Who does not love exploring?

Take your tablets

The main news to report from sunny Denmark is that it is not actually all that sunny. It is the middle of summer and we have had almost three weeks of continuous rain, this has proven to be a blessing for many reasons. One is that the rain has blessedly rinsed the air clean of pollen. Pollen which had me resembling that nerdy kid at school (you know the guy with the homemade T-shirts and glasses that everyone beat up on). Due to the rain Jette and I spent a whole Sunday cooped up in our loft apartment watching the rain. We don’t like to watch Tv and were not inspired to rent a movie so we just sat and chatted. Conversation turned to embarrassing fetishes, as it does, and we discovered that we both share a secret and closely guarded fetish. I think that sharing our buttoned up compulsion has made us stronger as a couple.

That’s right, we dusted off a jig-saw puzzle and spent a contented afternoon searching for that bit with some green-but mostly blue. A sailors foot proved elusive to the last. I know you are probably reading this at home and thinking, for F-sake! You have moved to Denmark and waste your time sitting around indoors doing jig-saws. Go outside and chat to Mary or at least stand in a field and look at windmills. Say ‘Enschool’ or ‘Vor-dan-goldi?’ to a local you ninny. In my defence after four weeks living here I am starting to acclimatize to my new surrounds. I am no longer amazed at the sight of lilliputian cars and old women riding basketed bikes around the wrong side. The steady stream of blonde Heidi’s and Hans’s speaking through perfect teeth like the Swedish chef off the muppets no longer makes me stop in my tracks and stare open mouthed.

The third blessing bought on by this deluge has been less distraction from my studies (writing rambling blog entries and stalking Tasmanian friends on Facebook does not count). True to form I have constructed a tight schedule for myself this semester. I am off to explore South East Asia in a few weeks with Jette before bolting off to the mountains of Nepal where I will raise my altitude record with a Kiwi mate. This schedule means that I have a whole semester worth of Uni work to finish in two weeks. I need to get seriously ahead with assignments.

My first writing assignment is a compare and contrast essay on two travels books. One is written by the peerless Bill Bryson, the other by lesser known Sarah Darmody. Bill wanders through Europe happily teasing beret wearers and drunken Germans, Sarah rides a Greyhound bus through America missing her boyfriend. There is plenty to compare, I started with the similarities. Both books are written on paper, both have a barcode and an ISBN number printed on the inside of the front page. Both are in English which is nice. Bill’s novel however arrived promptly from Amazon, dog eared and scribbled in, Sarah’s arrived three weeks late, after three increasingly stern emails, crinkling new and expensive. I am yet to tackle the difference bought about by the writers different gender, age, humour used, writing style, location, experience, use of dialogue, metaphors, similes….yah, yah, yah.

I am pretty sure that, travel writing being a course offered through the arts department, if I sneak the words ‘Neophyte‘ and the phrase ‘Pose colonial discourse‘ or ‘orientalism plays a significant role in this work‘ I will get a distinction. I will let you know how this theory works out.

grey Take your tabletsBecause it has rained non stop for so long my training for Nepal has involved climbing with friends at the gym (very exciting) and swimming laps at the local pool (not very exciting). Some of the serious swimmers have waterproof music players which seems like a great idea. I find that my mind wanders as I gasp through my 40 laps and I constantly lose count. I am either finishing on 38 or 56 laps, my legs feel totally boneless when I beach myself gasping on the tiles so I sincerely hope it is 56. On Monday when I was swimming laps I sneezed and a little bit of snot floated off into the neighboring lane. This started my mind wandering, it is hay fever season and I notice plenty of people walking around and covering their nose with handkerchiefs. Each sneeze would release about, let’s say, a plug of mucous weighing half a gram. There are ten lanes with approximately six people in each lane. Assume they all swim thirty laps and sneeze once in ten, the low lying haze of chlorine over the water really irritates the nose. That is 1.5 grams of snot per person, per swim. That is a total of forty-five grams of snot jettisoned into the water. Furthermore, being very conservative, it takes on average one hour to complete thirty laps, the pool is open for eight hours, that is seven-hundred and twenty grams of snot, almost a carton of milk, going into the pool every day. I swam and pondered this disturbing daydream and lost count of my laps, somewhere around thirty-seven, or one-hundred.

When I turned and realized that you sweat when exercising, even in the water, I finished my lap in record time and ran to the showers away from the snot soup. My next challenge was the naked showers which I have grown to dread. Some time ago Jette explained to me that the numerous Danish signs around the shower state specifically that swimmers must shower naked, none of this hiding in your shorts business. I told her that I intend to maintain my stance on my desire to keep ‘Mr decision maker’ purely for exclusive viewing, they cannot force me to wave in the breeze, surely. As I shower I imagine a lonely, be-speckled librarian type in the office upstairs. She is surrounded by CCTV monitors frantically printing these compulsory nudity posters as fast as they are pulled down.

Anyway, enough of the shower, no doubt you are starting to get the impression that all I do is scurry around Danish change rooms covered by my towel and dream about jig-saws. Sorry, no I have not finished. In the spirit of cultural integration I found a lovely quiet corner where I can shower naked and change without feeling like a contestant in ‘check-mine-out-guys’. My corner is next to a large dark wall, to me they looked like tiles on the wall. For the last three weeks I have been enjoying my private changing area, that is until I recently spotted a door in the wall. On Monday I made the unnerving discovery that this door leads through to a sauna. The whole wall which I have been changing near is tinted glass, behind which is a wooden grandstand facing this one way mirror. People enjoy their saunas (naked of course) and look out into the change rooms. I did not have the nerve to look inside the sauna for fear of being greeted by a crowd of be-speckled librarians cheering me on. Anyway, now I have finished rambling about my change room phobia….

What else has been happening? Jette and I have managed to survive despite the kitchen at her work, who provide healthy meals ridiculously cheaply, being closed for holidays. We have been living on a diet of quiece and hastily thrown together salad. Thank god for the farmers market which is held across the road every Wednesday and Saturday. Umm…I went to the pharmacy and bought some drugs. The rules here are really strict, you need a prescription from a doctor to buy Telfast 180mg, but not the 120mg strength, the pharmacist told me this while looking sternly at me over his glasses. Apparently pharmacists worldwide have a habit of taking themselves far to seriously. I have had ten years experience as a Pharmacist and I do not know of anything exciting which can be cooked out of this hay fever remedy. I tried to persuade him to sell me some 180mg’s under the counter but met a roadblock

Deciding to simply take 2x120mg tablets I bought up big and left. On my way back to the apartment I passed the pub with all the zimmer frames parked outside, it piqued my curiosity. It was after midday, why shouldn’t I pop in for a beer? Aarhus is dotted with pocket-sized pubs that sweep lost, lonely souls off the street like a river eddy gathers leaves. Inside through a dense cloud of smoke I was greeted by three aged pokie machines and four equally tattered faces. All the contents of the pub seemed surprised to see a person enter without walking aids, or emphysema. I managed to order a beer despite the large, short haired lady’s lack of interest in foreign language. Feeling my lungs start to protest the local lack of oxygen I sculled my beer and burst outside through the door. I was chased through the entrance by a tsunami of cigarette smoke also trying to escape the den. I returned to the apartment, took two Telfast and got back to my assignment.

On way my to climbing on Wednesday I took a detour. There is a lovely string of leafy parks which follow lakes around to the climbing centre, I thought that this would be a much more enjoyable ride to enjoy on the girl bike than the traffic laden main road. I was right. Crossing the road to the park entrance a man in a car slowed, beeped his horn and holding my gaze made angry walking motions with his pointer and middle finger. Apparently I had enraged his sensibility by riding across a pedestrian crossing, the highest form of sin. Danish drivers are so robotically law abiding that even a slight transgression such as this is viewed with indignation, I would love to see them driving in Bolivia. The ride to the gym through the park was enchanted, green fields, hippie houses with hothouses (guess why) and willow shrouded ponds, I felt like I was inside a poster promoting Denmark. I saw a brown slug the size of a T-bone steak crossing the path, he was big enough to crash your motorbike on. Stopping to take a photo the slug bunched up into a fist sized ball and started oozing slime with excitement. Danish slugs have not been covered by my education in any great depth to date, being unsure if his next step was to fire out a jet of acid or sharp darts at me I left him alone.

At the climbing centre our little group grew by one. Felix, a most agreeable German PHD student joined us on the walls. Felix is studying nano-technology ( small stuff) and is a much more advanced climber than I. Watching him climb inspired me to climb the red route without using easily reached foot holds on the lower section. The four of us were completely worn out after ninety minutes so I packed up my ballet shoes and rode back through the parks. Being careful to avoid those dart throwing massive slugs I returned home to find Jette using my laptop.

She was not making joke Facebook updates while I was gone (I can be silly enough on social networking sites without her help) she was feeding another of her fetishes. A second fetish of Jette’s, and one that I shamelessly exploit, is proofreading. Jette loves to flex her formidable English muscle by proofing what I write, searching for capitalization and grammatical errors she does not have to dig very deeply. Without her help much of my rambling would read like a drunken dyslexic has found his mums old mechanical ‘Underwood Five’ in the attic, dusted it off, found an ink ribbon and started pecking away.

Like a blinking koala Jette tore her gaze from the sea of blue change tracking on the screen and said that we may have a small weather window on Saturday to visit Lego-land. This had me running around in small circles instantly. Clapping open fingered I said how much I wanted the Star Wars Death Star and the Dragster mechanic kit as a kid. For both my sake and my nephew’s (he will get presents) I hope that the Danish meteorology service is right this time.

Grøn Koncert

Jette has somehow persuaded me to go to my first live ‘pop’ music concert in fourteen years! Normally I approach large crowds with a sense of impending doom. Surprisingly I am looking forward to this concert after Jette painted for me a picture of lounging on rugs in the sun, drinking beer and watching Danish bands, she assures me that Danish crowds normally act relatively civilised.

On Friday night Peter and Lotte arrive, dump their gear and leave Jette and I to our bolognese and wine (they went to explore Aarhus and Peter returned with arms full of Wolfmother merchandise after I introduced him to this band).

Saturday morning we enjoy the first break in the rain for seven days. It comes out clear and hot. We lounge on the balcony, listen to music and swill a few lazy beers (the first opened at 11:30am) before walking to the bus. The local bus company has rostered busses to leave every five minutes for the concert venue, which is about twenty minutes away from the town centre.

The foot traffic increases as we near the people filled paddock, the first thing I see is a large crane ceaselessly raising and lowering a small ledge for bungy jumping over the concert. I jump up and down like a kid in a lolly shop but, despite my constant almost whiney asking, Jette refuses to entertain the idea of joining me. She wants to do the skydiving thing first. The Asian ‘can woman’ who wanders town gathering recyclable rubbish is enjoying an early Christmas behind the entrance queue, almost everyone has jettisoned a can or two before entering the holding pen. In the holding pen a man pats me down and checks my bags before trading my ticket for a green (drinking) wrist band and waving me through. The crowd is oppressive. Young kids, grey haired seniors and young things showing off their flesh all compete for a good viewing post. Lotte, Jette, Peter and I find a great spot halfway between the beer stall and the toilets, set out our rugs and soak up sun and beer.

The people watching is first class. Grøn Koncert is a charity event, all proceeds go to Cerebral Palsy. Nearby a circle of dirt smeared electric wheelchairs contain Cerebral Palsy sufferers. They are sitting in the sun and thoroughly enjoying the attention, music and bustle around them. Every now and then the master of ceremonies will call a name, prompting a wheelchair to buzz onto stage as the man continues saying something in rapid Danish, maybe a sufferer has a birthday or maybe he’s just introducing the people this show benefits. I watch as a wheelchair breaks free of the nearby circle and bounces off over the grass, destination unknown, wheels clawing for grip through muddier sections. A helper is clearing a path for him through prostrate concert goers, the silhouetted figure of the wheelchair makes me think of a Darlek from Dr Who navigating dead bodies in a war zone

Bands play all afternoon as the beer flows. Eventually an older performer takes the stage, looking completely at home with 30,000 pairs of eyes on him. Jette explains that he is the Danish equivalent of John Farnham and a much loved public figure in this country. That would explain the king tide of middle aged flesh threatening to overwhelm the stage. I am happy to stay where I am, snuggling with my girl on the rug. As the afternoon progresses, so to does the drunkenness of people picking their way past our camp. Peter takes my camera for a walk and returns with some great closeup stage shots. I take my camera out and watch people scaring themselves by jumping off that crane before I return to the snug rug.

As the day turns to night the music becomes more electronic and the collective pupil size of the crowd grows. We decide to pack up and move back to town for a quiet drink. We suffer a bus trip surrounded by drunk teens and find a quiet cafe which serves high grade Baileys Coffee. We make it to bed before midnight, I fall asleep with rosy cheeks wishing I had been as diligent as Jette was with the sunscreen.

On Monday night I am riding the ‘girl bike’ through belting rain to the rock climbing gym. Federico is in Italy but Arthur is still keen to have a climb with me. We rope up and quickly demolish the routes we struggled up last time we climbed. I want to fully trust the rope so asking Arthur to lock me off I climb a way to make some slack in the rope and fall. When the rope goes taught it lifts Arthur’s feet of the ground and forces him to run into the wall but he easily holds my fall. For some reason I cannot get into fully trusting the rope and my climbing suffers. When you don’t trust the rope fully you tend to grip the holds desperately and fatigue much more quickly. While chatting to Arthur I discover that he speaks Spanish as well as Danish and English. The poor guy will regret admitting this latent talent as I intend to maintain my Spanish with him as well as trying out new Danish phrases as we progress through the different colored routes.

We spend two full hours wearing ourselves out on various routes. Arthur finishes with a very convincing ascent of the red route. A route used to test if you are ready to lead climb, I finish by getting two-thirds of the way up the red route and loosing my sweaty grip on a weird potato shaped hold. I remove my harness to reveal two lines of sweat which resemble a failed bladder, get changed and leave Arthur to continue his training on the bouldering wall, the man is dedicated.

Today I have spent the whole day proofreading and writing, mainly proofreading. Why the hell do I continue to mess up capital letters? This is getting annoying. I don’t mind too much though, I know that any capitals I miss will be picked up by my trusty (and very good looking) second proofreader.

This is the same person who would tease me sometimes about my Random Usage of Capitals and weird sentence structure. It is lucky that I like her so much.

My travel Angel

I maintain composure despite glimpsing desperation; a man, wearing his polished blue “Safety officer’’ badge, dashing past. There is a caustic smell creeping down the aisle but I am not concerned. Despite the inherent danger of fires on planes I feel safe, smugly cocooned in the knowledge that I have my own personal travel angel. This is a fact. His name is Gustav; I do not know why, it just is. Gustav works tirelessly behind the scenes to try to smooth my path and keep me from serious trouble, sometimes in a comically roundabout way.  He no doubt has a very good reason for steering me onto this seemingly doomed, Air France flight, AF442 from Paris to Rio on March 30, 20111

Every traveler has a personal travel angel even if they don’t properly realise it. Some people thank a higher power, some a system of give and take, some merely cite good fortune. I like to imagine Gustav as a thin man wearing brown slacks and thickly rimmed reading glasses circa 1960, he is calm and collected like a celestial accountant. He is without voice and toils quietly, beyond sight, without health benefits or pay. Whatever name or belief is attributed to this authority, every traveler can relate at least one story when they were gently steered out of trouble.

When I liquidated my life and set out to explore I did not believe in angels, but as anyone will tell you, travel can, and will broaden horizons. 

Earlier that year in November I missed a bus. Watching it pull out of the station without me I blinked away a cloud of belched diesel and cursed Gustav expansively. Slinging my red backpack over my shoulders I searched for another bus. A two hour wait in a stifling, chaotic depot complete with underhanded staff ensued. By slipping a sneaky ‘gift’ to an attendant I was first to board the next bus, nursing my faithful and now very dusty red companion I eagerly anticipated the adventure to come. I had always dreamt of trekking in the Andes alone.

In front of me a contemplative chicken on a lap strained its rubber neck and quietly studied my features. To my right an elderly chap wearing traditional clothing absently stared through a grimy window. We gave up on conversation before properly starting, having reached “where are you from?” my vocabulary dried up like the country’s healthcare budget. Our bus plunged deep into a lush valley while the Ecuadorian Andes poked through clouds, distantly following our progress.

My knees were bent far closer to my chest than they were designed, my backpack was taking up what little leg room the hard seat afforded. I abandoned my book and stared back at the mountains wondering if Gustav had forsaken me. The chicken vocalised my mood with a resigned “squwaaark” “What will be will be”. At one isolated stop I watched an arthritically bent figure fight his way up the stairs. He accepted with a smile when I stood with cracking knees and relinquished my seat.

A small green tinged child vomited all over my friend’s Sunday best just as he settled. The sickly boy extensively decorated the floor where my pack had sat seconds ago. My eyes met with the elderly chap as he toiled with crumpled newspaper and we chuckled. Some ironies do not require a common language. “Gustav is still here”. Our bus rumbled and bounced; squeaking and fuming further away from Westernisation we penetrated deep into the heart of Ecuador. The air, now tasted not smelt, held a zesty whiff of vomit lurking beneath body odour and diesel.

While gingerly negotiating a windy pass our driver stomped on the brakes and caused them to squeal in surprise. Peering through my window I discovered what triggered this stop. Despite the scratches, dents and greenery plastered across its battered red side, it looked like the one which left before us. Sitting mutely on its side like a discarded toy, was the bus which had abandoned me earlier. It was missing a roof. A drunken driver misjudged a corner and sent the bus hurtling over this mountainous pass. An extended Friday night binge claimed twenty lives that day, including the driver’s. I mentally apologised to Gustav for doubting him as my bus rolled sombrely on.

Weeks later I was to discover that travel angels do not work alone. I was labouring through an icy blue wonderland with my friend Vincent. Crampons in crunchy snow and impermeable pants singing a tired requiem. Vincent is an amiable Dutch medical student I befriended at my Spanish School. He had asked me with religious fervour to show him the mountains so we could share His playground.

We had turned back while climbing Cotopaxi volcano, Ecuador’s second highest peak2, as snow conditions signalled avalanche. With aching bones we toiled to disembark the mountain, moving as quickly as fatigue allowed. Circling down the mountain we watched awestruck as the rising sun poured hazy violet over a new day. The cool blue which coloured our world for the last ten hours slowly warmed to pink. Behind me Vincent stopped babbling through his balaclava abruptly as the rope which connected our fates snapped taut. I looked back to see his slender frame cut in half. A snow bridge had rudely collapsed, plunging him unceremoniously and waist deep into a crevasse. Vincent cried out when I turned to run away. Forgetting the rope attached to his harness he thought I was abandoning ship. Throwing my weight onto the rope I pulled until our connection extracted my friend from a snowy grave. My Dutch friend slowly emerged, clawing grey faced at the ice like a frightened new born zombie.

Every downhill step calmed my friend but my mind was racing; What if I had chosen a different Spanish School? What if I had decided to go to the beach with the others, leaving Vincent to climb alone? I pictured Gustav silently scheming with a clog wearing angel, pointing out a particular “Learn Spanish” brochure on that rack as I passed; piquing my interest in this climb; tickling memories of rope rescue lessons just before Vincent fell

The safety officer with the polished blue badge finishes his scampering and sits apprehensively for landing. Two jumbo tyres explode on hot tarmac. Re-ticketing and company spiels cost me an extra sixteen hours before I excitedly arrive at my hostel in Rio. 

My titillation fades with the realisation that I have missed the party by eleven years. I go to bed early, a grandfather of the hostel. Drunken revellers return throughout the night, submitting to oblivion under threadbare sheets. 

At 2am I wake to find the dorm full of smoke. Neither extinguisher, fire blankets or lucid helper are at hand. A fire is licking upwards from a wall fan, gaining momentum by feeding on cheap plywood. I dash to rouse the slumbering receptionist who follows me to the fire, wielding a wet towel. I slowly make a connection and grab the wet towel away; electrical fire, no water. A dry duvet quells the flames. Three nearby bodies do not even pause their drunken snoring throughout the excitement. 

With the emergency abated I steal a well deserved beer from the communal fridge and sit, bug eyed on a balcony which faces a twinkling city. 

I sit alone on my hard seat and ponder in the muggy night air. I realise that, no matter how bad a situation may seem, wherever you may find yourself in a journey or the world, you are exactly where you need to be (I also discover that this hostel is infested with mosquitos). There is no point trying to force your will upon a journey, it will set its own course regardless. Maybe the whole point of travel is to show us how little, how insignificant, how utterly powerless we are against forces of chance and mishap. Fourteen months of travel have certainly subdued my inner control freak. Maybe we can all relax and trust our Gustavs a little more.

On behalf of the oblivious people sleeping in my room that night I thank Gustav for delaying my flight. I continue to quietly thank him; for hijacking my ride on that bus and for introducing me to Vincent, amongst countless others. Finishing my now warm beer I resolve to make his job easier by going home.

Even travel angels need a holiday. grey My travel Angel

Blind date

grey Blind dateYesterday I had a blind date who bought along his regular partner, the previous night I cooked a steak on the smallest barbecue I have ever seen and watched four Danish blokes gaily hurling a Frisbee at each others bottoms.

Jette and I had plans to catch up with our friends Mette and Kenneth again. Being summer ( sorry, had to mention it), being summer (sorry), we decided to meet in the park for a barbecue. There is a lovely grassy park just four blocks away from our apartment, locals frequent this area to throw a frisbee, cook or to simply lie near a tree under blankets giggling. By the time Jette and I arrived, Mette and Kenneth had claimed a good spot and had settled in. Kenneth and I messed around with the barbecue coal speaking slowly in a man-ish way while the girls caught up on news. Second only to talking about the weather Danish people love cooking on small Webber Barbecues. Small. Kenneth’s barbecue is big enough for six sausages, perfect for cooking for four. I had wondered what I find see when Jette said they were bringing their barbecue along. Finally, after I put out the coals by replacing the lid and Kenneth singed a finger relighting them, we had enough heat to cook.

While eating our steaks and generally relaxing in the sun (it was almost 8:30pm and still light which I can never get used to) we spotted four young chaps throwing a frisbee. They were all wearing jeans cut off short and white polo tops. I don’t want to cast dispersions but they did look like the type who view changing rooms less as an awkward necessity and more of a buffet, if you get my drift. Not that this kind of thing bothers my in any way. The boys were gleefully standing in a circle throwing a Frisbee and running around giggling like schoolgirls. Whenever one lad dropped the Frisbee twice they would punish him. He was made to stand facing away from his friends while they others got three free shots at his bum (with the Frisbee). They soon tired of this game and had a pushup competition, the winner convincingly destroyed the competition with three and a half. We tired of watching them when they forgot about the Frisbee and started playing tag while clapping open handed and laughing hysterically. Being a school night we contained our drinking and…actually we didn’t drink at all,  packed up early. Another great night with mates. (By the way, if anyone living in Vietnam is reading this Kenneth and Mette are lovely people, they will be in Hanoi in October, can you invite them over for dinner?)

grey Blind datePreviously in the week I contacted Dieter who runs the climbing centre to ask if he knows anyone needing a belaying partner. Dieter gave me the email address of an Italian beginner Federico and told me to contact him. Federico replied to my email saying that he would be more than happy to climb with me so we arranged to meet last night at the climbing gym, 6pm.

At the gym and having no idea what Federico looked like I asked a chap in the change room if his name was Federico. He guardedly replied; “No, my name is Arthur…but I am meeting someone with that name, do you have an appointment with him”

“Not as such mate, my name is Ben, I emailed Federico and we arranged to climb together tonight, are going to join us?”

“I…Federico is my regular climbing partner, this is our normal climbing time, he didn’t say he was seeing someone else…”

With Arthur searching my face for giveaway clues to why Federico would try online dating I went on to explain that I was new to the gym and Dieter had given me Federico’s email to help me find a climbing partner. I felt somewhat like a scarlet woman, but, as I explained my situation Arthur dropped his guard and told me they both were new to the ‘scene’ and that he would love to have a third person join in. Federico was late so Arthur and I went out to climb. It was wonderful to have a rope partner, I was starting to get bored with the shorter unroped routes. We were gleefully climbing away on the beginner routes when Federico arrived and apologized to Arthur for being late. As Arthur lowered me from the top I watched them chatting. Slowly I floated to the ground, feeling something like an unexpected dancer crashing a Ballet performance, and introduced myself to Federico. The three of us spent a brilliant three hours trying out new routes and setting climbing challenges for each other; “Only use the blue holds this time” and “try doing it without using that big easy grip” I had a much more intense workout than previously on the low routes, with only one small fright.

Being very new to climbing of any sort Federico is still learning the mechanics of belaying. We discussed signals for the climber to communicate to the belay with. One slap on the wall means holds me here for a rest, two slaps, like tapping out in wrestling, means I am done, bring me down. I had just reached the top of a new route and tapped out. Federico started lowering me from my perch ten metres up. He somehow lost his grip on the rope and sent me into free fall for half a meter or so before grabbing the rope again. This is not very far at ground level but was definitely far enough to give me a little rush of blood up on the wall. As my harness caught me I looked down to see Federico stumbling with the sudden shock of my weight on the rope. He regained his composure and started lowering me again, much more slowly this time. Once my feet were safely on the ground again I looked at Federico who was slightly embarrassed at his little stumble. I just I told him that I am in hurry to get back to the ground and thanks for catching me.

Arms totally pumped out I rode the girl bike home and passed a quality evening boring Jette by excitedly re-telling stories about the climbing. What a fantastic blind date, not one but two new people to climb with now. This is handy as Federico is going home to Italy on Sunday for a holiday.

This morning I woke hardly able to life my coffee to my lips and realised that I have never woken up this sore after a blind date before.

Life 2.0

grey Life 2.0Jet lag is a bitch. Jet lag halves your intellect and reasoning abilities and has an amazing ability to make you mess up words. The first half a day or night or so is not so bad, adrenaline and fresh sights put jet lag in the background. When the adrenaline wears off however fatigue descends like a heavy coat and you find yourself waking at 2:30am wanting lunch or dozing off at midday in a cafe after ordering a flat white chair, one peanut.

For few weeks now I have been working on a devious scheme to beat combat this nasty ailment. Back home in Tasmania I have been staying awake until around 4am then waking at 11am, this was possible as all I needed to do at home was pack, work on my book and help Dad wade through his collection of fine scotches… Sorry how rude, for those who don’t know, my name is Ben. Fourteen months ago I liquidated my blue collar life and threw all my cards in the air, and I mean all of them. While waiting for them to land with a new direction for me I busied myself by running around the place having a few adventures while meeting some wonderful people.

The most wonderful person I met goes by the name of Jette (‘Yeh-teh’, not Yeti or Jetty). Jette is Danish, she comes from Denmark, that small flat country on the other side of the world where people eat prawns in mayonnaise and pickled herring for breakfast. At first this distance seemed inconvenient, Denmark is as far as you can travel from Tasmania without dodging polar bears. Thankfully, after we met during my last walkabout (while cruising the Galapagos islands, I know, I know!), we managed to cross paths a few more times and stay in regular contact thanks to the wonder that is the internet. During my travels I unearthed a latent love for writing, it had been lying dormant since I suffered that teenage phase of penning dark, forlorn musings and burying them in the backyard for later. I needed to be with Jette and wanted to explore writing, the problem was how to combine the two? Obvious solution; move to Denmark, study writing online.

Day one

I mentioned before that Denmark is a long way from my native Tasmania. My move to Aarhus cost me 31 hours and 40 minutes in transit, 63 episodes of Masterchef for you couch warriors. Continuing my little scheme to beat jet lag I set my clock to Denmark time when I got on the plane in Melbourne, I would now sleep according to Denmark time. This meant staying awake until a stop over in Hong Kong, 7am in Australia. This presented little problem as a) I was excited and b) the Chinese lady next to me promptly fell asleep and attacked my nostrils with a barrage of flatulence that would continue for the 10 hour flight. I sat down in my seat, removed my heavy boots (avoiding excess luggage fees by wearing all my heavy clothes), put on my ugg slippers (no comment please) and started watching a bad movie about a strange boy and his mother, a nurse who raped an unconscious soldier to get pregnant. Three movies later, convinced I would be having an image free nightmare involving only the sense of smell, we were let off the plane in Hong Kong. I did not want to hold up proceedings so went straight to the new gate, paced up and down the travelators then discovered the free wifi and sent a few emails before getting back on the plane.

The farting Chinese individual had thankfully been replaced with a very agreeable miner from Perth who had missed his flight to the Greek isles and was flight hopping in an effort to catch his girlfriend. Chris didn’t fart. After a brief chat he fell deeply asleep and hardly stirred for the remaining 12 hours. Soon bored with focussing on the little screen in front of me I struck up a conversation with the older chap across the aisle. He and his wife were off on a ten day cruise starting in Amsterdam. We shared the shallow conversation of two complete strangers thrown into contact, soon out of surface layer banter we went back to work. Him squinting at Sudoku, me being restless and needing to stretch. Towards the back of the plane I looked out over Siberia while trying to unknot my back and legs when I struck up a conversation with a tall long haired chap. He was on his way to the UK to work on a documentary on crop circles, now this was more like it. Before long I had moved to the vacant seat next to him and we were sharing travel tales and photos, him drinking beers, me on the water. This guy has lived! Throughout his life Greg had been a maths teacher, a musician, traveler, in the 80’s he crashed the party that Alan Bond threw in Europe after winning the Americas Cup. Greg showed me his documentary in progress and explained some of the more wild theories thrown up by the drum banging types who are invariably found around crop circles. Two hours later the beers which Greg was drinking were making him louder and louder so I decided it was time for me to return to my position, seat 70G.

One salt laden, ankle swelling meal later I was in London, Heathrow airport, the fourth busiest in the world and easily the most multicultural. Feeling like Will Smith in Men in Black when he was shown the alien departure lounge with time to kill I perched myself near a window, attacked a salt free fruit salad and started counting planes. One took off every 30 seconds from the one runway in sight, amazing. I was really too tired to care. Next leg, London to Copenhagen. Jette assured me that if I got off the plane quickly in Copenhagen I would be able to run and catch the direct train to Aarhus avoiding the following train that stops at every station along the length of the country. We landed ten minutes early and, being seated near the front of the plane, I was looking good for a quick getaway. After five minutes of standing with my head against the overhead locker with my bag in my hand ready to fly the captain came over the intercom. “Ladies and Gentlemen, sorry for the delay, we have had a warning alarm come on with the sky-corridor, it would be best if you took your seats while we get an engineer to asses the problem.

Thirty five minutes of sitting right near the quick train passed before we were let off. I unashamedly ran around cramped up old people, nearly trampled a few tired kids, was the first through immigration, stood right near where the bags come out of the conveyor, grabbed my bags, didn’t declare my massive cache of antibiotics (for later in the year), ran to the train and promptly missed it.

When Albert Einstein wrote his most famous work he was right that time slows down as you increase in speed. He missed mentioning that time also slows down the closer you get to your destination. The train paused at each stop for about one and a half lifetimes. Trees, wind farms and houses passed by at a glacial speed, I feel asleep. I woke when the train pulled into Aarhus station. I ran off the train with my new porta-life strapped on my back and found Jette. Jette had been waiting on the platform also suffering an Einstein time bend for the last two hours.

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