A Travellerspoint blog

50 Shades Of Red

For The Extraordinary Sex District Of Amsterdam

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Day 1 of Holland and the sky is dark in a cold, late Amsterdam afternoon. I am here to visit my brother and dutch friends, as well as celebrate my 22nd Birthday and like many others who visit Holland am firstly drawn to the famous Red Light District. After seeing numerous sex districts throughout Asia and Eastern Europe i had a certain number of expectations about what was in store. After all, society and, i must admit, personal experience so far, scream oppression, lost beings, corruption and sadness. There are few institutions more stigmatised and universally critisised than prostitution, and yet few that have so consistently remained present throughout the world.

Amsterdam at night is a different place altogether. The rivers shine like polished metal below the beautifully clean streets. Canal boats line the water beneath street lights, coffee shops, bars, restaurants and houses. It is a place of undying energy and soul; yet so calm and controlled in its mannerisms. I wander through the streets and alleys towards the numerous red lights dotted ahead. Every building has a different story, different inhabitants equally as diverse; each with a tale to tell of their migration to, obsession of, or lifestyle in Holland's famous capital. The themes continue as the red lights start to surround me. Ben, my brother, has become fairly accustomed to these sights but for me it is a fresh lens, like every new place you visit but especially so during the particular magic of the place.

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Red lights beam above the numerous doors that line the alleyways, some of which remain empty or hidden from sight by equally bright red curtains. There is always a certain excitement in any young man when in the presence of new female company; especially when such company is likely wearing few clothes and wanting to be enjoyed. It is human instinct, and more relevantly 'male instinct' in our current world. I look forward to the day when females are also able to so publicly display their inevitable desires towards the sexualised male body; i believe that that is when true equality can be reached. As bodies finally appear through the subsequent doors i am transfixed. I look into their eyes and over their bodies. We wander further through the maze as Ben notices my unusually strong interest in the subjects at hand.

"I don't think i would ever get my moneys worth to be honest" i say to Ben, "I think i would want to spend most of the time asking them questions". Ben laughs as we go into the first bar of the night. It was still very early and we laugh ecstatically when we realise just HOW early it is. It was half past 7 and yet the subdued atmosphere was more like a late Sunday night. That would explain why many of the curtains were still closed. Not many open for business at this unusually early hour. It was still a nice taster of things to come though.

Our first bar turned out to be a small little room filled only with an accordion player, way too many photos of frank sinatra and more different bottles of spirits that i even knew had been invented. We sit and enjoy our first floucher (sorry to all the dutch readers - that is probably spelt very wrong), as the bar gradually fills with very dutch looking people. Its strange how u can just tell that someone is from a certain place, without hearing them talk or asking them any questions what so ever. Dutch people are particularly like that i feel. They have the 'dutch look' (the way i explained my theory to Ben also at the time).

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We then leave for the 'beer temple' - a holy place in no way of the religious sense of the term, but equally as compelling. The bar man has the 'dutch look' (surprise surprise) and knows everything about every beer that has ever made its way to Holland. Turns out there are very many. I ask him for something special. He laughs and explains in his 'dutch way' that basicly thats like walking into a sweet shop and asking for something sweet. Ben orders a Leffe blonde and i get jealous of how much nicer it is than my random selection i chose on the board of a million beers. These are the kind of places that make me love Holland. There is surely little financial sense in the current market for such a range of obscure drinks, and sure the novelty value will win you some customers, but widely speaking it is not there to make money. It is there for one reason and that is because it is cool and it is loved by those who discover its coolness. Whatever happened to doing something because it was cool, or because you just enjoy the idea of it. To me that is what life SHOULD be about i think to myself. It also reminds me of 'the social network' too - 'the facebook is cool' and all that jazz. What a great film... Would be even better if it was set in Amsterdam.

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After feeling slightly merry in my semi-drunk state (remember im a lightweight) we bounce away back towards the red light district, continuing the random small chat about anything and everything. Talking openly about random rubbish is so underrated. Its only a special kind of person that you can do such things with, and i am lucky enough for my brother to be one of those people. When two people respect and love each other enough then judgement goes out of the window and all that is left is all the good stuff. As we walk towards the red light area once again for the busier second period of window shopping Ben suggests that we: "get a double espresso and start f***ing charging". I reply with confusion and extreme laughter for the best part of 5 minutes as we stumble over the bridge towards the main hub of the district.

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A heavily made up woman with potentially very fake breasts, overly carved eyebrows and a relentless sexual gaze bends over to the groups of onlooking men. It is these such women that people naively associate with the sex districts (among others which i will come too). Any man reading will understand the inevitable lack of attraction towards such a woman, but will also appreciate the persistent appeal and curiosity of the type also. Women, and people in general, are different things for different people at different times of their lives. It sounds stupid and simple but its true. This girl was not my, or perhaps most people's dream girl, but for some that night it probably very much was.

As we continue to stroll round, a narrow alley greets us with potentially 3 of the most beautiful women i have ever seen. One appeared to be Dutch, one eastern european and one from maybe Bedfordshire. I challenge Ben as to whether he thought any of Bedford's finest could be here and he gives me a simple 'no' to shut me up. I didnt speak to any of these girls so i will never know but im guessing they probably werent from Bedfordshire. Maybe Luton though :). A strange sense of jealousy occupies me as we walk back down the alley again to find one of the gorgeous 3 occupied with another guy. Oh how i would love to be in there, questioning her and jotting down her answers on a little notepad. Its strange how men have an innate sense of competition and battle regarding women. As if a girl is a prize to be fought for, and if you fail to win then you shoud feel incompetent and unworthy of your alpha male status. I do not confess to being especially like this but i think every guy has a small amount of this feeling inside of them. Some have it just slightly deeper than others.

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Next we come to an interesting section of women who appear to be of African origin and very large indeed. Me and Ben discuss how much business we predict such women have compared to the girls that i guess we would label as what society says is attractive. Even attraction is socially constructed and the very slim, well proportioned, white ladies are a larger part of the media and what we are told is currently 'hot'. Just look at Marilyn Monroe and the divas from years before and it is clear to see how men change what they see as attractive as society changes its intended mediated messages. Of course, it is largely down to people caring about the aesthetic appearance of who they are seen with which makes it an important factor, otherwise, there would be no motivation towards getting a 'socially desirable' girl as appose to one you happen to like yourself. We agree that every man (or woman) has their own taste still to an extent, and the stigma behind prostitution means they have no social exposure with the woman of their choice. So therefore guys who have such taste in women may well come here to enjoy what they desire. I suggest that men have egos and therefore some may want to choose a girl of lesser aesthetic value than themselves in order for the sex to be an ego boost as well an orgasm. The same can be said with the chosen girl's age too - older men perhaps feeling more comfortable or desirable when choosing a lady of similar age to himself.

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After our detailed, overly excited (on my part) and slightly drunk (also on my part) discussion, we head to the last part of the area. It is also closed off and yet very popular with the men. As we turn the corner i see a blonde haired girl wearing trousers and a vest top. She is very naturally beautiful, wearing little make up and showing very little skin. But what is even more strange is that i feel like we have something in common. Like she is the same as me, and as Ben. Like she knows what she is doing, is doing it for a constructive reason and is happy to do so. Moreover, i felt like i could talk to her, like there was little cultural or communicative boundary between us. I tell Ben multiple times that i wanted to talk to her but never do it. There were many people around and plus i still had the whole weekend. Didnt want to explode with intrigue straight away did i! We make eye contact many times and i smile as we walk away to explore what is left of the remaining district. The cold night carries on as we eventually relax in our last bar of the night; a middle eastern themed, relaxed little place with floor cushions and, shisha and good beer. As we absorb the passers by we reflect on our night and continue with our beloved small talk.

During the night we had seen many different types of women and the very shell of many different lives on separate sides of their windows. I saw a few that i am certain were english, a few that were perhaps irish or scottish, many europeans, asians and Africans. Im sure there were people from all over the world to be honest. But what is so definitely clear is that, on the whole, these women are in control of their lives. It is a legal practice in Amsterdam (for those who didnt know already), and so they have regular health checks, great security in case anything violent or abusive happens, freedom of times, rooms and who they do and dont accept for sex. They rent the room and recieve the money themselves, not some big-time boss who only has his own interests in mind. Not one appeared to be on drugs or especially miserable to the point of serious concern. Not one has any other apparent force holding them there. This is what can be achieved if prositution is legalised. After all, in an apparently democratic world where you can buy anything else, why shouldnt you be able to buy sex?

People will probably hear more about prostitution and/or read this blog, and they will say "what about if this ... happens". People are critical of things that are stigmatised and yet they are not about their own lives, or of the lives that society has decided are 'okay'. I ask you to question whether in an industry with a LOT of money to be made, a healthy, secure, social and sexually rewarding work environment, and the freedom and control of your own work-related decisions should people not do it? Of course, as is life, i do not doubt that there are still instances that are sad and still give a bad name to the industry, but what choice of employment doesnt? Think of the caged hens in office buildings across every major city in the world - people treated like guinea pigs doing a job that has no meaningful end, ridiculous working hours and unsociable, unhealthy (physically and mentally) implications on such peoples lives. Think about the many dead end jobs that people put themselves through in order to get by, but what society tells you is still great because you 'are making a difference'. Think of the long term health implications of athletes. These are perhaps the most idolised role models and yet you ask any sportsman at any level if they have had a serious, long term injury. 90% will say yes... a number far greater than such health risks experienced with the girls under the red lights. Ask yourself if such work is ANY worse than the jobs we currently put ourselves through. If we are able to put our socially-constructed morals aside (of which they most certainly are socially constructed) then i believe the red lights paint a very different picture.

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One more final beer and a ridiculously over priced cream cake later and my first day of Holland is over. The walk back to the train station brings me small reminders of the wonderful first night i shared in the company of my brother and the district girls. 4 more days to come and i am sure to bring a notepad for the next one.

More blogs on my time in Holland coming soon...

Posted by Daniel Eagles 05.12.2012 14:06 Archived in Netherlands Comments (2)

Homecoming

French Connections And Reflections

The actual ‘journey’ part of any travelling adventure is often overlooked. And it is true that on a personal level, I have become so used to airports and flying around the world that the novelty value has truly died out. It is a sad fact of life that once we have done something so many times it inevitably becomes routine and boring. Dawkins will say it’s something to do with how we have evolved over millions of years; women will say it’s men that overvalue new conquests and a constant upgrading of adventurous experiences; men will say it is women who have become unrealistic and too expectant of romance and passion in a world necessarily filled with boring day to day chores; other men will say women are just never happy, ever. I say that there are just not enough people saving up their well-earned pennies for a fancy spaceship or hovercraft in order to cater for their casual trips abroad (and that men and women alike are just never happy, ever). Whatever the case, any flight is often never written about; making way for the common shared experiences of famous landmarks, cultural insights and memorable foreign foods. Thus, I feel it my duty, as a young writer – the voice of a generation some might say (no?) – to once again give life to the marvellous human feat that is air travel! I can already feel your goose-bumps rising…

I guess the main theme should be the fact that I am arriving home after 15 months away from home, family, friends, and all that I knew as normal in my life so far. But as the voice of a generation – and such voices must be spontaneous, memorable and in this case very modest – I shall save that for later. So it’s 20 hours before my flight and I am still stuck on Bangkok’s famously tacky and touristy Khaosan Road. At this point I would like to make a big shout out to all the street-foodies, bracelet makers, souvenir salesmen and prostitutes that allowed these last 5 days of my trip to be some of the most depressing, confusing and thought provoking so far. If it wasn’t for the social rollercoaster that is Matt Taylor, I’m not sure I would have had any fun, or even survived, at all to be honest. But I did, and just as I am casually double-checking my suspiciously cheap flight details online, I realise that the world famous Aerosvit Airlines (they’re Ukranian for those of you not studying at the University of Bath) have decided to cancel my flight less than 24 hours before departure and haven’t even bothered to email me. I assume that they do have the internet in Ukraine. Just because I’m too scared to go there it doesn’t mean I should be punished for not knowing the technological development of their country.

After 5 laborious phone conversations with expedia flight ‘experts’ (all of which are different ethnicities, ages and therefore of a different ability to hear and speak the English language every time I ring) I finally get a new flight direct to Paris. No unnecessary change in Kiev (the capital of Ukraine, again for those non-Bathians) and no stupidly early flight time. Although I was looking forward to trying their chicken, travelling straight up and over Kiev should make for a much smoother and quicker journey home. God bless you Aerosvit - I pay for trash and instead I get last-minute rearranged convenience. Although I couldn’t count my chicken kievs quite soon… I still didn’t know which airline I was flying with. It could be American for all I knew; with an unannounced stop over the Middle East to quickly pump some world peace out of the ground on their way back home. They probably nuked Aerosvit Airlines deliberately, or accidently for that matter, in order for the opportunity.

I arrive at the airport to find out that Air France will be responsible for my safe return home. No business class upgrade though; damn it, I knew I should have got married in Thailand and lied about England being the start of our honeymoon. That surely would have warranted the upgrade. I read my book until it is finally time to board. Aisle seat, empty seats beside me, entertainment unit in the headrest in front, and ridiculously kind French air hosts; perfect. I have never understood the stereotype that many people associate with the French (that they can be miserable, unsociable and totally unwilling to speak English). I can honestly say that I have never met a French person I didn’t like. Although, I liked the lady-boy cabaret show in Bangkok too so maybe I am just way too easy to please.

I watch the Hunger Games whilst eating my incredibly delicious airplane dinner. Air France really know how to do airplane food; I had wine, port, pasta, bread and cheese, and some kind of French cake thing that I have never seen before. I had come to love bread and cheese during my time in Melbourne and so it was a welcome luxury and reminder of the many good times I had had over the previous 15 months. Dinner was followed by juice and coffee as I rolled onto the next film; American Pie: The Reunion. Not the best American Pie but still just as easy to watch and mildly funny as the others. As I turned back to my book (which I was truly unable to put down), 2 English lads along my seating row comment on it. They too had read it and so we spend the next hour discussing male and female behaviours; whether it is wrong to manipulate people; the ethics behind changing your own personality and appearance for the pursuit of power and women; and how interesting and entertaining the book was (the main themes throughout the book).

As I eat my next meal (8 hours into the 11 hour flight) I try a few other films unsuccessfully. The Road refused to start properly and when it eventually does appears to be the most laborious and boring film ever made. I am usually one for a good, long, compelling story, but even this was too much effort for my current situation. I instead decide to watch a rom-com that I end up actually enjoying (The Five Year Engagement)! The only one I had enjoyed previously was 50 Days Of Summer which in hindsight I think I just like because it has a realistic and I guess slightly sad ending; so therefore in protest of the cheesy American rom-com genre I would have to tell myself and others that I liked it. We land 5 minutes before the end of the film which I interpret as a blessing. Wouldn’t want the corny ending changing my mind on the movie now would we. I leave the plane in Paris CDG airport, remembering how jealous I am of people who are able to spend 2 hours of their lives enjoying something that is of no intellectual or artistic benefit to them whatsoever. But are instead able to accept it as leisure and time to just relax and accept what they know is about to happen on the screen in front of them. I am of course referring to almost every Romantic Comedy ever made. Maybe one day I will discover the ability to relax, and the patience, necessary to also enjoy them.

3 more hours of reading and a surprisingly tasty Mcdonalds later, and I am on my last flight home to Luton. I hate Paris for making their Mcdonalds burgers actually taste good. They truly are naïve, heartless people the French. How on earth are we supposed to rid the world of such evil when the food actually starts to taste good! It’s hard enough as it is, with the sweaty buns and plastic meat. I know they need to live up to their title of having the best food in the world but this was ridiculous. I finally now know why English people dislike the French…

As my book, written by Neil Strauss, comes to a close and my final flight comes in to land I feel a wave of excitement at the thought of seeing my family, my friends, my house, the kitchen cupboards full of food, my comfortable bed and my hilarious, brainless dog. My concluding thoughts that I read and interpret before I land are fitting for my week ahead and the last 15 months I have spent abroad. Strauss writes about how the alpha male, their relationships, sex and interests are driven by power, dominance and, consequently, the subordination of others (primarily females). It is largely part of our evolutionary make-up and the way modern society has even allowed this trend to continue. But, men are still human and also require love, intimacy and security. This cognitive dissonance inevitably causes many serious social problems. However, it is the female that holds the key, and always has done. For true love and enduring peace to result, it is equality and the male’s sacrifice of such primal interests that is needed; for love is the opposite of power, of dominance, and of sex. Once this happens, new social dynamics can result; men shine through their sensitive, selfless side; and women can bring out the animal they always had inside. Maybe this is what truly makes a man; for those who are truly powerful do not need it.

“The man never chooses the woman, he only ever gives her the opportunity to choose him”

I think everyone can relate to these ideas; and i know i certainly have learnt and gained from such realisations during my recent past. It is amazing how much you learn and question, and re-learn and question once again, when you travel; especially when you travel alone. I leave the plane and carry my bags outside where my mother is waiting for my arrival. She smiles gloriously as we embrace for the first time in well over a year. Everyone needs someone. Every man needs a woman. Every woman needs a man. At this time, I also needed a family and a home in which to recover. I would travel much more in the future, and I have a million places to go, things I want to try and fail, and goals I want to achieve. But for now, I was the happiest I could ever be.

Posted by Daniel Eagles 24.09.2012 04:31 Archived in United Kingdom Comments (1)

The Melbourne Monologues: Chapter 1 - The Battlefield

For The Incredible City That Blessed And Bruised Me

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When you arrive in Melbourne, the first thing you realise is how untrue the stereotype regarding Australian weather is; or rather how little it applies to the state of Victoria. Instead of sun-soaked, clear blue skies, it’s cloudy, grey and, at times, as cold and wet as England (sorry Australia, but it’s true). The second thing you realise is how extremely expensive everything is; and I mean everything! I remember strolling down to the nearest convenience store to get some budget ingredients for a rather tasteless, but nonetheless welcoming, pasta dinner. After inquiring to the Chinese till-lady (that’s the third thing… everyone is Asian or European - there are zero Australians in Melbourne) she tells me that my pack of spaghetti and small jar of dolmio sauce will amount to almost 8 dollars! My heart sinks as my mind plays out the probable next 10 months of my life… eating bread and butter off of the kitchen side board; using the Hostel’s free dishwashing liquid to soak my hair; grazing my uneven stubble with one of the kitchen knives; and sneaking under other people’s beds to sidestep the cost of rent.

This didn’t happen; or at least not very often. But a week later and things are, indeed, quite bad. We had fortunately found an apartment that was cheap enough to just about afford, but also large enough to just about breathe in. The real bonus was the 4 beds (2 in each bedroom), which meant that me and my brother could indulge in some much-needed family bonding, due to the beds being no more than a few inches apart (while the other side of the bed collided heavily with the wall). Matt would share the other room with whatever backpacker we could persuade to live with him. Strangely, in time there happened to be many. Perhaps dirty clothing, pre-bed time episodes of Some Mothers Do Ave ‘Em and nightly naked parades are more popular than I thought. After the payment of the bond and 3 months of rent upfront (required if you have no rental history and want a place in the city centre), I was broke. My already-modest bank account had been wiped clean in just 7 days and it was time to get serious.

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As I lied on my small bed, surrounded by dirty plastic cups and the sound of my brother’s painfully persistent snoring, I contemplate my circumstances. My 9 dollar duvet had no sheet and was spreading bundles of white fluff across my equally bare mattress beneath me. It would be perhaps 2 weeks or more before I could justify spending my limited funds on such relative luxuries as bed sheets. My agreement with Victoria University meant I must work from 9 until 4, Monday to Thursday, without any form of payment. My sponsorship visa also meant that I was not legally allowed to work anywhere except at the University (inevitably an issue that would have to be accidently/quietly ignored). Student loans would help at times but they were just a distant dream at the moment, with my next payment not being until January the following year (5 months away). I guess I could steal food from McDonalds, or Subway, I thought; it’s no doubt equalling the stupendous gap between the world’s rich and poor, even if it is by just the tiniest margin. So it’s essentially a good thing. Mr Mcdonald wouldn’t even know, or care even if he did. He’d be too busy eating his gold-plated big macs inside his chicken nugget -shaped mansion.

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I’m a chronic over-thinker, and am therefore easily preoccupied and stressed. But it also means I have a constant need to be active and achieving something every day. So stealing fast food – and therefore ever so slightly rescuing the world from poverty – becomes just one of a million ideas, opportunities and shortcuts that my mind creates. I almost have fire in my eyes and a tingle in my veins at the thought of what lies ahead. ‘The bigger the battle, the sweeter the victory’… these types of sayings are clique and inevitably become misconstrued and abused, but there is still so much worth in their simple message. Man does like a challenge. He likes to be pulled apart in order to salvage himself twice as strong as before. I picture Rocky Balboa, Tony Montana, Frank Lucas; fictional characters who symbolise what every man has burning inside of him. Perhaps this is why these films are so adored and remembered; because everyone can relate to their struggles, appreciate their pain, and revel in their ruthless acts of bravery and resilience; despite the immoral acts that sometimes result. I would not be fighting Russians, dealing drugs or killing innocent people – nor are they acts that I am condoning – but my situation was one that millions of men and women have long endured, and who continue to find joy in their endless battles, numerous successes and inevitable failures. The stage was set and I was fuelled with optimism and energy for a battle of my own.

I realise that there are many travellers working abroad, and some of which are even from places outside of Germany! So I do not wish for sympathy, and I certainly do not wish for donations, because this story has a great ending… I leave Melbourne 10 months later, rich, victorious and unhappy. Unfortunately, the money is necessary for 3 months of further travel, and the sadness is due to many goodbyes to many people, and a huge farewell to what is, in my biased and largely inexperienced opinion, the greatest city in the world to live in. It’s a bit like Only Fools And Horses I think to myself, where Del-boy and Rodney Trotter slave away for almost their entire lives to put food on the table, pay their bills and perhaps get away on a cheap tacky holiday once in a while. But once they get a quick lucky break, they have all the money they could ever want. They have the house, the cars, the jewellery; everything except the buzz and excitement that their old life used to bring them. They miss the modest but truly appreciated day-to-day victories that come with difficult working life in big cities. I am more than happy to confess that I too was very much like a Trotter; and I loved every minute of it. Hopefully my future will bless me with even greater battles; and maybe I’ll be lucky enough to fail next time.

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So there are many incredible stories in between my stressed, wet, financially-barren, happy arrival and my wealthy, victorious and, therefore, sad goodbye to the country where I had gloriously suffered and survived. I will be sharing these adventures with you in the near future, so look out for more Melbourne Monologues…

Chapter 2 coming soon...

Posted by Daniel Eagles 09.09.2012 05:28 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

The Child And The Tuk-Tuk

For The Working-Class Kids Of Bangkok's Public Transportation System

In 1861, Ernest Michaux invented the bicycle, and it has since been widely regarded as man's greatest invention to date. While i am certain that - given the time and resources to do so - i could surely do better, and that both Sainsburys' tiger bread (not Tesco's, it sucks) and my Mother's doughnut-shaped chocolate chip cake also give it stiff competition, i have to admit that the bike-lovers may well have a point. In recent times i had even become a bit of a bicycle enthusiast myself, after spending many of my days in Tasmania and New Zealand on Michaux's inspired invention.

After deciding against cycling around the sprawling island of Phuket (opting for a motorbike which had not yet learnt to turn left or right instead), i was yearning to cruise round the chaos of Bangkok, clipping the lazier tourists with my handlebars, waving ridiculous and confusing gestures to the locals and no doubt crash into one, or many, of the grotty fruit stalls that lined the dusty streets. What a triumphant day it could be! However, after inquiring at a couple of places for my vehicle of choice, it quickly became apparent that, while there were '12 Million bicycles in Beijing' (courtesy of Katie Melua's random lyrics), there were absolutely none in Bangkok. Instead, as it turns out, there is a method of transport found only in Thailand that was willing to redeem my adventurous, and slightly crazed, spirit; and even i, in my over-enthused state, was not prepared for the afternoon ahead.

As a recent tour guide of mine has pointed out, the 'Tuk-Tuk' gets it's name from the sound that it produces. While i question the true accuracy of that explanation, i actually like the name. It gives it a childish, fun quality that you don't get very often these days. The world is now so worried about health and safety, rules, documentation and the law that the idea of a baked-bean tin on wheels covered in ridiculous Lady Gaga-esque attire, named after what i'm pretty sure is a common phrase spoken only between 9-month old babies appears impossible. But let me tell you, it most certainly isn't.

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After cramming into the back of our lime-green, 'VIP'-titled Tuk-Tuk of choice, Shenae and I get talking to our driver. He tells us his name and answers our basic questions that we often ask the strangers responsible for keeping us alive in the concrete jungles of Asia. Despite being in his 50's, his head barely rises above the modest roof of the Tuk Tuk, and his face and skin remains youthful and fresh, despite needing a hot shower or three. As our guide, he would take us to all the places we chose on our super-cool, super-touristy and super-confusing fold out map. Well, at least that's what we assumed would happen. As he strangely leans over to whisper in my ear, i learn the inevitable fate of our previously-optimistic city tour. "If you go to this place, i get gas coupon. Okay?", he says softly, with an expression of both optimism and the more realistic feelings of desperation and hope. It appears that the vehicle itself is not the only object of simplicity and youth; the drivers are just as impossibly and endlessly satisfied by what appears to be the Thai equivalent of a kid's goodie bag. Our ride is the party and his payment is the slice of chocolate cake or woopie cushion. It's ironic that we chose a Tuk-Tuk branded with the word 'V.I.P' really; must stand for 'very irritable passengers', or 'very impatient people', or maybe 'virtually irrelevant plan'. It's as if he knew!

Unfortunately for us, children always get their own way, and the party inevitably progressed on his terms. This was particularly hard to take at first because Shenae, my travel companion on this adventure, also has an incredible knack for getting what she wants, and also strongly resembles a child during the early parts of the day. But i guess that's just the way the world works. The harsh truth about childhood is that it can sometimes be a battlefield, and our driver truly was trained and well-armed. So we stop at a jewellery store for a 3-minute wander (the visiting time necessary to earn a gas coupon), before finally heading to our first destination; the golden buddha. To some extent, a buddha is a buddha, a temple is a temple, and overly-cautious 'good buddhist behaviour' is overly-stupid; so we stroll around, get told off, do some stupid poses, get told off again, take back the surprisingly fashionable scarf that we paid 20 baht to borrow for respectful access in to the temple, and leave. I do actually respect Buddhism, at least as far as religion goes anyhow, so i may have exaggerated the lack of respect shown by our behaviours... or maybe not.

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Back in the Tuk-Tuk our driver is already preparing to leave and craving candy, so we jump back in as he wisks us off to our next unknown destination. I pray that the golden buddha will make my wish come true; that we will make it through Chinatown without stopping for gas coupons or any other delicacies he desires. I squint at every jewellery store we pass, every clothing shop or watchmakers. It's like trying to predict the lottery, except much more difficult; there are way more businesses in Bangkok than there are possible sequences of lottery numbers. There must be. How else could a journey that we have agreed to pay for, and in which we have clearly specified our chosen locations, feel so aimless. Perhaps the strangest thing of all is that we are smiling and laughing almost all the way through it. We are still chatting to the toddler who has kidnapped our afternoon and turned it into a children's treasure hunt; and chatting way more than is normal at even the most drunken of social events.

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After getting through Chinatown unscathed (thank you Golden Buddha, i promise not to replicate a stupid meditation pose whilst humming right in front of you next time), we run through a number of potential places he'd like to take us. Surprisingly, he dismisses all of my suggestions as they are all "too far away" and there is "too much (traffic) jam" at this time of the day. "Fine! Just take us somewhere nice", i finally suggest, giving in to his obvious wishes and my own growing fatigue at trying to fight what was clearly a hopeless battle. So we lie back in our grotesquely-green chair and watch the muttering locals, roaring motor bikes and tuk-tuking tuk-tuks (apparently) pass us by, until the sun starts to set and we reach our hotel just in time for our next optimistic endeavour.

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Yes, there was another coupon-stop during the afternoon; a jewellery store we had already been to the day before. At first i felt no sympathy towards him when his head dropped, realising he would not be rewarded for his outrageous detour towards the shop. But, obviously forgetting the most powerful tool at every child's disposal, i strangely started to wish him another of his beloved gas coupons (providing he wasn't secretly American of course). How do children always manage to foster forgiveness and love towards them and others? Perhaps this is why they live so happily and, yet, so selfishly at times. Maybe we should learn from the Tuk-Tuk, their drivers, and all that they represent, because we all have our own desires; whether it be money, success, a tour of Bangkok or a simple gas coupon. The key is to accept the intrinsic motives of others and allow them to play out alongside your own, for it's the happiness of others that often brings joy to ourselves. Just as my afternoon in Bangkok shows; you might even enjoy the wishes of others more than than your own. I pay him generously for the 'adventure' we had and wish that more things in life could remain as disjointed, unpredictable and, therefore, as truly appreciated as the child and the Tuk-Tuk.

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Posted by Daniel Eagles 03.09.2012 05:05 Archived in Thailand Comments (0)

Into The Jungle (Part 1)

Back To Nature

After a night of hustle and bustle in Malaysia’s capital city, I find myself escaping to the vast jungle wilderness that is Taman Negara National Park. I enjoy cities, and I enjoyed Kuala Lumpar – in particular the Batu Caves, which must be the only place on Earth where monkeys and chickens live side by side – but I always find myself needing to escape. Ironically, as I am travelling alone, the loneliness of rural life also makes me yearn for the city in just the same way at times. But I had been to 4 cities in the last 7 days and so needed to return to nature; and what better way than, officially, the oldest rainforest in the world! (I should note that Malaysian tourism is about as well informed and practical as eating a doughnut through a straw… so that fact could well be false).

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It takes an unjustifiably long time to reach the jungle; 2 buses (3 in my case) and a 3 hour boat ride through the dense wooded land to get somewhere that any map of Malaysia will tell you is really not that far away. Thanks to what must have been 4 toilet breaks, a 1 hour lunch break and another stop in order to purchase a park permit at the outrageous cost of 1 ringee (about 20 pence), it took us the best part of 9 hours to reach our destination. Thankfully, it was worth every second. Even the journey, through the querky neighbouring town, past the brilliantly named ‘Happy Fried Chicken’, and onto the long-tail boat, was stunning. Sat in the boat next to my new Chinese friend Lee (unusual name I know), we cruise up stream through the gorgeous jungle greenery that stoops up on either side. The brown mucky water almost adds to the rugged, beauty of the place. It reminds me of old war films set in Thailand or Vietnam, where the wooden boats and soldiers parade through the rivers into the depths of the jungle in search of the enemy. No crazy Yanks in these trees though; they’d have built a Walmart by now, or just blown the whole place up in the name of democracy… oh and God of course.

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3 hours is a long time on a boat, and I’ve never been one to just lay back and relax, so I think of ingenius ways to make Happy Fried Chicken a world leader in the Fast Food industry. I picture Colonel Sanders making way for a new smiley, more handsome, younger model – every dog (or chicken) has its day – and the time soon flies by. As the river sprays into the boat from both sides, knocking over the rocks that hide beneath the water, I look up into the vast forest and feel right where I need to be. It’s an amazing thing when you feel such a connection to a place when travelling, particularly after being on the move for such a long time. It’s almost like I’ve arrived home.

I arrive at the village in shock, and joy, at how backwards the place is. Half a dozen small shacks float in the river with wooden planks hanging off the edge as the only means of entrance, and perhaps a dozen or so more run-down buildings make up the rest of the town. Strangely there is still a school here, which must be teaching primates because there is probably more species of monkey than there are children in this place. Oh, and a shop selling musical instruments! No room for a bank or a supermarket though… nice to see Malaysian tourism agencies are still on form.

What’s even stranger though is that I like it. ‘Asian countries are a bit like Eminem lyrics’ I tell myself… ‘they’re far more enjoyable when you don’t take them too seriously’. I think of countless other examples of humorous Asian incompetence as I’m wandering around the village, soaking in the beautiful surroundings: terrible English on shop windows (with hilarious accidental meanings that you couldn’t write if you tried – ‘full body and racial massage’ being my favourite so far); the way in which your waiter is either way too friendly and committed to making sure your every itch is scratched to perfection or he’s the Asian equivalent of Manuel from Fawlty Towers; and, of course, Asian men’s gawping at anything that resembles blonde hair or a breast. God I love Asia.

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As it is almost dark when I arrive, I have the most surprisingly delicious pancake (breakfast-related items are not Malaysia’s strong point) and get to know my new roommates. They tell me that they hiked into the jungle yesterday, camped overnight and returned this evening. This makes me insanely jealous and incredibly excited to explore in the morning. We share some Malaysian chocolate cookies which don’t taste like chocolate, or cookies, but are also surprisingly nice. Wow, this place is amazing. It appears to be doing the impossible. When I hear 2 of the local workers singing U2 I tell myself: ‘this is the real test’. If they can actually sing - a feat that no Malaysian, or Asian as a matter of fact, has managed to accomplish so far on my travels - then there truly is a heaven on earth. Thankfully, I’m still an atheist… he couldn’t sing to save his life.

By complete chance, my two housemates and I all grab our harmonicas out of our rucksacks – an instrument that, also by complete chance, none of us can actually play – and head over to join them. We all sit on worn out stools and broken deck chairs, arranged in a circle. 2 French girls then join us from the room next door and we play the worst, most out of tune and mistimed version of 'Three Little Birds' you will never get to hear. The 2 Malaysian men played simple chords and sung horribly (as did the French girls), while our harmonica orchestra attacked the song with sharp high pitched notes that probably woke up every animal in the jungle, sending them on an angry assault towards our gathering. I then explain to our lead guitarist that my harmonica is in the key of C and ask kindly for his next choice of song to follow suit; disguising the more relevant fact that I barely know how to play the thing. Then, the monkeys and tigers paused on the fringes of the nearby forest, withholding their attack, as Bob Dylan’s ‘Knocking On Heaven’s Door’ echoed around the park (ironic song title right?). The doorway to Heaven had once again been opened and, now, I was truly there. As the guitarist and I played in harmony, he changed octave and improvised over my simple melody, I then, somehow, managed the same, gaining in confidence with an instrument I had dabbled with on perhaps only 4 occasions, when out hiking every now and again. Every member of the circle joined in; singing, clapping, humming, anyway they possibly could. The song ended and my hands thrived with energy as my face was soaked with an undefeatable smile. It was a minor miracle and a truly wonderful occasion, sat by the river’s edge as the sun finally dropped below the hills.

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I think music is an amazing thing. It can bring people together in ways that almost nothing else can. As I say good night to my fellow orchestrees (a new word I’ve invented) and clamber into bed, I think about how the special things in life are those rooted in our basic human nature, and those that offer no need to adjust and keep in time with our rapidly developing world; music, games, family, friends, food, drink. For all of our science and wisdom, our civilisation and invention, a handful of people and a simple song is all we need. I realise that I never want to see acoustic guitars disappear, nor do I want to stop seeing children playing in the street or their local park; and I definitely don’t want such natural miracles as this jungle being tarnished, or destroyed. I make a promise to myself that, if they do ever build a bank here, I’ll buy 50 harmonicas and return to raise a musical riot for all that is true and decent in the world. And that if, when I arrive, there’s a Mcdonalds too, I’ll trade the harmonicas for grenades and blow the whole place up in the name of democracy... oh, and God of course.

Part 2 coming soon...

Posted by Daniel Eagles 13.08.2012 07:53 Archived in Malaysia Comments (0)

A Japanese Journey

Exploring the weird and wonderful world of Japan

Since I was a young boy I have always wanted to visit Japan, and I have no idea why. For some reason the neon lights, abstract colours and kanji just called out to me. I remember discussing the many fascinating places in the world, and the subject always fixated on the mysterious chaos of Tokyo or the fascinating ways of the ancient samurai. Watching the amazing Kill Bill films, and the engrossing Lost In Translation (several times), only conjured up more curiosity over the years and eventually I needed to know; are samurai swords really that sharp?; if so, does Japanese blood leave the body in the extravagant, messy way that Tarantino suggests?; are karaoke and comic books really that popular?; and, most importantly, how many pokemon do actually exist?

First things first. Not all Japanese food is an unimaginably bright colour rolled up in rice and seaweed. Yes, there is sushi, but requesting an authentic Japanese meal is very much like asking for a curry in India, or for fast food in the States. The incredible range of fish, meats, breads and vegetables means Japan has some of the most varied and random – and consequently some of the best – food in the world. Yes, there are famously unfortunate delicacies such as the whale, but I think the equally prestigious massaged steaks from the coastal city of Kobe more than make up for that personally. In case you think you misread that sentence, yes the amazingly tender and tasty steaks of Kobe are largely due to the cows being carefully caressed, so don’t tell me that the Japanese have no time for animal rights. But trust me, this is not bizarre for Japan. Not when I tell you that a large percentage of the population spend Christmas Day in KFC, and that they will be greeted by a Colonel Sanders with facial hair resembling that of Mr Miyagi.

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I tell you first about the intricacies of Japanese cuisine not only because I love food, but because it is truly symbolic of the cultural chaos that is Japan today. For every small, broken down wooden hut serving the most delicious rice dishes or stir fry, for example, I found a giant McDonalds, or Dennys, lurking around the corner. The many homemade Okanomiyaki stalls (delicious savoury pancakes) or fish stands were similarly equalled by KFC or other western-style chains such as Moss Burger. Moss Burger, by the way, have the second greatest burgers on Earth; the gold medal for the greatest going to Queenstown’s Fergburgers, which are far better than any moment of the life you had before taking your first bite. Seriously.

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Religion follows suit, with the majority of Japan celebrating Christmas holidays yet following very different religious practices for New Years, Easter, and many other random National festivals and public holidays that have found their way into the equation. Entertainment is again a mixture of Western popular music and the most hilariously bad, and therefore amazing, Japanese and Korean girl and boy groups. If you have a spare 5 minutes to enjoy/waste then research AKB48 and you will know exactly what I mean; and your life will also change for ever. It turns out there are way more than 48 of them and many Japanese girls know each of their ages, names and hobbies; they even vote for their favourite girl, who will then win the right to brace the front cover of their next album. My first encounter came in a karaoke bar surrounded by ecstatic Japanese girls who we had taught the day before. The annoyingly catchy melody stayed with me for perhaps 3 months into my work placement that followed my departure of Japan, and I still give one of their songs an occasional listen every now and again.
Kendo and other martial arts are an integral part of sporting culture, as are baseball, basketball and golf. These are the 3 most popular ‘sports’ in Japan but of course they do them very much in their own way. The baseball game I watched, in particular, benefited largely from mass celebrations during the intervals, with penis-shaped balloons, strangely catchy songs, fireworks and confetti, for what seemed to be no reason at all. I also enjoyed the strangely militaristic ‘WE ARE VICTORIOUS!’ words appearing on the giant screens when the home team won. Very American that one, I thought.

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It appears that every part of everyday life - be it film, hobbies or sports - is riddled with both very distinct (and I mean very distinct!) Japanese creations, and also the overwhelming influences from other cultures. So, Lady Gaga and AKB48, noodle soup and ice cream, Harry Potter and Hello Kitty, Kendo and baseball… you get the picture. It may have something to do with America’s writing of their constitution after the war, which is still in place today. And what is instantly noticeable from the moment you arrive is how truly aware and influenced they are by everything American in particular. But of course, we can’t blame the States for everything. They did use the second world war devastation to benefit themselves economically, they do like their oil, and they do have the second worst accent in the world (after Canada of course), but Japan goes way beyond the Western-Asian concoction that occurs almost anywhere in Asia these days.

Beyond AKB48 and pampered cattlery are (and I apologise for the obvious sexual theme running throughout – the things a 21 year old boy remembers I guess): condom shops selling all shapes, sizes and smells, from protective pikachus to everything else elastic and fantastic (how has durex still not discovered that slogan?...). There are 12-story fetish stores; underground dungeons for the neurotic nerds to watch, or read, or make love to, their favourite comic books and cartoons; cafes and bars with themes such as ‘erotic prison’, ‘maid café’ (young girls dressed as cute, anime-style maids) and ‘Jamaican’ (strange because I didn’t see any Jamaican people, reggae music or jerk chicken anywhere); ‘gadgets that I’m pretty certain have not been invented yet, and shouldn’t be here for at least a few hundred years; vending machines everywhere – and I mean everywhere!; and the most varied and distinct fashion trends you will ever have the pleasure of witnessing.

I say ‘pleasure’ because I am a self-confessed people watcher and spent the majority of my first day in Japan staring at Tokyo’s inhabitants down one of its prime shopping streets, absorbing the colours, make-up and clothing that the females in particular were bringing to the table - at least I think it was the fashion that I was observing (again, I’m sorry). Meanwhile, my travel companion at the time slept in the middle of the road, recovering from our 9 hour flight, just a mere few hours before we both spent the night under the stars in Tokyo’s largest park; instead with some of the not-so-‘fashionable’, but equally as numerous, citizens of Tokyo – the homeless. As the sharp grass dug into my spine, our unfortunate neighbours stirred to sleep, and the stars continued to hide themselves beneath the smog that is Tokyo’s city skyline, I thought just what a bizarre, unexpected first day I had just had and, strangely, hoped that the next month would continue in the same twisted, rainbow-coloured light. Thankfully, as my examples and observations so far suggest, it certainly did.

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The other day, my friend asked me what my favourite thing about Japan is. After first replying that it would be impossible to say, I thought about it. I then said: ‘out of everywhere I have been so far, it is the most like a different planet’. And it really is a place like no other. The few (and they really are only a few) of my experiences in Japan that I have mentioned so far are just a taste of what is an immensely large, colourful and engrossing Japanese feast. And yes, I know, I haven’t answered any of the questions that I proposed at the start; one, because they were stupid; and two, because that is just what Japan is all about! You never do get the answers you are expecting, and you often get a million others that you didn’t think you would want to know but now weirdly want to experience further. This is why I love Japan, and why I am now a comic book-reading, anime-watching stalker who wears make up and maid’s outfits whilst designing and selling my own novelty condoms to the local park’s homeless people, using my new catchy condom slogan. But seriously, if you come to Japan with a blank canvas you never know what you will find. However, you can be sure it will be an experience to remember.

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Posted by Daniel Eagles 10.08.2012 03:14 Archived in Japan Comments (0)

From Water To Wine

For the amazing sea-people of Kaikoura

So I am currently 1 year and 23 days into my 15 month adventure in Australia, New Zealand and Asia. Sheltered from the rain in Auckland’s public library, I contemplate my experiences so far and decide to share them, for the first time, online. Travel does many things to people, and the gained appreciation for social networking is definitely one of them. It has certainly been a gradual change of attitude for me during the last year or so; realising the current interest, throughout the world, in cultural experiences, and the opportunities that the mighty online world can offer.
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Fitting for this first chapter of my new online social life is the beautiful seaside town of Kaikoura. One of only 2 locations in New Zealand’s stunning south island that has kept its traditional Maori name (for those interested, Kai-koura means food-crayfish). As those who are especially close to me, or have had the fortune of witnessing my (lack of) aquatic abilities, will know, I was not made for the water. Furthermore, I feel no shame in admitting that I am rather terrified of the sea. In fact, I can’t think of anything worse than being in the middle of the ocean, surrounded by the many trillions of different species capable of eating me alive. Of course, I’m exaggerating for effect, but the fact is I am not a million miles away from the truth. Just recently a fishing boat hurled on board an entirely unknown, and ridiculously large type of squid – now cleverly named the ‘colossal squid’. It is 33 foot long, weighs 495 kilograms and can live as far as 1 kilometre below the water's surface! I have read since that we actually know more about outer space than we do about our own deep blue sea; scary I know.

So you won’t be surprised when I tell you that, upon arrival, I decided to go cray-fishing. I’m not entirely sure on what my thinking was at the time, as I also have less than zero interest in fishing and don’t particularly like sea food. But what can I say… I’m stubborn, don’t like to give up and enjoy a challenge. I’d also heard rave reviews about Jerry the Fisherman, the New Zealander who ran the trip, from many other travellers who had excited me with stories of them catching sharks, seeing dolphins and being treated to far too much wine afterwards back at Jerry’s shack. I guess it was always going to be an experience, whether for good or bad, which is why we bother flying halfway across the world in the first place right?

Okay, so now the optimism is out the way, reality soon kicks in. What I didn’t mention before was that I also get incredibly sea sick (surprising I know), which became a dawning possibility once, after meeting Jerry, he told me that it is now too late for medication as the wind is picking up, so we needed to get out on the boat as soon as possible. Any medicine would have taken at least an hour to kick in anyway, by which point I would probably have already been drop kicked and given the figure-four leg lock by the newly discovered ‘even more colossal squid’. So I would just have to make do.

Jerry, who by this point is my guardian angel, my sure-to-be hero if anything or everything goes wrong, then decides to leave us at the boat with his two fisherman friends Nick and Bo, while he relaxes back at the shack and awaits our safe return. Perfect. Bo, in case you’re wondering, barely spoke a word of English. Nick, on the other hand, had a wooden leg and, as became apparent, a complete lack of awareness (or care) of anything going on around him. It is generally in the nature of kiwis to be extremely laid back but Nick was truly in a league of his own.
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Soaring through the water, the sun glistening upon the endless flow of ocean ahead, i felt a certain amount of optimism in the air. Small figures in the distance bobbed up out of the water, followed by their friends: ‘look, dolphins bro’, Nick exclaimed in his typical casual state. I examined them closely, entranced by the elegance and freedom in their movements. Perhaps there is no creature more enjoyable to watch; the kind of sight that would install hope into even the most cynical and heartless humans. If there were dolphins on Normandy Beach I reckon the war would have stopped there and then; with Germans and English alike standing hand in hand to enjoy their splendid displays, then exchanging hugs and kisses before retreating back to their homes and families. Perhaps I’m being optimistic but such is the whimsical feeling you get when exposed to such a sight. I find myself endlessly curious about how the dolphin evolved into the animal it is today, and what a magnificent life you could lead living amongst their ranks. Perhaps there is sanctuary in the sea for me yet.

However, as my new friends disappeared out of distance, the small boat rocked over the oncoming waves, getting larger as the wind picked up the further we distanced ourselves from the town. After thumping up and over the relentless peaks Nick finally stops the boat. Fishing rod in hand, I wait for the bite. Bo explains that as soon as the line hits 80 feet down there should be a tug straight away. Crayfish are all over this stretch of sea and are very easy to catch in great numbers. However, like lobsters (in appearance also), they are incredibly expensive in restaurants and a whole cooked crayfish in even the cheapest cuisine will cost you at least 60 dollars. It is not uncommon to pay well over 100 dollars though. Jerry and his pals catch dozens every day on the boat and so the pressure was on for the irish couple (also on the trip) and I to deliver.
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1 Hour later and we had nothing. The anglo-irish fishing team had failed. However, I hold very little responsibility for the poor result as I personally only contributed 3 minutes of intense winding to the proceedings, before throwing up continuously for the remaining time. I could hardly be held accountable. If this was a football team, I was the water boy who only managed a short jog from the bench before tripping over his shoelaces and somehow knocking himself unconscious on the referee’s sharp, bony knee caps. Thankfully, there was no stadium of fans watching my performance. Just two careless Kiwis and an irish couple determined to outperform the English in at least one sport during their time on Earth; which, in fairness, they did infatically. Curled up on a stool at the front of the boat, I waited for our eventual return to shore. I felt weak, as if every possible fluid, artery and organ had been sucked out of my body.

Back on land Jerry greeted me with a smile that said: ‘told you it would be fine didn’t I’, ‘and by the way, don’t worry about not catching any fish, I’ll let you off’. In my mind I envisioned the colossal squid falling from the sky on to his head. We all strolled (I limped) into Jerry’s house and he cracked open the first of 4 bottles of wine that stood on the kitchen table. As I had nothing that even resembled a carbohydrate, or blood vessel, left in my body I figured the wine would have to be drunk cautiously. Which it was, until a ridiculously large pack of crisps restored my body almost back to normal. 2 bottles down and Jerry and Nick were sharing stories of their sea adventures to us with infinite detail. I sat in amazement at the everyday efforts of fishermen, and how indescribably difficult they would be for the average man. Nick showed me videos of whales that come just a few metres from his boat at times, and the albatross that he calls after and always comes for its daily feed. Nick is also an expert diver and often dives with just the very basic equipment, no one else manning the boat, and the ocean’s many creatures at his disposal. Plain and simple, these guys love it. It is their one and only passion (excluding wine as it turns out).

Perhaps the most memorable story was Nick’s desire to swim with killer whales. It is one of the only sea creatures he is yet to truly experience in the water and, as the name suggests, is probably why he is still alive. When questioned, he simply replied: ‘if I die doing so then it would be a very happy way to go.’ This, from a guy who has already lost one leg, has a child living in England to care for and who’s entire trade and lifestyle requires his physical ability both on the boat and in the water. All I remember thinking is: ‘Wow, this guy is really not afraid.’ I never asked how he lost his leg as I did not wish to ruin the social, fairly drunken (3 bottles now) mood that the room was blessed with, but I’m guessing it was also sea-related. Instead I just enjoyed Jerry’s many crayfish recipes, cooking tips, life stories and eventual fourth bottle of wine. It was now dark outside as the evening progressed and the cocktail of laughter, wine and memories winded down. I paid Jerry, shook their hands and wished them well, knowing I wouldn’t forgot my day with the Kaikoura fishermen.

I think that those who dare, who truly believe, and who follow their hearts are those that have no need to fear. Perhaps it is this spirit and determination that keeps them from suffering. Just look at Steve Irwin, a fearless crocodile hunter who was never unfortunate enough to suffer the defeat of so many others while presenting himself in the hands of fate time and time again (not by a crocodile anyway). I am a passionate, opportunistic and brave person, and so can relate to Nick, Bo and Jerry in many ways. But when it comes to the sea, the mysterious, unknown ocean, they are something very different. In hindsight, questioning Nick’s wooden leg would probably have been a welcome opportunity for yet another of his eccentric stories, and yet another example of his courage and immensely loveable personality. Even now I don’t doubt that Nick will swim with killer whales, and may well die in the sea where his heart belongs, but there is nothing I want to see more than his tattooed, rugged figure perched on a whales back while he laughs and dances in celebration. Maybe then I will find control and peace in the ocean, knowing that, if worst comes to worst, I will be following those with the heart and soul of the sea, and who it took only 1 day to inspire my appreciation of their beloved world.

Posted by Daniel Eagles 31.07.2012 17:47 Archived in New Zealand Comments (0)

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