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The previous story was pretty random, but it wasn’t the most unexpected or coincidental thing that happened on my trip…

Prior to Byron Bay we’d spent a couple of nights sleeping on the kitchen floor of a friend of a friend of a friend in Brisbane. It was ace. It felt good to be away from hostel hopping, if only for a couple of days, and good to be able to hang out and drink a bit with someone on the same page as us, since so far we’d really not gelled that much with anyone we’d met on the road in Australia.

We had pretty much one full day to ourselves in Brisbane, and that day was an unbearably hot, sticky, humid one. We figured we’d just explore the local area and dump ourselves in a cafe for a bit, but within minutes of leaving the house I was dripping with sweat, and my temper was fraying rapidly.

Then something very random and uplifting happened.

We were kind of lost and aimlessly walking down some suburban road when I noticed a book with an interesting cover just lying on the ground outside some house, being used as a weight. I picked it up and mindblowingly it turned out to be a book called Semi-Permanent.

SP is a bi-annually published design journal that I’d been featured in twice but had never actually seen - they never provided contributors with a copy and were only available in Australia and New Zealand. I’d tried over the years to get myself a copy but been consistently unsuccessful. I wasn’t even sure which volumes I was featured in and had pretty much given up hope of ever seeing my work in print.

A flick through the pages revealed this to be one of the two volumes that featured my art! Vicky went to the house itself to find out where they’d gotten it and to my surprise and delight they just handed it over. For free!

But this wasn’t the end of our chance encounters.

Hué, Vietnam. Way back in Africa, some three months ago, we’d travelled a while with a German couple, Johannes and Carina, and made pretty good friends of them, hoping to meet up with them again at some point back in Europe. Turned out we didn’t have to wait that long, as they were staying in Hué the same night as us! Carina had seen my Facebook updates with my current location, emailed me with this pretty remarkable news, and so we spent that night reunited with drinks and catch-ups.

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Byron Bay, Australia. We spent the first night in an 8-bed dorm room, on a Friday night, in a hostel tailored towards a young party crowd. What’s more, this particular weekend saw Byron Bay and our hostel play host to hundreds of ‘schoolies’ - basically kids aged 16-18 who had just finished school and wanted to let loose, apparently in the most loud and obnoxious manner possible. It was fucking unbearable.

To escape the bedlam at the hostel, I wandered into a random pub next door to have a beer and work on my journal. There I noticed a poster for the Omar Rodriguez Lopez band who were performing there that night. It didn’t register immediately, but Omar Rodriguez is a musician who has featured in a couple of my favourite bands over the years - At The Drive-In and The Mars Volta - and when it finally clicked I got a bit excited and went to ask about ticket prices. Fifty quid. I had a brief internal debate with myself but figured I couldn’t justify spending that on a notoriously unpredictable and experimental musician. Had it been one of his old bands there’d have been no question - I’d have coughed up and gone - but instead I just sat in the pretty much deserted front bar and wrote. Within minutes I heard an American voice address me and looked up. The glasses, the afro, the slightness of stature - it was none other than Omar himself, asking me directions to the nearest supermarket.

In retrospect I wish I’d engaged him more in conversation, maybe dropped in that I was a fan who couldn’t afford the entry, and perhaps been offered a spot on the guest list, but instead I’ll settle for helping a musical hero of mine buy his bread, milk and bog roll.

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I’m back home in Grimsby for a couple of weeks at the moment (highlight so far - being relentlessly mocked by the locals for reading a book on the bus), and since there’s pretty much fuck all to do here when the weather’s bad, I figured I’d catch up on some blog stuff. Before I get back into the travel stuff, here’s the latest from the bar:

This conversation took place with a woman speaking German and bad English and me speaking English and bad German:

- I have a question. Is the English speaking here once a month?
- I’m sorry?
- People are speaking English here one a month? Or is it every day?
- You mean the staff?
- Yes. They have English conversations?
- Well, yeah, sometimes.
- I would like to have English conversations here. So it’s every day?
- Maybe I’m misunderstanding. Are you maybe looking for an English conversation group here?
- Yes. I would like to know when it is.
- Oh ok. I’m sorry, I’m not aware of anything like that happening here regularly - maybe a group meets here, but they arrange it independently - it’s nothing to do with us.
- OK (thoughtful pause) So are you the teacher?

For once, I’m putting this one down to a language barrier rather than an idiot customer.

 

- “I have a question - the vegetarian bagel here, what exactly makes it vegetarian?”
- “Well, it contains no meat…”
- “OK…”
- “… and as it says there, it’s filled with various vegetables and comes with a side salad.”
- “And that’s it? That’s the only reason it’s called a vegetarian bagel?!”
- “Um, yes.”
- (scoffs) “Then I guess I’ll just take a salad!”

What am I missing? Other than an absence of meat and an abundance of vegetables what else did he want? Maybe he expected it to be made from freshly slaughtered vegetarians?

 

I approach a table of two, order pad in hand:

- “Hi. What can I get you?”
- “What?”
- “What can I get you?”
- “What?”
- (slightly incredulously) “Can I get you some drinks?”
- “Um. We’re just gonna wait for a waiter.”
- “I’m the waiter.”
(they laugh)
- “So you don’t want to order?”

At this point they look at each other as if I’m crazy and carry on their conversation, so I shrug and walk off. A few minutes later one of them comes over to the bar, sees me there, looks really confused and a bit embarrassed when he realises I’m not just some random guy pretending to be a waiter, and asks if he can order something, all the time giggling nervously and trying to act like he’s not a massive idiot.

 

Some old guy asked me if we have any old classics that have been translated into Klingon.

- “Because I speak Klingon.”
- “OK…”
- “(something in Klingon I’m guessing)”
- “I don’t speak Klingon.”
- “Many don’t.”
- “Shocking.”
- “Mix me a Screwdriver.”
(I do)
- “My friends drink orange juice without vodka. But not me.”
- “Well, good for you.”
- “You may ignore me if you’d prefer. I will admit this is not my first of the day.”

He’s actually kind of endearing.

- “I will now go outside, purely for a cigarette. I will pay you so you don’t think I am running away.”

- “I will now leave. No more old man’s babbling for you I’m afraid. I trust you will have a wonderful day.”
- “I will now, thanks.”
- “I can tell from your accent that you are English. And what’s more, I can guess that you are from Lincolnshire perhaps (!). Yes, I am an old man. I am from Poland, and I am a linguist. We could speak now in German, Russian, Polish, Hebrew, French, Spanish. Have a good day and thank you for the vodka and your ears.”

 

Disgruntled suit comes up to me as I’m busy in the kitchen:

- Err… can I order?! I’ve been sitting and waiting for over 20 minutes!
- I didn’t open until 5 minutes ago.
- What?
- I unlocked the door literally 5 minutes ago.
- What?! Well it felt like much longer!
- I don’t control time. Sorry.

 

- Do you have a menu maybe?
- You’re holding it.
- No. I mean a different menu.
- For what exactly? All of our food and drink is in there.
- I thought maybe you might have other stuff.

Yeah that’s right. We have one menu with everything in it that we freely distribute among the tables, and then a second one with extra special secret stuff that is only given to people who specifically request it.

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The final leg of my Australian adventure was spent working my way down the East Coast from Cairns to Sydney, from where I’d leave for Asia. Having just spent the best part of a week in the arid, dry centre of Australia, trekking around massive rocks in the desert, eating dust, and camping in the outback where the only water around was in bottles going into me or in sweat coming out, it was nice to be by the sea for a bit.

Though I’m not really a sea person. I grew up near toxic seasides on England’s own East Coast, where the water, even to a child’s eyes, seemed unnervingly grey and lumpy. Whilst I enjoy lazing around in parks of a summer’s day, I don’t care for doing the same on sandy beaches. At least grass knows its place and doesn’t try and get all up in my mouth, and in my pants, and in my eyes, and in my food, and in my list of things to rid the world of if ever I become king of it.

That said, I was keen to just kick back and make the most of the coast for a bit. We were making our way Southwards by Greyhound bus, since it was a relatively inexpensive way to travel long distance, but I guess there are reasons it’s so cheap. It appears that to qualify as a Greyhound driver you need to be at least 80-years-old and fuck up at least once on every scheduled journey. Our first trip was over an hour late to the departure point, and our second had broken air-conditioning, which was perfect for a 12 hour journey in heat pushing 40C. We did get to watch movies on the bus TV though - one of the buses had more than a few young kids travelling with their families, so the driver thoughtfully decided to show Saving Private Ryan in all its violence and visceral glory to keep them calm. It kept sticking and returning to the beginning after that opening battle scene though, so those little ones got to see the horrific death-ridden storming of the beach over and over and over. One of the drivers selflessly gave us all an eyeful of his wrinkly old ballsack too as he bent to retrieve the luggage, so adults and children alike were equally scarred.

But this post is supposed to be on water, so I’ll get back on track. We had a week to kill in between Cairns and a sailing trip around the Whitsunday Islands, departing from Airlie Beach, so in between we stopped for a couple of nights at Mission Beach and Townsville respectively. The first of these had little much to offer us personally other than our own little cabin in the rainforest and a long stretch of golden beach. Tough life. I’m proud to say that I threw away a lifetime of open water related fears and worries and in Mission Beach went swimming in the sea for only the second time in my adult life - it was either that or spend the whole time picking sand out of my arse. Turns out I could still swim, albeit with the proficiency and buoyancy of a bag of that lousy sand, and despite eventually becoming frustrated with my own lack of what most take for granted as a basic skill, I loved it.

Townsville was our next East Coast stop. Again, the place itself had little to offer - we couldn’t even find an open restaurant - but from here we took a ferry to the nearby Magnetic Island to have a gander at its flora and fauna, and to do some more lazing around on beaches and splashing around in the sea. Spontaneously we decided to hike from our ferry port, through the rainforest, to one of the island’s beaches. It was a hike of about 5km - not too great a distance, but the sun shone hard and its relentless and oppressive heat made it pretty sweaty work. That’s a massive understatement. It was mostly uphill, and I was wearing flip-flops, which is a fucking ridiculous footwear choice for rainforest hikes. At least this area was home to only a handful of deadly snakes and spiders. In pretty much no time I was sweating more than I’d ever sweated. I sweated where I didn’t even know I could sweat. Even my shins were dripping. It took us a couple of hours and when I reached the beach I literally had to wring out my t-shirt and hang it up to dry before I could leap into the sea to make myself less wet and salty.

Actually I couldn’t just leap straight in. The East Coast waters are home to plenty of deadly things like sharks and rip currents but more abundantly, tiny transparent lethal jellyfish. That’s a misleadingly cute sounding name. They should be called Murderbubbles or Painsacks. Often the seas are completely unswimmable and when it’s permitted it’s usually restricted to a netted area with lifeguard patrol. Here at Alma Bay there were no nets and no obvious patrol area, and yet lots of carefree swimmers. We asked a local fellow - a fit looking old chap in trunks. He confidently assured us that there were no lethal Stingerblobs in these waters and that while we might feel a few nips, there’d be nothing to worry about. Still pouring with sweat I figured I’d take my chances if it meant a brief cooling down period, so in I went, wading up to my neck. Sure enough I felt the nips almost immediately. And constantly. And painfully. How the fuck did these people enjoy, or even endure this?! No-one would willingly go running naked through a patch of man-high nettles and still grin, but that’s pretty much what it felt like. I stuck it out for a couple of minutes and then left, sobbing and looking like I’d been repeatedly slashed with a whip made of fire.

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A couple of weeks ago I was ambling home from the pub when a bunch of lads jumped me. Nothing too violent - I wasn’t hurt and I reckon they were just trying to act tough. (If you’re reading this, mother, don’t worry - I’m all good!). However, when I picked myself up I found my wallet had gone. This was more annoying than anything - my wallet tends to be a bit like a kid’s wallet - nothing in it but pretend ID cards I never use, old bus tickets, receipts for toys, and a few sweet wrappers. I maybe lost about 80 quid, along with my E-Card, and both my Austrian and English bank cards. I called up the relevant authorities and within a week or so I’d received replacements and all was good. I even bought myself a new wallet with way more compartments and card slots than I’m ever gonna need.

A few minutes ago a colleague of mine called me to tell me that some woman had just stopped by the bar and handed over all my missing cards - no wallet, no cash - and said she thinks they belong to somebody working there. They do! Me! Apparently she left pretty abruptly but said she’d found me on Facebook, where the name of the bar is listed on my profile. Fair enough - nice of her to take the time to stalk me and find that out. Except that that info is only visible to my friends.

I’m trying to figure this one out, and maybe there’s a straightforward explanation that I’m missing, but having just Googled myself and the name of the bar I found nothing that linked us.

Something smells fishy but I can’t work out what, or what kind of fish it is.

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No big deal, but over the years the locals have had trouble with my name. Fair enough, it’s not Austrian, and it’s not even a particularly common English name. I’ve picked up parcels from the post office and struggled proving my ID since the receipt in my mailbox has said things like Stud Colbork, Stuad Kohlbruck, Illegible squiggle Colesomething, Straud Cooooobeck. When I receive parcels at work and have to sign for them I’ve given up trying to explain my name and just gone with whatever the postie repeats back to me - “Kohlbuh?” “Sure, why not.”

Recently I had to call to have my E-Card (medical insurance) card replaced (the why of this is explained in my next post…). What should have been a relatively simple routine instead became the most exasperating conversation of my life. I was asked to spell out my name:

- “Colebrook. C-O-L-E-B-R-O-O-K”
- “Ummm… one more time please.”
- “C-O-L-E-B-R-O-O-K”
- “So, S-O-L….”
- “No, C-O-L…”
- “OK. S-O-L….”
- “C-O-L!”
- “I’m sorry?”
- “C! C-O-L…”
- “L-O-C?”
- “C-O-L!!!”
- “S-O-C…”
- “C! O! L!…”

It became a bit of a farce by the end. Sure, my German’s not perfect but I can get the fucking letters right! Then I had to give my address and she asked me which city Vienna was in. You just asked for my city. I said Wien. That’s the city! I hope there isn’t a small town somewhere in Austria called Siebzehnter Bezirk (17th District) otherwise I’m not getting my new E-Card.

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I knew it wouldn’t be long. Those few that actually read this thing will have noticed that I’ve procrastinated over the writing up of my tales of travelling idiocy. In fact, I still haven’t completed my written journal - three months later and my last week in Thailand is in danger of becoming nothing more than a cloudy memory rumbling around a progressively more booze and age-addled mind.

But I’m back at my day job and have been both blessed and cursed with a few more ‘odd’ patrons. Enjoy:


- Oh. I’d better tip you. US dollars alright?
- Not really. Sorry.
- You don’t take US dollars?!
- Sorry
- But this IS Austria right?
- Exactly.
- Oh, well I suppose I have to pay in Euros then.

 

- (in English) Do you speak English?
- Yep
- (in German) I’m looking for a bookshop
- (also in German) This is a bookshop…
- (in English) I’m sorry. I don’t speak German.
- I said this is a bookshop.
- Do you know the name of it?
- The name of this place?
- The bookshop
- Well, we’re a bookshop, but it might not be the one you’re looking for. Do you know the name of the place you’re after? There are a couple of other bookshops close by.
- OK, thank you. (leaves)

 

The least argumentative argumentative customer:

- This isn’t Earl Grey! I ordered Earl Grey!
- That’s Earl Grey.
- OK. Sorry.

 

Lone customer at a table:

- What can I get you?
- (peruses menu) Ahhh, I think I’ll take… nothing.
- You don’t want to order anything?
- No thankyou.

 

A well-to-do looking middle-aged guy just came in with his wife (I assume). They sat at a table and promptly began chomping on their MacDonalds burgers and fries from the bag. I went over to them, primarily to take their order but also to tell them that bringing food from elsewhere into a restaurant is not really cool. Before I even reached the table he put a hand up, smiled, and kindly informed me that they didn’t need to order anything as they already had food! A brief exchange followed with him being astounded that I wouldn’t be happy with them just sitting there eating Maccys and not ordering anything from here.

His logic was that it was nicer and more comfortable in here than in MacDonalds!

I’m sure it is. And based on his attire and demeanor I’m also sure he has a nicer house than me but that doesn’t mean I’m gonna take all my shit from home and just go and chill out on his couch with it.

 

This happens often enough to annoy me. A new group come in and sit down. I give them ample time to look at the menus and then see that they’re sitting back, chatting. I go over with my usual, “Hi. What can I get you?” which seems to startle and confuse the fuck out of them. Rather than just tell me they haven’t yet decided, they throw panicked glances and awkward smiles at each other and me, and scrabble frantically for the menu. All without saying a damn word to me. Are cafes and bars really that bewildering?!

 

 

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After a couple of weeks spanning Sydney, Canberra and Melbourne we travelled the Great Ocean Road and The Grampians National Park in the South of Australia. As expected, lots of nice greenery to look at, as well as a fair bit of bluery and reddery.

As an animal lover it was perfect - I got to see a bunch of kangaroos and marvel at how wonderful a beast they were. And then eat a bunch of kangaroo and marvel at how wonderful a taste it was. I also saw a shitload of wild koalas, real close-up, and let me tell you something - whilst they may look all dopey and cute, sleeping up in the trees, reading their little koala books, and munching on Eucalyptus, they make a fucking hideous sound. Fucking hideous! It’s a bit like a squealing pig, but more pained. Kind of how I’d imagine a squealing pig would sound if you took it, rammed it up between a couple of high branches for the pleasure of glaring tourists, and then pelted it with stones.

And whilst we’re on the subject of terrifying screeches - cockatoos. Those same pretty, white, parroty-looking things that nannas keep as pets - the trees and skies above parts of Australia are literally flocking with them, and like koalas, their vocalisations belie their looks. I’ll use the squealing pig analogy again, but this time imagine that squealing pig being suddenly catapulted into the air and then attacked by hungry eagles. That’s how a cockatoo sounds. If you ever find yourself seeking relaxation with a CD of birdsong, go for the non-cockatoo version, as they make literally the most hideous sound I have ever heard.

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We finished New Zealand in Kaikoura. I fucking loved Kaikoura. We lucked out and got  a couple of days of heat and sunshine and with our hostel sitting literally on the edge of the ocean, we got a clear view every day of the blue skies and snow-capped mountains across the water.

One of the best things I did in New Zealand was take a chartered boat out to do some sea fishing. On a boat skippered by a one-legged local with fingers he’d lost to a shark attack. No, really. Eating out in Kaikoura was pretty expensive but luckily we managed to catch a pretty decent haul of sea perch and even score us a couple of freshly caught crayfish, so back at our hostel, whilst the other travellers were feasting on instant noodles and bread, we made do with what we had.

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For most people I’d spoken to, Queenstown was the highlight of New Zealand, offering yet more picture postcard scenery (for free), plenty of overpriced extreme activities, and a bunch of overpriced bars and pubs. We had 4 nights here, and at one point I briefly contemplated paying about 200 quid to be dragged by a boat along the lake, suspended 100m in the air, but instead I opted to hire a bike and cycle about 30km around the water. I’m pleased I did. I only fell off into brambles once, and I found an ace rope swing that kept me occupied for a good hour and a half without costing me a penny.

I also went for another horseback tour, which was mostly pleasant except for the fact that my horse was an obstinate, hulking brute who took full advantage of my lack of experience by doing as he pleased, pretty much forgetting (or not giving a horse’s shit) that he had a rider. He appeared to delight in walking through every spiky limbed bush he saw meaning that on more than one occasion I had to ride side saddle and cling on for dear life as my face and arms were whipped and lacerated. I forget his name now but it was something four-lettered and fitting like Bull, or Hulk. Or Cunt.

Queenstown also gave us the dorm room with the grandest view. If you felt adventurous enough you could scale the bunk beds that obscured the only window and look out across the glorious rusty ventilation pipes from the cafe next door. On a clear day you could even make out the crumbling brick wall that stood about a metre away from the glass - an experience made all the more memorable by the stench of shit and cooking grease that filled the room each day. Breathtaking.

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After Africa and its many more stories, none of which I’m going to endeavour to describe, at least not to you, we headed to New Zealand.

We left our hostel in Cape Town on a Friday afternoon, but didn’t arrive in Auckland until 2pm on Sunday, spending over 30 hours flying, a fair few more in transit, and jumping forward 8 more hours into our next time zone. A journey which gives me the fear just recollecting - I lost all concept of where and when I was, and a shitty hostel bed never looked so good as when we finally arrived. Auckland itself was massively disappointing - I didn’t necessarily dislike it, but it had nothing to set it apart or stand it above any other major city. Three days spent there were more than enough.

We met some great people in New Zealand, and despite it not being Africa, not by a long shot, we had some memorable times, particularly on the South Island. This tale begins in the tiny town of Franz Josef, population 300ish, near the West coast of this island.

Franz Josef is one of many small New Zealand towns with not much to offer, other than a big fucking glacier you can look at, climb, hike across, and sky dive over. A group of us were really looking forward to trekking across the ice here, but unfortunately the glacier had fallen over and was currently inaccessible except by helicopter, which would have set us back about a million dollars per person - cheap by New Zealand standards. Luckily, glaciers travel in packs and there was another one just down the road, called Fox. Since I’m not fussy when it comes to glaciers, I decided to hike up that one all afternoon.

Despite being togged up in thermals and waterproofs, it was fucking freezing - who’d have thought ice could be so cold! It was also pouring with rain, and even the ridiculously oversized absorbent woollen mittens they’d provided me with couldn’t keep my extremities dry or warm. I’m still at a loss as to what purpose such mittens could serve in any capacity when hiking up a massive, wet icy hill, but I enjoyed it thoroughly nonetheless. The wonders of ice! Without ice, this would have just been a cold, shit walk uphill in the rain, but the ice changed everything.

Maybe Auckland should look at getting itself a glacier - they’re pretty good.

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"If I could only choose one attraction in this part of South Africa, it would be the Cango Caves"

That’s a quote there from Jess, our cook and guide - a South African born and bred, who had been a faultless, admirable and trustworthy friend and guide as I travelled around the country.

Either she fucking loves rocks or she just needed a couple of hours away from the group, because it was a slightly less riveting experience than I’d imagined it would be. And I’d imagined it would be about as riveting as a dank, dark cave full of stones could be. The fluctuating tones of our underground guide was the best part and even he was blatantly grasping at straws with his tenuous comparisons of the various rocks with various things that aren’t rocks:

- If you follow my torch to that big, formless lump of stone over there, you’ll see it resembles an eagle being attacked by two rhinos being ridden by snakes. On fire.”

I’m paraphrasing but you get my gist.

I’d had a dodgy stomach for a couple of days and had spent a fair bit of time in public toilets at about 20p a pop. Guess which activity I considered the better value for money.

After the caves, I visited Monkeyland, where I was shown around a jungle by the least enthusiastic guide I’d ever met. I think he could have benefitted from swapping with cave guy for a bit, just so he could grasp that there are less exciting things than being surrounded by shitloads of monkeys.

I also spent a fair bit of time wandering around the largest free-flight aviary in the world - Birds Of Eden - And it was pretty vast. I’m not a massive fan of birds, and wasn’t hoping for much, especially considering that earlier in Kruger I’d witnessed giraffes brawling, cheetahs feeding on a freshly killed impala, a shitload of not killed impalas, a lion, hippos, a leopard, gnu, elephants, rhinos, monkeys, more monkeys, various types of antelope, enough giraffes to make it not worth stopping to look at giraffes anymore, and a couple of buffalo making sweet, sweet love. Birds Of Eden was pretty amazing though. My advice to Africa would be to combine this, Monkeyland and the Cango Caves. Just let all those wacky birds and monkeys loose down there and nobody’s coming out unhappy.

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A couple of weeks into South Africa I spent a few nights camping along the Garden Route on the South-Eastern coast of Africa. To quote Wikipedia - The name comes from the verdant and ecologically diverse vegetation encountered here and the numerous lagoons and lakes dotted along the coast.” - sounds pretty picturesque right? Well indeed it was, but what stood out most for me was not the stunning views, the wild animals, the touching of elephants, the crazy rich guy who bought himself an entire island or the fact that someone I know rode an ostrich for a bit. Nope, it was a genuine and regrettable moment of idiocy from yours truly.

A Tsitsikamma canopy tour . I don’t recall exactly what I thought it was going to be, but I think I envisaged something like a nice little walk through treetops on some kind of quaint little rope bridge. And by treetops I would have for some bizarre reason imagined something not too high, since I’m terrified of heights. Terrifed. Treetops, canopies - the clues were all there in the name really.

Turns out it was actually a tour through the tops of trees so high I couldn’t see the bottom. On ziplines. I don’t mind admitting I was more scared than I’ve ever been in my life and since I was up a fucking giant tree in the jungle it wasn’t as if I could just turn around and go back. It took me about three quarters of the way through to relax a little, and oddly it wasn’t the hurtling through the air suspended on a cable, with the guide’s warnings ringing through my ears that freaked me out:

- “Don’t grab the line - it’ll dislocate your shoulder!”
- “Don’t try and stop yourself with your legs - it’ll break your ankles!”

Basically all things that went against my natural instinct. Rather, it was the waiting on platforms between each zipline that sent my legs and guts a bit wobbly. Here stood nine adults, crowded on to just enough rickety wood to crowd nine adults on to, with a safety barrier that appeared to be constructed from old clothes hangers and balsa. And the platforms weren’t screwed or nailed in as that would damage the tree. Priorities. Instead, the whole thing was secured by wrapping cables around bits of rubber wedged against the bark. I’d have rather fought a lion with my bare hands.

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The first 24 hours of my journey was pretty much all spent travelling to a plane, sitting on a plane, or waiting for a plane. Thanks to a bunch of largely unfounded horror stories I’d read about Johannesburg airport combined with my own OCD-esque behaviour, I didn’t manage to relax completely until arriving at the airport and finding that my bag hadn’t been rifled through, stolen, or eaten by lions.

I’d already inquired of our first night’s lodgings if we’d be picked up from the airport, and they’d told me I should call them on arrival. So I did and it turned out they’d already sent a guy to collect us and he’d been hanging around waiting for over an hour.

- “Yes. He’s in Arrivals already. You’re looking for a tall, black man holding a name board.”

Well then he should stick out like a sore thumb at an airport in Africa. Thanks.

- “I’ll call him and let him know you’re there. How will he recognise you?”

I described myself and Vicky in detail.

- “Yes, yes. But are you carrying backpacks?”

Because obviously that would make things easier for him. Here we are at a major airport, in  a country with a large black population, and all we need to do to find our driver is seek out the black guy holding a name board. And all he needs to do to find his travellers is seek out the couple carrying backpacks. Easy.

Anyways, we found him and he was indeed tall and black, and we made it to our lodge, and after a brief and uneventful evening we set our alarms for 5 fucking AM and slept through an African thunderstorm.

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As promised the last time I could be arsed to write anything here, I have just traveled the world, or at least an insignificant percentage of it. 4 months and 7 countries (not including the few where I just hung out at the airport). It was pretty good, like.

Throughout those 4 months, I kept a journal. It began with excitement and a daily diary format, but pretty soon deteriorated into the scrawling of a few half-arsed descriptive comments whenever I could be arsed to sit down with it. According to travelling me, nothing at all of note happened during three weeks travelling from North to South New Zealand. I toyed with the notion of writing the entire journal up as an online blog, complete with accompanying photos, but that’s never going to happen. However, it contains a handful of anecdotes that might be worthy of inclusion in some kind of blog, and since I can’t be bothered to create a new one, they’re going here.

I’m back at work in Vienna now, and have a horrendous case of the post-travel blues, so chances are I’m going to start finding idiocy everywhere, simply because I’m feeling more bitter and misanthropic than ever before. This means this blog will return to its former ways eventually. Until then, and for as long as it takes me to remember and/or type up the more worthy tales, it’s going to be travel-based.