You’ve probably been getting the idea lately that I’ve been all over the place like some kind of bad euro-rash – y’know: everywhere at once and no matter what you do you can’t seem to get rid of it.
I’ve had more than my share of disorder and, dare I say it in a public arena, distress in my days in the Northern Territory (NT to me) and to tell you the truth I’m not even sure what I’m doing in Europe anyway. Can’t even say for sure I’m there, ‘specially as the NT is the best place in Australia, in the world, ever. Maybe it’s just part of my commitment to checking that other places are not nearly as good as the patch of paradise at the end of the Stuart Highway.
No speakie English
These days I’m just about used to not understanding 4/5 of what goes on, exotic tongues dropping comments that I can’t latch on to, or even the cars being on the wrong side of the street (but that’s the Right side so my German buddy tells me). Yep, a man, and probably even a sheila, can get used to just about anything, and maybe that’s the point.
Those legendary Mythos beers from Corfu have long since worn off, so that can’t be why I’m feeling a little in-between right now. It’s not so much like I’m missing something, y’know all lost in translation like that Bill Murray character -no, there’s no moonlighting in expensive Euro-adverts for me. P’raps, to put my calloused sunburned finger on it, its being in all these places but never really being lost, like losing yourself – always looking over your shoulder, no matter how exotic the destination, and there you are right behind you, and probably doing the same thing you’ve always done too.
It’s clear, if you always do what you’ve always done, then you’ll always get what you’ve always got.
Feeling a little pensive on this occasion, so forgive ol’ Jack if he doesn’t throw up the crazy solution.
To give you half an idea f’r instance, like a veritable Italian train-timetable, I’ve tried hopping trains til days end in an effort to get somewhere quicker, but somehow always run into me at the stops where I’ve messed up the guesswork and end up stuck waiting for that hour or two longer than the more direct route. Those Italian trains even have a column up there for late (ritardo) but despite giving it more than a good go, sometimes it’s me that ends up feeling a little retardo.
An example of my state of mindlessness
Like I’ll give you an example, y’know some mental bargaining at work, the mind of the elusive trying to evade the self in the triumph of travel over the adversity of time. Ja, that’s it. So there I was all fresh off the boat, the Mediterranean at my back, and connections to west Italy ahead, France and Switzerland beyond even…. Maybe the fast train to Milano is the go? Forget it, too fast and direct, a man could get unlost in that kind of linearity of time.
Nup, a Regionale is the way to go, cheaper and more deviations that a night in far-away Sydney’s Kings Cross. First direct Regionale is 30 minutes away, and Padova is a-beckoning? Why not jump that terminating train that’s heading there anyway and work it out when you arrive. So faster than you can say “get your bags” yer off, adventure again, even if it’s only fast between the stations (the Regionale is cheaper, cos being regional, will have you stopping everywhere).
So pretty soon there you are, mind a-whirl with all the water rushing by, and there’s another short tripper waiting to be jumped. Desenzano here we come. Brescia’s next and then there’s the choice, wait a while longer or do some tricky tricks via Bergamo (you add it up, maybe you’ll miss you somewhere along the line) and off y’go again. But (buzzer rings): Wrong. 45minutes stuck at the wrong station and somehow you’ve ended up taking an extra hour or two for that quickish trip. There you are on the bench next to you at the platform, eyeing yourself off nervously sure that its gunna be the same routine over again.
The two of you merge into one, the escapist and the inescapable, and when the train grinds round again, you get on as darkness settles and ride the slow way on.
Even the boats themselves have their draw-backs, not that they’re intended to be high-speed, but sometimes you’ll get that horizon-bound moment, when like it or not, you can get little all lost at sea. Y’know, be it from Corfu to Patras, Arcona to Igoumenitsa, all compass points adrift, but you know what all the co-ordinates are even though you can’t piece them together. Only way forward is to weather the mental storm, or as many other punters fancy, head for the bar, and drown those familiar sorrows, but you’ll probably find sorrows can swim.
A bit away from the sea, but to take a different tack, Switzerland has its borders a little close together, but the prices on train travel can be kinda big. One way to get caprice back on the rails and some steel under your feet is to grab a Eurorail ticket – you can get whatever you fancy from just the one country for a coupla days to a coupla coutries for a coupla months and the price comes out just about right. As long as you don’t need bookings, like the TGV and Thalys in and out of Paris f’r instance. With one of these spiffy numbers in your wallet, you can jump railcars to your heart’s content and make like a continental Jack of the Kerouac variety. There’s probably even enough room in second class to take your own roll of paper and a typewriter to boot.
One little reminder, by the by, for somewhere like Holland, if you’re ticket aint right, then the sad news is the Dutch Rail will have you booted off faster than a leaky thong (flip flop for the American audience) cos no ticket, no ride. Practically the only way to lose yourself travelling over there is to follow the easy steps I outlined last week. And now its all worn off, here I am back to greet meself at the Vluchthaven of the Soul: Brownsville, population 1.
No escaping that parade on census day…
Note to self: Get lost
And so before I head off to wallow in the depths of my own self, a quick reminder that Europe aint the only place where you can pull off a Houdini style disappearance from your alter-ego. When you aint got the right tools, even the bush will have you back on your heels and running into yerself as you head back the same way.
Happened once, heading out off past Top Springs into the Tanami Desert – seems I’d left the 4WD in my other pair of pants, and had nothing but a two wheel drive (front wheel drive no less) sedan to store my beer in and get about the bush in.
Problem was, in way haste to lay waste to some landscape, without a map and all as usual, I’d neglected to check the road conditions and although the meter-deep bulldust wasn’t going to stop me, the potholes the size of the car with road corrugations to match definitely had me stopped in my tracks. Only thing for it was to head back exactly the way I came, and you wouldn’t believe who I passed on the way? Me – in another world, another time and still trying to get away, nothing I could do but wave and laugh and wish the poor bugger a good day.