Lost in Kathmandu

The-ball birds

I have to start the story in a tight transit ally that separates the British and Indian Embassies in Kathmandu. We were in a panic. My producer and I had spent six hours sitting in the gutter waiting for our bribe visas to be fast tracked. The day before we had cut a deal over a small brown desk, and before we knew it our passport and the fate of our trip was out of our hands. With an hour to spare before we missed our ride to New Delhi, the Indian Consulate finally stormed out of the Embassy and into the adjacent cramped office spaces to sign the sticker on our passport. The yellow string-hung sign on the sliding door waved him farewell as he slammed it behind him and stormed back to what technically is India. The sign read, ‘Photocopies, Passport Photos, and Flights to Dehli’ but said nothing of express visa processing.

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We were in a panic because our visa stickers were in the wrong passports. The ally was a crammed frenzy of scooters, pushbikes, trucks, and us, with our passports pinned to the blue concrete wall as we carefully peeled our visas off the page. I took a breath and looked up at the razor wire decorating the top of the blue concrete wall of the Indian Embassy and thought to myself, ‘If this rips, we are screwed.’

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And that exact feeling is ‘Kathmandu’ – adrenalin heaving through my chest, as I embraced the chaos that was happening around me. Nepal sucked me in, it demanded my attention, held my focus, and it expanded me. As an outsider I had no control over my surroundings and no real comprehension of what life is like for the Nepalese. And when I gave in to it, rather than ogle at it from the comfort of an airport taxi to my hotel, the chaos was charming.

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I walked.  I just picked a main road, committed to it, and walked. I actually couldn’t process anything fast enough. The insanely busy streets happened around me at first. I found myself in the way of motorists and pedestrians. I held up traffic as a teenager hanging from the side of a van tried to convince me to get on the bus for 10 rupees. I felt like a rock in a blender full of fruit – everything else soft enough to slice and spin. It wasn’t until I stopped to take stock and two men fixing a motorbike came over and struck up a conversation, that I started to feel the ‘flow’.

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They asked me where I was from, I said, ‘Australia.’
The older man said, ‘Ah, Australia, beautiful.’
I said, ‘It is.’ Happy they knew where I was from.
Before I had time to continue, the younger man shouted, ‘Nepal, beautiful as well.’

My-Men

I could not help but smile and agree. Nepal and the Nepalese people are beautiful. My first single serving friends in Kathmandu. I took their photo, and then they continued to fix the motorbike. The words mulled in my mind, ‘Nepal is beautiful as well’!

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I stayed on the same road until busy roads and incomprehensible roundabouts squeezed into small stalls and dirt tracks, and further into foothills of mountains. People slowed, and began to stare, and smile, and wave, and stare. The photos I have are what I saw, but what I felt was peace. I walked, visually intoxicated, until I couldn’t walk any further – and then I turned around and walked home. If I have any advice, it’s pick one road and walk… you’ll experience it all – and you’ll be able to find your way home.

Instagram: @the_lostboys

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Sydney:Home

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Familiarity is what makes disorientation so exciting.  Exploring other lifestyles is what builds an appreciation for what’s yours. It’s only in coming home this time that I’ve really started to  notice this.

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Home is comfort. It’s an ease or a calmness in how you move about town, where you eat, who you see and what you talk about. It’s a list of people and places with memories attached to them, rather than a fascination with something new.sun

The trip home from Europe was just that – a trip. I said goodbye to one film crew, and walked straight into another. I think it’s better to keep the move, shoot, move groove going rather than stopping for a few days *(even though I don’t know what day it is, and tend to fall asleep at the strangest of times).

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With five days shooting at home before I jet again I’m on my tour de’ favourites – favourite people, places, food and coffee! It’s about getting the hometown fill, enjoying the things you miss when you’re away. Walking through the street this morning on one of Sydney’s finest spring mornings I couldn’t help but be grateful for the place I have to come back to, the place that’s mine; It’s always waiting for me to get home.

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It will always be familiar.

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Lost in Bilbao

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I’m tempted to not write anything about Bilbao; I can’t do it justice. For the first time in a long time I’ve felt lost lost. No one in Bilbao speaks English, and no one cares for it. Prague felt foreign, but Bilbao is rural. It has that small town glue that binds the locals together.dog-spring
Nursing one of the sorest heads I’ve ever had, I crawled out of bed with vague recollections of my first night in Bilbao. I remember pinchos, oversized gins, cobbled streets packed full of eating and drinking Spaniards, dancing with a blow up elmo doll, and a disjointed georgraphy conversation with two helpful foreign students on a bridge.Let’s just say itwas Bilbao 1 Lostboys 0 when I went to bed.stairs

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Avoiding the main city I just walked up. Bilbao is a bowl, with the center of town at the bottom. It was mid-afternoon, and I walked slowly, with no intention of stopping. I twisted and turned on mesmerizing backstreets for a while. Hundreds of people stood in the street and ate, so I did the same. I stood and ate a prosciutto roll in the Saturday afternoon sun, it was better than any KFC remedy I’ve had. It was like a saline drip.

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With a newfound exuberance I left the bottom of the basin and climbed a set of stairs off a side street. Old town Bilbao transformed into suburban Bilbao and the people stared at me and my camera. A drugged up teen chased me through a park, chanting Spanish at me and pointing to my camera. ‘Amigo…. Something… Amigo, amigo.’ I ran – no brainer. *The bag of smack and dark glasses were a dead giveaway. (NB: Pretty quick on the old pins, so no real danger) By the time my heart rate returned to a respectable pace I was lost, so I kept walking. But I couldn’t stop. Every time I decided I’d had enough and I’d take on one more block, I’d round a corner and the camera would be back in my face. It was an ancient looking church balanced dangerously on a cliff’s edge or an old stone archway, or a scampering set of stairs that drove the cogs in my legs to keep walking. By the time I finally gave in the light was gone, and I just let myself trickle down the side streets and back into the city.

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My time in Bilbao is definitely the highlight of my trip. The food is to die for, the people I met are already close friends, and the city is intoxicating. It sucks you in, and traps you in small, stunning pools of activity, but then changes and traps you again before you’re even aware you’d moved.

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It’s definitely the most fun place to get lost with a camera, and should be noted in remedial books as a great hangover cure.

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Czech Yourself

It was refreshing driving to Prague from Berlin. Air travel is like being boxed, wrapped and squeezed into a cylinder that cannons you to your destination, but driving the four hours really gave me time to chill, adjust and take stock. There wasn’t the stress of the cattle call. I used to travel from Sydney to Brisbane a lot during a tough stage in my life, and I always found that when I decided to drive instead of fly I’d arrive far more balanced and relaxed. The unfamiliar landscape rolling by out the window was therapeutic and gave me a chance to remould.

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Prague is stunning, it’s postcard Europe. I dragged my gear up cobblestone streets, passed ancient moss tinged churches and over rivers dotted with white swans. It’s an age away from the packed, raging streets of Manhattan. It’s been good to just sit on the street and enjoy not understanding the conversations happening around me – it’s been a solace.

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And always, just when I’d had enough of my own head, some friendly inquisitive Czech, or tourist, or camera enthusiast, or *paper-bagger would stop and ask what it is I’m doing, and just like pulp-fiction I’d have a single serving friend. Sometimes I’d take their photo if they were really memorable, sometimes I’d get their Instagram, but most of the time we’d just chat for a while and they’d move on.

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At one stage I was waiting for day to turn to night opposite the Dancing House. As the most beautiful red sun burned orange behind the sandstone buildings the temperature dropped with it. I was fresh off a plane from sunny Berlin and was wearing Havaianas. Rookie. I found a haphazardly packed sock in the front of my camera bag, and had another one housing my GoPro. As I was slippingthe odd pair onto my freezing feet I heard this wicked cackling laugh over my shoulder. I looked up into a haggard bearded face. The wrinkles that linked the corners of his eyes with the corners of his mouth danced as he barked Czech at me and pointed to my feet. In one hand he had a bottle in a brown bag, and in the other a trolley bag with what seemed like all his belongings.

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‘I’m sorry, English.’ Is all I could say through my bewilderment.

He managed, ‘You… Feet… Cold.’  And then he laughed at me, thick and heartily.

I smiled at him, ‘Yep, freezing as a…’

He interrupted and pointed to his bare feet, ‘My feet, Heat.’ And then he laughed again and turned around to leave.

I smiled and adjusted my cap on my head.

He turned back around and mumbled in Czech as he fished for an English word,   ‘weak, weak… weak.’ He finally declared in unison with his gesturing hand, more proud of himself that he’d figured out how to explain himself than insulting.

Before I had time to answer he released his grip on the trolley and knuckled me endearingly on the shoulder, ‘Soon my feet, your feet. Same.’

And then he left.

Favourite single serving friend yet

*Brown-bagger is anyone who’s drunk (Usually carrying a bottle in a brown bag – usually homeless)

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