New year fireworks outside Australia are awesome!

I was in a small town outside of Zurich a few years ago for NYE. Her house is slightly higher than her town and you could face any direction from there and the horizon was a sea of fireworks. At my cousins unit in the middle of Vienna he took a video 360 degrees and it’s the same. It’s just everyones personal fireworks everywhere. Brazil is the same as this video shows from a plane.

And Amsterdam

Time logging and the human brain

“Wasn’t it just Christmas? How did we get here again so fast? It’s like I blinked and it’s Christmas again. What the hell happened to the year?!!”

I’ve definitely said this. When does it happen. When I’m just cracking along, going to work, going to do exercise. No really communicating with anyone much more than

“Hey, howzertgoin’ ?”

“Yeaarp, origh'”

“K, better get working”

“Yeaarp, same. L8r”

“L8r”

Most sports are very non interactive as well. I go, I train, I leave.

I go, I surf, I leave.

I go, I sail, I go home.

Conversations are more or less the above.

Yet, I recall incidences wandering around where I’ve thought that an event happened 6 or more weeks ago, but it was less than 10 days ago.

Other times where I feel like I’ve been on the road traveling for at least 6months relative to time in suburban (non)-reality and it’s only been weeks.

It took a bit of pondering to figure out why. The answer seems to be the number of people I spend time with doing nothing much. When spending time with people doing nothing much, real friendships are created. If I’m doing something specific with someone, then they don’t necessarily seem like someone I know well. It’s really the NOTHING which creates the SOMETHIING between mates.

If I think to the people I consider more as friends than acquaintances, they are the ones I’ve spent the most boring times with (from a doing perspective). Boring is probably a poor word to use, but if another asked what we were doing…

“Nuthin’ much” would be the reply.

Thus my brain seems to log length of time by the amount of different people I spent time with doing NOTHING much comfortably, where the conversation was non specific, or there was no conversation at all.

Going back to Dalio’s idea of happiness being correlated with community and meaningful work, rather than level of material wealth or intelligence, this observation fits quite well.

The times working where I’d work from the time I woke up to past when I should go to bed, 7days a week for months on end almost feel like they never happened. I had the material wealth resultants (sometimes), but the time vanished. Hitchhiking / traveling around with almost nothing, or not traveling, just munging out with mates (so called) wasting time, appears to hold rather large time slots in my head.

A note on this. Facebook and social media do not seem to hold much in the way of time slots in my mind. They just feel like looking through old photo albums of times long past, or trying to write communications to someone who is not here. Having said that, I’ve actually had people say to me “…,but we did catch up!!”

“Huh, when?”

“On Facebook.”

Interesting that social media is counted as a real interaction now. I am really starting to see that many only interact though screens.

My cousin once said “I wish aliens would land or something.”

“Why?”

“Cause everything is just so boring and the same. I want something exciting to happen.”

Well, the adventure lies in the street outside your house. Take a backpack and some camping gear, walk out your front door and keep walking with your thumb out. Someone will give you a lift eventually. It could be 20 minutes or 6 hours till they do, but they will.

Is it dangerous? Society will tell you it is, but so is adventure. Adventure has risk otherwise it wouldn’t be adventure. You will spend many hours in vehicles doing NOTHING much with the people who give you a lift. They will spill their guts to you about everything that’s happening in their lives. You will get the real news about what’s going on in that geographic location. And 7 days on the road may feel like 5months or a year in your normal life. If you had to write an essay on that week as opposed to your normal 5months, you’ll more than likely have about the same amount of words if not more.

The accidental discovery of hitch hiking

Sitting at the Banana Bungalow backpackers in Wailuku scratching my head on how to get east to all the windsurfing beaches with all my stuff. A taxi would have been the obvious choice, but I was well versed in the art of frugality and wanted to be able to stay here for a time interval measured in months instead of weeks. The cash I’d saved was from 2nd year apprenticeship wages which really wouldn’t even total enough in Australia to pay the rent. Living at home with the parents allowed me to save a few shekels.

There were no trains or buses or any other form of public transport at the time. Somebody at the backpackers said “Why don’t you hitch?”

I don’t think I knew what to say. At the time I was still socially conditioned by an inner suburban mindset from Sydney and Melbourne. The echos of people back home saying “You’re mad”, but here on Maui it seemed normal.  It was just under 20km to Paia and it worked. I made it to the Mana Foods notice board where I found a advert for a car for sale. I bought it and didn’t think about hitching again for a long time. However I picked up many hitchers on Maui.

Some years later I was in West Oz and I had to hitch for this reason or that. I think I may have had to get from Margaret River to Perth. I was washing dishes for a job earning $50 per week less than the dole paid. I may have hitched in another frugality effort.  After one of those short 300kmish hitches to Perth and back the idea dawned on me. “What if I took a tent and a camp stove?”

I really don’t know why I didn’t think of it before. Until then a major frustration of traveling was that i had to save for fuel and what ever else my car needed before I could get to the next place. For instance I arrived in Margaret River with negative $35.00 and Broome smack on $zero dollars.

People said I was freaking nuts and I’d get raped by some trucker. However they also told me that I’d probably die driving across the Nullabour and if I stopped in the wrong place I’d get my eyes hacked out by aboriginals with sticks. What an utter crock that was!! (Man, the native people of Australia get a bad wrap. I’ve been given lifts from so many Australian natives and had so many positive experiences.  I really feel sad for them. You can see it in their self esteem. They are actually more awesome people than they think they are, but that’s another blog post.)

So far I’d only hitched rides with awesome people. I also theorised that urban myths were just that, myths. I realised that sometimes wrinkles meant wisdom, but most of the time ingrained social conditioning. Age != (does not necessarily equal) wisdom. And raped by a trucker?? Has anyone looked at a trucker? They’re usually unhealthy on the physical side of things. They sit in a truck, eat truck stop food and do no exercise. I go to the gym, eat good food, and do several sports. Who’s got the upper hand here?

What people say usually does not make sense when you think about it. I had so many reasons thrown at me as to why I couldn’t hitch hike. You’ll get cold, lost, run out of money, abducted, stabbed, raped and so on and so on. It just did not make sense. Yes every one of these things are possible, but no more possible than in daily life. At the time I spent a lot of time going to pubs and night clubs and I reasoned that if I could handle myself there against young, fit, aggressive drunk males, then a sober not so fit older person holding a steering wheel wouldn’t be any worse. In actual fact, now if someone asked me which is safer on average, going to a night spot or hitch hiking? I’d say hitch hiking, and statistically, hitch hiking.

Continuing the story. “What if I took a tent and a camp stove?”

So I tried it. An overnight hitch. It worked. At the end of the day all I did was walk into the bush, flick out the tent, cook dinner on the camp stove and go to sleep. No one even knew I was there. A two man dome tent is very easy to hide. It’s also very unexpected, so people don’t quite believe some one would camp in many places.

The lights went on and a whole new world opened up. Amazing!!! No more car, no more fuel, no more working for 3-4 months to get the money for transport, no more accommodation costs, no more time limitations. Now for the price of one tank of fuel (400 -500km) I could travel for half a week. In 2004ish for about $AUD150 to $180 I could travel for a week and cover up to 5000km. When I realised this I couldn’t keep still. I was so excited. The possibilities were limitless. Everyone around me was talking about saving for the next 2 years to set up their camper van /  truck and drive around Australia (12,000km) . Most never did it. Life got in the way. Where as I could now smash that in less than $1000-.

Of course I’m not eating gourmet food in that. Rice, tuna with freeze dried peas is the order of the day. Quick cooking oats for breakfast. However after a while I learnt I could take $20 of herbs as spices which I could hold in one hand and make marvelous dishes.

This travel overhead meant that I could work any job doing anything and still save enough in a few weeks to travel for weeks.

After a few trips totaling 17weeks, I had wondered how far I’d gone. I’d really not thought about it till that point. A rough measuring of the map blew my mind….. 21,000km!!! I couldn’t believe it. That was pretty much half way around the globe. Upon working that out I just sat there for a long time staring into space. Why is no one onto this? Is media really that powerful we believe the newspapers, television and radio? Are the words of acquaintances, family and friends that powerful, that even when the words make zero sense, we still follow because everyone else does? Is having the right clothes, the right car and the right house so important so important to us? The answer is yes to all of these questions. Is this a good thing or a bad? I think neither, it’s just the way it is. A state of the the survival machine called the human.

Why do so few do the above? Probably lucky or unlucky circumstance as in my case. So which is it, lucky or unlucky? Well, that depends on who you ask. I certainly can only give you equal and contradicting answers.

Being on the road hitch hiking through so many towns, countries and environments really did change my mind. It is extremely hard to fit into any society ever again. It is extremely hard to have conversations with many people, because my stories don’t really match many others. Many eyes glaze over because it upsets peoples realities. Some get angry or jealous.

Should you hitch? I don’t know. I don’t think the main danger is getting physically hurt. I think the main danger is not being able to converse with the people whom surround you now after you’ve hitched everywhere.

Gibb River, Katherine, Darwin, Uluru then back to Darwin

Sooo many notes to add to these images!!! But right now I don’t have the time. Will have to come back to it.

In summary though. I finished hitching the Gibb River Road. I bit freaky at times because societies warnings echoed in my head no matter how much reason said they were not true. 900km of dirt through the north west. It’s well graded. Don’t do it in wet season as apparently you can only get to most places by chopper.

I bounced through Kununarra then to Katherine. Geez I like Katherine for some reason. just good vibes there. I flicked up to Darwin, but still had a week till my flight. I wasn’t too into the backpacker / pub scene at that time. I wasn’t really in the frame of mind. I’d never been to the rock before and thought I could get back in a week. So it was a fast ride south to Uluru and back to Darwin again.

Looking back at these images now (Dec 2018), there was so much that happened just in this section, I could just write pages and pages of notes. A lot about the different people and their personalities. It’s like as though a year went by, but it was only weeks.

Interesting one night I camped just north of Alice as I was heading back to Darwin. It was a tad late and I was pushing it. As it became black I walked off into the desert and set up camp. As I was setting up I realised there was a Dingo wandering around about 40m away. It hung out all night and was there in the morning. Just looked like a pet dog really. Hadn’t come across Dingos in the wild before though.

Through to Broome and then East.

The North of Oz is truely vast and devoid of population. It may seem a bit desert like for half of the year, but there is actually so much water up here the rest of the year that it’s hard to believe there would ever be a drought in Australia. I’m not sure why it’s not piped down south. I’ve heard news that it’s too big a project, but if there’s already an 800km long water pipe line from Kalgorlie to Perth, I can’t see that really being true.

We camped in Broome for a few days. From memory that guy stayed a bit longer and I headed out towards Derby. This retired guy gave me a lift more or less to the Gibb turn off. He was wandering around Australia after his relationship had fallen apart. Like several other people whom I’ve met who’ve had long term relationships end, he was kind of fabricating reality a bit to justify the events of his life. He also was not the most confident of drivers. I actually asked him to stop half way and let me out. He stammered “W..ww..wwhat’s wrong?”

“Mate, you’ve driven into the dust twice in 20minutes and fishtailed down the road on a big wide straight flat road. You didn’t even bat an eyelid. I don’t think you’re capable”

He said he didn’t really have many passenger and wasn’t so good at concentrating and talking at the same time. He said he’d slow down. After that he was fine. It’s probably the only time I’ve actually asked to get out of a vehicle. We stopped at the Willare bridge roadhouse and sat there for an hour and a half drinking coffee and talking.

I’d been to Derby before and so hooked right just before there to go up the Gibb river road. 900km of dirt between Derby and Kunnunarra. Derby is interesting in that it has 9m tides like in the UK. It’s interesting that major natural phemonina exist, but no one ever really talks about them.

I think it totaled 10 lifts to make it up the Gibb and the maximum I waited for a ride was 6 hours. It’s a very unique landscape. Well I’m sure it’s similar at the same latitude in Africa or South America somewhere, but I’ve not seen anything like it since. Strange rock formations with intense colours.

20040509_NW_indo_sydney_hitch_hiking

“Do you think it’s possible to hitch the Gibb River Road?” I asked

“Don’t be stupid, you’ll die out there.”

“That sounds worth the risk.” I replied.

“You’re mad!”

“Better than dying from stress in a job that you don’t really like. Who’s mad?”

Crazy is not crazy when everyone else is doing the same thing. If crazy is a definition of public opinion, then yes I am crazy. If it’s a definition created by logic, then I am very sane.

Worst case scenario in the NW of Australia. 300km between fuel stations or anything really. If I get dumped exactly half way, that’s a 150km walk. I know that even at a slow walk carrying 30kg on flat ground I can do 20km’ish a day. If I walk at night more. That’s 7.5 days walking at most. I did some more calcs and decided on 13 litres of water and 6 days of food. Chances of the worst case scenario. Not much. The reality. In the whole trip I never used more than 3 litres before a refill point and really only ever needed 2 meals of food on board.

The photos below.

  • A fancy dress party at an X’s house before heading off. Can’t remember what the theme was. Starting in Margaret River
  • The kit.
  • Fremantle port with new cars just landed from Korea or something. May future home several years later. Freo is a very calm peaceful place. It changed a lot between 1999 and 2012 when I left.
  • On the second day I made it to Carnarvon and camped in an avocado plantation. A 2 man tent tends to go unnoticed. You just have to watch out for sprinkler systems when you don’t have the fly on.
  • I can’t remember this dudes name driving. An excavator driver heading up to NT for work. His family were mega wealthy in the UK. This was when I found out what it meant to be a land owner in the UK. For all their wealth, they stuck their son in a boarding school and paid little attention to him. They somehow made everything about money. He told them to stick their wealth and he wants nothing to do with them. Then he moved to Australia and built himself up from nothing. He seemed pretty happy though and had built a bridge (more or less) over the past.
  • The bridge in this photo is somewhere an hour or 2 north of Karratha. It’s at least 10m off the river bottom we were driving on. Apparently the water comes several meters above it in wet season and always washes it out. The land up here is pretty much flat with not more than a couple of hundred meters in altitude I think.

To be continued.