An avid ambassador of the word 'yes', I am a life traveler and experiencer that winds up in all kinds of mischievous and somewhat hairy situations.
When I am not gallivanting or doing ridiculous things around the world, I am a super responsible high school chemistry, science and mathematics teacher. I am also a singer/songwriter who released an EP, Yours For The Keeping, in 2006. Delivering performances in many places around the world, one of my favourite places to perform was with the drag queens of Toronto's Church St in 2010/2011. These days I just chill with my ukulele, does the odd cover gig for fun and writing ridiculous jingles. Other favourite activities are Crossfit, boxing training, cooking a million and one different varieties of pie, growing vegetables, International Spy Missions and hiking. Oh and travel. But I consider that a lifestyle, not a hobby!
So Follow me through life as I take on the world and whatever challenges are thrown my way!!
“It’s hard enough trying to write a book about my life where I don’t have to make shit up. Imagine being a fiction writer and having to actually make shit up. And then fact check it. Fuck that. Preps to those guys” – Dano, the other day while trying to reach her 2,000 words-a-day limit.
So many people have told me that I should ‘write a book’ about what I have done in my life because there are just so many stories that I have from travelling. As a singer-songwriter who has released albums, I have probably still had more people tell me to write a book than to write a music album.
But writing a book is frustrating. When I first sat down to start, my journalist friend told me that he read somewhere that Stephen King says you have to write at least 2,000 words a day to consider yourself a serious writer. “Oh yeah, righto,” I think to myself, I got this, that is like writing a university essay every single day that I don’t have to research. I used to do that shit all the time.” All I had to do was hit 80,000 words to have what is deemed to be an average and acceptable sized book and I could do that in forty days, or just over a month.
For my first time, I managed it easy. And the next day wasn’t so bad either. I managed ten days straight and then hit a wall. Because this is like running a marathon, and I fucking hate running. The first part, easy. The last part, I assume is easy mentally because you don’t have far to go, but that middle part? That is what will kill off the dreams of the best of people. I am trudging and trudging through ideas, can’t remember what the fuck I did that time in Guatemala in a drunkenly fuelled state, figure I probably need to omit that story because people don’t want to really know about that stuff or its just too personal and confronting for me to want to put it out there to the world. I write five hundred words here. Give up, find somewhere else to write five hundred words. Give up and then find somewhere else to write five hundred words.
What I have currently is a disjointed piece of rubbish that I have finished about three out of twenty chapters. Then there came that point where I found my journals from South East Asia. 44,000 words, it said. Half a book, I thought. I can just edit these. But the reality is, I can’t. The reality is, my journals are not entertaining, funny, or cohesive. I can work with them, but that would take time and be annoying and everything I have seemed to have written about is breakfast, lunch and dinner which isn’t overly entertaining because the general masses don’t care to know about all the different forms of curry I had for lunch in Thailand.
The other problem is structure. I don’t know what era of my life to discuss. I don’t know whether to start with the early days, which are a whole lot more boring than some of the other trips. A compilation of the best countries around the world that has no overall cohesion. Or is it better to pick another time in my life and start with that. Or should I just write until I have no more stories and make several different books worth of rubbish.
I don’t know. But what I do know is this. Writing a book is frustrating. And it is fucking hard. When people told me I should do this, I knew that it was going to be hard work. I knew that it was going to be a rough time. What I didn’t realise was how much of a mental battle this was going to be every single day I sit at a computer. I am used to fighting my way through pain and discomfort in a boxing ring or with other physical forms of torture and the mental game has always let me win. But this mental game goes for months. It is a whole other type of game. But eventually I will win. I will get 80,000 words together. And then I am going to have to confront the even more boring and even more arduous task of editing. But one thing at a time. I better go and get on it. 2,000 words of ridiculousness awaits.
Currently I am studying the grand language of Spanish in Colombia, and on many occasions, I have been known to say funny incorrect things or things that are just downright offensive because the translation in English has a totally other sensation. The other day in class I spilled my tea all over the floor and ruined my notebook and responded with “soy inutil” (I’m useless), which in Australia is not such an abnormal thing to say but I was informed that if you say that to someone here, be prepared to get yourself into a punch on.
And then of course you have the standard mistake of ‘estoy caliente’ which means “I’m hot”, but not hot as in, “geez the temperature is high” but hot as in “baby I’m hot just like an oven, I need some lovin’, Marvin Gaye style lovin'”. Water can be ‘caliente’. Food can be caliente. If I am feeling a bit warm, I am ‘calor’….. and perhaps maybe a bit caliente (horny) as well.
One also needs to be very careful with which version of ‘I am’ they use. Because ‘Soy buena’ apparently means “I am a good human being and do nice things for others”, whereas ‘Estoy buena’ means ‘I am a very “good” curvy person and will do ‘nice things’ for others….
Then of course there is chimba and chimbo. Both can be hugely offensive and of course, because of this, they are words I have become attracted to. “Que chimba” is often used to say “how cool”, however if you call someone “a” chimba, then you will be calling them a cunt…… again, not so offensive to a lot of people in Australia, but the rest of the world takes severe offense to such language. And then chimbo can also be a penis, or something of low grade value. What I take from this of course, is that vaginas are well fucking cool and penis’ are low value commodities…….. hmmm….. and of course if you say an arsehole joke it is called ‘chimbiando’. But in the grand scheme of things….. I should probably avoid all of these words, especially in front of police officers, church officials, and respectable people.
I remember a time in Guatemala when the police officer asked me whether ‘those men are “molestando” me….. ‘. Well didn’t I freak out and take off down the street running as fast as I could for fear of being molested, which of course would have looked a sight to the police officer. And didn’t I feel like a moron when later I discovered that the word ‘molestar’ in Spanish, does not mean ‘to molest’ as I thought it did, but it means ‘to bother or annoy’.
I never want to be “embarazada”…. and by that I mean pregnant, not embarrassed. A common misconception and also often is screwed up. Though my friend was encouraging me the other day to have an affair with a Colombian and get knocked up with triplets that I could then go home with and sit on my mothers couch on welfare. I said no because I don’t want to have to carry any extra weight with my bag for the next 7 or 8 months, but I said I would consider it when I arrive in Chile…..
And of course there is ‘travieso’. This word means naughty. And apparently children can be naughty and that is fine. But any ‘naughty’ adult is a sexually naughty adult. There isn’t really any other kind of adult naughty. I have also learned that beverages also cannot be ‘travieso’. The standard Australia ‘cheeky pint’ or ‘cheeky rum’, no existe. A ‘ron travieso’ basically implies that ‘you’ are going to wind up travieso much later on after said ron……
Maybe I should:
Just avoid saying any words that can be construed as sexual or offensive….. ie a whole lot of them.
Avoid speaking all together…….
Ignore my own advice and continue to laugh at the fact that I have clearly no idea what I am doing.
I think I will choose option 4 and go say some more travieso and inappropriate shit. Que chimba!
A common conversation I have with people about travel usually winds up going something like this:
Person: “Where are you going?”
Person: “Like, I just don’t understand why you would want to go there, it is like sooooo dangerous and people get shot at and stabbed by cartels and there is just such a huge drug problem that you will never survive there. It is just too dangerous. You’re crazy!!”
This ‘perceived’ idea of danger in other countries is in many cases ridiculous. Yes it is dangerous in some areas of the world. There are many places that I would not consider going as they are warzones or in severe civil conflict. But for the most part, provided that you are street smart and don’t make stupid decisions like walking down the street in the middle of the night instead of catching a cab, there is quite a low chance of these things happening. People see the one off cases on the news, the media makes a huge deal out of it and people think, well that place is clearly too dangerous to go to. Oddly enough, I have travelled to over sixty countries over nine years and the only place I have been attacked in the street and hospitalized for it was in my very hometown where I grew up in Australia.
I remember my very first trip to South East Asia. It was my first time out of western society and I was terrified. My mother had pleaded with me not to go for fear of my being raped/mugged/murdered/stabbed/shot at/put in jail for having drugs planted in my bags like Schappelle Corby/dead. To the point where I was terrified to be going. I got on the plane after ziplocking, padlocking and then cling filming all of my bags before I left in an excessive frenzy. I got off the plane in Bangkok and went over my bag with a fine tooth comb to ensure nothing had been tampered with or touched. I picked up my bag nervously, told them I had nothing to declare and I was out the door within 5 minutes flat thinking to myself…. ummmm…. is that is? Post this the worst thing I encountered in South East Asia was petty theft. People would have their bags and pockets picked. Again. Be aware this happens. Don’t carry things in your pocket, get a bag with a zip. The other trick is, don’t get so drunk that you aren’t aware of your belongings. Most people who get things stolen off of them are drunk. Me included. One morning I was drunk and sleeping on a beach in Nicaragua with my iPod in my hand and I awoke to find it gone. I was angry for all of a minute and then I started laughing because if an old iPod was all I lost in 4 years of travel, I am doing pretty well.
Some people I met through Central America had experienced muggings. Again, majority of the time, if you just give over all of what you have and let them go, you will not have any problems with your physical safety. It might shake you up a bit, but this for the most part is the worst of what will happen provided that you follow the major safety rules. Which are as follows:
1. Don’t walk around at night EVER, especially alone. Take a cab, or organize yourself so that you have everything that you need. Night, just like at home, is the biggest time of day for predators.
2. Keep money and credit cards in different places, including sewn into the insides of your pants. So they took the 20 bucks in your wallet and one of your ATM cards? You have another ATM card somewhere else and $20 in your bra.
3. On the topic of ATM cards, if you do by chance get held up and they want you to go to an ATM, don’t keep a large amount of money in your transaction account. Transfer the amount you need to take out online right before you take it out and leave the rest in an untouchable savings account.
4. Take photocopies of all of your important documents and cards including your passport and send them to yourself in an email. If you ever find yourself in a situation where you are robbed of everything, at least you will have everything you need when you get to your consulate on file online. Also send copies of this email to your Mum or someone you trust that can help you.
5. If you can avoid it, don’t travel at night and don’t travel when you get dropped off in the middle of nowhere at night or very early in the morning. These are the times of day where less people are around and you are less visible in the public eye.
6. Listen to advice about do’s and don’t’s from smart locals and from your hostel/hotel workers. Most of the time the locals will tell you what the dangers are in the prominent are, where to go and where not to go.
While this is not a comprehensive list, this is certainly helpful in avoiding any potential dangers and getting caught out with things. For the most part, following these rules, the amount of trouble you will find will be minimized. It is very much a shame that some people do not have common sense enough to look out for their own safety. It is also a shame that places that have incredibly friendly locals get a reputation through the media for a few events that occur with horrific outcome. For the hundreds of thousands of people everyday who travel, have a great time and come home safely, you will get a handful of stories that end in tragedy. But this also fares for the people who get in a car and drive everyday. There is always that risk. In life, everything that you do has risk. But you don’t constantly get lectures from people who don’t drive telling you about every car accident that happens and why you shouldn’t get into a car to go to work. It is always those that haven’t travelled and don’t understand that are dishing out these lectures based on what they see on television. But really, it is not as bad and horrific as it is made out to be. Travel broadens the eyes and the mind. I honestly believe if you haven’t travelled then you haven’t lived. You haven’t understood the amazing diversity of the human race and the things that make us different and yet the same. So take the leap. Take the risk. And you might just find that maybe it isn’t actually that ‘dangerous’ after all.
Egypt is an incredible country and one that both wowed and intrigued me, which is a pretty big thing for me these days given how much of a get around I am. I learned quite a large amount of shit while I was here, so here it is! Enjoy!
Arabic words and Phrases
(NB. all spelling is how I would pronounce it, not how it is actually spelt because I am too lazy to look it up.)
La – no. A word that again is quite frequently used and also quite frequently interpreted as ‘yes’. This is nothing new in the land of travel, especially with hawkers and shop owners.
Yalla yalla – let’s go, lets go! Said anytime you are going somewhere.
Heidi lan – come on bro. What we used to say to the bus driver when he was too busy drinking coffee to drive the bus
Fi el mesh mesh – when pigs fly. A great phrase to use when someone tries to sell you shit you don’t want for a ridiculous price or for when men hit on you.
Belesh – free? Also a great thing to ask when people try to sell you shit you don’t want.
Meshi meshi – OK, OK. Also used in my case as ‘yeah yeah, whatever, I’m coming’.
Psora Psora– Quickly, quickly. Note that for emphasis everything is repeated twice. As if saying quickly twice will make me move more quickly. This is usually followed up with ‘meshi meshi’.
Habibi – my love. This is what the bus driver would call me and what I started calling the bus driver. Well actually he called everyone ‘habibi’ and one day I threw a strop. “I thought I was the habibi?!?” He says ‘you are assistant driver (because I sat in the seat behind him) and habibi royale’. I will accept this.
I was also quite surprised to see that many Arabic words are the same or similar to their Spanish counterparts… like jabon in Spanish, is sabun in Arabic, meaning ‘soap’. And pantalones (pants) and camiseta (shirt) are also the same.
Then of course there are words in English that are derived from the Arabic…..
Candy – is from the Arabic word ‘Qand‘ meaning sugar.
Alcohol – from the Arabic ‘al kuhl’
Algebra – the famous branch of maths that kids loathe, is ‘al jabr’
Cotton – from ‘qutn‘
Cheque – from ‘sakk‘ a vow to pay for merchanise.
Orange – from the Persian ‘naranj‘ which also translates to the Spanish ‘naranja’
Sofa – from the Arabic ‘suffah‘ which was the rulers throne. No wonder they are so comfy.
Shit About The Pyramids
The Great Pyramids of Giza took 2.3 million blocks to make by over 100,000 workers in the space of 20 years. On average, this is one block cut every 3 minutes.
The outsides of the pyramids were covered in red granite. This no longer exists as the blocks were pilfered for other building ventures.
The pyramids are 100% aligned to face north and this was done using the stars and their positions in the sky.
The apex of the temples was covered in a metal alloy consisting of a mix of gold and silver called electrum, which was naturally occurring in this area and Anatolia.
Each of the temples have a slope of fifty two degrees. This makes the centre of each of the temples a point of high energy and electrons. Apparently an apple sitting in the centre of the pyramid will not decay for this reason. Energy seekers come here and pay ridiculous amounts of money to experience the energy found in the centre of the great pyramid.
Shit About Other Temples
The people who made the pyramids and the temples were not slaves, but skilled workers. These workers even went on strike in the Luxor Valley for two months when they stopped receiving their wages… possibly the first form of industrial action of the day. The working week was ten days long and 8 of those days were working (I wonder if the Beatles came here before they wrote 8 Days A Week? In which case, they were a bunch of little hussies cheating on their misses’ for the weekend because the 9th and 10th day of loving didn’t count…. ponderance…. hmmm….). The workers also had holidays and health insurance.
There is a type of snake that jumps up at people to strike them from the sand depicted on the walls of one of the temples. What a scary fucking thought. As if snakes aren’t dangerous enough without letting them have springs for ab muscles.
All tombs in Luxor and in most of Egypt lie on the west bank of the Nile river. This is because this is the side of the river that the sun sets, or ‘dies’.
Majority of the medical tools we use today in surgery can be seen in the hieroglyphs on temple walls. They also had birth giving chairs that look very similar to squat toilets…. just let gravity take care of that.
The guy who discovered King Tutankhamun’s tomb died several days later. This is because he shaved the day he went discovering and deadly bacteria from inside the tomb got into the cut, infected it and he turned septic. From here on in, all awesome tomb raiders were equipped with manly tomb raiding beards.
They mummified loads of crocodiles. Well fucking cool.
The Romans are really good at building shit but even better at fucking up proportions. If you look really hard on Roman made Egyptian temples, you can find hands with thumbs on the wrong side, arms that are too long, and all kinds of ridiculousness. Artists they indeed were not.
Ancient Egyptian women only appeared to have one boob. An evolutionary anomaly…. hmmm….
Other Random Shit I Learned In Egypt
The Cairo cemetery is a giant land of satellite dishes. Apparently 80,000 people live in the cemetery.
To sort out a dispute between two men back in the Bedouin days, the leader of the tribe would place a hot knife on the tongues of both men. The idea was that the liar would have the tongue stick to the knife as his mouth was dry and the guy with nothing to hide would be relaxed and salivating at the thought of hot knives….. thus not sticking.
Snake poison and milk were given to newborn babies as a form of vaccination.
Majority of French perfumes from popular brands we know of today that were made post 1967 come directly from the recipes of perfumes used in Ancient Egypt. The French dude who deciphered the Rosetta Stone passed these on, so we can thank the Egyptians for Chanel No.5 and Armani’s Code, among many others.
When the Nubian guys were all fighting over girls and wanting to marry them the girls would respond in a simple way. If she wanted to marry the guy his tea would come loaded up with sugar. If she didn’t, no sugar for you sonny Jim.
The king at Sakkara used to have to fight and kill two bulls and cut of their tails as proof of worthiness of being king. They didn’t enforce this on Ramses the second who died in his nineties but was a total pimp. He would have been the Hugh Heffner of the Ancient Egyptian days fathering 162 kids that we know about…
There was a princess mummy on the Titanic when it sank. Cool!
Anyway, there are a few tidbits. There were loads more stories of things that happened in Egypt, but I will save those for another time. Til then x
When I left, I never in a million years imagined that I would be back in this city. The love/hate relationship that I had with the city and its people when I lived there had me all kinds of conflicted and when I eventually left, I vowed that I wouldn’t return. And then the travel gods made it so that transiting through Toronto from Amman to Bogota was the cheapest way for me to go and so I returned. The massive influx of memories that I had during my two days here was huge. I remembered so many things that I had forgotten and look upon fondly. Majority of the memories were oddly from my first 6 months living there when I was young, bright eyed and had never lived overseas before. So for me, and for those that were with me during those times, here are some of the memories that surfaced as I strolled around the streets of Toronto.
The first thing I remembered as I walked out of the Toronto Pearson Airport customs area was my friend Dayna greeting me on that very first day I arrived with a Tim Horton’s hot chocolate and a box of Timbits. It was almost like a homecoming. Unlike that day, I made my way to the new UP Express train to the city and got on board.
As I exited Union Station onto the street, that crisp cold hit me. I walked along Front Street past the Hockey Museum I said I’d go to and never did with the statues out the front. I couldn’t see the top of CN Tower that my ex used to call the ‘seeing tower’ as it was too foggy, but the lights of the lower half let you know that it was there and waiting. I made my way to the hostel where I lived for my first six months with one of my best friends and checked in.
The hostel had been newly renovated. The blue and orange colours of old were now replaced with white and black. The reception had moved to the front instead of the side and I made my way to check in. Despite the place being completely renovated, the bones reminded me of the old place. There is a new kitchen now where I won a beer and toothpaste in the pool competition and Tash and I carved a pumpkin on the floor for our first ever Halloween.
The couches we used to jump on while singing the Shakira Africa song, and where we drew on sleeping people’s faces has now been replaced with dining tables and chairs. The downstairs area in the Cavern is now a bar and bistro with live music, instead of the living room and kitchen. I went down to visit. The memories of dancing on the cavern tables for New Year, reading erotic literature from the bookshelf to the masses, threatening people who kept stealing my chocolate milk with laxatives, hiding in the laundry room to gossip with Del and Cian and just general shit talking with the other long termers came back.
The rooms are pretty much the same. Too hot. I got up in the night to turn off the heater and another girl got up and turned it back on. Tash and our other roommate used to fight over this all the time. It made me smile. I remember her coming home frequently with shit that she had stolen from out on the street when coming home drunk. The room we shared was so full of massive real estate signs, traffic cones (Tash’s doing), dildo’s and sex toys (my doing – stolen or acquired from the drag bar but more on that later) that we had an interesting time on our last night there trying to sneak all the shit down several flights of stairs and out the back door so that the staff members didn’t find out. I had quite the fetish for chocolate coated peanuts in those days too. I disgustingly used to keep a bag of them beside my pillow and eat them when I woke up after nights out so that I didn’t have to get out of bed to eat. That then became a daily occurrence. For my birthday Tash bought me 20 dollars worth of them and they were gone in the 2 days I spent on the couch feeling sorry for myself with a cold I contracted from a guy I made out with after Dirty Bingo.
That first day I went to get Timmy’s for breakfast and made way to the Eaton Centre where I used to work. Fossil was the same but the Aveda had been renovated. I walked around inside and sampled some new product before checking out what else was different. The Sears is now a Nordstrom. For that first Halloween, Tash and I went shopping at the Sears for my costume, a pillowcase that I cut up to go as Wilma Flintstone. In the process we tried some granny panties on our heads and took dumb photos.
I still remembered how to navigate through the PATH so I explored my other old workplace noticing that all the places I used to eat lunch have now gone except the Yogenfruz. So I got a Yogenfruz to go. As I walked along Queen St W I noticed that quite a lot of things had changed. There is a Toronto sign now in Nathan Philips Square, the shops have all changed. Luckily for me my favourite underwear store was still there and I went in to get some more bras. In those days I was obsessed and literally bought the store out of sets. I walked past the large car park where they had the Much Music concert and I got to see Lady Gaga perform among many other acts.
Up into Chinatown I went. Chinatown became a haunt of mine in Toronto because I was poor. Unfortunately the five dollar barbecue pork I loved no longer exists, but the Mashion Chinese bakery where Anthony and I used to eat all the time still did and I went in for some egg tarts. Just as I remembered them. Chinatown has lost a bit of its charm these days as people have started making upmarket places in the middle of something that was fabulously grimy. It doesn’t have the same feel anymore.
Over in Kensington, nothing had changed. The College Backpackers where I lived for a while looked exactly the same from the outside as it did six years ago. This place was filled with utter nut jobs. I remember sharing a room with one woman who thought that all Tim Horton’s employees were in cahoots with her husband who was trying to poison her so she couldn’t eat there. She wore a mask at all times too just in case. There was also a woman with some kind of schizophrenia who used to pace the kitchen having conversations with herself. One minute she’d be a lawyer defending Prince Charles as the father of Prince Harry and the next she’d be having a conversation about gardening. I did however meet some lovely people while I was there. We bonded over not being crazy. And I still have the thermos cup that the lovely Irish guy, Peter, gave me for doing his Canadian taxes for him.
From here I walked along College St where I used to spend a large number of my days walking flyers for a living for eleven dollars an hour. Because I was pretty quick at my job, I used to take an hour for lunch at Hero Burger and stay on the clock for it. Unfortunately all the Hero Burger’s in Toronto have magically disappeared along with many of my other favourite things. But the building where I studied my TESOL course was there and I was fortunate enough to catch up with a friend I made on that course and learn some interesting gossip.
I walked down Yonge St, past the Zanzibar…. flashback to that one afternoon where Del, Cian and I decided to do Culture Wednesday and went to the museum and then somehow managed to wind up at 4pm in the Zanzibar stripclub laughing at the men wipe the poles between each woman that came out to dance. Past the Stag Shop where I spent some time shopping with a friend as she convinced me that the government liked to fuck people so we were getting vibrators courtesy of her government tax rebate. And past the place Zelda’s was, where Dirty Bingo once took place. After getting a free drink voucher from a guy who was leaving, we went in to watch the drag queens lead the bingo and wound up with one of the guys we were with getting hauled up for naked bingo. I’ve never laughed so hard in my life. Then with the help of Del’s jacket, we stole a giant double ended dildo that we waved at people and slapped taxi’s with the whole way down the street home before I put the thing in Tash’s bed with her. I am trying not to laugh hysterically as she wakes up and something goes ‘thump’ on the floor and she puts her hand on it turns the light on her phone on and mutters ‘oh my god, my hand smells like giant dick’. She got her own back though, cause later that morning I was woken up by a giant dildo prodding me in the face.
And then of course there are the memories of the gay village and Crews and Tango. I went back on the Monday night which used to be Candice’s Star Search and watched Carlotta Carlisle perform. Once upon a time many years ago I was a support act for her. Just watching her made all the memories flood back. My friend DJ Quinces was there too and we had a chat about the good old days. I used to take part in some of her showcases at Buddies In Bad Times called Rendezvous to which some of the videos of my being a total hussy are still on the internet. I have so many fond memories of performing in that place. I remember doing an impromptu duet of Lady Marmalade with Amanda Roberts. Jumping up and down on the stage screaming out the Barbara Streisand song with Carlotta and Devine but saying our names instead of Barbara’s. I remember trying on the drag queens wigs and getting way more than I bargained for with bit tucking in the dressing rooms.
I remember my crew spreading nasty rumours about other contestants I was competing against in the star search to get votes. I remember supporting Jade Elektra and meeting some lovely people to collaborate with. I remember filling my friends handbag up with condoms and having her empty them on the table in the middle of the hostel in front of everyone saying ‘I believe these are yours’. I remember how much of a kick I used to get out of singing the difficult diva songs. I remember meeting my ex there and the boys giving him shit for having straight shoes. They did the birthday draw and because we nearly have the same birthday we were up together on stage and they heckled him to take his shirt off……. whoa. And of course, how it helped me to survive through a time where money was tight and work was infrequent. Some of the fondest memories that I have exist in that place and I was so grateful to be able to go back there.
Many people say that you shouldn’t go back to a place where you had the best time ever. And granted, those months were not exactly the easiest. There were a lot of bad memories and a lot of really tough times. But at the same time, I was really happy and thankful to be able to walk back and get reacquainted with a self that was wide eyed and so excited about getting out into the world. I am hoping that some of it encourages me now to take the same kinds of risks in my newest adventure. Anyway, I hope you’ve enjoyed my memories! Until next time x
In the glorious half term from school I decided that it was about time I ventured up to Scotland to see what it was all about. Not only was it full of stunning natural beauty, but also full of fun and fascinating stories of the past. I learned more than wee bit of shit while I was there, but here are some highlights.
Loads of different sayings take their origins from the Scots
Back in the days, Edinburgh was full of high-rise buildings. Of course, being in the days before toilets, people used to just chuck that shit out the window. Literally. If you were in the lower floors and had your head stuck out the window you risked getting shat on. So they would yell out before the bucket load of crap went flying out the window and if you didn’t get your head in quick enough, guess where it landed. They say that those who were drunk were dumb enough to hear the call of pending doom and instead of pulling their heads in, they would look up. And wind up with shit on their faces. Shitfaced. Superb!
‘Doing a Bouch job’
Thomas Bouch was an English engineer who built a bridge that wasn’t structurally sound, it fell down and killed a whole stack of people. What a massive fuck up! A total Bouch job
As much as the English and Europeans love to moan about the fact that we call it ‘soccer’ in Australia, it is in fact their fault. They bloody well invented the word. It derives from the full name of the sport from back in the day ‘association football’. Abbreviation of the name and tapping and ‘er’ on the end (oddly a very Australian thing to do… maybe that is where we get it from) results in the word ‘assoccer’.
The Beserkers were a Viking clan full of fierce warriors who apparently fought in such a massively drug-fucked state that people thought that they were crazy. As such, when people go crazy now, they are going berserk.
2. Seagulls can drool.
I mean, I had no idea until I was sitting on the pier with what has been voted the worlds best fish and chips and this damn seagull is sitting in front of me and his beak is literally dripping all over the pavement. He stopped once the fish was gone and I got to the chips. Clearly not as tasty…. but just wow…..
3. Witches don’t drown in shit.
So the river that used to run through Edinburgh used to be full of people’s shit that they used to just pour in there. When they accused people of being witches, they used to throw them in the river and say that if they didn’t sink and drown that they must be a witch. Well given the viscosity of a pile of faecal matter, most of them really didn’t sink. So they’d drag them out and burn them on the stake. That right there is logic for you. Even better, they cleared all of the shit out of this area and turned it into a nice lovely park full of green plants and wonderful flowers fertilised by the remnant bits of shit and dead witches from the area. One may even say that when sitting down there having lunch that you are hanging in the shit pit.
4. Braveheart the movie is an absolute load of shit and things really didn’t happen that way at all.
Firstly, the ‘brave heart’ actually referred to the heart of Robert the Bruce, not William Wallace. Robert’s heart was carried into the battle that won the Scots independence after his death.
The Battle of Sterling win hinged on the fact that there was a bridge that the English had to cross and were eventually backed into a corner of the river bend and couldn’t retreat. Where’s the bridge?
Bruce did not betray Wallace and get him captured
ugh…. and the list could go on… very entertaining fiction for the most part.
5. Other random shit
The word Caledonia is what the Romans used to call Scotland
Fife is the alcohol and oddly enough, pregnancy capital of Scotland being home to the bottling of Schmirnoff, Barcardi and Johnny Walker
Half Hangit Maggie was a legend for surviving a hanging and waking up in the coffin on her way down the road to be put in the ground. She kicked on for another 40 years post that….
Greyfriars Bobby is also a legend. He was a dog that sat by his masters grave for the better part of 15 years, his love and loyalty never faltered.
I still don’t like oysters…. the slimy thing went down and some shell got stuck on the roof of my mouth and gag reflex kicked in… yuk. Just feed me a kilo of mussels instead any day.
Stone circles are everywhere up north in Lewis and Harris. I daresay they are cooler than Stonehenge and…. free!
And…. I want to go back to Scotland! This country is amazing and the nature is just stunning. I want to go back and climb more mountains and take some more boat trips!
As a continuation of the journey I spent travelling around Iceland in a camper with a friend, we have now made it to the south. If you missed the first half, check out Travelling Iceland By Camper Van – Part 1.
Day 4 – Hofn to Dyrrholaey
This day was one of the most impressive days I have ever spent travelling for a number of reasons. It was such a diverse day and it presented itself with things I had never seen before, namely my very first iceberg. We drove straight to Jokulsarlon in the morning and got our tickets to go for a boat ride on the glacier lake with floating icebergs in it. I absolutely loved it! It was so cool driving around these massive chunks of ice that don’t even look like ice at times. The boat ride was over too quickly but at the same time, we had loads still to do for the day.
From here we drove on to Skaftafell National Park and went on a hike to some very cool waterfalls that had rock formations unlike anything I had ever seen.
We continued to drive on through the world’s largest black sand desert with all of the massive chunks of rocks strewn across the landscape until we hit Dyrrholaey. I was obsessed with getting here because all I wanted to do while I was there was see a puffin. And I did! It was really cool to see them on the headland but I was so cold and so tired that I figured I would go sleep and see them in the morning and when I got up they weren’t there anymore. My friend thinks this is hilarious and will not let me forget it.
Day 5 – Dyrrholaey to Fludir
And so we drove on with the impressive glaciers in the background. We continued our way through to Skogafoss, which was a massive waterfall that you could walk behind and got soaked. Then we drove on to catch the ferry to the Westmann Islands.
The Westmann Islands are incredibly active volcanically and in 1973 there was a massive eruption that resulted in an entirely new mountain being formed on the island. Lava spat out of this new crater for months, destroying and burying houses that can still be seen in the museum and the entire island was evacuated. Thankfully, nobody died and people have since moved back to the island but the entire thought of it was super scary.
After taking the ferry back to the main island, we then continued to drive towards Fludir where we got a rest in for the evening.
Day 6 – Fludir to Reykjavik
This day was to be dedicated to doing the famous Golden Circle. We started by making our way up to see Gulfoss, one of the most famous waterfalls on the island.
We then drove through to see the massive geyser. It took a little while to wait for it to erupt but it certainly didn’t disappoint.
The event of the day however was the Thingvellir National Park. We spent some time wandering the fault line here and exploring the region before we headed down to do something that is still one of the coolest things I have ever done. We got into our dry suits, then we got into two degree water that was runoff from a glacier, and then we snorkelled between the tectonic plates of North America and Europe.
After all of the excitement and getting a little bit sunburnt, we continued our drive back to Reykjavik where we parked overnight in a playground to get the car ready to return in the morning. Whirlwind romance with Iceland was over.
Day 7 – Reykjavik
I spent one last day of sightseeing in Reykjavik before I had to return back to work. While I was wandering around I went and saw the famous church, and of course ate a dirty hotdog that Iceland is so famous for. I also took a free walking tour and learned about the parliament and other histories of the country that were super interesting.
Iceland is one of my favourite countries in the world. I love the people and I love the incredible diversity of the nature that you find here. I cannot recommend coming here enough and hopefully this gives you an idea of the things to see and how to do it!