I had plenty of time to reflect on things on the flight back. The plane was two thirds empty, probably an accurate reflection on the current state of tourism in Egypt. I read a National Geographic article speculating that genetics might explain why some people are compelled to seek out distant horizons. I cogitated on my restless genes as the golden light of a beatific sunset suffused the cabin.
A year ago I was also leaving England in a haze of emotion intensified by a hangover. The anticipation of the unknown was replaced this time by weariness and wariness.
…sidle the headwater waterfall on the TR. The gorge just above the hut is sidled high on the TL into the sidestream. – Merv Rodgers, Tararua Footprints
“Mate, we need to think about setting off the PLBs,” I say. “I’m totally fucked.”
It’s getting dark. We’re standing in a gorge in waist deep water. Below us waterfalls block our way. Behind us another prevents retreat. After trying for 10 hours to make our way out of the headwaters of the Arete Stream, we’re out of options. This wasn’t part of the plan. That morning, stuffing our packs outside the biv in typical Tararua weather, Andrew proposes something else.
It’s been a year since leaving home in a cavalcade of anger and fear. The date slipped by unnoticed some time last week. Nothing momentous to mark the occasion; there was no call to celebrate or otherwise mark the date.
Hitchhiking up the South Island on a gloriously clear autumn day, I caught a lift from the third car that passed. Two strangers, both Campbells, and a slobbering labrador; all the way to Christchurch in a single ride. Stopping at Tekapo it seemed as though Aotearoa was showing me her finest face and I was acutely aware of how much I would miss home.
I stayed the night in Christchurch, drinking a couple of boxes of beers with an old friend, trying to quash the queasiness over my imminent departure. An unhealthy cocktail of emotions and motivations made me think I would be happier elsewhere. As it turned out, I could get away from everything but myself.
A year of travel to a dozen countries. New friends, exciting experiences, schemes hatched then abandoned unincubated. Plans for the future. Home always in the back of my mind.
Tae a wairua te motu huia, O Tararua i runga.
In spirit do I visit the groves of the Huia, on Tararua, those mountains to the south.
I wake early, sweating; the AC went off some time in the night. Down in the street it’s warm too, though it will be hotter later. Running alongside the railway tracks I sweat more. After ten minutes I meet the first pack of dogs. Docile during the day, in the early morning they roam in packs. You might get past them walking but running is asking for trouble. They chase me in a snarling mob, snapping at my heels. One on one they won’t look you in the eye but when the pack’s together there’s a battle cry. I turn and rush at them, sending them scurrying but provoking further fury. The only drop the pursuit when I stoop to pick up a brick. Shortly afterwards I run down an alley into another pack. This time I don’t manage to scare them off so easily and they are too close to run from. A baying standoff ensues that is only broken by a passing tuktuk. The next dogs I see I’m careful to walk past. Read the rest of this entry »
The fun had to stop at some point and since it had already stopped being fun sometime ago, I’m glad it happened when it did. Yes, the funemployment is over and I have a job. Is this the end for the Stranger? Hardly, from adjusting to smoking in the office (very Mad Men) to interviews at country clubs, life has never been odder. Read the rest of this entry »
“Welcome to Sharm El Sheikh.”
A man dressed in a black dish-dash and wrapped in a keffiyeh gestured me to sit with his friends at the coffee stall.
“What you want my friend? Beer? Hasheesh?” the waiter asked.
“No, a tea and a sheesha.”
The waiter lapsed into Arabic but I guessed he was asking my flavour preference. I paused, trying to remember the word.
“Yes, yes my friend no problem.”
Scanning the room for food options I saw a man with a plate.
“And a sandwich?”
“Yes, yes, sandwich. Sandwich meat, sandwich chicken?”
“Sandwich meat.” Read the rest of this entry »
What is the purpose, I wonder, of all this restlessness? I sometimes seem to myself to wander around the world merely accumulating material for future nostalgias.
Vikram Seth, From Heaven Lake: Travels through Sinkiang and Tibet
We all create a narrative to explain our lives and I suppose this is my attempt to counter the nocturnal panic that grips me whenever I think about what I’m achieving, and what more I could be doing with my time.