Now, I-I know that you never miss your water ’til you’re dry…
April in Koh Phangan and my body is a mobile irrigation system. Perspiration seeps unceasingly from pores that never close their eyes on the world. At the slightest sign of exertion – picking up a towel from the floor of the bathroom or tearing a square of paper from the toilet roll – a new response is triggered. I’m wet: perma-wet.
Cotton clothing works overtime in the heat, wicking moisture away from hard-to-reach places. Fresh sarongs, singlets and trousers become sodden in minutes, drooping un-flatteringly from my arms and legs in flaccid pockets that resemble a pelican’s throat pouch. My clothes have a permanent case of tuckshop lady’s arms, or is that just me?
The capacity of my body’s inbuilt sprinkler-system is astounding, if not slightly embarrassing. I’m dishing up salty water all over the place and meanwhile, more than half the island’s households, not to mention their gardens, are screaming out for water. Continue reading
People’s Park dancers, Chengdu
After spending 83 hours on a bus to get there, I was prepared to love Chengdu. Gratefully, it wasn’t a hard task. The city was eminently likeable, not least the Tibetan enclave where we found lodgings at the auspiciously named Holly Hostel.
Growing up on a diet of leanly-timed rain-water showers I felt appropriately guilty as I treated myself to an inordinately long judicious scrub in the hostel shower room.
Sleeping was another matter. After an average of three to four broken half-hour sleeps per day, for four consecutive nights, seated above the rear-axle of a dilapidated Xinjiang bus, I was stymied! My body clearly did not recall how to respond to tender treatment: a bed and clean linen. Horizontality was anathema. My head swam and my legs twitched. There were only two things for it: a walk and a Sichuan hotpot.
Sichuan hotpot (huŏguō), the ultimate food experience
A matter of mere hours before our Kazakhstan visas expired we crossed the border into China. The long-anticipated entry was a landmark for us – 281 days of travel overland from England to China; and six separate attempts for the visa.
Journey: Almaty (Kazakhstan) to Urumqi (Xinjiang, China)
Mode of Transportation: Sleeper Bus
Cost: 8,900 Kazakhstani Tenge ($AUD56)
Duration: 24 hours
Is that Priscilla Queen of the Desert? No, it’s our sleeper bus.
vast spaces in high places
imagine living here
Richie and I tend to eschew the type of tourist ‘experiences’ that require you to part with fistfuls of money. Waiting in line at the Alhambra ticket office in Granada was a fairly joyless experience. Richie fidgeted with his respectably hairy chin and seemed as likely to bolt as a colt after its first taste of the bridle bit.
I watched enviously as tourists who’d had the prescience to buy their tickets online breezed toward the open gates; silk shawls fluttering and leather sandals slapping the hallowed earth.
Eventually, after nearly forty five minutes of waiting, we acquired two tickets. Audio guide NOT included. “You’re kidding,” Richie breathed as he inspected the tickets. 2 hours to fill before the allotted time.
We walked back downhill over the saddle of Sacromonte where the sound of flamenco heels rapping on timber floors was almost sufficiently enchanting to disperse our penny-pinching fugg.
Through white streets; past portholes leading into mountain dwellings (the interiors of which we were never likely to see), we succumbed to the sadness and dislocation of being gypsies… of sorts…
Back up on the Alhambra we made ready to enter with our ticket and tourist map. “Choose wisely which monuments you visit,” the guide warned us, “save your legs.”
Richie’s permaculture perversion did the talking as we followed the shaded cyprus walkway to the gardens of the Generalife.
With the first glimpse of terraced gardens, fountains and scalloped bowls of trickling water everything was forgiven.
Richie was rapt by a series of channels and cisterns transporting flumes of water from terrace to terrace.