Indian Adventures

Nov 2013 – Feb 2014

Day One in India

2 December 2013 – Welcome to India. I am lying in a silk liner on a bed which has been donated by the Pink Pearl Ladies Club of Jaipur. It is sometime in the middle of the night almost a whole day since we arrived in India. About ten meters in front of my head and down on the ground level there is a crowded slum about 200m squared. While Becky and I walked through it, a crowd of overexcited children congregated around us almost causing a riot. They constantly stuck out their hands to be shaken and said hello. We had about fifty damp, dirt caked hands reaching up to us at all times. They all told us their names and we asked ‘how old are you?’ to which they would reply ‘good thank you’ and giggle their heads off. They steered Bec and I away from standing on a dead rat and we walked the boundaries of the slum with the joyous children causing the adults to come out and discover what the fuss was all about. Cows stands sleepily munching on grass, fully aware of their symbolic importance. They have soft, sagging skin on their necks and usually a rope which leads to nowhere. The slum is composed of anything which can possibly be utilized in holding a structure together – jeans split at the seams and craftily sewn together to make a door, tarps, old chairs, planks of wood, knitted plastic bags and rubbish. The whole area has adopted a dull appearance thanks to the fine durst which has settled over the living areas. The dust is very present in our noses as we are walking through because of the tiny, trampling feet all around us. The children become more confident and begin to cling onto Bec and I, whacking each other out of the way to have a turn. We are finally in India. The journey was long, with our anticipation drawing it out even more. After eating some very unusual fish ball and pork cartilage stew in Bird Flu obsessed Hong Kong, we arrived in Mumbai. The connecting domestic flight to Jaipur had a much lower baggage limit than the international flights and we had a problem. Between us Bec and I had at least 50 kilograms – two huge red and white striped woven bags packed to the brim with childrens clothes, shoes and toys and our packs were overflowing with hand knitted blankets from Elyses mum and stationery materials from Kerrie Klinner’s friend. Bec and I unpacked everything in our luggage in front of half intrigued sleepy Indians in the Mumbai airport at 2am in the morning. We repacked, wearing as many of our clothes as possioble, despite climbing hot weather and jammed as much into our day packs as we could fit. Paying for an extra 10 kgs in check in baggage really is a daunting idea. After being waved through customs without needing to scan because of the home made label on the bags- toys for Aashray care home- meant we were clearly good, innocent global citizens (potential drug smugglers take note!) It was time to be weighed. We scored a friendly young trainee looking Indian administrator and even though our baggage was 5kg over for each of us, she quietly put tags on and sent them along the belt. Thank god her barking boss was at the next counter

 

Day 4 – Jaisalmer; India.

Bec and I scaled the walls of the Jaisalmer Fort yesterday; thick slabs of sandstone mixed with cement perched on a mountain of rubble. Within the walls of the Old Fort are houses and temples, lazy dogs with one eye following us, bright blue sari swathed women hand washing and beating material, endless teenage touts telling us to follow them for the best views of the city below, the smell of roti crisping at the edges in a charred frying pan, cows with horns so large and intimidating that I want to run a mile rather than shimmy past them in a narrow alleyway and a dangerously tantalizing new realm of opportunities for shopaholics.
We found ourselves on the floor of an open shop flooded with diaries; tassels, jewels, sari materials, banana and coriander and rose paper with bells and whistles were all in the running to choose from. We sat with the owner and artist Kamal while the sun lowered substantially above our heads. Bec and I walked away with our favorite new possessions in hand and wound our way down to Gatsial Lake. We watched the burning sphere of orange settle below the horizon from the seats of a giant, blue plastic swan shaped pedal boat out on the lake.
Far from chaotic India, our experience to date has been just like the ride in the oversized swan – smooth and comfortable and completely unexpected.
Only two days ago, we were exploring the Antiretoviral Treatment Centre for HIV?AIDS in Jaipur’s largest hospital of 2000 beds. As the doctor was speaking to us about the 250 HIV positive people who come to the Centre daily for drugs and counselling – 70% of which are migrants and truck drivers – Bec and I were trying to keep our eyes off the dirt caked fas and stryofoam rather than glass filling the windows. At least they give the room a nice orange kind of glow when the sun is beating down and it makes people look a bit healther. A very weak man lay on a bench in the watiing room, with eaciated hands pulling a heavy brown rug up to his open mouth like he was in a blizzard. I sat directly opposite him and his eyes stared right into me but were unseeing. Three people helped him to stand up on some scales and momentarily let him go and caught his weight of 40 kilograms before he fell down again. I can see why Sushilah calls this a war against AIDS.
The day before that we accompanied Sushilah to a regional meeting for women in and around Jaipur which she single handedly organised. A great restaurant donated the lunch of freshly cooked flat roti bread which is used to scoop up an impossibly creamy brown daal and spicy, rough textured vegetable curry. Who needs meat in India! Women of all ages – some holding tiny children and efficiently using their left hand to silently eat away, others clearly good friends – sat on thin carpets lining the walls of the rooms in this simple centre owned by the positive womens network of Rajasthan. Once the feast had been devoured, a very heated conversation in Hindi was held amongst these beautiful, seemingly independent Rajasthani women. Bec and I sat at the back, with faces occasionally turning to smile shyly at us.. The children became fidgety and came to play with us (one peed all over Bec – clearly nappies clearly shouldn’t be taken for granted) and are delighted by seeing their own face smiling back at them on our camera screens.

We are staying at a laid back guesthouse called Mystic in Jaisalmer, an insanely bumpy eleven and a half hour bus trip on a ‘sleeper’ from Jaipur. It was so bad that when I looked over to see ever positive Bec at 3am in the morning she stared straight ahead, bumping up and down like an energizer bunny and said – quote – “I hate this”. The town is like a mirage on approach from the encroaching desert, completely made of sandstone, with only the occasional fuchsia curtains adorning the windows of a house as the rare splash of colour, you have to focus your eyes to make out the city from the desert. Animals abound, with pigeons shooting out of hiding holes in the sandstone as you walk by, unfortunate looking piglets with prematurely thinning hair get under your feet and camels camouflage against the sand piles. This morning we walked the entire inner wall of the Fort, and we didn’t see a single soul along the path. The weather is perfect, our stomachs are bug free, the people couldn’t be more accommodating and we just booked a camel safari in the desert for tonight! — with Bec Rourke.

Day Seven, India; Camel Safari in the Thar Desert

I just counted the twelfth consecutive drawn out sneeze, each followed by a ritual muttering under the breath, of the man sleeping across the flimsy wall of the next sleeper booth along on the train. It’s our first Indian railway experience, and I am lying on a one inch thick plastic blue mattress suspended by metal bars. Two bunk beds are below, with Bec huddled at the bottom chatting with an adventurous Chinese woman named Helen. When we first boarded the train at midnight, a round man in a thick striped jumper stared at us insistently from large, googly eyes. He propped himself up on a pillow for the long haul to watch us from the bed of some unknowing Indian man deep in sleep directly opposite us. When the lights finally went out to signal the train was on its way, I thanked god he couldn’t see us anymore in the dim, murky green light that remained. I rolled over, ready for a peaceful 5 hour slumber to Jodhpur, when those googly eyes popped up literally 3 inches from my face through the bars connecting the next sleeper booth. I held my silk liner high over my head like a twelve year old girl watching her first horror movie, and I could still see the outline of google eyes sitting upright, staring right at me. Becky laughed until tears squeezed their way out of her eyes.
This is a very stark contrast to last night, which was spent miles from anywhere or anyone in a thick striped jumper with googly eyes. We were under the star littered night sky of the Thar desert on a camel safari.
Our guide Suni collected our little safari party from Mystic guesthouse in the early afternoon. We consisted of James, a 20 year old blonde Melbournite plumber, who towered over Bec and I, and Justin, a 24 year old from the Netherlands who has just finished his political science degree. On our way into the desert, the jeep stopped off at a few gypsy villages. The people stay for one month, building houses from cow dung and utitlising all of the resources in the area before moving on. Hence there are loads of abandoned villages in this scarily isolated expanse which would be the perfect setting for the next Mummy movie. Upon reaching Suni’s village, each of us were handed a camel decorated with a saddle made of heavy blankets tied down with thick freight straps. I shuffled onto the leggy desert roamer and swayed dangerously close to both sides as my new ride stood up. The camels were dubbed Cameron, Alice, Joseph and Budgie as we set off into the Indian desert, inner thighs clenching onto the creatures’ back. After an hour and a half feeling like Arabian royalty imposters and a new-found camel riding confidence putting us on the verge of pulling off some wild gymnast moves, we jumped off and made camp in the pink topped sand dunes. After a very private sunset viewing and compulsory dune fun-runs, the four of us sat sharing tips, tricks and anecdotes with semi-chilled Kingfisher beers in hand. When the darkness and dung beetles set in, Suni and his Indian possy made a beat on empty water bottles and metal pans, singing local songs at the top of their lungs. I lay back watching shooting stars glide effortlessly to their death amongst the magical glimpse into the universe overhead. We trudged up the highest dune we could manage in the dark, trying to to lock the view into our memory banks for a lifetime. Back down at the fire, the boys sandwiched Bec and I together in thick blankets so heavy we had little chance of rolling out of our desert bed. I fell asleep with a scarf wrapped around my head so the curious dung beetles couldn’t investigate; the sound of the bells around the camels necks in the distance following me to my dreams. — with Bec Rourke.

We are sitting in an empty cafe within the walls of Merangarh Fort in Jodhpur, well on our way to becoming qualified lassi conoserirs. The rich, creamy yoghurt drink rippled with mashed banana is sold by the ritziest restaurant to the most suspicious looking street seller. We just can’t get enough – Indian breakfast is not complete wirthout one. We are inside the cafe taking refuge from the foreigner-obsessed UINdian boys.This morning we wioke before the sun and made an effort to walk up the imposing cliffface of the Fort in order to see the sun rise over the famed ‘blue city’ of Jodhpur. Hoards of birds dived and dipped in front of the hazy yellow lighbulb for the sky, the outline of the distant Umaid Bhawan Palace distiinct of Indian architecture with it’s silhouette a massive fairy castle we used to make at the beach when we were kids. The city glimmers a dazzling combination of marble white and sky washed blue because a number of structures are coated in indigo. At the entrance to the fort, Bec and I were absolutely overwhelmed by men of all ages surrounding us to take pictures. As they got braver, the circle would enclose a little tighter, with phones right next to our faces causing us to relocate and get swarmed again within minutes. It’s not malicious behaviour by any standard, it’s mroe like we are some rare species of animal that5 everyone wants to take home and show their friends,.

Friday 13th December 2013

We have spent the past four days in the romantic city of Udaipur. The bus from Jodhpur to Udaipur was yet another essential character building experience. We splurged and spent $8 each on a sleeper compartment in the bus. Anxiously awaiting its arrival, we boarded the regular bus which also had sleeper boxes overhead where the luggage would normally be kept. At 11:30 pm we climbed into our box, decorated with gold and blue fine paint, thick burgundy curtains for privacy and enough space for us to lay down with our feet resting on our packs. It felt like we were Egyptian pharaohs in a royal tomb. I looked over at Becky and a Cheshire cat smile spread across her face. We lay back with our hands splayed under head and wondered how we got so lucky. I drifted off before the bus started but woke because my body was fiercely bouncing up and down. This process lasted the entire duration of the 8 hour journey, with the horrific roads transforming our pharonic experience into a claustrophobic sleepless nightmare. I would take googly eyes and the train over this any day. Needless to say we found a hostel next to the lake in Udaipur and slept the morning away.
When we finally emerged, the rooftop views were spectacular, we inched our way past a very dirty looking yoga posing traveler and admired the jaggard mountain ranges, with palaces at the peaks of some like the shining star atop the Christmas tree. The palace is easily distinguishable over the lake with its piped domes towering above the numerous rooftop restaurants and havelis. In the centre of one lake is a famously expensive American Hotel whose early white walls , only accessible by boat, contrast starkly with the creamy, crumbling colonial buildings of the Old City. The even more famous Jagmandir Island used in the James Bond film ‘Octopussy’ rests out farther than the Americanised resort and tourist boats chug along in an eager line to set foot on the iconic Bond stage. We walked to the footbridge across the lake and noticed that pigeons flock to this city in their thousands, with fat cows reveling in trotting through parties of pigeons to make them disperse in a flurry of clapping wings. Street touts have also flocked here in their thousands, with store after store selling to die for silver, miniature paintings, silk shirts, stone carvings, flights, horse rides, cannabis, internet and whatever else you could possibly want. The concept of a separate shop for every service is unknown here. Ask the bakery about trekking trips and he suddenly transforms into a tour guide prepared to take you on a multiday excursion into the mountains. In India where the favourite saying is ‘it’s possible’, people are well and truly adaptable. Imagine asking the money exchange office at home in Australia where the best henna paining is. I don’t think so.
We stumbled across a Hindi temple called Jangdish, an intricately carved kind of pyramid. Scenes of elephants and battles lined its walls, and as we walked barefoot on the cold stone floor, I took pity on a blind man standing in white cotton clothing holding a silver bowl. He was saying namaste every time he heard a noise, even though nobody was there. His completely white pupils matched his clothing and I wondered how a person could even survive walking down the streets of India without sight. Theres enough peple in this country sitting around with nothng productive to occupy themselves with and they are perfectly healthy.
When we saw a bold sign, ‘Indian Cooking Classes’, Bec and I naturally walked in and spent the whole afternoon in the kitchen with a fun 23 year old cook from a village 100km away. In this tiny hole in the wall, we stirred and chopped and created a feast of creamy paneer (cheese) butter masala, sweet Navraktan korma, cucumber raita, fried vegetable pakora chips and gooey cheese naan. Once you learn how to make the basic sauce for the curries with tomatoes and spanish onion, anything is possible. Watch out Masterchef! Bec and I sat on a decadent couch on stilts with a view of the City Palace and the sun dramatically resting behind the shimmering lake. Ashley and Liam from Port Macquarie joined us and helped finish the feast. We chatted into the dark and finished the night off with laughter and gigantic chocolate brownie sundaes. I don’t know why everyone was so insistent on the weight loss that accompanies backpacking through India – the whole country is delicious.

On our way down the street, we ran into an intense eyes Swedish guy standing outside a massage parlor who claimed to have just had the best massage of his life. We went in to see what all the fuss was about and subsequently blew our budgets, spending $30 on a 45 minute massage. I didn’t realise my body could crack so much! He prodded and pulled and twisted me until my chakra was supposedly more balanced. Finishing with a scary sounding neck crack on each side, then measuring the distance from our belly buttons to our toes and shoulders to make sure he had made us perfectly straight. He poked my bladder really hard and sent me away barking that I needed to drink more water. I wouldn’t say it was relaxing, but we walked up to the City Palace feeling very tall. We followed a brightly painted elephant into the gates and found out that a rehearsal for a royal wedding was taking place. After walking the insides of the palace, which pretty much boasted the old maharajah Kings killing lions, hen in the next picture slaying board, then men.. you get the idea. Royal testosterone central. We spent more time posing with Indian families on holidays bursting with curiosity at the two little white girls travelling without fathers or husbands. We caught a boat out to jagmandir island and slept on the grass, our bodies catching up with the cultural overload and maybe the dodgy samosas we ate for lunch, too.

The next day we began wandering out of the old City aimlessly. The streetscape changed and the prices halved – only 50c for a vege burger. Bec bravely got her hair cut for $2 by a boisterour non-english speaking woman whose exposed soft stomach jiggled in her sari when she giggled. With a Palace high on a mountain as our compass, we walked for a few hours past rubbish infested water with lazy buffaloes testing the plastic for food remnants, tuk tuk drivers enticing us as they buzzed past, shops selling everyday nick nacks, men sitting on stools sipping chai from dainty cups and saucers balanced on a bony knee while women haul carts of rough bitumen in the heat. Eventually we reached the base of the moutain, and paid a few dollars to get a jeep up the winding expanse. From the top, Udaipur’s full size of 500, 000 becomes apparent, with white buildings sprawling into the hazy horizon. The dilapidated palace has been taken over by the resident oversized monkeys, who charged at us when we arrived at the top because one of the Indian girls had a bag of bananas in her pack. We sacrificed the fruit and climbed to the top of the castle. We caught a lift back to the city with an Aussie named Rhonda. At 66 she is traveling the world one country at a time, her husband Ian occasionally in tow. She pushed her glasses up on her nose and told us of trips to Egypt, weddings in Turkey and parties in Chile. In the evening we went to one of the rooftop restaurant to watch Octopussy in the company of an English girl we had met first in Jodhpur with her fiance James. I rested on Becs legs while we were entertained by half clad women in Xena equivalent outfits helping the die-hard James Bond save the world.

Yesterday I had to buy a leather bound visitors book because we are meeting so many inspiring people we want to keep in contact with. For our hardcore socialite day in Udaipur, we breakfasted with Emmy and Ally. Alice Chandler is a stunning english girl who finished photography and has been travelling Australasia for the past two years. Emmy is a zoologist setting up a centre in western Thailand to de-sex dogs and vaccinate against rabies. We did morning tea with Aussie Rory, who has literally run out of money and can pay in hash rather than cash. We lunched with James and Emily, the late twenties English couple; teachers who have been on the road for two years to date. We had fittings for new shirts with Phil, an Austrian school leaver two months into a nine month trip of Asia and eventually Australia. In the evening we ran into a group of absolutely hilarious Indian men who are well educated tour guides flaunting their original Ray Bans, Levis and Galaxy 4S’s. We had chai in a group of six, Indian George Clooney Yoshita Chhika leading the pack. These jokers reminded me of the sharks on Finding Nemo. Jiji, the Italian, German and English speaking class clown of the group would crack jokes along the lines of ‘no hurry chicken curry’ and the others would laugh racously and high five one another. We spoke about the law regarding homosexuality; it has been legal since 2009, but yesterday it was once again announced illegal. These men were cheering and claimed they should be booted out of the country. We listened to their opinions with open minds and tried not to get into heated arguments. Bec and I said goodbye to Udaipur with the most incredible organic, vegan meal at the Millets of Mewar restaurant, then boarded this overnight train to Agra. Since the $8 didn’t buy us a peaceful night last time, we spent $18 and have the same plastic bunks as the last one, but this time we get sheets And a blanket! An Indian lawyer wanted to talk all night, but we closed our eyes at midnight then opened them again at 6am because the Indian lawyer wanted to get our email addresses before he had to say goodbye. It’s 11am and we are about to jump off – bring on the Taj Mahal! —

Day 25; Christmas in India

I have been a meat virgin throughout my time in India, locking my favourite food category at the back of my mind along with mini denim cut-offs, good wine and my bed. But when the idea of chicken was pondered for Christmas Eve dinner, it was a winner.
A life was lost in the backyard and all of a sudden I was frying chicken pieces with ginger, garlic, chilli, onion, turmeric and lots of other weird and wonderful spices. They let me cook everything inside the dimly lit house, and I was content on Christmas Eve making cauliflower curry, omelettes, frying pappadams, stirring away at dahl with a traditional wooden whisk and trying not to make too much mess on the dirt floor.

When we arrived at the tiny, 2100 m village called Timburey yesterday, we were greeted with no joke a MERRY CHRISTMAS chocolate cake. Some crazy person had to lug that cake in at least 10km from Rimbik. I didn’t care how squished it was, I was absolutely stoked. Next thing, the owner brought in a bushy green plant decorated with flowers and cotton wool as our Christmas tree. Feeling good so far.
I watched the village kids play with bike tires and admired the way corn is dried hanging along the walls of the houses. There are so many sticks of prayer flags I can’t count them all, and closing my eyes listening to the strong river nearby, I couldn’t imagine a more peaceful setting for my Christmas Eve slumber.

Day 24; Christmas EveLast night I went to bed with a bottle of rum. A bottle of rum filled with boiling water to keep my icy toes alive. It was cold. So cold that if I was lying there in a bikini I would have gotten frostbite and crumbled away. To prevent that, I wore two down jackets, 2 pairs of socks and everything else in my bag that might lock in an ounce of warmth.

    • Like a pack of bloodthirsty wolves, the wind thrashed itself against every wall and howled through every crevice while I counted tasty sheep in my mind. Clearly no one consulted with an architect when they chose to build these tin shacks on one of the most exposed locations on the entire goddamn earth!
      But it’s all worth it for the view.
      We are on the Singalila Ridge Trek, and last night we reached the highest point on the trek called Sandakphu (3660m). Until someone tells me otherwise, I am sure this is the most spectacular view in India. Crouching out of the wind and shrouded in faded prayer flags, you can see a 250km stretch of the Himalayas spanning through Bhutan, India and Nepal. The crispy white monsters boast Everest, Lhotse and Kangchenjunga, all above eight thousand staggering metres.
      After coming inside to warm frosty hands, you find yourself outside again, hungry for the 180 degree view which is once in a lifetime. The walk up has been a warning to my muscles of what they are about to endure on the Manaslu Circuit in Nepal. You start the trek with all of your clothes and finish the day with almost none, regardless of the temperature these inclines make it feel like a Townsville summer.
      Along the rough jeep track dispersed with steep walking trails, my guide Tshering and I have walked over 30 kilometres in the past two days; the imposing Kangchenjunga always within sight. We have seen red pandas, Nepali women carrying impossible loads while a heavy metal nose ring droops in the centre of windburn cheeks; fluffy Tibetan dogs greet us into each village and men on horseback assess their land like the back of their own hands.
      Life is hard but the people’s eyes still shine bright with laughter and curiosity. On the first day the fog was so thick it made all my hopes of seeing the amazing mountain range plummet. Then I walked into a little tea hut and sat next to a barefoot Hindu monk who was walking the same 15 km path as me – every day! His sheet thin orange robes and a small carry bag were the only things he drifted into the white abyss with.
      Terry Converse is my 68 year old companion who caught a jeep for the first two tough days and is walking with us today. On the second day, 27 year old Sherpa guide and I set off before seven. Every time we stop, women scrawnier than me want to feed me like a POW. The Beauty and the Beast song about Guston the strongest man in the world rang in my ears as I gulped down my 5 egg strong omelette for lunch. On the other hand my companion is sitting across from me with an altitude/lack of sleep/ over exertion headache drinking weak tea and declining food offers. I just polished off two potato parathas topped with a spicy vegetable relish. Lip smacking (especially because of the chilli).
      My god do they love stuffing us full of the hot stuff. Last night at dinner, everywhere I looked for a chili remedy I could only find more spice- the pappadams had been laced, the vegetable curry, the dahl, even the goddamn plain rice! My body was cold last night but I couldn’t say the same for my pink, whimpering lips.

      We just walked down a knee crunching 1.5 km in vertical exagguration, so now the dogs are less fluffy and people less rugged up. It’s Christmas Eve and I committed mortal sin by opening Mum and Dad’s Christmas card early. I miss kiwi caprioscas, bushy Australian Christmas trees showered in red beads and family feasts, but spending it with an ill 68 year old American dude and our fit as Buddhist guide who doesn’t really get the idea of Christmas should be fun, right?

My exited inner child knocked on my eyelids ay 130 this morning, and I opened my pressies by head torch, If I knew mum was giving me new undies I would have ripped this parcel open a heap of times when I was low on washing in the past few weeks. I ate three cruchy Fererro Rochers in the dark, and lay there smiling in a festive Christmas elf hat and new turqoise earrings – an exact replica of the Christmas presents at Everest Base Camp in 2011 and in Brazil last year. It’s nice to have tradition.

After walking the last 10 km of the Singalila Ridge trek to Rimbik,we jeeped back to Darjeeling. The walk through the Indian/Nepalese border is one I won’t forget in a hurry.

Darjeeling is a gorgeous hillstation which has become renowned for its tea plantations. The mix of Indian, Tibetan, Nepalese and Sikkimese people that converge here is so obvious after travelling through central India.
Up here, sari’s are swapped for tight jeans and fluffy coats. People are shorter and have bow legs; probably an adaptation to help them climb the impossible hills.
The dogs are soft, fluffy, well kept and expensive.
Buddhist prayer flags and stupas rather than Hindu gods are found all around the sprawling maze of steep alleyways.
The houses are pastel, kind of like a run down version of the Amalfi coast in Italy.
With my pack still on, I searched for a phone and made the obligatory christmas call to home. Next I dumped my stuff at Aliment Hotel and set out to find my ADFA mates who were flying in to meet me for christmas dinner.
I rushed through a christmas rock concert, past families huddled around outdoor fires and drunk teenagers to find the hotel the boys were booked in to. The hotel clerk looked at my flushed cheeks and told me the plane hadn’t even arrived at the airport yet; a 3 hour drive from Darjeeling.
With sad hands I left them a note saying I would be at a famous restaurant called Glenary’s. I walked with slumped shoulders past happy families, thinking my Christmas dinner was going to be a lonesome one.
At Glenary’s I was about to take a table when I spied a blondie, and she was all alone! I pounced and asked her to have Christmas dinner with me, and we didn’t even know each other’s names or origin until we had been seated. It turns out that Mary from the Netherlands is actually staying at the same hotel a me and we are now economically efficiently sharing a room.
Once our bums were seated, we spotted another lone whitie and asked if he wanted to join our spontaneous Christmas dinner group. Australian school teacher Luke, Mary and I had a glorious dinner of roast chicken and Kingfisher beer.
Just as we were about to leave, Nathan Cosgrove, Kurt Pearce, Lewis Della-Bosca and Jack Dorning paraded in. I was so goddamn excited. We made a huge table and were the last ones to leave – everything always works out in the end!

 

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