People blogs

When life drops a massive, amazing, scary bombshell, you evolve and grin like an idiot! (With a wildly late 2013 wrap up)

This was 2013:
January New Years in Denmark, still love fireworks. 
February Skip out of work for a paragliding road trip.
March Work in a pharmacy arguing with highly strung accountants and lawyers in Melbourne’s CBD.
April Switch to relief pharmacy work instead.
May Marry the most awesome girl in the world.
June Decide to climb a big mountain. Realize my gut has grown. Madly start training.
July Get locum work in Avoca. Ride motorbike in freezing conditions through the only snowfields in Victoria to get there. Enjoy helping sick farmers and ‘real’ people.
August Freak out about gut again. Start training. Stop eating hamburgers.
September Go to Nepal. Get caught in biggest storm in Nepali history. Gut is gone.
October Leave mountain as I enjoy the use of fingers and toes too much.
November Release book. Get awesome feedback. Grin like an idiot. Eat a hamburger.
December Small business course. Start planning more pharmacy work. Tasmanian road trip. New Years watching Billy Connelly with Jette, Mum and Dad.

You probably read this and thought, ‘where is the bombshell?’ Well I hate suspense, the bit in those movies with the quiet violin music and a first person view moving through a darkened room kills me, so here it is:

In the bit between giving up hamburgers and going to Nepal, Jette and I discovered that we are having a baby.

A frikkin’ baby, a little person that we will need to care for and argue with about bedtime and eating vegetables…

We’re making a person.

Mainly Jette.grey When life drops a massive, amazing, scary bombshell, you evolve and grin like an idiot! (With a wildly late 2013 wrap up)

To my relief I have been chosen as the main supporting actor. All things going well, we are expecting a small human to create havoc in late April. Jette is doing great, and the bub is growing and kicking and moving about like something out of Alien, as apparently they should. Despite having written flat out since 2010 I cannot find words to describe how stoked, surprised, scared and thrilled I am with this parcel of news. I am also rather excited that the baby looks like Han Solo in carbonite but I digress.

Clearly things are about to change around here, mainly get noisier and messier, so in the spirit of change I have done some thinking about my future blogging plans. Right about now you are are probably thinking, “He’s going to launch full tilt into the Matrix, picket fences, father’s groups, ironed shirts, saturday ballet practice, all that stuff…”

The Red Rucksack has been, and always will be, an advertising-free space where I recount my adventures and sometimes offer advice (and hopefully some inspiration) to fellow adventurers. I love writing, and have spent an incredible amount of time building this site to be what it is.

There will be updates on here when I have mountainy adventures, and DO NOT STRESS:

Important statement coming … *Hand on chest*.

“I, Benjamin John West, do solemly swear that, despite impending fatherhood, I will still be having plenty of RedRucksack-worthy adventures. Furthmore, I do promise to continue sharing the aforementioned adventures with you here on Updates will continue in the form of the same high kwality posts you’ve come to expect, for free, and as they happen.

I make this statement on this, the twenty-fifth of March 2014 being of  sound mind <mostly> and free of inducement.”

Evidence to support this statement:

  1. Despite our news, Jette continued to encourage and fully support my desire to climb Ama Dablam  (I’d marry Jette twice if I could!).
  2. We are going to Thailand and Denmark mid-July through early September to introduce Cletus (bub’s current name is Cletus-fetus) to Jette’s Danish family and my Saudi Family. I am planning a side-trip to Switzerland to fly paragliders and climb the Eiger.
  3. Jette is as passionate about travel as me, we will be spending as much time abroad as possible.
  4. Tasmania is only 45 minutes away and I simply love playing on home turf.
  5. Cletus is currently kicking and swinging about like a gyroscope, it won’t be long until I am writing daddy/daughter adventures.
  6. I might consider opening up the Red Rucksack to adventure posts from select readers (only if you can ‘spell good and stuff’). This means that when you have adventures I might give you the chance to share your adventures and enjoy this great platform that I have built up over 4 years. Who knows, you may even end up writing a book

So there you have it. Rather than trying to forge on by writing empty ‘Top Ten’ posts or having off topic rants I will maintain the initial focus of the Red Rucksack which is to share quality, free posts about adventures. The main difference is that now you have an opportunity to join the fun.

Watch this space for more paragliding fun and news on my Switzerland trip.

As always, thanks for following.

Blue Skies and Happy Feet to you all…shit I’m going to be a dad! grey When life drops a massive, amazing, scary bombshell, you evolve and grin like an idiot! (With a wildly late 2013 wrap up)


Meet the cast of The Red Rucksack

Just the other day I was thinking about all the fun and amazing people I have met on my journies, the cast of The Red Rucksack if you will. Many of these people would have been diagnosed and medicated in my past life. In my current life they were among the most colourful and exciting (yes sometimes weird) people I have met. If you get a mention below and are reading this you can decide which category you fit in to. I started jotting down a short best of list and thought I would share it with you.  I find that despite the landscapes being breathtaking and the customs and cities amazing it is often the people you meet who leave the strongest impression:


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Andy Chapman -The short, powerhouse, singing maniac I met in Nepal. He spends his life at altitude pulling clients up mountains. His choice of song leaves something to be desired but his patience and ability to laugh under duress is commendable.

Gav and Al -An English couple in their early forties whom I climbed with in Nepal. They made the life decision to pass on kids and to spend their time and energy traveling the world, scuba diving and complaining about the wine list. Great people and good fun.

Dowar -The mountain climbing demi-god I met in Nepal. He and his three brothers hold the guinness world record for family Mount Everest summits I believe at over thirty times. His brothers feature on the label of every Everest Lager bottle. He is the most modest and quiet man I have ever had the pleasure of meeting. He is so quiet and unassuming that for the first few days of the climb I thought he was a learner. It is rumored that once he ran off the summit of Cho Oyu with a sick climber on his shoulders, Cho Oyu is 8000 metres high.

Crazy Travel lady -The lady I met in Gokyo who has been traveling continuously for some twenty one years. She said she came into ‘some money’ at a young age and decided to go for a trip. She had some amazing stories to tell over a cup of tea and a yak steak.

Mark -Andrew Millen’s boss in Mongolia who was desperate for me to visit his favorite massage parlor with him. I didn’t. Otherwise he let us have company cars, helped us plan operation desert storm and was the perfect host.

Mongo -our guard and driver in Mongolia -A six foot tall monster who wears army fatigues and drove Andrew and I around. It turns out he had a wicked sense of humour and drove the Hilux around the Gobi like he was competing in the dakar rally.

Tv show host in Dalanzadgad – When she interviewed us for her travel show did she honestly think she would get sensible answers about travel in the Gobi Desert from two drunk Australians. Even she let out a chuckle as Andrew simulated performing oral sex on his pointer finger behind the camera. I fell off my chair laughing.

Shoulder dictionary -The young chap living on the shores of lake titicaca. I stayed with his family for a night. He spent the day happily perched on my shoulder as we walked around the farm reciting the Spanish word for things that I pointed at. A most agreeable way to learn new words.

‘Rio’ -Peru’s answer to ACDC, their most famous band. The lead singer was most interested in kangaroos. It was funny to see the shock on the black t-shirt wearing rocker’s face when I told him we eat kangaroo burgers in Australia.

Nasca Pilots -Sporting aviator sunglasses these guys are straight off the set from ‘top gun’. They flirt shamelessly with the girls and love to try and scare people by throwing their cessnas around under the guise of giving us a good look at the nasca lines.

Sophita and Nazia -Two law students I met in Miraflores. After dragging Sophita out of a fight we went on to become great friends. They enjoyed learning some choice English words and laughing at my bad salsa dancing. Me, I leant some Spanish and simply loved walking into clubs unshaven and wearing daggy t shirts with two stunning Peruvians on my arm.

Crazy cocaine dealer -Man who pounced every time I walked out of the hostel in Lima and offered me all sorts of mind altering substances. Do I look like some sort of bearded, drug taking hippy or something? (rhetorical)

Earthquake man in Pisco -Man who stopped me in the street and said I should not be out at this hour alone in Pisco. We went on to talk about the increasing crime since the devastating earthquake of 2007 and life in general.

Bus attendant -Yes they have bus attendants on long trips. She upgraded me to an executive seat and helped me throughout the night as I enjoyed a 12 hour bus ride suffering explosive gastroenteritis.

Whip Lady -Lady who makes tourists lie on the ground and then whips them with a vengeance in Chivay, all under the guise of a cultural show. She could get an even higher paid job in a dungeon somewhere I am sure.

King -A Malaysian doctor with a brilliant sense of humour and no fear. A formidable combination. He tried to get us into a high security prison in La Paz by saying that he wanted to visit his cousin inside. He went on to wrestle anacondas in the jungle. His talents are wasted in a small consulting room.

Lonesome George -The famous galapagos turtle who is the last of his species. He produces no sperm so will definitely be the last. The kindly park rangers have put two female turtles from a different species in his pen for ‘companionship, no need for birth control. Not so lonesome George.

Jette and Ann -Two hilarious Danish girls I met on the Galapagos. Never have I laughed so consistently for ten days. Jette came along to Bolivia with me, I popped over to visit her in Denmark. We continued stalking each other around the globe and recently got married in an intimate ceremony in the Tasmanian bush (wearing hiking boots).

American salsa guy -A ponytailed American man in his mid fifties who comes to Quito annually to salsa dance with the locals and to get a break from his wife. The way he was talking about his dancing partners it was more than salsa going on.

Lebanese consul in Ecuador – She filled me with camomile tea as she begged me over the flickering candlelight for money to buy her way out of gaol. I spend a night in Quilatoa with her and her family playing Beatles collector edition monopoly. A most agreeable and random night just when I was starting to feel a little lonely.

Dr Ricardo -The insane Chilean psychiatrist who loves both whiskey and the white powder. He enjoys psychoanalyzing everyone in sight, is intensely intelligent but has a few screws loose. Great fun.

Heavy metal midget -The midget Ozzy Osborne clone who persisted in trying to wrestle with me in a shady biker bar in Quito. He even picked up a chair and threatened to bash me (around the knees) with it if I would not wrestle him. I won.

Ando -The gay flight attendant who lived where I did a language home stay. He kept on asking me if I liked to ‘party’. He never worked out how to say platypus properly.

The Nun -The head nun how was unsure whether to let a hairy Australian into her orphanage under the guise of donating clothes. Her and her team look after some 80 abandoned babies. She has the patience of, well, a nun.

Marcus -The loud surfing Australian I climbed Cotopaxi with. He works as a commercial diver, his stories of accidents and close calls made me convinced that initially I chose the right profession.

Elderly Peruvian man on bus -The man who I gave my seat to, only for him to be promptly vomited on by a small child. Without any words we laughed at the beautiful irony of this moment.

Shaman Alberto -The skinny Iowaska drinking shaman who claims it gives him the ability to see into people’s health like an x-ray machine. I think it just gives him a lovely buzz.

Try hard Gangster people -The cocaine snorting, reggae loving gangsters who kept me up all night with their music and wrestling in Guayaquil. Revenge; putting my ringing alarm clock on their windowsill as I had a 5 am shower on my way to an early flight, genius.

The farmer and his wife -The nice farmer and his wife who let me camp near their home whilst trekking the Huayhuash. They caught and shared fresh trout from the nearby river. They were two of the happiest people I know but only own a few sheep, some basic cooking/fishing gear and one set of clothes. I am glad I left before washing day.

Psychotic French walkers -Three dreadlocked and tattooed French people who got caught high in the mountains of Peru without good equipment or food. They had to endure a forced march out. They went on to join in the riots in Huaraz and took some amazing photos which they sold to the media.

David -My ten year old guide who gave me a tour of his town for the price of a chocolate bar. He even showed me his secret fishing place on the promise that I did not tell anyone. I think in my travels he was the most patient with my Spanish. Good kid.

Mark -The psychotic potato truck driver who gave me a lift into Chiquian after busses were stopped by rioting. He loved getting his bald tyre truck sideways around precipitous corners and scaring the absolute hell out of me while all the time mimicking my accent.

Rosweldt -The rock climbing guide in Huaraz who had a very casual approach to belaying. He managed to both eat a museli bar and answer a phone call whilst I was climbing. The rest of the time I climbed he just enjoyed the views.

Justin -A very eccentric, cross eyed English man who studies language. I first saw him singing at the top of his lungs to an audience of Quechua speaking locals in the Chiquan plaza. He has spent ten months in the highlands of Peru learning and documenting Quechuan and it sure showed.

Bus Lady -The well groomed, neat lady who did not bat an eyelid when I fell asleep on her shoulder and proceeded to drool all over her on a long bus ride through Peru

Lindsay -The bar owning anthropologist who loved studying Bolivian people so much that he married one! Drinks like a fish and has some brilliant tall tales about his exploits in the jungle.

Benjamin - The farmer on the isle del sol who let Jette and I camp on his beach to see in the new year. That night we enjoyed a lake titicaca sunset, each others company and lots of red wine.

Australians in La Paz – With white powder still in their nose hairs they would ask questions rapid fire, not wait for a answer, then ask the next question.  They had been traveling for many months and had not seen the outside of a hostel bar.

Fabio and Sammie - These guys come as a pair. They work as paragliding instructors and own a business doing stunts for the movie industry. They do an amazing dance on the wind and are very laid back guys.

Art – an eighty something year old grandfather who decided that learning to paraglide would be fun.  Art drunk almost a bottle of wine each night, joined in the parties with gusto and actively encorouged our aerial paintball idea. The world needs more Arts.

Martin - Belgium tandem paragliding pilot. He agrees wholeheartedly with passengers when they say he is awesome. Wears an inca style vest and never once helped with the washing up.

Gay motorbike riding-paraglider man from Germany with the hash - No real story here, he was just hilarious.

It is these guys, and many, many more who have made my journey so very full of colorful memories. If you have travelled with me and didn’t get a mention, Sorry!!

Get the full story here (click on book):

grey Meet the cast of The Red Rucksack

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Curious? Get the full story here (click on book):

grey Meet the cast of The Red Rucksack


Hostel people

Picture this, we walk through the front door of a great looking hostel located in. How do you know how to speak with, who to avoid and who to chat up? Below are some pointers to surviving hostel people.

Reception staff

Generally good looking females in their mid to late twenties. There are two reasons a good looking twenty-ish year old lady will find herself behind the chipped counter with check-in forms photocopied beyond recognition;

  1. She needs to the money to be here
  2. She is in love with a local

The lady who needs money to be here will hate you on principal as you are just bumming about. The lady who is in love with a local does not find it endearing that you wrote “Yes please” instead of male or female and that your job is apparently “Exotic dancer”. She will just want to finish her shift then hustle over to Juan’s place forsex. Despite neither receptionists being friend material be polite…be very polite. These ladies hover their fingers over that door buzzer as you frantically dial the intercom at 3am and watch as a lynch mob of unhappy husbands or wives close in. Be polite.

You get to your room and carefully try to fit your valuables into  locker the size of a postage stamp, on the bottom bunk seemingly dead is

Catatonic person

Two reasons can explain this catatonia. Either this person is a hard core solo traveler, they will ghost themselves away in the early hours and explore more of this country before breakfast than you will in three months. Not friend material. Even if they are lovely people, you would never keep up. The other explanation is that this bag of meat on the bed imbibed too much last night, no bother, you will meet them when the bar opens.

You have a shower, pick month old hair from your toenails, dress in your traveling best and go to the bar. Look around but don’t rush to sit down, a mistake here could be fatal to your friend mission. Leaning against the bar are two seasoned

Hostel hoppers

Don’t go there. These guys can travel for months or even years without seeing the outside of seedy hostel bars. I once stayed in a Peruvian hostel for one night before embarking on an epic two week trek in the Andes. Upon my return I saw the same two people guys holding up the same bit of bar and having the same generic “My what a cute accent, Annie was it…” conversation as when I left them. They will most definitely want to be your friend, that is until a cute German girl is in range, then they will just mock your Australian-isms and shun you in a feeble attempt to look cool.

Keep looking, oh those guys at the pool table seem to be having fun.

Pool table jocks

Pool tables are to bar conversation what internet dating is to awkward people breeding. Pool table jocks are neither interesting nor engaging. They use pool as a lubricant to try to hide the fact that they have nothing interesting to say about, well anything. Keep it in your back pocket though. You notice that hanging around the bar are some locals

Local lurkers

A risk, sometimes a risk worth taking. Generally locals come to hostels for one of two reasons; Shag a backpacker or to sell drugs, sometimes both. They ingratiate themselves with the pool table jocks in the vague hope that the pool table jocks will draw some good looking, fun girls into their net.

What about the bar tenders they look friendly, clean….

Bar staff

Bar staff are the male equivalent of the reception staff with a much higher sex drive, they would root their awkward auntie patsy if she put on a nice frock. Bar staff are great to chat to for the first few drinks but invariably the conversation will quickly descend to a one sided discussion about which girl in the room looks to be a sure bet. Get in, learn the cheap tours and sightseeing tricks and get out.

God, this is looking grim, what about that gaggle of good looking girls sitting apart from everyone else?

Pretty girl table

Now this pretty table of girls invariably will have inherited a male guard dog at some point in their trip. The girls keep him around in a hope that he could provide some protection from the pool table jocks, the guy hangs around in the hope that at some point he could get laid. In nature this is called a symbiotic relationship. If there is no guard dog go for it, have a chat. If there is, steer clear, generally guard dogs take their duty very seriously.


Well the dusty old mexican looking dude pushing the broom. Always a sure bet for some stimulating conversation, try to see him looking for a cigarette then whip in with one before he can say “Hola”. Locals working in hostels are always a sure fire bet for a good yarn, local intelligence and a laugh. You will not regret spending that $1.50 shouting any of them a drink, usually. But he finishes work and goes home too quickly. Look around the bar, what about that weird, lonely looking dude staring at his laptop?

Guy sitting by himself on computer writing about people in hostel – Hi, what took you so long?

Brain eating, adrenaline zombies – BASE jumping switzerland

grey Brain eating, adrenaline zombies   BASE jumping switzerland

From my extensive youtube experience I had formed the impression that all BASE* jumpers and wing suit flyers were completely crazy demi-gods without any regard for personal safety, I mean they don’t even carry a reserve chute, no time to deploy one anyway. Standing ten feet tall with icy blue eyes they are devoid of fear and spend their days thirsting for the next adrenaline hit like a zombie thirsts for brains. Well, I have now had the pleasure of chatting with three BASE jumpers, they definitely don’t all have icy blue eyes, they were friendly people who were BASE jumping Switzerland style.

My friend who I came to Switzerland to paraglide with sadly has to work the rest of the week due to a colleague hurting his back. The weather around St Gallen was not looking good for flying anyway so I have made my way to Interlaken, the spiritual home of BASE jumping and one of the closest towns to the famous Eiger north face. Fabio set me right with some local knowledge

“Don’t go to Interlaken, it is full of American and Korean tourists. Go to Lauterbrunnen instead, stay at the Hotel Horner. This is where all the BASE jumpers stay, cool guys, cheap rooms and they usually have space.”

grey Brain eating, adrenaline zombies   BASE jumping switzerland

So after a very relaxing four hours commuting on the ridiculously efficient Swiss railway system, watching cuckoo clock and chocolate factories slide by I lobbed into the Hotel Horner. Making my way to my room I had my first, and least successful, conversation with a real life BASE jumper. She was a tall, but not quite ten feet tall, French lady with blue eyes, not icy cold however, more like glacial runoff cold. She was packing a chute in the hallway. Thinking to myself;

“You are about to meet your first BASE jumper, try to seem a bit hardcore…” I tried an offhanded Hi.

She looked up and inspected my paraglider bag which, by the way, looks like an unwieldy snail’s carapace. I was somewhat intimidated under this silent gaze and started to babble.

“Have you just done a jump? About to go again then? Looks like fun hey…”

“Hello. Oooh a paraglider pilot, do you do tandems?”

“Hi, yeah, no, not yet. I am just learning and don’t have the experience to take passengers yet.”


This ended her interest in conversation!

Once is was clear that I would not be able to help her jump from a paraglider the French sounding lady summarily dismissed me by going back to packing her chute.

Okay, so now all the BASe jumpers I have personally met are single minded adrenaline junkies.
grey Brain eating, adrenaline zombies   BASE jumping switzerland

I settled into my room before going for a walk.

Strolling down the valley towards Trachsellauenen, which is flanked by 500 meter high cliffs, I had the sun on my back, a smile on my face and my mind was wandering. I heard a weird sound and looked up.

A silhouetted super-bat thing came screaming over the cliff top. Before I could get my camera out, the chute opened and he floated down to a nearby paddock. It is hard to describe just how incredibly fast the man was going. It seemed like he materialised out of thin air, the suit made a buzzing sound like a kite being flown in a hurricane. I sat drinking tea for the next two hours with my eyes scanning the cliffs. Even from my safe perch on the bench I got a buzz of adrenaline whenever a whooshing silhouette would materialise. I can only imagine the kind of adrenaline thrill these guys on top getting.

grey Brain eating, adrenaline zombies   BASE jumping switzerlandOn the bus back I got chatting to Dillon and Andrew, two very mellow Aussie jumpers. Both seemed like ordinary chaps they were wearing the obligatory Aussie-abroad uniform of board shorts, peaked cap and blue singlet. Asking them about their experience Dillon explained how he got into the sport;

“It is a weird thing mate. I started skydiving, loved it. Went into BASE jumping with a few goals and the definite promise to get in/get out, you know. Once I had ticked off my list, however, my mates and I started trying wing suits and currently my get in/get out mission is out the door. I want to go closer to the wall…you know.”

Exchange ‘BASE jumping’, ‘wingsuiting’ and ‘closer to the wall’ with ‘Marijuana’, ‘amphetamine’ and ‘heroin’ and you have the image which was in my mind. Top guys though and not completely insane, just passionate about a sport which is getting increasingly safe as the technology improves.

Now with the sun setting and dinner done I have just finished a beer with Andrew. He told me that nowadays he sets a limit of 3 jumps a day, just like his big wave surfing that has become more controlled. Andrew went on to explain that the last time he was here on holidays he had a 3 week jumping bender, 6-8 jumps a day. The whole time his hands were shaking uncontrollably and he was getting all kinds of weird nerve tinglings across his face and twitches. Maybe an overload of Adrenaline and cortisol? Who knows. Having met few jumpers, seen many jumps and looking around the pub right now I have a new theory.

I think that the only mad BASE jumper is the one doing it for the first time. After that you know what to expect and can set more realistic goal for the sport. The people around me are normal people with a love for a different kind of sport not brain eating adrenaline Zombies…well mostly, I am still unsure about that French girl.

*BASE jumping is written in capitals as it is an acronym standing for Buildings, Aerial (as in radio aerials), Structure and Earth, the stuff they like to jump from. Hence a BASE from a paraglider is not actually a base jump but technically a skydive from an aircraft…yup, I am a nerd.

grey Brain eating, adrenaline zombies   BASE jumping switzerland

People on a plane


grey People on a plane

During my various flights and waits in airports on this journey, as is bound to happen, I have met a few interesting People on a plane. This got me thinking about the types of people you bump into on a commute:

The fretter

Whilst waiting to check in at Melbourne international I met my first fretter. He was a balding chap wearing a safari shirt and a bumbag (the international fretter’s uniform). we were at the back of the queue but I was not concerned, we still had

over two hours until takeoff. Fretter scurried up with his eyes darting from clicking departure board to board. With beading forehead and frown working overtime he turned to me;


“Is this the check in queue for Bangkok?”

“Yeah mate”

(there were no less the eight screens in front of us displaying all the flight numbers and code sharing numbers)

“Do you reckon we will have time, it’s a big queue?”

“Yup easy, customs is really quick in the morning”



“Good, good, my travel agent assured me I will have time but it is a big line…are you sure?”

“She’ll be fine mate, don’t worry. Where are you going? What have you got planned?”

I find that most fretters are impossible to console, distraction is a safer option; ‘I am stressed’ is best replied with ‘Oh look, something shiny’

I turned to the guy in front who was busily ‘hhmhping’ in a freakishly bovine manner and commenting on the slowness of the line. Immediately upon asking “where are you going?” I realised that this tall, lanky guy was different to my animated friend behind….

grey People on a plane

The mistrusting guy

This type of commuter is suspicious of everyone. When I finished my question he shifted his bags away from my feet and placed himself between me and his bags…well the flight was to Bangkok and I was wearing my weird hippy pants… Never, never waste time or energy on the mistrusting guy, they spend their entire commute staring down coloured children or obsessively checking their itineraries for errors. If you ever meet a mistrusting guy at a hostel or bar, just walk away, trust me!

I find my seat on the plane next a friendly, well dressed indian chap leaning forward to tuck my book into the seat pocket I suddenly realise that I had been seated next to,

The farter

There is not much to say here. If, like me, you don’t wear your Sunday best on a plane a snappily dressed Indian farter beside you will seem innocent of any smells wafting around the vicinity. Despite him wolfing down Hindu vegetarian curries continuously for the entire ten hour flight everyone within four rows was looking suspiciously at me. Slumped against the window seat I noted was a

Sleeping girl

I have only seen a few true examples of this retiring creature on commutes, their talent is rare and much envied on extended flights. Once their seatbelt goes clicks and before the safety spiel finishes they will tilt their head to one side, close their eyes peacefully and not stir for the entire flight. While watching her slumber enviously I decide that there had to be drugs involved. Looking around the sleeping cabin I spotted a faint glow coming from the middle of a row and realise that; Ladies and Gentlemen we have a

grey People on a plane


The flight attendants will have to wrench his iPad or Gameboy out of his hands on final approach. I suspect that airlines position gamers on every flight and they are the ones really flying the plane, the guys in front are just terrorist decoys.

A thirteen hour ‘Angry Birds’ bender is just a warm up for the gaming man. I imagine they scuttle to their hotel in exotic lands to “Just finish this level…” They ignore any offer of food or water and sit bolt upright for the entire flight, gleefully tapping away and chuckling to themselves. Small ‘pings’ and clicks come from their earphones as they sit stock still, unaware of any clot which may be forming lower down in their legs. Having never seen one move for the toilet I can only assume that they are blessed with freakishly large bladders along with their ninja thumbs. While looking at the Gamer for signs of life my knee is bumped by

The Wanderer 

Getting up every ten minutes or so, the wanderer will never risk DVT or cramp. They have an uncanny knack of finding knees in the dark to bump, they facilitate their movement by pulling hard on the back of each headrest en route. They melt into the darkness before registering a wake of annoyed grunts being produced.

Now, I pre-booked my seats like any good commuter thinking I would be set for a decent slumber on the last leg (Bangkok to Copenhagen). I arrived at seat 29B full of promise to find seat 29A occupied by

The single mum

Yup, a nervous looking Thai lady watched me stow my bags before apologetically introducing herself…and the 10 month infant on her lap.

The long haul

I decided to do what I would if it were my niece (no, not tip Phenergan down her throat) I was polite and tried to make friends with this ticking bomb and her mother.

No success, tough crowd.

I got chatting to mum and found out that not only was she ‘The single mum‘ she was also

The exploited

I last met a group of exploited when I flew from Kathmandu to Doha in 2010. A large group of excited Nepalese men were flying to Doha for work. Little did they know they would spend upwards of 12 hours a day in forty degree (celcius!) heat building opulent mansions for rich oil barons.

The lady sitting next to me told me she was flying to the Faroe Islands (A small archipelago north of England, closer to the North pole). She looked at her daughter lovingly and told me she was moving there to marry a man who she has neither met nor knows, her eyes betrayed the story. I spend the next ten hours helping mum to keep baby happy and at the airport explaining customs procedure to her.  By the way the child turned out to be a little ‘sleeping girl’ angel and hardly made a peep, maybe she picked up on her mother’s inner turmoil.

Now on the final leg of my commute I am pleased to have avoided the worst kind of commuter:

The Guru

This guy has been to most places, he is not scared to share his philosophy with all and sundry;

“My wife and I saved for years to go to London last summer”

“Oh no…not in summer! London is faaar better in spring”

The Guru generally wears those loose cotton pants favoured by hippies (but he looks natural in them…not like other posers). Guru watches other commuters with their bumbags, safety belts and printed itineraries. He strides around airports and through immigration confident in his ability to handle anything the commute may throw at him. More often than not he will have his own blog site…


I have not met a Guru for a long time….but I do just love Denmark in the summer, you must go in the summer….


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This business partnership has expired.” Ben has no idea what adventures are in store when he sets out to discover what lies over that next mountain.

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