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Rough Travel (standard:travel stories, 2301 words)
Author: John AhernAdded: Jun 24 2009Views/Reads: 1830/924Story vote: 0.00 (0 votes)
Some notes on bad hotels and buses when traveling light.


There is a term I use ‘Elongated Time' (not sure if I read it somewhere)
to describe that sort of experience you may have when you go back to 
sleep in the mornings and dream HOURS in just a few minutes – You wake 
up thinking “OH NO, I'm late!” and you've only dropped off for five 
minutes and dreamt DAYS! That's how this trip has been - 9 weeks seemed 
like 9 months because every day was so different from the next. It 
could also be due to the fact that travelling light can be hard though 
nonetheless enjoyable for it's adventure. 

THE HOTELS – just a couple of examples: Manado North East Sulawesi –
arrived back on the mainland after exploring the marine park of Bunaken 
and passing the CELEBES HOTEL I thought it looked a little too flash 
for my budget but what the hell; I've got an early start next morning. 
It was cheaper than it looked, the lobby tiled in burgundy and the 
staff and receptionist in neat uniforms. Went out to eat and returned 
about 8pm to get an early night and as I reached the third floor 
corridor, the biggest, sleekest, fattest, shiniest rat came galloping 
towards me and went skittering between my legs and down the stairs. I 
followed after it and when I told the manager he hardly even raised an 
eyebrow, didn't even offer a 'Manuel/Faulty Towers' “He no rat. His 
name Basil – he a filigree hamster!” 

Next morning I was up at 5am and as I arrived on the second floor via
the stairs and there were two even bigger rats having a chat outside 
the hotel's pride and joy ‘The Napoleon Suite'. This was the only hotel 
in my Indonesian walkabout with a lift/elevator and as I had them 
trapped by the door I stamped my feet and scared them inside before 
pressing the button for the ground floor. I raced down the stairs just 
in time to see them dashing out of the lift and across the lobby with 
no one but me to see them! What a shame, if the service is bad I like 
them to know about it! Worse than the rats were the cockroaches big as 
crabs that came and went about the room during the night as thought it 
was really theirs and I was just a temporary occupant – I suppose they 
were right in that respect! 

The Hotel Afiat in Makassar Indonesia. A hotel in one of the most fetid
cities in the world. Recommended by ‘Lonely Planet' and it was so 
filthy I never even  took a shower (though it's usually just a bucket 
and scoop) – didn't want to risk togging-off in such squalor. There was 
nowhere to hang anything so I had to revert to my ‘trick' – a piece of 
fishing nylon for a clothesline to get my gear and pack off the floor 
which was alive with tiny insects (not just ants, unfortunately). After 
a night of  listening to the scratching (both me and the insects) I was 
up early and planning my escape to the wide open spaces of the north 
and the land of the Torajans, a 14 hour bus trip and that's another 
story in itself. 

The lobby was next to the room and the staff were still lounging about
in a fug of cigarette smoke and farts, either dozing or gawking into 
their mobile phones (seems to be a worldwide pastime nowadays) and when 
I asked to sign the visitors book (this time it was important for me) 
they didn't have such a thing so they gave me a sheet of paper on which 
THE FILTHIEST S....T HOLE I'VE EVER SLEPT (mostly un-slept) IN.” And 
they even helped me pin it on the notice board for future travellers to 

There is an indescribable feeling of freedom that comes with stepping
out of such a dive early in the morning – a new day and the whole world 
yours for the taking all you have to do is walk on down the road. I had 
this feeling all my life, it's like a drug and it's the only thing that 
can scratch the itchy feet and when you hit that spot it's a kind of 
euphoria, as though you were ‘untouchable' in your freedom, like a bird 
out of a cage.  I remember that feeling stepping out of the train south 
of London at the Blackwall tunnel where I would hitchhike down to Dover 
or Folkston, the train full of commuters with their briefcases, 
umbrellas and sad faces while I have the whole world to explore, just 
my little backpack and passport - or off the ferry in France or Wales 
or off the train or bus in South America, shouting “I'm Free!” A 
feeling much more important than any thing or any place you might ever 
visit - the essence of freedom. 

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