“Don’t worry, my love, we will have plenty of time”, had been the words that departed my arrogant smile as I calmly entered the bathroom. Cocksure that it would be the two of us on the pier with a tumble weed passing by awaiting the crowd that was to come. Alas, I was askew, as once we arrived in our carriage, known as a ‘tricycle’, all had long amassed. Accepting defeat, we passed through the check in before entering the tiny boat that was packed. I placed my bottoms on the seat that had been illuminated by sunlight. Like an over the top lit Christmas tree, I sat brightly in the sunshine. A bench of hot coals under me and a face glistening red from sweat produced by the searing hot, shining sun above. Perhaps now is a good time to apply sunscreen. Anxiety was resting on my shoulders, whispering in my ear how our bags would fall in that alluring, blue water would we place it down, as there was zero cover. Soon we would find a secure place for our luggage, however for now, we had to continue carrying the burden of the clump of fear stuck in the mind, displaying the event over and over. I have never been the same since the dive of my phone. I shook my head, as a fog of dizziness flew by. Winter, They said. It is winter.. Avoiding the sun had not been a task easy however. Thus, we awaited the commencement of the departure from El Nido to Coron as sweaty blobs, hoping the boat would turn from the sun.
The day before we had seen a colossal turtle while snorkelling. My head dipped under the water with the rest of my body and the tube guiding air to my mouth gallantly wavering on the surface of the beautifully clear, blue water. I glanced up at her, smiling. However, she urged me to quit waving my hand like an idiot and to focus my attention down below. A massively big turtle was calmly passing by, blithely deviating from his track as to cozen its pursuers. I jutted my arms out straight, as if I was near enough to pet it. Fervently, I followed the turtle with eyes gleaming. I was amazed by its size, something unexpected. When we had abandoned the stunning beach after a delicious meal, they had briefed us that we would search for this water dweller. However, I imagined the size of the slow-pokes swimming in a pond, similar to when my phone had chosen for a dip. Mistaken that I was, I was now staring at this, with my comparison, giant turtle. Amusingly, it hadn’t been the highlight of the day for everyone. It was the royal blue tang, well-known as “Dory” to most, that shook my beloved to excitement and had her let out a giggle. Enamoured of her adorable cackle, I could not help but chuckle myself. It had been a long day of snorkelling and hopping islands. Two baked buns, one more than the other, had little choice left but to crash into a deep sleep after a mojito or two.
As dawn had come, shimmering its light through the curtains leaving sun ripples on our blanket, after that deep night’s rest with praise to the generous bar-lady pouring rum as if she was overstocked that evening, we had set plans to hike in search of cascades. Once we overpowered the strong gravity on the blankets, and our bags were hike ready, we commenced. Given a short route description in Tagalog, we headed out with a boiling sun heating our necks. A lovely dog, named Doug by the enamoured couple, left his tiny paw prints along the track following and guiding us with pride and joy in his eyes. In reality, a second dog had been there, yet we do not speak of him. When approached by a threesome of puppers, the double-sized dog had frantically chosen the direction we had come from, nearly flying until it had gone passed a turn and not to be seen again. Not Doug. Our dear Doug, when exposed to a threat, whether the tiny Cerberus or a giant buffalo, filled with fear he stood his ground and made no sound.
The first cascade on the list had been the small one, as I had gathered from the Tagalog explanation. The water had a delightful cool touch, which had been gratefully welcomed on this hot winter day in the Philippines. Having viewed a many National Geographic shows, I had anxiously hopped over the tiny, brownish puddles worrisome to be struck by that nasty parasite to in a string of time be aired on an episode and have a new disease named after me. My brother got the Danniasis after his travels in Asia. Whilst hopping, I had made the decision to climb higher up for a more picturesque view. Watching the dog follow me, with ease both getting up and down, he seemed the perfect Assassin’s pet. Perhaps with their next release, which is bound to come. The four-legged stray pet seemed to be comfortable amongst humans. A blissful smile resting on the carefree canine. The beach-life truly does bring joy to all, it seems.
Upon reaching the main cascade, after having bought snacks off a young girl keeping a shop all by herself, we signed a log book. Guiding Doug to pass the creek, having small fears that our new, temporarily adopted dog may slip, we cross and prepare for the dip we had been waiting all day for. “It is cold”, are the words I mumble, as I dip my toes into the encroaching ripples. The water that engirdled my pale toes was clear, yet its descendants further in grew darker and darker, until it was pitch black. Imagining the grotesque creatures inhabiting the deeper, darker water, near the dead log, created for a complete different ambience. As the words had left my parched lips, she had already been deep in, ice cold water surrounding her gorgeous waist. With a playful smile, she splashed water upon me and jested me to grow some and enter. A lady known to take her showers cold out of preference did not shy away from diving into the freezing water that only had grip of my tiny toes. Doug was waddling with waggling tail behind me, as well dubious of whether to proceed to enter said frigid water. Yet, bearing the cells for the next kin, it came with the duty to be – or come across as, which I am most certain I am far too late for – manly and thus I did. I followed the lady with the beautiful smile Step after step I advanced. Until I stood beside her, writhing of cold, as well as basking in the release that had come from cooling my body on one of the many searing hot days that make for the Philippines.
Watching her feed the staunch dog that seemed bound to us, having followed us, now guiding us back, I could not help but smile. I reminisced back at the day I finally had gotten to see her in person. Shied away behind her father, she had shown to be smaller than I had expected. Lips arched into that gorgeous smile. Her hair curved around her head, the frame to the perfect picture. That very moment, I had not been anxious. All fears, nervosity and anxiety had disappeared like stars come dawn. Not a single trace left. It felt normal, yet special. The way it was supposed to be. For so long I had yearned to see her in person. Bound to be, but distanced, we fought each and every barrier to be there to hold one another. It hadn’t always been easy. Struggles, fights and aching. But now, at last, I was here. Holding her hand, watching her feed a stray dog that may or may not be dying by the hand of the leech on his ear and everything felt perfect. That, is how love is supposed to be. Perfect through its imperfections and difficulties. The woman who agitates the hell out of me, yet is the balance amid the chaos. The sunshine on the darkest of days merely by being present. She is a present indeed. Worth every single effort. She gave me a loving smile – mesmerising really, magical, capable of bringing joy on the gloomiest days – as she handed me the chips to give Doug a handful. Hungry that he must have been, politely he awaited without snarling or wheezing. He did not bite upon receiving the snack either. A stray canine with manners topping most pets. May Doug have won the fight against the leech.
Gazing at the horizon, viewing Filipino ships in the the clear, blue sea, I had a gluck of my nth mojito and thanked myself for the choices I have made. The choice to be happy, rather than stuck in a college dorm surrounded by walls seeping depression into the room. The choice to enjoy life as I find my place into the world. Thereafter I thanked my family for supporting me with every step that I took. Too often I had to listen to the phrase “If I was your parent I would never let you do this.”, yet here I was, from a South-African tour, to a cycle and hitchhike in Europe to a love in Asia and never had I been doubted or restrained by my amazing family. Then I thanked her, Kath, the lady that brought and brings strength and happiness into my life. Grateful for the life I lead, I must move forward. Once finished with the Philippines, I shall, however, that must come after the mojito. What is next? We shall see. See, we shall.
It was about noon, as I arrived at the Johor Bahru-Singapore border. Hungover and with a pit in my belly filled by a handful of pistachios in the last 24 hours I stood in the line to enter the head of the peninsula. It had been one helluva night before. With remaining Ringgit to spend, I intended to consume. Not part of said plan however, was the many offered drinks that were to come. After a cumulative three weeks in Malacca, the begin and ending, I had gotten to know a few who wouldn’t see me go without a drink in my hand. A few had turned into a few too many and a hangover was bound to come. Luckily, I could knock out a couple hour’s rest at the best hostel in wonderful Malacca that is ‘Buffalo Soldiers’.
Come morning, I had sluggishly carried myself out of bed, through the shower and eventually dressed with backpack ready to go. Looking like Goofy had just slammed his head into a speeding truck, I said my farewells to the lovely family that ran both the cheap, cosy hostel and the infamous bar. Malacca had taken three weeks from me. Astonished at how time flies by when alcohol fills your life, I awaited the bus to take me out of the captivating country. The ambience. I thought. That had been it. Whether it is sitting on the street with a canned beer listening to guitar play, having a historical guided tour through sand-hills or listening to “It wasn’t me” and “Bongo Bong” for the trillionth time as laughter and conversations fill the air. No, there is a reason for lingering in Malacca that goes way past the alcohol served. The bus had arrived and thus the train of thought derailed an instant’s moment later. For now, staring tensely out of the window, in attempt to untangle the tightened knot that lay in my belly and finish the battle going on in my head. Hopeless, of course.
At last, it had been my turn. My feverish head finally made it to the counter that stood between me and Singapore. The man confusingly ogled my passport, me and back. His eyes rolled up, as he began counting with his fingers. “3 Months??”, he exclaimed surprised. With disbelieve he shook his head, when I praised the country. The country, and the people. “Why?” A folk so pure and sincere is rare to find. No purveyors similar to Indonesia, no odd/blank staring as the Filipinos tend to do, but more appalling, is the service. Instead of the politeness you find in Europe, it is true gratitude and open arms you find. A broad smile and with that a welcomed feeling given. A “Thank you” with ever Anchor ordered followed by attempts at conversations. A reason why Malaysia will be a country to miss. To be honest, three months and it did not feel enough. Still, I wanted to linger and enjoy the presence of such lovely people. However, it had been time for a departure and a new chapter.
Singapore, a small country, a large city. There is not much to be told about this mini-Malaysia. Much like Malaysia, it is the more successful brother. The obtuse brother whom would call upon his parents every time something does not go his way. Something occurs, new laws are embedded. The successful brother thrives in business and leads an organised life. In the meanwhile, the younger brother, Malaysia, is in his room clinging a bong with a giant smile painted on his face. Malaysia at times attempts to be morally there with rules – at request of the parents – and attempts to copy Singapore with the ridiculous smoking in public fee – roughly 2000 euros- however is simply better at having fun. Whilst too busy enjoying life to obey to placed absurd rules, the Malay population prefers to enjoy.
Admittedly, Singapore in a way is perfect. Clean, little crime – and when there is, things get done – the roads and traffic are handled, public transport is organised, the economy is prosperous. With Little India, China Town and Malay markets, quality food comes in plenty and the country holds a certain culture. Perfect, however, after time passes, I would find myself bored and without a penny. Singapore, to me and many others, is a big city and no more. Having said such, Singapore is a must visit. Get the exciting thrill of smuggling gum into the country as you experience the well organised town. Awing at the light show and looking up – and down from – the Marina Bay Sands and onto the super trees. Walk over the spotless streets as you wander to the Botanic garden and have a drink in Little India or Chinatown. Experience the clean, organised and beautiful country, but depart before you have emptied your wallet. Departing won’t be a trouble either. The airport itself is already a sight to be seen. Fountains and tiny parks to distract from what tends to be a stressful and hectic couple of hours. Not in Singapore, however. Get there an hour before your flight and you will have half an hour left to walk about. Never, had I been that excited to fly. Without rushing, stress or even waiting, I had gone from the hostel to board the flight and not a problem on the way. The worst had been the Uber that could not figure out the difference between the brake and gas as he continuously kept using both. Having been on airports in South-Africa, this difference had meant a lot to me. That, I owe Singapore. An airport to remember. A flight to remember. A date. The 5th of December. The day that I would see the love of my life. Manila, here I come
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.
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…
Six memorable months pass and at last, I find myself seated on a wooden chair with my fingers caressing over the keyboard. What had been the reason for the long delay of an attempt in a new blog post? Perhaps it was the sin of the sloth that had seized me. Maybe it was the dedication to live the moments as I tried to be part of the places I visited. Or both with a third factor in play. My fingers were locked, without words to jot down as I glared at my paper with a blank mind. A blank canvas before me and an empty palette in my hand. Do I write about the time I was bound to bed by illness? Would the debauched nights I spent in Bali and Malaysia, meeting strangers with every bottle emptied again and again characterise as compelling? I had little to no words. Although Johnny’s taco’s had me in such a euphoria that I came close to expressing my infatuation with the dish. Alas, my words would never be enough.
Truth be told, I lacked creativity and motivation. With a travel differing on every aspect from the previous, my writing needed a different approach and frankly, I couldn’t be bothered. A demanding journey through Europe had me bound in budget, transport and accommodation. Forced to live off little, without the slightest plan but direction and not a booking made, I had experienced a lot. Despite the prominent fact that indulgence in nightly gatherings fuelled by alcohol is relishable, I had grown a love for what now was lacking. More money was spend on testing my liver than participating in adventurous activities. That does not take away all the moments and stories of grand size resting in my brain, including the many encounters with the locals. It simply was not enough.
“Ready?”, he asked before spurting off. This time I was astride of another scooter, in lieu of my hostess’s. A safer bet, as she takes off from 0 to 80 in a whiff. The reason however, for me pressing my cheeks on a different scooter, was the family fearing comments from neighbours. In this part of Java, in the far East, two people from the opposite sex customarily do not spend time together. One time, a man I had just met spoke of weddings and careers a moment after he opened his mouth to me. Disregarding my disinterest. Thus, in an attempt to blow out the fire of rumours as I had merely interest in the town and she in in showing it, her cousin who works for Grab drove me instead. With little rivals, being the only courier on the application, all – with that being said, little – Grab-travellers go through him. The roads in the small village, if one would call them that at all, had an erratic path of mud and stones. Thus the ride made for a wobbly one. Our tour-guide and Grab driver, without extra expense, had brought us to see several cascades hidden away. Initially it did not seem to be a challenging activity. On my flip-flops I sauntered through the rice fields and descended down the slippery – I know, I used this pun last year – path. With mud dug in between my tiny toes, I stood atop a large boulder, observing the water rush through the rocks and pebbles, gravitating down. The flowing and splashing of the water had been a soothing sound. But there was little soothing about the hours that followed. Our tour guide had decided that where the path stopped, we carried on, creating passages as we went.
A sunset was missed a near hour ago. Cautiously I had been shuffling along the wall of dirt, holding on to clumps of soil, roots and branches. We had gone under a tiny, earth made tunnel, waddling through a stream and then slid down a slide with trees poking our sides. Grunts and sighs here and there. Stubborn, all marched on. We shall not retreat! A single shy kindled light was shared amongst the three of us. Guiding us through a pitch black night. Bit by bit we encroached further towards the edge of this jungle. Although, indubitably, none of us knew how far it was. It was after a gruelling climb up, giving all trust in a tree, that I had grown clairvoyant, sensing what came next. Mr Grab reached his hand out to assist me on advancing. Dubious, I did. Upon touch, at one fell swoop we shifted jointly. Then he began to pull his hand back, loosening the grip of my palm in his. Aware of the possible outcomes, I let go. With nothing but a handful of soil under my feet to hold me up, I knew that I was in for a tumble down.
Harrowed I lay in a bed of branches and leaves. Succumb by shock, I sat quietly for a minute before the realisation hit that my exhausted body had to climb back the distance I fell. It must have been a few metres. Praying to be elsewhere, anywhere, I endured. Together, we climbed for another several hours, which I did in a frantic manner. The two began chanting prayers of joy upon reaching the top. “Allah uh Akbar”, they repeated. Gladly, I marched with slippers in one and the torch in the other hand through the rice field and out. Bedraggled we returned where the village awaited us, carrying worry in their eyes. Minds leaning on the story of a girl who passed away in the same jungle. Relief filled them as they saw us. We had been gifted with food and a cold, refreshing shower. Simple as they lived, they were filled with kind hearts. Laughter felt the dark sky as we relived our jungle jeopardy through stories and aches the hours before taking on the steep and cold – I do realise I had not dressed properly for that day – Mount Ijen.
It seems forever since I sat down and took the time to write something. A pity, really. Writing is something I love. It gives me a calm feeling as does it make me happy having a story of my own travels in my style. An explanation, or an attempt of it is difficult. Most often, I do not understand my own brain, or how it works. I see it as a good thing. Making my way through life trying to figure out what that gooey clump wants is the biggest and most exciting puzzle out there. It is exciting, as I never know what it will lead me to. Throughout the past years, I have learned quite a bit however. Such is, that travelling is a key piece. With this come the many ways of travel, as I noticed that, without intend, all of my main travels have been different on multiple fronts. Within the Philippines, I have found another. It taught me, that finding these pieces is much more fun than having a complete puzzle from the start. If you’re interested, follow along with my puzzle. You might figure it out before I do. My gratitude goes to those who still follow along with my stories, even after an eight-month disappearance.
A short caption on Bali:
Although a week spend blissfully enjoying the warmth by caressing the soft sand on the beach, amongst all the Instagram posts that bring forth envy from all over the globe, I couldn’t help but notice the lack of acknowledgement towards the persisting purveyors. Whether it was a massage, a ‘massage’, souvenirs, Viagra or other substances, swarms appeared from every corner to bug you with their presence. When asking the same person relaxing on the beach a third time was not enough, one would linger and eclipse you from the sun while glaring at you. It was on the touristic streets of Denpasar where I learned that a friendly nod means to be interested in illegal substances or a cure for that sore “back”. When showing disinterest to participate in such, a lady dragged my arm with force and a man had neared an introduction of my fist in his face when his reply to my “Do not touch me”, was “Why not?”.
It is when you view the sunset for the fourth time and again you find yourself at five in the morning chewing away one of Johnny’s orgasmic delicious tacos that you wonder.. Does all of that even matter? No, it does not, for you are in a place where life exists out of sun, beach, sea and relaxation. Nothing matters but the beer that is cold, the weather that is fantastic and another enticing march towards the alley of tacos. So, feet dig into the sand and a picture of the sunset goes online.
Hidden in the KFC with air conditioning blazing I type this. The afternoon wave hasn’t even hit and I have deserted, scattering off to the embassy of the obese. Afraid to admit, but here I am, in a fucking KFC in Oman. Hiding behind the ice-cold air getting blown in my direction. However, it feels damned good. I never figured I would miss the cold in half a day. My flight landed in Muscat early in the morning, after a solid six hours sided with an Indian man. The sun had long woken and was fierce, as it can be. A wall of humid heat pushed against my face. The immediate moment, a greased feel landed on my skin. A deep breath. It felt as if taking a literal bite from the air, so thick. “It’s barely morning”, someone mumbled. Leaving the airport, at every turn cabs honked at me. Bargaining myself into one, I enjoyed the views towards Matrah. Mountains with little to non vegetation all around. Temples along the way. The driver gladly gave me a short tour before I set off on foot.
Lost, I wandered up and down, feeling the heat hanging heavy from my shoulders. My mind had been set on trotting up and down, a young puppy exploring the world. My body disagreed. Under a small dome I laid, a bottle of water in each hand, melted on a bench. Wiping away the sweat, I gaze over upon the sea. Waves clashed against the walls while dragging the carcass of a cat drifting on a layer of dirt with it. A full-bodied scent swirled in the air made vigorously by the ruthless sun from above. Broadly smiling, a young lad waves me over to his restaurant. “Inside is colder”, he says as he eagerly trots before me. A meal and a juice, served with a smile. A restaurant run by the family, was my guess. After having cooled down and given a slap by my hand of wanderlust, exhaustion crawled away and I bashed out of my refuge to wander the inner of the town.
The markets. Entering, strong smells of perfumes and scented candles filled my nose. An excessive amount of mixtures of fragrances in the air, tickling my nostrils. Omani people waved from both sides, flaunting their goodies. “No, the big bag of perfumes and the huge knife are no good for my backpack, nor the airport’s security”, I tried to explain. Another man dragged me inside his shop and before I could say “O, man”, I was dressed from top to ankle in traditional Omani clothing. Full of proud, he clothed me, not speaking a word English. I decided to buy a souvenir and a Forno before facing the demanding cabbies.
Is a sunburn and possible heatstroke all I gained? Definitely not. People all around were friendly. As the cab driver said; “Everyone here is my friend.” Plenty to see too, I bet. Oman, may we meet again on better terms. Now off to my next flight. Two chairs to myself, living the luxurious life.
Oman transit day on 12-8-2017
Once I returned home, surprising my family with a sudden knock on the door – followed by an hour waiting as no one was home – things quickly got back to the routineus life that had pushed me to travel in the first place. A few breaths and my feet were scurrying from pole to pole, resumes in my hand. I switched jobs faster than tides until my employment agency placed me into the transporting business. Seven months working in a warehouse amidst all kinds of coworkers.
During these months, I had the opportunity to ponder over what the story of the following chapter of my life would be. Many suggested study. Some seemed to know what was best for me, cocksure what I should do. Too many foolishly thought I would actually cage myself within the walls of a study. A moment’s thought, so did I. However, for me, depressions seeps from these walls. As long as I have no motivation to enter such building, bearing the answers to my life passions, it will be a place to drain my happiness. The friends that knew me best, pushed me to follow my heart. Soon after, I was convinced.
Thus, the making of a new travel plan arrived. With heavy heart, my family smiled upon me, as their dreams of me in college shattered to the ground. As expected, they had my back and with every step I took, they were there offering a hand. Their support allowed me to work hard and save my money tight as if a new economy crash was upcoming. To keep my mind out of the gutter that is the boring life in the Netherlands, I spend my time focusing on the upcoming trip and writing about the past one. Even during work, my mind was on the beaches, in the jungles and so on. This worked for some time…
Until the well of motivation had gone dry and my taste for the water faded. Feeling caged in my world of writing, I had to bring a pause to my stories. Unhappy with the words on my screen, feeling forced with every post, I no longer wallowed in the bath of words I used to love. Days were slow and boring, yet my mind was at all times a roaring lion, a machine gone to overdrive, a tornado and volcano burst at the same time. Thoughts, worries, and fears flew in thousands. They hung heavy in my head, bringing exhaustion. Workdays got longer and slower. The same faces, the same boring conversations, the same dumb questions over and over. Days off, I often felt bored. I wanted to go out and live.
But for once, I felt afraid of travelling. I had announced to make the longest trip I ever would. That wasn’t what brought shrivels down my spine however. What shakes my mind, is the fear of being unable to find a path for my life. A direction. Of failing myself. Despite that constant dread chaining me down, I prepared my wings for the next flight. Taking a leap from the nest and hoping my wings would carry me. To find my purpose. Quitting my job to be with my family was a begin. Buying my ticket a second. It took a while before that happened, as I didn’t want to say goodbye. I didn’t want to fly, afraid of falling. Nonetheless, I did. Giving up on studying, I hope I find what I desire out there.
Now, about my posts. Fresh, I shall begin, hopefully finding my spot in the world of writing. But not before I give you a nip of the last months in Europe (+ a short family trip in Sweden).
Some poorly shot pictures of the beautiful town that is Odessa, Ukraine.
Then, sweltering in a train, I made my way to Chisinau, the capital of beautiful Moldova. Here a wonderful family took me in and showed me around for a few days. Two young, but incredible smart and talented children.
After giving me more than I could take, I was shown the ancient Orheiul Vechi, a lovely village on the side of a hill. Thereafter, I moved on to Romania.
My travel through Romania was rapid, however grand. Turning into a smelly swamp at 40 degrees, I received long rides in a beetle, a bus and a worker on duty, offered food with some gin by dry-humoured workers in a warehouse, slept in a warm guesthouse bed in Bran for free, braved the vampires and hitchhiked together with a first-timer. In this week of Romania exploration, I have not a single bad word to say.
I soon arrived in Austria, heading to my work-away location. A small village, filled with drama. Taking care of camels and horses was my job. In exchange, accommodation, meals and riding lessons were provided. A village of all kinds. Four weeks of getting to know them all through long conversations. Besides the village, I visited the town Melk nearby, beautiful Vienna, and some farms.
Then time had come to head home. Without letting my family know, I hitchhiked in three days across Austria and Germany. Astonishingly fast I received rides of many nice people all the way up to final city.
Up next follow a few pictures I took when in Sweden for a family trip (Stepmother’s side).
For now, I am doing well. I have all under control and I feel ready to embark on my new adventure. The 11th of August, my trip will begin. I feel ready. I will live, smile, write and be happy. Pictures will come. If you want to stay posted, you may follow me on Instagram and/or Facebook.
For breakfast I munched salty fish that was offered by the two bbq-ers I met along the road. This was a few hours before I entered the village Chotyn. Many stands with souvenirs left and right paraded the walk to the entrance of the hilled castle. The damage on my wallet had been acceptable. Friendly faces and chats. Short chats with little meaning. Making my way to the entrance, a new sweatdrop appeared with every step I took. One day, I will fall down to the ground, left panting like a dog long over his due age with this heat. Bottles of water had been going empty left and right. My feet marched on. Once inside the walls, on the left there were two towers separated with roughly 150 meters. Time and war had taken a heavy toll on these towers. On the right side stood a prettiful church built in 1832 with a wide river behind it. The river was a delighted sight on this summer day. In the centre stood the tiny castle. A moat dried to the size of a puddle surrounded it. Over the lowered wooden drawbridge my eyes spotted a group of ogling tourists on the courtyard. So many people. Too many people. A small building stood amidst the crowd. Two kids played with the well next to it. One jumping up and down as the other pulled the lever. For the rest, I had a mere collection of options; the torture room on my left, taking the spiral stairs down to the weaponry or gaze at the two other buildings that had no entry. About an hour ticked away as I read all there was to read on weaponry and torture before dismissing the medieval scene that had been filled with the most obnoxious and annoying species right after mosquitoes. However, this sunny day had provided a perfect ambiance for a visit. Plus, I gained a fairly cheap, homemade wine as I walked passed the houses heading out. Carrying the weight was a bunch better knowing my evening could turn to end well.
A small lift right after the purchase brought me to Kamjanets-Podilsky. Around evenfall, my attempt at lifting further seemed fruitless. A sweet, old lady and her friend had walked with me. Short conversations, little understanding. In her hands a book lay gripped. Opening the book, she turned it to me and pointed at the page. Politely she requested if I would read it. Turned out to be a Jehovah’s witness, carrying a page to show care and believe for a moment as such, where a language barrier comes in. After a call with the son, I was able to reside a night at their apartment. Feeling welcomed and at home, I slurped a soup and took bites from my ice cream. For a while we discussed the differences between Ukraine and the Netherlands. Valentin had also showed me a lot about stocks. With interest I listened. I would be lying though, if I said I still remember a thing…
Nearing Kiev with every gained ride, my mood increased. Getting to know this vast land to soon reside in its capital. Through CouchSurfing I had found a place, under Pavlo’s roof – or on it. So singing along with my playlist, I walk the road. Overgoing a hill, I spy a group of neatly dressed people. As I advanced, I gain their attention. Seeing a woman in a white gown, I realise it’s a wedding. Caught off guard, the photographer pulls me by my wrist and puts me in between the groom and bride. He flashes his camera in my face and then guides me away from the group, shoving some Hryvnia notes in my hand. I used it to sleep in the four euro motel a few yards further down the road. Before getting some shuteye, I poured myself a rich of taste redhead. I had a giggle at the fact that a married couple would have to go through their pictures and look at my poorly bearded, lobster-tan face. An actual laugh left my mouth. All alone, in a room with a scent of old, cackling like a hyena at nothing. The red water fell hard, after such a day. So after half, I put the bottle down. As the bottle touched the table, my energy left me. Wiry, I glanced out the window. Awful music was pouring in. For a while, I sat on the edge of my bed, holding a glass with a final sip left. I finished the glass, letting the wine slither down and slipped in bed. No sheep needed, as I was off before my head even hit the pillow.
Finally, after a week hitchhiking – auto stopping – Kyiv would be reached. Sharing the car with two men from the military we laid rubber on the Ukrainian asphalt. They told me about the ongoing war and the daily newly-filled body bags that are carried from the fighting zone. They had broad shoulders and seemed big. The one occupying the passenger seat spoke with a hoarse voice. Everyday more dead people… Both seemed tired. Tired of the war, of fighting. The hoarsely man had to take the metros to reach his home. An excellent chance for me to get to know the underground system of the capital. Reading names, stops, letters and numbers, my simple mind stopped working. Instead, I just listened to the large guy who set me to the right track. On the metro, I wore my poker face. A face neutral hid the mind that counted every stop, double, neh triple, neh quadruple checked the sticker aboard to be able to count the stops correctly and reading every sign to make sure I am not mistaken. Anxious to miss mine. That, all the while being squeezed among the crowd of people swinging with the movement of the underground transport. Body odor of dozens of people on an extremely hot day. A crazy man shouting all the while throwing his hands up in a provocative manner. I hate public transport…
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.
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.
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.
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?