How Baktrax travel came into being and evolved: The early years. Part 1.

Wat ArunHi, my name is Alan C. Foster and this the incredible story of how travel can turn your life  in unknown directions through totally unpredictable and spontaneous events. No one could have possibly foretold that when i left Melbourne bus station with Europe in mind in February 1995  for a two year world trip that i would end up in S.E. Asia for the best part of the next 17 years.

I was born in the Melbourne suburb of Sunshine in 1954. I had my first birthday in the then small Victorian town of Yarrawonga. It was Yarra where i went to school and where things there influenced my early lifestyle. The 1960’s and then 70’s are what i now consider to be Australia’s golden age. What a fabulous era to be growing up in.  My entire world revolved around Yarrawonga for the next sixteen years and i have only the fondest memories of those years. Virtually no violent crime or theft meant dad could leave the keys in the ignition with the window down without a worry in the world. I call this the honest era also where neighbours were good friends and everybody knew everybody else.

I never achieved any academic greatness by only getting to and failing year eleven . Mum always said that if I spent as much time in the school books as I did in the form guide I’d be a genius. As always mums are usually right although to this day i am still working on being a genius in the form guide and will probably die trying.

Sport played a big part in our life also. We were given the opportunity to try most sports and from time to time i thought i would be a champion Aussie Rules footballer, golfer, cricketer and numerous other sports i took part in. I was a fair underage golfer who took it very seriously until one day  i was heading for my best score ever by six strokes when one bad shot on the last hole  saw me in a bunker that i never got out of until i threw the ball and club out by hand after numerous failed attempts. I never took golf seriously ever again and from then on played only socially  a few times a year. It was to be Aussie Rules football that i would get glory in. The legendary Yarrawonga under 16’s.  This was and  is still  the only Yarrawonga third eighteen team to win a premiership. 1969 or the 69er’s as we became known was possibly the best team of this age ever. At least in our minds. We are now all glad it wasn’t a year later because 70er’s isn’t as easy to say. White, Ramsdale and Foster on the wing is something i am still very proud of today. I had far less ability than most of the team but i wanted a kick  and my desire saw me get a few from time to time. But it was long before I turned ten that I was indoctrinated by dads best friend into becoming a North Melbourne fanatic. Dad was to slow otherwise i would have been a Tiger. But better that than to be brain washed like my younger brother Graeme into being an Essendon nutter. But it was to be North for me for life. A few years later the most influencial people were to enter my world and steer me in totally new directions. Also Richmond fans the Nicol boys arrived in town from Melbourne with their mum and doctor father. Being from the big city they were far more worldy than these country bumkins. At the age of ten they were experts on racehorses and trots just to begin. So it was at this age that i first attempted to pick winners. Five of us would put 20 cents in every saturday and try and get the most points. i still can’t remember who won but i don’t recollect it was me. But i became totally addicted to the punt at an early age. We always listened  to the Showgrounds trots on my little transistor six radio. Future Intangible with driver W.R. Davies became my first trotting hero’s. A few years later at the age of fouteen they introduced me to fags and booze also. I soon became addicted to cigarettes but the booze never totally got me. The only thing i reget in my life is smoking. I finally gave up fifteen tears later at the age of thirty. I now consider them one of mankinds most evil inventions. They made me sick at the time and may have caused a spontaneous event years later. I believe that if i hadn’t of given them up I probably wouldn’t be here today. After leaving school at seventeen i got my first job in the CBA bank. I was put on probation for six months as a batch clerk.  I may have cried when asked to resign months later after my batch rarely balanced but what if i had of been good at it. A banker for life maybe. Thankfully i was hopeless. This was in the days when banks charged no fees and if you put $100.00 in the bank and left it there for a year you would get $3.50 for doing so. As i said prior the golden age of Australia. Today if you put $100.00 in for a year there would only be $52.00 or less left.  No shareholders as such because everybody who was a customer was also a shareholder for free. No homeless people let alone children. No drugs apart from the fags. We seem to have gone backwards since the 70’s that’s for sure. After the bank i got a job in Melbourne, so after being voted the most unlikely to leave home i went to Melbourne with $20.00 in my pocket that dad gave me to start a new life. This job was for $30.00 a week as a car spare parts stock picker at long closed down LAPCO.  Although i enjoyed it with long liquid lunch Fridays and good work mates i was just going through the motions. I got promoted to despatch clerk for the last two years but after nine years i decided to move to Reg Hunts Holden dealership as spare parts despatch clerk and all round fill in at King st. I had finally got my driving licence a year before so was sent out on deliveries at Hunts. I loved the freedom of being outside so jumped at every opportunity to fill in for other drivers. I soon learnt my way around Melbourne as I delivered in all directions. I had a friend at LAPCO who would become an owner driver with Blue Circle couriers. After a year he was so sucessful that i decided to give it a go also as I was not getting anywhere financially. So I brought a Ford Econovan and my fisrt pay packet was more than double my last one at Hunts. How long has this been going on I thought? So for the next five years i did nothing but work up to 70 hours a week from Monday to Friday and then drive to either Arden st or Flemington followed by Moonee Valley on Saturdays. I also made time to keep fit   by running around Albert Park lake or the Tan a few days a week. So life was pretty good i thought. Big pay packet and footy and horses were my passion after work. Baktrax was still science fiction stuff. And although i always looked at girls and sometimes wished,  i never ever craved wife and kids in the suburbs. I loved life the way it was.  I had good friends (or so i thought) and workmates and for the first time money was not a worry. Footy and the punt was all that mattered in life. Thailand and Cambodia didn’t even exist as yet. After five years i was offered a job as an air freight courier with Qantas in what is today Australian Air Express (AAE). Like call the others i jumped at the chance thinking among the other benefits would be free or cheap flights. I always had lingering doubts about leaving Blue Circle as these were my happiest days. In hindsight i should have listened to my inner feelings. Thankfully fate would end up prevailing.  I also had two well travelled friends. Over a glass of red i would listen to their tales of travel around the globe. This was my first introduction to travel and gradually i became hooked on the idea of it. An idea i had never considered until my late thirty’s. Thankfully i never looked back.

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