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.
Our first day in Prague started bright and full of promise. We had arrived late the previous evening and gone through the now-standard routine of figuring out public transport and the local currency, shuffling through an ever-dwindling wad of euros at the bureau de change.
“How much much money you reckon we’ll need?”
The smartphone proved invaluable again and we followed its advice to a hostel that turned out to be considerably more pricey than promised. Glad to have a home base we agreed to the extortion (why does it always feel like you are getting ripped off when you arrive somewhere new?) and wandered up the hill for a bite.
In Berlin we had largely avoided paying for the S-Bahn and had consequently developed the dangerous belief that no-one really checked public transport this far east. This assumption was affirmed by a free ride home after yet another Italian dinner in a country that wasn’t Italy. Local culture, like.
Our Thai New Year’s Eve itself is typically anti-climatic. Fortified on ephedrine we down enough Chang to make an elephant tipsy, and lurch around on the sand with the rest of the singleted, shifting to the pulsing music. It is hectic, and we are soon divided.
Brother Fox and I dig a hole just back off the beach and bury our jandels with a small bottle of rum before heading into the mêlée in search of our brethren. We tell some Australian girls that the fireworks above are just a warm-up, and that the countdown will be soon. Obviously we are wrong.
We continue on, the sharp smell of gunpowder signalling the arbitrary switchover that we have gathered to celebrate. Finally, we find Brother Tijo. He is unapologetically hammered, caught up on a nihilistic bender. His stamina betters that of Fox, and we return to our sand cairn to reclaim our treasure.