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Marvellous Malaysia

Enough equal experiences everyday elicited eager to erratic events. The honking and heavy traffic had held me hostage. When a city not even considerable had been too much, I knew it was time. A break within a break, a journey during a journey. Journception. Without much of a plan and zero intention of taking public transport I commenced the journey through Perak, breaking out of the newly obtained routine. Departing from Ipoh, where I had gotten to know new friends and a celebrity at the brink of a scandal, I had gathered that the direction would be full of sights and away from the tourists. That had been clear, when school was over in Lenggong and children paused to point at me. A quaint town it was. A town where I had taken a bite of the wrong green spicy ‘vegetable’. Due to similar incidents, all the honour going to Asia, I have trust-issues with any vegetable including a rice dish. Thank you very much. Luckily, a third degree burn on the tongue, was not all that the getaway – from a getaway – would bring me. Thus, excited I had gone with the wind and marched out of the town. Within the half of an hour, an irascible man had scolded me as he scurried by. He had insisted on giving me his two cent’s on the matter and chose that I could not go hitchhiking. Too dangerous! Friendly, I had dismissed and continued. Amid the monsoon season, it was bound to be a soaking trip.


A first night had been spent at a motel of mediocrity, swimming in a bath of bugs that had me run an all-nighter.  The drive there was spent on the backseat of a family of three. I sat beside the son. Young of age, his prowess involved three a ball and pins. This dexterous bowler, achieving medals and trophies throughout the country will indubitably entice many with his incredible skills. Rain had poured down upon the town the moment I arrived. When exiting the vehicle, the father had gifted me with an old, yellow and blue fisher’s hat. Without intentions to parade said hat, I accepted it with a smile. Hastily I scurried over the puddles and made my way to what appeared to be an affordable motel. A man with a belly eclipsing the sight of his shrimp occupied the reception. Gawking with a nasty grimace at my passport, remarks and questions regarding my lonesome trip followed. “Why, ehm.. thank you. Yes, I am alone. Indeed. No, I am not looking for a lady. No, I am not lonely either.” Not that I swing that way. Apparently, such was not obvious enough, as he forced his bulging belly up from the poor, squashed chair to guide me to my room. I bolted inside to avoid the thought stuck in his head from spilling out and locked the wooden door before any further exchange of words. Then I let out a sigh. A smell of old flowed through the thick, stale air. There stood an antique closet in the corner near the door. I assumed that once it filled a purpose other than to collect dust. As I glanced down at the bed, a rug with purpose of a blanket covered the sheets. The whole room seemed to be from yore. It had not been the old-fashioned that had bugged me. The actual bugs did. I let the backpack slide off my shoulders and thunk down on the floor. Bedraggled as I was, I made myself ready for a wash.

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Parading the hat I said I would not parade.

The rain had continued unabated, nonetheless I absconded for a stroll. I was in a small town that had a shockingly large amount of phone-shops. They were like food stands at a festival. As if one would buy a handy as oft as a loaf of bread. Speaking of bread, I craved a meal and a cold one to wash it down. Oddly, such was not easily found in the centre, however in alleys and markets a tad further. A lovely, little bar, hidden away in an alley. The lady behind the counter poured me a tall glass. And another. Moments after the Chinese had begun their drunk karaoke, I called it a night to lay with the many bugs awaiting my return.


Come dawn, I did not linger long. I noticed that here was already a leap from the tourist-trail as eyes followed me as I went. Malaysians do such in style. A broad, dazzling smile painted on their lovely faces. A welcoming feeling is guaranteed. Contagiously, I marched on carrying a comfortable grin – and a flea-circus on my back – towards a small place named Tasik Raban. The centre existed out of a market with roughly eight restaurants – Malaysians love their food – and occasionally stands with the freshest fish, juices and other Malay treats. A giant lake surrounded the square with houses scattered around. The town must have been a mere few hundred people. A bike rental gave me the opportunity to remain there for the night. I opted for my hammock swinging on his porch. A covered porch with a view of the lake, mind you. For a 20 RM a night, I took the offer of the daffy fisherman with eager.


However, feeling at peace in a place so serene that even the fleas had left to unwind on their own time, a night could not be enough. I sat at the end of the pier, staring out over the calm water, following the movement of tiny ripples encroaching land. Silence, but the sound of a few conversing. There is a beauty within not knowing the language. Not understanding the sentences formed, I remained observant of the ripples without being distracted. Counting the thin lines elongating its circle until it slowly turns into nought. A deep breath of the air. Unpolluted. The man who always laughed, the owner of the fishing supplies/bike and boat rentals/hostel/camping and touristic activities was planning on taking me out on the water in his corroded boat. He had a wrinkly face, the type that had endured time in the sun. With that came a calm smile that seemed permanent, from time to time interrupted by a chuckle or a burst of laughter. The lake wasn’t the duplicate lakes you tend to see. Plain round. No, most certainly not, there was even the slight possibility to get lost, with all the hooks, curves, twists and land involved. At dark. Without sense of direction. Knowing me and Prague, it might as well be me. Either way, the lake was of size. The Malay man wanted to introduce me to his fishes. Tens of thousands to be a tad more precise. Feeding them was like viewing the comment section of that model posting a new photo. Or the moment another tweet goes online from a certain president. Hungry, they all swarm trying to get a bite. With the floods in the area, he had wanted to assure that his precious fish were all still there. After all, for him it meant bread, or well fish, on the table. On our way back, the sun had gone under and stars painted the black canvas that was above. A magnificent portrait. It was that moment, with my mind clear of sound that I decided I would return had I finished my bit of exploring Perak to remain dangling in my hammock.

And so I did. I had seen the sights and towns I desired to view, and thereby had gotten to know the wonderful country a bit more. A few misses however, as the archaeological museum holding the famous ‘Perak man’ had been closed. The ‘Perak man’ is the skeletal remains of what they believe to be a man who lived 11.000 years ago. Being the oldest human skeleton on the peninsular, it was quite the found a few kilometres North of the town Lenggong. Alas, it was not all. The Royal Belum State park had been a slight reach out of my budget at the time. There was no time for moping however. There were waterfalls to chase and bargain meals to be cherished (delicious nasi goreng ayam and fresh juice for 8 RM and Roti Canai with curry for breakfast). Give me a couple more days…

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At Temmengor lake.

 

Categories
Cycling and Hitchhiking (2016)

Exploring the vast Ukraine on my way to Kiev

Sharing a ride with three generations, one screaming in the back everlasting, we are heading to the small village Bortnyky. Speed was not with us, as domestic animals and wild geese roamed the streets. That, and at every turn the baby in the back let out screams of horror, at which the young mother stopped at once to suckle. So there I sat, waiting for the babe to be done sucking as a gaggle of geese approached. The gaggle scattered, as if to surround the car. A mean eye was shot at me, threatening my existence. Then young one burped, seeming satisfied and let go of the teat to return to the loving arms of grandma. Right after, the driver took off, leaving the evil, waggling creatures in dust.

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The Wrong Neighbourhood!

The sun was already going down and darkness began filling the village. Exiting the local shop – to which a lady had haughtily pointed, knowing just enough German to be of help – a drunk man pauses before me. He smiles, shakes my hand and continues. Bedazzled, I finish my snack and walk down the road. To the worker’s dormitory. They had welcomed me, leading me in a fast pace to one of the rooms. Entering, I count about seven beds, of which two seemed unused. Staring out the window, the sun sets before my eyes. Adding layers of colour to the sky. While unpacking, one of the workers walks in with a hot meal. A plate filled with mashed potatoes and meat. Once the hunger was stilled, I went for a shower. Outside in the warm, fresh air. Cold water pouring from a tank over my sore body. Refreshening. A sigh, as I turn off the water and dry up. The bunch of us shared a bunch of clear drinks meant to haze the minds before returning to the rooms.


After a long day of waiting one minute’s, sipping tea, listening to quacking truckers and pushing through the unbearable heat, I had crashed and collapsed in a stranger’s field, crawled up in my tent. Crying for a shower, I lay amidst the vegetables on a small stroke of green. Too exhausted to care. For a minute my mind had paused at the motel a few back. For some reason, after a few glances at the building and the folks stumbling about, the veggie garden seemed more comfortable and clean. And safe. An early rise and departure had made for no attention. As I left the beloved garden, I had no destination yet. Luckily, my next ride, the man with the fedora, would help me with that. Chotyn. A must visit! He had told me as he dropped me in the next city.

Wandering around, I didn’t want to lose my way. Therefore I asked the first I came upon reaching the end of market collection. A small gal, one hand twisted around her bike and with the other fiddling on her phone. She had an impudent and wild look. As I explained, all her attention diverted to me. The family stood a few meters away and pitched in on the translations. Once understood, she was headstrong of getting me to the other side of the city and onto a bus. She did so with long strides, rushing over the long central street. Busy, with people around, I hurried after her. My legs were burning and my head grew weary from the heat, yet I pushed to keep up with her. At the bus stop I explained that public transportation was not necessary. Dismissing, she continued. Ukrainian style, she brayed to get the attention of one the chauffeurs. As they bickered I watched a stray dog attempting to cross the road. With tail behind his legs he returned after a loud honk. Another attempt. Then the girl shouted at me, gesturing I come to her. Before either said a word, she pushed me in the bus. My hand reached hers for a goodbye and gratitude shake, however she rebuffed and slapped my hand instead. A sly grin appeared on her face. The bus came into motion, a bus full with all eyes on me. I felt them burn in my back. Or was that the sunburn? 


A low, modified car, with a NASCAR-look pulled over. The door swung open and a skinny lad popped his out. He gestured me to get in, showing little to no emotion. Without change of words, I climbed into the death machine. Who knows why I got in. Not for the security of my life, that’s certain. The entire piece of metal only had one chair. My seating was solid, making the ride less than pleasant. I saw no seatbelts, although that was no news here. The young lad rammed his foot on the gas pedal and raced over the potholes that were the road. Every tear, bump and pothole went through my body, pushing and shoving me around. Flying through corners with sharp turns there was nothing to hold on to, nothing to clutch with my hands groping the interior of the vehicle. Using my feet, I pushed myself to one side to stay somewhat stable. But it was not until I saw the racing maniac start doing the cross sign and heard inaudible mumbling that I began to lose my shit. It was not literal when they said let Jesus take the wheel!!! Again he did so. Confused I sat, cramped in the back. Yet again. It was then, that I noticed this action came with every church we passed. Slightly relieved, I endured the bumpy and shaky ride from the silent man. My guess estimated me a day from the castle.

 

Categories
Cycling and Hitchhiking (2016) Personal Favourites

Lost and lonely in Lviv

A rose, blossomed and pure, dazzling in the sunlight. A soft, bright red colour. It’s foliage curling at the end. The flower twirled up, captivating any viewers. Even at the most demurest days, it shines beauty. However today its shine had weakened. It was a weekday somewhere in July and I had felt the rose’s thorn. Poisoned by a thorn tipped with melancholy. Starving and sleep-deprived I meandered the alleys of Lviv, in search of a local place serving food at this hour. It had just dawned, yet I was determined to leave that apartment with the first sounds. The yellow letter M shone and guided me inside, their doors opened even before the bakery had. In repugnance I chewed away a small, dry pancake and a white, mushy substance that had to go for oatmeal. My stomach growled, unsatisfied. My head jammed forward and a sudden shook back up. With long days in this Ukrainian heat, I need my sleep. A thing I had not been gifted with that night. A near hour passed before I moved. I pushed my chair back and left.

Rose
Kiev, July 2016

Truth be told, Lviv is a stunning city. With less than 800.000 inhabitants, it’s a welcoming place for tourists. Their wallets that is, as the ATM had charged me a buck simply for checking the ridiculous valuta change it offered. Reluctantly, I accepted the deal that reminded me of Prague. Needing to take my mind off of last night, I started to wander. Markets came in abundance. A trail of stands moving through the city, following turns and steps. For a moment I felt in a maze. Lost amidst the crowd, surrounded by racks of clothes. A sea of talks with Ukrainian words. I pushed myself past the shops, past the stands and past the people. The further I went, the less there were. My flip-flops drummed with every step I took. I just kept walking. Hour after hour as I tried to escape the chaos of noise. I had gone through the streets, over the hill, past the track and following the road, until it was only me. Sauntering in the warm air. The sky tore open and rain began pouring down. Of the few passing cars, none stopped, nor did I want them to. Solitude and silence is what I begged. Rest what I needed. Exhaustion was pulling at my eyelids. Awake for too long. The sun began to drown. A sigh left my breath as I shifted my backpack. Heavy, it pulled at my shoulders. I told myself I needed to keep moving. I shot into a small alley, where barking dogs guarded the area. Agitated I continued as fierce dogs kept snapping at me. For another hour or so, when houses came scattered and a field lay before me. With a hazed mind, I hid my tent behind a bush and crawled inside. Anxious and exhausted my aching body dropped down. Only a fool trusts a nettle. Yet, a rose, a flower so enchanting, hides the thorns laying behind her beauty. So what can be trusted?

Categories
Cycling and Hitchhiking (2016)

A confusing ride to Zemplinska Sirava

The most beautiful church of Europe… With sincerity he had spoken, yet I stood reproached. The most beautiful church.. of Europe?? I wouldn’t mind a chat with the judge who decided this small town deserved to earn such a plaque. Without much lingering I had departed, as the ambiance within the Holy House did not feel all that comfortable. They welcomed me, yet as a man without faith their smiles felt strained. My thumb back up, defying Isaac’s theory, I awaited my upcoming ride.

Jozef. I remember him well. His face was drawn and he wore a serious look in his eyes. Not great in English, most conversations were lost in the thin, stale air within the four doors. Short hair covered his head. I guessed him about the age of my father. A silence began as we rode through Slovakia, with surroundings to occupy the wandering eyes. Up high stood a castle.  Kapitula. A smile appeared on his tired face. Then his words cut through the dead air. Jozef started asking questions. However his words did not meet an answer. I merely nodded in endorsement to avoid embarrassment, awkward as I am. I knew he had offered something, although no clue what.

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Soon we arrived at his house, occupied by his mother. He was forced to return after a paper titled ‘divorce‘ landed on his seat. Wait”. My feet paced towards the pavement, where I gazed to my left. To my right. A simple town to the left. Slums to the right. My eyes watched all the people walk by. People close and people far away. Mothers with children, groups of teenagers and a guy watching back, staring with contempt or revulsion. Something, but no affection. His eyes had met mine and seemed locked. A few seconds. Strange I felt. Then a shiver went down my spine and I disregarded the distasteful eye contact to return to the sound of the gate opening. Jozef returned, giving his dogs, true guarding hounds, a loving pet. They became the topic for following minutes as I wondered where we headed. Mayhap to drop me off at a spot to continue.Nope. His brothers house. Although not for long, as a minute later we depart. Where the heck are we going?!

Zemplinska Sirava, a must visit, beautiful, fun town. That’s what I was told as we stood on its beach. Jozef showed me all the bars and restaurants on the strip. The shops, the games and shower/restroom. His nod directed to a passing lady. He then pointed to the cabins one could rent. To the beach where one could use a tent. I figured these suggestions for a sleeping place, the ending of the lift. But no, back into the car. As I said my goodbye to the town that seemed lovely, he took a sharp right. Some houses in this small quarter. Big houses. In front of one he pulled over, pushed the brake and got out. More than slightly confused I followed him on the tour of the house. Three floors. A place forgotten. One floor to be used by me, with kitchen, bathroom and sleeping room. All be the water cold, the furnace worked, a kettle was present and the bed was soft. Back outside, Jozef left the keys in my hand to thereafter jump in his car and exit the driveway. Two nights. A weekend. That’s what he had said. Slowly I began to understand. The man had shown me the place of nightlife and shops, granted me a house for two nights and wished me a pleasant weekend. Such kindness brought a smile to my face. With fair in town, bars filled with lively locals and restaurants serving delights, the weekend flew by.


Gratitude goes to Jozef, as the town is a special one. An ambiance in the air, giving feel to be nowhere yet everywhere. The Slovakia my mind had pictured was not here. A feeling of far from home, lost, yet safe. Hilled forests surrounding the grand lake that took the interest of so many. A relaxing spa and people carrying smiles. The company of many, bloodthirsty gnats. Drenched in warmth by the shining sun, I wandered the place squatting said mosquitoes. The man had me confused, yet gave me a weekend to enjoy. Sunday had reached and at noon he knocked the door. While he smoked his cigarette, we discussed what to follow. Ukraine was such. His face said all. Fear. Worries. Ukraine, the dangerous country. Never in a lifetime would I return safe home. Yet stubborn and curious I stood, declining his suspicions and worries. Not willing to believe all the people that spoke before him. I wore a thin smile, insisting. Without struggling he drove me to a road leading to the border. Before flinging my legs out, I was asked a contact, a way to let him know I am still alive. After he waved me off. I figured hours would be spend there, waiting and waiting, for not many would take a hitchhiker near a border holding controls. Boy could I have been more wrong.

 


Pictures displayed are not owned or take by me. I wanted eyecandy for any readers, yet found out I somehow didn’t take any. Sincere apologies!

Categories
Cycling and Hitchhiking (2016) Personal Favourites

My First Slovakian Experience

Evenfall I would reach Bielsko-Biała in the car of a young couple. Hitchhikers themselves they told stories and gave advice. One of them being to not continue the road I was following, although beautiful, luck was required to make it to Slovakia soon. Time being on my side and having lingered a day against will in Bialystok, I did not quail. So stubbornly I dismissed their advice and thus moved onwards. The night I slept a deep, alcohol fueled sleep in the garden of one of the locals. The mother and his son had given me a tasting of the translucent drink that makes all blurry, before I rested my eyes. Protected by a small, yet fierce barking dog and an army of tiny kittens, I surely felt safe. Drifting off to the place where impossible is possible, a soft smile sparked. Whether it was the vodka or the day that had been, I can not tell. Come morning, before blissfully claiming my free ice cream, I frolicked and kicked ball with the young son. The act did not last long as the boy stared at me disappointed of my skills – or the lack of  – in simply kicking a ball in a straight line. To be fair, as the ridiculing 5 year old showed derision, his attempt in hitting the ball was not exactly repugnantly. Nonetheless, a smile stayed upon departure. Let’s see how much luck I have!

Categories
Cycling and Hitchhiking (2016)

Poland – Portugal in Pabianice

He was loose and started racing down, leaving a spiral trace behind. The finish was in sight, the ending of the translucent field. Looking to his right, he could see his enemy, struggling to surpass the obstacles in its way. Quickly, he spurted down for his final sprint. Closer and closer he reached. He could feel the victory, nearly gracing the end line. But then it happened. He stopped. Go!! I wanted to shout. My fingers met into a fist of frustration. Why won’t you go? My mind screamed. At a calm pace the rival slugged down over the line, breaking apart as it hit the end. “It sure is rainy…”, my new chauffeur proclaimed with a hint of guilt as he watched the raindrops tick on the front glass. My eyes averted the lost race shaming the drop who failed to win. “Indeed”, I mumbled. For a few minutes now it had been pouring down rainfall from the sky, covered with dark, grim clouds. My mind was not worried about getting soaked, yet whether I would find a ride out of this small town. Most would depart on the main road where I could not stand. Instead, I exited the vehicle on an abandoned parking spot with all accompanying me being a few blinking lamp posts. The lad and I said goodbye, before he surged away. Quite frankly, I had not been to keen of the guy. A traveller as well, he had finished a plate too many of egomania. Nonetheless, he had been kind enough to drop me on the other side of the city for more luck. Luck, I would find to have plenty of when an instant’s moment later, a passing car slowed down. A tall dude manning the wheel and a prettiful lady to his side. Not much distance I would receive, yet so much more than I could ever dare to wish for.


Excited Ola, the young lady turned her head to me and questions left her lips. After a few, she asked “Are you watching the game tonight?”. Poland versus Portugal. A match in the Fifa world cup carrying a lot of Polish viewers. None of the equally aged would be able to think of a moment when the Polish had come so far in football. So it should be no surprise that the country was in a rally with enthusiasm and patriotism in the air. I hope, I said. Immediately the couple had invited me, within seconds calling the host for confirmation. The guy on the other end of the phone did need a confirmation of which country I was backing. Poland!! I had exclaimed, quietly cheering them on when back in the Baltics, knowing I might be able to root them as I traversed the mighty country.

Cruising for a selection of Polish finest brewskies at the local shop, I had a chance to meet two other friends. Soon I learned that not all had a tongue in English like Ola did. Yet they all shared the excitement. Together we walked to the house of the brother and sister that would have the game displayed on their tv. Nervous, yet excited, I entered the small flat room. The group was welcoming, friendly and kind. We drank, talked and enjoyed the match. I remember a moment talking to Ola, when one of the guys interrupted “There are times for important things, and times for more important things” as he pointed to the line of shots that were lined out. He would teach me how to properly drink vodka. At the end of the evening, Poland had lost the penalties after playing 1-1 to Portugal. Nonetheless the Polish were happy and celebrated the distance Poland had made! Upon departure the following morning, I was gifted a prazubr and a scarf with the writing “Polska” and a white eagle embossed on both sides, one I still wear on chilly days.



The road continued and I hitched my way towards Slovakia. A small detour lead me to meet Karolina again, during an insanely coincidental bump in within a few seconds in the town Zdunska Wola. It was amazing to see her again and a pleasure to hear her voice. From there I visited the catastrofe family, once again doing more for me than I can be thankful for, conjuring a smile on my face for the rest of the sunny day. After gifting gifts, patching up my pants and tent, taking me on a motor ride and to the swimming pool, feeding me and having me showered, the couple still felt appealed to go further. They sent a box of my stuff to the Netherlands and gave me a ride far to help me make distance. During the long ride something amazing happened. Throughout Poland beers and ice cream bare a hidden opportunity that once consumed reveals if you won a second or not. They explained such, as we all enjoyed the sweet and cool taste of ice. The youngest son shouts victory having laid his eyes upon my writing. A FREE ICE CREAM! It is a dream come true.

Waving the family off, I held the proof of victory close and safe. I wandered around for a bit, asking the people politely for assistance in laying down rubber. That came to an end when a curious janitor lured me to his small office. From Serbia. He sat me down and gave me his lunch adding a cup of tea. No English, German or Dutch, yet we began talking. Pointing to pictures in a book, he explained his travels through Siberia, Lapland and Canada. Impressed how far he got with our language barrier, he began to push it when conspiracy theories became the topic. This was too much for me in Serbian tongue. Thus I rose and thanked him. Departing the 1 by 2 room, the first man approached would take me further. What next?

 

 

 

Categories
Cycling and Hitchhiking (2016)

My WORST day of Hitchhiking

Strength had been regained after a night’s rest with the lovely couple that had taken me in, showing love and care, on my first days of heavy shoulders. Nervous, the day of the festival I had come back to politely request to unburden myself of some weight. Upon arrival, the words “It is Danus!” came from the balcony, soon followed with “Yes, you can sleep!”. Certainly a moment I will never forget, such as many more. Once understood, my request had been accepted, after which the lady went down to the kitchen to prepare a meal to fill the stomach before the festival.With deafened ears and sweltered by the sun I had returned to collect my luggage guarded by Anglo, the sweet dog. A nephew of 12, one I met over phone call last visit, had been present as well. The old couple had convinced me to stay for the night; playing board games, having conversations and warming by a fire. For the best, when a storm hit the city. Besides, the rest was needed. So fully rested – packed with extra food – I took off, departing the Baltic Beauty and traversing Poland once again.


One hand filled with a brewsky and the other up with thumb out. A previous driver, stopping there where most wouldn’t, had been so kind to drop me on a road where they would be more likely to pick me up. About a minute or twenty away. “Grab a beer!”, he had said. It had been early in the afternoon, yet who was I to decline such a polite offer. Holding a can, my mind began to wonder if it would affect the alacrity of drivers to pull over. Silly me, when a short while spent staring at passing cars later, the brakes of a small Volkswagen forced the vehicle to stop moving, ending up next to me. My ride into the land of the white eagle had arrived, with a Polish driver for coming hours. Not only was I able to traverse a great distance, I was also gifted with a good conversation and a bag of Mcdonalds finest burgers. Then I exited the vehicle at a gas station near the road that continues.

Within the same minute, I had found the next ride that would take me further. As I waited for them to get ready, I began chewing at my burgers. With bites as if from a hungry hippo I worked two of them down my throat. Dry buns, a burger overdone with plastic cheese on top. Yet it tasted.. heavenly. A stomach rumbling and starving gladly feasted on these simple burgers. The big-bellied man waved. Headed to Bialystok, a ride muted, more so than the night that had fallen upon us. Fast however. Ogling at the pointer for the speed, I thought us to be at German highways. No complaints from me though, the sooner the better.


Alone, in a part of the city I did not know. It was dark, nearing night. Streets were empty, except of a lady clamping on to her cigarette. My legs paced her direction, in hope of getting any wiser. English was not understood and her Polish words were lost with the wind. Perplex I stood, speechless, when in Dutch she spoke to me. My tongue was in a knot, when I had to switch to a language not used in weeks and not expecting to for a while longer. For many years she had lived in the Flemish part of Belgium and now she stood before me, to guide me into the direction I needed to go. Aware of the location of my destination, I thought it time to rest. Hidden behind a bush on abandoned rail tracks seemed just fine.


The blazing sun had dawned hours before, already spreading its heat all around. Sleeping, my head had rested on the soft rail tracks. My stuff was scattered, such was my mind and the motivation of rising was nowhere to be found. Even the tent decided to work against me, holding tight to branches. Nothing to complain about on that front however, it being one of the easiest to fold. With a mood giving me a chance to fall in for Oscar the Grouch, I began to follow the endless, hot, boresome road out of the city. Hours of hiking and hitching, hitching and hiking passed without a single car slowing down. On foot I had now left the city and all the while hope had left me. That, until one man was willing to grace the brake with his foot and steer a mere meter to the right. Immediately, my lips arched in a smile and I leaped towards the car. A friendly man. Alas his destination was job-related and a mere city away. Twenty kilometers is as far as I went from the spot that I had given a resentful look as we departed.

10-oktober-2013-bialystok-84

Seated before a plate with a top-notch schnitzel and fries, a cup of tea to the right, I couldn’t help but think “This is not so bad after all..”. If only I knew. Two life stories later, the guy rushed out to reach his appointment. Relishing, I enjoyed my meal. Bite after bite, I let my tastebuds feel and savor every moment. Not something I took for granted. A meal that made the day slightly worse in memory to what was to come. I grabbed my backpack and moved outside, a belly satiated. Without lingering, the first attempts at hitching were made. Revulsion, contempt and gruffly replies I got. If I was lucky at least, when not being held for a ghost. Manacled to my spot, with highway surrounding me, I threw down my backpack and leaned against it waiting. Waiting for more cars to pass by this strip for gas or a refreshment. Not many did and when so, all the answers were the same. Hours crawled. Motivation and spirits lowered. My face reddened from the sun. The clock went round at least 7 times. Another decline from a trucker; “Sorry pal, we are with two.”. Dejected I slugged back, until the horn called my name. To my luck, the elder man would sleep in the back, emptying a free seat for me. The capital as aim, we took off.


On the middle of an empty highway I was dropped off. Lost of directions I played frogger, heading to where my instinct guided me. Walking along the sidetrack of the road. I was nowhere and I was heading nowhere, yet I continued. Continuing towards the light that shone bright from the IKEA. All seemed fine, until the sidetrack ended. That meant I had to follow the steep hill down, hoping to find my way amongst these small villages. Step by step I moved down the slippery stones with an unpleasant foreseeing. My feeling was correct as gravity got the better of me and I tumbled down. Pants torn. Exhausted and thirsty I walked the last meters to find a field decent enough for my accommodation. Reaching my water bottles, both were empty. “Maybe tomorrow, from my new – temporarily – neighbours…” I sneaked into their garden to lessen my thirst with some fruits, but it was far from enough. Dry-mouthed I went into my tent. No need for sheeps to be counted, as when my eyelashes touched, I had been sound asleep

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Cycling and Hitchhiking (2016) Personal Favourites

Capital of Lithuania. Why are titles difficult?

“This is as far as I can take you, kid. You can take the bus from here to the centrum”, the driver who had just given me a lift from Klaipeda to Vilnius, a road that stretches over the 300 kilometers. The bus was full, making my large backpack quite inconvenient. Uncomfortable I squeezed my way passed a couple to find grip before the bus departed. I could feel the eyes being on me. As the bus departed with a spurt, I relaxed my eyes and stared at nothing. My mind began to wander and I thought of how great my weekend had been. Reinhardt, the man with his adorable laugh, took me to the top of the K-shaped building for one last beer. He made his way to a table at the window. A king’s view we had. A view that concluded the lagoon, the Curonian Spit and the docks. My eyes spied the stage where the Jazz musicians had been playing the weekend. For hours I had danced with strangers while the air was filled with the beautiful, melodic tunes that is jazz. Never before listened to such music, I knew it would not be the last of it for me. One band stood out in particular, when I all of a sudden was dancing to Nothing Else Matters“Newlux in their own way and jazz style perform world famous music hits…”  Breakers of established Jazz music stereotypes they are called. The waitress gave us our brewskies with a grand smile. A single drop of water slowly made its way down the glass to wetten the coaster. A golden bath with on top a tiny cloud. Standing on the bus, I ran my tongue over my lips as my mouth got watery. The two of us dinked our glasses and enjoyed the feeling of the cold beer gliding down over our tongue and down our throat. It was rich of flavor. A big sigh of delight left my lips. Putting the glass down, a smile appeared on my face. An ending fitting of a great weekend.

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Cycling and Hitchhiking (2016) Personal Favourites

A stroll on the beach

The sand was wriggling between my toes, nestling on the wet surface of my feet. I had freshened myself in the cool water known as the Baltic Sea. With the hot sun high up, staring down with a vicious glare, this salty liquid made for a great escape. With my backpack as support, I sat down and stared out to the ships and boats sailing past. My head felt dim as my mind drifted away.

Categories
Cycling and Hitchhiking (2016)

The eye of Saaremaa

Low on food and water, tired and with my overly packed backpack hanging on my sore shoulders I walked down the road, keeping my ears open for the sound of a car approaching. How is it possible that a road made for traffic, as smooth as a summer lake at dawn withthout a crack or hole to be found, a perfect strip of pavement merely leads to a village smaller than my backyard and with less cars passing on a day than the amount of fingers on my hand.