Tag Archives: RTW
(in my head I’m hearing “And Rohan will answer!” from The Lord Of the Rings. Yeah, I’m that messed up. Stay focused Kelvin).
“STATE!!!” as a crowd. ONE guy starts a chain reaction that brings the crowd to their feet until the next point is scored.
Some time in the late 80’s, I remember going to basketball games, as a youngling, with my father.
Time & Space
Writing from the confines of a four bunk cabin rumbling along the tracks of the Vietnam Railway I have decided to expand minds by explaining SPACE. You may be thinking “What does Gurr know about space?” or ” When has he had time to learn such a vast subject enough to explain it as if he’s Carl Segan?”. Well to tell the truth, I don’t really know shit about space.
My brother, Casey, knows a lot more that I do so maybe you want to ask him to explain that kind of space. Man, I haven’t even seen stars for the past three weeks. We have been in big cities giving off light pollution.
I’m talking about space in the sense of your whereabouts and places you find yourself in around the world.
Ok, all aboard! Like I said we are on the train. A journey that is expected to be about eighteen hours.
We are seven hours into it. The space is just as you would expect from on of the James Bond movie chase sceans. A sliding door that won’t stay open and might stay closed, a tiny table and four beds thirty inches wide, exactly (trust me, I have worked in metro shelving and kitchen countertops for years.). After our $1.50 per person hot meal we started to enjoy the company of small cockroaches and a little mouse. And don’t forget the neighboring young boy that keeps peering through the window at us. All these guests have my wife and two boys sleeping up in the top bunks leaving me to patrol the ground level.
We are fascinating to the locals. The boys because they are young and white, with me getting a lot of looks due to my beard. It’s all about location though. If you hang out in the area of Ho Chi Minh City where the westerners are then you just get pressured to buy sunglasses, lighters, cigarettes, fans and such. You don’t get the flat out stare in the face, the look to the boys from the women, old and young, who just smile and maybe reach out for a touch of such a rare creature. Oakley was having none of that. Canyon on the other hand just gave them a smile back and went on with his business.
As I report on various spaces I have been in I want you to think of where you are. What is your space?
Australia is huge. You can’t go for a visit thinking you’ll be able to see all the sights unless you have about a year.
We would bring up a map planning the nine days we have between housesits in Gold Coast and Brisbane. We started pointing out places of interest and dreaming of a grand tour of the coast around Fraser Island and up into The Great Barrier Reef.
Caravan here we come! We thought we would be able to zip here and there. The fact is the map isn’t to scale. It couldn’t be. Maybe it’s the Kilometer that throws you off? Anyway we quickly changed to a smaller area of interest after traveling for a few days with three and six hour dives only to be able to explore the destination before sleeping and zipping (we were right about that part) to the next location the following morning.
My recommendation is to plan on staying somewhere for two nights at the least. The night you arrive after the drive and another night so you’re able to enjoy the area.
Our caravan tested our patience a few times being a bit tight and having to transform it from drive mode to sleep mode to eat mode.
We got pretty fast at it and I’m pretty sure I broke a Queenslander record on the last two days as I set it up for drive mode.
Bali is small. With so many tourist pics of empty white sand beaches and vast rice terraces there is an expectation of room to move. I think it’s a toss up.
Arriving at the airport and walking through what seemed to be the largest banquet hall I’ve seen. The ceiling was at least 3 stories up. It was as if we were in a football stadium all alone. Stepping outside you are swarmed by taxi drivers making sure you have a ride somewhere. If you make it by the cabbies then the next challenge is the roads full of scooters driving fast and close on narrow roads. I mean really close. I could have trimmed riders fingernails while waiting for a green light.
“I’ll just walk over to the market.” you say, because you’re not crazy enough to rent a car or bike. This thought is met by the lack of sidewalks and or giant unmarked holes in the sidewalks.
Bali ended with an amazing stay in an Airbnb near Gianyar that was what I imagine staying on a plantation in the south is like. Each room was basically it’s own house.
The space had a ping pong table room, pool with a cabana, stand alone kitchen, upstairs balcony, and more. It was huge. So big that Oakley was nervous about sleeping such a distance away from us and we had to yell to let each other know where we were. I made a quick outing to the jimbaran fish market. It had a low ceiling and was quite the stimuli to the senses. I’ll cover that in more detail in another post.
Saigon (now Ho Chi Minh City) is tight, not small, but just close quarters. From where we were it took a few days to find a patch of grass.
Houses seem to have a storefront included. lots of narrow houses combined with narrow roads and then add in twice or three times as many scooters as Bali and you get really tight.
Around eleven million people live in HCMC according to the guide on our Cu Chi tunnel excursion. He also mentioned there were seven million motorbikes in the city and forty-seven million in all of Vietnam. Over half of the population of a country has a scooter. That’s almost twice as many scooters in Ho Chi Minh City than people in Oregon! Tight might not be the word for it, Jammed is better. Don’t forget it’s not stopped as in a traffic jam, it’s ALL moving.
Friends in Low Places
Now that I have you singing Garth Brooks I’m going list the various bugs (friends) we have encountered. Here is a list and a few photos of the who and where along with a bit of their behavior.
- Glow in the dark spider in Australia. Seriously, chartreuse green in the dark and hanging out at our camp chairs. Only as big as a dime though. Pretty sure it was one of the ones that bites you and you gain super powers a day later. We lost track of it and no body can do any wall climbing yet so I think we are in the clear.
- Bali also has a rather daunting spider. We ran in to a few on the terrace walk with our friend Drew. I think they might catch motorbike riders because they hang out about head level on trails. No Thank YOU!
- Praying Mantis. Two, one in each bathroom in Hoi An, Vietnam. Friendly and seem to creepily track you as you move from side to side. They are great at hiding under the back of the toilet. Check your surroundings!
- Geckos are not bugs but they eat a lot of them and they are in southeast Asia as well as Australia.
- They come out at night and hang out on walls near lights. Waiting for a moth to snack on. Some folks call them lizards and the big ones geckos. They actually make a call that is “Gek-o” repeated multiple times.
- Frogs. Again, not a bug but a bug eater and are pretty exciting. Big ones in Bali are about the size of your fist. I met a few by the pool and one in the bathroom. He was hiding under my swim trunks and as I reached to get them from the ledge he jumped and stuck to the far wall of the shower. Quite the leap, a good distance of about 4 feet. I jumped about twice that and then he jumped again to the wall to his left. I had returned to stationary panic position and thought it was cool until his final move. He landed on my lower leg and grabbed on. I swear I could feel each individual finger gripping my calf as he took a rodeo ride on my now flailing leg. Disapearing behind the bathroom sink I recovered with my voice dropping back from seprano to baratone in good ten minutes. You win frog, well played.
- Birds. Alive and less so.
- Worms. Aussie and Vietnam
- Ants. Small sugar ants, big black, red fire.. so many. The biggest problem is the first. Rain and then shine equals lines of sugar ants crisscrossing along the floor. And if you forgot to put anything edible away either on top of the fridge or in it you get a special treat of having them cover your hand when you pick it up later. All food gets put away asap. Some locations had an ongoing battle in bathroom showers. Some of the ants so small you can’t see them. You start feeling them and they bite just a bit and you start looking like your trying to brush flour off black pants. In Bali we had a big black ant issue. I sprayed into a hole in the wall and out they came as if I had just hit the hive with a stick. A waterfall of ants.
- Spiders. Yeah, I just need to revisit this one because I just survived an epic battle with a giant! Seriously, I’m writing the section on “ants” and I see the wall move. Oakley is sleeping next to me with my wife and Canyon in the other room. He just fell asleep so I have to do a silent battle. Holy crap that’s a big spider…. Does it jump? I have to get it before it’s out of reach. I should get a picture of this guy first.
- Evidence and if I lose then the Dr. will want to know what bit me. If my wife sees this thing we are packing and leaving. Check that, I’m packing and they are heading to the cleanest hotel in the land. Maybe I should wake up Oak and move him? No, he will ask questions leading to full panic mode. Lets just keep that panic mode to myself. I don’t want to get too close, I don’t think a shoe or sandal gives me a good distance. Is it poisonous? Don’t even go there. It’s got to go. I need a book. Damn, that’s a big spider. Focus! Scanning the room for a weapon, making sure it’s not running off. Ah! the boys’ hard cover cursive writing practice book. Here I come! That sneaker just went into the bathroom. Good, I’m happy to bring the battle to the small confined space of a bathroom with toilet/shower set up. Wait, is it poisonous? Sweet, this book will slide under the door you are hiding behind. Slide to crush. No luck, and he’s on to me. Great move genius you just gave up your weapon. Off to the other room for more ammo! Remember all this is silent like a muted action film. Light on my feet as I spring to the kitchen. Maybe get a jar to trap it? More like a bucket! Then what, show everyone? Focus man it’s a battle to the death or we are out of here. (in real time I’m still scanning the room for a possible partner, wondering where it came from and if it brought friends) Grab that can of bug spray. Ok. bug spray in one hand and a size 7 sandal in the other. I try the sandal drop move first but it catches it and tosses it to the side. Oh Crap! Grab the other sandal. He’s moving! I have the other sandal on my foot but it is my last resort to get that close to the beast and to top it off the sandal is the kind with holes in the sole for drainage. Not good. He’s making a break for it. Across the dirty clothes pile looking like a soft-shell crab. Spray, Spray, Spray! That slows him but it won’t kill him. I use the bottom of the can (he is bigger than the base of the can) no luck missed now he is hiding behind the iPad leaning against the wall. I must block his escape. Eureka! Found two big ziplock bags with the boys’ school workbooks. About five workbooks in each. I remember in the movie “Bee Movie” that some bugs are measured by the size of magazine it takes to kill it. I believe the bees were impressed with a spring Vogue issue. I think I might have a chance. Cornered it and dropped the workbooks. Two full loads and then a frantic bashing. Remember it’s a silent battle but I bet the neighbors can hear my heart beating like Will Smith’s “Miami” playing at 2000 beats per minute. What to do with the carcass? Oakley has slept through the whole thing. Hide the dead for a minute while I think. Wife text from the other room “What’s going on?”. She knows something is going on and is smart not to come in. “Nothing honey. Just a little spider that was particularly feisty.”. Ok. I need a huge paper towel or a broom to get rid of it. This TP will have to do. Sure it’s dead? More TP just in case. Flush. Done.
- Of course I had to look it up after and I feel badly for taking out a spider that eats cockroaches. Who knew at the time? Huntsman Spider “known by this name because of their speed and mode of hunting. They also are called giant crab spiders because of their size and appearance.” – https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Huntsman_spider. I was spot on with my assessment of this guy. Fast and crab like movement.
That’s it, I’m not adding anymore to this list. I may have jinxed myself by deciding to write on this topic (my wife suggested it) and I don’t have the energy for another battle.
I know I will write more in this area. I’ve already had a few more encounters since writing this post.
Notable Aussie Flashback
Time to download the last of my Australian notes of interest. These are random so don’t look for any rhyme or reason to them. We are countries away form Australia now but I needed to get this out of my head.
- Chicken cone: A large plastic cone that attaches to the butcher table. A chicken (Chook) is placed on it by inserting the cone up the butt of the bird (bird is dead, plucked and gutted. Sorry if you thought otherwise there for a second). The cone spins so the bird spins too! James, the butcher I staged with, said some folks use them and can cut up a chicken pretty fast. I can’t help but think of beer can chicken.
- Camp-trailers: and off-road trailers for the overland folks. The Aussies sure have a lot to choose from. pioneercampers.com, ultimate off-road campers, all with kitchens, awnings (big in AU due to the sun beating you down), and a hell of a lot of staking down. These people are masters of the tie-down.
- I met a man named Max: at Rainbow Beach. He is retired and fishing a lot. He must have had seven rods all set up. It reminds me of my Dad. Max was using his “tinny” small tin boat to chase tannies and flatheads. He let me have a look at a fishing magazine to explain what the hell those were. He said the fishing was off due to a large seaweed mass that had moved into the area. Said it hasn’t happened in about 150 years. He jokingly blamed our current president letting me know that he knew my funny talk was American.
- Australian English: #homeofthebundy almost all the names for things here are shortened and have a “y” attached to the end. Bari is Barumundi (I know that isn’t a “y” but that is what I remembered just know.)
- 1770: Where Captain Cook landed. The only place in the world to have a number as a name Coocoo Buros with mud nests in the crouch of a tree, Scrub turkeys (aka Bush turkeys), empty beach for miles
and sea turtles seen from cliffs above. Oh and glow in the dark spiders.
- The hand break is on the wrong side! In both the car and on the bikes. When riding here you must remember the rear brake is on the left and the front on the right. Just another trick you need to pay attention to unless you plan on doing some indos.
- The Australian Magpie: has a call (one of many) that is the same as the alien communication in the movie Close Encounters of the Third Kindhttp://www.imdb.com/title/tt0075860/. Pretty sure that is where they got it from. Steven Spielberg not the birds. I need to watch that movie again. Some have said my Dad looks like Richard Dreyfus and I would agree.
- The 1912Queenslander: we stayed in is a style of house built on stilts to allow airflow to cool it. We thought Brisbane was set up on a flood plane. Nope.
- Birds: The Bush Stone-curlew, the Watercock, and the Australian White Ibis. Ibis is a nuisance seen below, upper right. Watercock looks like a chicken and an duck cross.
I don’t have a photo of the Bush Stone as he was quite elusive. There are so many more.
“Okay, no problem, I can carry that on my scooter.”
Nothing prepares you for the amount of talented scooter riders when you travel to Bali. Coming from The States where a few areas might have what seemed like a lot of motorbikes. Or it may be summer when more riders are out and sometimes even grouped up together on a tour. The numbers here are unreal. They just keep coming and from all directions.
Oakley, my youngest son of eight years age was saying the word “there” as in, “there is one” from the moment we left the airport until I told him he needed to stop (keeping Dad’s sanity is priority).
“There, there, there, there, there, there……There, there, there, there, there,…”
The thing is, I don’t think those riders in the USA stand a chance in what I believe to be some bizarre competition held on the narrow streets of Bali. The rules are pretty straight forward with the only goal being…get to where you’re going without dropping something.
The players compete in two categories.
- Largest amount of items carried either by weight or bulk.
- Top level of unexpected weirdness or level of danger of items carried.
Note: A player may enter both categories in one ride
Here are the contestants. Help me judge by choosing your top 3 and replying in the comment section below.
Sorry for the lack of photos, the riders come up fast and I spent most of my time staring in astonishment while mentally placing them into the appropriate category.
- Two car tires (not scooter tires…car tires on 14 inch rims.)
- Family of four (it’s okay, the kids are in a Baby Byorn type thing or standing between your legs up front)
- You, me and my dog (pets are pretty popular to take on a ride. Just have a good grip on them and have them lay across the seat between you and me.)
- Surfboards (This increases the danger factor by adding a wing, or shark fin depending on placement.)
- Birdcage (with bird. Covered. Usually a cockfighting rooster)
- Air compressor (Good size one that needs a handle and wheels to move around the shop)
- Juice bottles (6 or 7 cases of glass bottles. Stack them high for additional danger)
- Umbrella (open, because it started raining and you are still going to get where you were headed. This takes a high level of skill due to wind generated by movement and the use of one hand to hold the umbrella leaving only one to control the bike.)
- Four, 5gallon water jugs (full)
- 6ft. Stack of welcome mats (see pic)
- Bowsaws (4 of them)
- Mailbox (big)
- Fifteen flats of eggs (not in a box, not wrapped in plastic, not tied. “hold these.”)
- Three, 5gallon plastic jugs of gasoline (Obviously more danger than the water guy but what if they crashed into each other, sparking the petrol and then adding the water? I see bonus points here.)
- Breadfruit 30+ (These are as big as watermelons at times.)
- All manner of plants (including a 40lb Tarrow root or 1/3rd of a tree.)
- Three foot pane of glass held by the passenger upright (I thought he was raising his fists in victory during the ride because I couldn’t see the glass.)
- Six foot Ladder (Attached at the back or on the rider’s back, positioned straight up)
- 40 balloons (inflated)
- Eight cases of soda and beer (danger factor is increased due to the value placed on the beer.)
- Sharp bamboo sticks (placement was key here. The driver had the sharp ends pointed up between his legs.)
- A cooler or “esky”as the Aussie call them. (one that holds around 70 cans, filled heaping with ice, no lid)
- Four to-go container sleeves (not the small ones, the big ones, no box.)
- 2 or 3 giant pillows full of packing beads. (see pic below)
There you have it. Now you just have to imagine these competitors riding in tight traffic, on narrow streets with dogs, cars, trucks, and other folks on scooters filling any open space.
I realize Bali may only have a fraction of the scooter traffic that Vietnam has. At least that is what I’ve heard. I can’t wait to see for myself.
Thanks for reading. I look forward to your responses.
I wonder if there is an office supply store on Bali dedicated to staples. Hell, maybe the Staples that shut near our house in Portland was just in the wrong market.
Here is what I know and trust me I have done extensive research into this… The Balinese use ten times the amount of staples we do. I’m not talking about binding papers together to hand in to the professor. These folks use them for absolutely anything they need attached or stuck together. Decorations are everywhere. Trees are given sashes of fabric. Temples are dressed up as well.
Bali is constantly praying or maybe it’s called placing an offering. Every house does this and in multiple locations.Store owners will place an offering in order to have good sales (I’m totally trying this in the next troubled restaurant I consult for).
Ok back to explaining the amount of staples. Where were we…. Ah yes, each house or building will place multiple offerings and each offering is usually placed in a basket made of palm leaves stapled together.Each spice packet in the supermarket is stapled shut. Every clam shell (restaurant to-go box) is stuck will staples. Intricate ceremony gifts and decorations are stapled together.
The actual numbers are incalculable.
Here is an offering placed on top of a generator for a big winch system as a crew builds a wall. I’ll be trying this instead of preventive maintainance on all my future vehicles.
The magnetic calendar on the fridge is still showing April. It’s September now and I’m with my family at a housesitting gig on the Gold Coast of Australia.
We are caring for three cats that couldn’t be more different from each other. One is nervous, one is yelling at us to do what we are there to do, and the third is in hiding until nighttime.
Marley is the nervous as hell. So much so that he rubs the fur and flesh off the top of his head and paw due to a reflex he has when scared, nervous, threatened, ect…
Patrick is hard of hearing due to old age (16). He yells for what he needs and you can never be fully ready for that meow. Waking to it the first morning groggy and jet lagged I couldn’t figure out what was going on. An unfamiliar house, Aussie Magpies songs and the beast downstairs.
Gracie is jet black and was spotted the first night but then hid deep in the closet for three days. I met her on the stairs sometime in the night. She looked like a rug and I almost stepped on her as I made my way down to Patrick who was yelling at me for something.
A day later she warmed up to me after the boys went to sleep. skittish at first but after a few smells of my hand she was zig-zagging through my legs and using those big yellow eyes to get more petting. Gracie is only seen three times a day, late a night looking like a man-hole cover, early in the morning for food, and as a shadow in the late evening moving from room to room.
Ok, back to what I was going to tell you about. On the calendar I notice an ad for a meat shop called Arundel Meats “30 years of service”. That sounds interesting, I’ll look it up.
The search reveals the shop is an 8 minute walk from here. I make note of it and put it in the hopper. Going to need a bit of meat for the family meals and maybe I can offer to assist at the same time. It’s worth an ask.
I will the car to make the left turn, from the left lane, to the left lane again as I turn into the lot. All this while steering from the wrong side of the car. Driving on the left is a game all played in your head.
A quick stop to check out Arundel Meats and we will be back on the route to home. My wife and two boys stay in the car, tired from all the first day management work of getting sorted in a new country.
The shop is small with a long display case full of goodies. I decide on carrot and onion rissoles and two chicken breasts (filets). As Evan, the owner of this shop for 18 years (info on the their website), sets me up quickly I ask if I can stop in and assist or observe his operation over the next three weeks. He looks at me a bit confused and I say I’m American, from the states, or if he prefers, I’m Canadian. I’m a Chef.
Back out to the car I hop in and my wife asks me “Well, did you get a job?”. I say no, that they were full up and wouldn’t have the hours for me. I then tell her that I was asked to come back tomorrow to assist and or observe. She response with surprise and the boys ask If I got a job.
I explain that it is not for money but I might be given something for helping out. I can’t help but think what a huge lesson is being taught to them. That being present and asking for something sometimes pays off huge. And if it doesn’t, then you are back where you were but at least you asked.
In the days that follow I staged for a few hours at Arundel Meats with Evan. He fabricates about 6 lamb and 2 beef bodies a week. Now there is something you wouldn’t really want to say to loudly in the states, “bodies” as in, “I will be in the coolers cutting up a few bodies for the case.”.
He generously tells me to breakdown a lamb. He assumes that I am familiar with the bandsaw but I tell him I’m not and would prefer a hand saw if he has one. Also, I need to keep my digits attached.
We show each other a few things. I set up a tray of lamb rib chops and a five-rib rack all Frenched and pretty for the display case. He shows me how he break down a beef body in the cooler and then hangs the meat to age.
Now here is the kickers. Later that week I’m picking up some lamb stew meat. I told him I would cook up Lamb Navarin for him if he supplied the lamb. “No worries.” he says.
During the exchange of lamb he says he saw me walking up Greenacre Drive and asks where I’m staying. I tell him I’m in 111 and he gives me a look of disbelieve and confusion and says “No, no I’m in 111. Where are you?”. I’m in 111 #9. He smiles and says he is in #6 and clarifies that we are talking about the same fenced in area with the duplexes. Sure thing, We are living across the street from each other.
He invites the family for a Barbie and we have an incredible night. Singing, Conversation and the whole lot. Lots of meat too. Funny how that works out. There was a salad or two as well.