A Travellerspoint blog

The Double-Backpack-Man

Friends told me, that backpacking isn't very popular in the USA. Most people wouldn't even have the slightest idea what it's all about apart from that you would hardly ever meet people who have done it themselves or know someone who has done it.
But even most people I know would drop down their jaw when I'm telling stories about how I travel. Still that's those moments which make traveling special for me.
When I was on my stopover in Houston on my way from Costa Rica back to Australia I was facing a 24 hours stopover in Houston. That was nothing which would make me particularly happy in this very instance as me and my girl-friend have been traveling Central America extensively throughout one month. So there were several possibilities for Houston:
1. staying and sleeping at the airport, reading books, struggling with the security who would possibly not be that happy with me sleeping in the hallway
2. going out and sleeping in a hostel, doing a little bit of sightseeing
3. couchsurfing, getting to know local bars, being lost in religious discussions with a drunk, and finally sleeping on concrete floor.
I planned the first but ended up with the latter. So how did this happen?

When I went through the customs the officer asked me where I would stay. I told him I planned on staying at the airport which he could hardly believe. So he emphatically asked me, if I "considered" staying at the airport hotel (very expensive) in a way, that made it very clear for me just to answer "yes" and letting him be at peace of mind allowing me to do whatever I want. This eventually ended up in searching for a hostel at the tourist information (which was very difficult as hostels were more or less all booked) and finally I had an address where I could stay for the night. After boarding the bus I eventually got into a conversation with the bus driver who had spent some time in Germany whilst serving at the Army. Then another guy joined the conversation as he picked up, that I'm going to the same direction where he needed to go. So he wanted to show me the way to my hostel. Having a little bit of a chit-chat I found out that he had also been traveling Australia before and that he also was on Couchsurfing. So I asked him "Well, this is kind of a random, spontaneous question, but would you mind having me over at your place couchsurfing tonight?" And he answered that he literally just had a concrete floor to sleep on, which was totally fine for me (and I had a more comfortable night, then in some dodgy hostels).
Having said that we went for a couple of pints around the corner, getting to know some really off-the-tourist-track places. Now visualize this:
I was entering the pub, with my big back-pack on my back and a small back-pack mounted on my front. As I figured that US-people tend to be a very talkative folk I was the center of attraction for everyone. "Hey double back-pack man, how's it goin'?"
We sat outside drinking our beer (2 beer and one coke by the way for 2$) where randomly a drunk chick intruded our conversation by asking us if we were religious and falling asleep straight after that again. A few seconds later she would wake up out of her delirium again and ask again. She did it repeatedly until finally she left.
Then whilst having some delicious veggie wraps in a Mexican restaurant I got into another conversation with the waiter. And then we were talking in Spanish which is a big thing in the south of the U.S. of course. Then again in Spanish also the waiter asked me whether I was religious. Seems to also be a big thing over here, religion.
The next day I would just get a nice student breakfast (toast and tea) and be introduced to the RICE university where I spent the rest of the day before I went back to the airport. The bus ride back to the airport was also very entertaining for me and probably for the rest of the people also. There was one guy talking randomly to all those people, which also seemed to be VERY American to me.

Today's lesson: Expect the unexpected.

Posted by cabdragon 19:51 Archived in USA Comments (0)

Ever missed an airplane?

If you ever wondered, what it feels like missing a plane? Here's the story:

View 2011/2012 - Down Under & On Ancient Traces on cabdragon's travel map.

IMG_0002.jpgToday I missed my flight from Melbourne to Costa Rica. What a misery. Actually I planned my day to be really relaxed. Getting up very early, having a nice kick-start breakky and having my luggage packed already the day before, so nothing could possibly ever come in between. You reckon? Well, as you know about the end of the story already, let me go back to the beginning:

11:15 (1h 40min left till lift up)

Coincidentally I checked my flight schedules as I wanted it to be a VERY relaxed day. But I realized that I confused the departure time with my arrival time. I was actually meant to arrive at 15:05 and depart at 12:55. But I thought I depart at 15:05. I thought I'll have a really relaxed day, meeting with John, handing over my guitar, because he offered me to keep it while I'm in Central America. Once again: John you are legend!

11:20 (1h 35min left till lift up)

However, as I eventually found out that I confused the departure time, it started to get really hectic. I took my bags, left all food behind, which I had prepared for the waiting period at the airport. I took my guitar which I wanted to hand over to John, but as now there was no time left, I cancelled the meeting with him rushed to the train station, which took me to Southern Cross station from where the Skybus departed to the airport.

(1h 20min left till lift up)

Of course I boarded the train without a ticket because I was in a hurry. Then one station before I arrived to Southern Cross station two collar-shirted men boarded the train.They assembled themselves in the middle of the train. It was totally clear that those were train officers checking if everybody had purchased a proper ticket. They just waited a moment. Stood still. The doors remained open and I knew, that moment when the doors closed they would start their checking and I would be fucked up. History has it, that everything happened exactly like that. Apart from one thing: That moment when the doors closed John called me again to hear about my story and luckily the officers passed by me during the phone call without bothering me on the phone. Also I was talking extra loudly to John about my misery and that I just jumped on the train in a hurry rushing to the airport. I don't know if they just didn't wanna bother me on the phone or whatsoever. At least by the time I arrived at Southern Cross station they had already reached another carrier.

(1h 10min left till lift up)

Once again I jumped out of the train (imagine that picture: there's a ticket control and a guy jumps out of the train, would he be escaping the patrol or was he just in a hurry?). Anyway my next obstacle was the ticket control machine at the exit of the train station. When I boarded the train there was no such thing as a control-machine, but on the exit there was. So I didn't have time to explain myself to the train company employees. On my way to the exit I already made plans how to escape them: Just jumping over the machine in pretty much a "Jump'n'Run" Parkour-style game?
Or just squeez myself after someone who had already put his ticket into the machine and sneak through? (Which would have been quite a challenge having that big backpack on my back and the small one on my breast AND a guitar in the hand)
Luckily frequently there is at least one gate open with another control post. So I just ran through that open gate without taking notice of anybody. Obviously nobody seemed to be concerned about me. Now visualize that picture once more: A guy with a silly hat, a massive backpack on the back, another one in front of his belly and a guitar in his hand, obviously being in a rush. Seems that the patrol post couldn't be less bothered.

(1h 5min left till lift up)

Sweat. Finally I arrived at the Skybus station which took me to the airport. The last bus just left while I bought my ticket (19$) but the next left just 10 minutes later.

(55min left till lift up)

After talking to that woman who was working at the Skybus ticket office, if she knew any opportunity to let the airline know that I'm on my way, telling her about my misery, calling the airline which had no contact to the check-in counter at the airport, I was on my way. The bus would need 20 – 30 minutes. Could I make it?

(35min left till lift up)

The clock in the bus says it's 12:35 but my clock shows 12:20. I trust in my clock rather than in that one on the bus (did you realize by the way, that clocks on buses NEVER show the right time?). And in this case 15 min. do matter a lot!

(25min left till lift up)

I arrived at the check-in but everything is closed. Of course, they close the Check-in an hour before departure. So there I am. With all my luggage, right in time and still to late. So if you ever again watch people on the telly, arriving half an hour before their departure and boarding the plane last minute: That's Hollywood. Reality ain't like that. So employees I ask send me to the airline's office, which is down a very long hallway. I never felt like being on a walk of shame, this time I did. Just office guys around wearing nice suits and me. A guy with two big backpacks which could cover the sun and leave a big shadow (of course there was no sun in this office hallway), carrying a guitar and wearing clothes like I just left the beach, thongs (for the British amongst you, no that's no g-string, it's what they call Flip Flops or Havaianas in Down Under), shorts, a shirt and of course the silly hat.

(15min left till lift up)

I have a new ticket valid for the next day. Actually the schedule is even better than my former one. The long 24 hour stopover in Houston now swapped to a 2 hours stopover. I didn't even have to pay a new flight as “I showed up and tried to check-in”, like the United Airlines employee of the month (at least to me she is) stated to me. And also I don't have to pay for my guitar, which would also cost me some extra 70$.

As an experienced traveler you probably know, that running that late you would never make it in time to the check-in. But if in the end you wonder why I tried getting the plane I have couple of thousand reasons:
- new flight costs: approx. 2000$
- guitar postage: 70$
- long stopover swapped to a short one: invaluable

Today's lesson: Don't worry to much about the future, be present, focus.

Posted by cabdragon 22:20 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

Stripper's Paradise

111221_strippers_03.jpgIt's not until a room gets a name other than it's original one, which makes it enter history. Formerly known as room No. 14 today it's time to call it "The Stripper's Room". Over weeks two young ladys were living in that room barely seen throughout daytime nor in nighttime. The only time I could trace some activity back to its origin was when my room mate entered our room with a big cheeky grin all over his face, which was telling me, that he had a great night in room No. 14. Hardly ever before had I seen someone striding along the floor with his chest so puffed out.

However, as a cleaner you get all the gossip. That's the best job I could possibly imagine during that period of living in the City Resort Hostel or also known as Shitty Resort Hostel" or as I would call it "The Hotel California." As a cleaner you will occasionally find a lot of useful left-overs such as: single beers, six-packs of beer, loudspeakers, headphones, heaps of tips, Lonely Planet guide books, other travel literature, ear plugs, DVD's, sim-cards, a guitar tuner, loads of food-storage boxes (which are ridiculously expensive). One of my mates who was also working as a cleaner he could even earn easy money by consistently entering the Stripper's Room without knocking at the door or waiting at all and "eventually" catching people shagging inside. Once one guy just stood up, went to the door, gave my colleague 20$ and told him to fuck off (well, to him, that was more a motivation to do it again, than not to do repeat it).
History has it that the strippers checked out of the hostel and we were entering and cleaning that room the first time in months. It took us 1.5 hours (with two people cleaning it) to get it done. The literally left a complete household behind: strippers dvds (Hot Moves), underwear, dresses, millions of coins, opened food, sealed food, condoms, make-up...
From now on a rich source of stories and gossip was gone. but it still would remain the Stripper's Room.

Posted by cabdragon 20:01 Archived in Australia Comments (1)

Two sides of a coin

View 2011/2012 - Down Under & On Ancient Traces on cabdragon's travel map.

Today everybody was out for having a great party night. On the roof-top we got to know this guy who would be giving a concert the same night. So he put us on the guest list. How cool is that! But saying that, I also have to mention the various times someone invited me over to have me put on the guest list which finally turned out to not have happened. How embarrassing is that, standing on top of a long cue, proudly with your breast swollen from here to Melbourne initiating the following dialog:

Me: "Hey, I'm on the list"
Random door guy bend forward by the power of his ridiculously pumped up pectoralis: "Name?"
Me: "Gausmann"
RDG: "Not on list"

Than, whilst feeling the pressure of the impatient mob, you'll be trying a number of different names of friends of yours which could have been taken instead, finally finding out, that you've never been put on a list at all.

Anyway, this story turned out to have a totally different ending. As I was relying on the fact that Toni (who seemed to know those guys way better than I do) would know where the venue is located, I didn't ask for the direction. He was acting in the same way. So it turned out that none of us knew, where we needed to go. Still we were able to figure out where to go, but arriving at the club we asked the bumper, if the concert is still going on whereon he replied that there is no concert going on at all. So we decided to go to the club next door, where all the other people from the hostel were going.

One of our friends was so wasted, that I could literally observe him being in the process of getting kicked out. I saw the bumpers firmly looking at him stumbling through the club. So I started a countdown of 1 min. for him to being kicked out.
It was not until I had counted down to 5 sec. when the bumpers showed up to walk him out.

Sadly when I returned to the hostel, I saw that exactly that guy was laying down on the ground motionless, with blood all over his face. The offender and several people standing around doing nothing. The police had already been called.
Long story cut short: The two guys were in a kind of struggle before. Then, when the drunk guy returned home the navy guy, who beat him up later, started provoking him whereas the drunk guy threw a beer bottle past the navy guy which made him pull the drunk guy down to the ground smacking his face down on the ground.
The navy guy's story was like that: The drunk guy (who could hardly walk up the stairs) jumped at me, to hit me in the face. Well, it's obvious that the bulky navy guy then had to defend himself. The rest is history. The navy guy was kicked out the next day and his case went to court.

Posted by cabdragon 20:10 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

Hotel California

View 2011/2012 - Down Under & On Ancient Traces on cabdragon's travel map.

“You can check out any time but you can never leave.” These lines of the famous song by the Eagles now make way more sense to me than they did before. I never really thought about what they could possibly mean, but living in one makes it totally clear. There is so much up in our lovely “Shitty Resort Hostel” that no day passes without happening something. One day you have the Police there, then there's the Fire Brigades coming, for a change the police then sends the forensics and then the whole thing starts again. Now what happened exactly? Let me explain to you from the beginning:

About I-Clouds

120109_forensics_02.jpgFrom the very beginning when I first got here there were a lot of rumors about theft. I-Pod's, Mac-books, I-Phones everything seemed to get lost like there was a big black hole hoovering around the hostel soaking in everything which starts with an “I”. Knowing that people literally started to carry their belongings around all the time which resulted in the hostel appearing to be quite industrious. People were running around with backpacks, laptop bags and man purses (maybe I'm exaggerating a little bit here). As I was working already at the hostel by that time in the housekeeping business I found out that in the hallway, where all the cleaning stuff is stored, the manager also stores some lockers. I told him I could set them up to increase security in the hostel but he didn't want it. He always had excuses for everything in order not to improve anything. So nothing happened for another couple of weeks.

It wasn't until Ray's I-Phone got stolen that Albert (Ray's room mate and a kind of private investigator somewhere in his former life) put me into the position of a private investigator. I actually liked the idea: Kai P.I. What a nice sounding title, and probably good on any resume. Anyway I'll tell you somewhat more about Albert probably in a different blog. But for this time just the facts. As I had access to all the rooms while cleaning we planned that he would equip me with a radio wave detection tool and swipe the rooms of our suspects. When I actually wanted to start the swiping Ray came back to the room because someone “found” his phone. Now, how did this happen?

Ray had his phone tracked by a local Apple store via I-Clouds. And he spread the word about it. So out of a sudden a girl “found” his phone under the sofa in the common room days after he had lost it. This actually wouldn't be special at all, as Ray was one of those Irish who were just drunk literally 24/7. So loosing a phone and not even remembering anything could happen easily. BUT as I was cleaning the whole hostel thoroughly every single day it just couldn't happen finding a phone under that sofa as I had gone through the area several times before. So what DID happen? Someone must have put it there as we spread the word about having it tracked plus we knew, that it still was in the hostel. So this item was now getting way too hot now. Thus we had evidence that probably the thief would be one of the residents of the hostel.

Slaps Giving Day

But that was just the first part of the play. Now let's go for the main part, the climax. The other day, it was a lovely morning outside after a great drinking night, things were going really wild. In the night we already heard the noises of the drunk Irish (although I should stop describing them as drunk, as this is there natural state, so if I ever write about Irish guys you will assume them to be drunk as well in that particular situation as also by the time of writing) who would play around with fire extinguishers, bang the door of the room next door, smack down a flyer-stand in the common room and pretend swimming in there and so on. I had already started work when I saw Ray and Shivon sleeping in the common room. I started outside and when I went to the living room again they had vanished so I could start cleaning there, which I did. Shortly after that I heard the crowd obviously having come to life again on the next level and being in an argument. Out of a sudden the situation seemed to escalate. There was screaming, doors slamming so I ran up to find Ray over Albert, choking him and Albert covered with blood all over the face. He was bleeding from the mouth and had blood all over his shirt. I jumped at Ray to get him off Albert, separated them from each other and entered their room together with them to calm them down. It seemed to work out. They were talking about all the mess which happened. Then Ray again started to push Albert around and you could watch Albert exploding. So now the situation seemed to get out of control. Albert was kneeling down on the ground having his hands under his bed looking for something. I instantly knew he was looking for some kind of weapon, so I just told him to let it be. But he was going on. Then he pulled something from down there, stood up and was threatening Ray. I felt like being in the Kill Bill movie. There he was. Albert the old man holding a samurai sword in his hands, standing in front of that totally pissed Irish drunkard. I backed off not to be involved into the shit but constantly tried to calm the situation down. And it worked. Albert let go of Ray, put down the weapon and we went out again. The police was already there. So what happened to make this happen?

When I saw Ray and Shivon down there in the living room it was obvious that they had something going on but they were just too pissed to let it happen. In the meantime, when I was outside, Ray went up to his bed to sleep. Then shortly after Rivon awoke she must have realized her desperate need for love, went up to Ray's room banged at the door and Albert opened. As he seemed to know, what she was after he refused her entry to the room which then upset the drunk Ray. So the two had a massive argument, Ray slapped Albert and opened the door to let Shivon in. As Albert was still strongly against Shivon's entry they had an argument also and then Shivon kicked Albert in the face, who was still laying in bed. And then it started to escalate. They went out to the hallway and some other Irish guys joined. Some held Albert still to help Ray punching him. And that was when I showed up. The rest is history.

So this is the story which I put together considering all participants points of views. If this is the truth surely nobody will ever know. But I'm sure that it's quite close to it plus it makes a good story this way. In the end all Irish involved were thrown out. Albert who was also meant to leave could finally stay but then chose to leave anyway. Shivon and Amy left there place in a mess pouring noodles all over the floor, spilling coke over their mattress and emptied the trash all over the place. So did the other Irish guys. It took us 2 hours just for the room of Amy and Shivon to get it clean again.

Thefts heaven

Later those days more things got lost/stolen. But the manager – as always – couldn't care less about it, so nothing happened. And the CCTV cameras which are installed, they don't record any activity. It's just ad-hoc surveillance (to see if everybody's working properly). But later on there was a Chinese guy who got his computer stolen. It happened at night time so I was just there to help him. I told him he really needed to call the police to finally maybe make a change to the situation. So I called the cops and translated because he was just very poor in English. They opened a case but that seemed to be it. But it wasn't until the next day when the cops called me in order to arrange a date for forensic fingerprint investigation when I told the manager about that. Now, hearing me talking about forensics, he was just speechless in the first place, but then finally told me to set up the lockers, which I did. It was just a 5 min. job which was easily done.

Bad ain't it? But on the bright side: I have got a really great story for you to tell :D

Posted by cabdragon 18:55 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

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