When does a walk become a hike? When does a hike become a trek? Is a hike or a trek bigger? Is hiking just walking off-road? How pretentious do you have to be to call it hiking and buy a headlamp and walking sticks and then tell everybody you’re going hiking?
‘I’m not gonna be able to fit everyone on, ay.’
It was the first logistical fuck up I’d encountered in my two weeks in New Zealand. Everything had been efficient, well ordered and polite. Even the transvestite bus driver was amiable and full of stories of varying degrees of interest. But now high season in the popular Bay of Islands tourist destination had got the better of a fledgling tour company and 20 people were lining up on the dock to fill five remaining seats in the high speed ferry. After a Chinese family pushed their way past the other patient customers to take the spots I asked how long it would be to send another boat.
‘Well. I’m the driver,’ he said tucking his shirt in to his high pants, ‘and the other driver’s here too, and the boat’s docked at the island. So, at least an hour.’
If Singapore was a person it would be an overbearing mother. One with multiple bachelor’s degrees and qualifications from a life spent studying hard and working harder so she can provide for her children and expect more in return. She would have nets around her children’s trampoline, plastic on the furniture and gates around the stairs. She would petition to have contact sports banned from schools and sporting participation would be more important than winning and subject to grades and completion of homework.
Penang worried me. Eating was becoming the main pastime and I finished each meal already contemplating the next. I had even taken photos of some of my meals and had almost delved to the lowest depths of travel blogging desperation by posting them. This is what I tried to avoid while travelling, an obsession and fascination with food that overshadows everything else on offer. The purpose of eating is to not be hungry anymore so you can continue on with the rest of your life. It’s not meant to be treated as art or leisure.
Head nestled into the chest of the man holding him, he looks comfortable. As if it’s a daily occurrence. Today his twitchy eyes notice there are more people watching as his leg is attended to, but he’s still relaxed. Maybe it’s some basic medical attention or grooming. He’s probably unaware there’s a razor-sharp blade being tied to his ankle so he can be thrown before a baying crowd in a bloody fight to the death. He’s just relaxed. He got up at 3 am to crow and wake up the neighbourhood then strut around like a hero. It’s just another normal day. Now he’s ten minutes from a brutal death or a gory triumph. He is a cock in the Philippines. And the Philippines loves its cockfighting.
Yes. I definitely packed the bag myself. It was only an hour ago before a short cab ride here; a collection of dirty clothes, crumpled pamphlets, a couple of books and a damp towel – the standard inventory after a few weeks on the road. Definitely no drugs or weapons, and I would have been surprised if someone had managed to sneak any in while I wasn’t looking. But for some reason this Filipino airport official had taken a liking to my well-travelled, decade-old backpack.