The art of eating mandarins while driving.

My 1905 kilometre journey to Charleville did not begin well.

It was just a small fire under the hood. No big deal.

My nose, which has put many trackers to shame, sensed something was amiss as I climbed the first large hill out of Tamworth. My spirits sank as the bushfire-in-the-car smell overwhelmed my sensitive nasal passages. A brief look under the hood told me that cars are worse than goldfish. They need constant attention.

In my three-month absence, and I admit I had even forgotten that I owned a car while I was riding trains in China, some rodents had made themselves a little nest in my engine. The rat poo and other anonymous debris made great kindling next to my engine.

I dithered over whether I needed to pour water over the fire, or whether water would harm my vintage car. The plastic spoon I found nearby melted when it touched the powerful engine, so I found two sticks and scraped the junk out. Two sticks can help in many situations, I’m told.

After such a superb beginning, the Tamworth to Coffs Harbour leg was quite relaxing. It can be done in four hours, but I took five, soaking up the scenery and generally dragging the chain. Occasionally I’d look at the speedo and realise I was going 20 or 30 under the speed limit. I could barely care, I was so relaxed.

The beauty of my road trip is that I’ll get to see some crazy relatives and mates on my way.

In Coffs Harbour I crashed with my beachy cousins. There were a few beautiful moments. I found myself screaming Jet lyrics into an unplugged microphone while my 14-year-old cousin strummed his acoustic guitar. His grogeous sister was at death’s door in the next room, but no-one minded the impromptu air-guitar championships hosted next door.

The moment reminded me that families can crash through walls of inhibitions to take you back to your roots, your childhood.

James even took some time out of his hectic schedule to wake me up with some Green Day after I overslept in my uber-laid-back frame of mind. A leisurely cup of tea with my beautiful aunt, which could have been extended to three or four brews, ensured I was at least an hour late departing.

I was consumed with a master-of-my-own-destiny sensation as I sped up the highway towards Queensland. I was empowered by my beast, knowing I could turn the wheels in any direction. As I cruised out of town I imagined I was off on a trip around Australia. Unfortunately my dismal bank balance took Uluru off the agenda.

I managed a quick visit with my cousin on the Gold Coast, catching up with her daughter who seems to be growing up faster than chickens on steroids. A few nights ago, on the Sunshine Coast, my brother satisfied my need to eat steak with mashed potatoes and mushrooms smothered in cream and spices. He is a brilliant cook and also knows how to play doof-doof music just a few decibels above bearable.

I chilled with a few mates in Brisbane, luxuriating in the hospitality of my mates’ couches. My detox has been hampered slightly with all of the festivities. However, I have managed to trade beer for antioxidant-rich red wine.

Food-wise, I’ve continued catching up on the avocados and cheese that I craved in China. I also tracked down a bag of mandarins at a road-side stall near Bellingen. I imagined the fruit would be sweet and luscious, a perfect companion for the long drive. Instead the citruses evoked a face similar to someone eating dirty socks in a badly-planned bet. Sour fruit makes great company, I found. Getting through the bag of mandarins certainly helped to kill time between Grafton and the Gold Coast.

If I was really peckish, and things did get a little tight when I finished the bag of mandarins and the carrots and the banana, I had a secret stash of vegies on the passenger floor.

My beautiful father had gifted me two trays of lettuce plants to take to my new home. He assured me that tending the plants would be good for my soul. For me, they kept my hunger paranoia at bay, but did not offer much companionship.

The inner-nerd that I tuck away discreetly got some time in the sun as I tuned in to ABC local radio. I felt incredibly grown up listening to Richard Fidler quiz successful scientists and artists.

It has been a long journey already.  I’ve loved having the time to contemplate hard issues, such as why the Australian pollies cannot seem to figure out how to stop refugee boats sinking in Australian waters. Sometimes the people in Canberra seem as useless as a packet of nicotine patches for a non-smoker, but I understand the issues are more complex than sticking to the speed limit. Still, it’s heartbreaking. Then, after a bout of anger I’d wonder why some people read fiction while others watch documentaries. I also spent a lot of time contemplating how mandarins become sweet and why others create wrinkles.

It’s been another blissful week, really, and the perfect way to end my three-month hiatus.

Tomorrow, the trip continues, with a ten-hour stint towards my new home where I plan to encounter many more adventures. I hope this one does not begin with a fire under the hood.

I’m certain, however, that the fire in my belly will keep the wheels turning. Stay tuned.

A delicious slice of reality.

“Oh, you want a Power Pat do you,” my dad asks Bubble, one of my folks’ two new cats that I am not at all jealous of. The other, of course, is named Squeak.

A wicked grin spreads across his face as he rubs the cat down with a vigour I’ve see him employ while chopping wood. The feline purrs as if it’s just spotted a milk tanker with a slow leak.

We’ve already giggled with mum about her daggy house-clothes and discussed whether the neighbour a few farms down is buying wood with her pocket money.

It’s hilarious post-sausage-sandwich entertainment.

As I soak up the winter sun, just east of Tamworth, I notice how sweet it is to be home, sitting and laughing with my beautiful parents.

The final few days in Shanghai were impressive with Tsingtao and tequila by night, dumplings and noodles by day.

My local mate from India treated me to the best street food of my trip. I’d wandered aimlessly through the French Concession with some new pals from Denmark and Russia. We’d watched the dancers dance, the kites fly and the musicians fill Fuxing Park with their Oriental tunes.

It was the perfect goodbye to my tumultuous love affair with the Far East.

I was torn at the airport; excited about wrapping my arms around my Nanna, sharing tea with my girlfriends (it’s been a complete boy-fest in China with few female companions) and curious about my new job. But I hated the idea of  myadventure ending.

A well-timed email from my ever-pragmatic mother informed me that I would “come down to earth with a bang when you get back here.” The promise of avocadoes and brie drove me toward the departure gate.

And, it has been splendid.

The sunrise, after my 5am arrival in Sydney, was one of the best I’ve ever seen. It reminded me of Australia’s bountiful offerings. I’m lucky to call this country home.

My Nanna’s hug a few hours later was more warming than a glass of vintage liquor. She squeezed me hard, noting the six kilos I’ve carefully collected on my already-voluptuous frame. “You need to do some shrinking,” she instructed me.

“Aw, c’mon Nanna,” I pleaded with her. “It just shows I’ve had a great time.”

She frowned at me, clearly unmoved by my grin.

“Men love women with curves,” I cried, clearly clutching at straws.

“Not that many,” she laughed at me. I winked at her, delighted by her cheeky company.

I cooked a lamb roast, ate my (enhanced) body weight in salad and we looked at photos, lazing around like well-fed pandas.

Coming home ain’t so bad, I thought.

The dollar issue is a sore point, but my finances are so sorry I’ll just skim over that briefly. The cost of a bottle of milk is the equivalent of a night’s accommodation in China. That roughly equates to about 6 beers.

The Australian political landscape is also a sorry sight.

But, what Australia lacks in political smarts, it makes up for in the deli section. I decided to continue my train affair, broadening my rail horizons with a ride to Tamworth. It was the perfect time to catch up on some cheese-eating with my old pal Costello blue.

I luxuriated in the stark open paddocks with Dorothea Mackellar ringing in my ears. The contrasts to the obsessively-cultivated Chinese landscapes were fascinating. The stretching plains screamed to me that I was home.

My cheese-cravings were obsolete by the time I hugged Ma and Pa at the station, tears brushing at the corners of our eyes.

The detox plans I’d cleverly crafted a few nights ago flew out the window as I took in the contents of my parents’ cellar. We sat by the fire talking and laughing, as Dad’s queries about my trip became increasingly inquisitive. Luckily, my honest answers impressed my mischievous father.

Today, we cleaned and chilled, happy just to be back together. Ma even attached her halo and did my washing! I called a few mates and went for a jog. Pa and I rode bikes around the lucerne paddock and made plans to go fishing tomorrow, after our Mexican feast.

Now, as I sit in front of the fire at my folks’ pad with a glass of Pinot and Dad vigorously patting the cat, China feels like a hazy memory. That bang my Mum predicted I’d face – I’m determined to brush past it, my resilience honed after 10 weeks on the road.

The next adventure is about to begin. And, I’m certain there will be another adventure after that.

Reality: it’s what you make it.

I wear my heart upon my sleeve, like a big deal.

Making friends has become the essence of my existence. It drives me more than my incessant forraging for dumplings.

My daily routine, whether it is breakfast or an early-morning rickshaw ride home from the club, have become laced with benevolent intentions. No one is safe from my ceaseless pal search.
My strike rate, admittedly, is fairly hot. I am disappointed in my day if I have not made at least four new friends. Of course, at home it’s not so intense; I settle on two new mates a week when my backpack is collecting dust.
The latest crew includes a Mexican guy, Rodrigo; a stunning Israeli chick, Danit; the endearing English guy, Tom; a Scotsman, Craig; a Chinese dude, Hunter; a lovely lass from Melbourne, Tiffany; and the beautiful Danish ladies, Gitte and Camilla.
It’s a pleasantly international crew. I’m always proud of myself with these global mash-ups, feeling more cosmopolitan than a well-stocked cellar. The ability to create an instant sense of community while traveling is a contast pleasure, for me.
There is a downside, however, to the obsessive friend-making.

The goodbyes, once sweet and quaint, have become beasts of sadness that unleash themselves upon me as soon as I’m alone, feasting on my inner peace.

I’ve become afraid of the emptiness which invariably follows any new liaison. Thoughts of empty dorm rooms and common rooms with no recognisable faces haunt me, dogging the pleasure of new company.

Traveling friendships, for me, are intense and that is what makes the inevitable goodbyes harder. Often, you see your new pals first thing in the morning, share a leisurely breakfast and then spend the rest of the day and night together. It is a million first dates bundled into one lengthy day. Sometimes the day is similar to working in field under the blistering sun. Usually it’s more akin to sipping a cocktail on the beach.

The first parting-is-such-sweet-sorrow culprit was Lina, a generous and open Taiwanese lady I met in Tunxi. Moments after I stormed into the dorm, shattering her peace, she’d spread out her map of China, patted the bed next to her and explained the best spots to see while visiting the mighty dragon. She gave me her personalised chopsticks as a souvenir and took me out for lunch. Her fluent Mandarin ensured I got my train ticket without the booking fee.

She was my first Chinese love.

You can imagine the goodbye; my tear ducts did not rsvp, but there was plenty of vigorous hand-waving and creased brows as I trotted off under the weight of my mighty Osprey.

I was lost without Lina. For a few days I thought longingly of her shy giggle and easy manner.

Soon after, I met the famous Swedish boys who showed me the most happiness I’ve known in a while. Under their Scandinavian guidance we hooked up with Yong, the Thai guy whose laugh would crack the surliest bouncer, and the three Chinese girls who wormed their way into our hearts.

We spent a few cruisy days and almost-memorable nights with them before the inevitable parting came lumbering up to greet us. Again, it was wrenching to say goodbye to ‘the best group’. Luckily, the Swedes were around to cycle on with.

We formed a quick crew with a few new strangers in Shangri-La, dispensing quickly with the usual meet-and-form-judgment clichés: ‘where are you from’, ‘how long are you traveling for’, ‘what do you do back at home ’and, of course,‘ would you like a beer’.

Generally, in a friendship-creation interrogation, once these formalities are satisfied, the depth get-to-know-you questions would show their faces. ‘Do you drink baijiu,’ we’d demand, before I’d sneakily suss out my new mate’s thoughts on alfresco nudity..

The Shangri-La friends, too, we bade goodbye to in a flurry of email addresses and empty let’s-keep-in-touch promises. Such is life on the road.

In Chengdu, the worst happened. I had to say goodbye to the bloody Swedes.

I avoided the idea until the reality of their departure slapped me with an open palm; but that was not the end of my dalliance with those good-looking lads.

In Xian, alone, the superficial friendships continued. I began to grow tired of feigning interest in people who insisted they loved food more than I did. The continual effort of making new mates was becoming annoying.

In Laos, a quick hike unearthed a few gems for me. My China funk was left at the border and the friend-making-machine fired up again.

I met the Swedes again in Laos after a heart-shattering goodbye to a funky Bolivian who I’ve promised to meet in Spain.

Round two began with the my hot Swedish boys, but my addiction to meeting people thrived. The Canadian boys in Siem Reap deserve a special mention here for bolstering the ranks of a few games of Marco Polo. Their card-playing skills affirmed a Facebook match up was on the way.

Another Swede, Vanja, won me over in Sihanoukville. I still miss her cute accent.

Then, finally, after a blissful few days loitering on the beaches in Cambodia I had to say goodbye to the guys who had been making me laugh for about six weeks.

It was a breeze. With a hasty ‘see you in Sweden’ I ducked out of there, determined to look forward.

Of course, it still feels like I am missing my left arm and an eyebrow without the boys.But, I’d hate to bore you with dramatic staements.

Waiting for me in Beijing were three British lads. I was instantly fond of their comic ways, go-hard attitude and incoherent football talk. They even checked the beer cans for the alcohol percentage and were able to put up with me waking them every morning. We were instantly friends, partying until dawn and seeing Beijing’s sights with an over-enthusiastic vigor.

Then, I returned from the Great Wall to an empty dorm.

The lads’ usual mess, instead of hanging from every available ledge and splattering across the floor, had disappeared. The empty beds stared back at me and the lonely feeling crept up again, familiar as the blue sky in Queensland.

It seems so cruel for them to leave, just as the conversations had progressed to the point where we knew what time our parents went to bed and the regularity of everyone’s bowel movements.

I was shattered.

One of the Brits had quipped the night before, in the middle of an intense chat about the people we’d met while traveling, ‘you wear your heart on your sleeve a bit, don’t you, yeah’.

I admitted my open-heartedness with pride. If you’re not going to love freely, you’ll miss out, I reckon.

Of course, the next day I was eating my words, as I noted the air conditioner’s hum was keeping me company, instead of the boys’ laughter.

As I wrote this, my next room mate, American Scott, who I’d shared some pillow talk with (from separate beds, obviously) and who’d set alarms for me to wake up in the morning, came up with his stunning girlfriend and announced his imminent departure.

It’s relentless! And I’m bloody sick of the goodbye cuddles.

But, as the cute Dane pointed out, ‘it’s your nature. You can’t change it.’

So, I’ll still pine for my travel pals and look at the photos I took of them with a fond smile. I’m thankful, really, that making genuine friendships does not take weeks or months, but can happen in a few fleeting moments when you’re on the road.

Most of all, I’ll try to keep some promises. I’ll go to Sweden next summer; I’ll meet Daniela in Madrid; I’ll go to Taiwan to see Lina’s beautiful National Parks; and, I’ll run the City to Surf with the British guys.

But, for now, the Beijing crew needs another Aussie at the table.

Toboggans and nudity on the Great Wall

I must have looked incredibly pathetic this morning, limping up to the entrance of the Great Wall.
It was a kebab stick that left me walking in a similar fashion to a three-legged dog with a twitch. The bamboo stick jumped into my flip flop a few nights after a raucous night out. It pierced straight into my toe with unexpected venom, bruising and swelling my foot. Of course, this particular injury would coincide with a walk on one of the more gruelling seven wonders of the world. I also have a nasty scratch from where the Slovakian girl pulled me onto the table we were dancing on with a little too much enthusiasm. A full catalogue of my recent injuries would take far too long, but let’s say I am rocked up this morning feeling a tad battered.
Despite the injuries I’d rummaged around for some self-discipline, which had not seen the sun in about eight weeks, and got to bed before midnight. The English lads, who I’d just managed to resist joining for a night of festivities, rolled in at 5.15am (their fourth night in a row!! and they had to be at the airport at 6) and surprised me with some football songs, a spot of comedy and an icecream one owed me from a bet. So, I was mildly tired, but only 20 minutes late for breakfast. Luckily, I had a cute new pink hat to make me smile.
Now, I’d only been relatively unenthusiastic about visiting the Great Wall. To me, the joy of traveling lies in the people you meet, rather than the things you see, but my determined mother insisted I see such a splendid sight.
Thank you, Mum!
The trip started with the inevitable choice between a cable car and a slog up a hill. For me, that choice is the same as choosing to dine-in or take-away. I avoid cable cars on principle, prefering to pant my way up steep hills, thinking nasty thoughts of the rich folk on the machines above me, but with a sense of virtue that would make the Pope humble.
Today, with my super injuries and a new pair of tight shoes, it was the perfect opportunity to cast aside my values and jump on the ski lift. It’s a nice feeling, really, to have all that initial walking removed from the to-do list.
We had three hours to saunter along the wall, imagining ourselves as medievil oriental soldiers. It was a perfect, blue-sky day. A slight breeze kept the Chinese summer at bay, too.
I strode up the first side, pushing through the pain in my shoe, admiring the view all around. The surrounding hills are typical of China with their stunning colours and contours. The wall itself, of course, has a partciular charm that comes with age and beauty. It’s a pretty wall, really, although I sternly reminded myself that it was a fort, not an ornament.
At the top of the first side I decided it was time to make some new friends. I combined that task with a ritual I began in South America.
For the record, asking the nice Canadian guy to take a photo of you in the nude will help you to turn an aquaintance into a pal. Tick. Tick.
With my new mates, I strolled along the old, unrestored section of the wall for a while, blatantly ignoring the ‘No Admittance’ sign and generally being a bad tourist. But, everyone else was doing it, so it must be ok, right! Without the modern touch-ups the old wall is crumbling and deteoriated in places, although it’s even more charming to imagine the place has been less touched since it was constructed so many centuries ago. It had an air of authenticity that is often removed from Chinese architecture.
I loved sitting, blissfully and gazing out at the surrounding mountains, watching the decrepit wall stretch along the ridges that skim the horizon. The patch of wall we strolled along was only about 3.5 kilometres long, but seeing the beast strecth along the hills gave an impression that it could actually be 6000 kilometres long. Actually, that’s still a little beyond my comprehension, but I’ll take the history books at their word.
The ambience in these ancient places always strikes a human chord for me. I cannot help but imagine the poeple who built the wall in such extreme locations. It is bloody steep! Also, I couldn’t help but picture myself as a soldier, stationed on the gleaming old forts, looking out for Genghis Khan and his muscly men. Of course, I could also picture the Mongols storming up the sides and capturing the wall.
It was a superb sensation to be in-situ while contemplating the finer points of such dramatic historical events. It was also cool to imagine things that happen today, such as the popular matchmaking shows set on the wall or the locals who insist on trudging up the pitched stairs in their wedding garb. Fools, I thought; they’d get sweat everywhere!
The two Australian and two Canadians guys and I indulged in a quick Tsingtao, just to get that real Chinese feeling happening.
Of course, the Chinese culture continued as we lined up to catch the toboggan back to the bus stop. Yes, that’s right, after you’ve finished strolling along one of the seven wonders on the world, you jump on a piece of plactic and slide down the metal amusemet course. Suddenly, I was seven again and at the Big Banana in Coffs Harbour. Oh, there is almost too mcuh fun to be had at that old wall. The Chinese man guarding the slide even shouted at me, waving his hand like a puppet master, to slow down. I felt like a kid again as the wind whipped my hair back.
It was an exhilirating end to the thrill of seeing the Great Wall. And, my aching feet, now with blisters from my brand-spanking Keds, had the last laugh as we cruised down to a banquet lunch.

The finer points of skinny dipping.

There is no better sensation than swimming naked in the ocean under a full moon with a few friends. It is the finest pleasure imaginable, for me.

Imagine a quiet beach in southern Cambodia, there is no one else around, just the moon shining down approvingly on your skinny dipping intentions and the sand beneath your feet. It looks good and feels even better, right.

Now, add a few close friends, and some new ones just to shake things up. You all strip your clothes off and run towards the ocean, letting out a few quick squeals with an abandon that rekindles the sort of joy you have not felt since you were a kid and your dad bought you a chocolate back from a work trip. It’s truly thrilling.

Hang on, it gets better.

You hit the waves and the salt water rushes over your body. There are no pesky cossies to get between you and the water and the reflection of the luscious moon, so it feels completely natural.

That moment, just a few short days ago, was my nirvana. As the waves crashed around me I felt an intense happiness stain my soul. It was a bountiful reward for the challenges I have faced getting to that moment.

I should mention here that I am an avid skinny dipper. I have, perhaps, a disproportionate love for the pursuit. Some get their pleasure from partying or a nice cup of tea or a successful dinner party, a nice bottle of wine, even. Not me, all I need is a beach, or a pool, or even a puddle.

It all started, I reckon, with a story my cheeky dad once told me about skinny dipping at a party when he was younger. He’d jumped in the pool in the nude because he thought the patrons were a little dull. Then he strolled out naked, head held high, confident he’d instilled some character into the shenanigans. Or at least that is the embellished version.

After dad’s amusing inspiration I moved into a house with a pool. It was an open invitation to swim naked, regardless of the elderly lady living next door whose lounge room casually peeked onto our pool. Our daily jaunts were a highlight of my sharehousing life.

I’ve been to weddings where the bride and groom have stripped down, trading their suits and gowns for blissful immersion with a watchful moon. It seemed a superbly fun way to celebrate and share the nuptials.

Of course, I should note here that not all skinny dipping ends with such a heart-warming feeling. Take Dan of the Night, for instance, a backpacking reveller I met a few days ago.

He’d been indulging in a spot of night time natural bathing when a crafty Cambodian local thought his clothes would be better suited on their Khmer frame. I’m not sure how the thief looked in his garb, but I have a great vision of Dan running after the motorbike riders, in the nude, demanding his clothes back. The poor sucker also had his room key taken, so after the humbling trip from the beach to his hostel, in just the birthday suit, Dan had to ask for a replacement to get into his room.

His search for new clothes, however, was thwarted by the unhelpful receptionist who, no doubt, loved the sight of the naked Canadian. There was no key for Dan of the Night. No clothes, either.

He copped it well, I reckon, recovering his dignity and basking in the story of sleeping naked in front of the entire dorm. About 14 people had the chance to catch a glimpse of his tanned frame, apparently.

On our quieter beach, however, there were no nasties lurking in the shadows, except the beastly dogs, but that’s another story. So, the hot Swedes and I recovered our towels, bade farewell to the coast and ambled home.

Now, I’m tucked up in Beijing and delighting in the city life again.

Otres Beach, the haven of my trip, seems almost a lifetime away. But for a seasoned skinny dipper, it’s not too difficult to recall the moonlight shenanigans. Already I’m planning a sneaky trip to one of Australia’s mighty fine strips of sand.

Sexiest bikers alive.

I’ve always fancied myself looking stellar on a motorbike.

I regularly imagine myself sitting astride a Harley Davidson looking very, very sexy. In these dreams I race through town, leaning into corners and overtaking Audis. When I take my helmet off I shake my hair out quite seductively as traffic stops around me. Sometimes there are bad accidents, but I cannot help that. I’m usually blonde in these dreams, too, and wearing some tight leather outfit. My breasts are bigger, obviously.

Of course, Asia is the perfect place to turn these dreams into a freshly-minted reality.

The beaches in the south of Cambodia, around Sihanoukville especially, provide a spanking location for the transformation from daggy backpacker to sexy biker. A local election also meant a 48-hour drinking ban, so the timing was nice, too.

A $6-a-day 125cc scooter and a stripey helmet completed an already-amazing set of circumstances.

The Swedes planned to rev the engines early in the morning, possibly even catching a sunrise. At 2pm we set off, dust flying behind us, loving the freedom our new wheels provided.

We’d decided that it would be more adventurous and spontaneous if we avoided maps and any comprehensive advice regarding directions.  We had no wanky getting-lost-is-the-best-way-to-find-yourself-ambitions, but were keen on finding something interesting and unplanned.

However, with a long-armed navigator pointing out the best directions from the back of the second scooter, we failed to lose the way. He could spot a bar flouting the beer-ban from miles away.

We found a plethora of stunning tropical beaches as we hugged the coastline, palm trees lining the turquoise water. Some were packed with tourists and aggressive bracelet-vending touts while others just had a handful of local tourists peacefully building sandcastles. Others were dominated by imposing resorts that restricted access to the paradise on their doorstep. Clearly, Cambodia’s beaches are a hot-spot on the cusp of hitting the big time. For now, they’re still relatively untouched.

We skidded out of the soft sand, watching the landscape change as we ventured away from the peaceful Otres beach we’d called home for a few days.

We tapped into a bit of culture, too, at a few local villages. The diversity of wealth astounded me. We’d pass roadside slums just metres from larger houses with manicured gardens, and then modest villages showed us the farming way.

I loved waving at the cute little kids as they ran out smiling and yelling hello. It is every biker’s dream to have some groupies.

There were monkeys, too, of course. We came across a bunch of the cheeky creatures after testing out our skills on some wicked bends. A few were casually tucking into bright yellow bananas, others were wrestling on the road, oblivious to the passing trucks and scooters. One of the more vain in the tribe had perched himself (or herself, I guess) on a stationary bike and was devoting some serious time to gazing into their own eyes in the mirror. I think the Swedes were doing a fair bit of that on their bike, too.

Perhaps the best sensation was the freedom to go wherever we wanted, pointing the handlebars down dirt roads and highways at will. After months of cramped, leaking buses and ridiculously comfortable trains, it was a treat to be the master of the road, owning the bitumen, following the random gestures of the long-armed Swede.

Of course, the roads were perilous in places, further enhancing our exhilaration. Semi-trailers would scream up behind, honking at us as if we were flies the driver craved to swat away. Occasionally a normal car would try to run us off the road, honking viciously as if we’d stolen their last portion of amok and rice. Interestingly, all of the cars drove around with their boot’s up; air conditioning, perhaps?

One thing is certain, none of the other motorists looked as cool as the serious Aussie/Swedish biker crew. And, of course, when we got back I shook my hair out of my helmet very sensuously.

I’m told I looked just like a brunette version of Claudia Schiffer. Or, maybe some dreams will never cut it in the real world.