Part 5: Darwin, AUS to Krabi, Thailand
Day 34 - 49 (5th - 20th Dec): Darwin
Hello Darwin, gateway to Asia. At least I thought so for it being the most northern city in Australia. That was the reason I came here: To get the bicycle and myself across the ocean on any floating vehicle, no flights. So while Luka and Fiona were happy to host me in return for being a supportive member of the family, I got to work right away. There were basically two options for me which I checked.
#1 Catching a sailboat: I knew in advance, that this was a bad time to hope for a sailboat ride, because it’s the typhoon season and all sail boats are parked until April. A ride to the sailing club confirmed my chances, so I went to the next option.
#2 On a cargo ship with my bike: Tricky, but there might be a small chance that this could work I thought. So I went to the harbour, reached out to different shipping companies and even went straight to the port, trying to meet the captain of a vessel going to Singapore. But no matter how friendly and patiently I tried, the answer was clear: Not possible mate. The global shipping industry is highly bureaucratised I noticed and there was really no wiggle room. So I had to bite the bullet and pull the last resort.
#3 Bike via sea, Stefan via plane: Not only is it a negative impact on the environment, but also on my bank account. Only thanks to a massive donation I am still going, able to pay for shipment and fare. Darwin really isn’t a gateway to Asia, Perth and Brisbane are more so. I bit the bullet and started packaging the bike.
In order to safe volume, thus shipping costs I built a custom pallet box and put everything in there what I didn’t want to have while backpacking with mom and Jakob in Asia. Unfortunately I had to buy new plywood, instead of finding scrap pieces. Weight in total is somewhere between 120 - 140kg I guess. The batteries need extra documentation, which I’m still waiting for. So right now the bike is sitting at the warehouse in Darwin.
While i was working on organisational stuff, I was simply a helpful member of two local families. Playing with the kids, painting and working on walls, enjoying coffee, sweating like a pig, having nice cooked dinners, lots of screen time and sweating were the main activities. It’s normal for Darwin to be humid during this time of year, but for the crazy German it seemed to offer a little extra challenge. No matter what I did, or didn’t, I was sweating unless in air-conditioned rooms or in the pool. It was good practice to hang out with the 6 and 3 year old kids and every now and again they would deliver delightful content to break out laughing. My favourite one I want to share with you:
So we’re having dinner as usual. And as usual the kids were eating incredibly slow. Anything seemed more important than eating to them. Well, dessert for tonight was quite the focus. I made traditional “Vanillekipferl” (vanilla crescent cookies). So Frankie, the little 3 year old one considers herself being eligible to go for one, despite her half full plate. She stands up on the chair, reaches to the cookie plate in the middle of the table and while doing so tips her cup of water with her dessert-hungry belly. But instead of being shocked or feeling bad she said, in a cute voice and as it was the most natural thing to say:
Day 50: Darwin to Singapore
Flight departure time 6:00am. Wake up time 3:30am. Luke got up at 4am in order to drive me to the nearby airport and made a last delicious coffee from the machine. For the whole time I stayed with them I didn’t make one coffee myself I noticed. At the airport I did some Yoga just before boarding and then took off. Airplanes are pretty cool, but I wonder what the next fast mass long distance vehicle is. Airplanes are to inefficient and dirty. We need better solutions soon. Like huge magnetic trains across oceans with some small floating town/stops on the way. I’d love that! At the airport things didn’t want to work out smoothly, so I had to be patient and persistent in order to organise my bus trip to where Sylvia, a friend of a friend in New Zealand, was going to pick me up. I didn’t really know where I was going. One hour later, like a miracle the bus driver indicated for me to get off here, I got up and right outside the door a friendly women opens her arms to welcome me. Thank you life! After a short refreshment in her parents nearby apartment we went to get some local lunch place and continued for a hike to the Tree Top Walk. I wasn’t fully present, but enjoyed the good conversations and the little exercise. Really happy to get home for some rest time I met her brother Shane who was going to sharing his room with me. Sylvia took off into town for girls dinner and I would join them after for some drinks. But before that her dad knocked on the bedroom door with perfect timing saying: “Stefan, let’s go and have some dinner,” Once I stepped out the door I also met her dad Buhn, really cool guy who took me out for dinner across the street. Our ways parted, I dressed up and took the train to town and got lost navigating without Internet. So I arrived late at the Italian Restaurant, where I got to know Sylvias friends over some leftover pizza slices. The shared bottle of red wine and chats were nice, but I definitely felt tired after being up for almost 24hs and was happy to crash on the firm mattress.
Day 51: Singapore to Kuala Lumpur
This morning I woke up in Singapore. Not that this is something crazy, but it sounds kind of crazy. Family Ng took care of me very well during my short stay and I decided to make my way to Thailand today. So I went online and looked for bus tickets. Few available, but definitely some around. Booking the one I wanted was a hassle, but eventually it worked with the help of Sylvia. She had to leave for a meeting with her sick teacher, while I stayed at home and prepared the journey to Hay Yai via KL. Seemed pretty straight forward and if I left at 2pm there would be plenty of time. So I left shortly after 2pm, got on the “wrong” bus towards Woodlands Checkpoint with the BusCard they gave me. It was very busy and it took very long to get across the bridge. On the other side I didn't have cash to pay for the 1$ bus ride to the big bus terminal. So I looked around, found one, made the 100$ note smaller by buying some pastry and got myself a taxi, because it was already kind of late. Just to be safe. At the terminal then I had to queue in front of the ticket counters. They were just packed and everyone wanted to leave right now. A quick glimpse on the booking screen a few customers before me did make me a little more nervous about the time plan. “Sold out” I could clearly read for many bus connections. Oh oh... But I waited patiently until it was my turn. “Next bus to Singapore, please.” “7:30.” Shiiit! In order for me to make it in time to the second bus leaving KL at 11:30 I need to leave at 6pm the very latest! I got the ticket anyway, just to have something... But I knew right away I wouldn't just sit there and imagine my 2nd bus leave without me. I walked out of the terminal, on the side of the road heading towards the onramp for Kuala Lumpur. People passing my in cars and “Motorsikels” were quite amused. But once I stood there, on the side of the road, stretching my left thumb out, some of them couldn't understand what this bearded western Backpacker with big Cowboy hat was doing there. With their mouths wide open their heads slowly turned from right to left and rolled past the “Local Attraction”. I find this term quite amusing and pointing at a phenomenon which turns around the concept of Tourism/Sightseeing. Few people stopped, tried to help me, offer me rides for money, but no one could really help. Not even the family with Indian heritage was clearly gonna improve my situation. But we chatted casually while blocking the traffic slightly. And after a few minutes he had an idea: Little further was another bus terminal and he was confident there I will find a seat in a bus leaving sooner. He offered to take me there without any charge, and after telling me it was only 3km away I hopped in. It was 5:45, so in case I'm not lucky there I could simply catch a taxi back. Not only he, the driver and father was very charismatic, also his son in the passenger seat seemed very bright and outgoing. I noticed that some organizing was going on via phone concerning my bus and indeed they told me a bus is scheduled for 6pm. We stopped quickly for me to fill my wallet with MR notes and off the go. The whole family was part of this little Odyssey and everyone seemed to get a little excited. We reached the terminal, some buses there, not many people. I didn't think, I just followed wife and husband into the building, searching for the right counter. Once we found it the lady behind it handed out a prepared ticket, wife paid 40$ which I gave her already. Someone they called in the car must have contacted the ticket office while we were on our way there and it was within a 10min drive. I'm totally speechless at that point. Now he grabs a pen, writes a number on the back of the ticket and says: “This is my number, call me if you're back.” We step outside “And this is our bus. Good luck!” Totally blown away by this miracle I thanked him many times, tried to offer him at least some money for helping me, but couldn't do more than throwing my bag into the trunk and getting my ticket from the driver. UN REAL!
But the magic didn't mean to bring me to my connecting bus in time and I ended up at TBS over night, together with many other tired and desperate travellers.
Day 52-53: Kuala Lumpur
I slept really well on the four plastic chairs with the ear plugs in, until 7am, when a guard woke me up. At the ticket machine I tried many many different connections, but none was leaving in the morning. So I went to the city by train. At the train station I found out that also the trains are booked out completely for today. Flight? Let's get Wifi and check my options. STARBUUUCKS, spoiled myself and actually found the flight option to be the best one. Booked the flight, marked hostels on the map and off to Chinatown.
In KL I met Malte and many other cool people to hang out with. The Mingle hostel turned out to be a good choice for two nights before flying to Thailand. My time here was loaded with nostalgia from a trip 4 years ago with 3 buddies from school. Back then we enjoyed strong beer, Nescafe iced coffee in cans and McDonalds. I felt a strong urge to do these things again, against my principles. I followed this urge. And, of course, it didn’t make me happy. It was simply and attachment to “the good old days.”
A lot more happy I was about the trip to Batu Cave with colourful Hindu temples and figures all over the place. It felt good to slow down the mind, to soak in the humble air. A little book “Roots of wisdom” accompanied me the whole way and even triggered a nice conversation.
One night we went out on the Heli bar for some drinks and a spectacular view and excellent local food after for so cheap! It was good to be back. Now it’s time for Christmas and meeting mom and Jakob.
Day 54: KL - Krabi
2:50am, time to get up. On the bus to the airport a little group of 3 young backpackers formed (Somalian, Dutch, German). Guess what the conversation was about. Yeah right… Traveling. But with a negative energy in my opinion. Not full of trust and hope and positivity, but more filled with negative stories and overly cautious. But it was only for a bus ride, so what :) KLI2 is pretty new and nice airport, had a nap and soon landed in Krabi. Just another flight. Another 169kg of CO2 (according to myclimate.org) It was early and I had a few hours to spend while waiting for mom and Jakob to arrive. Spilling my coffee was the most exciting thing that happened during this time. Then I had a nap, expecting them in 2 hours. But 1 hour later my phone rings and it’s a call from Jakob. They must be here! I got really excited now and waited for them in the lobby.