The Ramblings of a Northern Nomad

Hullo, hullo, hullo!

Yes, you have stumbled across my travel blog for the next adventure, Latin America...Flynn goes solo!

2008 was the 'The Oz to China Extravaganza' and 2009 offers a glimpse into Latin America.Hurrah!

Hopefully, this page will become a trove of delightful tales of adventure and wonder...with some lovely snap shots of these gems along the way!

It all begins in March, 2009. See you on the other side....

Tuesday, 28 April 2009

Hedonist of the Floating World

How does literature have the incredible ability to really resonate with the time and space within which you reside at the time of reading? It is almost as though books find you, rather than you stumbling upon them. Whilst in Asia, ‘The Portrait of Dorian Grey’ really connected with my feelings of transition, of metamorphosis and generally becoming less innocent to the world around me, although I cannot admit to debauchery in opium dens, unfortunately. Then there was ‘The Life of Pi’, which again was about a journey of self-discovery and challenge but more on a level of basic survival and understanding the barbarity human nature, as opposed to the superficial considerations of appearance and the world’s value of youthfulness and superficial beauty. ‘On the Road’, was utterly devoured in the mission of a week across the wide of China, the semantics goading me on to make it to Nanjing for a taste of a Chinese variant on a perceived normality...”go, go, go”. This time, it was Kazuo Ishiguro that subtly mirrored sentiments and considerations as a bounded through Colombia...’Artist of the Floating World’ worked with the concepts of the world at night, a place of fun and indulgence, but was fleeting, an phenomena that artists and poets were to capture in their work, to provide the revellers with a fragment of the urethral utopia that had fled by the morn. It is perhaps for this very reason that many photos do not incorporate the acts and experiences of hedonism that only presence can absorb and grow euphoric on to an almost tangible degree. Yes, Colombia. The forbidden frutas de Latin America, a country of contradiction, controversy and the creator of a profligate. It was not that there was a conscious choice to engage in licentiousness, but it crept up upon you, engulfed and indulged you. A grant for a liberating licentious licence for Colombia, no? It began in Cartagena, a beautiful seaside city that has UNESCO heritage status, and rightly so because it is bloomin’ gorgeous. After a couple of free dives with my lovely dive master, I hopped aboard a bus west bound, condemned to near arctic conditions for a whole four hours. Yes, Colombians have a masochistic streak, a self-flagellation that resulted in me developing a somewhat snotty nose. In short, they have the air-conditioning on so high, it is essential to board the bus with hats, jumpers, and certainly, socks, if one is to make it through. They bring BLANKETS!! It is over 25°C outside the auto bus; they will not need fleecy, gaudy printed insulation for miles except in the icy interior of the bus. WHY?? It is forbidden to query the bus driver, a breaking of sensitive taboo. Maybe a cultural exchange ought to be introduced so Colombians can see what an English winter’s eve is like and then they might change their minds. Ahhhh-chhhooooo!! Adopted by a young police man, I was kindly escorted to la casa (the house) of mi amiga, Ervine in Cartagena. What a nice chap. He navigated the local buses that through me down the aisle as they swung around 90° corners at high speed, slinging the returning school children from the open door at their leisure. On arriving in Boca Grande, the area of Ervine, he marched in and introduced himself as the police, whilst I sheepishly looked on behind at the astonished faces of Erv and two other couch surfers. I meekly said it was OK, and that I for some unknown reason had been adopted and thanked my young (he looked about `17) whilst ushering out into the elevator. “WHO IS ERVINE?” “What is Couch Surfing?” Your thoughts leap from the page before I’ve even written it. Response to first question...Erv is French-Tahitian lady who lives in Cartagena, is a translator for a company in America, a dive master and super, funky, cool. How do I know her? Well, I met her for the first time with my authoritarian amigo. Yet, we had chatted through the cosmic medium of ‘Couch Surfing’. Ooooohhhhh...aaaaahhhhh. Yes, the CS Project. The cult of budget travel and cultural emersion on a whole new level. I have already explained the concept of Couch Surfing, but, after Couchsurfing my way pretty much through the whole of Colombia, I have become immersed to a greater degree than simply “Oh, Couch Surfing. Yeah, you stay at someone’s house for free and it is cool.” If I could do my dissertation again, I would do it on Couch is so interesting! Basically, it seems that every city in South America has CS hosts, especially in Colombia! Under the Umbrella of ‘Couch Surfing’, there are groups that people belong to, much like Facebook, and cities often have their own group where people post messages and things, so it is a whole social network...people in cities know fellow Couch Surfer hosts...and there is competition between hosts regarding who has the most number of friends, who hosts the most (i.e. who attracts the most number of travellers that want to stay with them)...there are politics and antagonism between hosts as some are so keen that they organise weekly ‘Couch Surfing Meetings’! haha! There are AMBASSADORS for some cities...AMBASSADORS! These are the people that utterly BUM Couch Surfing, are supposed to be the best hosts in the world, giving you tours, entertaining you and enriching you in all things associated with their city. And that is just the actual activities...then there is the whole psychology of what is actually have a profile. This, of course is a contrived element, again, echoing the sentiments I feel about Facebook. The self-sculpting of image, of the presentation of one’s self, the ‘me’ one wishes to portray. Whilst writing my profile, I felt somewhat in a conundrum, especially as I had only had an account for two minutes and was still naive to the ferocity of passion for CS, the types of people using it and the depths into which people embroiled themselves into was simply a tool of economy and cultural curiosity initially...and it still is. What was I to write about, erm, me? What does one write without appearing to be an utter loser (or, rather, in my case, conceal this very fact)? “Yeah, I am Flynn and I am fookin' funny and well cool and you totally wanna let me sleep at your house ‘cos I’m ace! Top banana! Woop! Woop!” or “So, I like to travel. I like to meet people. I like table. I love...lamp.” I mean, honestly. Well, whatever I have written, which, may I add, was under duress because I had to write something of no-one would host me, and added 3 dubious photos (obviously), and then the messages came flooding in. “Hi Flynn, I see that are in Colombia. Let me know when you’re in Bogota and I can show you around, go for coffee or whatever. Bye! Adrian.” “Hello Flynn. I see that you are in Cartagena. I am here on my holidays from Boston and was wondering if you would like to meet up. Cheers, Tenor.” Utterly comedic was a query from a photographer in Bogota: “Are you in Bogota?” My reply: “Yes.” Final response: “Good”. Hahahahaha...he actually replied! I think the winning random message was from a chap in India: “Hello Flynn. I really like to met new persons from other cultures and countries. Please let me no when you are in Juipur and we can go for a coffe.Bye, Tomal.” Bye! Bye! Hahaha, it cracks me up. And obviously, why not pop over to another continent a few thousand miles away for coffee? I’m an amiable person. And I have a sari. Hoho. Apparently, however, after consultation with fellow (male) couchsurfers, this is not a normal state of affairs, this random messaging. And no, there are no ‘blue’ photographic materials on my profile, as, I believe, would be a less than motivating means of self-advertisement. I have no assets. E-hem. So, now you know a little bit more about the world CS. This was a world I was to inhabit for nearly three weeks continually in Colombia. And so, we return to Ervine in Cartagena. After clearing up the policeman escorting incident, we sat and chatted whilst I checked out her freshly applied paintwork of brilliant orange, but, as it was eleven at night; it didn’t quite have the potency to be revealed the following morning. I shot-gunned the hammock that hung along the 3m front window, and was utterly enamoured with the stunning view of the Caribbean ocean that stretched out but 50m from our 12th floor apartment. This was the beginning of a weeklong habitation of Erv’s gloriously simple yet bright and buzzing place. I accompanied Erv to the gym after stealing her trainers and hit the aerobics class. ¡Buenos Dios! The aerobics instructor was a flame retardant fag or the highest degree (no offence to non-heterosexuals, but...) and had most certainly missed his way to Broadway and Flash dance. Aerobics? Erv and I were prancing around at the back of the class as he executed sharp and fluid pirouettes, sweeping arm gestures and accurately preformed swivels whilst the congregation of middle aged ladies clad in abhorrently figure-hugging fuchsia velour stumbled about the token gesture of a ‘step’, the full length mirror mocking recording the preposterous failings of health, age and coordination. I ran on the running machine for half an hour after that, simply because I wanted to sweat a bit and make donning a pair of Reeboks worth the effort. Ah! Gym in Colombia? Where are the drug cartels? The poverty stricken images of Asia...the children scampering with but a rag to conceal their modesty? Nope, not in Cartagena at least. Gym in the morning and then off into the city centre to check out what all this UNESCO heritage shizzle was all about. And my, my, what a beautiful ‘Old Town’. ‘El Centro’ is the walled ciudad Antigua, a fabric of intricately woven streets, awash with brightly coloured walls, majestic colonial buildings and quaint, tranquil just need to know where to look. In was founded in 1533, and grew to be one of the most significant ports in the newly colonised world, a throbbing artery for the shipping of treasures back to Spain. For you little history boffs, a little tale. Our very own Sir Francis Drake himself managed to capture the practically impenetrable walled city with a crew of 1,300 strong in 1586, yet were defeated later again by Spaniards. Just think, could have been speaking English here! Shame, eh? Wonder what Colombia would be like as an English speaking country...probably very different to what it is now, hmm? After fleeing the sunny tapestry of old, I was a wandering the area of Getsemani when a young chico peered at me from above his sunglasses. “I know you...” Yes, we had met but four days earlier whist drunken in a club in Santa Marta. You know me, I had vague wisps of recollections whirling in my mind, but these were put aside when he enquired as to whether I would like to come and see their boat. Ahh, soon I was sat aboard the ‘Moonraker’, a gleaming white sail boat, anchored amongst a series of highly shiny and expensive yacht, sipping a beer and chatting to four rather delicious Argentineans! Not too shabby, not too shabby. They are planning to sail around the Caribbean, up past Panama, Honduras, up to the States, and then back round past the islands for six months. Didn’t manage to get an invitation for the long haul, but introductions to the decks, bunkers, and seamen were splendid all the same. Chiva. Chiva bus. What be this thing? It is the organised fun of party buses...ron ron ron! Davido (Swiss) and Michael (Dutch), fellow couchsurfers fell victim to an obscure power cut that affected only Erv’s apartment, and as the dusk drew in and Erv was nowhere to be found, I devised the only solution plausible as we squinted amongst the final sunny juice drops of illumination at around 6pm; “Anyone fancy a rum?” A hearty agreement ensued, and soon, a whole crew of Europeans (we doubled up on the Dutch and the Swiss), Erv and I were merrily guzzling down Colombian rum in the dim glows of Michael’s ‘Lucky Candle’. Shame really, as this was the first time he’s actually cracked it out in 3 months of travelling, so, erm, not that lucky really. But, Chiva time soon came, and the remnants of our bottle were soon replaced by a whole fresh batch aboard the party bus. Six of us squeezed into the pew behind the band (one member of which I am sure was imaginatively utilising a cheese grater in his melody making...) and soon began to become the somewhat raucous aisle of fun-seekers! The music was pumping and the shimmer of Cartagena’s aquatic and antiquarian skyline slurred past as we chanted along to the Caribbean beats...”Mas ron! Mas ron!” The Chiva diva delivered, both rum to us and us to the great fortified wall of the Old Town...and then to a club and then...well. All in the name of Ron, eh? This was Thursday night. Friday morning found me rough and anti-Ron...the b*****d. But, guess who was to replace the now fragile Europeans, but my very dearest, primero Couch Buddy, Andreas (CS alter ego, ‘Snuggler’)! He sauntered into Erv’s place, not knowing that I was already there...unawares that I was hiding behind the bedroom door whilst Erv nonchalantly mentioned another person for London had been there...fortunately for him, he didn’t say anything too slanderous, so I popped out and surprised him. Think he was about to say something bad, but... Returning to the CS interest. Snuggler is perhaps the perfect example of a ‘keen bean, Couchsurfing machine.’ He is a lovely, intelligent, good looking chap, but. But. It took me a little while to notice, but Snuggler is always, ALWAYS on his computer. He is the king of CS, and is in fact that one that immersed me so whole-heartedly into the political depths of this abstract/tangible/globalised community. For e, Snuggler, when he is not in immediate reach of his Vaio, is entertaining, witty and fun, and also very astute. However, if the wireless status is one of ‘Connected’, his thoughts default to the comp. What is he doing on his laptop that requires such dedicated attention? He is organising Couchsurfing meetings...YES! Contemplating what his next destination is and organising with CS ambassadors, meetings for CS hosts in that city and any other random surfer that happens to be in the vicinity! He is talking to people who he has hosted in London at his place (he has done that a lot), to people that he was hosted by in Latin America, and messaging prospective new hosts...but what about the now? It is almost as though he is living his life vicariously though CS, yet not actually involving himself with the immediate present. He is also a further example of a type of person that uses CS for a somewhat specific purpose. Recall, that this is the man that claimed he knew why I’d joined CS within 5 minutes of meeting me; “Well, it’s because you’re a desperate northerner, isn’t it?” I. Rest. My. Case. And so, Friday night, my night of alcohol abhorrence, was CS Meeting night. Yay. Ppppfffff. So, along I went, just to be sociable, when in all honestly I felt like I’d eaten the toilet brush and only very transient and non-communicable thoughts stumbled through my foggy mind. Consequently, I was utilised in a conversation between Erv and a French chappie as a beer-bottle-holder-3rd wheel-ornament. Suited me fine, as their sumptuous French syllables spread over me like a luxury cheese on freshly baked baguette. Soon, Mr. Sausscine, the self-proclaimed French Sausage was interrogating me about the shiny lights of Blackpool and he coxed me somewhat outta me drinking facilitator role into something a little more lively. (He later sent me this CS link, come on t´pool! Lesson to be learnt. Never agree to make lunch for a French man. It only ends in heartache. Since Mr. Sam the French man should have been staying at Erv’s but there hadn’t been enough space the day he arrived in Cartagena, he was to come on Saturday and we would make a nice lunch, with him bringing the wine. Dependable French man. So, whilst sitting by the pool of Erv’s apartment (beginning to understand why I was there a week?), we drank Chilean and Argentinean vino until Erv returned from Scuba antics. And we prepared muchly in the kitchen, for it was Erv’s ‘Bye-bye party’. Yes, Erv was off to the US for her job and was leaving us as sole proprietors of her apartment! Hurrah! Sam, Andreas and I was obviously trust worthy enough for Erv to let us loose whilst she went cool?? See, Couchsurfing is cool...! And so, the party on Saturday night was lubricated with a Sam Special Punch (that consisted of rum, freshly squeezed limes and sugar – punchy!), lobster, dips and antipastas. Yummy. But, after many a RumPunch and a migration to Cartagena’s nightlife scene, it became apparent that Mr. French was a bit keen. Oops. What is one to say when faced with proclamations of the deepest of crushes at 4 in the morning after wiggling about with a ton o’ ron writhing around your insides without causing offence? Hmm. So, Colombia’s next first for me...someone allegedly falling in love with one after, erm, a day? Well, to be fair, it was probably two in total. Way too intense for me! So, we made everything better with another trip on the Chiva bus, resulting in me awaking with a severely sore head (again), but also an amusing collection of articles in my handbag the next morning, including cans of beer, maracas and panama hats, amongst other things! Hehehe! Then, the perfect cure for a hangover, a paddle in a random mud filled volcano. Splendid. Funny thing is, Mr. French is actually one of the best friends of a girl I met in Laos last year, and she actually sent me a message saying he was in Cartagena on the day I met him! Weird, eh? A small world, I noted. A small world for the wandering bourgeoisie, another observed. Perhaps. (This is as long as a university essay! Sorry). Colombia the bed of indefinite hedonism, saturated with vices and the floating hammock of the world? Up until here at least! CHIVA!


s1 said...

you are jealous of a vaio, pfffft!

Anonymous said...

Hi Flynn,
I see from your blog that you know Andreas (Snuggler).
Could you ask him to contact me?

Thanks, greetings