The dead fisherman of Aarambol

Adventure, backpacking, Discover, Goa, India, Travel

 

Look just past that trio of people on the beach, and you will make out some people kneeling before the shore. A group of people are sat around a body wrapped in a white cloth, with just a pair of lifeless feet uncovered.
We had walked down to the beach for a couple of beers, but instead of watching the sunset, those around the body joined hands, lighting candles. I laughed awkwardly, hoping the large hole to the right of us (pictured) wasn’t to be the grave.
As if the scenario wasn’t strange enough, an Indian man appeared on his knees, swinging a golden necklace right out in front of me like a pendulum. I didn’t even get chance to blink before he wrote in the sand, ‘100’. He wanted 100 rupees for it.
I shook my head and told him to go away, freaked out by his sudden appearance and action in my face. Frantically, he wrote 50 – and having seen his desperation, I gave in – exchanging 50 rupees for an old golden chain with a pendant hanging from it. I put it in my satchel and forgot about it, wishing i had given him more from the look on his face. He ran off.
1959665_10152277990565996_2060787966_n

It turned out the hole was not for a grave but this.. 

Despite a dead body on the beach, every one reacted as though they were just watching the tide come in. We were in Aarambol, traditionally a fisherman village which was largely inhabited by a ‘new age’ hippie community.
The hippies made it apparent they didn’t want to socialize, not having acknowledged us at all in the few days we had spent staying in a beach shack there. It was because of this atmosphere, we hadn’t gone round asking what had happened, despite our curiosity.
As the sun set, we could barely make out the figure, and as the tide continued to draw in we understood the body would be swept out to sea. Confused we hadn’t seen any type of authority we wondered if the ‘man’ had even been identified, if ‘his’ family even knew or if ‘he’ would just be regarded as a mysterious disappearance. I still don’t know the answers to these questions.
arambol-beach-sunset-02

Sunset on Aarambol Beach 

The next day, we got talking to some french backpackers. Supposedly, three local fishermen had gone out to sea in their boat drunk, and a few hours later their bodies had washed up on different beaches. This was the only version of the story that we heard.
It wasn’t for a couple of weeks that i found the golden necklace, zipped inside a pocket in my satchel. The chain was fairly thick but old, a brassy yellowing color. The weight of it passed as real, unlike the pendent which was very much fake. The circular pendent had a Hindu marking on it, which could imply it belonged to a local.
Now that i think back to the man who madly sold me this necklace, i wonder if i had mistaken his desperation as poverty instead of fear. Was he a thief, and could this necklace have belonged to the fisherman? Thinking back to his actions, it seemed more likely that it had been stolen. 50 rupees was less than a penny, why was he so reluctant to recieve so little so urgently?
Again more unanswered questions and speculation, but i still have the necklace. A bad omen perhaps, a reminder of the mystery..
Should i keep it, or drop it in the ocean?

 

Advertisements

Everest Base Camp 1: Where would you rather be?

Challenge, Discover, Everest Base Camp, Travel
In little over a month – I will be leaving my laid back lifestyle on Bondi Beach  to go and hike in the Himalayan mountain range at sub zero temperatures.  The two scenarios couldn’t differ much more, and I’m not sure if The Himalayas is where the majority of people would rather be exactly.
It’s all for the dream of reaching Everest Base Camp, the closest i’l ever get to being on top of the world.
Physically I am trying to prepare myself – morning runs, long walks and a lot of steep stair climbs. But i know the mental challenge is going to be the biggest test for me. The cold, the constant wind. Not being able to shower, pushing on through exhaustion, doing your business behind a rock.. eating only when fed, Needless to say I’m going to be packing a lot of snickers bars for emergency hunger outbursts.
sd.PNG
Me before and after you feed me.
I’m leaving for Lukla on March 28th, famously known as one of the most dangerous flight paths in the world. The run way is only 527 meters long, and so landing the plane is completely down to the skill of the pilot. I’m not the best with small planes, or heights – so i’m really looking forward to it.
img_1185.jpg
Lukla landing strip.
Lukla is where my journey will begin.  My days will be spent walking up and across the mountains, crossing suspension bridges over the valleys and constantly dreaming of my next meal. By night, i’l be staying in tea houses made of plywood, cocooned in my sleeping bag at minus 15 (definitely not getting up for a wee in the middle of the night).  A couple of days will be spent acclimatizing, climbing high to get your body used to the altitude, and coming back down to rest. By day ten we hope to arrive at Everest Base Camp. I’ve no idea what to expect in between, but I’m going to require a lot more stamina than I ever have.
There’s no telling how my body will react to the altitude, I’ve never done anything like this before, but I’m hoping that if i take every precaution it won’t get in the way of me reaching the top. Cutting out caffeine is going to be the hardest for me, I’m going to be such a bitch in the mornings..
Follow me on the biggest challenge of my little life so far. I’l be keeping a day by day account of my adventure, fingers crossed for success..
If you would like to sponsor me, it’s all in aid of Prostate Cancer UK – Thank you.

Diving out of your comfort zone

Adventure, backpacking, Discover, Diving, Uncategorized
You can’t talk to each other under the sea. I mean, you have the bare essentials with hand signals and motions to say OK, Up, Down, Shark! and so forth. But you can’t have a real conversation, it’s just about reading the emotion in each others eyes.
That’s something I really struggle with. I was never one to be able do ‘sponsored silences’ at school. I like to ask a lot of questions, as well as answer and argue them. I’ve never really been able to think without giving a running commentary, so naturally – I felt lost underwater. Particularly when I didn’t remember what I was supposed to be doing, floating around in the open water – wide eyed, and trying to gesture ‘I don’t know arms’ out like an idiot.
I was fortunate enough to be able to do my open water diving course in one of the most beautiful spots in the world, the Gili Islands. I was even more fortunate to have the most caring, understanding and supportive diving instructor – Mimi. For these reasons, I was able create some of my most fond memories.
diving2.jpg
The beautiful Gili Air
I’ve never been much of a water baby, except for when i was an actual baby. But when water goes up my nose (I’ve got a big one), it fills me with panic and claustrophobia. It’s something that made me avoid going under water – and given that that the sea likes to swallow people, a paddle was enough for me.
With that said, my boyfriend told me there was no way i would be able to become a certified diver if i was scared of the Sea. Not really an unreasonable statement, but I hate being told that i can’t do something so i decided i had to prove him wrong.
My first dive was a fun dive, and it was exactly that! The mixture of adrenaline, mystery in this new enchanting world and Mimi’s cool and calming presence affirmed the fact that i wanted complete the course – pass my tests and become a certified open water diver.
diving

Flipping backwards off the boat

Two of the tests i needed to pass that were literally the last thing i would ever want to do:
  1. Pull up your mask to allow it to fill with water, tilt your head back, apply pressure to the top and blow air out through your nose to clear.
  2. Take the mask off at 15 meters below, put it back on around your head and repeat action 1.
Luckily enough, we got to practice the tests before hand in a swimming pool. It sort of went exactly how i hoped it wouldn’t. I watched as my group took off their masks casually and then Mimi gestured with her arms that it was my turn.
10006596_10152327670090996_1246116732_n

Not something you see every day.

I peeled back by mask to let the water come flooding in. Panic filled me as the water suffocated my nostrils and the adrenaline sent my body shooting up to the surface of the water. But before i could spurt out, there was a firm grip around my jacket. Mimi shook me with pleading eyes, and i could only mimic this gesture with equal measure. I didn’t need words for this, i knew i wouldn’t be able to act this way in the real test without risk of getting the bends.
The bends is basically caused by the nitrogen you are breathing in, it starts to expand as you rise, if an air bubble gets into your bloodstream and travels to your heart or brain –  you are dead. In the real test we would be some meters below, and given that none of us wanted to die, we took the safety measures of rising to the surface slowly.
dv.jpg

Putting on our mermaid costumes

Gili Air fast became my most favorite place in the world. The laid back island attitude, natural beauty and familiarity of faces you passed each day made it feel like a home, and having such paradise feel that way is pretty euphoric. The 7 Seas Diving school team started to feel like family too, I couldn’t have been luckier.
The whole nose thing seemed a bit ridiculous, but Mimi never once made me feel like I was stupid. She persisted with me, and i was soon able to clear the water out of my nose by repetitively breathing out through it (funny that).
The day came, and just wanted the boat journey out to the reef to continue on. I really didn’t want to do my mask tests down there on the Sea Bed. As the boat stopped, sickness rose and my breath shortened. Everyone was in the water, but I had completely lost sight of any state of calmness. But i was determined. Shakily, i flipped backwards over board and tried to regulate my breath back in the water. I lay afloat in the water until i was ready to go down.
Capture.PNG

Joe, Mimi, Pijan, Simon and Me having a well deserved beer after a dive.

I can’t tell you how relieved i was when the mask test was over. I had my eyes closed the whole time but i could feel Mimi there with me. After that, I started to feel more confident diving, and once i had passed the open water test i started my Advanced.
I’m so glad i got to prove Simon wrong –  but more importantly,  I got to prove to myself that if i pushed myself out of my comfort zone i could achieve (and enjoy) something i never knew was possible. Next up i just need to create an underwater talking device and i’l be as happy as Dory can be.

1524596_10152327672470996_707471879_n.jpg

 

 

The Rookie Backpacker, my first big mistake.

Adventure, backpacking, thailand, Travel
I’ve made a couple of blunders on my travels, some I’ve not actually admitted to. But I’ve come to learn that it’s not about how or why you get yourself into a rut, because that’s inevitable. It’s about how you react in these situations and get yourself out of them..
Fresh on the scene, I’ve just landed in Bangkok feeling young brash and cocky. I’m now officially a backpacker, and i’m only going to get edgier. Actually, i’m pretty knackered, and the humidity has hit me like a train. But our bags are first out on the conveyor belt – so we swing them over our backs, high five and go outside to hail a Cab.
Despite the Thai cab driver being a lunatic, the hotel is only a short drive away. We came to a halt on the side of the motorway as the argument on  the drivers phone stepped up a gear (pun not intended). We wasn’t sure if he even knew where he was going, but despite his erratic driving we managed to get there in one piece.
We ace our check in, eager to get changed and join those in the pool drinking beers.  I knew I had packed my swimmers in one of the side pockets for easy access – smug with myself, i unzip the pocket.. but instead of my bikini I pull out a giant pair of knickers that certainly don’t belong to me. Confused i check the other pockets – more Bridget Jones knickers. Has an airport official searched my bag and placed the wrong items back?!
6d12c597353e7f11f0a67e52e9d47578
Frantically, i unfasten the buckles around the top of my backpack and open the main compartment – a box of jumbo tampons..Suddenly the reality hits me – it’s not my bag.What are the chances of someone else having the exact same backpack as me that is coincidentally the cheapest one in Millet’s? Apparently not that low. 
We race back to the airport, with me in a total frenzy -i’m feeling like a total idiot – here i am self proclaiming to be miss independent, and i can’t even pick up my own bag from the airport. Definitely not going to tell my parents about this one (until they read this post).
Bangkok airport is huge, and panicking really doesn’t help whatsoever when you are trying to locate one out of tens of airline desks. We try to explain as best we can about the mix up to the pretty Thai stewardess, and wait anxiously whilst she makes a couple of phone calls.
‘Miss Ruth bag!!’ ‘you take Miss Ruth bag!!’ I try to explain that Miss Ruth (who clearly has some serious menstrual issues) has the same backpack as me, and that i had taken this bag by mistake, but the language barrier didn’t seem to give off any understanding. The bag is taken from me and two Thai security guards appear, asking for one of us to go with them – and one of us to remain at the desk.
drifters3
Separated, in Thailand, hundreds of miles away from home in a corrupt country where i have potentially been mistaken for stealing someone elses bag. I wait at the desk chewing my arm off, for Simon to return for what feels like an eternity. Where have they taken him and will i ever see him again!? Okay drama levels are at 100 but my anxiety was generally through the roof. I had no phone to contact anyone, and no idea where i was – so all i could do was wait at the desk in the middle of the airport to find out what was going to happen.
in2
Finally Simon returns with a smile that reads ‘you are a total idiot’ along with my actual backpack, I have never loved the contents of my bag – the few invaluable items i had with with me more than i could in that moment. 
I never got to meet Miss Ruth, but i hope she packs her essentials in her hand luggage next time. 

How you end up in the River Ganges.

Adventure, backpacking, Discover, India, Travel
After spending a day on the banks of the River Ganges, I had at this point – absolutely no intention of getting in this cesspit of a river although admittedly i liked the idea of doing it. With that in mind, two idiotic companions ( Simon and Joe) and far too much illegal alcohol a story is born…
1620359_10152247022355996_1617071835_n

Me, Simon and Joe.

I can’t remember what day it was, for as far as any traveller is concerned every day is Saturday. We were sitting up on the rooftop of our hostel trying to relax.  You see the streets of Varanasi are intimidating, chaotic, filthy and full of people you want to avoid. So after an afternoon of startling exploring we were pretty worn out mentally. If you was going to relax anywhere, the rooftop was the best bet – drowning out the noise and smells of the streets below.
varanasi_1

Typical day in Varanassi…

Me Simon and Joe sat up here in our fort, laughing at what we had got ourselves into. Trying to make sense of what was going on, how we would ever try and explain this madness to anyone, and who’s idea was it to come here anyway!? Its one of those moments where you are dizzy with laughter and slightly unhinged, undoubtedly time for a beer. However, being in a third world country,  even more so the ‘spiritual capital’ its not as though we could just pop down to the off license for a 6 pack, it was actually deemed illegal to drink alcohol at all.
That aside, anything goes in India for a price. We strike up a ‘deal’ and 20 minutes later our guy arrives with the goods. 6 cans of warm extra strength larger. Of course this only added to our amusement and we sent our guy back for more.
I’m not sure how many trips our guy did, or how many cans of warm larger were consumed but i remember we were all pretty tanked. Our conversation didn’t deviate far from the Ganges, and of course it wasn’t long before it was a brilliant idea. A must do in fact. Who comes to Varanasi and doesn’t dunk themselves in the holy river? We should all get in the river and become reborn again with Hindu names! We can become Bantu, Rikesh and Pooja.
Our enthusiasm was sky high, but at this point we were safe – because at this point it was still only an idea. Our guy returned with our next batch of warm beer and we began slurrily asking him questions about the Ganges river. He spoke of the magical and spiritual presence and insisted taking us out in his boat at sunrise.
We were beside ourselves, this is great – exactly what we wanted to do. Our guy would take us to the other side of the river, that way we wouldn’t be disrespecting anyone. If we wanted to, we could then dunk ourselves in the river – but we must experience it. He was to pick us up from the hostel the next morning at 6am.
The last thing i remember from that night was singing and dancing up on the rooftop to Toploader, Dancing in the Moonlight. I was actually dancing in the moonlight and was really enjoying the irony of it all.
Waking up in the early hours of the morning with a hangover is always a struggle. But when the reason is because a random Indian man is coming to pick you up and take you out on his boat it’s a little bit worse. On a boat to one of the worlds dirtiest rivers so that you can willingly get in and dunk your head under to become reborn as ‘Pooja’. So what did i do to make it worse? I googled.
capture

Oh fantastic, even a devout Hindu won’t get in.

capture

capture

So now i’m literally freaking out, I’m even considering backing out, but our guy is waiting and we are walking down to the banks to his boat. Joe and Simon are still enthused and i realize that it’s not in my nature to be the only one who didn’t do it.
And that’s how i ended up in the River Ganges.

To be continued…

x

Bantu, Pooja and Rikesh