A Storm in The Thar Desert

I spent a few nights in the Thar desert, somewhere between Jaisalmer, India and the Pakistan border. On the drive out to the village I asked the driver how often it rained, he said once a year. 

It rained on the first night. 


Photographed by Johnny Casey at a wave called Riley’s. The wave that inspired the whole trip.

The Red Baron - Surfing in Ireland

The Red Baron - Surfing in Ireland

By Louie Hynd

 

Coming into December, I assumed I’d be going to Hawaii like every other semi-pro, pro and photo chaser. Boards were ordered and I was looking forward to watching the title showdown from the balcony of Ripcurl’s beachfront team house as I’d done the year previous. But this year it wasn’t meant to be, not enough floor space. Even the cupboard (literally) I slept in the year previous was occupied. I had already had a month of 1ft northerly wind chop on the Gold Coast and I sure didn’t want to sit around twiddling my thumbs waiting for waves.

I saw a bunch of photos of amazing waves and setups in Ireland over Instagram and got chatting to my friend and filmer Darcy Ward about doing a trip there.  He was equally excited about the idea. Two weeks later we decided to stop talking about it, drop everything and just go.

Wing it and see what happens.

Flights were booked, 5mm rubber was packed and Darcy and I were off on our first major solo mission.

Photographed by Johnny Casey at a wave called Riley’s. The wave that inspired the whole trip.
Photographed by Johnny Casey at a wave called Riley’s. The wave that inspired the whole trip.

Things could not have gone any smoother on the journey over to Ireland. Excess baggage costs flagged at check-in, extra legroom seat on a domestic flight and to top it off, a business class upgrade for the long haul flight.

Once we landed in Dublin, we had no accommodation or transport organised. We really were winging it from here the start. I received a few strange looks dragging a massive coffin bag through the cobblestone streets of Dublin. We eventually found a vacant shoebox size room in a dodgy hostel atop a fried takeaway joint.

Pungent fumes of deep fried goodies wafted inside our room every time we opened the door.

We sampled a few pints of Guinness before the jetlag set in and fell asleep at 2pm. The next day we were bound for the west coast of Ireland.

Jet-lagged in Dublin at 5am.
Jet-lagged in Dublin at 5am.

We nearly missed the train due to no taxis wanting to deal with our enormous amount of luggage, but we made it to the station with two minutes to spare. Upon catching the train it really sank in that were on the other side of the world. Going past identical townhouse suburbs like something out of Harry Potter, then through rolling green landscapes with giant leafless trees.

It certainly didn’t look or feel like we were on a surf trip.

A three-hour train ride followed by an hour-long bus ride; we arrived at the coastal surf town of Bundoran. The place was completely dead. It was 4 pm and the sun had set long ago; there wasn’t a soul in sight. It wasn’t exactly what we were expecting. We dragged our luggage down the road to an old-fashioned bed & breakfast. We were greeted by a lovely old lady called Betty.  She woke us up at 6:30 am sharp for breakfast and seemed quite offended when we turned down the cereal that looked like it’d been sitting on the shelf since the 60s.

The next day we picked up our vehicle for the trip; The Red Baron. An old red Ford transit that our friend Elliot Marshall and his mates used to road trip through Europe earlier in the year. Darcy took the driving reigns although he only had his learners. The anxiety of being pulled over whilst driving an unregistered and uninsured vehicle without a license quickly set in. A Google search suggested that we would be looking at around 15K in fines and possible jail time if we were caught.  I decided it was finally time to learn how to drive manual so if we did get pulled over, at least I had some kind of a licence. Twenty minutes of practice in an empty estate before being thrown straight in the deep end.

The legend himself - The Red Bandit.
The legend himself - The Red Bandit.

It turned out that surfing in Ireland wasn’t as simple as I’d hoped. The first few days were completely flat, followed by freezing 80km/hr cyclonic onshore winds and then rain for a few more days. We needed to be precise when picking a time to surf. With only seven hours of daylight and four-metre tides, you basically need to pick your spot and time to surf the night before. Some spots only break on high tide, whilst others only on low tide.

There’s not a lot of time to spend drive around checking everywhere because before you know it, the tide has turned too much and the only decent wave is now unsurfable.

In between the constant rain squalls, we eventually found a window of daylight that we could film a session.  Being covered in 5mm rubber and a hood made every movement restrictive and much more exhausting than usual. Having your face frozen by the 8-degree water temp and the howling arctic winds doesn’t help either. After about a week of struggling to get any decent waves, I was worried that I’d bitten off more than I could chew. I was bummed out and thought I was going to return home with nothing but a royal skunking. Luckily, the swell outlook for the next week was looking promising.

The charts were reading 22ft at 15 seconds and to be honest I was shitting myself. I had borrowed an 8”6’ board and was ready to paddle into the infamous big wave spot at Mullaghmore. All the big wave madmen were in town ready for it, but unfortunately, it wasn’t possible to paddle. We headed back to another spot just as the tide started to turn.

It was firing! Clean 6-10ft heaving left pits with less than 5 guys out.

We had an hour and a half up our sleeve before the winds were predicted to go upwards of 80km/hr.

We reversed The Red Baron into a spot so Darcy could shoot from the boot out and then I was out there. It was surreal to be in such a unique location and surfing perfect uncrowded waves. The gamble had all been worth it. It felt so much more rewarding scoring waves off your own back opposed to just being thrown on a plane towards the nearest purple blob on the map. Chasing a swell in Indo is one thing but going on an adventure outside my own comfort zone, putting the time in and then finally scoring perfect empty waves was one of the most satisfying feelings I’ve experienced surfing. Aussie expat Noah Lane and local legend Fergal Smith were showing me how it’s done. We traded waves until eventually, the forecasted 80km/hr wind rolled through. I was beaming after that session; just dumbstruck that we’d finally scored the waves I’d seen in photos before coming over.

The cyclonic winds made the walk back along the edge of a cliff on a narrow goat track a treacherous and terrifying task.

At one point my board began to flail so dramatically in the wind, I had to throw myself to the ground and crawl through the mud to avoid being blown off the cliff to certain death.

The Irish are some of the friendliest people I have ever come across in my travels. It’s easy to feel alienated when travelling overseas. Locals might speak a different language, participate in odd customs and may not understand Aussie humour or sarcasm. Usually, on a trip I just keep to my own program, but in Ireland it was different. We got along really well with the locals we were surfing and staying with. They’d always be popping in for some banter and discussing where the waves would be good. It made us feel welcome and helped us forget that we were on the other side of the world.

Classiebawn Castle on the Mullaghmore peninsula
Classiebawn Castle on the Mullaghmore peninsula

Ireland was the first place I’d been where I felt like I really fit in. Much like Aussies, the Irish love having a good time and enjoying a beer at the pub. One of our first nights, we thought it would be a great idea to have a beer at each pub on the main street. A simple task one would think, but not in Ireland. On the short kilometre long main street we were staying, there were fourteen separate pubs, all serving pints opposed to the smaller schooners we were used to back in Aus. I think we cut it short once we realised we were only halfway through. We still managed to get into the water at first light, which was at an achievable 9 am.

The Irish are also the most trustworthy people I’ve met abroad. One night on the town I lost my wallet. In any other country this would be a reason to panic, but for some reason, I just had the feeling it would turn up.

Two days later, I get a phone call from a friendly local who found it, still with 70 euros inside.

Another instance happened in the early hours of the morning. Our share house front door was always left unlocked and one night we had an intruder. He came into our room and I bewilderedly locked eyes with the man from my bed, expecting him to quickly try an escape after realising I’d noticed him. He mumbled a few words before he suddenly ran to the bathroom and proceeded to boisterously throw up in our toilet. He apologised and then left. He hadn’t come to steal anything, the poor bloke had just accidentally gone inside the wrong door on the stumble home from the pub.

Photographed by Connor Flanagan at a wave called girling, aka the G-Spot.
Photographed by Connor Flanagan at a wave called Girling, aka the G-Spot.

If someone told me in November that I’d be spending Christmas and New Years in Ireland, I would have chuckled in dubiety. For Dacey and I, it was the first time we have been away from our families for the occasion. Aussie expat Noah Lane and his family, who flew over from Australia, happily adopted us into their festive celebrations. It was a pleasant change having Christmas in the Northern Hemisphere. Seeing snow-capped mountains, snuggling up next to the fire and leaving the beers outside to stay icy cold were some welcomed changes. We played a classic game of Aussie backyard cricket with a piece of wood as a bat and a bin for stumps. A bunch of the neighbours joined in and we played until we felt the onset of frostbite.

After a week or so of playful waves over Christmas and New Years, the charts were again showing a massive swell.

Except for this time around the weather was looking in our favour. Light winds and sunshine are a rarity during the winter months in Ireland so there wasn’t any time to waste. It was our last day and we were blessed with the best conditions of the trip. Even the tides lined perfectly, allowing me to have a solo session at one left slab, followed by another at a much more fickle left slab which required no wind to work. By the time of the last session, I was down to my last board. It was a 5’6” and the waves were double overhead. A sunny afternoon, sharing fun barrels and banter with some of the local legends I’d met during our stay. It was the perfect end to the trip. One last dash across an angry farmers property to the car and we were out of there.

Everyone was on such a high after the first perfect day of weather and waves in over a month. We were invited over to one of the local’s house for a celebration and send off. The Irish drank us under the table in a game of kings cup until we ran out of beer.

Luckily, the local bottle-o delivers to your doorstep, genius!

We were so caught up in having a good time that we had forgotten to pack.

You always think travelling when hungover is going to be fine, but it never is. A tactical chunder before the winding bus trip and I was good to go. Thirty-six hours of feeling seedy was certainly not enjoyable, but we had a successful adventure and made it home in one piece.

 


A Letter to the People Whose Festival I Broke Into

A Letter to the People Whose Festival I Broke Into

This summer, I went, and broke into, Momento Domento—or Modem. Tucked between the two Croatian cities of Oštarje and Slunj, Modem is a psytrance festival of about ten-thousand people; a gathering grown and borne from a woodland that every August unfurls, stretching limbs of pine into a week-long utopia; to recede back once more, unmolested, ready to house again its annual occupants—the ModemHeads.

Afterwards, I wrote the organisers an email; the email printed here.


Subject: Let me explain...
Message:

Dear Organisers of Modem,

Please don’t attribute this letter to a festering ego—the admission of a perfect crime. This is not a confession. It is a compulsion. A need to communicate with you openly, cleanly; to paint the whole picture. As you so fittingly wrote on your website when expressing your gratitude, “In moments like this, the best way to go is with the truth”. It is with this initiative, then, that it feels appropriate to write this email expressing my own gratitude. To tell you the whole story. To tell you that I broke into your festival. (And why I will never do it again.)

But firstly, let me explain myself. I tried to buy a ticket. I really did. However, I was only told about your Modem two months before the festival started; before the baggies opened and the feet started stomping. (“Broke in” is such a horrible term of phrase. One connotated with defiance and a “fuck you” attitude. It implies something is broken: boundaries, trust; neither of which I wished to break. My motivation was derived, not from defiance, but determination; desperation, not disrespect.) I was in India when I learned of Modem’s existence. I’d spent all my money on charas and night buses by then. I had little money for a rickshaw, let alone a festival. By the time I had suitable funds, the tickets were sold. I was undeterred—dogmatic —captivated by a friend and the experience he painted. It wasn’t a festival for him. It was a pilgrimage. So, I took a bus—France to Italy—hitchhiked to Croatia, traded a joint for a lift in a van, broke in, and put my dancing shoes on…


 

Photo Credit: Zoé Sulmont

So, that’s my excuse—I was poor. As with all life’s quandaries, however, poverty can be either a stumbling block unto you, or a stepping stone; a ball-ache, or a catalyst, precipitating the unknown, the unexpected, and most importantly: the hilarious.

But mostly ball-ache.

From London—Sunday Evening—I took a night bus to Paris. Tentatively drawing every ounce of sleep osmotically from the window through my cheek, I was awoken—the last man on board—ushered onto a ferry, and herded half-asleep upstairs. I found two seats to span myself across, and pushed myself back into a dream.

Again, the last person to get the message, I woke to someone commandeering my footstool. A man in a uniform. I looked around to see everyone else had gone. I’d been left. I’d actually been fucking left. Like Kevin McCallister—abandoned—not by parents, but the Frenchman I’d accidentally dribbled on—forgotten—not in a house inundated with Christmas presents, but a ship.

Balls.


Now, thank you. Thank you, thank you, thank you. Thank you for the all the thought, the effort, the attention to detail, the time, the expense and the energy invested to create your festival. It is impeccable. Each component, each piece of infrastructure; mindfully designed and implemented. You have taken every measure to mitigate environmental impacts and it shows. You have not twisted nature to the needs of the party, but made nature part of the party. Crossing rivers to The Seed, walking beneath trees—the call, the energy of The Hive reaching through the woodland—one does not feel a stranger here, but a guest, welcomed by the forest and the waters that run through it. Modem is a reminder that we needn’t fight nature, nor correct it, but instead work with it, around it, between it. To me, being human is to be aware of our animalism, to understand that our place is not beyond nature, but beside it. Modem achieves this beautifully. Modem made me feel human. And proud of it.


 

The bus was full, idle, waiting. My fellow passengers: ready, disgruntled, pissed. I scuttled sheepishly back to my place—avoiding angry eyes and all the faces reading: I’m so glad that’s not me—and we pulled off. My face reconvened with the window and again I slept; finding comfort in the impersonal bone-juddering of the glass.

Monday night and finally in Lyon, I met with Lubna, a friend of a friend. She’d just gotten back from another festival—and with me, carrying the weight of shitty sleep and public transport in my throat—we offered our broken hellos, stowed our bags and boarded another bus to Venice, where the newest adversary to my well-being took form in the shapeless silence of the air-con.
Capitalising on my lack of suitable clothing needed when one is transported, not as a human, but a frozen vegetable, the relentless puff of the AC became unendurable. That is, until I tore the drape from its rail, mummifying myself in the faux satin innards of the bus.

I literally had to sleep in a curtain.

 


It is not just the setting, though—the eco-toilets and the dizzying graphic mappings of the mainstage—or the location; nor even the eclectic mix of movies tailored to the “too fucked” and any voracious acid-heads; the music, or the food. No. That which makes Modem—made Modem— so unique, so perfect, is the people; and the vibe, the atmosphere—the momentum—created as an extension of those people. I have never been somewhere with such little litter, with such orderly queues, with so much love! I have never been somewhere where everyone smiles back. It is as though you sieved through the assholes and the self-absorbed, entertaining only the aware, the honest, the happy. The best of us. Standing beside the main floor of The Hive so as to watch over the nocturnal inhabitants, following as intermittent lights break into the mass of bodies. Watching whilst limbs cut into darkness where fingers twitch and tremble, like the puppeteers of tempo—shoulders ricochet between leads, and feet break down upon the earth, unified in the bassline—together creating one collective body. A physical incarnation of a larger consciousness. As individual thoughts tie together to become the mind, like the components in a circuit, at this moment, we are connection manifest. I do not see people; I see brothers, sisters. I don’t see separate bodies, I see an organism; the cells of a muscle; the fingers of a fist. I see the height of human potential. I see a tribe.


 

Photo Credit: Zoé Sulmont

In Venice—rather miraculously—we hitchhiked to a hotel; asked and received instruction from the lovely receptionist, filled ourselves with complimentary cakes, and went back outside to attempt a hitch…

Don’t hitchhike in Italy.

People look at you like you’re a knob; or they turn away like you have one in your hand. Someone even stopped, waited, and drove off when we got close.

The only person to genuinely stop to offer a lift was going the wrong way—then his car wouldn’t start. We watched on piteously as he fumbled in muted desperation behind shut windows, like someone trapped on the experimental side of biohazard trial. It was awkward, so we walked on.

Fruitlessly.  

Eventually, we conceded to the sun and the selfish and caught a train—jumped off the train because we had no tickets—caught another train, and hitchhiked—now in Croatia—to the outskirts of Rijeka.

Taken somewhere between jumping off a train, and waiting at hour for the next one
Taken somewhere between jumping off a train, and waiting an hour for the next one

 

Night began to pry away day and we ended up pitching my tent in the car park of a Lidl. We smoked a spliff and returned the stares cast by the final, trickling streams of customers.

We were nearly there.

Safely in Croatia after dealing with Italy's bullshit
Safely in Croatia after dealing with Italy's bullshit

In the end, it is thanks to you, you brilliant curators, you fantastical fabricators of trance-based silliness, that these flocks of dread-woven, hemp-cladded hash fanatics migrate annually to Croatia—simply for a party. You did a wonderful job. You took a movement and made it a moment. And I am sorry for breaking in. I realize that festivals are designed to accommodate people up to a certain capacity, and were more people to turn up uninvited it would affect everyone. Therein lies the reason why I will never break into Modem again: I will always buy a ticket.


 

Come morning, we again attempted to hitchhike, using signs written with locally sourced lipstick.

As we waited—drink and food provisions placed tactically beside a permissible pick-up site—a Croatian bloke thought it okay to rifle through our wares; pilfering an entire six-pack of cheap Croatian lager. Lubna saw—luckily—and gave chase. Initially, I thought she was running to someone offering a lift.

But no, just someone stealing our beer.

It wasn’t long though, before we were picked up again: an interesting guy, asking simply: “Party?”; stopping on a slip road to peel back the side door of his van and welcome us onboard—a vehicle held together with seemingly little more than extremely tenacious tape and Eastern European pragmatism.

Half-way through the journey our driver called someone. He began reciting in direct English demands to be met upon our deliverance; asking for asking for what seemed like far too many Kuna, his voice unattributable to one particular sentiment, confused somewhere between malice and amusement. Not for the first time, Lubna and I looked helplessly in the eyes of the other.

“Weed?” I asked. Shakily.  

 


I appreciate, however, that festivals do not operate with a “try before you buy” incentive, and understand if you wish me to pay the fee for this year’s festival now. Also, and finally, if you are ever looking for assistance for the set-up, or additional creative input (or maybe more security), I will always be happy to help. Modem is a world in which I'd love to invest some energy of my own. (And I guess I do owe you one.) I hand back the trust to you now by signing this email with my name. (Please don’t blacklist me!)

All the best,

Will Brown


 

We exchanged two beers, a few Euros worth of Kuna and a handsome bud for our (relatively) safe passage. We’d made it—well, Lubna had. I was still without a mode of entry. (Up until this point I had no idea what to do when I actually got to the festival.)

We were met by a friend—someone willing to leave the festival and walk several kilometres uphill to give me the wristband—a festival pass—of someone able to take theirs off.
I ducked into a porta loo, lubricated my wrist with hand sanitiser and delicately inserted my fist through a fabric wristlet hardly larger than the thigh of an infant.  I left the toilet, sweaty but successful.

I was in.

Photo Credit: Zoé Sulmont

Once hugs were exchanged and the wristband returned—an assembly of needle-wielding French girls set to work stitching a new, copycat band using the off-cuts of others.

Then I drew on it.

Then we partied.


Hi There Will!

Thank you for this completely honest and entertaining message! It has been read and passed on to some of the crew to read, as we just loved the flare you have in this message!

We have decided not to blacklist you but to rather offer you a volunteering position for our 2019 addition during pre-fest to help with the build up. Anytime from about 2 weeks before if you are interested let us know. At the moment applications are not yet open so we don't have all the details for you yet. But I can say you will be able to camp with us all in the crew camp and get 3 meals a day and have a whole new view on the Mo:Dem experience from the otherside 🙂

Thanks again for your kind words about our festival it seems you have really captured and understood all we have aimed for in our event!

Much love and blessings from the whole Mo:Dem team!

Blessings,
Mo:Dem Crew


 


Taking a Dump at 6000m

For the first month in Nepal, I trekked. I didn’t shower for 23 days and I loved it. I was so greasy that I started to repel water.

Trekking is as good as they say it is: The views, the sense of accomplishment, the detachment from the rest of the world. As soon as you’re up there, everything else slips away. WiFi become an unjustifiable outgoing, and the date is of little coincidence.

Life reduces to staying warm, fed, rested, and not collapsing on the side of a mountain; incapacitated with a bout of Altitude Sickness; cerebral fluids permeating into your brain.

People, it’s a headache – you do not need a helicopter.

If you’ve trekked, you’ll know the types I mean. The people who rack up lines of Diamox on their crampons at the slightest notion of a blister. (Diamox is basically altitude medicine.)

As I mentioned before, I dropped over a grand on basically climbing a really big hill. Imja Tse (more commonly referred to as Island Peak) is located in Sagarmatha National Park, Eastern Nepal (Sagarmatha being Mt. Everest). It is 6189m tall and can be climbed from base camp at 5100m in a day.

For your money, you recieve a trekking permit, two chefs to cook, a tent to sleep and a Sherpa guide to stand watch as you take a dump at 6000m – in my case at least.

Aside from our Sherpa, Namgel, I would be adventuring with Raoul, a Dutch guy. He was really cool. We bonded over a spliff in the tent at basecamp, where he told of his recent “darkroom” pregnancy scare.

“What’s a darkroom?” I asked, bristled with naive inquisitiveness.

“It’s a room in a club that adopts a certain, “free love” mentality… basically, you can fuck in there.”

“In a club? Like a public club? With dancing and drugs?”

“Yeah, and sex. It’s Amsterdam man.”

“Wow,” I said, taking a long contemplative drag on the joint. “So, you fucked a girl in a club, without protection, and she might be pregnant?”

“No, no, no, she’s not pregnant,” he said cooly, “I visited her in prison and got the all clear.”

I creased over in laughter. Raoul too.”What the fuck man?!” I baulked.
I had been slightly worried that I’d be partnered with an irritatingly enthusiastic lover of the hills, someone who marvels at the wonderous beauty in every stone… I needn’t have worried.

As dusk slowly chewed at the labouring light of day, we rolled and smoked another joint, passing the time until dinner.

Akin to a bear before hibernation, I thought it would be wise to consume all available food; to occupy every permissable space in my stomach with energy reserves; namely rice, daal (lentils) and curry. Then a few hours later, just after midnight, breakfast: two hearty bowls of porridge, 2 eggs and 2 toast; that I had to drag, kicking and screaming into my gut. I didn’t feel too great.

As soon as I’d cleaned my plate and sank a coffee, Raoul and I were rushed outside and told to pack our gear. It was about 1 ‘o’clock in the morning. We waddled off into the boulder fields. Cool rocks reflected the soft glow of the stars. Headtorches weren’t needed.

It was like being in a battlefield, as Nature lay seige to the mountain. Helpless to the anger in the sky, and the harsh agenda of the earth, Island Peak succumbed to relentlessness of rain, wind, sleet and snow.
Wonderful scars in the rock and the litterings of scree told of an inevitable tragedy; as slowly the mountain succumbed to the indifferent march of time.

My bowels squealed with unease.

It might have been the weeping spice that I’d garnished my dinner with, or the water I’d drank, untreated from a stagnant barrel in the camp; or maybe the breakfast, hurriedly consumed moments before; or, all three – working together in malevolent partnership.

Whatever the case, my stomach felt fucking terrible.

Following the powerful, insulated rump of Namgel, we dug into the first few hundred metres of the mountain. The Sherpa had a body of a bear and the step of a goat; an Everest summiter six times over – boasting the scalps of many of the other 8000m giants – he was a real Mountain Man.
I shadowed his movements with Raoul behind me, continuing in this manner for the first few hours; the mountain still shrouded by the black drapings of night.

I was a slave at this point, tied to the whimsical convulsions of my belly.

It felt as though the centre of the earth had become the new, arsehole roomate of my stomach; a fiery plasticity of lead and nickel that twistied and convulsed with a steely, inconsiderate malevolence.

I trundled on, riding waves of discomfort into the upper atmospheric reaches of that malicious shit storm, bending at the waist when a particularly colourful contraction would stretch throughout my abdomen – balls to diaphragm – like a baby trying to stand up.

I looked skyward, regarding the clear, calm blackness with envious eyes.

Morning stretched it’s legs, and limbs of gold lapped at the walls of the icy basin in which we tred; the deep blue body of night sugglishly withdrawing to the West. In the East, a new pale light hugged at the white-capped peaks, outlining their harsh, jagged lines and setting light to the snow that lazed atop their granite bulks.

“Namgel,” I called ahead, finally sumitting to the inconsolable cries of my colon. “I need the toilet.” He stopped, and without disposing of any words, gestured with a sweep of his pole to go beside any rock of my choice. “No, Namgel..,” I had to add, “big toilet.” He chewed on this for a few moments – it didn’t seem like a familiar request.

He gestured to a rocky outcrop, five-or-so-metres away, with a gentle warning: “don’t go too far.”

So I trundled away from the pack, searching for shelter from the wind and any wandering headtorches. I sat on my haunches, positioned myself between two large rocks and uncorked. Out of the wind, it wasn’t all that bad.
I marvelled at our progress, now at about 5,600m, appreciating the opportunity to stop and watch as the sun began to spill into the valley, like burning oil released from the ramparts of a fort. This will probably be the most majestic poo of my life, I mused happily – if not, it will definitely be the highest.

I finished the last of my loo roll, fastened my belt and returned to the troop jubilantly; energised by the alliance reformed with my digestive system.

We reached the snowline, stopping only to put on crampons (boot spikes), helmets and harnesses. We exchanged our poles for ice-axes and continued on, now bound together by a 20 metre stretch of rope.
We ascended and abseiled Imja Tse’s snowy battlements, bridging crevasses with horizontal ladders and navigating hidden snow holes – it was like an incredibly authentic role-play: “Be a Mountaineer for a Day!”
Kicking into faces of ice with my front spikes was a new pleasure to be exploited – it felt like walking up a deep wall of blue glass – bringing the point of my ice-axe down periodically; sucking a great satisfaction from the dull thud and the splinterrings of ice that followed.

I was having the time of my life. All the hours thrown into shitty jobs and wading balls-deep through equipment reviews had paid off.

And just like that, I was bowing to the ice again. At around 6,100 metres, a fresh enthusiasm reanimated the cacophony contained within my gut, as new and exciting pains drummed into the fleshy auditorium of my belly.
I doubled over, clenching the straps on my gaiters until a particularly loud internal crescendo subsided. “NAMGEL!” I shouted from the back.

I was cut from my harness and again warned not to venture far. “Holes,” cautioned the guide, pointing to the ground. I edged uneasily across the snow as my brain delayed my gut, working to prevent a plunge into any hidden crevasses – the impatient rasp of the unmentionable knocking at my backdoor.

This time, I found no solace in the sheltering of two conveniently placed rocks – there were no rocks at all – just a clean expanse of snow; nothing but their restraint separating my companions from my shivering shape.

Release came at a dear price: the relinquishment of all my heat. It was about -25°, with wind chill taken into consideration, and my wet wipes were frozen solid.

In a desperate effort to defrost them, I stowed them under an armpit, as my dingleberries quickly froze to christingleberries.

And then, as if though my body was desperately exploring every last bodily function in order to fight the cold, I felt something entirely unexpected transpiring between my thighs – an inexplicable tickle of the crotch. Now, they do say they come at the worst of times, but this was really taking the piss; and I’m sure you can imagine my dismay, then, as I noticed Raoul’s forearms drawing out the unmistakable, smooth arc of a phone taking a panorama.

I wiped hastily with a quarter block of still frozen wetwipe, drawing up my trousers quickly, trying to conceal whatever remained of my dignity.

 

Moronically, I then applied some hand sanitiser – I should not have applied hand sanitiser. The solution froze instantly, pinnochio-ing my hands into lifeless lumps of dumb, dead mahagony. Shards of superheated glass remained embezzled in my fingers long after Namgel finished putting my gloves back on for me.
I had returned to the group and we pressed onwards. Turning occasionally, I looked back on that little offering I had made; I watched as it slowly receded into the white, consumed by the greatness of the mountain and lost to the world.

Later, as we headed down from the summit, Namgel told me of the meaning behind the mountain’s name,

“‘Imja Tse’, it means..,” his sentence interrupted by an uncharacteristic giggle, “it means, ‘Belly of the Mountain’.”


The music scene under a car park - Gold Coast Playroom

This article was published in Rarlo Magazine Issue #1 - Grab a copy here

The legacy of The Playroom, the last rock’n’roll spot on the Gold Coast to be shut down in the 90’s.

 

Photo by Angie Lowe

It’s 2018. You’re crossing Tallebudgera Creek at night, enjoying a quiet atmosphere. Waves lap onto the rocks below, whilst quiet fishermen are scattered along the bridge. Keep walking and you might see some teenagers getting pissed at the parking area or a queue of cars being pulled over for breath testing.

Rewind to 1991. You’re crossing Tallebudgera Creek at night, waves crashing against the rocks. Further up the road, hundreds of people clutching beer cans surround a simple venue from which you can hear the high gain riffs of a classic punk song. It’s written on the wall that The Ramones are playing tonight.

For many, driving past the creek today still stirs memories about that place. It was called The Playroom, and its demolition could be a fitting illustration for the “rock is dead” cliché: the famous “rock’n’roll headquarter” on the GC was sadly reduced to a car park in 1999. Indeed, there’s so much nostalgia around The Playroom that saying people get “too emotional” talking about it is not an exaggeration.

The Ramones performed at The Playroom in 1981 and 1991 (Unknown, Courtesy of Brett Carnell)

Those were good times. Like the Playroom, other rock venues helped to cement the GC rock scene back then, like The Patch and Jet Club (Coolangatta), Fisherman’s Wharf (Main Beach) and Bombay Rock (Surfers Paradise). Even so, standing alone in quiet Palm Beach, Playroom was somehow unique. It was that place "in the middle”, and unlike other similar venues, was mainly frequented by locals. It was also the last one to be shut down, which many considered to be the defining end to that era.

Tallebudgera Recreation Centre Car Park today and back in the 1990's, with The Playroom (Photos by Daniela Grimberg [left] and Paul Major [right])

“There was a lot of tourism coming through those areas, but in Palm Beach there were just locals. The biggest drama we had was basically conflicts between surfing guys who had their arguments on the water and then would bring them to the night time… You had a good laugh about that," says Archie Cox, who managed the venue from 1989 until own the place, in 1996.

“People would go for the surf down there, then jump in the shower, change their clothes and go for a few drinks and burgers with mates, then maybe see Midnight Oil or whoever was playing that night”, says Paul Major, whose involvement with the venue ranged from DJ and bouncer to painting band names on the wall.

  

Courtesy of Ben Gibson

“Back then stage diving was huge, it got that bad that sometimes you couldn’t see the bands. The Playroom would be packed too, all walks of life: punks, skinheads, surfers, skaters, metal heads… They would all go to the same shows. I don’t think there will ever be a merging of talent, styles, drinking laws and the variety of bands like that again. It was kind of a perfect storm”, says Haydn Jenkins, former player in punk band Self-Inflicted, which opened for big acts like Fugazi, in 1991.

Courtesy of Haydn Jenkins
Courtesy of Ben Gibson

Making a venue

Being a home for locals and supporting music and culture was in Playroom’s DNA. It started as a cabaret venue in Currumbin, opened in the 50’s by then husband and wife Beryl and Claude Carnell. Patrons would have drinks and dinner watching performances of bands, dancers and entertainers. Back in the day, rock’n’roll singer, Johnny O’Keefe was the Playroom’s star entertainer.

Johnny O’Keefe performing at The Playroom in 1967 (Unknown, Courtesy of Brett Carnell)

 

In 1962, the Carnells moved Playroom to Tallebudgera Creek. It was built in a tropical style, with a blue fibreglass dance floor covered in sand, river stones all around it and Palm tree shaped poles.

Ten years later, the couple divorced and Beryl was then completely in charge of the place - she was the first female nightclub licensee on the GC. Under her management, Playroom was reshaped and its reputation kept growing within the music scene, to the point it would become the breaking ground for Australian bands such as INXS, Cold Chisel, Midnight Oil, Australian Crawl, Men at Work and Bee Gees (who started their career in Brisbane), as well as a hotspot for overseas artists Down Under.

Archie Cox, who worked closely with Beryl as a manager, got the lease in 1996. He and his brother Brad ran The Playroom together and spent all their profits to upgrade the building.

“I classified the playroom building as a classy old lady, she’d been around since the 60’s and she needed some glow back. But I didn’t touch the inside too much. Beryl designed the venue and I really take my hat off to her, you had nearly the ultimate acoustics”, he remembers.

"Cowboy", Brett Philips and Rick Hollis, old mates from back then. Photo by Paul Major, 1999.

 

Making a scene

Pretty much any band in the rock music industry in Australia had to play at The Playroom and whenever an international tour reached the country, Playroom was always on their route. Big acts would get the venue packed not only with locals – people would come from distant suburbs and towns to see icons like Iggy Pop, Fugazi, Dead Kennedys, Buzzcocks, Suicidal Tendencies or Pennywise. And that, of course, was a huge thing for local bands, who would always support them.

Buzzcocks, 1994 (Photo by Jeff Harrold)
Daniela Grimberg
Personal archive. Courtesy of Paul Major

“We played with a lot of punk rock and ska bands. Reel Big Fish, Unwritten Law, NOFX, Frenzal Rhomb… You could play big shows in front of hundreds of people. Playroom did that for many bands. If it wasn’t that, we wouldn’t have got the chance”, says Major, that was also a member of the local band Fetish.

“There was this band called Sunk Loto, they were underage at the time and played there with Deftones. Then Deftones actually took the kids with them to US”.

The GC’s establishment as a mandatory stop for big acts and the number of great venues across the coast enabled the emergence of a strong local scene. We could even say that it was more than “local”, as pretty much all that was made in Australia back then had some sort of connection with the Coast. In the 90’s Playroom fully supported The Runaway Boys, three guys from Melbourne who covered Stray Cats and The Clash, and turned out to become the renowned The Living End. This is Serious Mum and Cosmic Psychos (also from Melbourne), SunnyboysRadiators and You Am I (Sydney), The Screaming Jets (Newscastle), The Angels (Adelaide), Regurgitator and Bantha Fodder (Brisbane) and Grinspoon (Lismore) are just a few names that frequented the Playroom with locals such as Blister, John is Not Mad, The Julian Date and many others.

“That was a pretty exciting time for live music on the GC. Most of them [local bands] were all mates. You shared gear, organized group shows… You would all go see each other’s bands and wear their band shirts. The older more established bands would take the younger bands under their wings and help them out, show them the ropes”, remembers Jenkins. “The Playroom has seen some wild shit. If you fell on that carpet you would probably need a tetanus shot. It was also so sticky with all the grog and who knows what was spilt on it… It was pretty disgusting, but some of the best parties ever happened in there”.

“Every night was a good night at The Playroom”, says Cox.

But sometimes Palmy’s laid back vibes couldn’t beat drunk rockers. Probably the most infamous gig there was the Motörhead one, in 1991. The Playroom was packed, with sold out tickets and a crowd of 1500 people.

We got them all in, it was a tense night. I don’t think Lemmy [Kilmister, the frontman] was ready for the Australian culture of beer drinking indoors”, remembers Cox.

That night, after a few songs, Lemmy got hit by a beer can on stage and got on the microphone saying the band would stop the show if cans kept flying. Of course, they kept flying.

“Fuck off, I’m not doing it”, he said, walking side stage.

Cox tried to convince the band to go back, but they refused and headed to the side exit, got in the tour bus and just left. That, on top of the fact that the band’s production had forbidden the public to enter the venue with metals (chains, belts, rings etc), pissed everyone off.

“We had to tell the crowd the band would not be coming back on, so they should come back around to get a refund. As they were walking, about three quarters through, someone shouted ‘they’re just going to lock us out without refunding our money!’. Flying chairs, people getting hurt… Everyone was ushered outside and it turned into a massive riot, it was full on. But that’s probably the worst thing that ever happened there”, remembers Major.

“The police came down with back up… it was not pretty. That show was the first of Motörhead’s tour and made headlines everywhere”, says Cox.

Photo by Di Jones

The ex-manager became quite used to finding himself in some odd situations with rock icons – from catching Joey Ramone about to fall from stage to climbing down the fire stairs carrying drunk Michael Hutchence [INXS] on his shoulders or going to the gym in Palmy with Henry Rollins [Black Flag, Rollins Band].

“I was setting everything up then someone came over and said ‘Henry wants to go to the gym, is there a gym around here?’, I said ‘Yeah, over there’ and somehow I ended up going to the gym with him… So Henry Rollins turning up at your local gym, people looking at him, his Search and Destroy tattoo… That was a fun scenario”, Cox laughs.

In general, Playroom’s informal atmosphere was seen as positive. According to Cox, it was often a favourite warm-up venue for some big acts. According t0 Cox, The Rolling Stones wanted to hire the venue for a week, close it down and just practice.

“In 1992 or 1993 INXS had just came back from a stadium tour, they had sold out Wembley, and they wanted to come back to The Playroom. Hutchence has said in the past that it’s great playing at these massive venues, but you can’t see people”, remembers Cox.

It’s said that Guns’n’Roses were secretly planning a gig under a different name, in an attempt to perform in a more intimate setting. Major suggests it was actually about to happen, when Playroom was abruptly shut down:

“Can you imagine that? People would go there as usual and suddenly Guns’n’Roses would be playing”.

 

Making a wake

Photo by Paul Major, 1990's

 

In March 1999, Archie and Brad were served an eviction notice. As part of a multimillion dollar redevelopment plan that included the Tallebudgera Recreation Centre area, Playroom would be the next, and finally the last, live rock venue on the Coast to be shut down. When it came to public the place would be demolished, a wake was immediately formed. Supporters emerged from all over the place, regulars, locals, and those who hadn’t visited in a long time.

The Cox brothers took the case to court, but lost badly. Not just the building, but also their $250.000 investment in the club. The day they left Brisbane Supreme Court and got back to the Playroom, locals and the media crew were standing outside the venue.

“People wanted to start demolishing the place. I stood up on top of the car, thanked everybody for the support and addressed the crowd: ‘Don’t let the bastards win, don’t do anything stupid. Support The Playroom. We want you to respect the place and don’t let the cops piss you off’. I didn’t want to see our culture and the name of Playroom go down the toilet”, remembers Cox.

The brothers made sure their last weekend would be like any other, and there was a reason: when Fisherman’s Wharf was shut down, people responded aggressively and the police had to control the protests.

“I made sure that all the staff were on an up. I spoke to the bands: ‘make this the last show of your life, go out there and rip the stage to pieces’. And they did. It was a really moving moment and moving times. Over that weekend we had bands from all over Australia, Triple J was putting out notes to us”.

“So during all weekend, they had undercover police, police at the service station down the road waiting. And we held out, we finished the whole weekend smooth as silk”, says Cox.

The Playroom on Gold Coast Bulletin (March 1999), week prior to its demolition
Playroom's last night (Gold Coast Bulletin, March 1999)

 

The last lineups included The Porkers (Newcastle), Eskimo Joe (Perth), Shihad (New Zealand) and Not From There (Brisbane) sharing the stage with locals like Deliverance and Koil and Bosk.

And that was it. The next Monday, while bulldozers were tearing down The Playroom, people would still try to get in the building and take with them the remaining furniture and even bricks and timbers.

Remaking a scene?

One truth about any music scene, anywhere, anytime, is that there will always be people saying it used to be better in the past. But that’s understandable, especially now: with so many changes in the industry and on how people connect with music, there seems to have been some sort of shift in music today that makes it harder to locate and express the kind of free spirit that defined the old school gigs.

“I think the lack of venues has killed the scene”, suggests Major. “Also the festival scene got strong. People would spend $150 dollars on big bands and festivals with really good lineups, but… If you could give me the chance to see The Ramones in a big stadium or in an intimate club, give me the intimate club”.

Festivals are huge at the moment, but in time, they might also become too expensive for organisers, as artists, production companies and the government can be too demanding. Some might say big commercial festivals are “ruining” the scene, but Cox wouldn’t go that far:

“It’s not detrimental but it doesn’t do a positive thing. Local bands are on local stages. That was the unique thing about The Playroom, it was a live scene. Since then, the live scene fractured. Back then you had DJs, dance, hardcore, pop, rock - we did all of that”, he states.

So would it be possible to redeem the old school music scene on the Coast?

Major believes that The Playroom could have kept going for its reputation, the loyal locals and the upcoming bands, but rebuilding a similar concept would take the likes of an Archie Cox, “Someone who has been in the scene or who has done something similar”.

Whilst we can’t say there’s a shortage of venues in general (Miami Marketta, Nightquarter, Mo’s Desert Clubhouse, Soundlounge... the list goes on), it’s not that easy for the underground scene to get there. Aside from venues like Miami Shark Bar, punk bands, for example, usually have to perform in more informal places, like backyards and industrial sheds, like Shed 5, in Burleigh Waters – and even that one is gone.

New trends, lack of venues, cultural policies and unreasonable noise and alcohol restrictions seem to be posing challenges to the Gold Coast alternative music scene since Playroom and other rock venues were shut down. Some things, however, will never change:

“there’ll still be kids starting bands in their bedrooms and garages, writing great songs and embracing being an outsider”, says Jenkins.

At the end of the day, support from community and a continuous effort to fill the gaps that laws or mass culture haven’t reached yet are still the essence of any alternative scene. In regards to live music in general, be it alternative or mainstream, maybe the GC just needs a bit more action.  Perhaps places capable of hosting both local and big acts and still be honest? Maybe a chance to get lost in the pit without worrying about so many restrictions?

As Archie Cox puts it,

“The scene is an organism. If you feed it the right way then it grows extremely”.  


Written and Produced by 

Daniela Grimberg


 

 

This article was published in Rarlo Magazine Issue #1 - Grab a copy here


thugs of hindustan how to become stunt man rarlo magazine

How to become a Bollywood Stuntman

 

It’s Spring in Rajasthan, India and it’s just past midnight. I’m playing cards outside my hostel with 5 other backpackers I met 2 days prior. Amongst the warm, hash-smoke filled air we aptly split half a pack of Hide and Seek cookies in celebration. It’s my 22nd birthday. In a few hours we will be on a train together to Jodhpur. Unbeknownst to us all, we would soon star as Bollywood stuntmen in a new film with some of the biggest actors in India.

The Blue City

We ride in general class on the train. Half of my time is spent crammed next to the toilet door and the rest spent sitting with my legs dangled over the side of the train. We arrive in the late afternoon at our hostel and head straight to the rooftop to watch the sunset. We smoke beedies while we play cards, watching the pastel light over the city fade into a grey night.

Breakfast is served from a food cart on the side of the road; bananas and samosas. Our plan is to loop around the city, check out some sights, try to find a decent coffee and finish with the Mehrangarh Fort. It’s around mid-afternoon by the time we reach the fort.

Mehrangarh Fort, Jodhpur.
Mehrangarh Fort, Jodhpur.

Entry is 600 rupees. Even though it is about the same price as a goon sack, everyone seems hesitant. Perhaps we are just so used to paying $2 for everything that it seemed outrageous. That’s like 6 Thalis.  We make a unanimous decision not to go in. We pile into a rickshaw and chug down the hill, through the blue city and back to our hostel.

 

Adding to my Resume

We’re sitting on the rooftop, quenching our thirst with tallies of Kingfisher. Two Indian guys open the door behind us; the hostel owner and another guy I’ve never seen before.

“Hello...We are looking for extras to help with our film. Tomorrow night. Are you interested? I am a film scout,” the other guy says.

I’m hesitant. I don’t want to jump to conclusions. I’m imagining a backyard-Bollywood-private-film-college-assignment-video and frankly, I’d rather not.

The hostel owner adds: “You will get 1000 rupees, free food, sleep when you want. It’s so easy. It’s a big Bollywood film being filmed at the fort.” 

“Thugs of Hindustan, it’s a big Bollywood movie. Even Aamir Khan is an actor in it,” the scout says. He looks incredibly excited but also puzzled by the blank looks on our faces because we have no idea who Aamir Khan is.

I’m keen. This will be a laugh. I get my phone out and google ‘Thugs of Hindustan’. We, including the hostel owner and the scout, huddle around my phone and watch the pre-trailer together.

(Here is the actual trailer - with over 95 million views - which was released a few months later. )

 

I’m sold. We all look at each other. We are all sold. This is my calling, I can’t wait to put this on my resume.

“You will need to be there from 6 pm to 6 am the next morning. But you will get to sleep in between shooting, free chai. It’s very easy,” the scout says.

Lucky we didn’t pay for the Fort entrance.

Game Day.

The sun was certainly doing its job this morning. The 30 degree days are taking its toll on us. Swimming sounded like a good idea. The hostel owner points on a map to a nearby hotel with a rooftop pool less than 10 minutes walk away. The walk there is intermittent; we needed supplies. I knew that the pharmacies are very relaxed in India.  We stop at a few pharmacies on the way there; we need some pseudophed or something to keep us awake for the film shoot. No luck. Apparently, pseudoephedrine is illegal without a prescription. But Xanax and ketamine - no worries.

how to become a bollywood stuntman - rarlo magazine
Pharmacy hopping.

We arrive at the hotel. The foyer is empty and It smells like wet paint.

“Swimming pool?” we ask the stuited man at the front desk

“Level 6”, he replies.

We lounge buy the pool pretending we are hollywood actors. Although we all have our doubts about tonight, I was optimistic as usual. My friend back home works in the film industry and he has told me about the extravagant platters of food and drinks they have for extras. But I don’t want to get my hopes up too much; I am in India of course. I hope for the best (extravagant indian platters and opium tea) but expect the worst (cold samosas).

how to become a bollywood stuntman - rarlo magazine
Pre-game prep

Cold Samosas

All 6 of us pile into a rickshaw and chugg up the mountain to the fortress. A security guard weidling a rifle stands in front of a checkpoint and waves us down.

“Fortress closed,” he yells.

“We are actors in the film,” We reply in sarcastic synchrony.

He lifts the boom gate and waves us through. Busses and film crew with lanyards line the road on both sides. It is far more full-blown than we all expected. We are greeted by the guy who came to our hostel and he hands us all lanyards. There are around 30 other backpackers here with us, mostly Americans, Israelis and Britts. All of them had the same story about why they are here and all of us have grins from ear to ear.

how to become a bollywood stuntman - rarlo magazine
Arriving at the fort (left) and shaving my three hairs on my chin (right)

We are ushered into a marquee to receive our costumes. We are playing British imperial army officers. We boot-up and move onto the make-up tent where we shave before receiving our fake moustaches. I overhear someone say that there is food ready for us. I expect the worse and pray for the lavish smorgasbord I had imagined earlier.

I can’t believe what I see; fucking cold samosas. We all laugh but deep down I am ratted.

The film set was far from what I expected. Granted, it is in India and we are just backpackers playing extras. But it was a shamble. Myself and the other extras line up in the middle of the fortress and are told to stand still for the shot. We stand. I am pretty confident they used an Indian version of Bostik clag paste to glue my mustache on; it’s already fallen off. It has been about 2 hours and we are still standing in the same position, talking amongst ourselves and slowly caring less and less about the coordinators' orders.

“Everyone in position,” the directors assistant yells.

Once the shot is taken, everyone lays down on the cobblestone, resting their feet on their rifles, their heads on their top-hats and start chain smoking cigarettes to try to mend the boredom. We repeat this process until 1:00 am. Our spirits are low.

how to become a bollywood stuntman - rarlo magazine
Standing in position (left) and chain-smoking to pass time (right). *Apologies for the poor quality photos, we weren't allowed to take photos on set.

Why don’t we go on strike? I mutter deliriously to myself as the sleep deprivation sets in. If we all demand 20000 rupees or else we will leave, they will have to pay us. If they don’t, then their whole night of filming would be ruined. A deity interrupts my daydream offering hot chai. Giving me some reason to continue and not go on strike. The smell of hash smoke lingeries as a group of Israeli backpackers return from the back of the set.

 

Attention stuntman.

The coordinator of the set asks for all of the stuntmen to follow her. I lock eyes with my friends and start moving with the professional stuntmen. The set team looks suspicious as we start walking with the group but some of the actual stuntmen from South Africa back us up, telling them that we are indeed professional stuntmen.

A group of Indian rebels with swords, covered in dark makeup, start walking towards us. We are directed to pick a partner and choreograph a fight scene. Everyone who knows what they are doing except us backpackers. The actual stuntmen, start yelling out numbers and moves; “4, 8, 4, 2, low, 6, jump…”. I partner up with one of the Indian rebels and attempt my fight choreography. I can see the frustration in the eyes of the rebel when he realises I have no idea what I am doing. He raises his sword slowly into position with one hand and uses his other hand to explain what I should do with my sword. One overhead block and then I get stabbed. That’s it. While the other stuntmen are spinning, doing parkour and blocking swords like their in a scene from Kill Bill. I lay on the ground and get repeatedly stabbed until the scene is over.

how to become a bollywood stuntman - rarlo magazine
Rebels (left) and sunrise (right)

The final scene.

It’s 5 am and we have all had enough. The relaxed set and glamorous food that the backpacker-scout-recruiter promised was far from what actually happened. Weary-eyed, we undress from our costumes and line up in single file. The number of extras has dwindled since the start, there is about 13 remaining. I guess not everyone is cut out for the Bollywood stuntman life. We are handed our 1000 rupees and begin walking down the hill from the fortress. We smoke a spliff and walk down the hill as the blue city slowly gradates from a dark night to warm pastel colours of dawn. Rickshaws drive past packed full of kids with backpacks heading to school. We arrive back at our hostel. I set my alarm for 9:00 am and pass out on the floor in the common area.

how to become a bollywood stuntman - rarlo magazine
Walking down from the fort.

I wake up with a foggy brain and a chronic appetite. I grab my bags and jump on a 6hr bus to Jaisalmer, a desert city close to the Pakistan border. A doctor sits next to me on the bus and we talk about Amir Kahn. He asks me what I am doing in India. I tell him I’m a stuntman.

how to become a bollywood stuntman - rarlo magazine
A stuntman rides a bus to the desert.

West Sumbawa

West Sumbawa, Indonesia

 


A Call to Attention: Work for Your Travel

A Call to Attention

Work for Your Travel

 

First off, this article will not teach you how to earn money for your travels, although the possibility is out there. I intend to steer you right past that thought and onto the open road of travel by the cheapest way I know how. I currently live out of my car. I do not have dreadlocks, I can barely surf and I’m not an international tourist. However, I suppose I am technically homeless. I’m travelling on an open-ended road trip, or more aptly, I live on the road. My method of travel is by no means uncommon or revolutionary, but I am under the impression it is uncommon among Australians. The road trip is a staple of Australian travel, we don’t have much choice to be frank, it’s a big country with a lot to see that’s spread out over a bloody lot of kilometres. I think it is safe to assume that most Australians have been on a road trip, even if it was just with the parents. But a lot of road trips are tightly scheduled, a little too hasty and a bunch too expensive. Well, much to the expected delight of those many adventurous souls amongst you who idealise the road trip, there are a multitude of hosts out there who will let you crash and feed in exchange for a bit of work around whatever establishment they call home.

Pretty much every young adult goes through at least a period of wanderlust, and we all have that friend who seems to be constantly travelling. They’re posting amazing pictures of pristine waterfalls and quaint European villages on slopes above some reflective lake complete with hashtags out their arse. Yes, yes we all want to live like that. I won’t deny that a big stash of money makes travel easier but maybe we need to adjust our perception of travel. Accommodation and food are two massive financial factors when you plan to travel; even the cost of hostels, cheap as they can be, adds up alarmingly fast. How about replacing the hostels with somebody else’s cosy home instead? Most of you will have heard of international travellers working on farms or volunteer working and some of you might have friends who have, or have done so yourself overseas. Believe me when I say, you can travel Australia doing this and it can be damn cheap!

The concept of WWOOF (Willing Workers on Organic Farms) has been around since 1972 and in Australia since 1981, so it’s been around for a while. In reality, it’s a very old concept, you work for your food and board, bypass money, they need help and you need shelter. Simple as that. Other organisations have arisen over the years (HelpX and Workaway in particular) that have slight variations in philosophy, but can be utilised to the same ends. Each organisation charges a fee to use their service, WWOOF charges $70pa, HelpX ~$35 for a two-year subscription and Workaway $30pa. At some stage this concept spread throughout the country and hosts are in abundance, unsurprisingly the idea of essentially free workers appealed to a few, but the number of Australians travelling by this manner appears to be low. Respect and courtesy are expected, limitations on work amount are in place, usually 4-5 hours, 5-6 days per week, but in general it is a quite flexible arrangement and relies on the honesty of participants. It goes without saying that you are staying at a stranger’s place and common sense is advised. Remember though, most hosts are just as anxious as you, they’re inviting strangers into their homes.

At the time of writing this article I am living out of a station wagon car with a bed in the back and am travelling from host to host on an open-ended timeframe. I’ve known about the concept of HelpX for some years now and it seemed obvious to travel like this in Australia. I was surprised by the number of Australians I’ve come across that had not heard of the concept but also by the sheer number that loved the idea while not believing it was possible for them. A common misconception was the finances that people expected were needed, before I left, I met a guy who was surprised that I hadn’t saved up $25000 for the trip (the amount he thought acceptable). I spent about $3000 on my car…

If a traveller stayed solely with hosts, a car may not even be necessary, many internationals travellers do not travel in one and often hosts are happy to pick up from transport hubs. For those who already own cars the only major expense would be fuel. Realistically, it is wise to have an emergency fund for whatever potential mishaps i.e. your house on wheels dying. It is not unreasonable to think that with a bit of frugality a road trip from Melbourne to Darwin, with stays throughout, would be possible for less than a return flight to London.

I’m under no illusions that this form of travel may not be for everyone, the idea of having to work when you’re supposed to be living it up on holiday may irk some. But to borrow a line of thought from Henry David Thoreau; with all the time spent working at home to save for your accommodation on the trip, could you not just leave now and do the work while you travel? I promise you will learn more skills than you bargained for. A certain level of, self-reliance, flexibility and common sense are required but the opportunity for extremely frugal travel is there. I’ve stayed in a self-contained cottage for a month with all food supplied and learnt about fish farming (and harvesting) and raising British Short-Hair kittens. Lived off-grid for a week eating almost entirely from their garden on another stay. When I feel I need a change I go and camp by the beach. There’s a lot of unique opportunities out there.

Using these volunteer work stays is a flexible manner of travel. A brief stint with a host who lives by the beach or in a cabin deep in the bush a short walk from waterfalls is entirely possible. A few weeks later you’re back in the daily grind. Travelling like this is truly only what you make of it. There are hosts with positions on the beach, in mountains, farming alpacas, party hostels, completely off-grid and sustainable, all kinds of stuff. You can tailor your very own Australian tour. Living on the road is not only possible, but also (reasonably) comfortable thanks to these opportunities. Consider it next time you’re bored shitless.

 


venice kim feldmann rarlomagazine gold coast rarlo magazine

Venice: reformed preconceptions of the gondola.

Venice

Reformed preconceptions of the gondola

Sunlight perforated the glass walls of Santa Lucia train station and spread its rays over the glossy marble floor. Pigeons flapped their wings frantically at the sight of a herd of humans that had just disembarked the 6 am train. I happened to be among the crowd to hop off the carriage and send the birds flying through the main door, into the warm daylight of the romantic city. Venice was awake and the dust particles floating against the early morning glare were a reminder that a new day had begun.

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To come to the "city of canals" had never been a dream of mine. In my travels, I had always aimed to avoid conventional touristic cities, albeit I understood they probably got to be well-known for positive reasons. My thought was that it would be more difficult to find myself in an intriguing situation if the nooks and crannies of the place had already been described by almost every guidebook on the planet. But with Venice it was different; it felt like there were inherent motives for me to be there.

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I followed the pigeons outside and slowly glanced at my surroundings on the way to the main door. Beams of light moved along the solid stone floor and vaporized the coolness captivated overnight; concrete walls and ceilings had their contemporary shapes enhanced by the morning glow, contrasting with the predominantly Gothic architecture beyond the station’s doors. As I stepped outside, a gentle breeze stroke my skin, counterbalancing the warmer temperature emitted by the sun. My vision was dazed and my hearing struggled to digest the variety of noises previously muffled by the walls of the train station. I considered going to the tourism office and getting a city map, but instinct made me refrain from the idea and head over a bridge, directly into the heart of the city. The maze-like streets and alleys presented on the other side of the embankment confirmed my intuition's advice against relying on a map. I'd need more than an organised drawing to find my way in such disarray.

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It was summertime and the early morning temperatures increased rapidly as the longest clock-hand moved towards decimal figures. The continuous drops of sweat on my forehead were a proof of such alterations, as was my desire for an ice-cream. Guided by the need to re-establish a balance of my bodily temperatures – together with a wish to see a serener version of the city – I sought shaded alleys over open squares, quiet corners instead of shop-filled pathways. Contrary to my preconceptions, there was quietude to be found in Venice, you only had to look for it.

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Amidst busy lanes and crowded squares, I found tunnels of unclothed bricks, charming wooden bridges and apartment windows with flowers hanging over the edge – seemingly working as an air purifier between street and room. Most colors ranged from pastel orange to concrete gray, all of which intended not to distress the eyes. The architectural resplendence left by the ancient Venetian people was brightened once the dust from the busiest part of the center dissipated into little, airy lanes. I followed the silence and aimed to find where the locals lived, shopped for fresh produce, and drank their coffee. I was also looking for the soft beams of light that found their way through the old constructions, enlivening both the color of the canals and the texture of the deteriorating walls.

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Eventually, the roaming led me to a big open square, filled with restaurants, cafes, sounds, and sunlight. The Piazza San Marco perpetuated what seemed like the essence of Venice: a place of encounters, changes, and prosperity. It was interesting – yet ironic – to witness clear signs of struggle in a city that throughout its history had been a major financial and maritime power, resisting wars and revolutions but not the current issue with erosion; hosting important artistic movements throughout the Renaissance period but grappling with the impacts of a constant flow of tourists. It was in places like Piazza San Marco that all else vanished and the energy of people merged with the magic in the air, invigorating everything and everyone.

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Inspired by the vitality of the square, I sat on a curb with ice-cream in hand, eating frantically to avoid drops on my lap. Every time the sheer taste of cold vanilla hit my tongue I was enveloped by a calm and light sensation. As the cream drowned under the inner edges of the crispy cone, I felt safer to worry less about my hands getting dirty and more about what was happening around me. Against the sun's will, I squinted my eyes and scanned around for any scene that had a particularly funny or deeply mundane feel to it.

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My eyes found an old man with a long beard and mafia-like hat balancing an unlit cigarette in his mouth. They glanced over a half-bald suited figure, holding a newspaper in the commonest of ways, concentrated in what the words had to say. They sighted a businessman taking notes in yoga-like arm motions; a restaurant waiter cutting his nails and a violinist profoundly playing his instrument. They also spotted carefully-placed bricks, the famous Venetian masks, and magazine kiosks with Photoshopped post-cards that would hopefully use the buyer as a medium to continuously advertise the city and its landmarks.

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Once my bodily temperature began to rise, I got up and carried on along the quiet and shaded areas of the city. Yet, I felt a change in the way I perceived the city – a shift in my modus operandi – as if that moment in the sun had set the ‘Venetian spell’ upon me. It wasn’t the architecture, or the canals, or even the people what gave Venice its charming air; it was the clash of it all. The vibrating energy produced by the wondrous looks of the people when contemplating the sheer beauty of the place. I began to appreciate the picturesque canals not by their color and translucency, but by their snake-like shape that cut the land into islets.

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In this transition of perception, I noticed the surprising amount of gondolas cruising the canals and was consequently exposed to the importance of their scullers. What is nowadays mostly a tourist attraction had previously been one of the main means of transportations in and out of that maze, which in time – with the prioritization of comfort and agility – was swapped by motor-boats, and would’ve already faced extinction if it wasn't for foreigners and their dream to float along the canals aboard the traditional Venetian craft. Such discernment helped me to see the other side of the tourist-city relationship, slowly easing my general prejudice over conventional touristic cities.

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The same hands and feet that litter the canals and crowd the streets are the ones to pay the sculler for a ride, who then goes home after a days work to feed his family and hopefully provide a prosperous future to his children. This abrupt noesis kicked me in the chest and sent me right back to my arrival at the train station earlier that day, when all I could see was my narrow and predetermined idea of the city, and my unsound connotation of the effects of tourism.

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It was by staring at the city's most iconic object, the gondola, that I realized how and why Venice had been undergoing so many challenges and changes in its geography, economy, and demography, but remained almost untouched culturally. Through my reformed preconceptions of the gondola it became clear that perhaps a travel destination shouldn’t be evaluated by how much it has been discussed on travel blogs or featured on pocket-guides, but by how well it keeps tradition in harmony with development.  


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What's going on in the world?

Syria

The Never-Ending Conflict 

What started as a group of children spreading politically motivated graffiti has snowballed into one of the world’s most harrowing and unstoppable conflicts to date.

According to the United Nations, more than 400,000 lives have been lost since civil unrest first broke in 2011. To add to these figures, it’s reported at least 6.3 million people are displaced within the war-stricken nation, including the lives of innocent children, pregnant women, the sick and the elderly.

Countries including Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey and Egypt have opened their borders to the people of Syria, with at least 5.2 million individuals reported as refugees [UNHCR]. Australia, the United Kingdom, Germany and other western countries have also provided a level of support. However, for citizens and families left within Syria, every day continues to be a fight for survival. Air strikes and battlegrounds all but too much of a regular occurrence, with no end in sight.

Want to learn more about Syria’s civil unrest? Read ‘A Lost Generation’ via Rarlo Online.

Yemen

What You Need To Know

You have probably heard something about it in the news, but what do you really know about Yemen’s famine crisis?

Although Yemen has been vulnerable for years, since conflict begun between government and non-government forces in 2014, the nation has experienced one of the world’s worst humanitarian disasters. The result: millions of people have been forced homeless, displaced and injured, without any means to basic sanitation, supplies and medical assistance. Outbreaks of life-threatening diseases including cholera are rising by the minute, with at least 540,000 suspected cases reported, and more than 2,000 associated deaths in the last two years alone [OCHA].

According to the United Nations, 19 million individuals—almost 70% of the country’s population—are facing a life-or-death situation every single day. And, if not quickly provided with humanitarian aid, clean water, food and medicine, the death toll will only continue to rise.

Myanmar

Who Is Rohingya?

Every day we are waking up to a more gruesome, more harrowing story about Rohingya. The question is, who makes up this ethic minority, and why do they fear their lives?

Descendants of muslim migrants from India and China, the Rohingya has been known to live in the predominantly buddhist state of Myanmar (also known as Burma) since the 12th century. Although some would say the ethic minority has never been treated equally, since the 1970s Rohingya has been at the centre of numerous violent attacks, instigated by native buddhists and Myanmar security forces. These actions have led the United Nations, among many other international human rights organisations, to describe Rohingya as one of the most persecuted minorities in the world.

Over the last 40 years, the Myanmar government has stripped Rohingya of their citizenship, homes, voting rights and basic freedom, not to mention a dire lack of health care and fundamental sanitation.

Learn more about the Rohingya crisis via the online addition of Rarlo Magazine.

 

Global Pollution

The World’s Biggest Killer

 

The average human takes 16 breaths per minute, 960 breaths an hour and 23,040 breaths a day. So, what if you knew the air we are breathing could prematurely end your life?

In a breakthrough, global analysis [The Lancet Commission on Pollution and Health] scientists have named global pollution as the world's biggest killer, with more than nine million people dying in 2015 as a result. To put that into perspective, that figure is the same as 16% of all annual recorded deaths. The study suggested toxic air, water, soil and workplaces are among some of the most worrying finds, and should be held collectively accountable for diseases that kill 1-in-6 people in the world. The authors of the report suggested “pollution endangers the stability of the Earth’s support systems and threatens the continuing survival of human societies.”

In 2016, the World Health Organisation [WHO] released a new report that found “98% of cities in low and middle-income countries, with more than 100,000 inhabitants, do not meet WHO air quality guidelines”.

Read more about this alarming environmental issue in the next addition of Rarlo Magazine.

The Amazon

Day-By-Day Destruction

The Amazon rainforest is the planet’s largest ecosystem, home to thousands upon thousands of plants, bird species, fish, mammals and insects—not to mention more than 400 indigenous tribes.

Also referred to as the lungs of Earth, the Amazon produces more than 20% of the world’s oxygen—however this is all about to rapidly change, thanks to that little word ‘deforestation’. Since 1970, when the Brazilian government first began chopping down the ecosystem in trade for roads, more than 20% of the Amazon rainforest has been eradicated. Most of this land has been destructed to make way for mass agricultural plantations, including the production of soy and cattle farming.

Although deemed illegal, the logging trade plays a huge part in the destruction of the rainforest, with company’s such as Agropecuaria Santa Efigenia Ltd earning more than $7 million a year from illegal timber [Greenpeace International]. Of course, the Brazilian government has committed to ‘zero illegal deforestation’ by 2030—the question is, will it be too late?

The War

On Plastic Waste

Good news Queenslanders—the government has officially banned the bag.

Coming into effect mid 2018, this new law will see supermarket giants, including Coles and Woolworths, embracing reusable alternatives, rather than the traditional single-use carriers. New South Wales is the only Australian state that is yet to ban the bag, with Victoria being the most recent game changer.

Nationally, an estimated five billon plastic bags are handed out every year, with more than one trillion used worldwide. According to Clean Up Australia, Australians are the world’s second biggest producers of waste. In fact, it’s estimated that we individually send more than 690 kilograms of rubbish to landfill every year. To find out more about the world’s war on plastic, flick over to A Plastic Pandemic.