I'm back home. It's been a while, actually. About a month. It took me a bit of time to say it, though I took this decision in a split-second, in a car headed for Bundaberg, QZ, Australia. It was as clear a decision as leaving my country in the first place. Antarctica fell asleep as this motto of my life it's been this last year. Life went too harsh to bear without this light that brightened my path. Lost my tent, phone, computer charger, shit loads of stuff. Was living under a tarpaulin and a tropical storm in a public ditch for three days. looking at it, I realize that's a pretty okay situation in regards to what I've done. The problem was elsewhere. I lacked everything I had and my freedom was no more to compensate for it - I felt I relied on everybody, considered the idea of taking my parents' money to get to New-Zealand. I couldn't solve my visa issues lurking ahead. This trip is over, and I'm done with Antarctica. For now.
But the virus of travel bit me. Heaps of projects already structure my future.
One last word for everybody and everything that make life wonderful. I see your faces, all of them:
Wandering in a sunny morning around the Melbourne suburbs, I suddenly spotted what I've been looking for the last couple of months: a pretty rad pair of shoes.
Around Australia (and all western countries, sounds like a trend) young folks use to throw their shoes up the aerial wires of electrical poles, reaching impressive shoe-per-meter concentrations, sometimes. But those were perfect. I had time, nothing urgent to do, and they looked like my size, great, high shoes.
Presently I started to shoot at it with my slingshot. Pretty useless, especially given the scanty amount of rocks around and the reasonable possibility a lost rock ends up in somebody's car. Then I tried to fish them. But after a fair hour of failing miserably, one guy came at me telling me fishing string is conductive. I was quite sceptical, but I stopped my attempt. Then I assembled my fishing rod, my walking stick, the two parts of my woomera (that I changed for a boomerang, by the way - somebody offered one to me, and though I can make it come back, I won't catch it, so far) my telescopic handnet with strings and sticky tape, obtaining a 4 meters pole that ended with my knife. But the thingwas so swingy there was no way that was gonna work. Then this awesome bloke came:
His name's Andrew, and he wants to be engineer. Well, I bet he will, and here's why:
He came back with a pair of scissors, a rope, and a few additional sticks. We stitched the scissors up the pole we reinforced with the sticks; then we attached a branch of the scissors to an upper pole with spare rubber I use to stitch up my slingshot so it'll spring back in open position - thereon we also attached the rope that was wriggling all the way down the pole to us. It looked like that at the top (less bright, though - thanks to my webcam)
So when you pulled the rope, the scissors would close... And snape the shoe string. And when it did happen, when they fell down the floor after a fair 4 hours attempt, I rushed to hug my co-worker in this wonderful endeavour. Andrew, you're the man.
Here are the shoes:
They're safety shoes, reinforced with iron at the top. After that, I nailed my shoes to the electrical pole, carved "Heading For Antarctica" on the front, and took this pic:
One entire fucking year of the most intense bit of life I ever had. Miss ya.
Reminds me of the ceremony of the old shoes with Francois... Remember this cold Turkish night, bro ?
Now, a few additional pics:
My new look (it's godamn windy here, and the fishermen I unloaded some sharks with gave me the hat):
When I was at the salt lake, I picked up a chuck of salt - damn useful to cook mussels down here !
Follow me on Google:
Lakes Entrance, Victoria, Australia
A THING OR TWO
I've been depicting a lot of bad stuff on this blog, and there's more to be told. But now I realize I may give the idea I'm suffering hell - while I'm having the time of my life ! Australia IS wonderful ! I'm particularly amazed by birds and wildlife in general, they're my daily companions (Koo-koo-koo-kaa-ka-kaaaaa !!!!) and they're gracious companions. Australians are awesome folks: generous, laid-back, simple - a few weirdos, they're my favourites ^^ I feel they're the people it would be the harder to encage. They just love their freedom, their bleemin' kilometers of wilderness. Well, actually, not everybody, for sure. But this is a happy article, I'll stick to it. Australian nature is so devastatingly beautiful, and so untouched ! Those forests... Plus, in the North, I had super-good friends (Gisele, Alana - big kisses to you, dangerously alive people !) along with the south (Mick'n'Pocahontas, may Couch Surfing be praised for the centuries to come).
This sunset in Chennai, an explosion of green and pink, like a stellar eyecat. Our mystic walk in Gobekli Tepe, Turkey. The first three days: exhilaration, Freedom, FREEDOM. This unvaluable feeling that I can go where I want - climbing this volcano in Sumatra just because it was there and appealed me - AMRITSAR. Boats, boats, boats. A chat with two young Indonesians, frozen to death on the way to Flores. My three-days ride with these amazing Punjabi truckers.Sitting two hours in front of Taj Mahal. My incredible days in Hampi. Croatian wilderness in winter. Venezia giardinnis. Peeling almonds along Greek roads.Frying meat in the hills with Francois. ATHENES. Our little stove in the damn cold Turkish mountains. Esfahan, esfahan. My arrival in Delhi and my night in the slums. Thai hills. Malaysian jungle, alone.
ALONE and FREE
PS: I have new shoes. But the way I got them for free is so awesome I need pictures to show you.
Adelaide, South Australia
An underground church in Cobber Pedy, a opal-miners town, where everything is underground.
Me in Antarctica. Ahh just joking, it's me on a salt lake !
After heaps of problem to reach this big island, here I am, in the middle of the stuart Highway, heading, finally, for the cold south. Let's see how's Tasmania.
Australia's a weird country. Looks very clean. A bit like switzerland. And a bit like them, they disregarded the crisis, though I doubt they'll escape it when south'east asia will fall behind India and the hidden flaws of China. There's no clean way to escape a crisis. One of them is to have such a high-valued currency that it would repel immigration and create "a kind of indepedency" - I'm being a bit cynical, here, 'cause whatever the showcases around the island might show, 97% of aboriginal population died from imported sicknesses, rape, murder - that's how you get ressources, and "indepedency". Now they die from smoke and alcohol. The system kills them, and it is forbidden to blame the system). Paradoxically, in good ol' Australia, you're incredibly free, and also incredibly trapped. Free, cuz the country's huge, and bush food is more abundant than you think, the police won't go for you, where nobody goes but helicopters. And believe me, I met a few bushmen, those women and men who choosed to be 100% free for living a harsh life. Trapped, because it is forbidden to live without money in Australia, like in every western country. Every day that passes, I realize how true is this statement: police protects the rich. Live it, you'll understand it. All this system protects where this money comes from. It is so funny that the UN and their funders look at the third world like a child unable to think by itself while themselves are a (white) copy of it. Ass-licking is just hidden behind fancier walls, big pick-ups and black glasses. The reality of our world is somewhere in an african village, devastated by corruption, greed and hunger.
But Australia (like switzerland, as a matter of fact) is also a rejoicing place: every "mates", here, feel like that's the place they belong to- they have a strong sense of community. I like that. And this country is gorgeous. Pristine. I swam in the more beautiful waterholes in my life. Food is abundant, even if poisonous, for 60% of it ^^
I sleep with the stars of the desert, the random nocturnal stomps of the wallabies (dodgy game, they are), and the cries of the parrots. Love the outback. Truly. But leaving it.
Alice Springs, Northern Territory, Australia
A LONG ARTICLE
This is Uluru, though in a different point of view you might already have seen it. Check that, Pierre.
(the picture up that is me and Martin, my big friend upthere along with his uncle Bento ^^ - the lizard right here is the guardian of the House of Martin's family, in the mountains, in Cribas - no joke; it would frighten rats which were thrice its size. I was amazed !!!)
Me and the adorable (but cheeky) Milania !!!!
A quick update to say I made it. Eating grasshoppers, termites, green ants, a few birds... Biting the red dust.
On my way to Uluru.
BY THE WAY:
Bento, Martin, Leicha, Auntie, Milana, and all the others..
I can't build such a tribute that would cover all that you did for me.
I love you. All of you. I'll always remember those evenings on the threshold of your house. I'll remember dancing with Leicha at the marriage. I'll remember witty auntie ! And Martin... Who would have guessed, in this bus from Kupang ! And Criwas, Manatuto... The football match with Leicha: "Five to ZERO, YYYEEAEAAAAAHHHH !!!!" (heaps of children rushing around).
And Milania.... Well. I'll upload some vids uphere when I'll be able to. See you in ten years ^^
How NOT to hitch-hike a boat
It's been three weeks or so I hang out on the same damn marina in the harbour of Dili.
First mistake: I arrived 3 days late. Yes. Three days before, the last yachts of the Darwin-Dili sailing rally had went off. The worst is I probably knew it. I usually spend a lot of time checking my usual websites for boats, namely:
- Desperate sailors
I know there are plenty of others, but those ones remained as the more efficient and the only ones I got answers from. Well - this is also a mistake. Findacrew requires a premium account to send direct messages to sailors (50 goddamn bucks) or you can just send "waves" and wait for the sailor to call you back. Strangely, nobody ever did (hey, hello,I have no money, could you take me on your yacht for free ? ^^ ) To be honest, my "wave-designed message" is a bit lenghtier and I never (even face to face) go straight to the "no money point"; if we get along with each other, I bring it on the table. Sometimes I don't have the choice, though: " Wanna beer ? - Right'o, buddy (yeah,that's the wee beginnings of my OZ slang. Soon this blog won't be readable by anybody else than an ol' croc huntie from QZ. No worries, mate) if you pay for it. Otherwise I'll have tap water, thanks." And then, the relation turns bipolar: love story or open warfare. Interesting.
About that, I realized recently the two parts of the Metallica song "wherever I may roam" I can't exactly identify to are: "free to speak my mind anywhere" and "I redefine everywhere". For the latter, I fear I'm helpless. I met a few travellers without roots, yes. I can't uproot myself. Lose myself-though that's my goal since Turkey. I don't know if I want it, or if I'm even able to do it. I'm also stuck to this idea of a monolithic personnality that forms "me". I know it makes no sense and it will only give me pain throughout this life. There's no recipe for doing this. Working abroad in lots of different places, having sex with different people while trying to unveil your dorming bisexuality (of course it does dwell within, dig a wee-bit). Travelling, travelling, travelling. Read. Open yourself to religion. A few others, for sure - but none of them will put you on the path of self-losing. This process comes from the sheer will to do it. And I don't have it. It frightens me. And that's weird. Because lots of psychologists say the fear of losing your "personnality" , as a shell between you and the world - is intimately linked to the fear of coming undone, totally - of death; thus the real art of dying is about coming undone as a free decision, in this very life:
"Art of dying
Is the way to let all go
Take no possessions
I'd rather travel light"
- Gojira, The Art of Dying
And I am not afraid of death. At all - except for a brutal death, and so on; I'm not that stoic.
So why am I afraid of letting go ? I'm afraid of losing some rational stability. Arf. Whatever.
For the first phrase of the song, I've been practicing this - NOT enough. As soon as I'll reach Australia, I'll make it straight for the Outback, leaving a giant "Fuck off" behind my trail. I'll do the couchsurfing thing again in Australia ('cuz I doubt very much I can totally go without it in western countries- and because that's very cool as well ^^) but well - sometime after my arrival.
SO. This boat-hitch-hiking. I missed the rally. Then I socialized. A LOT. With the police, the youngsters, the yachties, the locals. After one week, I had three regular places to sleep in: the house of my friend Martin. The police station (^^). The Art and music center, very similar to the school I learnt guitar in, with this difference that I question the possibility of a total stranger to sleep in there with the instruments. I had my tamarin-tree to eat, and plenty of fishing + shellfish/crayfishes picking I barely used, fed that I was in the police mess, or amongst the family of Martin. I got in touch with whoever I wanted while I systematically helped them out - captains, sailors - and had access to all the police data concerning the boats to come in the bay. I could enter the container port without permit (0o)- a bitter reminder of Chennai container port. Most of all with the help of a printed interview from MI (Hail Patna !)in Bahasa Indonesia, widely spoken in Timor Leste, along with Tetun and Portuguese, the latter being the official language.
There's a lot to say about Timor Leste. Later I'll speak of it, maybe. That's a frigging interesting country. But I'd hesitate to say "promising". Mmm...
The first real opportunity came with a catamaran. After some networking, I got in touched with the captain. He was indeed going back soon to OZ, but asked 300 dollars. Mmm. Interesting - for notice, the plane to Darwin is twice cheaper. And don't bullshit me with the price of food. Even sharing the costs of diesel (what you usually don't think of when you hitch-hike !) wouldn't totalize such a ridiculous amount of money, but if you indeed pay all of it : around 400 dollars of diesel are necessary to hit Darwin from here if you plan to counter front wind, or to leave the harbour without the early afternoon back gull. Anyway people always go sail and engine for this crossing. All in all,it's a pleasant 100 bucks per day - a container boat (those mighty fellows) can make the 500 kms in one and a half days (0o !!!) - which most of the time is met by a a three or four days trip for the average skipper. I had no idea container boats were so bloody fast.
WHICH makes me think : who the hell is gonna draw that sum for such a short rip-off raid ? I stand bewildered in amazement (mouhaha here comes Duke Antoine). I remember asking the same question about Pizza Hut pizzas. To my knowledge, they are the only pizzas in the world you can buy from 15 to 30 (no shit) euros. Poor and middle-class wouldn't waste their money there, and the rich ain't going to Pizza Hut. So: WHO ? Well at the time I concluded they put heaps of nicotin in the dough (yet not too much or it can be lethal), making the first bite the insurance it won't be the last. Later on the captain precised: "but food is included". Woohoo. And what about heroin ?
After that, came a barely 15 feet- long schooner, populated by FOUR people. I did ask - without too much hope. I don't even see how they managed not to kill each other. And they had a rough sea. Then an old OZ moored in the port. We kept in touch and I kept an eye on him. Then came the first container boat that really looked like I could jump on it. The captain and all the crew was OK, and (which is pretty extraordinary, and probably related to the idea of having the name of the company quoted in (the first ?) world-tour without money - Ludovic Hubler used this a lot in his World-tour Hitch-hiking in 2005) the owning company seemed disposed to discuss the matter (even though it meant waiting 20 days more, at least, with no certainty but having to extend my visa here), while they SYSTEMATICALLY have said NO to all the other backpackers who came the same way so far. It refills my antarctican faith bottle a wee bit.
Then the old OZ made up his mind for leaving. Throughout a 10 seconds bargaining, we agreed on this deal: he'd take me to Darwin tomorrow - integrally for free. I was happy. Next day my stuff's on the boat, we're ready to leave and checking out at the customs. My passport have no entry stamp in Timor-Leste - I crossed this damn border like everybody, showed my papers to everyone and submitted my bag to searching. Why the fuck they didn't stamp my passport is a mystery. So the immigration guy refuses to stamp me out. My captain is eager to go. A friend in the marine police promises to help me out, that I'll get this exit stamp. I'm relieved - but in the meanwhile the officer has left for lunch. Lunch that will last roughly four hours, leaving my captain too pissed to wait for more - he left without me. The immigration officer arrived ten minutes after (that is to say pretty much one hour after the time he was supposed to come). After that , I had this discussion with Martin's Uncle:
Martin's uncle: Hey you know what ?
Me: What ?
MU: Well if you find another boat that is asking for less than 300 dollars, like 250 or 260 - I'll pay for it.
Me: Well - the plane is twice cheaper. What I heard says it ranges between 190 and 150 dollars.
MU: Really ?? Why didn't you say it before ? I'll manage the plane for you.
Discussion that was followed by a lot of "But, but, but" and "Nevermind, nevermind, nevermind", but well, truth is here: I should soon be on a plane to Darwin... As soon as I've got my passport properly stamped- back at the border ><.
I just saw Into The Wild, again. I accurately remember each time I saw it. First at theater with my parents. This day I remind my mother was afraid: "I hope it won't give you any ideas" ^^ She liked the movie, though. Second time with three friends, one of those were back from America with peanut sweets. And third time, now, sitting on a plastic chair in Dili, Timor-Leste. Heading for the red, distant Outback.
Whoua. What a mindfuck. What a powerful echo.
And. AND: Kristen Stewart IS actually good in this movie. Well I mean - not bad. And hot. Especially hot.
PS: I spotted this image hidden between two frames of the movie:
Is it in the original feature or ? Does anybody have any clue about that ?
This righteous dagger
Inside of us
Won't last forever
Don't fear to let it out
Gojira, L'Enfant Sauvage
What matters the most in life
Is to feel, at least for one moment (...)
To feel strong - not to be strong - to feel strong.
To go back to the primal state of human life
Into The Wild
Right: I might quote Gojira too much. But for those who don't know, apart from the fact their last album is named "L'Enfant Sauvage" (The Wild Child) , the singer/guitarist/lyricist Joe Duplantier actually lived for one full year in the forest, living only from hunting, fishing, berry-picking, sleeping in the trees, making campfires... Songs like: In the forest, or In the Wilderness and therefore L'Enfant Sauvage I listen to with deep respect.
I realized some time ago this blog drastically lacked (among numerous other things) an everyday life content: pics of how I survive.
Well, I still have no pics of fishes or rabbits, that I promised to Pierre, but here's what I have:
My clothes hanging down a palm-tree.
My shoes were destroyed by ten months of harsh hiking. I found leather, rusty nails and rubber, and here's the result:
Army everywhere: US Marines, Navy, UN.... Arrgh. I feel stressed. Francois always mocked my paranoia of authority. Gasp.
Timor-Leste. There's too much to write on this emerging country. Lots of hope - lots of dead-ends as well. No one can tell how Dili's gonna look like in a few years, and certainly not me. What I see is they manage more cultural freedom here than in Indonesia.
Average monthly salary of a Timori (actually earning a salary): 320 $
Average rental price of a house with current water and electricity, isolation and a fridge: 500 $
UN diplomats salaries in Timor Leste: from 8 000 $ to 30 000 $
Hanging out with cool dudes playing metal and singing in tetun (the traditionnal language) - awesome. I feel really lucky to be here at the cradle of this naiton - everything seems possible.
I have three boats in scope heading for Darwin in a few days. No certainty yet. I cross my fingers.
Kupang, West Timor
"I met the dragon
In a cave by the mountain
Now I bring the evidence
The beast is alive"
Gojira, Where Dragons Dwell
After a long trip hitch-hiking trucks throughout the numerous ferries of the Sonda archipelago (Bali, Lombok, Sumbawa, Flores) - some of them with the unextinguishable help of my Jakarta friends (when will they stop ?) I managed to get the entrance of the park for free (via the director of the park himself whose number Patna gave me ^^) , along with the crossing of the channel to Komodo:
Komodo Dragons (ora, in the local language -almost each of those islands have their particular dialect) are massive, their bite is poisonous, they can swim and survive two weeks without food. Little, they are similar to Monitor lizards (shown in a previous article) and are prey to wild dogs and sea eagles. But as they grow up, they become the unchallenged masters of Rinca and Komodo, the two main islands of the park.
As you can see, the villages near the swamps the monsters like to cool down their blood are circled by protective walls. Goats and chicken, along with children, are not unlikely to be bitten. Fortunately for the children, the Komodo Dragon is mainly a scavenger, and will only bite its prey in hope of tracking it down for up to one month (!!), slowly witnessing its dereliction as the poison affects the animal - most often a deer or a water buffalo (those ones are huge). As the "poison" is actually bacterias at a highly concentrated level, a horse-shoot of antibiotics will save any victim.
But in some occasions, the beast is more aggressive and may kill on sight; this season was mating season, and the fight I witnessed (and recorded for you) is for male dominance.
Dragons can ambush their prey and it's not rare to merely step on one of them as they try to look as much as possible as a steady rock - and believe me, they do. They also inhabit certain caves on the islands, an you quite feel like in a movie while crossing the threshold of a grotto where, among the frenzied flying foxes (cute, enormous bats) lie the scattered remains of a deer.
Despite all that, Ora usually is solitary and calm - even afraid of man, most of the time. Mating wrestling is never pushed to death even if we saw one old male which got its leg broken in a fight - could still eat its content, as corpses don't run ^^. The supreme advantage of being a scavenger... Their eyes have round-shaped pupils (unlike most reptiles) and they have five fingers at each paw. This is why the legend grew that the dragons are originated from the same mother as the indigenous and are therefore brother to them. And indeed some friendships are said to have appeared once in a while. When I got to Rinca, one of the rangers showed me "his friend" on his mobile phone: on the picture, you can see him lying aside a 3-meters long dragon, quietly warming in the sun - I don't remember the name he gave to it. The rangers respect them and do their best to stem and control the flow of tourists. This is encouraging. Even though the number of beasts on the island diminished drastically between 2004 and now. Their lifecycle is fragile: the mother will dig two nests - one of them is systematically fake, to deceive predators - and lay between 30 and 50 eggs inside. Only 5% should survive. The mother will abandon the eggs VERY early; much before they open. And sometimes eat the newborns.
Komodo Dragons can live up to 50 years, it seems.
The Komodo national park is also home to numbers of rare fauna, among which wild horses, sea eagles, and this aggressive crab, which left claw is oversized:
I'm in Kupang, Timor. From there, if no boat of any sort is available to Darwin, which, given the immigration policies of Australia regarding Indonesia, is very likely to happen, I'll make it for Timor Leste, where I should easily find a container ship whatsoever.
As I pack my bag tonight in a dark concrete room, tired of the day - thinking to tomorrow, if I will make it or not to Timor, then Timor Leste, then Australia, then Antarctica...
This remembrance occurs to my mind: lately, everybody have been asking me: "what's your mission ?" And the answer always was, more or less:
"I have no mission. I'm not travelling for peace, environment, or children education. I'm travelling for myself."
But now I realize something. All those "crazy" adventurers, and all the pride our society puts, in its underneaths, in the notion of craziness.
We might have the feeling our lives are boundless, floating somewhere we don't even belong to. Our lives are lightnings so fast, time will barely bear a mark of it. This soup of unleashed, empty, meaningless individualities is crazy. Totally mad. Like in the "Mad World" song, of Gary Jules - the lyrics are all about that.
Then this weird pride of the craze relies in the feeling to be out of this system that pretends to be rational. This is what fools used to be. Wise disguised in fools in courts of kings. They all think I drank the poison from the well but only I know I'm the only one who didn't.
But nowadays, counter-culture reversed the phenomenon. To be "crazy" is the norm. Any asshole who'll get an Ipad thinks it's crazy because it swallowed all the money a none-too crazy job gathered.
The Link. To people, nature, and all that counts. To weave some link. To dig into the meaning of freedom, beneath the sea of lies - beneath the remains.
Poor people know their duties. I'll always remember Mounipal, in Chennai, when I told him about the "lost in translation" feeling we westerners all have more or less. He told me, under the starry sky:
"What you have to do is your duty.
- What is your duty ?
- My duty is to make my parents happy. At all costs.
- And what if this cannot be my duty ?
- Well - find another one. We all know our duties, you know. Sometimes we just runaway"
Even though this is proper to the Indian culture and the particular idea of karma, it tells a lot.
And now I find myself in a place I never thought in the world I would find myself in. By my own means - by my own will power and strength. And I want to say something I actually deeply believe:
My mission is a world without money. Without war. Without social classes. A world where we would cease to tear our Earth apart.
So yes, if it ever makes any sense: I travel for peace, for environment, children education - and all the link in the world we can possibly weave together. Because everyday I ask the blind trust of heaps of people. And they never stop showing me - friendship is everywhere, barely hidden behind the upper-class white plastic fence of indifference. Because I leave absolutely no trace of my passage - eat what people throw away, I could as well not have existed. Because I worked in an orphanage, and gave some english lectures. And above all: because I try to convey this overwhelming love you've all been giving to me. And try to show you're not so different one from another. I try to break prejudice.
What I'm doing right now is not very useful - but at least inoffensive. Not everybody can say that. Everytime food is bought or work is made - this whole world is above exploitation of people and soil. I try to escape that. For a moment.
After that, there is work to do. Everywhere, we can all be useful - this world can actually go better. I want to cry there is hope because (even if I'm reluctant to say it) so much people are still good at heart !
PS: Bad news update - I have a few days overstay on my Indonesian visa, and the odds are good the border to Timor Leste office will charge the hell out of my ass for this. I hope I can get them on Supertramp's side ^^