Ytravel, A Travel Blog
TEACH Journal of Christian Education
Ytravel, A Travel Blog
Lara Campbell 0
0 Avondale College of Higher Education
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Ytraveli, A travel blog
In between: A literary reflection on the experience
Lara Campbell - Sunday, August 23, 2015
The most important reason for going from one place
to another is to see what’s in between.
Norton Juster (1964), The Phantom Tollbooth
I take a seat just in time. The bus jerks forward and
I have to stick a hand up against the warm, greasy
bar in front to stop myself shooting forward. She is
squashed against me. As the bus careens through
roundabouts, I can feel soft, maternal flesh beneath
her chiffon sari. She prattles Hindi into her mobile
phone, gazing out the window. A long, animated
conversation—perhaps philosophy, or gossip.
Indian music wobbles over the speakers like
the heat waving off the cars outside. The off-green
colour inside the bus compliments the fake flowers
decorating the front windscreen. The bust of an Indian
female stenciled onto the wall above the window
stares at me, notifying the segregated seated plan.
Women to the front, men to the back. It’s a short trip.
The bus stalls to a halt and I stumble off as others
stumble on. The air is dusty and dry and smells like a
mixture of curry spices, exhaust and sewerage.
Trans-Siberian Railway, Mongolia
Human noise has quieted. Passengers have been
lulled into a hypnotic trance, the soothing rhythm
created between train and tracks. The extensive
desert miles of repeated journeys through Russia,
Mongolia and China have not wearied the continual
clatter created upon the tracks. Like film on a reel,
the Gobi rolls past the window. The fluorescent blue
of a cloudless day sits starkly above the dull desert
dirt below. An unending fence bounces and bobs
along the bottom of the window’s view. Contained and
protected from the wilderness of extremities beyond, I
am rocked to sleep.
The air is thick in the tunnel. Heat, bodies, crêpes
and rubber. It’s early evening on New Year’s Eve and
already the underground at Alma-Marceau is packed
with people waiting to board packed trains. We’re
going to the Champs De Elyse to see the lights and
the sights and the people on the popular street. The
train arrives in a bluster of warm air.
The chatter onboard is ecstatic. Families, couples
and friends cluster around themselves, excitedly
anticipating what the night will bring. Scarves and
down jackets do little to disguise party dresses and
feet in stockings and heels.
Wahroonga Adventist School students: Jayde Boehm, Amelia Buechner, Emily Miller, Claudia Granger, Charisse Prineas
& Sophie Johnson. Photography: WAS images
like the heat
“Bonne année (Happy New Year).” A young
African man greets me from behind. He sits alongside
his two African companions, dark pupils in bright eyes
fixed and moving along us. Their over-friendliness is
a symptom of an early start to the evening’s drinking,
evidenced by a brown paper bag hugging the figure of
a wine bottle swinging in a relaxed pair of hands.
The train rocks and sways, bringing the riders into
a group dance. Everyone sways together, moving as
Like a herd of cattle, the local passengers
unashamedly cram against each other, hungry for a
spot on the crowded bus. A common claustrophobic
bus has replaced the sights of civilisation and
“sense I the driver to wait for the next one.
grandeur. My legs are weary from traversing cobbled
streets between Colosseum and cathedrals. Foolishly,
I am the last one on, defying the demands of the
of my I’ve backed in—I’m wearing a backpack and use
backpack … I it as my battering ram to move into the masses. The
swivel around doors judder to a shut in front of my nose. The bus
to discover I lurches into the traffic; a collective groan arises from
am squashed its passengers. Suddenly conscious of the sticky
between fingers of gypsies, I sense the vulnerability of my
the front backpack within many arms’ reach. I swivel around to
windscreen discover I am squashed between the front windscreen
and a nun. All and a nun. All is well.
The journey in retrospect
Lawson Hull - Sunday, August 30, 2015
Up and stumbling, I wake from weightless slumber to
a knock on my door. It is 4.27 am and my companions
are avidly campaigning for a scooter ride to the
mountains to see the sunrise. I could sleep all day
in my peaceful palace-cave, made dark by heavy
curtains blocking the sun and a high-rise view. For
fear of missing something unforgettable, I accept.
The streets are dark yet busy; market stallholders
are setting up for the day. The early air is cool and
pleasant. It is hard to imagine in just a few hours,
the streets will be smouldering in the raw heat of
Thailand. Only the bravest of foreigners will be seen
contently folded in a Starbucks lounge, double-shot
mocha in hand and a laptop in sight.
Racing down the highway involves a great deal
of squinting—I have no goggles and the wind is thick
and dry, but I can see the blue mountain silhouettes
where we are headed.
The ascent is dreamy.
After fuelling up for the equivalent of four
Australian dollars and setting our bearings straight,
we leave the bewildering maze of Chiang Mai.
I feel, if I close my eyes, I could be sailing any
winding mountain range on earth—the Alps or the
Rockies. The rainforest air is cleansing despite
intermittent air pockets fumed by dirty diesel trucks
rumbling up the way.
Not yet to the peak, we make it to a lookout where
the city spreads thousands of buildings below. We
wait, only to be disenchanted—a tall ridge divides our
view of the sunrise. Bothered, we take some blurry
throwaway photographs and continue upwards.
Still early—the top is a peaceful and placid tourist
niche. The locals are readying their handmade goods
for the hopeful day of business ahead. Orange-robed
Buddhist monks slowly wander by.
After strolling awhile we discover a famous
sanctuary nearby. We pay a dollar to look inside the
sacred and eerie courtyard of the Wat Phra That Doi
Suthep. Layered gold are the shrines of this holy
place. The statues and murals are breathtaking.
After staggering up some stairs, we approach a
sea of golden-glazed tiles covering a platform that
opens to an expanse much greater than my
digitaldriven eyes can gather. A belated sunrise awaits us
here. It is a magnificent panorama from the highlands
to the outer suburbs; the elegant towers of the city
and beyond, where the mountains cross back and
forth, forever into the distance.
I glance back upon the golden domes. To me,
they resemble the shiny heads of robed deities. For
600 years this place has stayed the same, regardless
of the ever-expanding conglomerate at the feet of its
No, I do not ponder life or its often unanswerable
We leave, not making a sound.
i Ytravel, a travel blog, is written by Avondale College of
Higher Education students who want to share their love of
the world with anyone who will read about it.
Photography: Lawson Hull