Tuesday, February 26, 2013

A nicemare to remember

In January I wrote about some of my most memorable nightmares, trying and probably failing to make them sound suitably creepy. Today, after waking up from a dream with some strangely pleasant parts, I drew on my unconscious memories again to describe some memorable dreams I've had at different times in my life that have left me feeling warm and peaceful, sometimes for several hours after waking before harsh reality and earthly problems intruded.

I may be too work-focused and easily distracted to ever consider meditation or other paths to peace and harmony outside of REM sleep, but it's nice to know I can at least experience these feelings unconsciously from time to time, and if my final experience in life is to have one of these pleasant dreams as I pass away in my sleep, that would be the best way to go.

Hang on... is that comforting or an extremely bleak thing to have just thought about? I'm in a good mood right now, so I won't dwell on it. Here are some of my favourite nicemares.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Well, that about wraps it up for Australia

I'll definitely come back to Australia some time, to do all the obvious tourist things. I wasn't feeling much like a tourist this time, as I was back to travelling alone and a little dismayed by the cost of everything compared to the unfair Asian prices I've been spoiled by the last two and a half years. With Air Asia's absurd fares to travel a quarter of the way around the world, getting here is the cheap part.

Instead, I treated Australia as sanity/sanitary leave between visits to poorer and more corrupt parts of the world, and as the chance to catch up with old friends from my past life in Edinburgh, when I was apparently slightly different (Andie thought so, at least).

These encounters involved a lot more board games than I would have expected, and reminded me of some ace past times I'd largely forgotten. I may have got bored in my last year in Edinburgh after most people moved away, but before that it was frequently fantastic, and I have to remember that. I'll definitely go back there some time too.

Friday, February 22, 2013

This cookie tastes funny

I didn't travel to Nimbin for the drugs. I was content to continue being an extraterrestrial observer of strange human customs in foreign countries and not break my non-interference directive, plus there's that arrogant part of me that likes to confound expectations by not following the crowd and doing the obvious things. Also, I don't know how to roll those funny cigarettes, it looks delicate.

But when I boarded the cramped, sweaty bus of day trippers heading from Byron to Nimbin on a cannabis cruise, an English guy started talking to me and it turned out we were the only ones who were actually staying overnight in Nimbin, and in the same place. His goal was to get as stoned as humanly possible, and it would have been impolite to just abandon him, right?

I didn't actually toke da reefer [this means "smoke any cannabis"], because smoking's pretty horrible, and the couple of times I might have tried it in university it did nothing for me. But when we wandered around Nimbin's single retail street and got harangued by dealers every five metres, I was intrigued by their mention of 'cookies.' Like when one of my flatmates made vodka jelly, the idea of eating myself stupid seemed quite funny.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Circle the square

When I expressed the vague desire to travel up Australia's east coast, Byron Bay was the only place that received universal praise. You've got to go to Byron Bay, Dave. Byron Bay's so laid back, you'd love it there, Dave.

Do these people know anything about my personality?

I did actually like Byron Bay - as usual, when leaving civilisation behind and trampling through subtropical rainforest - but I don't get what I was supposed to find enthralling about the people of Byron Bay, who seemed to be the same self-absorbed, vegetating wasters in perpetual search of chronic drugs that I hadn't been impressed by when I'd met them in other countries.

Even if their lifestyle did appeal to me, why do I have to go somewhere to appreciate it? I understand that for surfing you need waves, but there are plenty of places where I can feel chilled out (yeah alright, not me, but people in general). Being surrounded by twats doesn't make me more inclined to be one.

Saturday, February 16, 2013


Massively misleading boundary map

I consider myself a citizen of the Earth, rather than from a section of that globe distinguished by violent history and chance. Living in the UK for 25 years (22 in England, 3 in Scotland) obviously had a lasting influence, but even when travelling to the far reaches of the planet, I don't feel like an outsider who doesn't belong there. Especially in Australia, which is pretty much the same but warmer, more expensive and with more colourful birds.

But I'm happy to disregard all that if it means I can have fun with pointless statistics, and when I got to Australia's easternmost point at Cape Byron I was delighted to realise I was standing in the eastest place I'd been in the world ever, a few weeks after being the southest I'd ever been.

Wait a minute, I see slightly more land down there on the jagged rocks - liars!

I've seen a lot in the last two years of travelling, but it really is the trivial stuff that gets me the most excited. I am a moron.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

On the buses

Night buses seemed like the ideal scenario when I started out travelling on a budget - by getting your cross-country journeys out of the way at night time, you could miss out on the boring parts of travel while simultaneously avoiding paying for a night's accommodation, thereby killing two birds with one bus. The perfect crime!

It wasn't until I actually took one and realised it's impossible to sleep when there's no leg room and an inconsiderate DVD player screening realistic rape scenes at inappropriate volume at 1AM that I started to realise the night bus' false economy.

Even after I took on more work and stopped living on such a tight budget, I still fell for the night bus trap occasionally, but with the benefit of experience I made sure each trip was followed by a day with no tourism obligations so I could catch up with afternoon naps. Over time I've got more used to sleeping on buses and can now manage as much as two interrupted hours most of the time. At this rate, I should be capable of falling asleep on any given surface at the drop of a hat when I'm an old man, which fits in well with my retirement plans.

Here's an unreliable breakdown of night buses by country, based on my own experience that's usually with a single firm and may not be representative of countries as a whole. But let's face it, most of them are pretty bad.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Creepy guy at the zoo

I can't say I've ever given too much thought to managing my online profile, beyond making it difficult for people to get in touch with me. So recently I was both horrified and strangely delighted to discover that searching Google Images for 'creepy guy at the zoo' brings up my face in third position, after I noticed I was getting a few search hits for that term.

What's most distressing is that I know this isn't even the creepiest photo of me innocently enjoying myself at a zoo. I think you'll agree, this one is much unintentionally creepier:

Hopefully this post will help to remedy the results, I'd hate searchers to be disappointed. And, being me, I couldn't resist the opportunity to try more dodgy/unusual search terms to find out what else Google thinks of me. These are all my own fault.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Literally the Newcastle of the south

For a different perspective on these events (usually about two metres behind and to the left or right), see Oliver's exclusive behind-the-scenes report.

I can't tell you how Newcastle, New South Wales compares to its near-antipodean namesake because I never actually visited Newcastle upon Tyne. I never lived in North East England and never had any special reason to go there, so I felt no pressing need to make the 104-mile trip from Edinburgh or 185-mile trip from Crewe.

I never visited Newcastle under Lyme either, which was actually quite close to where I grew up. Assuming it to be just another boring market town like everything else around those parts, I never made the 14-mile trip from Crewe.

Come to think of it, I don't think I ever visited Old South Wales either.

However, I can confirm that the Newcastle of Australia is quite nice for a day out - just 10,462 miles from Crewe as the immortal crow that doesn't need to eat or rest flies.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

I'm blue, da ba dee, almost died

Oh good, there's only a high risk of this place catching fire. That's put my mind at ease

My final day out from Sydney was almost my final day on this planet, as I inadvisedly tackled a hiking trail rated 'Hard' that did turn out to be a step beyond the usual well-maintained jungle paths I've come to expect around here. There wasn't even a diagonal train to carry me out of the valley floor at the end, talk about roughing it.

Alright, there wasn't any actual mountain climbing involved, and there was a clear trail to follow most of the time so it wasn't as trying as my treks across islands, but the problem came on the return journey when I lost sight of the trail completely and found myself scrambling around the edge of sheer cliffs, trying to work out which boulder to head towards.

Being a bit of an idiot with little concept of his own mortality and unnatural dedication to his blog, I took the opportunity to take some quite nice pictures of the Mount Victoria area, and when I felt the twigs sliding beneath my feet and the branches supporting me started to bend, I made sure to lift my laptop bag to safety before following it. I'd done a couple of hours' work on the train that I hadn't been able to e-mail yet, and there's no way I was going to write all that again.

My compulsive photo taking finally turned out to be useful though, when I was able to compare a certain rock-'n'-tree combo to one I'd photographed near the start of the trip and found my way back to safety, so there are mixed messages here. The only thing that's certain is my enthusiasm for nature walks has been curbed for a while.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Kind of Black(heath)

I didn't have much of a plan for my trip to Australia, beyond spending as long in Sydney as it took for my new passport to arrive or to see in the New Year, whichever came sooner. Both of those tasks were complete by January 1st (can you work out which came sooner?), but faced with the prospect of spending the three weeks until my flight slumming it in hostels along the east coast or spending longer in my excellent pad complete with even more excellent dog, there was no contest.

I'd already planned to come back to Australia in a few months time when I was more in the mood for sightseeing (this kind of erratic, planet-destroying flight schedule is typical of me), and for some reason I wasn't even sick of the Sydney area yet. So I settled in for another fortnight of working on the train, walking around more of the Blue Mountains and writing more repetitive national park blogs.

Luckily for you, temperatures reached ridiculous heights during that time and I found it a chore even heading out for the thrice-weekly Pepsi run, so you only have to put up with two more of these. At least there's some mild peril.

Friday, February 1, 2013

Can't get me out of my head


From time to time, I've carelessly thrown around terms like 'autistic,' 'borderline-OCD' and 'insane' when describing this blog and my unnatural dedication to its upkeep, and I'm aware that this could devalue some of those genuine mental issues, so I'd like to take this opportunity to apologise for any offence caused. As I'm probably about to cause a whole lot more.

I've had an up-and-down life like most people. Things have mostly been good since I started travelling, as despite the occasional stress attack and mood swings precipitated by hassle in tourist areas or loneliness, I've been doing what I want, where I want and getting my own way most of the time. I won't say that travelling made me discover myself, I wouldn't do that to you.

But am I too content? When I can happily spend several days of my life hunting down filming locations for an obscure science fiction series or making a comprehensive catalogue of plagiarism, I sometimes wonder if this is healthy behaviour for a 27-year-old. It doesn't seem to be any worse than if I'd just wasted those days playing a video game, as doing anything creative is its own reward for me, but could it point to some underlying psychiatric issues that I've never had diagnosed?

The only way to find out is to take some extremely dubious psychological 'quizzes' from an outdated website and offer a candid insight into various facets of my mental health. Enjoy!