Sunday March 7th, 2010

The exercise:

Your assignment today: tell me a travel story (preferably a real one).


Yesterday's big purchase has got me reminiscing about the first and only other "car" I ever purchased. Hmm? Oh yes, those quotation marks are quite intentional.

When I decided to go backpacking in New Zealand toward the end of 2003 I thought it would be best to get around in a car (no quotation marks there, I'm sure you've noticed). This was a bad idea for several reasons and the way I went about it only made it worse.

You see, I knew absolutely nothing about cars. And I didn't have a whole lot of money to spend on one. Pile on top of that the desire to get a car before I left Auckland and hit the countryside and I might as well have tattooed Sucker across my forehead.

So there I was, the day after I arrived from Vancouver (I believe it was about a 14 hour flight from LA but it's been a while and I can't be bothered to double check), going car shopping. Sadly, I was unable to find a car. I did, however, find a very nice lemon.

It was cheap. It was old. It was small. I only needed something for six months so I thought it was perfect.

When it stopped being able to go faster than 60 km/h I began to suspect I had chosen poorly.

When the engine began overheating so badly I had to pull over every fifteen minutes I thought maybe I should have shopped around a little more.

When the reverse stopped working I had to admit defeat (I still kept driving it for another month or so).

It was quite the experience though. I met a lot of very nice locals along the side of the road who stopped to see if I needed help. I could do a lot more sightseeing since I was forced to travel so slowly. It really did transform the first two months of my trip into something I could have never predicted.

But... been there, done that. I'm hoping this one will go much more smoothly :)

Also: in searching the blog to make sure I hadn't told this story before I came across this other car-related New Zealand post. Man, I need to get back there one day. I'm absolutely positive Kat would love it there.


Greg said...

Wow, you got a lot of responses to your posts 100 days in -- what's happened to all those commenters since? I like your story though, especially when the reverse gear stopped working -- a sign that you could only move forward? ;-)

A travel tale

Gibraltar is essentially a large rock at one tip of Spain, but it's owned by Britain and is popular with bookmakers, so every so often I get sent out there to provide training. Coming into Gibraltar by plane is entertaining.
Gibraltar airport is on the tip of the tip, and it has the shortest runway in the world. Even when you become a pilot you have to log a minimum number of flying hours and landings before you're allowed to land at Gibraltar. Why are there such restrictions? Because at each end of the runway is the sea.
I came in to Gibraltar after dark, and as the plane began its descent there was initially nothing to see out of the windows. That is, nothing -- no lights from any airport or nearby buildings. People behind me (I sit near the front of the plane for preference) started peering out of the windows. Tension was starting to build.
Finally some lights come into view, but they turn out to be lights on tankers that are sailing near Gibraltar. I'm smiling at this point, but there's a low muttering rising around the plane, and many more people are now trying to see out of the window.
When the plane actually lands, and the wheels bump on the tarmac for the first time, there's a collective sigh of relief from the passengers; the plane hasn't ditched into the ocean, and there was land there, even if we couldn't see it. I have a broad grin on my face by now. The plane taxis along the runway slowing down, and there's a small amount of consternation when people realise that we've just crossed a road, and there is traffic waiting for the plane to go past so they can carry on. Level crossings, after all, are more usually for trains.
The consternation rises again when the land either side of the plane vanishes again -- we're approaching the end of the runway!
Our pilot has judged well though, and the plane suddenly veers to the left, causing more worry on the plane, but in fact he's just turning the plane around in the turning circle at the end. As we complete the manoeuvre and head back along the runway people relax once more. This time, it's not disrupted again, and the plane turns off the runway to park.

g2 (la pianista irlandesa) said...

Man, I've quite a few Spain stories to choose from... which one, which one?

Ah! I think I know!
- - - - -
En route from Santiago de Compostella in northern Spain to Salamanca due southeast, we had to stop for lunch along the road. As we were along the highway we had to pull off at the Spanish equivalent of a truck stop. Admittedly we were all a bit apprehensive; I'd go so far as to say some folks were reluctant to get off the bus: a dusty hard-packed dirt "parking lot" sandwiched between a rough gas station on one side and a weatherbeaten diner at the other. "Galicia II", it was called; the original Galicia, at the very far end of the lot, wasn't open.

"Don't worry," our guide assured us with her Castillianized English. "They have good food, this is where the locals come for lunch."

Well, if that's the case, why not? At the very least it would be a reason to get off the bus for a bit.

As our group of about thirty some-odd filed in, I was able to get a good look at the diner's inhabitants. The crowd comprised of the typically sturdy dark-olive working crowd... and nearly every single one in unison turned to stare.

I guess it's not every day a group of Americans invade their lunch spot.

I drifted back outside to find my mother sitting outside the diner door, munching on a roll she'd squirrled away at breakfast. The ham sandwiches had looked good inside, but we weren't feeling particularly adventurous at the moment.

So we amused ourselves outside for a bit while the others ate lunch. I read some of the various homemade posters advertising landscaping and used vehicles and so-forth ("Heehee, 'teléfono' is spelled wrong...") while my mom told me her surmised plotline of a movie she saw the night before on TV; she knew of the movie, but had never seen it before and knew hardly any Spanish. Intersperesed to mix things up a bit we greeted any incoming patrons in a mix of Spanish and English. Some looked a little surprised, but many were happy to return the greeting in either English or Spanish.

Eventually my aunt joined us outside, and we chatted about this and that (as we're wont to do). After a while of this a group of three men made to enter the diner. We said hello (or "hola" as the case might be); two said hello back, the third muttered something.

"Do you know what he said?" my aunt asked me.

I shrugged while my mother impishly replied, "He probably said something like 'who the hell are these people outside my diner?'"
- - - - -
It's interesting to note that in the span of a few hours we went from dirt-road truck-stop diner to a five-star hotel in Salamanca. ¿Puedes decir diferencia ginorme? =)

Marc said...

Greg - ah, I made a special point of inviting friends and family to comment to celebrate the 100 day milestone. I should probably do that again some time :P

And I like that. Going forward truly was the only option.

(other than putting it in neutral, getting out, and pushing)

Holy smokes. I'm not sure I could handle landing there, haha.

g2 - hah, that's a great interlude :)

I do hope to get to Spain one day. I ran out of money when I was Europe and had to cut my trip short before I could get over there.