Friday, October 17, 2008

WAR IS PEACE - FREEDOM IS SLAVERY - IGNORANCE IS STRENGTH

Well apparently we're shaping out to be the next China. With our own "Great Firewall" in the works, created with the intent of "protecting the children" from the nasties on the internet, we will soon be reading only what the goverment decides is acceptable for us to read.

Doesn't sound like good news, and is another stupid idea put into implementation from our new friend Kevin Rudd, funded by our tax money of course. I'm no hippy, hear. But every idea that he has carried through on so far seems to be nanny state protectionist bullshit aimed at protecting people from themselves by reducing their individual freedoms.

A few that I have been privy to:
- His new FuelWatch scheme  and It's effect
- His new tax on pre-mixed alcoholic drinks to try and combat binge drinking
- Attempted 2am lockout for bars in Vic (Though this may have been just the state goverment)
- A similar scheme to FuelWatch, only monitoring grocery prices
- A forced rollout of high speed broadband using our tax money yet again, and which will make our current broadband subscription more expensive

For more reading on this topic, check out:
[Link] Slashdot: Nation-Wide Internet Censorship Proposed for Australia
[Link] NoCleanFeed.com

Saturday, October 11, 2008

The Pinball Method

I have returned to Santiago today by bus and am now staying at the ¨Other Albergue¨. That is, the Albergue that I didn´t stay at last time I stayed in Santiago. Queue Pink Floyd´s ¨Welcome to the Machine¨, because this place certainly is suffering from a lack of love and personality as well as possessing a scope so large that it would give cartographers nightmares. I mean, this place doesn´t just have levels, it has levels divided into sovereign territories. Finding my bed was a somewhat lengthy experience which require me to cross a great distance before I finally located it in Zone B of Level 2, Bed Number 2061, Serial Number x1123483.

The fact that I´m back in Santiago though means that this is my last night in Spain, and tomorrow I´ll be flitting across to Merry Old England, which I have been told has been voted the culture capital of the UK. I´m not sure what they are judging Liverpool against though to come up with a bold claim like that. Do they mean cultured compared to Paris or Rome, or did they deem it ¨cultured¨ by an English standard, which to be fair, isn´t something I go as far as to call culture at all?

We´ll see.

I arrived at my Albergue today after a short walk and a stop at a local Supermarket by something I call the Pinball Method. As I don´t actually speak enough Spanish to understand directions when given, and as most Spanish don´t actually speak English, I usually find my way from place to place by asking someone where my destination is, getting them to point me in the right direction, keep saying ¨Sie, Sie¨ until they finish giving me the directions and asking another person once I reach either an intersection, or a reasonable amount of time has passed. This usually works Ok as long as the place I´m after is fairly unique, and I know the name of it. I have discovered in the past that this method does fall through if you´re asking for something fairly general, like a Supermarket in a large city, as it can happen that each person will direct you to a different Supermarket. Hilarity ensues.

As for my walk to Finisterra, it was quite pleasant. I met a whole bunch of people that I had lost along the way on my way, as well some completely new people. This gave me a good chance to catch up, say goodbyes and spend more time walking which I´m getting a bit sick of at this point.

The walk to Finisterra was much less crowded than the walk to Santiago, as Santiago tends to weed out the majority of the pilgrims. This meant that the Albergues were much smaller, less crowded and it was much more peaceful on the road. I´ve also been told that it is only the ¨real¨ pilgrims that continue past Santiago. Considering I was planning to finish at Santiago, and only continued on to kill time for my filght I´m not sure I qualify. This does mean that after all that walking I now have two pieces of paper now from both Santiago and Finisterra to show for it. I believe the first certificate should hopefully shave 50 years of my purgatory, which is good news in any respect, though I´m hoping that this is transferable, as I think this that my grandmother would appreciate this a lot more than I would.

The end of the world is quite beautiful. If you´re wondering what I´m talking about here, the literal translation of Finisterra/Finsterra is ¨World´s End¨, which is somewhat fitting. After walking all the way past the lighthouse on the end of the cape, I watched the sun set over the sea with some other pilgrims and after, burnt my stick in what I´ve been told is the traditional pilgrim manner. One of the other pilgrims there also burnt a jacket they had that was falling apart, and another his diary as he felt it was a burden and no longer necessary. It was interesting to see what each person burnt, and what each person felt they no longer needed. It was quite amazing as well to see all that sea stretching in all directions, with no land in sight and watch the sun quietly slip below the horizon.

Considering I walked all the way to Finisterra, and including my backtracking down the camino, I have actually walked a little over 1000km total, which is a nice roundish number. The sandels I started walking with are definately showing the wear of walking this distance with only a few scraps of material remaining on the place where my feet rest, and the soles looking a bit worse for wear. I´ve fairly happy with them, as considering what they were required to do, they have definately gone above and beyond the call of duty for a pair of 20 euro sandels.

So, onwards to England then, and in a few days, back to Australia which is pretty exciting. A whole new adventure, and one that doesn´t necesarrily require me to settle down or stay in the country. Should be fun to see what happens.

PS:
I never actually met up with that guy that emailed me. Was too fatigued when I arrived the first time in Santiago to move much from my bed, and I arrived by bus too late tonight for me to think about doing anything that required actual effort without good reason. As I lost all but one of my t-shirts and as I am currently wearing a woman´s shirt that I found by the side of the road which is a few sizes too small, bright green and covered in butterflys to boot, it´s probably for the best. I´ve found a box of abandoned gear in this Albergue though, so I´m thinking of checking it out to see if they have any boy clothes in there that I can liberate.

Anyway, see you later. This is Andrew, signing off.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Banana Mornay

It seems to be either a feast of famine as far as this blog is concerned. It really is a combination of what time I have available, and my mood, and the intersection of both is what actually creates posts on this blog.

One thing that I haven´t liked about blogging while travelling has been the lack of time that I can give to anything that I have been posting, which has a lot of the time led me to post things to this blog without giving them much of a look over, spellcheck or similar. Most of my posts are half completed trains of thought without sufficent effort invested to make them fully coherent. This partly due to these damn timers sitting to my side, laughing as they tick down the minutes until the screen darkens and I am booted from the system with little to no warning.

But this is completely off topic from what I was hoping to cover today.

Since I have been travelling I´ve had a huge amount of free time, and I´ve been filling this time in a number of ways. One of these ways is cooking. Cooking never really interested me in the past, and always seemed to be a chore that you had to do, but no one really wanted to. At some point though I made the connection between cooking and fun and since that everything has been gravy. The really fun part though is in the experimentation.

Now making something according to a recipe never really appealed to me that much. However cooking as a learning exercise is something that I have really been enjoying while I´ve been out and about. I´ve been paying attention to what some of the experts I´ve been spending time with have been doing with their own dishes, and I have been experimenting on my own with different combinations of food. One such experiment was something I have named ¨Banana Mornay¨.

Out of any dish, I would have to say that Tuna Mornay would have to be my favourite. But due to problems finding milk at any of the small shops in Spain, and the fact that I´ve cut milk out of my diet and probably shouldn´t be drinking it in the first place had been holding me back from making this. I have though, found an acceptable substitute with banana.

What I basically did was dice 4 bananas, and boil them in water until soft, caramelized and mushy. You then mash the boiled bananas until you have some sort of weird banana soup, and boil out the excess water until you have something of a similar consistency to the sauce for Tuna Mornay (Which I believe is normally made of a combination of milk and grated cheese). Add your tuna to this mixture, as well as onion (Which I forgot to add to my own meal, and I believe would be necessary to balance the taste) and you have something that tastes suprisingly good and is nutritious to boot. I ate the following with pasta as well, but the meal can stand on it´s own if need be.

So, my night to cook should be interesting back home from now on, as long as the rest of the family doesn´t mind not knowing exactly what to expect. Nothing I have made so far has been inedible so everyone should be safe though (Just differing levels of tastiness, based on what works well, what is medicore and what just tastes a little wierd together).

Note:
I believe the reason the banana does work as a good substitute for milk in this dish, and does taste similar as you have the natural sugars of the fruit in place of the regular lactose of a regular Tuna Mornay.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

What to do?

This I guess is a good example of one of the conondrums I´ve been throw while travelling. A puzzle involving other human beings with a somewhat obvious straightforward solution, but not one that I would prefer to take if possible.

While travelling I stopped for a night in an awesome Albergue (Pilgrim´s hostel)in a small town called Fonfria. There I met, and sort of struck up a repore with the youngish guy running the place (Young as in 30ish). Near the end of my stay there he offered me his place while in Santiago de Compostella (He lives there, and recently finished work at the Albergue).

Now this doesn´t seem so bad, however, I believe that I may have inadvertantly communicated some sort of interest in him that isn´t purely friendly via eye contact or similar. After leaving the Albergue I also ran into him while leaving town where he insisted that I call him once I get to Santiago and I have since also received a follow up email from him asking me to come around to his place when I arrive. As I didn´t really talk with him too much while I was there this is also quite a lot for someone I just met.

So, given this situation I have a few different options:
1. Proceed innocently assuming that there is nothing untoward in his offer and his intentions are purely friendly.
2. Ignore his email and not call him once I arrive to Santiago.
3. Tell him that I have other plans and can not meet up with him.
4. Tell him I have other plans, but offer to meet up with him in Santiago but not stay at his house.
5. Be straight forward with him, explaining my own sexual orientation and ask him whether he still wants to meet up with me considering I like girls and stuff.
6. Don´t think about things so damn much and just follow option 1.

You may think I´m also reading too much into things as well, and maybe I am. There is more to the situtation than I´ve bothered explaining though, including a bunch non-verbal communication that I was mindlessly throwing around, as well they way he was acting near the end of my stay (Which was decidingly non-casual). The blame really comes down to me in the end, digging this hole myself through being too friendly both verbally and non-verbally (I think I must confuse the hell out of people sometimes with the way I act and react).

Considering things I believe only option 1 or 4 are the only acceptable options, and hey, I could be completely misreading things. Whatever happens I would prefer to confront and deal with the situation rather than avoiding it (In fact, I would actually prefer to avoid the situation, however on a concious level I´d prefer to see what I can learn from it).

So I think I´ll end up contacting him in the end and see what happens. And at the end of the day isn´t the most important question, ¨Do I think I can take him if he starts to get handsy?¨, and the answer is ¨Yes. Yes I think I can¨.

Note:
The last paragraph isn´t something that I´m really too concerned about. Just seemed like a fairly amusing way to finish this post, as well as reveal my secret Plan B (Code named ¨Operation: Leg it!¨) in case things do go pear shaped (e.g. He happens to have a rather rather comprehensive axe and machette collection displayed in his living room. You know, more sharp objects than is completely reasonable for a single human being to own and store in one place).

I´m also the type of person that usually like to have some sort of exit plan, and to have all my eventualities covered in most situations, no matter how unlikely they are (This might also be the time to mention that I am prepared in case of a nuclear holocaust. So if you need a fallout bunker built on short notice using normal household materials, you know who to call).

Until next time. Peace and out.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Returning soon

It´s all confirmed now. I´ve booked flights and I fly out of Heathrow airport on the 14th of October and should at this stage, arrive back in Adelaide around lunch time on the 16th.

I´m currently around 37Km away from Santiago de Compostella though, so to drag out this trip until my actual flight I´m going to continue walking on past Santiago towards Finisterra on the Spanish coast. As long as I time things right I should arrive in Finisterra 2 days before my flight, have a day to look around the city, take a bus back to Santiago the next day after staying the night, have a day to relax in Santiago and then catch my plane the next day. This should also all be on the cheap using the refugios along the way (I hopefully wont have to restort to any youth hostels).

After arriving in the UK I will be staying with a friend for a day or two in Liverpool and catching a bus to London. After having a quick look around London city I´ll catch a train to the Heathrow airport where I will be taking my flight back to Australia. This is only this convulted as it is as the ticket home would be ridiculously expensive otherwise.

I have to say I haven´t been a very good tourist during my travels either. I will actually be bringing less back with me than I left with in the first place. No souvenirs, no t-shirts or the like. The large backpack I started with is gone, and all I have left now is the small day pack that was attached to front of it. All my things including my clothes now fit into a bag only slightly bigger than the one I took to my first day of kindergarten. One thing I will be bringing back though will be a small fluffy pink toy bunny rabbit which I have been carrying around on my walking stick for the last 100 odd kilometers. I´ve named him the ¨Magic bunny of free stuff¨, as since I´ve been carrying him people have been assuming I´m some poor hippy (Possibly partly due to my dress as well) and have been offering me money and food. My walking stick is now pretty colourful as well, as I´ve been covering it in pieces of string and shoelaces that I´ve found abandoned on the Camino (Mostly red and blue). Because of that it now looks more like something you would expect a witch doctor to be carrying rather than a pilgrim (Especially with the pink rabbit strapped to the top).

Anyway, I should see you all soon. Until next time then.

Friday, September 26, 2008

The Story of the Mes

I used to think I was one me, but over time I´ve found I´m many Mes.

There´s a serious Me and a joyful Me. An emotive Me and an analytical Me. A Me that is detatched from everything and a Me that loves to get as close to life and pain as possible. Many, many Mes make up me, in all flavours and colours.

I have many Mes, but none of them are actually me. They are only bridges which the real me uses to access the outside world. The true me is something no one could ever know. The part that watches my Mes play. Spend enough time with my Mes though and you may get to know something about me.

Some people like certain Mes, and some people others. In the past I used to try to control my Mes, but now I just let whichever Me that chooses to surface to play in the world. My Mes are much happier with this situation and so am I.

You might think that having so many Mes would make life more difficult, but the opposite is the case. Each Me has it´s own strengths and weaknesses, and each has it´s own unique contribution to offer. Some times when people meet my quiet Me after seeing my talkative me they think that I´m sad or angry. They don´t seem to understand unless I explain it to them: Nothing is wrong, I´m just being Me.

As a closing note before I go, and before someone else takes over which would think the following a bit wishy washy, I want to say: ¨I love Me, each and every one of them¨.

Journey Update:
Currently in Pomferadda (Not sure if I spelt that correctly, but what the hey).

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

The Life Fantastic

The universe that we live in is a pretty amazing place, with one of the most mind boggling things for me being the existance of life itself. It´s hard when looking around at the place we live in not to be blown away by the variety of life, and the different forms it takes.

The wonder of this all also comes from an a believed understanding of how stuff works. Now, as you´ve probably been taught in school, all stuff, all matter, consists of energy in various arrangements and combinations. Now the improbability of there existing a universe capable of supporting life aside, there are a few things that I find pretty amazing about life.

Number one, that out of the energy from which the universe grew, matter formed.
Fairly important, because as I see it, it had no real reason to form or change into anything, let alone anything solid. There exists a number of "laws" which made this formation of matter possible, but why and how these laws exist are a pretty big mystery to me (Unless any physics geeks out there can explain it to me).

That a habitat came to be that was capable of supporting life, and on that planet grew matter capable of reproducing itself.
Again fairly improbable, but a bit less amazing. Considering the sheer number of planets in the universe I guess there was bound to be one with all the right conditions needed to allow life to develop. Still, what is amazing if you´ve followed the progression so far, is that you have all this energy, some of which has coalesced into matter, and which due to the right conditions has developed the ability to reproduce itself.

That through random mutation this matter grew into more and more complicated forms.
This matter reproduced, it evolved, it grew more complicated. From a simple origins it started to develop numbers of competing variants, some of which with multiple cells. Many different forms of life developed, competed and filled their own niches.

That this increasingly complex reproducing matter. This life. Evolved to the stage where it was capable of perceiving it´s enviroment in a greater way.
Grown from a small seed, life is now able to perceive it´s enviroment. It´s able to see and touch and smell and taste. Matter, life, has matured greatly and moved an inconceivable distance from it´s simple origins.

That this matter became self aware and became capable of of exploring and investigating it´s own enviroment.
This is the truly amazing part, though if you follow the whole process not really amazing at all. Intelligence being a survival advantage, and organisms getting increasingly more and more intelligent, there finally arose something that was aware of itself as thinking, talking matter. Something capable of delving into the mysteries surrounding it´s origins and capable of changing their selves and their enviroment in a very large scale way. This is the stage we have reached at the moment. Self aware creatures living in a inconceivably large, amazing universe.

So when you look at a tree, what you are really seeing is a mass of energy, arranged in such a way that it consumes nutrients from the soil from which it sprouts, and energy from the sun. A form of life that has made a journey of millions of years to reach the point it has now, and should it be allowed to continue, a journey of millions of years more. Life is matter, given mobility, form and motive force. Life is matter which is able to perceive itself, to perceive other matter. Energy coallesed into form, form given senses. A rock that has grown eyes, able to look around it´s home and wonder at the beauty of it all.

I don´t know if there is a God, and advocates of religious doctrine seem to be quite against the idea of evolution as it competes with their own stories of creation. I however think, that if there is a God, then he is indeed a genius, for I can think of no method greater, no solution to the creation of life more elegant, than to allow life to evolve and develop itself. A system, where life grows to fill and suit it´s enviroment without requiring any design what so ever. Where these life forms adapt to suit any changes in the enviroment without requiring any maintenance or redesign what so ever. And lastly, should the organism prove worthy enough and not be eliminated due to changes in it´s enviroment, competition with other forms of life, or it´s own stupidity, eventually leave it´s limited enviroment to explore the greater universe and all the wonders that it may hold.

So when you take a look at anything, be it a tree, a rock, an animal or a person. Take a moment to realize what an amazing thing you are looking at, and wonder at the fact that you´re able to look at it at all.

Edit:
On a bit of a side note I am now in Carrión de los Condes, 371km down the Camino de Santiago. For an idea of where I am now, and where I´m going you can check out http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_French_Way, which shows some of the main cities that I will be passing through during the next few weeks. Be sure though, that I will be in no way keeping up with this schedule as I am way to lazy to complete the camino in the time or way indicated. I think I´m actually over a week behind what is indicated due to me slowing down, stopping and at one stage, walking 2 days backwards down the pilgrims route to get back to an interesting place I passed along the way.

Anyway, until next time, Chow.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Moral Choices

Found an interesting blog as I'm wasting time on the internet waiting for my train. One of the gems from this site, dealing with moral choices is below.

http://explorations.chasrmartin.com/2008/05/03/moral-choices/

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Grand Theft Bicycle

So I'm in Paris now, and covered the distance between Brussels and Paris in around 3 hours. The same trip on the bicycle would have probably taken me around 3-6 days so you could say I made pretty good time. As you may have figured out, I've stopped travelling via bicycle. The reason for this is pretty simple really: While in Brussels some bugger stole my bike.

Now I have to admit as well, I wasn't really heartbroken by the theft of the bike. I had gotten pretty sick of cycling everywhere and needing to figure out the way between every single destination, so a better word to describe my emotional state after finding the bike gone would probably be 'ecstatic' (I think I may have even done a little dance). It didn't help as well that my bike's tire became punctured 20kms out of Brussels which left me the task of finding a bike repair shop somewhere in Brussels and replacing both inner and outer tires. Much, much too much work in my opinion.

This also adds an item to the list of things I've had stolen from me during my travels, most of which were taken because I left the items out in the open in the hope that people wouldn't take them (I find distrust to be too time consuming and energy wasting most of the time, and with most of my belongings to take the steps which are apparently necessary to protect them from other people).

The list includes:
- 1 x Camera stolen from the front bag of my bike in Amsterdam
- 1 x The front bag of my bike stolen from my bike on a separate occasion in Amsterdam
- 2 x Shoes (Or you could say a pair) stolen off the back of my bike outside the Bibliotheek in Rotterdam (I hope a homeless person or like took the shoes and will be able to make good use of them, or at least sell them for drug money)
- The bike itself stolen from outside the front of a youth hostel in Brussels where I had locked it and hidden it behind a cargo container

As you can see, all the items were stolen because I left them lying around in plain (Or not so plain view) on the street. You'd think I would have learnt after the first time.

As I now am not limited to travelling in a linear fashion by the bicycle, this gives me more options as far as destinations are concerned and a lot more flexibility. Cycling was a great experience, but I've got to say I prefer not being limited by that particular rule I had made for myself.

Now that cycling is out of the picture it looks like the name of the game might be hitchhiking. I successfully hitchhiked from Brussels to to Paris and only had to wait around 20 minutes before I was picked up by a German painter named Herbert who was happy to take me the whole 300 odd kilometers to Paris. Being German as well he didn't seem to understand that highways outside of Germany have speed limits, thus we made very good time. Thanks also to http://www.wikihitch.com/ which told me which street to wait on with my cardboard sign for best effect as well as the Brussels Use-It (http://www.use-it.be/) for providing the cardboard and permanent marker.

I'm currently staying with a couch-surfer (http://www.couchsurfing.com) here in Paris, which means I'm not paying the outrageous rates that the hostels here are asking. The person I've been staying with has been pretty cool as well, which is good. At this stage I think I'll probably be leaving Paris tomorrow though to where and via what form of transport I haven't yet decided. I plan to make in the direction of St Jean Pied de Port though, so that I can finally start on the pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostella.

Apart from that, not much else to say. I'm still healthy, Paris is expensive and I've got to get rid of some of the books I seem to be accumulating (Not so much a problem when riding, more of a problem when walking).

Anyway, seeya.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Smile for the camera? I don't think so.

I think we've all been there. The point where you're asked to smile, say "Cheese" or whatever the hell the person holding the camera decides on as the cue to act really, really happy. Now this would be all well and good, except that most cameras, and especially these new digital cameras that everyone seems to be using these days, takes a number of seconds before they actually get around to taking the photo.

Now why is this a problem you ask? It's quite simple. While the smile you put on when they first ask may at least be partly genuine, by the time the camera actually gets around to taking the picture your mouth is the only part of you that is still smiling while you're eyes have reverted to the "Have they taken the picture, is their flash off or something, what are you waiting for" expression. The resulting photo leaves me looking like a cross between some sort of serial killer and politician (Or maybe just a politician).

My solution. Don't smile. If whoever is taking a photograph when I happen to be happy, laughing or similar, good for them. If not, they get whatever expression happens to be making it's way across my face at the time. This resolves my issue with appearing like a serial killer as well as taking care of any reservations I have of putting on emotions that I'm not having at the time, or inducing that emotional reaction, which in both cases I don't see as genuine behavior or something to aim for.

As for my trip, I am now in Antwerp (Belgium) and depending on what happens I may stay for a few days or a longer time. Belgium is a pretty small country so I should break into France in no time at all (After visiting Brussels), and from there the next major city I'll reach will probably be Paris.

As for my future plans, I'm thinking of selling my bike either in Paris or deeper into France and walking the Santiago de Compostella. Considering the amount of time it would take to walk the entire route, I think I'll cycle a bit closer to Spain first before I get rid of the bicycle.

Anyway, that's all from me for now. Until next time.

Update scheduled at some point in the future

I will be updating this at some point.

Maybe in the next few days.

Just so you know...

Wheeeeeeeeeee!

Monday, June 30, 2008

Why I'm not a Christian

I thought I'd stop here and go into detail regarding the reasons why I'm not a Christian (As if I need a reason :P), as this seems to be a question I'm getting asked fairly commonly. It's not really a case of the Christians trying to convert me, rather it seems that conversation seems to gravitate to relgious discussions considering my location.

Anyway, here we go.

Reason Number 1 - I'm the boss
This seems simple enough. I'm not a Christian because I trust my own judgement, and would prefer that I am the one that makes the decisions in my own life rather than some god or higher power. I feel I'm smart and able enough to be able to make moral choices in my own life without having to be told or forced by a higher power to take a certain course of action. I'm responsible for my own life, I make my own decisions according to my own rules and beliefs and I suffer the consequences of my own actions. I have all the risk, and I suffer all the consequences for my choices. I make the choices I do, which seem to be along Christian lines (In my actions I seek not to harm others) and I do so for my own reasons, and not because some God forces me to. There is also no passing of blame to some god or devil.

Reason Number 2 - I make myself guilty, I don't need any help with that
Christianity seems to have a focus on sin, how we are sinful creatures and I have been told that only a belief in God will allow you to live a sin free life. I do what I do for my own reasons, and don't enjoy hurting or harming people, whether it is physical, emotional, or psychological harm. Emotional blackmail doesn't work for or on me, and I find attempts to do so quite demeaning.

Reason Number 3 - Have the Christians even read their own bible objectivly?
I'm reading the bible at the moment. I started in Israel with a transliterated copy of the Jewish bible (The Old Testament) and after losing that am continuing with a new copy of a Christian bible which contains both the old and new testament. I find it hard to believe that the Christians can read the Old Testament in particular and still have the strong beliefs that they can. A lot of the stories are downright ridiculous, hypocritical, self-serving and doesn't prove the existance of God at all, only that Moses was a very good showman with Aaron as his front man.

Internet time is runnning out. That's a few of the reaons, and I'll continue this later I think.

To be continued...

Thursday, June 26, 2008

It's Jesus time!

Went to visit a friend I made in Katvijk, a small town on the coast of Holland, and somehow I was convinced to volunteer in a Christian Shelter in Amsterdam. Funny how things turn out.

I left Amsterdam on my second day. I didn't actually bother to see the nightlife on the Friday or Saturday night and just ended up leaving the place. Spent a nice Saturday and Sunday with a very, very Christian family in the very, very Christian Katvijk and headed back to Amsterdam to give the Christian thing a try.

Now I'm not relgious. I'd probably say I lean a bit into the atheist camp, and I'm definately in no way Christian. I have, however, found an opporunity here to spend some time in Amsterdam observing things from a Christian, and religous perspective. I will also be spending quite some time in the drug, and bike theft capital of the world.

Some information about the job though. It won't be reception work, but will rather be a cleaning position, with me working from 10am in the morning till 2pm in the afternoon, minus half an hour of bible study first thing. I've signed of for 2 weeks at this stage, and may extend this to a month (The maximum I can volunteer for) depending on how this goes.

Anyways, this effectively pins me in place for the time being, and means that I won't be moving around any time soon. That's a bit of a bummer, but free board, free food and free Jesus sort of makes the deal a bit sweeter.

So, I begin work on Sunday and will probably post an update once I've got something to write about. If you're also wondering about the lack of photos, it looks like I've lost my camera somewhere along the way (Took me this long to notice). Either that or it was stolen at some point. I wasn't really using it for the most part, so I'm not tearing up about it, but it is a bit of a shame. As I've been waiting for my work to begin (I applied on Monday, and my first shift starts Sunday) I've been spending my time relaxing and reading in a camping ground a short ride from Amsterdam. It was a bit of a hard decision to decide to stop for this length of time, as I've recently become somewhat bored with travelling and with the prospect of starting a business with a friend from highschool dangled in my face I've been wanting to get this over and done with. I've decided though that there isn't any point going through the motions if I'm not going to enjoy, and make the best use of my time, so I'm going to finish this trip properly before rushing off to a new project.

Anywho, until next time.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

The Red Light District

Well, I went to see the red light district last night. I didn't really mean to go there, but seemed to end up there naturally, as if pulled by the gravity generated by the place. Now I must have seemed like quite the idiot, because as I was walking around this area I just couldn't stop giggling.

I'm not sure what to say. The place is just that hilarious. Sex and sexuality made so graphic, so over the top, so ridiculous, so..., so... I don't have the words. The absurdity of the whole place was just overwhelming.

Still a fun night all in all. Walking around, talking to the drug dealers, waving at the prostitutes and just taking in the atmosphere of the place. I was also a witness to a "business transaction" between one of the prostitutes and 3 American lads, where to save money they negotiated that they would purchase one 60 minute block of time and they would each take one 20 minute slice with the girl one after the other. Hilarious!

Now I don't know if I'm a magnet for drug dealers, or they approach pretty much anyone that looks like a tourist, but I was propositioned by over 6 dealers in my walk around the red light district. So, if you need cocaine, ecstasy or anything else not entirely legal while in Amsterdam, you know who to take alone. I also had a bit of talk with one of the drug dealers. A large, strong, black fella about the cocaine business, profitibility of his trade and the state of affairs on the street in regards to the legality of his wares. An interesting perspective on the matter all in all. Ended my conversation with the signature badass handshake followed by fist tap.

After my jaunt around the red light district I went to find a cup of coffee. I must have tried around 3-4 "Coffee Shops" before I found one that actually served coffee. A misleading name if I've ever seen one. I also briefly considered trying either weed, some weed based pastry or some magic mushrooms, but didn't want to risk deflating my current high (Weed seems to chill me out, which is something I usually prefer not to do). Sometimes I do wonder if I am missing out in my policy of drug avoidance, as a way to engage in a different state of mind, to get a different vantage point in life for a time. After seeing some of the people walking around on the street I've decided that I probably made the right decision, and from my experience drugs seem to be all hype and headfuck rolled into one.

I've slept for most of today, and that means I'm bright eyed and bushy-tailed, ready for tonight, which I'm going to try and give more of a club and pub focus. We'll see how that goes.

Additional:
I'm actually staying in a hostel here at the moment. This is my last night here though, so I will probably have to leave, organize something else or sleep on the street (Something I'm not looking forward to with the number of crackheads wandering around).

Friday, June 20, 2008

Now in Amsterdam

I have now arrived in Amsterdam and am busy looking for a place to stay for the night. I have been warned beforehand of the packed out nature of the place, but still decided against making a booking beforehand (Goes against my grain for some reason). I've found a few places that look hopeful, and in the worst case, may have to cycle out of the city limits and find a camping ground or bridge to sleep under for the night.

Since you've heard from me last I've slept at a couple of people's places. One a couchsurfer in the city I just left named Timo, the other a student in a small university town named Wernigerode that I met randomly. With the latter we met while he was cycling to Uni, he invited me to his University Cafe for coffee, and I ended up spending the entire day there consuming books in the library. He extended an invitation around lunchtime for me to stay at his house for the night so I wasn't too concerned about finding a place to sleep.

Now in Amsterdam, apparently the drug capital of the world. It seems like pretty much any other city, and I'm hoping that the nightlife is a bit more out there than the city has been so far. I am fearing for my bicycle right now, seeing as I've left it right outside a tatoo parlor with all my bags strapped to it, and this is the capital for bike thefts in the world. On that note, I better run.

Seeya.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Now in the Netherlands

I am now in The Netherlands, and not after a few minor and major hiccups. One of which was the back tire of my bike dying I have crossed the border. The border crossing was relatively painless as well. By painless I mean I wasn't even aware that it occured. I was cycling through a German town and passed someone on the side of the road shouting "Deutchland! Holland!" while jumping from side to side. Some damn German preparing for the border crossing I thought. However, no checkpoint was reached. One minute I was cycling through Germany, the next the architecture had changed and I had reached a sign which read "Welcome to the Netherlands".

Now the "hiccup" with my back bike tire happened while I was in between two small towns. Luckily enough it occurred in the front of the house of a nice German lady who didn't mind me using it to try and fix my tire. Now things started getting more complicated when the tool I used to undo the bolt on the back tire snapped in half. I don't know if it was the shoddy metal that the spanner was made of or my own amazing brute strength that caused the break, but I prefer to think that it is the latter. However at the end the bolt on the bike was still very much fixed in place, and the tire was not about to get fixed that night. As all the shops were now closed I asked, and got permission to camp the night on this lady's front lawn. Now it was fairly lucky that my back tired died when it did, as the rain had been pursuing me for some time now, and I had managed to outrun it up to now. I had no sooner set up my tent and got the bags inside than a virtual downpour started. Something which would have completely soaked me had I been out in the open, and assuming my bike was still functional, between cities far from human habitation.

The next morning the lady at who's house I was camping went as far as to drive me into town to get a replacement tool to remove this bolt. Tool in hand I tried again to remove the bolt on the bike. Again I only succeeded in bending the tool significantly and stopped short of breaking this new spanner in half. I ended up wheeling the bike down to the bike shop, and getting them to use a much larger, sturdier spanner to remove this bolt and from there I was able to replace the back and front tires. The lady at who's house I was staying even brought me out some coffee while I fixed the bike up.

Now after my first leak in the front tire, there had been a slow leak in the front tire which had caused me no end of grief, constantly pumping it up again. I also took the time to fix up my breaks, oil my chain and do all the little jobs on the bike that I hadn't done as they required me to remove all the bags from it. I also found out that the tires had been extremely underinflated. I had only been inflating the tires to the same pressure as I had originally received the bike, which I found out to be nowhere near enough. After inflating the tires to the proper pressure I found myself speeding along. It made a whole world of difference as I was now able to cycle up hills above the first gear.

I am now in the Netherlands, and appreciated the change. Will work my way towards the coast now, and most probably to Amsterdam.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Is it "Eis Tee"?

Have now arrived in Höxter and have taken this chance to update this blog. My progress had slowed considerably due to the lack of posted signs which led to delays and backtracking as well as my first mechanical failure up to this point, a flat tire. Fixing the flat was an educational experience for me, and should another flat occur, I can honestly say that I'd be pretty darn good at fixing the hole.

Another thing that has contributed to my slower pace is the uphill section of the trip which I have thankfully passed. This began with the Harz Radweg path which the R1 route began to follow which was identified by a witch riding a bicycle with her broomstick strapped to the back. I quickly found that this witch on the sign to mean "Welcome to your new hell". My introduction to this new section of the course was a immediate 60 degree climb up a dirt path which took me quite some time ascend. Thankfully the majority of the hills I had to climb were not so steep and had an easier surface on which to climb. A number of the last few days has been spent pushing my bike up steep hills in the sun, and sometimes in the shade. When I haven't been doing that, I've been speeding down gravel surfaces at insane speeds. Considering I don't wear a helmet, or even shoes, this is probably quite dangerous. The roads aren't the best maintained as well, so it isn't a case of avoiding the potholes, but rather picking the more shallow potholes to fly full speed into. The wisdom of taking these downhill sections at highspeed was illustrated to me when I hit what I assume to be some sort of drain at Mach 10 which was curved in such a way as to give me some "fully sick air" propelling me around a meter in the air. Thankfully I landed the bike and continued on full speed. I probably shouldn't be suprised that I developed a flat the way I treat the bike.

There is a positive out of this whole sign debacle though. I am now not relying on the R1 route or the signs at all. I usually keep myself aware of the main roads that the R1 route passes through, the towns I need to go through, and whatnot. If I then lose my way due to a lack of decent signs posted, I continue along to the next town along one of the major motorways. In fact, I'm doing this more often now if I see that the route that is planned for me is going to take too much of a winding course and I would prefer to take a shorter route to my destination. All in all, I'm probably only following the R1 route around half the time now, and am happier with the result.

After saying all this though, the signs are now quite a bit more reliable. I have been able to follow them for the last day or two now without running into any missing signs, or signs pointing me in circular routes (Something I encoutered once or twice more after I circled Concordia See). Even still, I no longer follow the signs blindly and will only follow them as far as they lead in the direction and path that I am going.

All in all my trip has been overwhelmingly positive. After a short frustrating period where I was hunting for signs it is now back to the relaxing city hopping experience I had at the start of my trip. I also discovered ice tea, or as the Germans call it, "Eis Tee" which is about as cheap as water here, and tasty to boot. This has pretty much replaced water as my liquid intake, however I do make sure to drink a decent amount of pure water as well.

My diet at the moment consists of mainly Muesli and..., well..., Muesli. I occasionally throw something else in there just to mix things up a little, and make sure to eat fruit on a daily basis, but this is the staple of my diet. As I'm getting pretty sick of Muesli, and I heard that rice is pretty good for you as well, I tried for a while to eat raw rice (As there is no way I'm carting around cooking gear). Now, I usually pride myself on the fact that I will and can eat most anything, but even I couldn't stomach raw rice in any great quantity (Tastes sort of like eating chalk). So I guess it's back to Muesli then.

Where have I slept recently (Not in chronological order)
1. 2 x Camping sites
2. 1 x Wooden area beside the side of the road
3. 1 x Camping site strictly for mobile homes (Some nice elderly Germans let me set up a tent on their allotmént)

The Germans on at the mobile home place were pretty cool, and they taught me a bunch of German to boot. I can now form actual sentences in German, rather than being limited to "Hello", "Goodbye", "Yes", "No" and "Thank You". This is rather helpful as rather than going up to random Germans and spitting out the name of the place or facilty I'm looking for like some mentally handicapped person with tourettes, I can now form actual sentences asking them for the location of said place.

Now that I've stopped to actually look at where I'm at, I've found that I've actually passed the halfway mark and are almost to my destination. around 4 or 5 more days and I should be in The Netherlands. Should be good as I've gotten fairly sick of Germany (I get pretty sick of any country that I become overly familar with).

We'll see how much distance I can cover today, and I may update things in the next day or two.

Chow.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Day 4 - Going round in circles

My trouble contains with the missing signs, and I am now forced to pay attention to where I am going. Not happy at all. Ever second town I visit now seems to be missing at least some, if not all of their signs, however most of them are small enough that this isn't too much of a problem. A problem in any case, and time is wasted figuring out where to go each time I run into this. Even worse than the time wasted, is the constant stop starting and breaks from cycling make this less pleasant.

That said, I have come to accept the missing signs as a problem and have figured out how to work around this little issue. I'm on the lookout now for signposts with empty brackets and can usually figure out my next stop without too many issues.

Heading out of another small town I pass by a huge lake named the "Concordia See". This lake is on the map, and the R1 route takes you around this via a numbe of the nearby towns. Following the R1 sign pointing in the lake's direction I started following this around.

Now, I'll make a long story short. The route I took didn't take me through any towns. Rather it was a bike trail that took me all around the lake. Posted along the way were a number of R1 signs urging me to contain following this route. It wasn't too long until I became suspicious but completed the route anyway and found that this took me right back where I started in the first place. Examing the series of signs that had been set up, I found that they had been arranged to create a circuit. A sign to get people on the lake, and the rest to keep them travelling around. Needless to say, I was not amused.

This circuit however had me pass through an interesting area just before I ended back right where I started. I backtracked back to a German theme park that I had passed named "Abenteuerland". This park was themed after a series of German fairy tales and had a couple of buildings resembling houses which you can see in the main blog photo. Sizing up the two possible housing options I settled on the house on the right, as it seemed more homely, and seemed to give better protection from the wind, as well as protection from prying eyes. This settled I decided to take a round of the park to see what it offered.

The park contained all sorts of cool amusements. Wooden cars on springs, see-saws and all sorts of jungle-gyms. I made sure to give at least a few of these a try while it was still bright out. While making this circuit I saw something that completely blew the dinky little house I chose earlier out of the water, and it was this.


Why have a house when you can have a castle! I fell in love with this place straight away.

I parked my bike in the central ground floor area, which seems specifically designed just for this purpose, and started looking around the fort to decide on a room. I tested out each of the towers, but eventually settled on the room in the center due to the more homely feel and protection from the wind. Below is also a picture of the inside of my room.


Perfect!

With that I settled down for the night ready for what I hoped would be a more successful day tommorrow.

Day 3 - Smurf coloured ice cream for breakfast


It seems that I have trouble paying attention,as I'm constantly having trouble keeping my bike upright. It happens fairly regularily. I'm either mounting my bike or holding on to it, my mind wanders off and I forget that I'm holding it. Next thing I know the bike is either crashing to the ground or I'm fighting to keep it upright.

Anyway, here's a rundown of the second half of Day 3.

Day 3 (Second Half)
As I left the internet cafe I was using and started off again towards my next destination, I found no sign pointing me in the right direction after leaving the town's market center. I assumed that I must have missed it, but the sign was indeed nowhere to be found. Cycling down what I assumed was the right street I still found no sign to point me to the next turn.

Perplexing.

Further on I started to see a pattern develop. Ever time that I got to an intersection that should contain one of the signs leading me on, there were empty brackets connected to a sign post. It seems that someone (Or something) was removing the signs. This was though, after around two hours of wrong turns and guesswork to get me down the right streets. As the maps in the guidebook for this route don't usually go into much detail, and only usually list the street names that I would be travelling on if it was a major city, it was absolutely essential that the signs be in place.

From some of the features on the map, and from what I could understand of the written German directions (Which is fairly little, as well as the fact that the direction are written heading in the opposite direction), I headed out down a series of small side streets and ended up riding through a small residential area on the outskirts of the city.

Now this was completely normal, and what I was expecting. The route I've been following seems to keep as far as possible from areas of heavy traffic and usually winds through all sorts of out of the way places. Now, while I was driving past a series of small houses I spotted a drunk staggering around on the right side of the road, going in the same direction as I was. Now, normally I wouldn't be worried about a drunk, but this drunk had some sort of pistol holstered in his belt. This had me a little worried, as drunks are fairly unpredictable in the first place, and should he have some sort of deep set racial hatred of Australians, or foreigners in general, I could be in a bit of trouble. As I passed him on the left, I saw to my suprise (and relief) that he wasn't drunk after all, and merely retarded (Thus the staggering) and as well as the pistol in his holster, he was also carrying a more obviously toy gun in his right hand which was obscured from me. Happy that I wouldn't have to worry about dealing with a crazy, gun toting German full of liquor, I continued on my way.

Now I eventually ended up where I thought I needed to be, however this street offered two choices. Choice number one would have me heading down the street which as far as my guesswork could determine was the correct street to get me to my destination, and would have me winding through a few smaller cities. As it was getting late this wasn't looking too attractive. Choice number 2 would have me heading straight to Bernberg, which was where I wanted to get to tonight to try my luck with a camping center. This would however, have me travelling on a major motorway.

Slightly frustrated and not willing to trust my luck on guessing the right small side streets to take me to the next destination city I threw in the towel and just took choice number 2. This had me arriving in Bernberg's camping area while it was still bright out (Something I may not have achieved otherwise).

At the camping area I found only one other person staying there, who also happened to be travelling on the same route as me, just in the opposite direction. He was also travelling the full length of the route which would take him all the way to St Petersburg in Russia. He had a couple of issues with his bike so far. A broken chain which he repaired on the road as well as a ripped tire, which he replaced at a bike shop. He also warned me that things would get a bit more hilly in the next section of the route.

With that I was able to sleep comfortably without fear of being discovered. A lot of wasted time this day, but a successful ending.

On a closing note, here's another beautiful forest path.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Approximate route so far

Due to magic of Google Maps I have been able to reproduce approximately the route I followed. I didn't bother going through all the small townships I passed, and google doesn't let you follow some of the trails through National Parks, but what I've put there is fairly close.

Bam!:
http://maps.google.com/maps?f=d&hl=en&geocode=13922087847791610239,52.249690,12.985180%3B10361205056175874122,52.222879,13.193722%3B3121581543591902523,52.100720,13.158020%3B4475437702186862188,51.990250,13.074960%3B11531692420632633258,51.912700,12.791660%3B17825887253431780802,51.871910,12.644730%3B9605953543003061104,51.755800,12.522330%3B8065476627804273846,51.843880,12.359350%3B15937392221036898009,51.847020,12.283910%3B17811262506931737401,51.855640,12.039950%3B9019670497574459313,51.812330,12.075580%3B17694149561155657476,51.794150,12.029120&saddr=Berlin&daddr=B2%2FBerliner+Stra%C3%9Fe+%4052.249690,+12.985180+to:B246%2FSch%C3%B6nhagener+Stra%C3%9Fe+%4052.222879,+13.193722+to:Berkenbr%C3%BCcker+Chaussee%2FL73+%4052.100720,+13.158020+to:Am+Dammtor%2FB102+%4051.990250,+13.074960+to:J%C3%BCterboger+Stra%C3%9Fe%2FL123+%4051.912700,+12.791660+to:B2%2FBerliner+Stra%C3%9Fe+%4051.871910,+12.644730+to:B100%2FStra%C3%9Fe+des+Friedens+%4051.755800,+12.522330+to:Griesener+Stra%C3%9Fe%2FL133+%4051.843880,+12.359350+to:Kreisstra%C3%9Fe%2FL133+%4051.847020,+12.283910+to:51.841929,12.22435+to:Burgstra%C3%9Fe+%4051.855640,+12.039950+to:Akener+Stra%C3%9Fe+%4051.812330,+12.075580+to:Dorfstra%C3%9Fe+%4051.794150,+12.029120+to:K%C3%B6then+(Anhalt),+K%C3%B6then,+Saxony-Anhalt,+Germany&mra=dpe&mrcr=0&mrsp=10&sz=12&via=1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10,11,12,13&sll=51.827079,12.211647&sspn=0.144711,0.31723&ie=UTF8&z=12

Notice the craziness at the start of my trip, which has pretty much cleared up now.

Have fun.

Day 2 - Under the Bridge by Red Hot Chilli Peppers

Day 2
I woke up bright on this glorious Day 2, and now armed with my map, I headed off the next major city I was trying to reach: Lutherstadt Wittenburg. I arrived there around 10am and proceded to go shopping, and try and get some information about the R1 bike route that I was thinking of following.

Now the R1 (http://www.euroroute-r1.de/) is the route that I was roughly unsuccessfully trying to follow mapless with just the list of some of main cities that it passes through which I nabbed off the internet. Usually there are signs posted to let you know where to go on this route, but as I had strayed quite far from the path that this bike route took, and as I hadn't actually come across any signs for this route, I had no freaking idea where it was. Lutherstadt Wittenburg was my chance. Assuming though, that I could find a map that detailed this route in the city (Something I knew did exist, but would have had to travel back to Berlin from Potsdam to get, thus why I didn't bother with a map in the first place hoping to stumble along the route along the way. I only also found out about this route while in Potsdam by leafing through a pamphlet detailing German bike routes.).

Luckily enough I found a bookstore that carried the map. I was quite enthused and praised the store keeper, telling her how much this meant to me, that she was my hero and thanking her prefusely before leaving the shop. With this, I had a map! I had a plan! It looked like things would get a world easier. I picked up on the route at a road not 100m from the bookstore, clearly marked with a R1 bike route sign, and with that, I was on my way.

I headed out of the city and across a bridge which spanned the Elbe river and was at this point, hot as hell. My first day was fairly sweaty as well and considering that I hadn't showered, I was starting to smell a bit ripe. Luckily enough I spotted a populated swimming spot down some stairs near the bridge I was transversing. With that in mind I parked my bike, ran down the stairs, ran past a group having some sort of beach party and threw myself clothes and all in the water. I surfaced, said a quick "Tschuss" (Seeya in German) and ran back up the stairs soaking wet, feeling clean and followed by laughter continued on my way.

Now there was a world of difference between the first day of my trip and the second. The thing that stands out the most is the route that the R1 trail took. Rather than taking major or minor motorways and competing constantly with trucks and cars as I did the first day, I was on dedicated bike trails for the most part, travelling through parks and forests which I can only describe as "fairytale-like". A change from the somewhat stressful, sun exposed and exhausting route I took the first day.

The second major difference was the posting of signs along the way. Now, anyone that knows me knows I'm quite horrible with directions, and consider reading the map a last resort. Usually when driving I'm quite happy to go in the wrong direction for around half an hour hoping that I'm on the right track before getting out a map and figuring out where to go. With the R1 trail however, all the work was done for me. Each time any of change in direction was required there would be a sign pointing me on my way. There were even signs at regular intervals to show you that you were indeed, on the right track, and to continue going in this direction. Absol-bloody-lutely perfect! I could now cycle without any attention to where I was going, and allow my mind to wander any which way it chose to.

I continued cycling on until around 8.00pm at night where I started to look around for a place to sleep for the night. Another long day. I really did mean to take things a bit easier today than the day before, but when you get started you have the tendency to reach "Just one more town", which ends up keeping you going the whole day. As the sun usually is up at 4am in the morning and doesn't set until 9.30pm at night (Gotta love the Northern Hemisphere), it seems a bit of a waste to stop while the sun is up (Though more resting might be a good idea).

Eventually my search for a suitable campsite was interupted by the beginnings of a lightning storm. Brought to mind by a song that I was listening to early in the day I recalled a bridge that I passed by earlier and backtracked around 15 minutes to get back there.

Now, under a bridge isn't somewhere that I'd usually sleep for the night, but two things made me decide on this as my new home away from home:
1. If I camped out in the open my bike would get wet. I could take the bags off the bike and put them in the tent I know, but I'm pretty damn lazy.
2. I wouldn't have to put up a tent. See point 1 about me being lazy.
3. Now my main issue with sleeping under the bridge was being bothered by passers by, police officers and other homeless people. The storm changed all this as I now was betting on the fact the the rain, thunder, lightning, and generally opressive atmosphere would keep most never-do-wells away. As well as this, the storm gave me a perfect excuse for sleeping out in the open with the old "I was trapped by the storm while cycling" excuse, which I figure most people/authority figures would buy. There were very few suitable camping sites as well, as the R1 route took me through national parks for the most part which I wouldn't really feel comfortable camping in. With that I rolled out my sleeping bag and groundsheet and settled down for the night.

Day 3
Day 3 has been relatively uneventful, and as such I've included this as part of Day 2's post. I woke up and started out for Dessau at around 4.30am in the morning without being disturbed the entire night. I would have prefered to sleep in a bit more, but considered answering questions to be too much of a bother to risk sleeping in an extra hour or two. At this point I've covered over 220km from Berlin, and should make it to Bernburg in Saxony Anhalt before the end of the day. Here I'm planning to give an actual camping site a try, more for the company of fellow travellers and amendities provided than the camping spot. Depending on the price though, I may opt for a more DIY solution. I'm not finding not showering to be an issue however as the new route covers mostly shaded areas, I'm not really getting to sweaty. I am now also only wearing a pair of bathers, and a white, loose cotton shirt which are keeping well since my impromptu bath the day before.

Fairy-tale castle gate in German forest:


And with that, I'll leave. I'm off again now, and will probably post more down the track.

Seeya.

Day 1 - Lost in Germany


Alrighty. I am now in Köthen in the Saxony Anhalt region of Germany and am taking this chance to update what I've been up to.

I'm going to refer to the last couple of days since leaving Potsdam as days 1 and 2 of my trip. Even though I "officially" started in Berlin, due to the short distance I went and the fact that I spent around a week there, I don't really consider it the first day of my journey, but rather, more of a test run.

Day 1
My first day, and I ended up leaving around 10am in the morning completely mapless, but working with the knowledge that each city/town that I cycle to *should* contain road signs pointing to the next major city or town. Long story short, this proved not to be the most effective way to get to my destination. I seemed to be doing OK for a while, but spent a large part of my day somewhat lost, and when I wasn't lost I was taking large detours in order to enter cities on a road that would allow bike traffic (e.g. Not the Autobahn). Though I did get to where I needed to eventually I spent a great deal of time somewhat lost, or taking inefficent routes to my destinations. Quite annoying to say the least. After spending the majority of my day doing this I bit the bullet and ended up buying a map of Germany which made my life a whole lot easier.

Germany seems to be fairly densely populated. At least, compared to what I'm used to. You can't go more than 5km without hitting at least some small farming town or something similar. Something which I found extremely handy. Each town points to the next town and occasionally also shows the major city that you can also reach by travelling down this road. As I had planned my trip on the more major cities, and most of the smaller towns didn't feature on my map at all, this turned into something of a guess/memory game as I had to recall which towns were also on the way to the major city I was headed for (It only occasionally listed the major cities on any signs).

My day ended at around 9.00pm with me stoping to camp inside a wooded area beside the motorway after cycling for around 11 hours that day with only 3 quick 15 minute stops during that period (once to eat lunch once to buy a map, once to lay down in the shade for a bit). I set up my tent, had some dinner and lay down to sleep for the night.

Note:
No pictures where taken during this period, though I have upload an updated picture of the bike as it is currently outfitted.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Bike Tour Begun (Berlin -> The Netherlands)


Well, finally something worth writing about. I spent around a week in Berlin and somehow ended up deciding to head from there to The Netherlands (Probably Amsterdam) via bicycle. With that in mind I put together a little touring bike from a dodgy second hand bike I bought of this Chinese guy that rented them in Berlin as well as some other stuff bought from a second hand store in the city. Learnt a lot about bike maintenance fixing up the bike as in it's original condition the bike was pretty much unusable (I knew nothing about bikes at the time and didn't know in how much disrepair the bike was left).

Pictures of the final result are included below:
I'm pretty happy with the bike in the end, apart from it now driving like a tank. I've successfully made my first leg of the trip from Berlin to Potsdam camping in a wooded area behind a church along the way (God forgive me). I'm currently couch-surfing (www.couchsurfing.com) with a nice girl in Potsdam who has chosen to host me during my stay, and will probably do the same along the way to The Netherlands. I have around 650KM to cycle to The Netherlands, and assuming that I stop in each city along the way (Rather than cycling non-stop) it could be a month before I actually get to the border.

The Church where I stopped for the night:

The view from my tent:

Will probably give you another update after I've left Potsdam and arrived in my next location. Until then, seeya.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Pictures

Finally! Some pictures!
I've found an internet cafe that allows me to use USB devices.

1. Recovered rockets fired from Gaza into Israel:


2. Jerusalem - A city constantly in progress:


3. Bethlehem in the West Bank:


4. No Guns sign on side of school located in Bethlehem Refugee Camp


5. Cool Rock Pattern in Petra - Jordan:


6. Mt Sinai - Sinai Penisula - Egypt:



7. Egyptian boy working on brass motif:
8. An Egyptian pot making business


9 & 10. Police action in the square outside my Hostel (There's a line of policemen on every corner):

The last couple of pictures were taken today. It seems that the Muslim Brotherhood, an Islamic Political/Religous group that isn't recognized by the current party in power (In fact I've been told it's illegal in Egypt to be a member) is staging a protest some time today (I might have missed it with all this time I've been spending at the internet cafe) and that is the reason for the police presence. Should be interesting to see how this develops.

Otherwise it looks like I might be off to Germany pretty soon. Thinking of cycling around there for a while, and depending on how sucessful that is, extending that to the rest of Europe. I'm also interested in checking out India + China + Nepal at some point, and it's been a tough decision deciding between the two. The fact that Germany is closer has pretty much been the tie breaker, as I'm trying to minimize any large hops to extend my travel time. Have contacted the travel agency regarding the cancellation of my return tickets, and I'll see how that goes (I'm also currently in Cairo - Egypt and spent some time in Jordan as well).

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Quick Summary

Here's a real quick Summary of what I've been up to so far:
- Tel Aviv around 3-4 nights. Wandered around for a bit.
- Travelled to Ein Boqeq and En Gedi with a couple of guys I met from the hostel. Camped at the beach around the Dead Sea at both locations (2-3 nights). Went rock climbing with this German guy around En Boqeq.
- Headed back Tel Aviv from En Gedi to pick up my bag, and went to Jerusalem that night.
- Sort of fell in with this really religious suicidal Jewish Israeli that I met at one of the security checkpoints. Saw a whole bunch of places with him, the highlight was travelling down to Sde Rot while it was being bombed by rockets fired from the Gaza strip (He was having some sort of religious crisis at the time and wanted to go there to be tested by God or something). Got to try out the duck and cover manoeuvre here which was pretty cool.
- Split up with him after a few days and went to Jerusalem. Took me a couple of days to get my bag back off this guy as I left this at his house (Stupid I know). As my passport was also in the bag I had to learn to avoid the security checkpoints that would require my passport. Spent around a week in Jersusalem relaxing and talking to people.
- Headed across to the West Bank with this Christian Dutch girl that wanted to see both Bethlehem and Hebron, but didn't want to travel there by herself. Checked out the relgious sites at both locations as well as one of the refugee camps in Bethlehem. I was a bit dissapointed by the refugee camp though, which was more of a slum than a camp.
- Met up with chance with this German guy that I went camping with in Jerusalem and joined him, his girlfriend and a couple of other German girls to go cycling and hiking in Tiberius in the north for around 3-4 days and then back to Tel Aviv to soak up the sun on the beach and go clubbing for a couple of days.
- Back in Jerusalem again (Have been here a couple of days) and am now considering popping across the border to Egypt once Shabat is over. Will see what happens from there onwards.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

In Israel

Yep, I am in Israel. I've just been doing stuff and this is pretty much the first chance I've had to get in front of a computer since coming here (I have passed internet cafes in the past, but I usually was in the middle of something at the time). I've been to a whole bunch of places (At times I wasn't quite sure where I actually was), it's been fun and I've learnt a lot so far.

I think I've given up on the whole blog thing, though I'll try to continue to post pictures here (I'm taking very few pictures as it is so you're not really missing out on much).

This particular PC doesn't have any USB ports though, so no dice on the pictures. Once I find a slightly more modern joint I should be able to post a few.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Wabbit Hunting

Today started with a Frostychino and Choclate Croissant at Omonia Sq. Now as a rule I usually avoid milk and milk based products but at the promise of a Coffee thickshake I made an exception here. A coffee place by the name of Petit Coffee provided me with a coffee thickshake topped with whipped cream and caramel along with a criossant sprinkled with and filled with warm chocklate. Yummy (Though the criossant was a bit rich for my taste).

While drinking my Frostychino I was continually approached by pidgeons, so close I could just reach out a grab them. Now I have better sense than to start grabbing pidgeons in the middle of a crowded square with an audience (and police officers) looking on, so I thought on a better way to handle this situation. Elicting serial-killer-like powers of deduction I came upon the perfect place to corner and entrap my prey, the park from yesterday! I then finished my drink and headed off to the park poste-haste.

Now every good game needs some rules and here are the ones I came up with on the way there:
1. No baiting the pidgeons. I would have to capture the pidgeon without distracting it with food.
2. I couldn't be seen trying to catch the pidgeon. If seen I would need to start again from the entrance to the park.
3. Once the bird was captured I would need to hold it for 5 seconds for it to be a win.

And they say computer games aren't murder simulators.
After around 15 minutes of waiting, being interupted by joggers and bike riders and it was finally me, and a single pidgeon in a fairly secluded area of the park. Showdown music (Old western style) started playing in my head as I closed in on the bird.

Now after all of this the conclusion to the story is going to be a bit anti-climatic, but in the end I decided on not grabbing the bird. When I finally got the pidgeon alone and had the oppurtunity to capture it I decided that it would be best to leave the pidgeon alone, as it was much happier off unmolested (I also had qualms about being able to grab it without injuring it). There we go, I ruined a perfectly good story with an unsatisfactory ending. I then spent the remainder of my day in the park enjoying the good weather.

Now it's coming on 6pm and it's time for me to head off to the Airport again. So when you hear from me again I'll probably be in Israel.

Monday, February 25, 2008

The Ministry of Silly Walks

Spent most of my day in the Athens National Park nearby the house of parliment. It must be some sort of Athenian holiday or something as I ran into a parade of soliders in funny hats and slippers on the way there complete with their own brass band. They were doing some crazy walk which I managed to find a video on youtube of: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GmMhNnzfOWY

The park was pretty big, and I spent most of relaxing, reading and generally having a look around. My only real interuption was when some weird old guy started coming on to me. He started rubbing my leg whereby I said no and shook my finger at him tsking. He then proceeded to put his hand on my crotch which I then took and put back into his own lap. Seeing as he seemed to be ignoring the message I decided to try every gesture for no I had at my disposal (Said no, shook my head, did the stop motion [Showing him my palm], etc). He then started tounging his thumb [really the only way I can think of describing what he was doing] and he even tried for a reach around (Which I stopped, said no and shook my head at him again followed by a bit more tsking). By this point he finally seemed to understand that this was a lost cause. I tried then to to find out why he was trying to do what he was doing, but he didn't speak any English though so I didn't have much luck there. I'm not sure if he was seriously coming on to me or if he was trying to make me feel uncomfortable (A lost cause either way). He went pretty far for a joke if that was the case though, so if that was his aim then I'm pretty impressed.

I've also left the buildup out whereby he approached me while I was reading, tried to strike a conversation (Mostly in gestures), and even gave me some flowers (Really tiny ones when he lifted from some bush somewhere [I did think that it was a little odd for him to give me the flowers, but I didn't think much of it at the time]). A fairly bemusing encounter all in all.

People are silly sometimes.

At the center of the National Park they have a zoo of sorts. As I was interested in checking out the indiginous animals of Greece I had a look around. It's safe to say I wasn't overly impressed as Greece's claim to fame as far as animals go seem to be Chickens, Cats, Donkies and Budgerigars (Budgies). No wonder Greek tourists are so impressed by Australia's native animals if that's all they have as part of their nation's natural fauna. Things like our Platypus (Duck-Otter) and Kangeroo (Rabbit-Dog) would just blow their minds.

At the center of the park they also have a really huge tree:


UPDATE (11:28am 25/02/08)
After getting back to my hostel I met up with my new bunk mate (A Vietnamese Uni student that was using his school holidays to go travelling) and as we were both interested in checking out the Athenian night life we finally tracked down a night club (With the help of a guide book that he had photocopied a few pages from) and had a look. Compared to clubs and bars in Australia, Athenian clubs seem to be somewhat on the small side (If the club we went to is the norm for Athens). Apart from the size of the place it wasn't too bad and my roommate and got up and danced for a bit (*sigh*) before leaving to try and find another place (No luck there though, they seem to be very scarce). In the end as it was fairly late (and a Sunday night) we ended up going back to the Hostel. An interesting outing and I can now cross off clubbing in Athens off my mental checklist.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Proposition A

Woke up bright and early today, walked to a square in Athens and followed a stray dog around for a bit. After a short while the dog met up with another dog, and they went around peeing on various things. Eventually the dog ended up back with what I assume is it's owner, as it lay down on a piece of cardboard layed out behind one of the cigarette stands that you see all over Athens. It seems this particular dog has an owner, or at least someone who cares for it.

With nothing else planned for the day I went to see if it was possible to leave Athens on foot. I picked a moutain range in the distance as my point of reference and started off. I walked through the city center, industrial areas, suburban areas and what I believe to be some of Athen's outer suburbs without seeing a break (Was hoping to see the Athenian countryside or the like). After around 6-7 hours of walking, and as shops started closing I found a suitable bus and took that back into the city center. Athens really is *that* big (The seem to build out instead of up for some reason and have no real sky scrapers. 2-3 stories seems to be the average for most buildings, and you get the odd 5-6 story building). Zoom out on the following map to see what I mean (Omonia Sq is pretty much my base camp).

Yesterday I did get a roommate as well. A Polish guy named Sven who I believe is leaving tommorrow (From what I've gathered, his English isn't the best so our conversations are fairly limited). From what I've been able to figure out he's trying to reach a place called Polonius for work and needed 3 Euros to get there (Had 91 Euros and needed 94 for his ticket). As he seemed a nice enough fellow, and as he was considering selling his phone to get the money for the ticket I gave him the money he needed.

Had a nap for a bit and then went out to check the Athenian night life. 30 seconds after leaving my hostel I was propositioned for sex by an Athenian prostitue (22 Euros. Cheap!). I politely declined and went on my way (Props on her English though, and the fact that she knew where Adelaide was). I may have been offered drugs by some random bald black guy as well who asked me if I "wanted any stuffs". He probably was just hawking other "stuffs" as Athens seems to have it's fair share of people selling random stuff on the sides of the streets (Though I didn't see a stall/blanket anywhere nereby, and I was in a pretty dodgy side street).

Didn't have any luck finding any clubs or bars, but found a bunch of restaurants and cafes that were open. Had some skinny druggie looking chick ask me for money out the front of one, and told her that I was short on cash myself and couldn't spare any. Back to the subject of dogs though, it seems that a whole bunch of the dogs that are ranging around Athens actually are strays, as I've seem a number of them sleeping in parks (Dog in the picture above is one example), on the streets and even venturing into restaurants (Whereby the staff have to shepard them out). I patted one which seemed to either excite it, or distress it as it started whining/yelping and jumping on me. Explained to the dog that I didn't have any food, and it went on it's way.

Not sure what I'll get up to tommorrow, but I figure I'll check with the hostel staff and see if they can suggest anything interesting to do and point me in the direction of bars/clubs so I can look into that as well.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Athens - City of Dogs


Arrived in Athens around 7am this morning (Athens time) and as my first order of business I checked into the my hostel. The room I've been assigned seems nice enough, and I should be getting bunk mates sooner or later, however they still haven't arrived at this point (Now 5pm).

Spent most of today wandering around Athens aimlessly, and actually covered quite a bit of ground using this method. Ended up at most of the touristy spots whereby I took the required photos (Which I think I'll end up deleting from the camera). The photos were nice enough however they're nothing that aren't available already, and I'm not into the whole looking at buildings thing anyway. Instead from now on I'll only be taking shots of stuff that takes my interest, if at all.

Some interesting things that happened today:
- I hung up with some crazy bum on some benches for a bit. I say crazy as he kept mumbling to himself and laughing randomly, which usually is a pretty good indicator of the Cray-ZEE. Tried striking up a conversation however he didn't speak English (Go figure) and I don't speak Greek. Instead we just kicked back, and enjoyed the day while everyone else moved about. Eventually he decided to it was time to go, and he sort of stumbled/waddled off. I considered following him to see what bums get up to while everyone else goes about their normal day, but decided that stalking a possibly paranoid, schizofrenic bum probably wasn't the best call.
- Dogs! Athens is full of dogs. Packs of them running around the place or just lying on the sidewalks. For the most part the dogs have collars so I assume that they have owner, however considering the lack of space in Athens I assume that most Athenians don't have backyards (and no dog-catchers from the looks of things). The dogs seem friendly enough, however you've got to look out for the dog poo (Which is everywhere).
- Almost got in trouble with a riot patrol officer today. Saw a few Athenian police in green camo with riot shields and tear gas launchers and stopped to look. What I learnt today? Well apparently "The Man" doesn't like it when you stare at them with a goofy grin on your face. I guess a grin usually means you find something funny (Or in this case amusing), and people that have to deal with rioters on a day to day basis usually take themselves pretty seriously, and interpret a smile as mockery. The commander waved me over and said something to me in Greek. I told him that I didn't speak Greek and at that point he said that I "could go" (In English). Probably would be a good idea to keep this in mind when I get to Israel, as the IDF are sure to take themselves *even* more seriously considering all the shinanigans that goes on over there.

All in all, a pretty cool first day. Hopefully Athens still has more to offer.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

First Stop - Singapore

After a 6-7 hour flight I've arrived at my first stop, Singapore. My impressions of the place are fairly favourable. Apart from the distinct smell of manure when entering the airport (I'm assuming that's what it was) the place if freaking huge. There are a large number of shops and stores which are spread across multiple levels. The airport is actually so big that they split it into three seperate terminals which you move between via a network of mono-rail-ish trains. I initially landed in a different terminal than the one I'll be leaving so I got to enjoy a train ride as well. As I speak I'm currently posting this from the Gold Class Lounge at Terminal 3 of the Singapore Airport.

The Gold Class Lounge is nice. Free food, free tea, free internet and nice comfy chairs. All pretty posh. I actually got in here thanks to a cool German guy named Clouse who had a spare "guest" spot on his pass into the Gold Class Lounge which he used to sneak me in. Looks like I'm not going to be using the airport hotel after all (Saved around $64 AUD in the process). Plan is to get some reading done so I can start to discard some of the hefty books I've chosen to bring along on my trip (Most of my pack weight is books really), and basically kill time until my next flight (Around 4-5 hours).

Got to test out my digital camera as well and have included a couple of pictures of the lounge below.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Starting sentences with conjunctions

Testing...



Awesome. Looks like this thing also accepts pictures.

And with that I'm done.

Wheeeeee.