Travel


Or at least I may be able to be soon.  I have one night on call left to go.  After that we’re off to Hanmer Springs for the weekend for some relaxation.  It’s not as if the nights have been tiring – in fact they’ve been strangely (insert that word that’s the same as ‘quite’ but with a different word order).  But a week is generally draining even if you sleep well during the day and fairly antisocial.

Anyway, I just got an email from Barry at Wilderness Medical Training after filling him in on my recent exploits on the Medex expedition and he’s linked to my blog and photo site from the WMT website.  Which is nice of him.

Wilderness Medical Training are the group who ran the Chamonix ‘Expedition Medicine and Field Skills for Diverse Environments’ course I went to this summer gone.  As you may remember from earlier posts the course was extremely well run, informative and damn good fun.  Plus you get to meet a whole host of people with a love for the outdoors and doing something a bit different with their training and lives.  They run courses throughout the year in a variety of locations for lay people as well as medics so there’s something for everyone.  Go check out the website for details.

My photos of the week can be found here, including us playing around on the glacier, ice climbing and building our tremendous ice cave.  As I said – great fun.

And speaking of photos – I’ve been using my downtime to sort out the recent Medex expedition shots so will be posting them to my site over this next week.  I’m also posting all the shots since we moved to New Zealand so if you’re really bored check them out (link is on the right).

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Well it had to happen someday.  On disembarkation the helpful people at Delhi airportdirected me and 3 others to the arrivals area (rather than transit which we were supposed to go to) at which point they told us to sit down and “someone will come to sort you out”.  No-one did.  Security wouldn’t let us back upstairs, until 20mins before due to leave we talked ourselves past security and found a nice man to sort things out.  That worked out fine for the other 3 (although I’m not entirelly sure they got the plane in the end) but I found out because the oh so helpful people at Virgin hadn’t alerted my connecting flight to my presence they had given my seat away.

Cue grumpy Andy.

After much waiting around they finally realised I hadn’t cocked up and got me on the next flight (without charge which they initially threatened).  It’s at 6am tomorrow.  I got into Delhi about 1pm.  I’m not supposed to leave the Transit lounge (which is a corridor about 50m in length with a coffee stand and a snack stall) until tomorrow morning when someone from the other flight team will “find me” at “some point” and sort out my bags (which they have – though I have actually seen them so know they do exist in my current location) .  I am officially Tom Hanks in the Terminal.

I lasted about 40 mins before getting bored, cold and uncomfortable so got up and wandered off.  In the international no-mans land that exists between the departure gates and the security clearance I found the Business Lounge.  I have been here ever since.  I have a sofa, a table, a free hot snack service, drink and (most importantly) a free bar.  Also internet, a massage chair (which I’m keeping a careful eye out for once the Chinese people who’ve been in it for the last 2hrs vacate) and the nice man who sorted me out is going to get all my flights and everything sorted in the morning.

Seeing as I didn’t really sleep on the flight I was pretty exhausted but have now eaten, had a decent coffee and had a nap.  I am using this time to learn some expedition medical skills.  And I’m stalking the massage chair.  I plan to get drunk too.

I have a sneaky suspicion that the flight tomorrow is magically going to be full without me leaving me the responsibility of no-one.  At which point I may well start to live here.  Just like the real Terminal man.  He went crazy I seem to recall.

Great start.  Still, at least it does take care of my not having found a place to stay in Kathmandu today!

I’ve trapped a nerve in my back and now every time I move I’m getting spasms of pain shooting around.  Considering I’m about to drive to Bangor in North Wales this could be uncomfortable to say the least.

Heading there for the second data collection weekend for the expedition.  Medex (the group I’m doing it with) have launched a blog to keep up to date with the goings on of the expedition and it’ll be updated in the field too so people can keep touch.

 

I may see if I can counter post those entries here when I’m away but not sure if that’s possible.

Need to go and organise.  Long drive.

Ha ha – back from holiday with a surprisingly swift 300 mile drive this morning/afternoon.  Since then?  About 5 fucking hours catching up with t’internet.  Bloody internet.  Still, holiday was fun and relaxing for the most part and aside from a few rainy days to start with the weather really picked up.  The last few have been glorious.  Unpacked, not washed any clothes yet and a mountain of Things To Sort.  All to be left as tomorrow I’m on call with nearly my while team (excellent – bedlam on Thursday then) and the next night I’m seeing Mogwai!  Ha ha.  I’d pretty much forgotten so that’s a wonderful surprise.  Somewhere amongst that I also have to go down to Brighton to sign the lease for my flat.  Hmmm.  And iron some shirts.  I do not like to iron.

Came this close:
to setting the fire alarms off after getting distracted listening to Transparent Things by the awesome Fujiya & Miyagi.  Really should listen to more of the music on my iTunes.  I also have no idea who the baby is but it was the best image I could come up with to demonstrate quite how close I was.  There was smoke and a dive for the fire doors.  Plus window wafting.  Lots of wafting.

Pictures of lots of mountains and valleys will follow when I get round to it.  Already sorted some but many more to come yet.  Will link them here.  For now got to go though.  Later.

I didn’t cope very well for the first few days. Stepping off the plan in Phnom Penh airport hit me. Or rather the heat did. The invisible wall of hot, wet air that clung to surfaces and skin and stuck clothing together. I’d been to hot places but this was the first really humid place I’d been to. And I don’t do well with heat.

I should have stuck with my original plan (as much as I ever have a plan) but clinging to the back of my moto driver, full backpack attached, ducking in and out of traffic as we sped down the main road to the city, clipping cars with my straps and helmet-less, we chatted. To do this he kept turning his head back to talk. I preferred it when he looked the other way (the way facing the direction the other cars were coming from) but regardless we talked (the usual ‘Been here before? Where you staying?’ banter) and I ended up staying somewhere else from where I intended. I knew where the area was – it was my backup location if the first failed and I decided to ignore the very real possibility that he was just touting for trade (which he almost invariably was). And I was tired. I never make good decisions when tired. And hot. And just got off a stupidly long flight. Still.

I hated it. Almost a hotel. No communal area and an apparent desire to segregate guests. And the heat. For the first few days I had to drag myself out of the air conditioned white room (before I realised air-con makes it worse and the real way to cope is just to adapt). I dragged myself out for food I didn’t enjoy, to dark streets where I didn’t feel safe. I spent a few days as a tourist and ‘saw the sights’. I didn’t like any of them. The sun was too bright to take decent pictures with my ailing camera. Everything bleached. I baked. I learnt about spontaneous full body sweating. And I didn’t meet anyone else. And I felt really lonely. I think that’s the first time that’s happened when I’ve been travelling. Usually I’m so hyped up at being in a new place that I just ride over it but this time it hit me.

Maybe it was the circumstances. The previous 3 months had been spent on overdrive studying for clinical finals. I had to find a place to live again in Tooting for the exams. Along with all the other stresses.  But it all went fine and I passed and it was great and I had an amazing week after results where I finally learnt to love London.  And it left me in a strange head space. I was suddenly ‘free’. I had nothing to do any more. My job didn’t start for over a month. I had no revision, no learning, no goal.  I was on holiday.  Truly. The last time I would have that amount of time off. And I didn’t feel right. I wanted to be back home. I could almost see why some people just jump straight back on the plane and head home.

After three days of feeling lost and misplaced I found myself wandering along the river bank looking out over the dirty water to the unappealing view the other side. It was around midday and getting really hot. Up ahead was a bandstand and there were a lot of people (Cambodian people) sitting around, sleeping, talking. Kids playing. I walked up there and sat on the railing. Two girls around my age started talking to me in that giggly way that girls have (the one where there’s an intensely amusing joke involving you, that they know but aren’t willing to share). They offered me some of their food (a snack of some kind involving insects) and I returned the favoured. I forget anything else about them and after a while they left.

I moved under the shade of the bandstand; not that it helped at all, the wet air pervading everywhere. Some of the kids came up to me and started talking to me in pretty good English. The youngest must have been 3, up to 10-11ish. They sat with me and stroked my arms. I couldn’t work it out then but later realised it was because I’m hairy and Cambodian men just aren’t (this happened a lot and I got stroked repeatedly by kids and men and on one occasion a monk who kept stroking my beard – that was weird). We all sat together, slowly baking, they stroked their hands up and down my arms and I felt relaxed. A man (I think the Father of one of the kids) came and sat and just started chatting with me, backs against the white stone pillar, legs out in front, feet down. Shooting the breeze. We talked about each other, what we did, how we lived, out countries, he talked about the Kymer Rouge and the massacre of all his family and I listened. And he repeatedly apologised for his English.

I think we sat there for almost two hours, avoiding the midday sun. There must have been about thirty people lounging around. It was pretty dirty and I came to realise that they were all homeless street people, coming together in a place to avoid the sun and midday heat. And I had joined them inadvertently and shared a few hours in their company. He was one of these people and we conversed for almost 2 hours in English and he was apologising to me. I couldn’t believe it. At that point I hadn’t even learnt how to say ‘Hello’ in Cambodian and this guy who loved on the streets with no formal education could speak English almost as well as I could. I repeatedly praised him and he repeatedly batted the compliments away.

After a long while he got up, thanked me for the conversation and for allowing him to practice his English, wished me a pleasant stay in his country and hoped that I would enjoy Cambodia and her people and then took leave. He never asked for anything. He didn’t want anything. He was just happy to chat with a stranger and share a bit of his life.

After a while I got back up, wandered off, ate dinner and the next day left for the country. I’d come to the conclusion that after all the recent stress back home I wasn’t in the right frame of mind to cope in the city. Not just yet. The few hours I’d spent in the bandstand helped with this realisation and I’m not even sure how. It just helped me to look at things differently.  Maybe restored some faith in people that I’d misplaced along the way.

So I got on a bus the next morning (after a local taught me how to eat noddle soup with chop-sticks at breakfast) and headed to Kampot. On the bus I met Paul and Phoebe and spent the next 2 days with them and they made me feel like me again, just by being nice. I ended up staying a week just bumming around in Kampot, hanging out with a few good people I met there, drinking copious amounts of gin in the evenings, wandering the village and surroundings talking to random people in the day.  And I adapted to the humidity.  It was wonderful. A week later I went back to the city en route to Siem Reap and I really liked PP this time round. And the other 4 times I went back over the next month in Cambodia, I loved it. I needed that quiet time first though.

(I stayed in the location I was originally going to stay in the second time around and it was amazingly good fun and I met loads of cool people. I wonder what would have happened if I’d stayed there the first time round?)

The kids at the band stand

Wow, I’m shattered.

I’ve been really stressed these last two weeks.  It’s not been good.  We’ve got some bad family shit going on (the really bad kind, the potentially never to be fixed kind) and work has been tough as I’ve been by myself a lot.  Plus, job application stuff, end of year assessments and paperwork and then trying to sort out a holiday.

Holidays for me used to involved randomly deciding to go somewhere, booking a flight and then leaving the next week.  It’s the way I prefer it.  I’m not very good at planning things and getting things done on time (in my personal life – for work I have to) so the last minute thing works.  I booked my flights to Cambodia the week before I went.  After a whole year of thinking about working in Nepal I finally got it all sorted out 2 weeks before leaving.  I stayed there for 2 months.  It’s also this that led me to be halfway across the Atlantic, embarking on a 5 month jaunt round the States, before I realised I’d forgotten to change any money to dollars.  Things always worked out, I got ideas, I acted on them.

I’m not used to having to book leave in advance and seemingly arbitrarily.  I really don’t like the way you end up having to ‘plan’ fun and relaxation.  And sometimes, when that holiday has turned up I’ve not actually felt any desire to go anywhere.  I’m not a planned person.

This holiday however has come at the right time.  I need a break.  Badly.  I’m not me at the moment.  I don’t feel myself.  My apathy and procrastination are building in unhealthy levels and I’m beginning to wonder whether this is the latest incarnation of my intrinsic self destructive streak.  Destruction through sloth.

I’ve also noticed that all I do these days is complain.  Now here, that’s fine as it’s a vent for me but I’m doing it so much in my daily life that it’s even starting to piss me off (and I’ve noticed at least one of my friends gets annoyed by it and that affects me more).  I’m just so negative and I don’t know how that happened.  I’ve always been so positive.  Life seems to be getting to me.  I need to go away and reassess a few things about where my life’s going.  There’s someone I work with who is just so miserable and sour; she constantly moans and complains and bitches and blames everyone else.  I really dislike her.  She’s venomous.  Yet I feel it spreading.  Thankfully she’s leaving in a few weeks but I can’t let myself become that person.

I can’t.

So, I have some things to work out.  Which is good as my holiday starts tomorrow and I’m off all next week.  We’re climbing Scafell Pike this weekend in preparation for the Three Peaks Challenge (whenever that actually happens – it’s all up in the air right now).  So, I’m bunging some stuff in my car and heading up there Friday with the guys and then staying in the Lake District for the rest of the week.  A week of hiking, climbing and reading.  Looking forward to it.  No phone, no internet.  And tomorrow I have Things To Do.

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I’m shattered because we went climbing tonight.  There was a point when I was half way up what turned out to be a really tough route when I actually felt like a real climber.  I was hanging from an overhang 7m up by one arm, legs tucked right up under the rock, the other arm reached back into my chalk bag, thinking, ‘if only every woman I’ve ever liked was below me right now because I must look SO COOL!’.  Ha ha.

I’m aware that my mental version of how I must look probably doesn’t correspond to the awkward, sweaty, scrabbling reality of the situation but, hey.  I got up it and it was tougher than anything I’ve climbed before.  I felt great.  Of course, I won’t be able to use my arms tomorrow…