(First Shared 28th August 2008)
THE BOOK OF JOURNEYS
EHV [Extensively Heretical Version]
1And so it came to pass, in the last year of Bush the Inadequate, while the nations of the world gathered together to play silly games, that he who was called Verbose travelled in the East. 2On the tenth day of the eighth month, Tristan travelled from the port of Moresby, that most wretched of hovels, to the great City of Angels, which is called Krupthep and Bangkok. Although the distance to travel was not great, the journey was an arduous one, for the travel agent had booked Tristan through the cities of Brisbane and Sydney first, for she was an inept sow. 3And so it was that although Tristan left the Port of Moresby early in the morning, by nightfall the GPS screen on his in-seat flight entertainment system showed that he had only just returned to the same latitude as Moresby. He was watching the GPS screen because the rest of the flight entertainment system had stopped working, and long and arduous indeed was the journey. 4And Tristan cursed his travel agent. But he also rejoiced, for although it was a codeshare flight, he was travelling in a BA jet and not a Qantas one, and thus had no fear that bits would drop off the plane in mid-air.
5When Tristan came to the place called Bangkok, it was midnight, and the taxi driver took him to the hotel on a long and circuitous route that Tristan did not know, and the route was dark and seedy and lined with women in little dresses standing at the curbside, and the driver drove his taxi exceeding slowly so the farang could get a good look at what was on offer in the hope of getting a cut of any transactions that were to take place. 6And Tristan ignored both the driver and the women until such time as the driver got the message and pulled back onto the main road again, because Tristan was of a right and noble spirit. And also he didn’t want syphilis.
7Tristan spent some days in the place called Bangkok at a great meeting of people from the East. The meeting did not excite him, for it involved extensive waffling and the blowing of hot air. It was also held in an opulent hotel, and the sight of it offended him although it was less than half the price of a night in a Moresby hotel, which not only had far less to offer, but also had the distinct disadvantage of being in Moresby.
8However Tristan did thoroughly enjoy Bangkok, because it’s a really neat place, and it has great food and lots of lights and noise and bustle and excitement and atmosphere and queer aromas which are not pleasant but aren’t altogether unpleasant, either. 9And so it came to pass that Tristan did stuff his face on spicy papaya salad and mussuman curry and basil fried chicken and sticky rice; and he did consume his fair share of Singha beer and Chang beer and even the odd Asahi beer; and he did smoke shisha until his lungs turned black and purchase pirated DVDs and catch up with friends and put far more effort into enjoying the city than attending the workshop. 10And Tristan did not feed the baby elephants on the street. And he did not get picked up by any ladyboys. And Tristan did say:
11“For workshops are boring and pointless, and I don’t know why they make us do these things.”
And he went to see The Dark Knight, and rejoiced, saying:
“What a stonking good movie. And how nice to be in a cinema again.”
12For in Papua New Guinea there are no cinemas, for it is widely known that to take a bunch of Papuans, put them in a room together and turn out all the lights is a recipe for all kinds of unpleasant.
1Then it came to pass that Tristan, who is called Verbose, was to leave Bangkok and travel to the place called Chennai which was once called Madras. So it was that Tristan showed up at the airport on the seventeenth day of the eighth month for his flight, only to be told that although his ticket said he was flying that day, the computer system showed that he had actually been meant to fly the day before, on the sixteenth, and the airline had cancelled his ticket. And Tristan said:
3Then Tristan beseeched the airline staff to let him board the plane so that he could arrive at his workshop in time, saying:
“O airline staff, I beseech you to let me board the plane so I can arrive at my workshop in time.”
4But the airline staff said:
“But the plane is full.”
5So Tristan spent the day on standby on four different flights and spent sixteen hours at the airport. And Tristan cursed his travel agent again and called out to the Lord saying:
“Oh Mighty Smoter, smite Thee upon mine travel agent, for she is an inept sow, and may the fleas of a thousand camels find lodging and sustenance in the pits of her arms.”
But the Lord did not heed Tristan.
6Then Tristan found himself a seat on a plane leaving after midnight and had to buy himself a new ticket on his own credit-card for seven hundred dollars. The plane was travelling to Kolkota, which was once called Calcutta, for Tristan said:
7“Verily it is better that I travel to India so that at least I am in the same country, and closer, that I might stand a better chance of getting to my workshop in Chennai on time.”
Then he boarded the plane and sat in his seat, and the hour was well past midnight.
8Now Tristan had no flight booked on from Kolkata at this time. Tristan also did not have a good grasp of Indian geography. And so it came to pass that as he sat in his seat and looked at the GPS flight-map, he saw that Kolkota was far in the north of India, and that in fact it was no closer to Chennai than Bangkok was. 9Indeed the distances between Bangkok and Kolkota and Chennai formed the sides of an equilateral triangle. And Tristan said:
10When Tristan arrived in Kolkota, it was after two in the morning, and the domestic terminal was closed. So it was that he met Asim, the taxi driver. Asim said:
“I will take you to a nearby hotel, and it is cheap and good. Oh yes sir.”
11And Asim was a small man with a small moustache and bright eyes, and he waggled his head in a particularly endearing way, so Tristan trusted him and entered the taxi and allowed Asim to drive him to the hotel, for although he would have been quite happy to stay in the airport, Tristan fancied the adventure. 12The streets were totally empty and Tristan and Asim saw no other vehicles. And Asim drove a little old Ambassador which he started not with a key but by squeezing a little junction box that joined the ends of the ignition wires together. And Tristan decided that the Ambassador had certainly been designed with Indians in mind, for his head nearly touched the top of the cab, and his knees were tight against the dashboard.
13Then Tristan spent the night on the edge of Kolkota in a dirty little hotel room with no lock, which he shared with no small number of cockroaches and mosquitoes. And he dared not lie on the bedsheet for fear of contracting scabies, so he slept inside his sleeping-bag liner and hoped the noisy ceiling fan would keep the insects at bay. 14He spent two hours in the hotel and was overcharged for the privilege but was too stuffed to barter properly. Then Asim picked up him at five thirty to take him back to the airport, and Asim asked:
“How did you sleep?”
15And Tristan lied and said:
“Fine, thank you.”
And Asim said:
“Oh yes sir.”
16Then Asim pulled his Ambassador onto the wrong side of a dual carriageway, and the roads were no longer deserted, and Asim drove the car for some time close to the curb on the wrong side of the road while rickshaws and autos and Ambassadors and overloaded Tata trucks bore down on it and manoeuvred around it at the last minute. Then Asim swerved across in front of a particularly gargantuan Tata truck and crossed the median onto the correct side of the road. And there was much honking of horns.
17At the airport, Asim led Tristan to the terminal and said goodbye and kissed Tristan’s hand. Then Tristan scrounged around until he could buy a ticket on a local airline to Chennai. And he was greatly blessed, for there was a seat on the first flight to Chennai that morning, so he purchased it and breathed deeply for the first time in nearly twenty-four hours. 18Then he checked in, and the process was painful and arduous, for the Indians take their security far too seriously, with the x-rays and the body-searches and the security stamps and the metal detectors.
19So it was that Tristan arrived in Chennai a day late and with nobody to meet him. So he found another taxi, and he didn’t learn the name of the driver because the driver spoke no English, but he was a very small Tamil man and also had a moustache, and had a sweet face, and Tristan felt fairly confident that if the taxi driver gave him any trouble, Tristan could take him in a fight.
20They drove out of the airport in another decrepit Ambassador and immediately avoided being squashed by a large tanker truck by mere inches. As soon as they were onto the road, the driver stopped the cab and got out and poured something into the engine. And Tristan said:
“This can’t be good.”
21Then they drove again and joined the swollen current of moving metal that flows amongst the channels of Chennai. 22And it came to pass that the sweet-faced Tamil taxi driver had a serious attitude, and used his horn as if the Ambassador would grind to a halt if he stopped pressing it, and gesticulated angrily at the other motorists as he swerved in and out of the traffic, slamming on his brakes at the last possible moment before rear-ending buses and cars and large overladen Tata trucks. 23And lo, an auto-rickshaw, which is called a baby-taxi or a tuk-tuk, slammed into the side of the Ambassador. And the driver was greatly unamused, and made his unamusement known by use of more self-evident gesticulations and shouting. And the auto-rickshaw did not stop but kept going. 24So the taxi driver pulled back out into the traffic and chased the auto-rickshaw down and pulled in front of it and forced it off the road. Then the taxi driver got out of the Ambassador, still shouting and gesticulating, and made a bee-line for the driver of the auto. And Tristan sat in the passenger seat of the Ambassador and said:
“This can’t be good.”
25And he also said:
“I can’t believe I’m planning to drive one of those tuk-tuk things two thousand five hundred kilometres across India in January. Who does that?”
And he no longer felt confident that he could take the small Tamil man with the sweet face in a fight.
26Then the taxi came to the place called Muttukadu. And the driver didn’t know where the hotel was, so he dropped Tristan on the main road at a place that was convenient for the driver and left Tristan to walk the last mile to the hotel. And Tristan would have cried out to the Lord, but he was too busy sweating and heaving in the midday sun with all of his luggage and couldn’t spare the breath.
27And so it came to pass that Tristan spent the week in Muttukadu in an icy cold conference room listening to more waffle and the blowing of hot air. But again the buffet was exceedingly good, and Tristan did say:
28“Verily, the buffets in India are exceedingly good, and chock-a-block with enticing Indian delicacies such as curries and dhaal and roti and the like.”
29And Tristan grew fat.
30When the time was full, Tristan son of Clements, who is called Verbose, returned to Papua New Guinea. And so it was that he discovered that his travel agent had booked him on two different flights back from Chennai to Bangkok, and he again called down the vengeance of the Lord upon his travel agent, and again the Lord did not hear his cry. 31Then he travelled from Chennai to Bangkok, and from Bangkok to Sydney, and from Sydney to Brisbane, and from Brisbane to Port Moresby, and from Port Moresby to Madang. And the hours of his travelling measured sixty-five. 32And he once more cried out to the Lord saying:
“Come on now, surely you can see that my travel agent is an inept sow! Where’s this fire and brimstone stuff?”
33And he solemnly swore that if he were ever to refer his booking to this travel agent in the future, terrible events of an intimate biological nature would occur to him, saying:
“Bugger me if I ever use her again.”
34But his journey, though long, was not unduly riven with strife, for he suffered only one three-hour delay on Air Niugini (which in those days was par for the course), and accidentally left his book on theoretical physics on the plane. And although he wept and gnashed his teeth bitterly over the loss of his book, he returned to Madang on a beautiful sunny day and polished off bottles of South Pacific Export, glasses of Californian Syrah, and a few measures of Port over a shisha pipe, and felt much better.
35Then Tristan ate the travel agent. And there was much rejoicing.