With only 4.4 million inhabitants for the size of the UK, and one-third of it in Auckland, no need to say that New Zealand feels a bit empty.
Though, we’ve met on our way two interesting fellows, their portraits follow.
On Monday, I’ve jumped in my first Greyhound. I have an open ticket to hop as many times as I wish between Cairns and Sydney, 2645 km all together !
Not bad, isn’t it ? Though, some of my family folks did better…
Back in 1968, my beloved parents, who had just met, spent the summer in the US.
First they worked in NYC for a while – My mum was taking care of cats, my dad was working in a “lunchnet”. Then the explored the country.
Within 45 days, they rode 16 000 km !
200 hours spent in the bus through NY, DC, Minneapolis, Yellowstone, Salt Lake City, SF, Yosemite, LA, Gd Canyon, Santa Fé, El Paso and Chihuahua in Mexico with Speed Rabbit Uses, Huston, New Orleans, Cape Kennedy…
So, somehow, It looks like I have a history with trips, doesn’t it 😉
Marie thought she was flying on the 18th, so she got a nice surprise when checking her e-ticket: She was finally flying back to France on the 19th, after almost three weeks on my side across New South Wales and Victoria…
It’s the last time you’ll se this yellow diving mask – As well as my red sneakers. My snorkeling material got stollen in the car a couple of weeks ago. The care was locked and parked in front of our motel door, but still… I had stupidly left two camera lenses in the gloves box, that got stollen as well.
The most annoying though, is the mask, that I had tailor-made to my eyes vision, otherwise I don’t see a damn thing in the water. Let’s hope I’ll be able to find a way to have it done in Cairns…
With his neat Clark Gabble mustache, you could say Paul is a well-behaved British, who could be teaching at Cambridge. May be… May be not: Paul is an American Indiana Jones who could inspire far more than a trilogy.
Paul was born in Arizona in the fifties. His parents were teenagers, his father looking like James Dean, his mother like Marilyn Monroe. Though, his fate wasn’t to become a Salinger’s character, catching in the rye. When he was ten or so, his father decided to move the family to Guatemala, where he thought they would have a more organic life, so to speak. By the time they reach this exotic location with their 1936 Chevrolet, a civil war pops up! They drive back to the US. A couple of stopovers later, the family ends up in Sacramento, California…
A regular childhood unfolds. He takes care of is little sister. Everyone grows up.
End of the sixties. Instead of experiencing the hippie summer of love, Paul enlists in the Coast Guards and will spend the next two years in exile, on the East Coast.
In 1968, he leaves this hole with two buddies with a Volkswagen Combi. Direction: Daytona Beach, Florida, to attend the famous motorcycle show. The Combi will end up in the sea. Other Combi, other buddies, direction Backersfield, California, because one of the hitchhikers he grabbed on the way needs to pick cotton there.
The crazy seventies can start! For ten years or so, Paul is gonna be a racer. A dirt bike racer! He runs with is father, who is also a professional racer.
Early eighties. Paul works an import-export business. He gets assigned to the Philippines, a country he barely knows where to find on a world map. Anyway. He gets the job done. Miss Cebu lives around. According to many (and still alive) witnesses, Miss Cebu is the most beautiful woman you’d ever meet. To seduce her, Paul will pass by her balcony every single morning of the year, with his fancy Harley Davidson… Twenty-nine years later, they are still married. They ran a successful business, raised twins, and lived happily ever after.
But a fairy tale ending does not implies the prince is gonna run a dull life from now on. Nope nope nope.
Over the years, always looking for good business opportunities, Paul has been transporting chairs produced in unreachable villages with pitching bangkas, has been sourcing gems in Afghanistan, has been searching for petrified wood in deep China, has been painting human skulls turned into art pieces, and other crazy ideas that made his family wealthy.
For fun though, he’d rather ride in the Mexico desert or in the Australia outback. He’d fish in the Fijis, where he gets so many fishing prizes that he is now featured in records books.
Today, Paul picked up the twins at school. He brought Alice the purple folder he found in the entrance hall, thinking that she could need it for her music class. And later today, he’ll have a thorough talk with Paulie about fishing.
He taught me how to ride a jet ski, did show me how to find fossils, and offered me a skull as a memory of my journey in Cebu. Paul is definitely my hero.
Snorkeling, photographing fishes, photographing myself in the swimming pool because I’m so happy to have a waterproof camera, riding a scooter, packing, unpacking, hiking, tattooing… The list of activities un Bali and java was rich.
Still, I am flying to new adventures:
On Saturday Michelle flight back to Paris, and on my side I flight to Manilla.
Today i’ll see Véronique and Guy, who come from Paris to the Philippines for vacation and share a slice of my journey – The “Stefathon” keeps going !
I’ll spend Christmas in the Manilla island, New Year’s Eve in Palawan, and will flight early next year to Cebu, where I will meet with many local people my Dad knows…. To be continued !
The longest day
Saturday. Fabien has a flight at 9AM, back to France. On my side, I have a flight around 7PM, to Bali. I’ll have to change planes twice, in Dacca – Bangladesh – and Kuala Lumpur – Malaysia – before landing in Denpasar – Bali – on Sunday lunchtime. I’ve decided I’ll go to the airport with Fabien and wait all day at the airport. I will watch movies, read e-books; it should be OK.
I follow Fabien, he enters the airport after showing his passport and printed e-ticket; I don’t have a printed e-ticket. The security guard doesn’t let me in. I switch on my phone to access my e-ticket. Unfortunately, i have forgotten to download it yesterday and I have no connection here. I don’t remember my flight number, I don’t remember the Airlines company, on don’t remember the exact timing of my departure. I am stuck at the door and i don’t see Fabien anymore.
I insist and he finally let me see the list of passengers of the day, so that I can pick my name. I don’t find him.
He tells me to go to the Air India booth, in the other terminal. I do. They don’t want to check for me, as i tell them I am probably not flying with them.
One clerk tells me to go to the Internet café, in the domestic terminal. Sub-level 2.
I find the elevator. I go to sub-level 2. The guard doesn’t let me in. I don’t have a domestic flight to take; I cannot access the Internet café. Though, the Airport Manager could grant me an authorization.
I go back to my terminal, search for the manager office. But he doesn’t grant me authorization to go to the Internet café; he writes an authorization for me to access my terminal.
But I don’t care, what I want is to access my e-mails, to know my flight details.
Anyway. I go back to the guard. He is quite skeptical when I show him the authorization. He tells me to come back with my ticket when I have it.
I am in.
In between, Fabien has been trying to pay to get a Wi-Fi connection but it doesn’t accept foreign credit cards.
I catch a guy with a 3G stick; he lets me use it to access my Gmail account. I write down the flight details, I go to the Air India booth (the first connection was, in fact, Air India), he prints my ticket, I show him to the security guard, everyone is happy. Ouf.
I spend the day at the airport, sit on my trolley so that I can connect my devices to a plug. I ask air India if I can take my helmet with me in the plane. I can. When the check-in time comes, I first put my big suitcase on the conveyor belt. When the suitcase is gone the employee tells me I cannot keep my helmet. It’s going to be in the plane trunk, only protected by a thin bag. Fuck.
What I don’t know is that the worst part of day is still ahead of me.
I land in Dacca, Bangladesh, around 10PM.
I don’t know for you, but for me the only image I visualize about Bangladesh is this one, a permanent typhoon.
But that’s not the point. I am not going to face a typhoon.
I need to take my luggage on the conveyor belt, and then proceed to check in again, with Malaysia Airlines (even though this is a transit flight, as I have bought my tickets at once).
Problem : the conveyor belt is after the immigration door. But, of course, I don’t have a Bangladesh visa so I cannot take my luggage.
A guy tells me I should search for the Transit Bureau.
I go to the Transit Bureau, I explain my problem to one guy, then to another one, then to another one, who leaves with my passport without a word.
He comes back five very long minutes afterwards.
Him : “Malaysia Airlines doesn’t want to print your boarding card because you don’t have a returning ticket from Bali. Why don’t you have a ticket back ?”
Me: “I am doing a world tour, I don’t book my tickets in advance”.
Him: But this is the law, you have to”
Me: “I’m sorry, I didn’t know”
Him: “How could you not know ?”
Me: “Well, I’m sorry, how can we fix that? Can I buy a ticket right now (I have my laptop in and)?”
Of course, I try to find a wifi network but it doesn’t work, so I call my brother in Paris for him to book the ticket. He doesn’t answer the phone. The guy is watching me. I call my mum’s cell phone. No answer. Fuck, where are they all? I call again. It rings. She answers. She books a ticket, whatever the price is. Though I don’t get the confirmation e-mail. So I call again. She gives me the flight details. Which I give to the guy. He leaves with my passport again. He comes back fives minutes later with the fucking boarding pass.
Now comes the problem of my luggage – suitcase plus helmet.
He sends me to another guy: “Salam Aleykoum”. “Aleykoum Salam”.
Him : “We couldn’t find your suitcase”
Me : “May be I can I help you ?” – I’m almost crying. He finally brings me to the immigration guys. they let me in. We don’t find the suitcase. Another guy says it’s OK. They have found it, it is in my plane. How could I believe him ? I’m sure I’ll never see my luggage again.
I queue to board. A guy comes to me to make me get in the plane first.
After a moment, I realize this is because I am a woman. Here, women enter first. He are three…
In the plane, I’m seating next to a very nice Bangladeshi, he is curious about life in Europe. Unfortunately for him, I am so chocked that I barely say a word.
When I land in Kuala Lumpur, lights are on, shops are open, there are as many men as women among the tourists. I’ve never been so happy to see a Sephora perfume shop and a Starbucks Coffee.
It is Sunday, 5AM. My last flight is at 7AM, landing in Denpasar – Bali, at noon.
And yes, my luggage are here, in Bali, waiting for me on the conveyor belt number 4. The taxi will be easy to catch, the hotel easy to find, the wifi easy to connect. My Pop Hotel (that’s his name) is shinny. Life is easy.