Tuesday, 3 May 2011


How often is it that you find yourself stuck in a place surrounded by mountains and desert, with nothing by way of significant evidence of civilization visible as far as the eye can see, and in the middle of this, there's free (albeit somewhat slow) wi-fi?

Okay, it is possible that the no 'significant evidence of civilization' bit might have been a little harsh, but not very. Welcome to Duba. No, again, I haven't missed the i. And we're stuck here with no boat to take us to the ship and rather tired after the long bus ride from Tabuk and the early flight out of Jeddah before that. Yes, mountains, desert, astonishing rock displaying fascinating erosion patterns whose astonishing and fascinating nature respectively themselves get quite eroded by the fourth trip through the otherwise barren, dry and forbidding landscape.

It is on that bus ride that some profound (but thoroughly pointless) thoughts occurred to me, as they tend to do when I make the mistake of leaving the book in the backpack instead of within quick reach and subsequently find nothing else with which to occupy my mind :|.

I shall spare you said profundity. However, having noticed the somewhat ravaged copy of Shantaram the chap in the seat next to mine seemed to be trying to read rather distractedly, I asked him about it. It's one of those books that I'd heard a lot about, but heard nothing specific at all. For instance, I had no idea about the plot, premise, or anything of that nature. I get the feeling I know a lot of people who've read it, but I don't remember ever having received a substantial opinion of any sort about it.

I soon found out that a lot of Australians that my friend hangs out with back home in Brisbane absolutely loved it... So I decided to give the first chapter a read. I must say, it was intriguing. Not least because of the nature of observations regarding Bombay. The foreign nature of the eye doing the observing rather patently evident. But then I should read more than a single chapter before forming an opinion, I think.

There is a method to approaching new places, I reckon. And it is by no means uniform across people. Take me for instance, the first thing I do in a new place is systematically reduce it down to known elements and patterns. It is actually quite interesting how easily this can be done with almost any given environment. All airports are essentially the same, all ports, city subway systems, hotels/motels/inns/lodges, food, traffic... It is possible to distil them all down to some universal fundamentals.

I suppose I really do it to prevent myself from completely freaking out in any new place, which, almost without exception, I find scary :(. It's kinda sad I suppose, but once I've managed to calm down enough, having found the symmetries and similarities and thus having brought the 'freaky newness' of the place within manageable limits, only then can I start looking at all the stuff that is in fact not the same. The stuff that gives each place its character.

Why am I going on about this? Besides the necessity to while away some of this wretched hot afternoon in the desert with not much else to do? I think I've only just figured this out. And I'm not sure if it's a particularly good way of going about things... Either way, I must say, I am extremely happy to be able to use a proper camera again while travelling :).

Currently: whiling life away
Listening to: Emily Browning - Sweet Dreams (are made of these)

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