It changes you:
17.07.2007 - 07.09.2007
View My Gap Years :) on clancy_of_'s travel map.
The longer I go without writing a blog on this trip, the more daunting it becomes, and with 2 months gone since my last it began to seem as though I would never get there. Whilst I have stayed in Biarritz for the past 60 days, arriving in Lisbon, Portugal after a 15 hour night train 2 days ago, it was 60 days that would take a heavy trip to Amsterdam to be forgotten.
My absolute 'nut' of a sister hit up the Biarritz shores for a week with her 'incredibly missed' brother, to get a taste of what her Gap Year 2008 was to be. The Roxy World Longboarding comp was being held at Cote De Basque and when the competition wasn't being held, Chloe Charlotte Lane, 'pulled into tubes' and with pure style managed to avoid the castles that lined the rocky shores;
Within 12 hours of her arrival, she was already smiling from cheek to cheek in her first European club. And summed her experience up in one short sentence;
'I am never going out in Busso ever again!'
By her last night you would think she owned the town; mixing it with the big guns like Newquay's bouncer;
And with a last goodbye, a few tears from both of us and an 'until next time in some other country' she was back off to Australia. It had only been 4 months since I had seen my little sis and mum; but this was longest we have gone, and it was definitely sweet to see them both.
The next big event was my homelessness; Biarritz in the middle of summer would have to be one of the hardest places in the world to find accommodation. 3 Bedroom apartments at 900 euros a week were all we had on the table, and I was almost at the point of quitting my job and heading down to Lisbon a month earlier. Then in a last attempt my mate Julien, who I was looking for an apartment with, told me a month ago he had heard from a mate of a mate, about a small room for rent above a cafe down this back street. I walked in and asked, the woman behind the counter told me of her son who was heading to Australia and how she would do all she could to help me as she hopes people will do the same for her son. I left my number and within half an hour I had a phone call, I went out and checked out the 3 bedroom apartment just next to the town centre in an old french house called 'La Marina'. At 1200 euros a month between 5 it was as cheap as August in Biarritz comes, 240 euros each for the month. Within 2 days; the three girls from Quebec Canada, Audrey, Eline, Corine, Julien and I were sitting round in our little apartment we had all instantly fallen in love with, drinking our first bottle of Bordeaux. Here's a photo of our little place, we had the entire third floor;
Then arrived the three funnest aussies I have met on my trip so far; Courtney, Andy and Jason;
Since I left Australia I have been helped by so many people from all sorts of nationalities, from accommodation, to directions or for even just a random drink. The three of them had arrived in Biarritz at the start of August with no accommodation booked, feeling sorry for them knowing that everything from campsites to hotels was booked out. I said they could crash on the floor at our house. After the first night out we got along so well that the ended up staying for a week, the next five days consisted of beach;
and rock diving; from the ultimate rock; off the beach;
This rock 500m out to sea from the beach Miramar; is the place to be in Biarritz when the temperature passes 30. There is a passage underneath the rock that allows you to swim under it through a cave like tunnel; once out the other side you can climb up where there is a sweet jump spot. From the other side of the rock you can't see Biarritz, but just the horizon and the mates you swam out there with. Crazy to think that 500m out to sea is such an awesome place and yet everyone prefers to spend there time fighting for a 1x1m space to place their towel amongst the summer crowds;
Courtney and co; are on round the world tickets and headed off that weekend; but not until after one last night running a muck in Biarritz's beloved club, Playboy;
After the boys left; and my routine returned, I ended up meeting Charlotte. A 20 year old, physiotherapy student from Paris who has a totally sarcastic trip sense of humour only an Australian could love. An amazing month followed; where I had both the highest highs and lowest lows of my trip. Two weeks before I was due to leave Biarritz I fell really sick; which left my hip pocket around 1000 euros poorer than originally planned (ouch!). Hopefully insurance will cover a bit of it, because once again French administration prevailed and I will be refunded a beautiful 0 Euros, because of a technicality being I must live in the same French region for 6 months to claim anything back. It rained for four days straight and didn't get above 18 degrees; and then suddenly on the Saturday I woke up feeling amazingly better, the clouds started to dissapear and that night on the beach as part of the Rip Curl Tag Team Surf Competitions; Xavier Rudd was playing a free concert on the beach. We arrived at the beach and I bought the only thing I could eat because of the problems with my wisdom teeth; an Icecream;
The stage had been set up on the beach;
The weather continued to get better and better and whilst waiting for Xavier to start we were treated to an amazing sunset;
That seemed to go on and on and on...
After the sun was gone the stage lights lit up, didgeridoos began to appear, followed by the aboriginal flag, and then finally on the otherside of the world from where I first saw him play as a 16 year old in a Margaret River vineyard a short blonde haired Aussie named Xavier;
came out on stage and led the French crowd packed onto the beach, on an amazing hour and a half set of pure Australian music.
After honestly the worst week of the trip, health wise, including an 18 day prescription of antibiotics, 8 painkillers a day, not eating for two and having to eat soup for 5 days, I couldn't have scored a better three days. The three days following Xavier it was 35 degrees, and Charlotte, Yannick and I spent each and every moment down the beach;
and of course tanning;
After Charlotte left to head back to University; I was left waiting to be paid and sign my end of season contract so I could head down to Portugal to meet up with Carolina. One day passed and no papers, another and again no papers, it took five days for the papers to arrive and the moment they had I grabbed the money said my goodbyes at work and a quick 'until next summer'; banked my money ran home packed my bags, met my roomates at the 'local', Newquay for one last beer before I headed off to Portugal.
I had heard that if I headed to the border town of Irun I could find some 25 euro buses; on arrival I found there were no buses and the next 70 Euro night train was not for 6 hours. I reluctantly bought my my ticket and feel asleep on my surfboard bag in the biggest hole of a train station I have ever been in. The 15 hour train ride was shared with two Portuguese guys, one speaking good English and was thus allocated position of translator between me and his mate. We shared the cabin with Marco, a 20 year old from Serbia, who was travelling round Europe on a visa that only allowed him to travel to Sweden, due to Serbia's 'tensions' with the west over Kosovo. This didn't seem to bother the Portuguese police who woke us at 6am to check our passports at the border; she slowly flicked through hiss passport as if analysing every minute detail and just as an 'I'm done for' expression appeared over Marco's face, she smiled handed back his passport and wished us all a good sleep and a safe trip. A safe trip it was, but a good sleep, far from it, we all managed about four hours and I woke up with back cramps and two Serbian feet about 10cm from my face. We spent the rest of the trip talking about Portugal, Serbia and Australia, and as Marco was the first Serbian I had ever met I hung on his every word. And whilst the majority of the conversation was about Kosovo and Slobodan Milosevic; he did give us a little incite into what growing up in Serbia was like. I had read that Serbians were deeply patriotic and this did come across in his character, and whilst he was an incredibly nice person he did have a hard edge to his personality, that I have encountered in many Eastern Europeans. One thing I will never forget, that I am sure all Serbians must do, is the 10 seconds of tongue clicking Marco made, shaking their head if we told him of an injustice or annoyance that we had seen or experienced.
I arrived safely in Lisbon and its 35 degree heat at 11am; and after a small struggle to find a net cafe with Skype I managed to find Carolina's number and be picked up from the city centre. It was great to see her after such a long time; and finally be able to start our trip together.
Well the blog is done and I can safely say that it is probably the most satisfying I have written; I have bought a new 300Euro camera, because my last decided to randomly brake, and Carolina and I are flying out on Sunday, so hold onto your seats and stay tuned because I've only got six months down on this two year adventure, and even I end up broke by early November I'm sure it will make for an interesting blog;
Garrett in Lisbon; Portugal