Old rope. New Friends.
As I’ve most probably bored you with already, it’s the people of the world I’m passionate about meeting. I find everyone irresistible and it takes the slightest of hints that they want to converse with me to relinquish my life story.
Sure, show me ancient Mayan ruins and laden me with tear-inducing scenery; but what I’ll treasure more is a topical conversation with an Indian food seller or a cheerful chinwag with a Maori warrior. I am in many ways a solitary person, but I believe this is a compensative trait for being open to meeting new people if only for a fleeting, yet everlasting moment.
This page is no more than a black and white log of the people who I have had the pleasure of meeting along the way. No more complicated than their name and a brief description, but in order of when they walked with me along The Trail. Collectively they form what I’m coining a “Rope of Friends”. Like the rope that supports rickety bridges in rainforest’s, or maybe rope that swings smugly aboard multi-million pound yachts, these are the people that will give me the strength to carry on and are a true reflection of the magic along the Trail of Ant’s.
Igor: The oh so helpful Russian in Moscow, “Never forget me”.
Timo: The giant Dutchman
Erdenebaatar: Straight faced Mongolian roommate on the Trans-Mongolian
Toni & Eveline: My Austrian roommates, and fellow hunters along the Trans-Mongolian
2 Swedish guys: Again, from Trans-Mong, whose names escape me just now!
Tom, Marie, Jez, Amanda, Tom, Adam, Jan, Katherine, Steven, Zac and Lucy: The gang at Idre’s Guesthouse in Ulaanbaatar for Naadam.
Jose and Manuela: Found at close quarters in a minibus at Naadam, we found friends, swapped batteries and lost some Russian binoculars.
Phillip, Georg, Harry & eventually Ralf: My Austrian tour-mates in Mongolia, along with Tiggy our vibrant guide. Ralf joined them/us in Beijing for my 25th and some goodtimes.
45 Middle School, Baotou: My 200 fellow passengers from Beijing to Datong, a great generation of Chinese youth.
Iris: Let me get this right, an English/Spanish Parisian found in the Yungang Caves, China.
Tim: Nice and not-so-dim, shared a beer or two in Pingyao.
Erin: The all American girl, who brought the sun out by the Goose in Xi’an.
Joe: A curious Floridian crossed my path in Xian and Kunming. With some strong Dixie views forming some insightful conversations.
Lisa & Wazi: An Austrian couple who I met in UB, and now Xi’an and coincidentally they’re studying with Harry, Georg and Phil.
Mr Wang: The Prince of Kunming, met on the train from Beijing and whom opened his home to me.
George, Tom, Jamie, Jack and Reb*: The friendly chumps at The Hump in Kumning.
*Reb: Grew from ‘one of the gang’ to a fab companion in south west China, and Tibet, and Nepal, and Sri Lanka, and India and beyond. I guess, you could call her a girlfriend!
Charlie and Tom: The last place I thought we’d make friends was in the bleak rice terraces, but here’s the proof. My heart will go on.
Joe the Bridge: Our tour guide chum in Xishuangbanna, who introduced us to the Aini way of life.
Mark: The champion of 3man in Dali’s Bad Monkey. If you meet him, beware the double-six.
Louise and Berlinda: 2 girls (a Frenchy and a Dutchy) who shared the 36 hour slog from Lijiang to Chengdu. I dreamt I fell in love with Louise, I searched for her in vain using a taxi driven by Amelie. Alas, we parted ways without exchanging details. Sigh.
Angela, Aaron and Ben: A trio of panda lovers, met in Sim’s Cozy Guesthouse in Chengdu.
Emma and Lucy C: Two first class English roses discovered taking salvation from the Chengdu smog. I also found the delightful Lucy in Nepal.
Yael: Yael, from Israel. Need I say more than this rhyme? Well, I guess I could say she was fun to be around!
Rachael & Andrew: A pair of long distance cycle-tourists, but here’s the best bit, Rachael doesn’t even like it! She does it out of love, aww!
Jans, Sander & Stijn the Dutch. Thomas the Belgian. Chris the Manc: All aboard the Chengdu-Lhasa train. Choo chooo. Amongst others.
Carli: A Perthonian who introduced me to the world of Oz’s west coast Coffin Cheaters and Gypsy Jokers. Thankfully, not literally.
Mark: Mark the Welshman appeared almost magically under the stars of NamTso lake in Tibet, not wanting to rid myself of his power I dragged him into Nepal where he eloped with my good friend, Reb!
Bill: When I first saw Bill’s ageing face and dreadlocks my instincts were to steer clear. I’m so glad I didn’t, in Bill I found the original BFG.
Kim: He might have a girls name, and be Spanish but Kim was decent enough to let me enter the orphanage which he’d ‘befriended’. A true matador.
Jose, Angel and Jean-Michel: Dos Spaniards and Un Frenchman who made the memorable journey with myself, Mark and Reb from Lhasa to Kathmandu. ‘Jose the Great’ who’s magic ways will never be forgotten.
Sharon: A whirlwind friendship grew from the chaos of Kathmandu, with the petit – Arsenal loving – Sharon. Alas, it was brief and she soon blew away – with Mark and Reb – to the Annapurna Circuit trek.
Mim, Ellen and Lucy: My three spritely rafting partners who drifted ashore in the Nepali city of Pokhara. Forward together team, forward together!
Jonte and Vanessa: A pair of new friendships founded with the sunrise of a new day in the Kathmandu Valley.
Rose KTM: Five visits to the Indian Embassy in Nepal sprouted me a visa, and a lovely new friend in Rose.
Pam: Mother of Andrew. Queen of Balderdash.
John Hatt: Met briefly in Tibet and Nepal, but it was Pondicherry which found John the Hatt making an impression. An amazing photographer to boot, who I’m glad to say joined Reb and I over in Sri Lanka as well. Check out John.com’s photos.
Stu: A deep breath and a bottle of arrack saw him out almost every night till the wee hours, but Stu will always be remembered for ‘The Stu’, a new craze – the sit-down surf move he busted out right in front of me! And he speaks Japanese, amazing!
Mim, Mel and Matthew: Found bobbing in the sea, these three became more than just good drinking buddies on the beaches of Hikkaduwa.
Nimal & Ruwan: The Sri Lankan brothers with a sad story to tell. The Tsunami left only tears, taking away the majority of their family but they dug deep and somehow see the good in each new day and, of course, the sea turtles they now care for.
Jo & Graham and Gethin & Suzy: A couple of couples volunteering in Seenigarma near Hikkaduwa. Genuine, charming and cheerful people whom I enjoyed grabbing time with.
Gav the Irish: Thick red hair, pale specked skin and a smile that sucked you in and gave you a good craic!
Ahmed and Shanty: A twain of trains and a couple of new friends, the young hip and garrulous Indian’s you see in the movies. Are they interested in you? Not really, but it was great to hear about them!
Alvin: No, Simon and Theodore stayed home, but Alvin made it all the way from Korea, via Australia, to brighten up my early days in Singapore.
Jan: A dark haired Swede who could hold a conversation on everything from the stock exchange to ice hockey, from make up to politics. Tak.
Kirsty, Jonny and Nic: You know when you just want someone from your own country to talk to? Singapore slung me these three, slipped a fag into my hand and it was Blighty all the way.
Kasper: I like Danish bacon. I like Danish pastries. I like Danish women. I even like the resonance of the word Danish. Oh, and I like Kasper, who is Danish. Day-nishhh, Daniiiiish, Dannnish.
Sarah: Ohmidayz! Sarah is an English gal from the much-mimicked county of Essex (pron. Eh•Siiiix). She and Kasper stabbed a budget voodoo doll and dragged me kicking and screaming around Singapore’s fine nightlife, oh what fun we had!
Yani: The formidably beautiful Yani poured me a coke, posed for a photo and tapped me an email. What more do you need? Oh, no no, sorry – none of that malarkey! It’s platonic. Pla-toh-nik.
Montgomery J. Lion: Curiosity won’t kill this cat. A 3ft low stuffed lion weighing in at 7kg. When I patted his mane he’d already pawed 56 countries in two years, while his ranger, Ken (the kind of guy who knows a thing or three) has hit every country in the world bar three.
Martynas & Juste: Airports are a great place to pick up a map, your bag and stray Lithuanian couples. I travelled Sumatra with this wonderfully addictive duo, with the added bonus of learning about life in their capital, Vilnius. Vilnius, Vilnius, must remember that! Vilana, ne, Vilninn? Damn.
Will: The man from Minnesota who grew up in Brazil, then in his late fifties he left his home in Hawaii and took his bag and hula-hula to Taiwan; at sixty-five I met him in West Sumatra, where on one unforgettable day I thought he’d perished while swimming across Lake Meninjau.
Reshma: The Sindhi-Hindi with the eyes of a moonless sky. She claims she could ‘see me’, but the White Russian soon finished that.
Marcus: Innocence is a trait of many first time backpackers, Marcus oozed this with magnificence which I silently admired, and absorbed. Marcus is excited to the point of ecstasy, and I pray he never loses this charm.
Line: Friend of Martynas and Juste, therefore a friend of mine.
Ollie and Lu: A northern English couple that I met during an expedition from my Bali homestay’s room to my homestay’s porch. In fact, I never saw them outside of the homestay once, but inside, we created an environment something akin to a local pub. Ah, a local pub.
The Kuta Inmates: I returned like a black-and-white romantic to sweep the girl of my dreams off her feet, but found her stuck fast by a thousand new friends who I dared not cross. The leading ladies of the soirée were Tara, Be and Anya who caught the eyes of Jason and Jamie and a hundred others.
The Lawson Family: Hospitality at the Lawson’s was an absolute pleasure, Muzza and Jen (Tara’s folks) took us into their Melbourne home and for the following week, the family trio blinded us with unerring kindness and welcome. They also poured us cold beer and hot coffee, served up sublime home cooking and regaled warm family memoirs that no hostel could ever muster.
The FF Bayside Brigade: I never realised how hard much hard work fitness was – until I worked in a gym. But amid the blood, sweat and sales pitches there were good times with great people. In particular, James ‘The Keg’ Kerin who showed me how the young’uns drink and Chris ‘The Govner’ Worsnop who ran the show surrounded by a bunch of brilliance.
The FF Malvern East Mob: Same Job. Different Mob. This was a lads affair to the bitter end. Prashant, my Hindu teacher. Dylan, my youthful sidekick. Derry, my bumbling Brummy. Khahn, my comical Vietnamese/Chinese/Londoner.
Dea: Give me a D! Give me an E! Give me an A! Whaddya got? Dea! Dea Dea De-ammo, De-ammo, De-ammo… Dea, Dea, De-ammo De-amina mo mo.
Andy & Amy:What do you get when you mix a effeminate Brightonian with a firey Barnsley lass? A curious, drunken comedy.
Josh & Sarah: A pair of Sydneyite housemates in Melbourne. I lived beside a synagogue with these two for six months.
Trudi: The single most distasteful, bitter woman I have ever had the displeasure of meeting. Even I am stuck for words to describe just how vulgar this woman is!
Shona and Ky: I found these pair via a beautiful marionette, they are without doubt the friendliest Toyshop owners in Northcote and I hope to be in touch for a longtime to come.
There are obviously a thousand others who aren’t hanging on this list. That doesn’t mean I didn’t like them, it’s just they were a bit too brief or a bit too ‘I want to forget you’.