Fuckfuckfuck FUCK FUCK. Fuckity fucked-up fuuuck.
All year, I've made a big effort at keeping this blog clean, and at beeping out rude words that might offend people. Well, I'm fucking sick of it — I'm nearly home, and it's time to say FUCK THAT SHIT!!! Censorship is FUCKED. Fuck you, Google: rank me the fuck down for this if you want, I couldn't give a ladyboy's willy about it. Fuck you, Office of Film and Literature Classification: rate me MA15+, warn against strong coarse language and adult themes — do whatever the fuck you want, you cocksuckers — everyone knows you're fucked anyway (and guess what, Bittorrent doesn't ask for ID, so go fuck yourselves). And fuck you, profanity filtering software: you're discriminating against people with [cuntlicker shagfag pimpdiddy asshole titties motherfucker pieceofshit sonofabitch wankmeister turdface dirtyassho sissypoofta stingyjew stupidnigga hijodeputa] Tourette's!.
I'm saying it loudly, and proudly: FUCK YOU!!!
If there's one thing you simply must do when you visit Thailand, it's elephant riding. This afternoon, for the grande finale to our Doi Inthanon trek, the 15 of us hopped onto a troop of 7 elephants, and went on a lumbering stroll around the jungle. The seats atop the elephants can only accommodate two persons each: and since we were an odd-numbered group, and everyone else was a pair, I ended up sharing an elephant with the German guys, and straddling the beast's enormous neck. It was a jolly old ride (if a bit uncomfortable for me): it's very impressive how these seemingly clumsy animals can daintily saunter up and down steep, narrow jungle trails; and it's good fun when they walk splashing right across a river, with you getting sprayed on top.
My Doi Inthanon trek was kicked off today, with a fun and unusual introductory activity: bamboo rafting on the river. The 15 of us (brought in 2 pickup trucks) arrived at the rafting camp, where the people in charge were preparing the rafts for our little journey. It was 3-4 people on each raft (plus a Thai captain). For my raft, it was myself and the Dutch couple. Each captain stood at the front of the vessel, and was armed with a bamboo shaft, for steering us down the river — since I was at the back of my raft, I too was given a stick of bamboo, although I didn't really know what to do with it (I had an obligatory paddle now and then). The rafting itself was good fun, but was totally easy-peasy: nothing like proper rafting; and puny little excuses for "rapids" was the worst we encountered along the river. Then again, I wouldn't particularly want anything more extreme than that, while balanced precariously on a few loosely-held-together sticks of bamboo.
Hammerschlagen is a game with a simple set of rules, and a very difficult gameplay. In this centuries-old German / Austrian social game, you have a tree stump (with its surface flattened and smoothed), you have a hammer, and you have a bunch of nails. Each player takes a nail, and hammers their nail a few millimetres into the stump. Then — using only the thin, axe-like side of the hammer — each player in turn attempts to whack their nail all the way in. For this evening's après-ski in Kitzbühel, we kicked off the night with a visit to Chizzo (an outdoor bar in the main street of town), where they have a Hammerschlagen area set up. Jake and Mitch introduced the rest of us to the game: here in Kitzbühel, the rule is that the loser (the last person to hammer their nail in) shouts a shot of Jäger to everyone else who played. Check out the video.
I was walking through the Christmas market in Salzburg this afternoon, with Lisa, when I couldn't help but notice some dried figs for sale in a stall. This wouldn't have been such a noteworthy moment, were it not for a little fact that Lisa explained to me earlier today: the word "fig" (with different spelling?) is apparently quite a rude word in German. If you tell someone you want a "fig" in Germany, then you will supposedly receive a stinging slap on the face. Anyway, they weren't labelled "figs", they were labelled with the equivalent German word "feigen": but hey, that sounds like a few other things in English, doesn't it now? Clearly, the fig is simply a dirty fruit, no matter what language you name it in.
There's one little eccentricity that I've not been able to help but notice, everywhere I've been so far in Germany. In Berlin and elsewhere, German people seem to have a uniquely large amount of patience and respect when crossing the road. The pedestrian traffic lights here in Germany enjoy taking their time: after the vehicle lights have completed their (also-slow) transition from yellow to red, the pedestrian lights take a further 4 or 5 seconds to register green. What with all this traffic-light sluggishness, you'd think that the poor pedestrians would tire of waiting for — well, for nothing — and would simply walk. But no: not Germans. Every single time, without exception, they wait the several seconds for the vehicle lights to turn red; and then they keep waiting another several seconds for the pedestrian lights to turn green; and only then do they cross the road. In Deutschland, ve vait until it is time to cross — ve must not break ze rules, ja!
Over the past two weeks here in Sicily, I've met more than my fair share of locals. The main contact has been during my morning visits to the local coffee bars in town — but I've also struck up conversation with them at tourist sights, in supermarkets, and in hotels and B&Bs. Usually, the first thing they ask is: "da dove venite?" (lit: "where do you come from?"); and then when they see my bike, they invariably proceed to give me a wide-eyed stare, and to ask incredulously: "dall'Australia, in bicicletta?" (lit: "from Australia, by bike?"). After about 5 seconds, they realise just how hilarious the notion of cycling from Australia to Italy is — at which point they proceed to burst into laughter, as though it was the funniest joke in the world, and as though they were the first ones ever to think of it. Which of course they weren't, since I hear this exact same joke 10 times every day, and since (therefore) I find it neither original nor amusing at all. After that many repetitions... I'm sorry, but it's just daym lame.
I couldn't help but notice the trees on the side of the highway, during this morning's ride east from Sciacca. Call me a delusional Aussie drongo if you want, but I could have sworn they were gum trees. Or at least — if they weren't — they were some kind of Sicilian tree that sure as hell looks an awful lot like a gum tree. I suspect that the latter is the case. How could they have gum trees in Sicily? I know they've exported them to California, to the UK — even to the highlands of Peru — but surely not to Sicily. Anyway, some of them looked to be going brown for the autumn as well — and since Aussie gum trees are evergreen, that would conclusively indicate that they're something else. Anyway, what do you think — gum or gunk?
By and large, this afternoon's cycling was some of the easiest and the most enjoyable I've done so far in Sicily. From the ruins of Selinunte, I continued east along the coastal highway, passing by lazy seaside farmlands, and with Menfi being the only sizeable town along the way. Then, just as I'd finished passing through the town of Sciacca, something very dramatic and very alarming happened. To my utter surprise, I suddenly found that I'd ridden straight into a patch of wet, liquid cement in the middle of the road, and that my bike wheels (and half my boots) were mired in the stuff. Aaaaagggghhh... YUCK!