What goes on tour, stays on tour

What goes on tour, stays on tour

I’ve just been to Amsterdam to visit my sister. The older one. She was there on business and given that I am only a short train ride away – 6 hours when on schedule, 16 in practise – I decided to pop down the road for a catch up. Of course, when you live so far away from those you love, everywhere in Europe is down the road. And I love taking trains. She told me a week before that she had business to tend to at The Hague, and asked if I’d be willing to meet for tea after her conference. I was like, “Tea? In Amsterdam? Oh alright, then. Let’s have some tea.” So I ventured to the Dutch capital. I had called her the afternoon before to confirm our meeting point, given that it was not a familiar place to the both of us. It was just a normal procedure, I felt, to call and talk through the meeting details. Unfortunately she didn’t feel the information was that relevant and had already taken to the skies, on her flight to Schiphol Airport, via Dubai. As soon as I’d disembarked my train I made my way to a relatively obvious landmark and waited for her call. When her message arrived saying, “Hey, I’m here. What’s the plan?”, I took great pleasure in telling her to meet me at my current location which was overlooking a canal, next to a bridge, beside a brick building that is old and slightly lopsided.

I don’t know if I am allowed to mention her name in my posts or not, so let’s just call her Debbie Dollar. Debbie Dollar and I have travelled to many, many places around the world together, having been raised by a gypsy. Aside from sharing our childhood journeys, which meant for packing the car at a moment’s notice for another family bonding trip cross-country style, limbs flapping around outside of the fiat panda (this particular memory, this particular car) like long spaghetti strings in the wind. Well, hers – spaghetti, mine – more baguettes. Aside from those, the first major trip we made together was across Australia when I was 18 and she 20. It’s great because Australia is the only country that you can claim to actually travel across, even if it was only from Wollongong to Wagga, because the distance is that great. We hadn’t exactly planned this excursion together. DD (she’s really more like a B) had spent her teen years working and saving money, devising a dream of a plan to return Down Under, having visited a couple of years prior. She had been in Australia for about 6 months by the time I joined her. I had finished senior school in Dublin and felt freshly qualified to impose myself on her current spot on the East Coast picking zucchinis. So I gatecrashed her gap year, and quickly threw myself into her tent, onto the passenger seat, next to her boyfriends.

We combined our cash, though she was the banker. I remember being given a cigarette ration of one pack a week. I also remember not being permitted to buy myself a new pair of flip-flops because the “rafters” that I was sporting were perfectly good enough for the task at hand. Backpacking across Australia at the fresh age of 18 in a donated pair of fat chunky rubber velcro bright green rafters. So sexy. Fortunately, one day, they accidentally fell off the boat we had hired for a day trip around the coast of Cairns. I watched them Goldie Hawn themselves overboard, sinking beneath the mirky water. They were replaced with a very cool pair of deep blue and black billabong flip-flops, that were on sale because only the small sizes were left. Fuck it, I was having them. Cinderella’s ugly sister was going to make this slipper fit, I tell you. So a couple of days later I ruined the long journey into the desert to Alice Springs because my feet had become so badly infected from the severe blisters I’d developed, we were considering amputation.
My Australian dream was to visit Ayers Rock, so I went barefoot thereafter.

Debbie Dollar and I had managed to devise some pretty devious moves when it came to managing our finances, given our tight budget of AUS$6 a day. Between us. We tracked the park rangers’ movements for the right time to pitch or fold the tent. We charmed the front desks of hostels with our fake emotional fights and our kwasa kwasa dance moves on the dinner tables. Our supermarket excursions would include fresh salad aisles of testing and tasting for preference, “nah, too much mayonnaise…mmm, nah, needs garlic…ooh this is nice, taste this and let me know what you think.” Moving onto the help-yourself sweet section where we would half fill a bag and walk around the shop munching in search of the toiletry aisle. We never stole, we were just tasting. In the end we bought our toothpaste, tampons and toilet paper.

One day, though, we decided to treat ourselves. We were saving money on hitchhiking up to Cape Tribulation from Cairns, so could afford a snack bag. Our friend at the front desk of the hostel had created a cardboard sign with a massive sketch of a thumbs up and the words, “Zimbo Chicks Need a Lift”. So we went shopping and paid for a large raisin loaf, a packet of apples, a mars bar for her, a kitkat chunky for me, and a citronella candle which we had struggled to find as Dollar had been mistakenly requesting a salmonella candle.
Our first lift was with a lovely father and son who were going on some trip together, almost in the same direction as us. Our next lift was with a trucker, naturally, as you do. We climbed aboard the massive road train and swerved our way around the curves of the Captain Cook Highway. I did the pulling of the hooter a hundred times too many, as DD made polite conversation about the timber industry. When we reached Noah Beach – about 9km from Cape Trib, we disembarked and clapped our hands with thanks, as we eagerly looked for the shopping bag with our special goodies and supplies. But between the two of us, we had managed to donate it to the father and son. All except for the candle.
At this point all I wanted to do was go and find Noah and get on his Ark. After pacing in alternative directions down the beach and back, our paths eventually crossed and we were ready to see each other again. This is one of the very many moments in my life that DD has managed to resolve a situation without saying a word. She began stripping off her clothes, belting out nervous, uncontrollable laughter, and ran into the sea. I looked at her and watched her bob about in the water thinking what the fuck is she doing? She’s lost it. What will I tell Mummy? So I just did the same. We threw ourselves into the surf, letting the waves hit my DD’s and her B’s. A group of surfers showed up and so we gracefully left the shore, gathering our clothes.
We zipped the tent tight before sunset to ensure safety from the bugs and beasts of the Daintree Rain Forest, with our salmonella candle flickering away through the night, playing cards in distraction from starvation.
The following morning we walked to Cape Trib to pay for some nuts and apples and walked back. As we walked back into camp we noticed a new arrival. A state-of-the art camper vehicle and two beautiful looking people. A 7-foot-something tall, retired NBA basketball player, straddled a 2 metre perimeter pole with one stride, as his gymnast pro-biker girlfriend opened the side hatch of the 20-foot vehicle, revealing a kitchen. Fully equipped. Somehow, and I really can’t recall how, we found ourselves having dinner with them that evening. I remember eating mashed potatoes, fillet steak, grilled vegetables and gravy, dished up on Le Creuset. It was probably just couscous, but it was god damn delicious.
Bison the basketball player pulled out the bongos and Kimmy the biker poured the wine and on went the night with Dollar and I performing Priscilla Queen of the Desert on the roof of their massive motorhome.

We always made our way. All the way across Australia. I made it to Uluru and she dived out of a plane over Fraser Island. We made it to the Olympics, though this time as spectators. We met incredible people, some of the greatest I have ever met. But no friendship came close to being on par with the one I had discovered with Dollar.

Anyway, of course this has nothing to do with our time together in Amsterdam, but it’s getting late and the guests are leaving.


Record of this post – Charlene D’Angelo – I’ve been to paradise, but I’ve never been to me

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