THE LONG & WINDING ROAD...100 Blogs...100,000 memories.
I'm inspired...inspired by Andy & Debbie My last day of traveling...
and Home & Away Ultimate Travelblog: The Dream Day
...my 100th blog...stories told and not told...traveling down my long and winding road...serendipity at every corner.
***** Greeting the Day
Breakfast around our small campfire...not raining now.
5 days at Coolamon Caves in the Snowy Mountains of New South Wales showing Denise my fiance the joys of spelunking...lucky we got out of that cave where I got my feet stuck.
Time to go...into the Datsun 180B...turn around that puddle...back left wheel grabs the edge...front wheel follows...we are sliding sideways down the slope.
Yeeka...we are turning over.
Bang. Windows shattered.
Smashed and wedged between two rocks...suspended upside down above Cave Creek.
How are we going to get out of this one?
Just walking through the bush...just me...just a kid minding my own business...well not really...just walking through the bush.
Then I saw him. I nearly walked into him.
He was holding an air rifle...pointing it in the air.
He sees me... I try not to look fearful...his eyes menacing and mean.
I know him...he's the one whose
brothers are in jail.
He raises the air rifle...points it right at me.
I turn and run...darting through the bush like a hare.
I hear a bang...feel a sharp pain.
He's shot me...in the back.
And all I can think of is...I've gotta get out of here.
One foot after another...not sure whether its worth lifting my feet or just pushing forward through the slush of the flooded track...feeling miserable...resigned to the fact I'm going to die.
Two 5th formers leading us two 2nd formers through the Gross Valley in the Blue Mountains on my first hike.
The older boys are so stupid they sleep with the tent flaps open and wonder why they are saturated in the morning.
And now we are lost...all the tracks washed away...yep...I know it.
I know I'm gonna die down here.
It's raining and our two man tent is leaking.
I've brought my girlfriend Denise all this way to see Ben Hall's Cave near Grenfell in New South Wales...the hideout of the famous bushranger...and seven years of drought has broken overnight.
Its only 400 metres away...but too
Travels with my Xiongdi
muddy and wet.
Driven for days...it's only 400 metres away...but we know we'll never get there!
It's pitch black outside this Taiyuen morning...too early to catch breakfast...not too early to catch a taxi...Airport please.
But he doesn't take us to the main road...takes us through dark alleys...people darting in and out of the headlights like cockroaches busted in an illegal card game.
Where the hell are we going?
I don't think he's listening to you David.
OK buckle up...wherever we are going...it's gonna be quite a ride.
Up at 4.30am...tracks of hyenas around our tent...into the 4WD...belting through narrow passages through the brush.
We feel the bite of a cold morn...foggy breath in the still dawn.
The sun wakes...arms spread...bright orange and red.
This is why we're in Africa...who wants to be in bed?
The balloons are inflating...just two...rising from the grassland oh so slowly...oh so inviting.
And we soon float above the Serengeti...clipping the taller trees...drifting.
Its incredibly quiet up here...incredibly peaceful.
The animals below...looking up...not comprehending what those strange creatures are doing up there.
I'm woken by
a telephone...staggering in the dark to find it.
It's our daughter ringing from Sydney, Australia.
"Dad I got in the car, turned the key and it wouldn't start."
What do you think we can do?
It's 3.30 a.m...and we are in Timbuktu!"
The rain is ripping down...couldn't be harder.
Den & I make a dash down Carita Beach in Java...into a little aluminium boat...two outboard motors...crew of three.
Off to Anak Krakatoa...that smoking island volcano 50 kms away in the Sunda Strait.
Into monster waves...up a wave... then crash down...over and over and over...surely this is not a good idea.
But the volcano beckons us...and we cannot help but heed the call.
This is dangerous with a big D...but we cannot help but heed the call.
Woke up and said to Denise "Bugger it. Let's go to Kuala Lumpar for Easter...for Travelblog's 10th Birthday Party."
Seemed a cool idea to further my quest for enlightenment at the "Holy Shrine" known as TB HQ...on its Holy Day..!
Denise...straight onto the internet to book flights from Sydney for Good Friday...yikes only two seats
ALI...BLOGGER No. 1 @ TB HQ
TB's 10th B'day...Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
left...gotta hurry...book it...what about a hotel it asked...like the one with the peaked roof...book it...confirm RSVP...done...phew just made it..!
We RSVPed for the KL TB's 10th B'day bash on Sunday 8 April 2012.
Met so many cool people as a result...still meeting them...in the ether or in person.
I've met Ali, Auspicious, Jo Trouble, MichaelnFaye, Maisondubonheur, Affandy, RJT, Home & Away, Aspiring Nomad, Cockle, Travel Camel, Rat on the Road, Shelley & Scott, Tom Rooney, Littlewing, John & Sylvia, SkiSet, RENanDREW, liliram, and three more famous names shortly.
Each meeting has been a blast. Check out 3 pages of photos of these fabulous bloggers in this blog.
Travelblog...the World's friendliest travel community.
****** Lunch through the Afternoon
We are in the mountains of Guanxi Provence in SW China.
Our Dong hostess gives us wild mushroom soup...chicken and pork...steaming hot...delicious...just what we need.
I hear a strange sound...like a wailing horn...from deep down the foggy valley.
"I'll be back in a minute" I say to Denise as I get up, leaving my meal and racing down the mountain path.
I did not return for several hours...coo-eeing
to Denise from the other side of the valley...reeking of alcohol on my breath she said.
I'd been drinking moonshine with my new friends as a guest at a Zhuang funeral.
Boy oh boy...have I had a good time.
"I want to go to the miniature Terracotta warrior site called Yanling...you know the Han dynasty one."
"You've got to be kidding. It's in National Geographic...only reason we are in Xian."
Shortly after we met Jianbin (Robin) who took us there.
Weeks later in Oz I received a telephone call.
"Hello. It is Robin. I am in Melbourne. I want to come to Sydney. Can you help me?"
Over dinner at our home I told him we had once tried to get to the carved mountain of Maiji Shan in Gansu Provence and couldn't get there due to heavy snow.
He said "I will drive you."
Contacted him weeks later when he was back in China. "You said you will drive me to Maiji Shan. Were you serious?"
He..."Yes. You come...I pay."
I..."How about in two weeks...I pay?"
Shaolin Si...Henan, China
meet you at Xian airport...then we decide who pay."
First time I have ever accepted a casual invitation to visit another country...changed my whole travel thinking...changed my life.
Robin is my Xiongdi (Chinese younger brother) and I am his Laoge (wise older brother)...many adventures together...brothers for life.
The elephant ripped one end of the pipe from the water tank and juggled it so that water flowed into its mouth...conscious that the guards of that camp on the edge of Ngorongoro Crater in Tanzania were running to intervene.
I conscious if I wanted a photo...I had to be quick.
Only one place to stand...on the track of its likely escape...yep...when it runs...I want that head on shot...up close & in its face.
Edging closer to it...closer...yep...bit closer still.
Then it turned.
Headed straight for me...only metres away.
Yikes its big..yikes...didn't realize it could run so fast...
The photo I've most ever wanted...fear my camera be confiscated if I do so.
I'm in the kitchen of a monastery in Tibet...massive wood fired ovens roaring...massive silver bowls being scrubbed.
But my eyes can't keep from the table
over there...piled with the biggest pile of bank notes I've ever seen...like a mountain of dirt...but the dirt are denominations of yuan.
Three men counting and bundling...one man compiling and recording.
They aware I am here...probably also aware I'm chaffing at the bit...security shuffling.
Ahhh...ahhh...never so wanted...ahhh...ahhh.
"You...you"...feel his voice...me wandering away.
"Give me your camera"...feel his voice...feel I've got to get away.
The safari truck parked next to the Maasai Mara sign...a Kenyan soldier getting closer...got to get to the truck...before he gets me.
Onto the truck...down the back.
The soldier on board...standing next to me.
"Give me your camera. You took my photograph."
"No I didn't. Never seen you before"...then yelling at the top of my voice "You are not robbing me...you are not robbing me."
My pasty companions whining "Give it to him...You are putting us in danger...just give it to him."
At last...Zambia...first place in Eastern Africa that my credit card has worked. Our Kenyan leader as pleased as I am.
Better get it into my travel safe...safari truck opened by the cook just for me. The Kenyan cook
gets on board...I'm just sitting there...3,600,000 kwacha in my left hand...a bundle an inch thick. Our eyes meet...time stops. He turns, gets off and closes the door.
We're surely gonna have the best party tonight...gotta find Denise & Anna-Lou...gotta let them know!
My travel safe is missing from my pack on the safari truck...my passport...all my money.
It's our daughter's 21st birthday today...everyone knows I'm cashed up to give her the party of her life.
We have just arrived at Victoria Falls in Zambia...and my travel safe has gone.
****** And the darkness of the night
A week or so earlier.
Everyone is in bed...except us...Denise & I just sitting there.
Then like the curtains opening...on a pageant spectacular...the heavens light up...like an unearthly crackle.
Lake Malawi illuminating...our senses exhilerated.
Lightning jagging...fizzing across the sky...not in ones or twos or threes or fours.
Just everywhere...in every direction...up...down...across...between...overlapping...every extreme.
Where's my camera when I need it?
Locked in the truck that's where.
No matter...cause there's no other place we'd want to be...than right now...beside this Rift Valley inland sea.
A month before.
I had seen the sign as we'd driven through a village to get here...on a blackboard...Tanzania v Kenya, Uganda v Burundi, Man U v Chelsea...so I had to ask. How can I see the Man U game?
Met a guy in a pub who took me through backyard gardens to a low flat building. "My name is Lucky. I will meet you here at 7pm tonight."
We are in Mto Mbu...the gateway to Ngorongoro Crater in Tanzania...vendors crowding around to be the lucky ones to score the soccer shirts I had brought to trade...Inter Milan...Juventus...Brazil...snapped up...others complaining..."What about me?"
Got to the backyard pub a bit after 7...not quite as easy to find it at night...already pumping...already full.
We were the only white guys and the Africans were delighted we were there...getting up and finding us chairs...taking us to the bar...Denise near the front...me down the back next to a Maasai warrior in all his traditional gear...even had his sword and spear.
Man U v Chelsea...the game of the year in these parts.
TV on a stand up front...about 100 people in there...couldn't hear the commentary...never been
V.I.P IN GANSU
Travels with my Xiongdi
to a more up beat game.
Man U scores and the Masaai clutches me in an excited hug.
They score again...another hug...guess I know which side he's going for.
Half time and a guy in a Chelsea shirt gets up on a chair...wraps a length of cloth around the ceiling fan and the other end around his neck...feigning suicide.
The crowd screaming...hooting with cheers and laughter.
The din did not subside during the second half...only saw some of the game...overwhelmed at the thrill of being there.
Yep...I've seen Man U v Chelsea...wow...still breathless thinking about it...what a game.
There were 10 of them...joining us from surrounding Provences...here in Xian, China...to drink with the Westerner.
A policeman, a doctor, a night club owner, a petroleum merchant, a gangster...had to have separate toasts with each of them...no wonder I can't remember the other five.
I remember later dancing with the ladies by the Xian city wall...not sure how I got there...joining the drummers...then having my drum taken away.
We are sitting on a sand dune in Mali...listening to Desert Blues...at the Festival in the Desert...at Timbuktu.
Tuareg youth approaches...boldly asking "Will you dance with me?"
"Oh man...its too hot...I'm tired" I reply.
"Please, please...I've travelled all this way to dance with you."
"What? How have you heard of me?"
"Everyone has heard of you...you are the Westerner that likes to dance!!!"
That is how Dancing Dave was born...a euphemism of travelling...and how to open doors.
There were 36 jeeps that I counted...4 in each plus driver...that makes at least 180 of us that night on New Years Eve in the desert out of Dubai.
I see a crescent moon with a star in the middle...just like on the flags.
The largest rug on the sand I've ever seen...everyone gathering around it.
I hear music...I see a belly dancer entering...gyrating away.
She pauses...surveys the crowd...chooses someone to dance with.
And blow me over with a feather...
That someone she chose...that someone...was ME!!!
Travelling is like that...full of surprises.
Wouldn't want it any other way.
Always say..."Yes...Yes please!!!"
Relax & Enjoy,
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