Tag Archives: Ferry

TRAVEL, EAT, SLEEP

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Travel, eat, sleep. Boil mine and Richie’s lives down to their bare bones and there’s little more to them at the moment than these three things: travel, eat, sleep – each element supplied in fluctuating amounts of excess and scarcity.

Among the three, Travel is the undisputed heavyweight champion: the other two, eating and sleeping, are its dependants: we eat as much as necessary to sustain ourselves during our travels, and sleep as much (or in this case, as little) as travel permits. More often than not, we do two of the three activities simultaneously: eating while we travel, sleeping while we travel, and in some cases, dreaming of eating and travel while we sleep.

toying with the idea of sleep

toying with the idea of sleep

Out of the last eleven nights: we’ve travelled from Koh Phangan to Yogyakarta; spent two nights aboard ferries and two aboard trains; had seven changes of bed; entered our 18th and 19th countries in 15 months; and covered a total distance of approximately 3, 500km. No wonder we feel tired!

The panoramas of rice fields and jungle glimpsed from the window of the train from Jakarta to Joygyakarta twist our necks and put our noses out of joint, making us wisftful for experiences we won’t be having, not this time. Volcanoes, crater lakes, rice terraces and national parks beckon from the pages of the Indonesia Lonely Planet, threatening to turn us aside from the task at hand, which is, finding a flightless passage from Indonesia to Australia.

“On our way back to England,” / “next time” / “if we do this jounrey in reverse” I find myself fantasising twice, sometimes three times a day, “we’ll come back here” / “we’ll climb Mt Bromo” / “We’ll visit Ijen” / “We’ll go via Papua New Guinea to the Philippines”. Richie shakes his head, smiling at my optimism. He pretends he knows better but I know for a fact that he too is planning the return journey from Australia to England: first New Zealand, then the Americas from south to north, arriving in Ireland from Canada, from Canada to Wales, then finally across to England. We’re as bad as each other.

Richie, you see, has his heart set on Uluru. Meditating on the red rock would be a peerless way to signal our arrival: “Hello Australia, we are here, please give us the best.” Richie could stage a rave and I’d give Alice a dance performance the likes of which it had never seen, not since Felicia and her feathered friends pulled into Alice in a shiny candy-pink bus. Continue reading

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Castellorizo

“Do the words ‘ella sphinx-a-tinkath-yassu’ mean anything to you?,” I ask Terry, my new Greek friend, over dinner on the waterfront in Koroni. I’m embarrassed by the words I’m saying, which sound like nonsense to my ears, something about a sphinx and tinkerbell.

“Yes,” he answers immediately, surprising me. “It means…” he pauses, trying to think of the correct words in English, “Come, make your heart tight.”

“Tight? Are you sure?”, I ask, needing clarification. He looks out to sea, and rephrases:

“More like strong. Come, make your heart strong,” he says, clenching his fist emphatically. His action makes me feel more confident that what he is saying is closer to a true translation of my Yiayia’s words.

One week after the Greek lesson in Koroni, I’m still thinking about the words of my Yiayia. ‘Ella sphinx-a-tinkath-yassu’. Richie and I are hanging over the rails of a Blue Star Ferry. It’s the 24th hour of our voyage from Piraeus, and the tiny island of Castellorizo is coming into view.

The island has its back to us, a collar of rocky mountains turned up against the heat and glare of the afternoon sun. A deep scar runs across its shoulders, a road purpose-built for army vehicles. The boat is enormous, and Castellorizo, less than 12 square kilometres, is tiny! We wonder how the captain is going to bring the ship into port.

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Corfu

When Giovanni deposits us at the train station in Campobasso, huge clods of clay are stuck to the underside of my boots. I feel like a bunyip. “Look at the state of you,” Richie laughs, as passersby and early-bird commuters gaze in horror at the state of my boots. No self-respecting Italian would be caught dead looking like this.

“Take a photo of me with the train for Julian,” I demand, posing in my grungy boots. The train is a tiny one-carriage affair. It’s a fun ride. I wish my nephew was with me to enjoy the journey, chugging across the mountains of Molise on our way to the sea.

In Termoli there’s enough time to grab some bread, fruit and cheese before jumping back on the train, bound for Brindisi via Foggia. Richie listens to his new Smokey Tentacles mix as the train trundles through a flat landscape of wheat fields and wind turbines. We spot the first trullis – Puglia.

The man who drives the complimentary shuttle bus from the centre of Brindisi to the port customs office looks unimpressed when I press a postcard into his hands.

“Will you post it for me? I ran out of time,” I say, smiling apologetically. He takes the card begrudgingly from my hands. Before he can say ‘no’ we bolt for the ship. We’re late and we only just make it in time.

The boat sets sail from Brindisi at 7pm. I’m elated. In seven hours we’ll be pulling in to the port at Igoumenitsa – my first taste of Greek life.

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The Tangier Dash

On the 23rd of January we set off on the first leg of our ‘overland to Oz’ adventure. In a mad dash to get to Morocco we passed through four countries in half as many days. It’s not a style of travelling I normally endorse, but it’s remarkable how far you can travel in Europe, and how quickly, when you’re motivated by the thought of rejuvenation in warmer climes and spurred on by a hunger for mint tea and cous cous.

We traversed the spaces between Norfolk, England and Tangier, Morocco by bus, bus, train, train, ferry, then bus. Ejected into the sunshine and luminosity of Africa’s northernmost country we pinched ourselves and said with a mixture of surprise and disbelief, “We’re here. What do we do next?” Feeling like Dorothy – a long way from Kansas – we enacted the usual circus of finding ‘gas, food, lodgings’, amid a million entreaties to buy kif, smoke kif, eat kif…

I don’t care what the rest of the world says, Tangier is brilliant! The trees in the street are festooned with spheres of orange – citrus aplenty – and the Medina is alive with exchanges, equal and unequal, of money, goods, services and greetings. “Salam alaikum”. “Hola”. “Bonjour”. “Ca va”.

Fumbling with the currency and our few meagre words of French, we found ourselves a table at a cafe on the Rue de I’talie, taking part in the clamour and elegance of life in the medina by imbibing our first sweet glassfuls of coffee and ‘tae-a-la menthe’ (mint tea).

Everywhere, people were dressed in the local garb: a long-sleeved ankle-length tunic called the ‘djellaba’. Hoods up. Hoods down. Homespun. Viscose. Patterned. Plain. Everyone wore theirs differently. Some women wore head scarves. Others did not. Mobile phones were in hand. Hand carts reeled by… it was Hemingway’s ‘moveable feast’ all over. And after two days of sitting, standing, making connections and trying to stay awake on trains, we were glad to be there. Taking part. Spectating. Savouring. But also, equally, not there: caught in the no man’s land between departing and arriving. ‘Jet lag’, we learnt, is not just for those who travel by plane: it’s as much a psychological as it is a physiological condition.

And like all ‘first’ days in a new country, this one ended in bed, where we hoped to round off the experience with a little sleep. Thereby giving our souls the opportunity to catch up with our bodies – which were viscerally, undeniably, unambiguously in Tangier, Morocco!

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