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The three day thing

As this Chapter nears its end.


It’s been six months since I left Mexico City. Two of those I've been in South East Asia.
As I approached Kuala Lumpur a fourth time, I felt as unready and lost as that first time, six months before. I still don’t know what lies ahead of me. My map is still covered in fog. I cannot see clearly anything past a few weeks, and anything beyond three months is so blurry as to be a waste of time even trying to fathom it.
If all had gone according to plan, I would still be sailing, marveling at the ocean’s vastness and the beauty of islands and sea. It would have been a great time, I know, just a completely different experience to what I've had.
During this two months in Asia I have journeyed here and there, catching barely a glimpse of what the region has to offer. Someday I’ll come back. And in the rainy season too! There is just too much that stayed beyond the horizon this time. Laos, Vietnam, Myanmar, and the North of Thailand. And that’s without looking South. But I am now to enter the silence, to digest all that’s taken place in the last weeks and months. To let sink all the smiles, all the kisses, the hellos and goodbyes.

I've been doing the three day thing this past weeks. Days merged into one, and it felt like I spent more time in vehicles and walking to the next place than actually there. After leaving Angkor and Siem Reap, I passed through Kampot, Kep, Phnom Phen, Sihanoukville and Koh Rong. I kept going deeper into Cambodia, but didn't find the kind of effortless belonging of those early days in Siem Reap…



I spent a grand total of two days in Koh Rong. It’s a nice yet difficult place to explain… The only reason I went to there in the first place was because I read online that the island was beautiful, yet cheap, and that I could find 1$ dorms. This is not so. The cheapest dorm, at least this season, is 7$, escalating all the way to 60$ thatch bungalows and treehouses. It is not a cheap island. Having said that, it is a gorgeous place, and the people are great. Hippies, locals and expats, most understood my situation as a confused and broke traveler and were very sympathetic. ‘If you want anything cheaper than 7$, you´re gonna have to work for it’ they said. It took less than an hour after setting foot on that pier to get a place to stay. I spent the next two nights on the furthermost point of 4K Beach, a 40 min walk away from town. All they needed was someone to be there, so the place would never be completely alone. So I had a tent, noodles, beer, soft drinks, and red bull in exchange for just being there and keeping an eye over everything; for hanging out on the beach and selling the occasional beer. Basically for doing nothing. Heck I cleaned the place up, even raked the sand and burnt some leaves just to feel productive. It was great. I could have stayed there for days, weeks even... So then I left in the morning. After having camped, danced, walked at night in the jungle and swum in the dreamlike, shiny, phosphorescent blue sea… It just could not get any better than that. Not there. So Bangkok, Padang Besar, Langkawi and Penang soon passed under my feet. And then I was back in KL, back at the beginning.


Here are some things I've experienced in the last days/weeks:

Stay away from rocky outcroppings, or be ready to limp for a couple of days.

Even small coral can be very sharp, and cuts on the sole of the feet are very, very uncomfortable. Noted, learned.

Sometimes the $1 dorms are amazing and awesome. Other times they mean bedbugs. Flip a coin.

In Siem Reap I stayed at the Garden Village Guesthouse. It was awesome. I made friends and got great memories from there.
In Sihanoukville I stayed at the Utopia Hostel. Don’t stay there. Don’t go anywhere near that place. Just don’t.

Send messages to strangers. Couchsurf. Say yes.

When last I was in Bangkok I contacted on Facebook a girl who lives there. Turns out they have a spare room they are trying to set as a small B&B, so I stayed with Alexander and Abigail for 3 nights, with Petrina meeting me there. It was awesome![/b][/center]



Wine is best after not having any for months. Even more if it’s free.

One of the nice things of meeting locals (as in people who live there) is that they tend to know what’s going on. And that might just be the anniversary party of a nice, hip bar. I hadn’t had any wine in six months.

Travel with someone. Separate. Meet them again.

We met in KL that first week, then again after our sailing adventures. Now we coincided in Bangkok a third time. We could exchange stories from the time apart, and had someone for a few days we didn't have to introduce each other to, rather build on the friendship. It’s a great relief!

When crossing borders, double check the local time zone.

When Petrina and I arrived in Padang Besar, Malaysia, neither of us bothered to check the local time. As such, we missed the last bus out and got stranded there. Nothing wrong with the place, it’s just not somewhere you want to stay in for longer than necessary.


I smiled at a girl in Siam Reap. Our eyes and smiles met again in Kampot. Fancy to meet again, and sharing a cab with her and her brother, in Padang Besar, all the way to Langkawi. Then going out drinking with them in Penang. Who knows, maybe I’ll see her again in KL. Or in Germany someday!

Help someone.

I met a somewhat lost Australian waiting for the bus. I guided her to where she wanted to go, and stuck with her the rest of the day. A nervous little thing, she would have never eaten in the indian restaurant I took her to, nor ridden the bus all the way to the Kek Lok Sie temple. The thing is, I was ready to let the temple pass, but it is one of the best places Penang has to offer. It is beautiful, and its commanding view of the city, gorgeous. I would have missed out greatly and wouldn't even know it. I still don't know who helped out the other more.

This is not Kek Lok Sie Temple. I very smartly forgot the camera battery.

This is not Kek Lok Sie Temple. I very smartly forgot the camera battery.


And now I ready to enter the silence. It’s the last adventure in SE Asia for now, and one that’s been long overdue. I've wanted to take part on a Vipassana meditation course for months now, but somehow it didn't work out before now. Most of the centers open for applications several months prior to the course, and it’s been a while since I've known where I’ll be so long in advance… But this time all is set, and I’ll be there for ten days, away from everything, in a new experience. I've never done extended sitting meditation, so I’m not quite sure what to expect. But I feel it will be great.
So, world, see you after the retreat!

Posted by Zaspirucho 22:38 Archived in Malaysia Tagged kuala_lumpur food ocean nature beach travel cambodia meditation malaysia city island beautiful paradise camping asia koh nomad learning Comments (0)

The turnaround

Fifty miles off the Equator

all seasons in one day 25 °C

“No more coffee??” You could almost see the blood leaving Gerd’s face. We were fifty miles north of the equator, yet still far from the coast of Sumatra. It was a fine day, gentle wind blue sky. The date, January the 3rd.

One of those days

One of those days

Since morning, Gerd had been in what Tiho and I had taken to call ‘the mood’. That is, when he gets haggard, quiet, and tries to do everything at once. He becomes very rude and difficult to be around. During this spells of inefficient activity he uses very few words and barks directions at everyone, with always a sneer and a smartass reply at the ready. But after ten weeks with the guy we were used to this; we just stayed out of his way, of did as he said. This day turned out different thogh. This day his musings led him to do the one big thing he had postponed for almost a month now: he decided to weigh the gas bottle.
Our 16 kilo gas bottle had been refilled in India, after two failed attempts at getting a good local cooking device. It had done a good job. But we were six people back then, and there’d been cooking aplenty. The original estimate had been that the full bottle would last eight weeks. By this the 3rd of January , seven of those weeks had already slipped by. So neither Tihomir nor I were the least surprised when we found out we had around two kilos left of propane. We had urged Gerd to weigh the bottle while still in India. We had strongly advised at getting a second one. The Captain had dismissed our concerns, “It will last, it will last” he would say. Yet we weren't even nearly half way to our destination, yet less than a fifth of the gas remained. That day at sea, when confronted with the facts, for once Gerd became speechless.
We the crew had long since made our minds to a life of rice and explained thus to Gerd. How, if we wanted to make last ten days’ worth of gas into another forty, drastic changes would ensue. One big pot of rice a day, maybe pasta or potatoes on the pressure cooker, and specially, he would have no more coffee. “I just make hot water! And everyone benefits from it!” he cried defensively, knowing it was not true. Tihomir could very well live without his tea, and it’d been at least a week since I’d given up coffee... After some more talking and thinking, he came up with a solution. “I don’t want to go into full survival mode. Rice like a monastery, and no coffee! No. I think we change course, go to Malaysia...”

Now THAT caught us unprepared. This would effectively cut the journey by half, the new estimate being ten days! Our minds filled with swirling images or land, people and pizza. Merely ten days!!

Weather changes quickly down there!

Weather changes quickly down there!

But Gerd’s decisions are as stable as the equatorial weather. By that very evening he called us out to the pilot house. It was squally outside, on and off showers and sudden gusts of wind. While he steered and we stood in the bleary, wet cabin, he monologued at will. After much thought it turned out, he had decided that having no means to cook our food ‘could’ actually be considered an emergency. No matter he'd nearly call me an idiot for mentioning that earlier, huh? He now saw no real reason to leave our course, especially with this wonderful wind we were having. In fact we should try to make the most of it, go as fast as possible. We should probably reef the sails, go the safe way and have a pleasant sail. Or better yet, set a watch and hand steer through the night! Thus I was left at the wheel, mood as dark as the weather, cursing our lack of cheese for the hundredth time.
A squall passed. Another came. Then there was no wind. Slowly the wind came back. We gained speed: 1.1 knots, 1.3, 1.7, 2. Then it picked up, from three knots we jumped to 4 and five. I had just eased the mainsail a bit when a gust brought us up to a good seven knots. We heeled so suddenly and heavily that there was no need for me to call out to Gerd and Tiho. As I fully released the main, Gerd tried to steer downwind, to ease the pressure on the sails. But no, the wind was to strong, the sails had to come down. As Tiho steered Gerd released the halyard, and I ran to the bow, caught the sail and brought it down, lashing it to the deck, trying not to get blown off the ship by the wind or flooding waves. We brought the mainsail down as well, just leaving a small foresail on. Even then, with almost no canvas up, we were making a good 3.8 knots. So we set the self-steering and went to bed, thinking all was fine. Yet morning had another story to tell.
With the first light, we tried hoisting the sails, but the main had a big hole where a baton no longer stood, and the foresail was even worse. Two big gashes looked back at us, each a full arm's lenght (the pictures died with my iphone, but that's another story). It tore as soon as it was released... We could temporarily mend the holes by hand, we could, but to properly fix them, a good sewing machine would be required. Even a sailmaker maybe. The thing is, Gerd had spent a good six months in Dili and found none to speak of… So we looked at each other. It was decided for sure then. We set up the reserve mainsail (which was the better one anyway), and turned north. We never reached the Equator.

And we rounded Sumatra...

And we rounded Sumatra...

We had no more technical issues, and plenty of pancakes, potato salads and noodles. We rounded the tip of Sumatra and crossed the Strait of Malacca. A good 17 days later we arrived at the Malaysian port of Lumut, after much toil and motoring. And on January the 20th, after a night anchored in quarantine, Gerd got up and put the kettle on. But surely, as expected, there was no more gas.

Posted by Zaspirucho 18:53 Archived in Indonesia Tagged food boat sailing plans wind equator liberty emergency Comments (3)

Some thoughts from the pier

sunny 19 °C
View Liberty Goes East on Zaspirucho's travel map.

The world of sailing is one of wind and water, wood and metal. The forces of movement and stillness are ever present. It is a world of danger and adventure. Above all, it is real, and it is human.
Sailboats are built in the human scale, not citylike monsters of iron and diesel, but small manageable vessels. In them, most all things are important. Boats are systems, they become almost like living organisms, that exist in a symbiotic relationship with humans, who turn into sea creatures atop them...
The offshore, unplugged life also approaches us to the most basic human conditions. There's many things we have forgotten, living in our cities, condos and buildings...

For one, in Liberty there is no fridge, so we have to remember how to store food that it lasts the passage... At dusk, Tihomir peels off the skin layer of an onion. If it looks fine, it goes to the longterm pile, if it doesn't, he passes it to me. I inspect it for moulding and double cores, clean everything and, if it seems ok, I add it to the medium-term bunch; else I give it to Ryan he'll cut the rot off and cook the rest. In such a manner, chatting in the dark, we go through kilos and kilos of onions... This familiar scene has taken place in a similar way in other places, and in other times. We had headlamps on, others had fire, or maybe no light at all, but we all sat in circles, enjoying the company of others, and the meal to come. We thus engage in the real world, in the human world...

All the food we bought shall be likewise inspected, now and on the way. We must take care to eat what is weakening, not the strong and lasting. Also, before they even touch the boat, sacks are drenched in seawater, to kill or remove all bugs; cardboard boxes are left on the pier, bananas and most others are thoroughly rinsed to later be stowed or, like the now inspected potatoes, spread on deck, to dry. Cockroaches on a boat can be a nightmare, and we already saw one hanging around the machine room. Not to mention rats. You thought it was all buying, storing everything on a coolbox and flying away? Think again.
But food is here, most of it. So it's almost time to go meet those white collared people in that big, tall building, with their papers and stamps. Customs. Immigration. Bureaucrats. The way things have been here in India, I bet they won't let us go that easily...

Feel like helping out?

Posted by Zaspirucho 11:34 Archived in India Tagged food sailing pier liberty thoughts stowing Comments (0)

Liberty's looking east.

Provisioning starts.

View Liberty Goes East on Zaspirucho's travel map.

For some days here, morale wasn't too high. Motivation was difficult to find, and the heat didn't help. We started to slack, but then, the engine started. With it's deep roar it gave us a much needed energy boost. Then the new battery was hooked up, and music started to sound. We can do it, it seems! We can get out of here!!

A month I've been now, in this limbo. Neither at sea, nor in India. Days and days we've spent on this Bolgatty Island. With it's green garden and blue pool, it's not a bad place to be. For a week maybe. But then again, we plan to spend weeks at a time sailing, even a whole month! At least here I got space to walk around. And fresh food and water. Gerd cooked one night something akin to what we'll have on the third week at sea, when all the fresh produce is gone, and we have only some staples. Flour, powdered milk, potatoes, onions, garlic, and ghee. Some canned or dried food might complete the meal. Peanut butter for some luxury.

Ryan arriving!

Ryan arriving!

The food commission (formed by Ali, Majed and Ryan) got the first provisions today. Four boxes of noodles, peanut butter, coffee, oil and some more things. Promptly everything disappeared into Liberty's holds. With all the junk we've thrown away, there's plenty of space for food. And water, we'll be taking a ton of that. Literally.

Feng shui?

Feng shui?

So what is there left to do? Some projects we have going that started the very first day. Everything feels now like it's at 90%, but it's those nasty little details that take the longest. As Marc said, it's so that the first 80% takes 20% of the effort. Yet things are starting to fall into place. We're now spending more time into sorting things out and stowing them away, than in cleaning, or making them. Yet I'm going to bed as tired as always! Don't seem to ache as much in the morning though. Maybe I'm getting stronger? Maybe workloads have just gotten smaller. Even paint jobs are getting done, we're now painting inside: the floor, the walls. Green is the best color against seasickness, says Tristan Jones, so we paint the floor dark green. But Gerd wants a parrot boat, so there's also orange, yellow, blue, and bright green going around. Try everything! He said. It's going to look great on film. There's a new bamboo project being though of. Relatively quick to put in place, and will increase Liberty's anti-yachtness. We shall see.

Paintin' the mast! Taken by Majed Neisi

Paintin' the mast! Taken by Majed Neisi

For now, the ship has made it's first movement. up till this moment, we had been working with it looking westwards. For years it sailed in that direction as well. But we have turned it around. We now look east. It is important not only for it's symbolical significance, but because we got to work on some details on the other side, and because the harbor opens eastwards. So, in other words, we are getting ready to leave.

And I must not forget. If you care to contribute with a beer or some fishing lures, come here!

Posted by Zaspirucho 10:27 Archived in India Tagged food india sailing liberty crew beginning provisions morale Comments (0)

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