Lake Lovely Water, Vancouver

We sweat through our backpacks,

Tripping over unstable river stones

we search for the bright plastic ribbons that flutter

guiding us up

this fucking mountain.

Higher —

Scrambling up the steep cliff,

my nails deep in the dirt.

We start with laughter,

twenty questions — Who am I?

Three hours in, everyone ahead

Above, I cannot see them.

Who am I?

Panic pounds in my ears,

a child lost in a supermarket filled with deep green

and the smell of pine needles.

There are patches of snow.

I will go hungry.

What will I do when night comes?

They call to me and I almost sob with relief.

Thirty seconds. Only a few moments.

So afraid to be alone, even in this great stillness.

Angry to be so grateful.

We are tired as we reach the campground.

The lake is frozen and snow is everywhere.

In my boots, my toes are numb.

We break into the cabin and dry wood,

at least we will be warm tonight.

Steam rises from my socks above the stove and I

can’t shake the memory of a story I once read,

The boy and his father walking in the snow

A yellow moon and an owl.

We don’t see any bears

but out on the ice is a broken log

— its bear shaped if you squint.

I dream of walking alone in dark widening circles

hooting forlornly.

Delhi — also known as rape city?

As our plane touched down in Delhi my nerves were on edge. I was wearing my most unattractive ensemble (to hide any semblance of the female form), I hadn’t washed in days and I had already been felt up at four different checkpoints between checking in and boarding the plane at Kathmandu airport. (Those Nepalese officials prefer the intimate approach to security every time!)
Continue reading “Delhi — also known as rape city?”

Life As A Mexican… expat

Starting out life in a new city isn’t easy, especially when your grasp on the native language is slim to none.

In April 2013 I packed up my flat, left my full-time job and went to live in Mexico. I could lie and say I made the choice because I can’t get enough tacos, but who am I kidding. I travelled half way around the world for love. It was not lost on me that I flew out on April Fool’s day.

These are the notable things that I realised in the first month:

1) Drugs are easy to get.

On the flight to LA, the elderly man next to me offered me a sleeping pill.

“If you want a pill love, I bought a few from a doctor I know. Gives me the strong stuff”.

His wife lent over him and said,

“He’s not going to take advantage of you while you’re sleeping, I’m his wife, that’s what I’m here for”.

Touche`elderly couple. Touche`.

2) As much as I care about animals, the assumption that going to Mexico would not contribute to eating my body weight in meat products was unrealistic.

3) People everywhere love farts. Especially old Mexican women on tiny, stinky buses called collectivos.

4) Miscellaneous meat (also known affectionately as ‘misc meat’) is by far the tastiest you will ever eat. I think it’s the fear of parasites that heightens the flavour.

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5) Going to a city where you are sure to be shot in some kind of drug/ gang related violence is only likely if you get involved in a Mexican drug cartel. If you are eating churros, being ripped off at fruit and vegetable stalls and visiting the Frida Kahlo museum, you are obviously not bad ass enough.

6) Mexican women wear a disproportionate amount of lyrca.

7) No matter how much of a local you think you are, you will still be known as a pinche gringa or a guerro. Don’t be offended, it’s because you are white, have blonde hair and are trying to speak spanish like a child with a learning disability.

8) Machismo is a “thing”. Machismo means that groups of older men can leer at you from street corners and call out delightful propositions like “I LOVE YOU” or “MARRY ME” or even just “SEXY” . They might also just hiss at you, which I always find quite complimentary.

9) Taco stands bring a whole new meaning to the ‘drunken munchies’. You will be munching like a drunk from dawn to dusk and let me tell you, it’s going straight to your butt. (Which is lucky, because Mexican’s love that).

10) You will start purchasing lyrca outfits and actually wearing them. Because of the enormous amount of tacos you have been eating, your butt will bulge like a tightly wrapped chorizo. You will be deluded into thinking this is the best you have ever looked due to the constant and inappropriate male attention.

Reflecting on my time in Mexico, I not only realised how generally hilarious my life was there and also that I could happily eat endless tacos and wear lyrca on my chorizo butt forever. I guess I found my true calling.

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Pube Potatoes

Recently I travelled to India. On my last day, I decided that I was going take risks and be adventurous. I saw a man selling fried potatoes on the side of the road.

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Well, I decided. I’m definitely going to have some of those. They look delicious. I asked the gentleman above if he would be so kind as to give me some of his wares. I pulled a few rupees out of my purse and felt proud that after 3 and a half weeks in India, I was starting to feel less like a tourist.

He nodded enthusiastically, gave me a charming grin, pulled out a small aluminium bowl and scraped on the potatoes. With his bare hands. That had just been down his pants.

Sometimes in life, you just roll with it. This was one of those times. Yeh, his hands looked like they hadn’t been washed in 6 years, but this was INDIA. I needed to lose my western squeamishness and harden the fuck up.

The potatoes were delicious, fried and coated in exotic spices, I shovelled them into my mouth with gusto. Then I saw something that made me stop.

This is what I saw (look closely at the potato):

Pube Potato

I sometimes wish that situations like this one will go unnoticed. That I could somehow, just throw away the potato and pretend I had never eaten the rest of them. But life doesn’t work that way and it was only a millisecond after I had seen it, that my travel partner and best friend Erin pointed an accusing finger at the remaining potato.

“There’s a big pube on that potato”.

Fuck.

Perfect Preparation Prevents Piss Poor Performance

A friends dad told me about the 6 P’s just before our final exams. I was 16 going on 17 and thought old people were the worst. Needless to say, the wisdom was lost on me. As it has been, most of my life, hindsight is a massive bitch.

20 minutes into our 4 day hike in the Nepalese Himalayas I wished I hadn’t been such a know it all.

It had begun to rain and Erin and I were wearing runners. Our socks were wet, we didn’t have rain jackets and our bags were the super cool, cloth souvenir type made by Nepalese hippies. Despite looking fabulous for any “WE ARE BEING ADVENTUROUS LOOK AT US” photos we planned to take, we were hideously under prepared.

We were setting out from the mountain town of Pokhara and planned to trek the Annapurna circuit trail. A trail that went vertically up to a place (hilariously) named Poon Hill and back again. We were under the impression it would be a leisurely 4 day hike, with maybe a few little challenging rocky bits. We were wrong.

Realizing it was colder than I expected, I purchased a bright pink puffy jacket just before the hike, which made me look like a pregnant piece of fairy-floss. On the upside it would probably be the reason I was found if I happened to slip off a mountain.

That first day we hiked 9km up 3,000 stone steps. Exhausted, our legs hurting, we looked much less glamorous than expected. That night, Raju*, our Nepalese guide pointed out the ominous snow clouds on the horizon. Three days later trudging through calf deep snow in leggings and runners, I couldn’t help but think about how fun and spontaneous we were, whilst I shivered with cold.

For this reason I decided to make a list of things to remember for any hopefuls who also plan to go trekking (in freezing conditions) sometime in the near future:

  • 1. Wear good shoes. If you don’t, you will have to sacrifice a pair of socks, which you will then put over the outside of your shoe so you don’t plummet to your doom slipping down icy steps. (You will also look like you are wearing purple clogs.)
  • 2. Pack spare socks (see above)
  • 3. Lock the bathroom door. Getting walked in on is embarrassing. When it’s in a squat toilet and the intruder is another group’s Nepalese guide*…it’s much worse.
  • 4. Get a guide. Don’t be a douche-bag, it doesn’t matter how awesome you are at reading maps, you will get lost and be found by some mountain family when they plant their spring marijuana crop.
  • 5. Suck it up. Your legs will hurt, your back will ache. But there is a 100-year-old man carrying a basket the size of your body up the mountain next to you and he’s smashing it.
  • 6. Embrace annoying hiking songs. The Song That Never Ends is infuriating, but it’s also hilarious. Your guide will love you for it. (Alternatively, they will poison your Mo-Mo’s) either way it will be fun all round.

Overall I recommend taking the plunge and going trekking in Nepal regardless of how prepared you are. It would be a crime to say the hike wasn’t one of the most incredible adventures both and Erin and myself have ever had. The view made all the leg pain/ singing worth it.

Tourist Jump Fail
Tourist Jump Fail

In 4 days we hiked over mountains covered in snow, got walked in on in squat toilets by unsuspecting locals, slept in all our clothes, ate veggie Mo-Mo’s for breakfast, lunch and dinner and generally laughed ourselves stupid. Yes, our legs ached and we did a fair amount of whingeing, but we made it. And now we are better than you.

Our meal of Thali and Mo-Mo after returning from our hike!
Our meal of Thali and Mo-Mo after returning from our hike!

*Raju is the sweetest man alive, with an enormous smile. He was a fantastic source of support/ hilarity (and beat us at celebrity heads numerous times) over the 4 days he was with us in the mountains.
*This particular intruder ended up spending the night in the same shack we stayed the night in. Mortifying.

Travel and Vomit-A tale of Irony

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I was preparing to fly to India and decided, last minute, to make myself a quick pasta. (So I’d be nice and full on the flight).

I had been discussing my travel plans excitedly all week, laughing off the odd comment about food poisoning and people who return from overseas travel with weird parasites in their intestines. That’s how optimistic I was… laughing at parasites, which are generally horrifying.

My travel buddy Erin picked me up at 7.30. Our flight was due to fly out at 12.50am so we planned to stop by her dad’s house on the way to the airport.

It was then that the trouble began. It soon became obvious that I had given myself food poisoning with a vegetarian pasta. There was brocoli in it (but surprisingly no trace of carrot).

After being the worst how guest ever and then having to pull over on the way to the airport so I could retch into a clump of Australian flora, the irony dawned on me.

I gave myself food poisoning hours before my flight to India.

I have always struggled with the concept of dignity. Mostly because I experience so little of it in my everyday life. Take for instance, the moment when (after sprinting to the toilet at the airport) I am walked in on by a German back-packer who then awkwardly retreated the way she came, because her giant backpack made it impossible for her to turn around and.

The horror on her face is etched into my memory.

The other awkward part about being sick is that bathrooms aren’t hygienic to kneel in. Why? You may ask. Don’t they clean airport bathrooms? No, the answer is, they don’t clean them. There are pubes everywhere. HOW CAN THERE BE SO MANY PUBES? I thought, as I picked one from my jumper.

It doesn’t help that when vomiting in a public toilet, everyone assumes you have an eating disorder. Which is rude because if I was, no one was helpful at all. They all just looked around like “oh there is the girl who just violently spewed up all her home-made pasta and sounded vaguely like a dying cat”.

Luckily the retching subsided just before we boarded the plane, but I like to think that I made history after that 13 hour plane trip. If you like, you can shake the hand of someone who actually felt better after getting off an international flight, than when they got on. That’s right kids, there is always a happy ending (especially in Asia).

However, this start to a holiday is certainly one I will not forget. After looking at food like this, (see above) the deep irony of this event is not lost on me.