Travel trip #1. Always sit at the bar.

“I’ll have a scotch and coke, thanks. And a story.”

People who sit at the bar after ordering their drink or meal are either locals or travellers who are up for a chat. Both are a source of information, adventure, amusement or frustration.

I met the owner of the Tatts Hotel in Winton 18 months ago when I sat at his bar. Three strangers, also bar-sitting travellers, and the boss ended up having a rather large night.

Paul immediately recognised me on my return this week. He’s lost 12 kilos since I last saw him so he wasn’t as familiar to me. He quickly sidled up to me and the chatting began, right where we left off. About 60, he’s the best publican I’ve ever met – he’s a ‘people man’. The pub’s steaks are easily the best pub steaks in the country, his staff the most efficient, the pub is character-filled, and his friendly, welcoming ways earns every repeat customer he gets. And there are a lot of them. Myself included.

He buried his wife, aged 56, just a couple of years ago. Always an active, smart, worldly chap, he continues to travel and pursue his hard core extreme interests, dodgy knees ‘n all.

Paul’s just returned from a caving expedition in Borneo. He didn’t see daylight for three days. He, his guide, and two others climbed and abseiled within a series of 55 metre high caves lined with bats and with a carpet of cockroaches. His enclosed suit fended off the shit of thousands and thousands of bats, his pack held everything he needed for three days, including port. You see, he was tethered from the cave ceiling to sleep. (The cockroaches make it impossible to sleep at the bottom of a cave.) After making a rope cradle for a bed and, without any cushioning or pillow, the port would help him sleep.

Knowing Paul would not let his screwed knees stop his adventurous endeavours, a young, innovative sports doctor worked with his stubborn client to ensure he’d make the trip. A weight loss program and controversial platelet injections directly into knee did the trick.

A similar regime (but increased six-fold) will be in place next year when he tackles Borneo’s most difficult and highest peaks and, after that, Galapagos.

Not bad for an ol’ western Queensland publican, eh?

Put the Tattersalls Hotel in Winton on your bucket list. Order a steak (medium rare) and make sure you sit at the bar because that’s were the stories are. image

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