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First day out, already I suck

AUSTRALIA | Tuesday, 20 November 2007 | Views [743]

Katoomba is a reasonably sizable town two hours' train journey west from Sydney, up the Blue Mountains. It is essentially a satellite suburb for Sydney and famous for its mist-shrouded mornings and proximity to fun combinations of rocks, cliffs and forest. Katoomba further distances itself from Sydney by being outside the Sydney local calling area. I am terribly interested in this phone situation for reasons I will soon divulge.

I've been here before. I had a slightly miserable time. I stayed in a hostel (read: "Slept in my car outside a hostel") and met no charming people because everybody spoke German, and my German extends (now) to "Where are your shoes?" My German then extended to pretty much nothing.

After doing that for one night I had the excellent plan to find a nice carpark to sleep in near some exciting combination of rocks, cliffs and forest. I could pull out my kerosene lamp and cook on my gas cooker and play "Twinkle Twinkle" on my harmonica to the mountains like some poetic mountain woman.

Turns out, that's not actually much fun. Or particularly poetic. As I sat there in my little stone hut cooking on my little gas cooker and being all poetic, I was inundated with weird looks from other people who were obviously interested in the combination of rocks, cliffs and forest I had positioned myself next to. These people came in their cars to look at the forest, give me a weird look, and then retire back to their accommodations with a nice beer and convivial company.

And I talked to birds. That's not poetic. That's crazy.

So now I'm back in Katoomba. Despite my previous deflating experience, I had the idea that I could immerse myself in wonderful Australian flora and fauna, exciting combinations of rocks, cliffs and forest, do some walking/sweating, eat some mangoes, etc, etc. So far I have eaten one mango but seen pretty much none of the other stuff. The only fauna I've seen has been some pigeons cavorting on the roof of my hostel while I ate my mango. I have, however, been very well acquainted with the cost of a phonecall to Sydney, again for reasons I will soon divulge.

I'm sitting in the dining hall of the YHA. At the table in front of me sit two lithe blonde German girls, eating in silence. They're my dorm mates, and I would join them, but they don't talk much. They're happy to respond to me in English, but then just go back to the German. They scare me a little. They move around the hostel together. They only talk to each other. They're both blonde and lithe. I have the strange suspicion they're actually the same single organism.

This is why travelling alone is better. Nobody could ever accuse me of being half of a single organism.

Diagonally opposite me an American girl asks permission from a French guy to join him. They're currently doing the Backpacker Exchange, which consists of a series of very predictable questions, and is the same the world over. It goes like this:

1) "Where are you from?"
2) "Where have you been?"
3) "Where are you going?"
4) "Whereabouts in "where are you from?" are you from?"
5) "Here are my thoughts on where you're from..."

I love the backpacker exchange. It's the best weapon you could have when you're confronted with a lithe blonde German girl, or whatever.

So now I can talk about phones. The reason I am so absolutely fascinated with this aspect of the local infrastructure is because I have, in the ten hours I have been out of New Zealand, managed to lose my passport and my plane tickets. And I want them back.

I lost this rather important bundle in the airport. I am pretty much certain that I lost it as I was coming through customs. They made me take off my boots so they could clean the dirt off them, and the customs man beside me made a quip, and I quipped back, and thus was distracted from the more important task at hand, which was holding onto my passport and plane tickets.

So far, however, I have been unable to find anyone at the airport who can locate them. If they don't show up today then there is going to be some poo I need to extract myself from.

In addition to losing my most valuable documents, I also left my toiletries in Sydney. So I had to purchase a new collection. I will be reacquainted with my dear toiletries when I return to Sydney, but a girl needs shampoo in the meantime.

Beyond the loss of valuable documents, the forgetting of Sunsilk, toothbrush et al, and the obvious pain involved in trying to contact the relevant authorities in Sydney when you're a toll call away and when your telephone books are five years out of date... I received an email from my father informing me that the tax department is onto me for leaving the country without informing them three years ago. They love me that much. They want me to call them and offer feeble excuses for why they shouldn't re-evaluate the interest on my student loan.

I think that its entirely appropriate that I make this phonecall from Australia.

Not too long ago I watched the first three episodes of Michael Palin's "Around the World in 80 Days" travel documentary. In the documentary he's trying to emulate Fogg's fictional trip around the world, following the same route, but with a ban on any air travel.

So Palin is racing against the calendar and trying to juggle some very precise boat schedules due to this "no air travel" thing. It's a lot harder these days to travel by ship, apparently. He manages to get delayed in Egypt and this makes him miss a boat, which means he'll miss the next boat, etc. The ramifications are not insubstantial, but Palin doesn't cry, and he most certainly does not call his mother.

He's way cooler than me.

On the positive side, as I mentioned, I had a mango. It was magnificent. It made me question how I could have lived in a country without such mangoes for a year and a half. I'm considering using this as the basis for my feeble excuse to the tax department.

I also met an interesting fellow through Couchsurfing. He picked me up at the airport and agreed to look after my big backpack and (it transpires) my bag of shampoo, toothpaste, etc. We went out for fish and chips and beer. We're now exchanging very expensive text messages over the whereabouts of my passport.

I really wish that I had finished watching Mr Palin's trip around the world. I want to know if he managed to make up his lost time, or if he just stuck with the plan for the sake of the documentary and its (now) shot to death premise.

For some reason I believe that if he was able to do it, then my chances of finding my passport again are greatly improved. Then I'll be reunited with my toilet bag (yay!), the tax department will put all that interest back on my student loan (boo!) and I'll be able to leave Australia with even more pleasant experiences in Katoomba.

Tags: Misadventures


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