Sunday, September 14, 2014

The Gokwe Kid - Rogue Rhodie on a Roller: Part 17. Fat bottomed girls and Happy-Cappers

Day 26. Friday 22nd August (continued)

What a sight for sore eyes. The average size of the woman made me wonder that perhaps a burka was maybe not a bad idea. Though I suppose it could get caught in the chain and snap a few necks.

Instead, they all had skin tight cycling shorts with some legs built to kick start a Saturn Five rocket, never mind a Jumbo Jet. My perverted mind's first thought was perhaps this was where a lick of lesbians (colloquial term – look it up) were gathering in this secret place after warming up from a ride.


The puzzling slogan about 'Slapper' was also soon dispensed with. I had misread it. Although in Czech, it was rather easy to conclude that this was a women's cycle club from a town I had passed through called Slapy, about 40 clicks to the north. My guess they had followed the river, taken all day (judging by the fact none of them seemed to be covered in sweat), and this was the evening's watering hole. I also noticed that not one of their bicycles had any form of luggage. This was solved as some nerdy, weedy looking bloke turns up in a car completely stuffed with bags of things women need when they go camping.

So chirping loudly, they were distributed amongst the various tiny wooden chalets and started queueing for showers. I decided to head to the bar/restaurant area, plug in my high tech stuff, and write up another diary entry.

After listening to Blondie singing a 45 minute extended version of Atomic twice over (I had her last night for dinner as well), with a bit of pidgin English and sign language that I suffered from various mental illnesses and the doctor had specifically warned me that Atomic on perpetual repeat would drive me insane and force me to set fire to their HiFi system, we needed to find a solution.

I also explained that I had all the necessary equipment to churn out some mellow vibes like Simon and Garfunkel and they didn't hesitate to let me take control as they studied my bulging eyeballs, twitching head and jerking knees. Job done and I settled down for some serious writing.

As the sun was finally beaten into submission by thickening clouds and the fact that the planet spins, a small activity disturbed my peace of beer and looking up English grammar, when two of the staff set up an amp, a couple of guitars and started jamming. They were good, and soon they were rewarded by an enthusiastic audience of exactly one person – me. Many of the songs I knew. I recognised the tunes, but the lyrics were gibberish. That was because the song book, Jon (such was the name of the singer), was using had all OUR music translated into their language. Such sacrilege. 'Hey Jude', certainly comes over rather oddly.


Sadly, after 90 minutes of me howling along to any recognisable chorus, the fun and games had to seize as the fat bottom bicycle girls had gathered on the veranda and started their own jamming session. Nerdy bloke had a guitar and to much linking of arms, the matching track suit lasses howled away some local folk songs and a few western hits. Some of them haunt me to this day as they certainly murdered them. It was beyond painful to listen to them turn what should have been a fine rock concert into 'Michael row your boat ashore' in a foreign language, with me thinking a ground to sea missile could solve a lot of problems.

But, before I decided to hang myself as an alternative to pouring hot wax into my ears, Jon and I started chatting. His English was limited and he didn't speak German, but I understood the whole picture of this weird and wonderful place. The original camp site, as promoted on the internet, had long gone bankrupt. A small group of friends and family had taken over. In fact, they had only started opening up to the public a month before. The reasons there were no signs yet was now obvious. The infrastructure could not cope yet. This was obvious by the fact the men’s toilet block was a building site, the now communal women's toilets had a huge turd swimming in a broken flushing toilet and generally, this place wasn't so much as run down, but being run up. Time and especially money, was the answer. But, I also clocked, for all the staff's enthusiasm, they needed not only some serious investment, but a proper project manager. It appeared all so haphazard.

Day 27. Saturday 23rd August

Rained all night. Overcast morning – I saw no point in going anywhere. What for? I like this place. The fat bottomed girls staggered around, as I brewed my coffee, and I gathered from the wailing that most of them were going to have a serious problems mounting their bicycles again due to a large consumption of brain rot they had consumed to grease the vocal chords.

After much “Oh, I have forgotten my brain and toothpaste”, they finally wandered off. Jon came over to me and under what was really starting to clear skies, parked a possie and started whittling some sticks into a point. I wasn't sure what the point of this exercise was but he explained that at any moment, the place was about to be invaded by people not sound in the head.


 
Literally, as we supped coffee, (or I think I had already cracked a tinnie), a convoy arrives. Jon says - “All you must say is 'Ahoy' – it is Czech for 'Hello', and everything will be fine.

Fine! What is fine? And why am I now seriously frightened? You know I cannot handle anything out of the ordinary. And then it became obvious – at least thirty people, all aged from late twenties to late fifties, and all lunatics. Completely off their trolleys.

And so, it is of course hard to describe the experience. I do not make fun of the mentally handicapped – I am one myself, but the whole scenario was bizarre for me.

Jan was pretty cool. I was nervous. Their 'leader' used a whistle to gather them around. That she was obviously well loved was shown by their enthusiasm. She distributed them among the cabins. I watched. I did not feel sorry for them. Why should I? It was clear that they were happy in their own way. Beyond recognising that they were 'different'.

I was fascinated and also a little perturbed. Strange, I have my problems but understand them and along with medication, can live an almost normal life; but these people, without help...

Just a few years ago, Hitler would have smoked them. And here they are, all happy. But – let me describe what I witnessed. Of course, what was instantly logical, is that they must be none violent, otherwise they wouldn't be here. One bloke, with a mouth of rotting teeth, as tall as Herman the Munster and just as ugly, held hands with a woman that had a massive tongue that she stuck out every three seconds. Anther bloke wandered around and every 15 seconds would shout and clap his hands. Another bloke sat on a bench next to me and looked at a small notebook and shouted out lines – regardless if he actually could read or not!

And the noise of them all! I split, wandered down to the restaurant and started to write. Lunchtime – they all rocked up. I couldn't cope and gapped it. Jon told me that they were having a bonfire jamming session that night. I thanked him and went down to the river. I needed to escape.

Confused. I just chilled and buried myself in the awful, depressing book 'The classic slum'. Charming thing to read about where you come from – hell on earth.



BUT, that night, when I wandered over to the bonfire, the loonytunes had gone to bed and I was to enjoy the best evening of my trip so far.

It was perfect. The music, the camp fire, beer, the stars – everything was a recall of times long gone and I thought that in a couple of days this whole adventure is over, but here and now – I was in paradise...

Thursday, September 04, 2014

The Gokwe Kid - Rogue Rhodie on a Roller: Part 16. I have seen the mist and not missed the scene.

Day 25. Thursday 21st August (continued)

I parked up next to a couple of Czech registered cars and peeped through the windows thoroughly expecting some slaughtered, rotting corpses. Relieved, I climbed the steps to what looked like a rather smart veranda and inside was a cosy enough looking bar and a large dining area. Glancing around outside I noticed some wooden chalets but no tents or caravans and crucially – no one! No humans at all.

The only sounds were coming from the forest – the creaking of fir trees being bent by the wind, the howls of wolves, and as it was now 7.00 pm the screeches of witches, erm... I mean owls.

I shouted out the international greeting – “I want beer.”

From a nearby house, a pot bellied man popped out. Dressed in a T-shirt at least three sizes too small but not as small as the shiny nylon shorts that emphasised his reproductive tackle, he grunted and wandered over. Since he wasn't carrying a butcher's cleaver, I removed my hand from my last potential defence – the Swiss Army knife on my belt.

“Hi. Do you speak English or German.”

“A little English. No German.”

I was amazed he spoke at all or actually walked upright after what I had gone through to get here. I mean this place was beyond imagination. I reckon that if that twat Osama Bin Laden had hidden in here the Yanks would never had found him.

“I would like to camp please. Two nights. How much?”

He looked at me, looked at my roller, looked up at the sky (so did I, maybe he was expecting a drone strike).

“200 kroner” was the reply.

Not bad, that made it the cheapest place yet. Not only that, he wasn't interested in passports and such nonsense.

“Do you have food and could I have beer please and where do I put up my tent?”

“I cook food. One hour. Camp anywhere,” he replied as he poured me a beer for an amazing 35 kroner (about 75 pence.) Then he went off.

With darkness descending, I chose a spot near to some tables and chairs and not too far where he had pointed out a block of what was the showers and toilets. I managed to unload and make camp just as the last sunlight went. Unfortunately I became confused where you slide these strange fibreglass rods into the sleeves of the tent, got them the wrong way and as I tried to span and bend them into an arch – there was an almighty crack and one of the rods split. Oh shit! Boppering it up a bit (Rhodesian slang for a long term temporary entrepreneurial fix to a terminal problem of huge magnitude),and the tent could still work, but I knew its days were now limited to exactly three more nights.

Feeling cold, I took the day pack with all the high tec gear and went back to the dining/bar room.

Not having much confidence of any result, I was pleasantly surprised that whilst the phone struggled, the notebook had no problem locking onto to the free WiFi. It also had no problem of knowing it was obviously emitting from nearby as all forms of civilisation was bloody miles away.

There were a few more people around that I gathered were staff, but I was the only guest. Supping on another pint, I told everyone on TGK Facebook that I was still alive and kicking and was then presented with -

“Czech special. Cow meat and scrabbled potatoes with salad.”

It was nice enough but I was a bit miffed by the price – the same as camping for the two nights. (About sterling 7.50.) I concluded that the next day I would work out how to get out and find a supermarket and petrol station. What had supposed to have been 80 clicks had turned into 180!
Totally knackered, I didn't hang about after the grub and hit the sack just before 9.00pm.

Day 26. Friday 22nd August

No cockerels awoke me. It was not necessary as the chattering of my own teeth had kept me awake most of the night and my pillow had a large collection of my fillings that had been dislodged scattered around it. It had been apparent within minutes of hitting the sack, that was about all I could do with it. Sue had looked sceptical when we were at Tescos in Prague with the size of the thing but I had assured her that it looked about the same as the one that had been stolen. I simply ignored the label which said 'Junior size, 70cms wide.' Stupid me hey. Still dressed with sweatshirt and Rhodie waistcoat, vest/west thing, I could hardly squeeze into the the camouflaged fart sack. Oh well, I must make a plan. Fancy getting this far and play a Captain Scott!

Poking my head out the tent door, which was soaking wet, the entire place was covered in mist or low clouds. I hadn't seen anything like this since Inyanga, Eastern Highlands of Rhodesia. Plus it was just as cold and wet. I needed a wazz badly and now I had another problem. I had placed a sign at the last petrol station. One sandal. It had been left behind whilst repacking after filling up. I wonder if, when the staff found it lying around, that they might have thought the messiah had been there for four litres of juice and a coffee.

Lighting up a smoke and with no sign of life, I had a wee-wee out of the tent in a left direction, with the wind – I am not fool enough to piss on my own doorstep. I was gagging for my fix of coffee. Getting the extremely proficient gas stove out of its case was very easy since most of it had been destroyed by bad man in Prague whilst ripping it off the pannier box. Opening the said box, I sighed. All that bouncing around in the forest had not only emptied most of the salt and pepper pots but in an a bit of temper, the lid bottle of the sugar bottle had come off and everything inside was covered in the damp sticky stuff. Still, there was enough left in and I also had some little tubs of evaporated milk, so in a jiffy, I was supping away whilst contemplating what happens next.




With the 'guti' being seriously dense, I had no idea if the day would turn out warm or rainy, in fact, vision was down to about 20 paces. With the only road outside the camp site it was logical that the river should be near down the steep, rocky and hole pitted drag. I wandered down as swirls of mist curled around me from the forest on both sides and after some 300 meters I came across an incredulous site. A bloke in full combat uniform, was slouching leisurely in a chair with a couple of fishing rods.

To the left of him was some old decrepit boats and to my astonishment, creeping, silently and eerily, small yachts appeared and seconds later disappeared. Wow! This was brilliant. Matey caught a fish, but judging by the the rather idle bending of his rod, it must be a tiddler. Much to my surprise it was about a pounder.

Whilst the catcher in the mist couldn't speak much (well, not my languages) he explained that it was a mollock, pollick, gollum, or whatever and being too small, he released it. That’s when I sussed out that whatever it was, it was no fighting fish. The stupid thing just laid there and needed a poke before it got its lazy ass in gear and wandered back into the murky deeps.

What also puzzled me (and you can see it from the last posting of the pictures from the bridge), was the immense amount of algae. This wasn't like the Spirogyra type known as 'slime' in Rhodie days (we actually used it as bait for tilapia, aka bream), but more like overcooked pea soup until there was no physical object, just coloured water. I suppose the nearest example is from Rhodie days when, if the chlorine was not administrated correctly, the pool turned green. On many occasions it meant emptying the pool and starting again, however, I couldn't see the Czechs blowing up the dam wall, flush the lot into the North Sea (the final destination of the river Vlatava), say sorry to the Germans and please don't invade us again, and knock up a new wall and throw in a few thousand tons of alginate. Sorry about all the dead fish. Its a hard knock life.

After what was really a magical moment, I wandered back to camp and with the mobile phone on, wandered around till the signal was strong enough to post the brilliant pictures onto Facebook. But – there was also an Email for me – from the Big Boss. Oh-oh. Back to reality with a bump. He wants to know when I am 'ready' to go back to work.

I had absolutely no desire to participate in that four letter word, and replied that if he would be so kind as to keep sending me money every month and put me on the books as a tax loss. I mean, the teeny bit I cost can easily be offset. I think he might have been a bit more than upset if I did send that, so I simply replied the 27th.

The sun was now looking like the moon, but it was burning the mist off, and as the staff were now wandering around, I went back to the main building to charge my phone and notebook. I was asked if I would like some breakfast but decided against it in case I would have to take out a mortgage on my scooter.

With the skies looking great, I decided I would head back to Orlik and see if they had anything resembling a supermarket. Ahh – how was I to get there? I did try to ask the staff, but they seemed to be as confused as me as to where we actually were. Either that or there was a big problem in communication. Still, being the great detective from Africa, I didn't expect too much of a problem.

With some kind of road to follow, I kept the much enlightened machine delicately on the rutted path. After about four clicks I came across a cross junction. Perched on the one side of it was a small decrepit wooden hut. But there was actually a sign pointing to the way I had just come with the name of the camp site. As this sign could only be seen from the right fork, I opted to take that route.

Nine clicks later, I hit a tar road. Since there were no signs what so ever, I took note of a postbox, a shield for what could be taken as a warning of some kind and hazard a guess to turn left. Well, blow me down with a gay's hair dryer, within a couple of kilometres I am in one of those strange towns I wandered through at least twice. Four more clicks - I meet the main drag, left again, over the bridge and into Orlik village.


 
There is a Co-Op - Not quite British style, but I don't care and stock up on food and tins of juice, which was a bit cheaper than back at the camp site. There is a large detailed map in the 'Town Square' (hah hah), and I notice that there was supposed to be a petrol station less than a click further down the road. Hmm. I have no recollection of passing it. It was there, refuelled, and crossed the bridge again and thought I would take the road marked on the map that was in theory a direct route along the river to the camp site (that was not marked). No chance. Not only was there yet again another boom, but the council had stopped clever-clevers like me from scooting around them by piling loads of thorn bushes to head height. I wondered if I could drop the scooter, drag it under but thought perhaps, for once, this might be a very bad idea...

Returning back the way I came, back at the weird junction in the forest I pulled up. The sun was now sending out some warming rays, and I decided to have some fun. Firstly, I needed to crack a tinnie. I mean, what were the odds of the police turning up here? Secondly, I wanted a smoke and thirdly - concluded I couldn't do the first two tasks until I took my helmet off.





As I rummaged around in my day pack and the millions of pockets of my waistcoat, the junction came alive with weird people. One drove a tractor dragging logs. Four turned up on bicycles with a GPS machine that I gathered from the serious shouting at each other, was as lost as they were. (I laughed to split a gut.) They wandered off and then came a group of early twenties with baskets crammed with all sorts of mushrooms and from the opposite direction a young bird jogging.

Once I was alone again, I set up the tools of my trade – doing bullshit...

After a great giggle of stupidity, I returned to the tent, unloaded my beer and grub into a fridge in the main building for the use of people like me, loaded up a plastic chair onto the back of the roller (no picture, dumb ass I am), and with a bottle of rum Sue gave me and a cola, I drove down to the same spot on the river.






 
What a transformation. The army bloke had been replaced by a family of five, also fishing, the mist was gone and the river/dam was spread out before me. Very nice indeed and I chilled in the sunlight, occasionally disturbed by the excited shouts as yet another lazy, scaly gollum thing was dragged out the green depths and popped into a net to await its fate as sleeping fish and chips.
With my mind now ready to write, I said goodbye to the family that had observed me in some form of horror, and went back. I then asked the pretty blonde babe if by any chance they had a blanket spare as I had no desire that they should be forced to find their way to the nearest morgue in the morning with my frozen body. The round trip would cost a pretty fortune – plus all the paper work. Especially since the body they would deposit has no identification what so ever.

I was duly delivered a freshly washed cover and duck feather duvet. All at no cost. Now well sorted, I wandered into the main building, ordered a pint and on the veranda started to write. At 6.00 pm feeling a tad hungry, I went back to the tent and prepared my evening meal, which I haven’t a clue what it was!

Just as I started skoffing, with a very loud explosion of noise – thousands of overweight women arrived on bicycles, all wearing identical T-shirts with some motive explaining they were slappers...

(To be continued.)

Tuesday, September 02, 2014

The Gokwe Kid - Rogue Rhodie on a Roller: Part 15. WhereDaFukRwe Tribe

Day 25. Thursday 21st August (continued)

After doing the Auschwitz posting that I needed to do while it was still so raw in my head – I continue from the previous chapter. This is when what should be a casual cruise to a camp site is going to turn into a nightmare...

Things were now to get beyond silly. This was the great bush detective versus Google. I am heading due south, following the river. The phone is on with roaming and trying to tell me which way to go.
That was our first fight. I got confused between up river and down river. Of course I was heading up, even if it was south.

The other problem was that the phone was in a pocket and each time I pulled it out to have look see, I touched the screen and it promptly went mad and I would have to restart the lot. Still, it got me out of Prague and with the setting on 'no motorways', it had a merry time sending me around in huge circles, through places that had houses but that was it, and as what should have been an easy short drive within my roller's range became an obvious no chance, I finally stopped at a garage.

I was bloody freezing. The average temperature was about 12c and in my naivety and enthusiasm had not brought along a warm winter style jacket. After all, this was the height of central European summer hey! It hadn't rained but I was shaking worse than a heroin addict awaiting his next fix. The hot cup of chinas were just the job to warm my hands and innards.

The petrol station was well jacked up and had free WiFi. So after my hands finally stopped trembling, I started up the notebook. I knew I was sort of near my destination and wanted to check it out again. I was near a town called Orlik, which nestles on the Vltava river and approximately the mid point between Prague and the German border.

I looked up my original camp site and only now noticed they did not allow tents. Okay... Another search for a camping site in the area pops up this.


Looks and sounds rather nice. They even have an address! rekreační středisko Na Husárně
, 398 58 Kostelec nad Vltavou and phone numbers. Better still, the wonderful age of digital technology even has supplied a route map! Yipeeeee – what could possibly go wrong?

Shit loads actually. What transpires next would make the Keystone Cops look like master detectives...

At some point, I crossed a dam wall, that sort of blocked the river but it all looked rather odd with the width of the water almost identical on either side. A strange damn indeed. I was buggered if I knew how any boats could get past this obstruction. But I gathered there was some sort of get around it. (For some odd reason, though I spent time there and thought I took loads of pictures... I seem only to have two!)

Considering I wasn't that impressed with the amount of water it was holding back (compared to Kariba), it was a rather large thing that was obviously used for hydro electricity. I paced its length and reckoned on it being 449 metres and 80cms long and tying a bit of string to a stone, I fed it down and after pulling it up calculated it being 90 metres and20 cms high. Amazingly, I was only few centimetres out when I looked it whilst typing this story.




I moved on. Although – I am so confused with this dam wall!


With the lady chirping away on my helmet headphones, I passed Orlik and was suddenly met by a huge bridge on the main drag.




I parked up the scooter and switching off that annoying cow, I spent a half an hour in rhapsody, all Bohemian, because that is where the dam is. Bet you didn't know that Freddy Mercury!

Incredibly picturesque and the little yachts cruising around between the steep slopes of forest made me want not to join them. But the neat and tidy houseboats looked really smart. So after a very good piece of satisfying my soul, I started up, switched on the navigation again and put into it the exact name of the camp site. I was in theory, according to the bullshit on the screen, less than 6 kms from my destination and should arrive in 15 minutes. Excellent. I was gagging for a pint...



Following the daft tart again, it soon became obvious she didn't have a sodding clue. It was after being sent left, right, turn around, go back, up there, turn around, go down there, take the next road (what road? They are just dirt tracks going into a seriously overgrown forest with steel booms blocking them), and when I stopped and looked at the screen, the arrow just kept whizzing around in circles – destination varied between 6 – 20 clicks, time also varied, but after one hour and thirty minutes, half a tank of petrol, I realised I had become a reluctant member of a famous African tribe...

As kids in Rhodesia we had our own African orientated jokes. One went like this -

“Have you heard of the WhereDaFukRwe tribe?”

“Can't say I have.”

“Well, they lived deep in the bush, but they were only 30cm (1 foot) tall, so as a result, they were constantly lost whilst wandering about. But they had through evolution developed huge powerful legs. They would spring high into the air, above the tall elephant grass, and shout to each other ' WhereDaFukRwe?'

“Goodness gracious me! What happened to them?”

“Sadly, they became known as The Lost Tribe of Africa and rumours has it they eventually starved to death or landed up in the bellies of pythons.”

All well and good but now I was getting tired. I was also a tad hungry. And thirsty. The Sat Nav had gone into a sulk because I had kept shouting back, and now she had stopped speaking to me and sent a message 'Gone off for my dinner and at this moment you have no GPS assistance as I have turned it off...lol, and, watch out for the wolves and bears hey – tosser!'

I was now seriously confused. I wandered through so many peasant villages, that the few living souls had gazed with wry amusement as every 20 minutes I rocked up again going backwards and forwards. I decided to track down the postal address. Maybe there would be a sign! No chance. No, supermarket, no pub, no place to rest a weary head. The sun was setting. I would die here!

Returning for the third (!) time to the village where this place was supposed to have an address, I saw three teenagers (two blokes and a lass) chatting on a street corner. Considering that dying in a dump like this would be about the climax of their lives (as in going to their own funerals), a chat on a corner must come second for top class entertainment.

Pulling up, they studied me with wry amusement as I removed my helmet from a sweat covered head and spoke the magic words -

“Oh, I say, you don't happen to speak the Queen's English by any chance and failing that, perhaps you are conversant in the Kaiser's German?”

Well, it turns out they didn't have one iota of clue what I was going on about. I had to switch into simpleton mode.

“Me”, pointing to myself, “look”, pointing to my eyes, “autocamp” pointing to the address in my little note book.

Wow, they were clapping their hands in glee! This was the greatest thing to happen to them since their first ice cream. A foreign idiot on a scooter looking like a gypsy’s one man band, in their village! It doesn't get better than that! With lots of ten words in English (or was it five), it came apparent that one of them knew someone who knew someone that knew about the camp site.

I tried to phone the numbers, but since the GPS couldn't find them it was unremarkable that the phone line had the same problem. The girl uses her mobile (Eish, they have them here) and gabbles away. I get the impression that some china of theirs knows where the place is and will turn up to take me there. I thank them profusely.

So after a few minutes a bloke turns up and the girl jumps into his car and off we go. Deeper and deeper into the forest. I am thinking, as we crash over huge ruts, dodge chopped down trees – is this my Deliverance (The Film) day. Will I be murdered, sodomised, and looted. (Not necessarily in that order.)

And then we hit another steel boom blocking the way. This is nuts! Smiling demoniacally, the kids pile out the car with axes and machetes, with drug crazed eyeballs and twisted mouths exposing fangs that would make Dracula jealous – assured me “no worry, we phone friend who have motor bike. He know the way.”

Hah-hah. They are kidding or what. What, where or is this mystery camp site that if you had a camping van or caravan, erm, how exactly do you get there? Sure enough, another kid pops up on a trail bike. The girl hops on. I say goodbye to the lad with the car and thank him for not hacking me into bits, and follow the two deeper and deeper into the darkening forest. Werewolves howl from all sides and bears follow me, as screaming in fear the roller fights me as we DRIVE over carpets of chopped branches from loggers. I couldn’t put my feet down to try and balance the heavily loaded machine as I would get my foot snagged immediately by branches and crash.

I imagined that what if the poor roaring roller packed in now or it burst a tire??? Try phoning the AA – what would they say - “ WhereDaFukRyou?”. Again and again we drove around more booms, turned left, right, and left and then suddenly, bursting out the forest onto a more wider track, we were in front of a building with a couple of cars parked outside.

Grinning, the two dismounted and explained that this was the camp site. I looked around for skeletons hanging from trees, swinging gently in the breeze. The place looked rather 'normal'. I thanked my saviours, offered to buy them a drink (presuming the place sold things like that), but they refused and after a quick photo, they wished me a nice time and off they went...

(To be continued...)
 

 
Look carefully at the map. It has been downloaded from those idiots at Google. I enhanced (it is from the link that I put up at the beginning of this nightmare – see the bit where it says how to get here... snigger), and I coloured in red the various 'roads', hah hah, going through the forest which I have bordered in blue. No wonder the SatNav gave up the ghost!

 

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Auschwitz

Auschwitz

The day after I was robbed, of all places, just a few clicks from Poland's holiest of holy places –

Wadowice [vadɔˈvʲit͡sɛ] (German: Frauenstadt – Wadowitz) is a city in southern Poland, 50 kilometres (31 miles) from Kraków with 19,200 inhabitants (2006), situated on the Skawa river, confluence of Vistula, in the eastern part of Silesian Foothills (Pogórze Śląskie). Wadowice is best known for being the birthplace of Pope John Paul II. ',.

Once I had been to the police and with much sign language had worked out to the camp site owners that money was on the way, they lent me dosh. I looked up at the sky. It was overcast. Normally, I should have thought about giving up and heading back to Germany where I live. No money, no passport, no bank cards – no nothing – I do not exist.

No. I am a Rhodesian and one thing I had promised myself and a good friend, I will go to Auschwitz. It was hard to explain to the couple that owned the tiny camp site and a young couple that also helped me, the desire I had. They had never visited, even though it was...just down the road.

Well, on a tiny roller, even 50 clicks is an hour and a half. The sky looked fit to burst, but after refuelling and following the signs for the 'Museum', I trundle down the road to the entrance.

Please, remember I am a writer. That means I look, observe, note, and see things very few people notice. I noticed plenty. The entrance was as if you were arriving for the Munich Oktoberfest. Car parks vied with each other for places. I certainly was not going to pay, so, incredulously, simply parked up on a verge next to a young female student whose job was to con traffic into her boss's car park. Death makes money.


The main car park is packed something stupid with a huge section for coaches. I join the queue to the 'entrance' and, as luck had it – it started to throw it down. Along the 'route' to the entrance, are boards with plans and information. I had an umbrella. Others soon got soaked, and at 2.10 pm I was 'in', only to find that in was not.

I was sent into the cellar and had to hand over my day rucksack – cost, not so bad, 20 pence. Back upstairs, a huge line of cash desks are on the right. People stacking up. There was money, credit card debits going mad to get into …

It seems you have to join a tour in a language of your choice. If you wanted to go solo – wait till 3.00pm. That was when I recognised that awful sound in my head and the urge to vomit. I was about to have a panic attack. Luckily, as I stood confused near the gate, a group of foreigners (no idea where they were from) seemed to tell the bloke at the gate that maybe for some reason or other they had missed the tour group and he let them in – I simply tagged at the back and was through.






I am glad I was with no tour guide and groups with headphones, being rushed from one building to another. I just cruised, absorbed and took my time. The rain had stopped. I saw people crying on the streets, young people.

I ignored the groups with the leader waving an umbrella. The signs were in three languages. Polish, English and Hebrew. No German. I had looked previously at the registration plates of the cars parked up – few Germans.



I do not begrudge the heavy trade in tourism. I believe every one should go to this place. But I was glad I was on my own to wander the back streets, only to be brought up by the electric fences and the warning signs. Alone in my thoughts.

Being able to read German, I could take my time and read some of the archived papers, condemning prisoner number so and so to 5 days in the no sleep cell for 'being lazy at work'. The horrors and the immaculate way it was all reordered, for me, someone who has spent most of his life in Germany – a land I respect for their brilliant efficiency, to see it as a perfect killing machine...

Time stood still. There is no smoking allowed. I had no desire to. Building after building, each one describing in horrific detail what went on there – so much, my mind became numb with the overwhelming capacity of this giant place of torture and mass murder.

I stood in the gas chamber, and from there to the ovens. There, I dug in my pocket, and found the names of my mate Les, his grandparents who were burnt in them. I cried. I am not religious, but sort of said a prayer to them as hundreds of tourists snapped pictures and scrambled past. I do not know how long I switched off from the world and admired the brilliant engineering of the rails that popped the bodies on carts in and out of the ovens. So perfect, they would work today...
I got out, and knowing myself, found a quiet corner and vomited.









 
 
It got worse – I was in bits and knew I could not handle much more of this. The shooting wall – where thousands were executed naked (oh the NAZIS were very efficient. Don't waste a good prisoner uniform), the hanging gallows - all became too much. It is beyond belief. I had of course read up loads about the place – but nothing is comparable to being there.

Three hours I lasted. To comprehend and see it all – reckon on two days. It is that large and that...bad. Beyond bad.

They reckon that more people have died in various conflicts over the globe than died in WWII.
Alone, the the massacres in the Congo have claimed 3 million lives. Rwanda - Half a million in six weeks, but never in history, was a determined genocide operated on a perfect bureaucratic system.

And yet, as the anarchy in Israel between them and the Palestinians keeps going – how much can you take?

Friday, August 29, 2014

The Gokwe Kid - Rogue Rhodie on a Roller: Part 14. Totally lost!






Day 25. Thursday 21st August (continued)

When I was a 'good' Boy Scout, I was taught the fabulous skill of orienteering. The maps Rhodesia had, at a scale of 50,000 – 1, were suburb pieces of work. Once, maybe at the age of 13, I went into the pavilion of the Rhodesian Air force during the Salisbury show.

There they explained how they made the maps. A plane would fly a grid and two cameras, spaced slightly apart took pictures. They had some weird magnifying glasses and after 'relaxing' your brain, all of a sudden, the left and right images joined in 3D! From this and other stuff, they made the maps.

Dotted around, depending what area of the country, the Rhodesians had built height markers. This was just a column of concrete, about adult shoulder height, topped with a metal four sided flag painted black. And somewhere would be painted an exact navigational position and the height above sea level.

The most incredible thing were the contours. Spaced every 50 metres, I had no problem creating the 2D image into an actual interpretation of the landscape I would be in. However, a compass was a very handy thing to have. Sure, we were taught emergency adaptations, but it was rare we took a glass of water, a needle, a magnet and tissue paper with us in case a bad man stole the compass. This method does work, the magnetised needle, floating on the tissue paper, would point North/South, until it sank into the murky deeps of the glass.

With this method, you had to wait until after midday and clock the travels of the sun to work out where was north? It also helped to recall that the sun rises in the east and sets in the west, except on the weekend because everyone is too drunk to see either.

During the Bush War, and on patrol, I was always in charge of the maps and directions we took, and convert every night our position into Shackle code (which I later found out had been long ago cracked by the Russians). I found it rather surprising that most of our stick, could simply not compute. I was lucky, it was for me so easy! Once I had north, I could 'see' each and every gomo (hill), in front and behind us. I could orientate us to any possible river for water and get it right to 200 meters.

Once you have worked out your exact position, using the compass, you would have to go, say North- East for 10 clicks. There are no roads, there are no man made landmarks. Nothing but bush.
The trick was to place the map on the ground and place the compass on the magnetic north. Now, one had to decide where we are traipsing. Wander in some direction looking for nasty gooks to kill them.

Once that was decided, a direction was concluded and then you needed some kind of 'something' in the line of sight as far away as possible. It could be a gomo, or if in many a bad case scenario, just some large tree. Whatever, it was imperative to hold what you chose in vision. Upon reaching that point, you simply redid the whole thing again.

Easy. Deep in the bush, not a problem. BUT, equipped with the finest technology known to man, within 80-90 odd clicks south of Prague as the crow flies, in the United Nations sanctioned developed country of the Czech Republic.. – I got lost!

(To be continued)

Thursday, August 28, 2014

The Gokwe Kid - Rogue Rhodie on a Roller: Part 13. Prague and the Police

Day 22. Monday 18th August.

Rise and shine and no kettle or coffee in the room. No big deal and after quick shower it is down to the communal breakfast room where you can eat as much as you like and have as many mugs of coffee your caffeine addicted body craves. The only small snag that we both landed up standing outside as no smoking allowed.

I was still feeling rather knackered from the drive, so a leisurely day was planned. Whilst not in the centre pure, the hotel wasn't that far. Prague isn't really that large as far as sights are concerned. The river Vltava (the same one that had the rafts and canoes on when I started the trip), cuts the city in half. Using the famous Charles Bridge as a sort of fixed point, we were the fourth bridge up stream and after a short walk down the drag leading past the hotel, hit the river.





These pics are from the way.. eish.. I stopped at some smoked sausage joint and it was disgusting!!!

Okay we move on...

Casually strolling along, sometimes the path is along the water front and sometimes set further back with quite some busy traffic. It was at the first junction that I solved another of my problems. When I had rocked up into the centre I had noticed at red lights an awful loud and hectic ticking noise that penetrated my helmet and only went when I accelerated away. I had concluded that the poor roller was giving its death rattle in neutral.

Now I knew what it was. It was for the blind and drunks to cross the road. The ones incapable of seeing the little green walking man. The volume would not bother the deaf but could awake the dead and the sound and speed sent goose pimples down my back because it sounds just like a flight of locusts (creatures I have a serious phobia with). Plus, who ever designed the timing must have been an ex Olympic 100 gold medallist as you had no way in hell of crossing in time. Then, just as the awful noise stops, it starts again, this time for the other way! No wonder no one hangs around street corners here. You would go mad.

I have been here twice before. The last time with my stepmother Katherine around I think maybe 96-97. I have little recollection besides we did stay at the same place from the previous trip – 1991.
Now that had been something...

I had about a staff of eight semi-skilled dryliners working for me. One from Tasmania (on a Brit passport), one a scouser from Liverpool, (profession – cook), and various motley English and Irish.
My ex Daniella, and I, along with a less than one year baby, were moving house and I made a deal with my pirates that if they helped with the move, I would take them on a firm trip to Prague and pay the accommodation. Job done.

The day we left, saw Pat ( a paddy) searching in his pigsty for his passport, so he never went. The others, all well fuelled from the night before, piled into the Transit van two hours behind schedule and off we went. This was barely two years since the collapse of communism and it was evident in the state of the roads and houses.

Cheap hotels did not exist and through an agency in the centre we were given an address of a private residence and after much getting lost, turned up at this house. There we were greeted by an elderly couple, who spoke good English and to make ends meet had turned the top floor into an apartment. No mod cons -  but clean and comfortable.

I felt a tad sorry for them. My peasants moaned about the breakfast that came with the lodging, having no interest in the fare of cold cuts of meat and bread. They staggered around between sleeps totally drunk, ripped the bannister off the staircase wall in one session of 'not sure if I was falling up or down', the Aussie dragged a whore back, and after bursting one condom had left it on the floor where the old lady dutifully disposed of it when she made our beds. All in all they acted worse than animals.

We had struggled to find places to eat and drink. Many a tin was purchased from small stands and one eating place was where the local whores hung out between clients. One drinking place was a working man's joint where a pot of Budweiser cost next to nothing. Evening entertainment – well we did find a Jazz club, but got soon bored. Another time we found a dingy joint underground at some plaza where the local young clientèle took turns to scream terrible noise into a microphone whilst the backup 'group' churned out incomprehensible noise.

We used the metro in and battered Skoda and Lada Taxis back or, as in one night, to pitch up at what was the only disco in town. It was at tennis club where the likes of Martina Navratolva and Ivan Lendl had played and trained. There was a queue to get in and some rather heavy set doorstops that melted when their hands were greased with West German silver and we were in.

It didn't take long for my lot to suss out that the available women, all good looking, were prostitutes. It was rife as the people struggled to make ends meet...











 
So now I looked around as we progressed. How things have changed. The old buildings all beautifully renovated, the cars all modern, with many a luxury auto amongst them. At Charles Bridge, the mass of tourists from all over the world greeted us in groups of thirty plus following like bleating sheep a guide holding up an umbrella – a far cry from the few backpackers and nutters like us from 23 years ago.

Now you had no problem finding a place to sit outside by the river and eat and drink. The nearer the bridge, the higher the prices, but still relatively reasonable compared to say, London. Neither of us had any inclination to go into museums or art galleries and at one watering hole we simply chatted our language, Rhodesian, and watched the people and absorbed the surrounds. Luckily, whilst the sky was 50% covered with sulking clouds, it stayed relatively warm, and crucially...dry.

Charles Bridge hasn't changed much. The same offers of artists doing your pencil characters, stunning photographs and original water colours with scenes of the city. The prices have changed though. There were some neat bands, and we didn't stay that long amongst the jostle and crowds. Turning right, we followed the river back but more on the waterline. Of course, it strikes up a real thirst and I need more golden nectar.

Day 23. Tuesday 19th August.

I awoke feeling a bit woozy in the head. I was soon to find out why. Returning from her shower, Sue politely asked if I had slept well as she had not. (Please note, separate single beds.) I know she does have problems sleeping but -
“a sty full of drunken pigs, snorting and snuffling intermingled with the shouting of a deranged mad man, gave cause for me not having a comfortable night's rest.”

Ah, it took a moment to comprehend but then I promised on Scout's honour I would be the best Sixpence from now on.

“I hope so,” she said with a wry smile “because otherwise you will be sleeping in the foyer. See ya downstairs for coffee.”

After a shower, I looked up the British Embassy. I suppose I better go see the clowns.
Down in the foyer, Sue has forgiven me and we are planning the day, when Sue says
“There are a couple of cops at reception, I wonder if anyone else has had something stolen.”

A minute later they are at our table “We are looking for a Mr Greenberg.”

I confirmed that I was but as for proving it, I only have a photocopy of my passport.
Whilst I went to retrieve it, I puzzled over the fact that they had found me. I blame it on last night's rum and coke (Sue brought me some lovely Captain Morgens that I had to test along with Brut (less the number 33 and a bottle of the splash on stuff. I had given a Rhodie macho grunt and said - “In the old days, Brut drove the girls mad with desire.” Her reply - “It smells bloody awful!”)

I asked the police. I felt so stupid with the reply. There is me, The Gokwe Kid, the greatest bush detective of all time, and I had registered at the hotel with a stolen passport number. Still, what other number was I suppose to give reception? Make one up? Hah-hah. Since I had the notebook, I amused them with pictures of me and the Amazon books. I was glad they were not interested in my blog regarding certain driving mishaps involving motorways and illegal rollers...

Sue had her passport photocopied and had to sign a declaration that I am who I am. They then spent the next 20 mins (they must have been bored) looking on their smart phones for ceramic shops for Sue to go to and see after she had explained she wanted to visit handicraft shops.

With that giggle sorted out and much to the disappointment of the shadenfreude tourists that I had not been dragged out and beaten to a pulp – we had brekkies (the same as yesterday) and next stop - British Embassy.

After some paffing about we find it. Going in (you buzz a bell and the huge heavy, iron clad door must be pushed with all your might), I asked the heavies behind the mortar proof glass, the classic opening line - “Hi, Do you speak English?” (And I giggled stupidly at my own dry wit. Sue looked at me with disgust.) Luckily the peasants did speak the Queens...)
I explained the situation but before I can get to meet those in the know, we had to dump everything in lockers and go through metal detectors. Eventually we are in and, after a minute, behind more bullet proof glass, I get to chat with a Czech. WTF?

She was very helpful. There is no such thing as an emergency travel document, and if you hang around a bit (not sure how many weeks), for a cool 110 Euros, we will give you a new passport. Sod that for a lark – I take my chances getting home. It was just as well that Sue was lending me money to get back. Can you imagine working some plan out with these clowns? I was given a form to fill in, and left and chilled on this steep road that leads to the Prague Castle. We were eventually served by an extremely obnoxious waiter who became even more snotty after I refused to give a tip. Tip of my boot more like it.

Down we went, crossed the bridge again and wandered into the so called Jewish Quarter. That was very disappointing. I was puzzled that anything remains after the NAZIs were there but at one place where they had the ancient cemetery, you had to go in via an old synagogue, now a museum, and emerge out via the graveyard and for this... they want serious money! In fact ALL the Jewish sites demanded cash entry. No thanks - I have no shekels on me.

Wandering, a bit lost, but no big deal, we make a plan to eat on the river side. Then early bed...






Day 24. Wednesday 20th August

Rise and shine with a cup of Tanganda tea – hardly. What’s the plan? I for one, am sick of walking and popping up to the castle was not my idea of fun. No problemo. You can catch a tram there. Sue loves walking. But I explain that with the tram we get to see things as it goes around the bloody hill. Yeah, one problem though, it seems half of China and Japan have the same idea and as we get crushed more and more at each stop, I thought a tin of sardines had more freedom.

So we wandered around the 'castle' – here it was twice the HQ of the Holy Roman Catholic Empire and after Hitler took over the joint, gave a speech from here. (It turns out, he had invited the then PM or President for a little chat in Berlin and in clear terms had explained that if he didn't hand over his country just like that – his Luftwaffe would bomb Prague. The poor bloke suffered a heart attack there and then and was pumped with drugs to keep him coherent enough to hand his country over to the NAZIS.)

You seen one castle you have seen them all. Not quite, but seen it got the T shirt. It is the same with the churches. If get in free, exactly how many arches, domes and stained glass windows are going to hold your interest? Especially when you know the peasants starved as they built these monstrosities to a non existent deity, whilst those in power exploited their simple minds and lived the high life...

From there we searched for the famous Lennon Wall. I am not here to give a history lesson, but, one china of mine, upon seeing the video I posted on Facebook , The Gokwe Kid, wrote - 'Very interesting. Where is this?' - I sometimes despair for the human race. Considering all my posts were from Prague and his five words of a stupid question - had he googled two - 'Lennon Wall'...just like that.

From there we wandered slowly back. We found an open air market. Very sad. Just junk. 23 years ago, I was in one (now long gone) and there the locals were flogging anything to stay alive. The retreating Russians had passed on their uniforms, and I picked one up. Really smart. Two decades later when I was penniless, I sold it on Ebay for a nice profit. Sue didn't buy a thing – all tack.

Chilling, me drinking beer at waterholes (Sue doesn't drink alcohol, an occasional wine), we grab a bight on the way and rock up at the hotel. I check the roller, and, I have been robbed again!

In broad daylight, parked up against the side of the hotel by the door the cooks use for a quick fag. The gas cooker on the top of the pannier had been ripped off, but had not been taken. The only thing knicked – my sleeping bag. I had to laugh. There was a Tesco next door and I bought another. I made a bit of a gaff, as this was really for kids, but I didn't care. I will manage somehow...

Day 25. Thursday 21st August

Time to move on. But first, before I pack, I need petrol. Yeah, play with one way streets and 40 mins later, totally knackered, I get back and load up. I say goodbye to Sue and with the sat nav on, soon get lost. After much wandering around with the dumb thing screaming at me, I find my way.

Now I have installed ' no motorways' and much to my amazement land up going backwards to get forwards. Of course there is logic in this madness and also why I had been trapped before. Without an absolute, and very large scaled map, it is impossible to get from A to B without hitting the forbidden roads. Loads of the old routes have been converted, so for the peasants on cycles and rollers, you land up criss crossing all sorts of back roads to get anywhere. Not only does this make an 80km trip twice as far, you also run the risk of never seeing a petrol station!

What happens next is so mad, you think I might have made it up...