly be attracted to him. I quickly dismissed it and thought nope, he was a nice guy, but not for me. He appeared much too “from the outback”, rough around the edges for me, and I just didn’t feel an attraction. I had a quick, piercing but fleeting thought, “He is your husband’. It jarred me. I quickly silently laughed at myself and thought,” Shut up Melanie, no way! You’re losing it. Oh man, I’ve been traveling solo for so long I’m now hearing things.” I brushed it off and quickly and determined I was thankful for the friendship and the company, but that’s where it ended. As he dropped me off that evening he asked what I wanted to see tomorrow. “Oh, we’re doing something else tomorrow?” I said a bit caught off guard. We quickly planned another adventure for the next afternoon. From then on, he showed up, every day, to pick me up and take me somewhere new.  Every day, he showed up. A few nights in, he offered to make me dinner, crispy skinned salmon with baked crunchy potatoes, chipotle dill aioli, and Thai citrus salad. That’s when the attraction began. It wasn’t just good; it was divine.

We went into the bush to hike in Eungella National Park, and swim in its cold waterfall to escape the hot, scorching sun. We surveyed for platypus and fresh water crocodiles. We drove further north to Cape Hillsboro for more beautiful hikes and views, while also able to enjoy crocodile free beaches with kangaroos and wallabies bouncing around everywhere.

While coming to The Leap, a giant hike-able cliff, he told me the story of The Leap Massacre. In the 1800s Australian “police” were known to capture and sometimes murder Aboriginals. While being pursued, an Aboriginal mother, holding her baby, ran up The Leap, a cliff dropping hundreds of feet below, to escape. Holding her baby, she jumped. Story has it that her baby survived and grew up to marry, have children, and she lived a long life.

Mick took me too his family’s property for an Australian barbeque. We spent every day together during my time in this part of Australia, and we were able to explore so much of the area. I was at a crossroads of needing to find a job in the U.S. and spending more time here. With a bit of help from Mick’s persuasion, I decided to extend my stay a couple weeks and he helped to put me up in a beautiful hotel overlooking the beach.

My time in Australia was winding down and I began planning my way back to the states, when I got a phone call from a friend whom I hadn’t spoken too in a couple years. She worked for an online resort travel company, and they needed a new content director. She had read my blog and forwarded it to her boss. After a couple phone calls and negotiations, I landed my new job as a content director and could work remotely. The timing was, well, it was miraculous. I would be starting in three weeks. Training would be in Noosa, Queensland just north of Brisbane, so I’d be flying out soon. My long-term visa was for New Zealand so that’s where I’d be based once training was complete.

On the second to the last evening in this part of Australia, we decided to have dinner out with Mick’s family. As we sat in the parking lot of the local pub, winding up the windows of his old ute. I turned to him and hesitantly asked him, “So, what are we? What are we doing? I mean, I’m leaving in two days, and I don’t have a plan to come back.” His immediate reply was “We’re together.” And then there was an awkward pause. I was so uncomfortable asking but I needed to know. I continued, “Okay, but… if we’re together then what’s the plan? I mean, I won’t be here. What’s the point of doing long distance if there’s no plan to be together in the future? We’re not even going to be in the same country. What are your thinking about all this?” He sat there listening to me and I uncomfortably shifted in my seat as I got to the cringe-worthy part of the question I needed an answer too. “If we stayed together long distance…do you see this as like possibly leading to marriage or…” I loathed that I even asked that but with me about to leave the country I needed finality, a simple yes or no.

“Yes, I definitely see that happening.” He said without hesitation. “Okay, so we’re just going to date long distance a while and see how it goes.” I say as I’m wrapping my head around how in the world this would even logistically work. “Like how long are you comfortable dating long distance?” I asked before really thinking about what was coming out of my mouth. “I don’t know, like two years?” “Two years?! I’m not only dating you, and be in a long-distance relationship, for two whole years!” I immediately replied. “Well I don’t know! I’d marry you tomorrow! I just thought that’s what you’d want!” We both just sat there shocked, and in complete disbelief of the direction this conversation turned and what was just said. “Well… definitely not tomorrow, but… Okay everyone is waiting for us inside so let’s stop talking about this. And let’s not bring this up to anyone that we even talked about getting married yet.” I quietly said a bit shaken by this entire talk. “Okay.” he agreed.

We walked inside and sat down with his whole family. Mick, his brother, his mom, and his brother’s girlfriend went up to the bar to get drinks for the table. When they came back, the mood had changed and they all were trying to hide their smiles. Mick sat down next to me and I had a feeling he’d said something. I whispered to him reminding him that I we agreed not to tell them anything. He responded, “I didn’t tell them we ARE getting married. I told them we MIGHT get married.” I had no words.

Two days later I was on a plane to Brisbane to train for my new job, and then on a flight back to New Zealand. We kept in contact daily. Two months later he flew over to New Zealand to visit. We ventured around the north island a bit while I worked remotely, and he proposed while we were on a picnic near a small waterfall. Three months after that we got married in Hawaii.



On the Brink of a Life-changing Event as I Explore the Great Barrier Reef and the World-Famous Whitehaven Beach


“As I saw you through the large windows, walking towards the door from across the road, all I could think was… Wow… I just couldn’t believe how beautiful you were.”

Following the path organically unfolding before me, I was on my next flight. After a quick stay back up in Sydney, I hopped further north, taking flights to Brisbane then Mackay, a smaller city in northern Queensland. From there I was picked up by the sweet older couple I would be housesitting for in the cutest home for the next several weeks, just two blocks from a beautiful beach in Shoal Point. Their home was a gorgeous tropical garden complete with wild exotic birds coming and going freely, and the semi frequent appearance from quite large, sometimes lethal snakes. It was once again a peace-filled escape. And, as money was dwindling, it was now time for me to contemplate making my way back to America to make a living.

This was not at all what my heart desired, and not at all the way I thought this journey would end, but it was time for me to be sensible and realize I hadn’t landed an overseas job that would keep me going. Decent online jobs were few and far between. With disappointment penetrating my heart, I made a few phone calls to friends to discuss and get feedback on the options that lay before me. I reluctantly agreed that it seemed it was time to begin applying for jobs in that states… but, the phrase “keep writing” continued to pursue the overtaking of my thoughts.

Shoal Point, with its huge tides, hot coastal weather, and endless sugar cane fields, has deceitfully alluring beaches that would appeal to any living soul, surviving in the heat of the sun, to take a dip. Many of these beautiful beaches are also home to salt water crocodiles waiting to stalk their next meal, and the infamous box jellyfish. It is an intoxicatingly beautiful landscape hiding an array of deadly creatures both on its land and in its sea.

I was determined to explore it all so I hired a boat and jetted out to the Great Barrier Reef. With my fins in hand and full protective wetsuit suit on, I dove in and it was pure magic. Swimming into the depths along a sea trench, it quickly got so dark I could barely see what was in front of me. A bit of fear sunk in and I quickly decided it only made sense to stay shallow enough so I could see the beauty around me. Encircled in various coral, mollusks, giant sea turtles, and a variety of colorful fish, I was in my element feeling grateful for this life. As I boated back to shore I asked around about a swimmable beach. I got in my car and drove to what appeared to be another secluded sandy beach cove.

As I walked along the shoreline, I was in deep thought and prayer. I noticed there weren’t many shells at all, mostly just driftwood pieces, rocks, and some very broken shell pieces. As I strolled, I wondered if I would ever have a partner in this life, someone to share these experiences with and grow with. Not really expecting an answer, in that moment, I half-heartedly asked God, that if I He did have that for me in the near future, that He would tell me now by giving me the biggest whole shell I have ever found on any beach in this world. I immediately got a flash of an image in my mind of a whole, light orange patterned, cone shell. I walked maybe 6 more feet and there it was. With no other whole shells around it, lay the largest, fully intact shell I have ever randomly come upon, and it happened to be a cone shell with a light orange pattern on it. I was in disbelief. I immediately went to the thought that this could be the craziest coincidence to happen to me; so, I asked again. I asked that if this wasn’t a coincidence that God show me by giving me another large, fully intact shell. And again, about ten more feet away there was another very large, fully intact shell. I walked the rest of the beach more than once and these were in fact, the only whole shells I ever found.

The next day a neighbor came over and introduced herself to me. She worked in a professional kitchen and had been a nun for 30 years prior. We went on a few short beach walks together as she told me stories of her past and what led her to become a nun. She invited me to a karaoke night her workplace was hosting at a local restaurant bar the coming Friday evening. I wasn’t quite sure about going, but she assured me it wasn’t just work people but their friends and families as well. I agreed.

My next expedition from this part of the world was to the Whitsunday Islands. This small cluster of tiny islands lies off the coast of Arlie Beach in North Eastern Australia, and these islands, are what heaven must look like. Home to the world-famous Whitehaven Beach, with the whitest and finest sand I’ve ever seen. Many of these beaches are secluded and appear untouched. These were by far the most beautiful, tranquil beaches I’ve ever seen, and I’ve seen many. With waters so clear and in places shallow enough I could walk to my own private sand bar to escape even the few who arrived on the boat with me. Australia has done an exceptional job of keeping these islands free from pollution and all the ramifications that occur when natural beauty is ravaged by allowance of human inhabitance. Very few of these islands allow for any type of dwelling or residence.

Back in Shoal Point I got ready to be picked up by my 62-year-old neighbor for my first night out, and what I consider a cringe-worthy event- karaoke. She called to warn me that she wanted to make all her coworkers laugh so she would be arriving in full costume, as a streetwalker. I couldn’t contain my laughter as she arrived in a bright red wig, fishnet stockings, bright blue eyeshadow, and sparkling pink lips. She swung her feather boa over her shoulders and she teetered to the door in sky-high platform sandals, a knee-length black dress with strands of pearls and bedazzled fake jewels draped around her neck. We pulled up across the street from an older building in the Mackay city center. On this warm summer evening I stepped out of the passenger side, in my casual, long, semi-fitted, navy t-shirt dress with thigh high slits on both sides. My long blonde hair was down, as it usually was, as I turned to face the building with the large windows, and I began walking across the road…


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