After a 54-hour journey, I’m safely back in Australia.  And it’s, so, weird.  On the one hand, over the past year, everything’s changed for me; on the other, Sydney is more or less exactly as I left it.  It is amazing to have food I like again, though: hello, raisin toast, snack chocolate, nudie smoothies, Thai spices, and being able to buy whatever I want in supermarkets.  Yes!  I’ve been gorging myself.

It seems completely surreal that this time a week and a half ago (I’d say ‘a week’ but I’ve really lost track of time zones), I was in Colombia.  Which, as you’ll have gathered, was amazing.  I loved it, from meeting incredible people to David Attenborough-ing it up in the Amazon.  There are definitely things I’ll miss other than just the people I met and the experiences I’ve had though, things that were uniquely Colombian.  The air of magic, as I’ve mentioned before (in what turned out to be my most popular post thus far); the music, definitely (buying some Colombian dance music is going on my list); the amazing graffiti in Bogota; the swagger of guys on the bus as they jump off into traffic and usher you on; and of course, the unbelievable friendliness.  Colombians are by far the friendliest, most open people I’ve ever met, and I absolutely loved them for it.

My last evening in Bogota was spent with Laura and Angelica at a local Chia restaurant.  It was a groovy little place actually, with a good menu, cushions rather than chairs, mood lighting and board games.  Needless to say, all of this (barring, perhaps, the board games) meant that the place was otherwise occupied by couples, who were all passing the time by making out against the wall.  It was hilarious!

I was to leave Laura’s place at 2.15am (how awesome were she and her family, by the way—I met her for a couple of hours in Athens nearly two years ago, and they let me live in her house for a few weeks).  I had a 54-hour journey ahead of me back to Sydney, and it did not start well.  At around 4am when I got to the airport to check in, I discovered that my completely incompetent travel agent hadn’t told them I was vegetarian, so I lost my temper and poemed him:

Good morning Ben, it’s a hell of a day,
And I’m sure you’ll be glad to start in this way:
After all, it’s great—what could be better?—
Than receiving a poem, rather than letter.

I will at this point happily admit
That it’s 4 in the morning and I’m feeling a bit
Put out, and tired, and a bit peckish
So it may be that I’ll be a bit feckish.

But we have to talk, it’s true to say
About the service you provide, for which I have paid
And I’ll tell you all (though hardly in confidence,)
About what you’ve done, and gross incompetence.

But where to start?  There’s much to discuss
Perhaps I’ll begin by making a fuss
About your complete lack of timeliness, in responding to emails
It doesn’t take three days to write out some details.

I know I’m a pain and I do change my mind
And I’ll admit, I was surprised to find
Your precursor replaced, it was all quite a shock
And compared to him, you’re easy to mock.

But let’s be fair, I booked flexible flights
(because I knew when I booked them indeed I might
choose to stay longer, or stay not at all
a trap into which I constantly fall.)

And I don’t expect to be told “there’s no way”
Especially when I’m willing to pay
But really?  Two grand?  On top of what was?
I don’t remember reading that clause.

So then I suggested, I ventured ideas
That perhaps we should use our mental gears
And arrange for a flight, not out of B Aires
But rather instead from further north prairies.

“No!” you cried, with simple disdain
As if the effort caused you great pain.
“It can’t be done, no flights can I find,
there’s none from L.Amer at round that time.”

So I jumped online and had a purview
And found many options—far more than you.
“Why not LA?  There’s many flights from there,
and I can see there’s competitive fares.”

“Mm maybe,” you concede, though not til days later
(while perhaps still trying to be vindicator)
I answered right pronto, with preferred carriers
(I shouldn’t have thought there’d be any barriers)

“This this or this”, I instructed directly
And to help out, quite correctly,
I did your job for you and found me a flight
All you had to do was book the delight!

And then, days later, you get back to me
With not that flight, nor the carriers three
But a different airline (I was put out
But already too tired to point it out).

“Okay!” I said, and agreed to pay more,
than the flights which I’d found, but my temper was sore.
At least this way I’d have a way home
And if not directly, at least not via Rome.

Next what do I find, but epic layovers
With no suggestion to have a stay-over.
(I would have asked but you can’t do your job
And no more time would I allow you to rob)

Bogota—San Salvador, and there to LA,
And there ten hours, but whatever, okay.
LA—Fiji, and there stop again
But now 16 hours, far more than just ten.

Fifty-four hours it’ll take me to travel
If I were a judge I’d thump down the gavel
And declare you unfit to hold down your job
(and then, perhaps, the gavel I’d lob)

And finally, the last straw, I came to check in
And you’ve committed the cardinal sin:
Though I told you three times, including yesterday
You didn’t tell the airline I’m fucking vegetarian, asshole.

Now it’s 9 hours til I get to LA
At which point I’ll finally be able to pay
to have a meal, and in the meantime am hangry
(don’t know what it is?  It’s hungry plus angry!)

You call yourself ‘expert’, it’s a complete fucking joke
I’m surprised your clients in anger don’t choke
So, dear Benjamin, I surely hope
You’ll open the job ads and straight away scope.

I hope I’ve conveyed the proper esprit:
You’re not fit for this role, evidently.

I boarded the flight soon enough, and caught the first leg to San Salvador.  As the next leg was to the US, we then had to go through some fairly hectic security procedures.  I’m used to having all of my stuff scanned of course, and to having the magic wand passed over me, but this was a whole nother level: the agents pulled everything out of our bags in public and went through all of it.  It felt really invasive, and put me even further off actually travelling to the US.

I spent most of my time in LAX hanging out on the free internet, looking up Masters programs and job-searching.  I was getting pretty hysterical with exhaustion by this point of course, but narrowed down my choices significantly.  I should also mention how lovely everyone at the airport was; it’s always nice to be in a smiley, helpful country.  *Eye-roll* the TSA agent thought he was a right comedian, and was cracking jokes at high volumes about every person whose details he checked.  My weirdest moment at the airport though (other than paying an outrageous $20 for two sushi rolls—wtf?!) was when I was by the boarding gate on my laptop, and a guitar-playing unwashed guy came up to me and asked to charge his iPod via USB.  I obviously said yes, at which point he leaned down, hugged me and introduced himself as ‘Sam’.  You should have seen my face (it certainly felt affronted)—I’m definitely not a stranger-hugger.

My flights from LA were with Fiji Airways.  They’re not as good as my favourite airlines (Virgin, Etihad, Avianca), but weren’t awful, either.  I was sitting behind a bulk-head with a young Kiwi couple and their seriously adorable (and well-behaved) baby.  Granted, I was asleep for most of the flight, but I was glad to be sitting with such fun people.  They were also as confused as I was by the Fijian customs declaration form: why on earth did we need to declare whether we had holy water or not?!  Is there a big holy water smuggling trade through Fiji?!

Upon arrival in Nadi, I had little idea exactly what I was doing or how to get there.  I’d booked a spa package for 11am, and wanted to visit some gardens, but that was about it.  I was told to get a taxi, so jumped on in.  The driver, Rakesh, ended up being my driver for the morning (yes, it was expensive.  No, I wouldn’t do it again).  First he took me to town, Lautoka, which was a complete waste of time, and the most expensive leg.  Then we went to the Garden of the Sleeping Giant (completely worthwhile), before I headed to the spa.  Were I to do it all again, I’d save around $100AU on the taxi, and only go to the gardens and Novotel.  The hotel do day-stay rooms (around $80FJ for the full day), and there’s a really nice restaurant, a pool, and spa: an infinitely better use of the day.  It’s also only around 15 minutes’ walk (or $5 Fijian, ~$3AU) from the airport.


The Garden of the Sleeping Giant

When I returned to the airport that afternoon (after my first-ever facial; incidentally, I had my first-ever manicure a few days before that: I am terrible at being a girl), I realised I had a slight problem.  Other than my lack of timeliness.  As I’d been walking through the markets earlier that day, lots of people were talking to me.  But, as it was in Fijian, I had no idea what they were saying: until one man said “sweetie, your bag’s open”.  I was so annoyed at my arrogance in instantly responding to the nomer ‘sweetie’ that I didn’t check that the contents of my bag were still there, other than my passport etc—so I didn’t realise that my padlock keys were missing.  My padlock, meanwhile, was on my suitcase at the airport.  My laptop was inside my suitcase, and I didn’t want to put it through the baggage compartment of the plane: but I only had five minutes until check-in closed, and no way to get the padlock off.  Happily, the airline let me check in sans bag, and I trotted off with security to try and break the padlock.  It took the attempts of about ten staff, some bolt cutters, a few sets of keys, a lock-picking set, and assorted pieces of metal before we finally got it open.  As I said on my facebook, it just wouldn’t be me at the airport without three big guys and a set of bolt-cutters:

I’m now back in Sydney and have been applying for temp policy/project jobs.  So what’s happening with the blog?  Well, I’ve still got a Scotland photos post to do, and I’ll likely do posts for any travel I do within Australia/NZ this year, but I don’t anticipate doing anything other than that until I resume proper travels again.  My intention is still to relocate back to Europe in about a year’s time, either doing my Masters or working, and I’m sure I’ll resume writing then.  I think Australia’s too familiar (oddly enough) for me to be really able to write about it—and certainly to rant about it.  But I could be wrong.  I will also do a post once my book is available for purchase/download, and of course any new posts will as usual be posted to both the ‘explaurafying’ facebook page and my twitter feed.

In the meantime, thanks to the crazy number of people who’ve been reading, commenting and emailing me.  It’s been fun!

Until next time—до встречи, счастливо, à bientôt and ciao.

The Cave Mentality

So this morning I went for a hike.  This is one of several hikes I’ve been on since being back in Aus, but it was so full of Standard Disasters that I just had to write about it.  You’d think I’d be over writing really, being as it’s half of my job, and that I finished the 80k words of my novel last weekend (first draft, anyhow).  But apparently not.

Since being back, I’ve been trying to integrate my travelling life into my normal life, to try and be a bit happier for the year that I’m here.  As such, I’ve been going on walks into the wilderness, partying with strangers, and just generally running amuck.  I’ve been working through the hikes at bushwalkingnsw.com, and generally the directions have proven pretty good.  Taking directions at all is kind of a big step in being grown-up for me: I have this stupid tendency to just arrive in the middle of nowhere and walk until I’m somewhere else.  (Incidentally or otherwise, this also applies to nights out–if it gets to the point where I want to go home, then by goodness am I going home.  20km?  No problems.  I’m like a drunken homing pigeon.)

This actually all started after meeting a German lady hiking in Tassie when I was about 16.  She was casually hiking around the country by herself, and suddenly it seemed to me that that was a totally doable thing.  Preparation?  Pah!  I once nearly died of hypothermia on an impromptu  hike however, so now I try and use my brain a little bit.  Just a little bit.

Getting to today’s hike was pretty straight-forward.  Isn’t it ridiculous that this is only an hour out of Sydney?  Paradise!  (The train station’s behind me in this photo–you can see both ends of a train at either side of the picture).

2014-01-11 13.22.28

Most of the uphill was out of the way within the first ten minutes.  From there, the trail was actually just an ant-hill, but we made a deal that I’d leave them alone, and they wouldn’t sting me.  (I was stung on a hike a few weeks ago, resulting in an incredible amount of bad language and the inability to wear shoes for a week.)

Everything was going fairly jauntily, and I was even managing to follow the trail, which wasn’t that bad.  I got the impression nobody had been there in a while, as the path was overgrown and full of spiders’ webs, so I spent the first couple of hours with my arms up in front of my face to avoid getting spider in my mouth.  Of course, this limited my vision, which had its own particular consequences.  Inevitably, my foot caught.  I wasn’t quite down though, and was doing that awkward run forward where you’re trying to save yourself from falling for a full ten freaking metres before finally succumbing and supermanning it on the ground.  So now I’m bleeding everywhere, and some kind of native wasps are following me and trying to lick the scrapes.  Maybe they were the infamous Australian vampire wasps?!

At this point, with me trying to walk up the trail, keep web out of my face, and bat away wasps, the path degenerated once more and was now a veritable river of ants.  I kept an eye on my socks, and when I saw that one was stuck, gently tried to flick it off.  Best intentions!  I mean, wouldn’t want to be stuck in my sock.  Bastard thing must have gone ahead and sprayed “aaaagh!  attacker!!” hormones all over me though, because the next thing I knew, ants were swarming all over my feet–there must have been a good 50 of them.

As it turns out, trying to stand on one foot and remove ants from the other, then set that foot down and repeat the process, is completely ineffective when ants are swarming you.  So I went ‘screw this’ and climbed up a tree.  Where I was happily able to rid myself of ants, but not one particularly persistent wasp.

Glaagh, eventually I gave up on the monkey impression (though to be fair, monkeys would probably be eating the troublesome ants) and carried on until I reached Mount Pindar.  I think it’s only called a mountain to spare its feelings to be honest, but there you have it.

10am Saturday morning--better than a hangover!
10am Saturday morning–better than a hangover!

The last step in this whole shebang was to make it to Pindar’s Cave, which was purportedly another 800m away.  So really, not very far at all.  But [deleted swearing] was it hard to find!  I identified the most likely-looking trail and followed it.  To a dead end.  I then retraced my steps and tried again.  Another dead end.  I repeated this process mannnnny times, until I was in the middle of the freaking bush with absolutely no landmarks.  Less than ideal.  I somehow made my way to back near the mountain though, and tried it all over again.  After about 50 minutes, I pulled out my phone–and magically (and confusingly), I had enough data access to use google maps.  So I had a look, and sure enough, “Pindar’s Cave” was marked.  No trail, however.  I then had a look at satellite view, to see if I could make out a creek bed or something to walk down.  Still no.  

I returned to a rock on the mountain for a bit of a ponder.  Yes, that’s right, a ponder over pindar.  It was getting really hot, and I’d already been looking for this path for an hour.  Happily, I’d not seen any evidence of people all day, so opted for almost-naked lunch while I cooled down.  I then investigated whether there was some way I could track where I’d been using google maps, so that I could wander into what was fairly dense bush without getting lost.  Not very well, as it turns out.  I then downloaded another app (seriously wtf Virgin, why do I have 3g in the middle of nowhere when northern Northern Sydney is out of the question?) and saw that somebody had done this hike before and mapped it.  I then just had to follow their trail.  Could I?


(The ‘go’ point was where I kept returning to to try again, and the other marked points are where people had left cairns–so you’d think they’d indicate the track.  The red dotted line ends up at my destination, but there was absolutely no path there, just solid bush:)

2014-01-11 09.48.40

By now, I’d been searching for the path to this cave for an hour and a half or so, and the temperature was approximately a million fucking degrees (±10°C).  I’d left my apartment just after dawn so that I could be done before the heat of the day melted me, but that was no longer going to happen (I am, in fact, now melted).  So I gave up on reaching my destination (!!!) and headed back to the station.  Fewer adventures on the way back, other than getting really sick from either exhaustion or heat stress.  Fun for all the family!

Finally I was back at the station, and waited all of the twenty seconds it took to remove my shoes to jump into the river fully dressed.  It was exquisite.  I’m sitting here, rolling my eyes ecstatically, just remembering it!  I had half an hour til the train, though I’d have stayed longer if I’d had company–it was magical.  Haha again incidentally or otherwise, I decided to later swap my clothes for a sarong on the train, where I did my stretches–thus ensuring that I was wearing exactly the least appropriate clothing at every point today.  Good job.

The Scotland Photos, and busy-ness.

(click to enlarge)

Posts about Scotland:


This article, about the ‘perils of busyness’, is the kind of thing people are forever tagging me in.  And, given that it’s taken me 5 months to upload my promised Scotland photos, they may have a point!  So, I hope you’ve enjoyed them.  I’ve also just about finished writing about my ‘Bloc Trip’, which I can’t believe was almost two years ago.  The only posts left to do are about my first trips to Greece and to Turkey, but the rest can be accessed via the ‘Bloc Trip’ category in the top menu.  As you’ll gather, I’m slowly working through my to-do list (which despite taking a few months off work, I wasn’t able to finish), because I am sooo sick of being busy, and I want to get it all out of the way.  Because after that, there’s my novel, the NGO I run, my social life, my job, my adventures, my languages, not to mention the zillion different uni courses I keep enrolling in–though in a small concession, I dropped out of my grad dip to have slightly more time in my day.  Haha then, naturally, there’s my all-important reading and zombie-film watching..!

As to travel plans, I still want to make it to NZ this year before I leave the Hemisphere.  There are some road-blocks in the fact that my camera’s broken and that I’m a contractor and therefore get no leave entitlements, but I’m working on each.  I’m then aiming to get into a Masters program in Brussels starting January 2015, so would leave Aus in late December to go and visit people on the way.  Just-in-case, I’ll likely also apply to similar Masters programs in the Netherlands, UK, Germany and Hungary—there’s a course I’d like to do in Geneva, but I’d have to write essays in French which would be a bit too much of a challenge at this point.

Time to get back to that to-do list!


The Numbers Game

Last night, I took my friend Mimi to a backpackers’ bar.  I guess I miss my people and/or normal life!  Before I proceed however I should probably give warning that this is more over-sharey and less role-modely in what is ordinarily a pretty oversharey, unrolemodely blog anyway (also, this post is not exactly under-18s friendly).  But it also takes a look at an aspect of travelling that I haven’t really discussed much before.

We were sitting behind a big round table of what I’m going to say were Swedes.  It’s funny actually—I’ve been going to this bar for just under ten years now, and you can just about tell (a) what season it is in other parts of the world and (b) whose economy’s doing well, just based on who’s travelling at the moment.  Years ago it was mainly Brits, then for a couple of years freaking everybody was Brazilian or Argentine, and now it’s Germans, Scandinavians, and an unexpected number of Italians.  Over the years the decor’s barely changed (there’s one wall with a list of cities around the world, and I’ve had so many conversations with people about which one they’re from, or which one they’re going to, or where they’ve been—ten years ago I could probably only identify where 5 of them are, and now I’ve been to half of the wall!).  More importantly, the cheap cocktail jugs haven’t changed at all.

As I was saying, we were sitting behind this round table, where everybody looked exactly the same.  All of the girls had the exact same hair colour, at the exact same length and parted in the exact same place.  They had the exact same tan, exact same make-up, almost the same clothes—clothes by which you could judge how long they’d been travelling, as they wore them with the distinct discomfort of people who’ve recently put on travel-weight.  The guys again had the exact same hair colour and style, and dressed in exactly the same way.  But more than the sameness of the people in front of us, the overall impression I got was one of loneliness.  The whole bar seemed to be full of lonely people, desperate to drink as much as they could to make a connection with anybody else.  Which, as we know, was a big part of the reason I left South America a couple of months early.

Of course, we all look for connections (snigger) in different ways.  One of the guys from the table, who had those incredibly hot pointy things next to his mouth and looked like a whole bucket of trouble, turned to me.  He watched me for a while, before saying “nice top”.  He was definitely staring in the vicinity of my top, but certainly not at any fabric.  I mentally finished off his sentence with ‘it’d look even better on my bedroom floor’, and immediately wrote him off as just another guy fucking his way around the world.

I shrugged and returned to talking with my friend, before suddenly recalling an article I’d recently read on Cracked (oh how I love thee).  There was one quote in it which absolutely shocked me: “In real life, men ages 25 to 44 — the age group of pretty much every sitcom character — average around six sexual partners. Women of that same age group average four. Over a lifetime, only 21 percent of men and 9 percent of women have had more than 15 sexual partners.”  I completely freaked–how was it even possible that people could have so few sexual partners?  I couldn’t figure it out, until suddenly it occurred to me that maybe my life, and the people I share it with, aren’t exactly normal.  To me, having slept with fifty people is completely ordinary, and I have friends who are in the multi-hundreds.  Compared to that, this idea of having sex with 4-6 people is just mind-bogglingly weird.  I mean, the idea of having sex with that number of people at the same time is less weird (though would involve rather a co-ordination effort I imagine).  Friends in my sphere will just casually ask me if I want to hook up with them, because in my world that’s a completely normal thing to do—so these low numbers seemed like they must be lies, because people are ashamed or whatever.

I then started to ponder how on earth I got socialised into this mindset, if the 4-6 figure is ‘normal’.  What on earth made me so completely abnormal?  Before I proceed I should probably clarify that no, I’m not known for sleeping around, but I don’t judge those who do—we just have a different take.  So here it’s my mindset I’m describing as ‘abnormal’, not my numbers.

Annnnd this seems like a completely appropriate time to bring up this idea of ‘numbers’.  Maybe six years ago (did mistype as ‘sex’ twice), I was seeing this guy on a somewhat casual and bad-idea’d basis.  I fell for him, not the other way around, yada yada.  Anyway, he’d always try to rationalise my feelings out, complaining that it’s only because I slept with so few people.  He told me I should have sex with way more people, and then I’d be able to deal with getting attached to people more easily, because people would just become numbers—like they were to him.  There was this whole fucked up game he and his friends would play, where obviously the highest ‘numbers’ won, but with the extra layer of a points system for what you could convince somebody to do with you.  When things between us inevitably ended (and about as awesomely as you can imagine), I decided to try and take his advice on board, to think of people as numbers.  Nope, that’s just not me—I not only couldn’t do it, I didn’t want to, either.

Maybe 18 months later, I did my second snow season.  Snowfields, btw, must be the most incestuous place in the world.  It’s quite strange actually—it’s very male-dominated (I think it’s 8 guys to 1 girl, as far as staff go—then the punters are predominantly men, too), and this created this really weird culture.  On the one hand, girls could sleep with whomever they liked, and very unusually, weren’t judged for it—unless they were being douche-bags, as in the case of one girl who slept with a couple of different guys every week while also having a boyfriend… dick move.  So to speak.  On the other hand, and in direct contrast to the ‘real world’, we were trained not to expect anything from it—sex was completely emotionless and meant nothing at all, with any attachment to be abhorred and justifiably resented.

Add in the amount of time I’ve spent in hostels and with other travellers, who are known for wanting to experience new things and not known for their inhibitions, and I guess it’s not totally surprising that I find ‘real world’ numbers (forgive me) incomprehensible.  I’ve often been labelled an ice queen because I just don’t want to fuck everybody.  On the contrary, I don’t even like people touching me on a casual basis (with the obvious exception of people I’m really close to)—something I found very confronting in Russia, where friends are super-affectionate.  It’s too intimate, and especially when travelling, I really need to feel safe.  If I do want to spend time with somebody, it’s because I want to share a moment with them specifically—it’s not just because they’re there.  I just feel like life’s too short to spend any more time with people who aren’t worth it.  And while that’s a cliché, it’s one of the strongest lessons you’ll learn while travelling—when you come into contact with hundreds and thousands of people who are doing their best to be themselves, you learn to only hold onto the ones who are genuinely worth it.  Needless to say, guy-with-great-facial-structure did not make the cut.

The ‘Berra

I realised on Friday that I’m actually a terrible traveller—I arrived back in Aus four months ago, and hadn’t actually left Sydney (/the Central Coast) since. That’s now changed, after spending the long weekend in Canberra: the place I lived before Russia and the city I generally refer to as ‘the place souls go to die’.

Canberra is the capital of Australia, and is basically a flat hell-hole full of politicians, lawyers and hospitality staff. It’s flat, it’s freezing in winter and melt-worthy in summer, it’s expensive to fly from and kind of a pain to get to—and there’s no ocean. Ergo, I completely hated living there, and it’s full of miserable memories.

Of course, that doesn’t mean there aren’t some seriously awesome people there.  For starters, my old house-mate Sanela, who I had coffee with on Saturday morning.  She was originally from Bosnia, fled with her family to Germany during the civil war, and later on immigrated to Aus.  She’s recently been back to Bosnia, and from the sounds of things, it’s suffering from a lot of the same problems I noted in Russia.  One thing that drove her crazy—as it did me—was the apathy: how in Russia, people would list the terrible conditions of their lives, then simply shrug and say “it’s Russia / эта Россия” and not do anything to change their situation.  Sanela said that she found sort of a similar thing—that a lot of people she grew up with in Bosnia, which admittedly has a high unemployment rate, weren’t willing to work or to try, but had a strong sense of entitlement nonetheless.  ‘But anyway,’ they justified it, ‘what’s the point?’—after all, things aren’t going to change.  Oh hai there, self-fulfilling prophecy.

Naturally, I was staying with the JFord, who you’ll recall from the vlogs we did when she came to visit me in Russia (here here here here).  Now I should probably mention that Jess and I are completely, completely different people.  She’s tea, I’m coffee;  she’s designer sunglasses, I’m international flights; she’s always at the gym, while I prefer throwing myself off things; I’m impulsive, she makes packed lunches.  Actually, she’s pretty much what all women’s magazines have always tried to convince me to be (until I overcame the need to read them and immediately became 300% happier).  These are my texts to her from the coach to CBR, explaining to her why exactly Brendan Fraser’s character in The Mummy may in fact be the ideal man:

2014-01-24 23.25.28
…..isn’t it?

Anyway, given all of the above, you can imagine that something which pushes my boundaries will certainly push hers.  This was definitely the case on Saturday afternoon, when I had a driving date with my friend Angie, who has an insanely beautiful car.  She asked whether Jess was coming, and I was surprised to hear her say ‘yes’.  I gave her multiple opportunities to back out, but no, she came along.  So that afternoon, we jumped into the car (an old Ford Fairlane), and off we went.

I have a long-standing love of old American muscle cars, despite the fact I was brought up surrounded by people who preferred and restored the classic British makes instead.  I’m presuming it stems from my love of car movies—honestly, if life gets complicated, watching a car movie will make everything seem much simpler.

Angie took us to a pub back over the NSW border, which can only really be described as a bikie bar.  It was full of a multitude of leather-bound, moustachioed types—and more importantly, an unexpected number of vintage cars.  As we later found out, there had been a car show on, and we tracked down where everybody was staying to go and have a look.

The three of us were sitting down having a catch-up, when a short creased-faced man swaggered up to us, spilling half of his beer down his front.  I don’t even know where to start with that conversation.  There was the pro-Australia, mildly xenophobic rant, before he asked Angie where she was from: to which she replied New Zealand.  “Oh, god,” he replied, reeling back.  Reconsidering, he said that “at least it’s not Tasmania”.  Which is, coincidentally, where Jess and I are from.  There was the part where he was telling us how he used to be the barber when he was in prison last time; there was the part where he banged on about Jess’ hair being silly (and this is a girl who I caught straightening her hair before we went for a hike a couple of months ago); or there was the part when he told us he only had 8 kids, but was trying for a full footy team.  He then said he’d take Jess and I for breeding material, at which point Angie had to interject with “why, what’s wrong with me?”  Things wouldn’t be volunteering for..!

On Sunday morning, I went to the “Gold and the Incas” (or sthg) exhibit at the National Gallery.  Jess has asked me to replace the phrase ‘it made me so angry’ with ‘I had my usual emotional response’, so, I had my usual emotional response.  It was packed (rows 5-6 deep around each exhibit), and worse than that, packed full of people saying your typically Australian intolerant things (“why’s it so expensive?  it’s probably those other bloody countries trying to rip off us Aussies”).  It wasn’t particularly informative nor well laid-out.  I ended up going through the exhibit backwards, to try to avoid some of the glut.  I think if I’d never been out of the country before, I’d have gotten more value out of it.  As it was, the two things that sparked my interest were the fact that there was one Peruvian group who created abstract artwork, the Huanca; and the fact that at least three museums in Lima and Cuzco must be just about empty of exhibits right now.  (The only one I recall the name of was the Museo Oro/gold museum in Lima.)

Foolishly, I then went for a wander through the rest of the gallery, in what was already a bad mood.  I forgot how much art galleries infuriate me.  I think I got up to a Jackson Pollock, went “oh fuck off,” and left the gallery to go and lie in the grass instead.  Art is not my medium!

On that note, I have an auditory date with a rather dashing Frenchman by the name of Chopin, so adieu.