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Ash’s Travel Diary

Thursday, 20 Dec 2007

Location: Guayaquil, Ecuador

Map¨This is the End¨ by The Doors keeps coming in & out of my head. Maybe a little melodramatic but it is one crazy feeling to be returning home.
Iíve wrote probably a million words on here, half of it gibbering tosh. How do I sum it up after nearly 2 years?


Iíve seen some very famous landmarks; The Great Wall, Ayers Rock, Kruger Park & Macchu Picchu. Some, not so famous; The Tiger Leaping Gorge, Karijini National Park & Ciudad Perdida.
But for me, itís the people that have made it.

Everywhere Iíve been, Iíve encountered overly friendly people and had some amazing experiences as a result. Itís a daily event but here are a few that come to mind:

Sitting in Forbidden City, Beijing: Only my 2nd day in China & an old man sits next to me & puts his arm around me. Bit disturbed, I grab my pockets only to see his wife holding out a camera. Then his whole tour group of about 30 line up for a snap with the white trash.

On a typically overcrowded train in China: I showed my camera to the guy in the next bed who proceeded to pass to the next guy who passed it to the next guy & so on. About an hour later, it came back on the other side of the train with hundreds of nodding approvals. The same guy then walked me to Shanghai underground & paid for my ticket.

Crammed into a 12 seater mini bus with 30 Vietnamese guys in rural Vietnam: Getting an overnighter to Ho Chi Minh, every single local was putting fags, fruit & chocolate in my mouth wanting me to accept theirs. During the night I had one guy on each thigh & 2 on my chest.

Playing 5 a side football in Hanoi: A guy who worked at the hotel had taken me around the city, including a visit to his house & then to play 5 a-side with his mates. During the game, one of the little fellas knocked me off my feet to halls of laughter & high fives from our game & adjacent ones too!

Australian hospitality: Met at Perth airport by virtual stranger, Mardi. She put me up for 2 months & gave me a job. Knocked on strangersí doors up the west coast and got shown around. Lived my last 5 weeks in Melbourne rent free as my housemates put me up, even had a mate stay for a week at one stage too!

Kiwi reaction times: Getting out maps in New Zealand knowing full well where I was, just to be amazed at how quickly a local would react. On average about 6 seconds, no joke!

Bienvenidos Columbia: Met 3 separate Columbians on a bus from Ecuador and was subsequently put up by 3 different families in 3 different towns for a week. Shown around, fed, given a bed when there was no bed, laundry done, the lot. For what? Just to feel at home in their country.

Part time Columbian father: A black mother placing her young daughter on my lap to sleep on an overnight bus. No worries of kiddy fiddling, racism or all that bullshit, just simple trust. Even the little girl wasnít put out by sleeping on a strange looking gringo.

As I said, thereís many more, including with fellow travellers, but theyíre some that came to my head just now. One thing that has just stood out to me & is worth noting for any future travel, all these experiences came alone & most, off the beaten track.

In such a ´dangerous´ World full of paranoia, Iíve encountered absolutely no problems in 2 years (with the exception of cheeky scamp robbing my wallet in Cambodia). Iím the slackest f--ker around too. Never worn a money belt. Left bags alone, on buses, in hostels or with strangers. Iíve walked to the middle of nowhere with locals, stayed in random houses, jumped in random taxis , kissed random girls ;-)
Am I dead hard and own the face of a mad dog? No Iím stupid and very lucky but also I donít suffer from paranoia and trust people when 99% of people are worth trusting.

As for future travel, who knows. Obviously there will always be a desire to do more but Iím also realistic to the fact that these opportunities wonít always exist, especially as I get older.
Itís not financially or mentally sustainable so Iíll have to spend some time in some sort of routine. And if I do go? I still want to see India & Central Asia, & south Argentina & Brazil in South America. Then thereís Africa, the Middle East, Europe, North America and a strange desire to backpack the UK. Jeez, Iíve not seen anything!

Well, Iíll call it a day & enjoy my last uncomfortable nightís sleep. Thank you to everyone that has kept reading my bullshit and left messages, theyíve definitely helped. Any readers that donít know me, Iím honestly not a complete whinging cynical arsehole. Itís my bizarre style of humour!

Monday, I was crossing the Columbian border. Yesterday, I was white water rafting. Today; I was eating Ecuadorian chicken whilst the restaurant ownerís family looked around desperately for their Bee Gees CD to impress me. Sunday, Iíll be wrapped up in my bed eating my mumís porridgeÖ.madness!