Posts tagged Travel Writing
#32 I should not flush

So much is so sacred in India: cows, temples, Brahmin, Mother Teresa, Ganesh and the Ganges. There’s Varanasi and Vishnu - cricket’s Virat Kohliand and Bollywood’s Shahrukh Khan - the list is long.  

Tim Thali small.jpg

On my list – sacred and exalted – is the holy of holies: a clean, private, flushing toilet, which so far had been present and beloved during my short time in Kolkata.  

But on day two, things – loo paper included – quickly unraveled.  

On the tour bus, a blonde, Danish traveller had been writhing in her seat since temple number 3 for the day, when she attempted a discreet bottom toot, which delivered more than expected. 

“Stop the bus!”

Soon, the entire tour group came down with gastro and bathroom cubicles swung open and shut like saloon doors in a thirsty Western. 

But not me.

I escaped the bug that had undergarments bleating in misery all about me. 

I cleaned my teeth with bottled water. 

I went through half a tube of hand sanitiser every eight hours. 

I did everything the guidebook told me to, and more. 

As day three ended, I drifted off to sleep, serenaded by the distant chorus of toilets flushing through the night.

The next morning, at breakfast, as I sipped my bottled water and nibbled on my plain toast, somewhere between smugs-ville and self-righteous town, I felt the tiniest gurgle in my tummy. 

As I bolted for the washroom, the events that followed were X-rated and blisteringly violent. 

And so it remained for the duration of the three-week tour. 

When I wasn’t glued to the toilet seat I was staring down the barrel of one, vomiting with all the gusto of a possessed, pea-soup spitting child.

But life continued. 

We were on tour.

You have to get on with.

You must get on with it.

Many say a tummy bug and its accompaniments are all part of a trip to certain countries, but I had been here before and not fallen ill. 

Now I cursed the double-daal Thali, as I hunched over the porcelain in the road-side restaurant washroom.

“I’m sorry,” I muttered through streaming eyes as I tipped the bathroom attendant a king’s ransom. 

Brought up laden with British reserve, toilet humour is verboten in my family, so when I returned to the table to hear tales of the ‘fart that wasn’t’ …  ‘Pandora’s knickers and the evils within’ I was at first reluctant to share. But this new and exciting world of cistern chatter was both bewildering and enlightening to me. 

Chronic diarrhoea is a particularly tiresome brand of sickness - made worse when you’re on the move, but when the entire group comes down with it, you have no choice but to share. 

As I listened, I realised I had escaped remarkably unscathed, compared to some. 

Horrors … such horrors.

That was, until the very end.  

It was our final day in India. 

I excused myself from the table as a tummy rumble indicated the need for flight to the washroom, which had become almost second nature. 

When we reached our last hotel I was somewhat perturbed to discover my toilet had a rather energetic flush.

The intricacies of local plumbing have long been a point of confusion for me: strange pipes that lead nowhere and taps in the middle of rooms.  

This toilet that sprayed all over the bathroom when flushed just seemed another touch of whimsy.

Simple though: close the lid before flushing. 

I knicker-dropped at warp speed and sat a while contemplating the Celine Dion muzak piped into every corner of the hotel; her pinched nasal twang really was an appropriate anthem for soiling oneself. 

“Near, far, wherever you are…once more you open the door..." 

I sensed some firming of my deposits and gazed into the toilet to confirm.

Momentarily forgetting the exploding toilet and flushed … 

#31 I should not ignore the sound of music

I was trying to finish a story about a recent trip to India, despite all the noise and commotion around the corner from where I was staying. Eventually, I gave in and went for a look-see ... and this is what I discovered... The biggest Maori cultural event in Hawke's Bay, the 2018 Ngati Kahungunu Kapa HakaFestival, held in Wairoa.

The regional competition is a qualifying event to see who will perform at the 2019 Te Matatini National Kapa Haka Festival for the Kahungunu region.

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#26 I should not feed the animals

Technically I wasn't feeding the animals and no kookaburras were harmed during the filming of this picture.

Smoking causes beak cancer

Smoking causes beak cancer

I was at a holiday house in the Blue Mountains about two hours drive west of Sydney.

There was food involved.

I vaguely remember leaving some cheese and crackers on the terrace and someone had left cigarettes on the table.

But Polly didn't want a cracker.

He wanted a smoke.

 

 

 

 

#25 I should not dress like a large slice of bread

Once again, it seemed like a great idea at the time ... happy days ...

At least it was warm and toasty

At least it was warm and toasty

Come to the party they said.

Never one to give up the opportunity to slip into a costume, the obvious choice to attend a Sound of Music party was to go dressed as bread and jam.

It all went swimmingly until the neighbours, on account of a particularly raucous chorus of 'My Favourite Things,' called the cops. It was spectacular.

The police constables were less enthused.

But when I answered the door thusly attired they were powerless to reprimand me and instead advised us to party hard.

We obliged.

And continued with our tribute to Julie Andrews and the iconic 60's movie.

This happened while I was in Sydney but it doesn't matter where you are travelling around the world, party hard and dance like no one is watching, even if you can hardly move because you're trapped in a huge slice of glittered bread.

Go hard.

 

#24 I should not play dress-ups

It's a truth universally acknowledged that if you ask someone not to do something, chances are they're likely to do exactly that which you forbade.

Don't touch the costume cupboard .... sorry I can't hear you.

Don't touch the costume cupboard .... sorry I can't hear you.

Such was the request and subsequent naughty defiance during a vacation to Byron Bay.

A theatre group had once rented the property and a substantial costume collection remained.

Red flag.

Bull.

The door to the costume room was locked but no match for a Phillips head and few gentle taps.

Honestly, what did you expect?

#22 I should not paint my hair white

Costume parties are fun. At home. While travelling, sometimes less so.

When all logic abandons you and colouring your hair with white house paint seems reasonable. 

When all logic abandons you and colouring your hair with white house paint seems reasonable. 

Back home, outfits are well-planned, thoughtfully executed and usually shed before the witching hour.

Costumes on the run, when you are travelling, are more complicated.

What to wear?

Such was my quandary when visiting a friend in Sydney.  

The taxi was fast approaching and 'Plan A' to spray my hair with temporary white colour had resulted in my having a consumptive, sickly appearance covered in what looked like dead skin.

Drastic action was required.

I disappeared into the workshop and came back with a more permanent solution.

Logic said no.

But the six dirty martinis screamed yes. 

I bent over a drop sheet and painted my head white.

And then just for good measure, sprinkled a small fortune in glitter all over my head.

The next day it did not seem like such a good idea.

Three weeks later, even less so. 

 

#21 I should not stay in love hotels

It's a great idea to stay in a love hotel, said no one ever

Sad face: but nothing 20 litres of spray bleach can't fix

Sad face: but nothing 20 litres of spray bleach can't fix

I was curious.

What exactly was a 'Love Hotel'?

Rented by the hour or the night ... suspicious looking people shuffling in back entrances.

I'd been in Bangkok for a week and neon signs everywhere had piqued my curiosity.

I should have known.

Renting anything relating to 'love' by the hour can't be good.

Not that I object ... it's just not my poison.

Each to their own.

I found a hotel on Ratchadaphisek Road.

It had no windows. Probably should have given it away, but I entered the foyer, which was excessively beige and not at all suggestive of what was going on in the rooms upstairs.

The receptionist was neat and charming.

What was I worried about?

Fears allayed.

But only for a moment.

When I got to my room I noticed sticky hand prints covering the wall above the bed.

I checked the nightstand.

No bible.

I thought as much.

Sex.

I called down to reception.

Several litres of bleach later the smell of - whatever that smell was - was gone and replaced with an eye-watering hospital grade scent of cleanliness.

And it's not just in Thailand.

There are love hotels all over the world catering to secret assignations, starstruck lovers and horny business men. 

 

 

 

 

#20 I should listen to the weather forecast

An ex tropical cyclone has come to play.

Mary Poppins moments can be expected if one ignores the weather forecast

Mary Poppins moments can be expected if one ignores the weather forecast

Shades of Dorothy blown in by cyclonic winds have the capital in a tizzy, and somewhere over the rainbow a storm is brewing.
It’s grim.  
But I remain optimistic.
There’s “nowt can’t be remedied by galoshes and a sou’wester,” granny always said when great scudding clouds threatened my childhood adventures.
But this odyssey calls for gumboots or waders … or a submarine.
Wellington boots in wellington.
The story is practically writing itself.
Then the rain turns horizontal and wind speeds top 200km/h and my smugness - along with much of the surrounding topsoil – is washed away by Ex-Tropical Cyclone Debbie’s deluge.
Wellington’s compact but usually bustling CBD with its soaring verticality of business and commerce is almost deserted.
As I slosh through ankle-deep puddles towards a patisserie wafting nostril twitching loveliness, I notice a few panicky Wellintonians scurrying home, battling an invisible, blustery foe doffing hats and flipping brollies.    
Enough.
I’m off.
I decide to forgo the Wellington leg of the trip.
I ‘plan B’ and drive/sail to my lodgings in Plimmerton.
I hunker down for the night, wake early, dodge the razor and head off.
According to the weather forecast, apparently there’s a tiny piece of blue sky somewhere north and I am determined to find it.

 

#19 I should close my mouth while quad biking

"Eat shit" is something my sister often says to me.

Does this pink, plastic poncho make my bum look big?

Does this pink, plastic poncho make my bum look big?

And other choice phrases.

Siblings.

You love them. But sometimes they get on your tits.

And words come out ... the hurtful things you don't actually mean, but at the end of the day they know you better than anyone else, and when all is said and done ... you don't really want them to eat shit ...

or so I thought.

On our last trip to Cambodia, we decided to go on a half-day tour around the villages surrounding the capital city Phnom Penh, on quad bikes.

Towards the end of the trip we drove through a paddock full of cow excrement and my sister became bogged down in poo.

I laughed.

Oh, how I laughed.

Up to her pretty, white sneakers in shit.

I told her to "give it arseholes" a delightful phrase I learned in New Zealand, which has a miscellany of different meanings, but in this instance meant put your foot down.

As she accelerated out of the paddock back onto the track, several kilos of cow shit, which had been lodged under the quad bike wheels hit me in the face with such velocity it knocked off my sunglasses and filled my mouth and throat.

I have not the words ...

 

 

#18 I should not move to remote islands to write novels

Inside every reporter, journalist and travel writer is a budding novelist.

Wilson: your only friend while you write that illusive novel

Wilson: your only friend while you write that illusive novel

I travel a lot.

But even when the anchor of domestic normality grounds me and I decide to settle down, I usually end up moving somewhere remote.

One of my bright ideas was to buy a house on a tiny island off the coast of Queensland.

Sound idyllic?

I thought so.

Not.

Replace the white sand with mangroves and mud and fill the ocean with Bull Sharks and Great Whites and the occasional Tiger Shark. 

I lived there for a full year, in isolation, writing my travel diaries.

It should have been ideal.

I should have written that bestseller.

What actually happened was I bought a lot of crap off the internet, spent hours rubbing calamine lotion into the countless sand fly and mosquito bites and extracting ticks from my unmentionables.

Power cuts and burst sewer mains kept me distracted too.

Finally, my mother sent me a present: a Wilson ball to jolt me out of my self-imposed exile and remind me that my only human contact was with a piece of spherical sporting equipment. 

 

#17 I should not eat bulls' testicles

I am not a fan of glands.

A rodeo in Hawke's Bay where the fruits of labour swing like a mighty bag of onions

A rodeo in Hawke's Bay where the fruits of labour swing like a mighty bag of onions

My flatmate used to have a dog that had a particularly pendulous sack of gonads, which it insisted on draping all over my soft furnishings.

May it was curiosity. Maybe it was a a perverse sense of revenge but twice on my travels I've dined on bull's testicles and twice I've thrown up the entire contents of my stomach.

Once in Cambodia.

Once in Montana.

 

 

 

#15 I should have brought my phrase book

'Sudoko' doesn't get you very far in Japan. Not when you need to hail a cab or order a drink or ask where the bathrooms are or excuse yourself for sitting on an old lady on the metro.

Bonsai! ... One of the few Japanese words I know ... but not very helpful

Bonsai! ... One of the few Japanese words I know ... but not very helpful

I really should have learned some Japanese .. or brought my phrase book. And then of course, when you get lost the arguments start. 

Nelle and I are bickering furiously about which Japanese symbol to press on the ticket machine at the subway station when we hear, “this button, press for Nikko”.

#13 I should not guzzle saké

While in Japan, a mixture of confusion and greed (mine) led to enough saké being ordered to down a small horse. I have not touched saké since.

Naughty saké ... wickedness never tasted so good

Naughty saké ... wickedness never tasted so good

We dine at Gonpachi (the Kill Bill restaurant).

I’m with my travelling companion Nelle, her friend Alicia and Japanese partner Kazuo, the latter whispers something into Alicia’s ear.

I should not feed Geese #1

As with so many things in life, it seemed a good idea at the time… ignoring the signs and feeding the wildlife at Lake Burley Griffin in Canberra.

Do not be fooled

Do not be fooled

But hindsight is a wonderful thing. No sooner had I flicked the aspic off the pate than a swarm of geese attacked.