This was featured in the latest issue of Lostravellers Magazine. You can check the full spread here, and read more about Lostravellers here.
“Freedom is a strange thing. Once you’ve experienced it, it remains in your heart and no-one can take it away.”
There are many dreams to be had, out in the void. So dream a little; go on. Cast yourself out.. which will be yours? For there are dreams, and then there are dreams: dreams that inspire and dreams that scare; dreams that offer insight and dreams that serve only to muddy the waters. It almost seems self-evident: that these esoteric adventures would be as varied as the people that dream them. For dreams do much more than distract us from sleep.
Late at night, when your subconscious is hard at work and you drift between worlds, what dreams do you dream? Do you dream of escape and exploration, adventure and freedom? Are they dreams of the open road – stories with no predetermined endings? These are the dreams of lost travellers, waiting to be found. Maybe we’re all waiting.
It has been one of my trademarks this trip. From that first rinsed feed of KFC at the airport in Auckland to the ludicrous decision to eat a joint in Barcelona Airport, it now seems that I am unable of catching a plane without some skull-crushing hangover or ghastly chemical imbalance. This isn’t something I seek out but rather an inevitability given the hedonistic tendencies that The Last Night brings out. Who knew when I’d be back? Sleep was for the weak, I for the night – and there was always a price to pay.
My return to Northern Europe marked the beginning of another end. My European leg was coming to a close and I had nominated Copenhagen as the place I would wait out my visa application for India. This was largely due to the fact that my cousin lives there (and the visa office’s murky responses about how long it would take to process my application). His inevitable offer of a place to crash was a welcome respite for my increasingly destitute bank account and I accepted happily.
As chance would have it, his housemate had just found an old bike, abandoned through no failure of function and ready to go. So I was the happy recipient of a large orange single-speed, free to take my place in the well-populated cycle lanes of the Danish capital. The old Dutch habits came back easily and, with my visa application lodged, I was soon speeding my way towards Christiania and all it promised.
The first part of this will be familiar to anyone who has been following along. It was an almost off-the-cuff response to a piece by Tourettes that featured on lostravellers. It tried to capture a bit of what Berlin brings out while mirroring his dissociative style, with only moderate success.
I didn’t know it at the time, but it wasn’t finished. The following is the full story, and what I hope is a more complete homage to the city.
I woke with a burnt lip and the drys. Someone rolled over on the neighbouring bunk and I ran my tongue around the roof of my mouth. Nothing. How much longer could I put off getting up? An ungodly drought occupied my mouth; resistance was futile and I was soon clambering down from my top bunk in search of water.
It was 10.30am but the room was still. The figures that remained from the rout of morning checkout were quietly comatose and in no rush to leave. They’d be hunting their own water soon enough.
My arrival in Ukraine was once again a strange one. As expected the bus got in stupidly early – leaving me to wander the looming bus station under night’s last hour of darkness. It was eerily quiet and the only other people present were those from my own bus. None of them seemed remotely Western. Russian was the lingua franca here and I was, once again, out of my depth, misguided and mute as I searched the different levels for some clue as to how I might get into town.
In the upstairs waiting room I found a man passed out face down. He was still kneeling and his forehead rested on the bench where it must have fallen during this silent prayer for salvation. The empty vodka bottle clasped in his hand confirmed that his plea had gone unheard and I went back downstairs.
It was a slow day on the roadwork ridden Polish highways. By the time we arrived in Katowice our hangovers had well and truly fermented and we were glad to be free of the bus. Town was packed for the festival and the meagre selection of hostels in Katowice was fully booked. Ryan had made the executive decision that campgrounds weren’t for us and instead had booked us in for a few nights in a hotel (yup, no spelling mistake there).
We were treating ourselves for the princely sum of 25 Euros a night and if nothing else about Eastern Europe appeals, then this alone should get you there. Despite our southern origins we were Western Princes, wealthy beyond belief and keen to splurge. What time would we be taking breakfast? Would we like the spa heated up now or later? I didn’t even know you needed to heat spas up.
The engines roared and the plane pulled up off the runway. I settled in for the flight and as Morocco fell away my mood lifted. I was still a bit shaky, but the prospect of some friends and Eastern Europe’s notorious nightlife had me well on the way to recovery. I transited through Madrid and, with a full day to kill, walked tentatively down her wide boulevards, still not entirely trusting of my stomach.
It was hot work and I was soon hungry, seeking shelter in the air conditioned aisles of a supermercado. The Spanish on the shelves was too easy after Arabic’s unfamiliar script and I felt strangely at home. I grew bold and, in what could well have turned out to be a foolish move, purchased a beer to have with lunch.
It’s perhaps not unexpected, that over the course of a year adrift you might find yourself craving some familiarity. But I hadn’t expected it to come with the force it did, sitting on the toilet dry retching while I dreamed of home and friends absent. It felt like not much had happened, between Fez and here, but I no longer cared. I was sick and sick of it, and in my weakened state waned. Why the fuck had I come to Morocco in the first place?
Solitude is a strange beast, not really relevant until there is something to compare it with. The couples at my hotel in Fez, the pity from shopkeepers that I had no-one to travel with (not forced, I chose this), the self-consciousness that Ramadan intensified: these all conspired to fuel what came to burn as a numbing sense of solitude, enforced instead of volunteered for. But all men must do some time in the wilderness and Morocco was to be mine.
As the days slipped away I became less and less enthused with Morocco. The lack of booze made for quiet evenings and in the end quiet days too. Despite the coast’s reputation there was no surf to be had – one of the perils of coming in the off-season. I knew I should have planned more. But what could you do? At least it was cheap.
I had had my fill of “culture” (mosques, souks, hustlers and trinkety shit) and was content to take long walks along the coast and swim in the sea, finally embracing the absence of activities holidays are meant to be.
The novelty of hitch-hiking down the coast remained and my Australian partner and I had a few long days sitting in what shade could be found on the side of the road, waiting for the sound of an approaching engine. There, more than anywhere else, our occupation was travelling and we waited patiently, turning down paid rides time and time again, hoping for people who understood what hitching is all about.