Two backpackers’ holiday of a lifetime down Australia’s stunning east coast has turned into the trip from hell after one ditched the other at a campsite and took off with their campervan.
British veterinary nurse Gemini Slater, 30, issued a post in a Facebook group last month seeking out a travel companion for her impending trip to Cairns.
Canadian tourist Jenna Henderson quickly responded to the offer and the pair arranged to meet in the Far North Queensland town, where they hired a campervan on October 31 to make their way down to Sydney.
But after two and a half weeks on the road, the relationship irretrievably broke down and Ms Slater left Ms Henderson – and her belongings – stranded at a Brisbane camping ground on Wednesday night.
‘I came back to the site with all my luggage tossed about,’ Ms Henderson wrote in a backpackers Facebook group, detailing the drama.
‘Now I am out of a ton of money, need to find accommodation and get to Sydney.
‘She mentioned looking for other travellers to join her for the ride. Be forewarned, she could take your money and run! Be careful who you ride share with!’
Jenna Henderson (pictured), a former communications officer, signed up to travel Australia’s east coast with another backpacker after answering an post online
The three week trip was meant to take the pair on a 2422km journey from Cairns in Far North Queensland down to Sydney
Ms Henderson said she was not listed on the initial contract for the van and had been transferring Ms Slater half of the funds, meaning she was unable to chase up her share of the deposit with the company.
However, the former communications officer said she was grateful she didn’t sign the papers because she would not be responsible for damage to the campervan’s roof, caused when Ms Slater drove under a low pass.
The post left social media users divided with some siding with Ms Henderson while others said they wanted to hear Ms Slater’s version of events before forming a judgement.
In response, Ms Henderson said the ‘story was simple’ and that Ms Slater ‘liked me for the first week and then started to make remarks and criticise me’.
‘She flat out stated “I wasn’t the ideal travel partner and she wished she could do it alone or with someone else”,’ she wrote in the comments.
‘I said okay give me my money back for the remainder of the campervan rental, which was about $400 and she could continue the trip her way – she didn’t like my suggestion, so I said we would stick together until Sydney,’ she said.
‘I went to grab dinner, was gone about 30 mins and she had left and checked out of the campsite we booked together (which I also lost another $50 from). Win win situation for her! Lose-lose for me.’
Ms Henderson said she had reported the incident to police and the car company but she would have to take her to court to collect any money – which was unachievable because Ms Slater had no fixed address to ‘serve her’ with papers.
British veterinary nurse Gemini Slater, 30, (pictured) admitted the decision was ‘unkind’ but said she felt ‘backed into a corner’
Ms Henderson and Ms Slater paid half of the costs for the campervan (pictured) but had a disagreement about the cost of damages to the vehicle
But speaking exclusively to Daily Mail Australia, Ms Slater gave a very different versions.
After connecting via her post, Ms Slater said the pair met up once in Melbourne, where they are both currently based, and arranged to meet when they arrived in Cairns.
She said they were initially going to both drive and be listed on the contract but they were only able to secure a last minute rental for the 2,422km trip – and, because the vehicle was a manual gearbox, only Ms Slater was able to drive.
‘She didn’t make any point of saying that she wanted to sign the contract,’ Ms Slater said.
‘I felt like I trusted her enough to sign for the camper, which in hindsight was a mistake.’
Ms Slater said Ms Henderson gave her half the cost of camper upfront – $1,250 – and they had been splitting the costs 50/50 throughout their journey.
The Brit said she quickly realised the pair had different travel styles, which was fine at first and they managed to continue on their trip – at some points staying at each other’s friends and relatives home together up north.
She said her travel companion was not as clean as she could have been, did not want to cook and eat meals together, and would pull out of tours they booked together halfway through because she could not handle the heat.
Pictured: Damage to the vehicles roof after the pair travelled underneath a low pass
But tensions began to arise after two tour incidents highlighted the differences in their personalities and expectations.
In the first, Ms Slater said Ms Henderson dropped out of a Fraser Island tour to hang by the pool, before racing ahead of her on a second occasion while they were kayaking in Noosa, leaving the lesser experienced Briton on her own.
But when Ms Slater said she wanted the trip to be done together instead of seemingly operating as solo travellers, she says Ms Henderson took it as a ‘personal attack’ and became ‘vindictive and spiteful’.
‘I would drop her off at the mall to get her nails off, I had a day on my own, but when it comes to these experiences [like tours], I told her I may as well be doing it on my own, because I pretty much am,’ Ms Slater said.
‘Then she started getting paranoid that I would ditch her. I tried to reassure her I wouldn’t, but I didn’t realise how nasty it would get.’
After their second row, Ms Slater said Ms Henderson asked her to buy her out of the rental car if she wanted to travel alone, but she said she was unwilling because she did not sign up to covering the costs of the rest of the trip solo.
But the straw that broke the camel’s back came when Ms Slater scraped the car’s roof while driving and asked Ms Henderson to help cover the costs of DIY items to fix the damage.
‘She said, “Why should I have to, you crashed the van?” but she accepted this on the basis of me driving,’ Ms Slater said.
‘If you think it is 50/50 as a whole, it should be 50/50 as a risk. If she was driving, I would have had to pay as well. But she point blank refused to pay for anything because I was the driver.’
Ms Henderson (left) said she felt ‘betrayed’ and ‘scammed’ after being left stranded at the campsite
From that point on, Ms Slater said the trip turned into a nightmare, with three days of silence as they drove and Ms Henderson, scared of being abandoned, following her everywhere and demanding she hand over the keys when she left the vehicle.
During one disagreement, Ms Slater claimed she snapped after Ms Henderson threatened that if she left her she would send the hire car company pictures of the damages so they would take more money off her.
‘I didn’t want to stay in a vehicle with someone who is blackmailing me. So she went out for a meal, I saw the opportunity and I took it,’ Ms Slater said.
Ms Slater said she unloaded Ms Henderson’s belongings at the campsite, parked the campervan in a street around the corner, then went to check out at reception.
When Ms Henderson arrived back, she confronted her demanding to know where the van was. Ms Slater told her she had a choice – either follow her to find out where the vehicle was or leave her belongings unattended at the campsite.
While she admitted it was an ‘unkind decision’ to leave, Ms Slater said she has been happier ever since she did.
‘She was a squatter in my campervan who wasn’t meeting my expectations – neither of us were meeting each other’s expectations – but she had lied or misinformed me about what she wanted from the trip,’ she said.
Ms Slater said the three days the rift was at its worst felt like ‘the longest in my life’
‘I am not evil, but I think when someone is pushed to make no alternative choice, I am backed into a corner, what am I going to do?’
Ms Slater, who was tagged in the post by a social media user to give her side of the story, said she was blocked from the group before she had the chance to write back.
She said she also checked prior to ditching Ms Henderson that there was available accommodation in the area and she knew she had the means to make alternative arrangements.
But Ms Henderson said Ms Slater seemed more than willing to be the only one driving and that was the reason she didn’t sign the registration papers.
‘[When] we got there and found out our van was manual, I said you’ll have to be ok with driving the whole way,’ Ms Henderson said.
‘She said she gets car sick anyways so was okay with it. I asked her if she was CERTAIN. I knew it was going to be many hours of driving she agreed. So she signed the paperwork.’
Ms Henderson said Ms Slater ‘guilt tripped’ her and ‘made me feel awful’ because she chose ‘not to go on a tour with her once’ and instead stay by the pool.
She said until that point she had done ‘everything’ Ms Slater had wanted and their itinerary was entirely devised by her.
Ms Henderson is pictured walking along a beach in Far North Queensland during the disastrous road trip
‘I felt I was being accommodating, flexible and understanding… then when I just want time to relax or to myself I am immediately not her type of travel partner. That put a lot of pressure on me,’ she said.
Ms Henderson said Ms Slater became more agitated and rude after she booked her own travel to return from Sydney to Melbourne, calling her ‘rude’ and ‘lazy’ and ‘getting mad at me for washing my dishes and not doing hers too’.
The Canadian said she decided not to kayak next to her in Noosa because Ms Slater did not like her anymore so she did not want to engage with her more than was necessary.
After Ms Slater said she wished she had left her behind, Ms Henderson said she became frantic and on edge as her trust in the driver had completely vanished.
‘I offered her an option to pay me the rest of the van trip and I’d leave,’ she said. ‘She said that wasn’t happening. So I said she’s stuck with me till Sydney then.
‘Then she outright tells me one morning that she wishes she would have ditched me.
‘And she did take off and I caught her in the act.
‘Ultimately I feel scammed, betrayed and abandoned. I didn’t think anyone would actually do that to someone.’