If you’ve stumbled across this page by accident, feel free to read what you wish, but know this;
I write on this page purely for myself. Some names are changed or details left out simply for privacy, but essentially this page is a collection of random stories and photos that make up a brief history of my life up until now (1987 – 2009).
My name is Dylan Kane. From the age of one, I began life on Ambrosia Farm. One-hundred-and-fifty acres of dense rainforest, waterfalls, grassy paddocks and over a thousand avocado trees, tucked away in the hills west of Byron Bay made up Ambrosia Farm. Although, this was just one slice of the valley in which a whole community lived. Upper Coopers Creek Valley.
Back then, my father was a surf-bum, hippy turned farmer, and my mother was a little more organized version of the same thing. My father used Bio-dynamic organic farming methods to grow our families main source of income/food, Avocados.
One of my earliest memories on the farm is the milk crate I would ride in strapped onto the back of my dads motorbike. Freshly slashed lantana and exhaust fumes flavoured the air as we roared our way up the back paddock to check the water tank. As time moved on, my new brother was born, Brook. He was initiated to the milk crate, and I was promoted to front seat.
During the summer months, friends and family would come visit us, as we had one of the biggest water holes in the valley.
I remember hearing the adults speak about people who rode the rapids from the very deepest tip of the valley, all the way down to Repentance Creek Bridge. This amazed me.
Later that summer my mum taught me how to swim and from then on, rapid riding became my favourite thing about the valley.
Those summer months were so humid. Like clockwork the afternoon thunderstorms would roll in. Lightning, thunder and torrential rain saturated the valley. My blood electrified with excitement, I’d start dialing friends home numbers, making sure to hold the receiver away from my face incase lightning struck the telephone wires.
We’d meet down at the bridge with anything we could find. Inner tire tubes, bodyboards even inflatable mattresses’, and once we’d launched, only the creeks torrent could counter my excitement. Riding our way through the many waterfalls and hidden channels until finally two hours later re touching with civilization at Repentance Creek Bridge, the pick-up point.
The valley was home to a diverse bunch of people. A mixture of family life and drug harvesting was commonplace. Often we would pause a game of ‘tips’ in the top playground to watch a police helicopter buzz overhead, scanning. The valley was a secluded place, not all the people living there were part of the community. There were limits, some places we were warned against exploring. But as a whole, growing up in the valley was the most incredible experience. My oldest friend is from the valley. Tilly. Still to this day she remains one of the people I care most about in this world.
It’s hard compare my childhood with many others. The valley exposed me to things I otherwise wouldn’t know existed. I smoked a joint for the first time after school with a friend when I was nine years old. By the time I was ten, getting high was just another thing to do after school. This is not normal I know. I can’t believe it when I see kids that age now, when I see how small they are, and I remember the shit we got up to.
When I was eleven It became clear I was on the wrong path. My best friend was abducted by drug dealers, (after we’d stolen substantial amounts of hydroponic marijuana) and had a knife to his throat for 24 hours making threats and demands involving lives of friends and family. Not too long after, my parents sold the farm as an opportunity to move closer to the coast, and to get me ready for highschool.
When I left Ambrosia farm, I left my home, and every meaning of the word behind. By the time my parents had me enrolled into Byron Bay High School, our family had a new house just out of town, and I’d already discovered my new love. Surfing.
The next 6 years of my life would have these things in common:
Sunrise surfs before school, punk rock music and a complete fascination with this new thing called girls.
As much fun as I had fooling around with girls from school, I only had one ‘proper girlfriend’ throughout high school. Nell.
She thought we were too young to be in love, and was always cautious not to end up like her older sister, dependent on boyfriends. But I think she was the closest thing I ever felt to love. Our houses sat on two hills opposite each other, divided by a huge plain of sugar cane and connected via a maze of long gravel paths. I’ll never forget racing my pushbike through the tall tunnels of cane to meet her after school. At the time my parents were going through a divorce, and her bedroom used to be a sanctuary for me. When my mind became full from fighting, her room could make me forget. When I try to remember it now, I’m under her heavy covers watching her sketch on the end of the bed, all I can smell are paints and crayon.
Next, things at home got worse. I’m opting to leave out the ugly details of my parents separation. I have no problem remembering them. I had to get out of the house, so I began looking for a share-house to move into with friends, but it’s hard to get on a lease when your sixteen.
I’d tried sleeping in cars, caravans, friends houses, one night I was forced to sleep in a gutter behind a health food store. I was still going to school, putting on a face for the teachers and parents, even my friends. All the while my younger brother brook was stuck at home amidst it all. I completely broke down in Nell’s bedroom one night. That was the last time I escaped to her sanctuary.
After shifting around a few different places, I moved into a house with a friend from school, Jaylor. We’re not close anymore, but I will always owe him and his family for everything they did for me, when I had nothing to offer them.
My last few years of high school were pretty crazy. I do feel sorry for most of my teachers, as the only class I really paid any attention in was photography. The rest of my time went into girls and new ways annoy my teachers. But back then, the times were definitely changing, everyone started getting their first cars, parties were rampant almost every weekend, Myspace was invented and the Sony Discman came out. At the same time, I found myself making new friends as I tried to space myself from the brain-numbing drinking episodes my old group of friends ritualized every weekend. My best friend at the time Justin, introduced me to the concept of ‘straight edge’, and suddenly I became aware of a whole other lifestyle. A life without drugs. I didn’t completely phase out drinking from my life until August 2007, but back then in the summer of 2003/2004 hanging out with edge friends helped me face something that I already knew, but was too convinced with fitting-in to realise. Drugs were not cool. My being exposed to drugs at such an early age may have been a blessing in disguise, as by the time some of my old friends were trying marijuana for the first time in early high school, I was already a retired pot smoker.
So we spent the remaining summers inventing our own fun throughout small town Byron Bay, often tempting ourselves to push the mischief a little further than the last. Mostly it was just camping, road trips, snorkeling and making home movies. But sometimes, things did go a bit too far.
One summers day, bored out of our minds, my buddy William and I came up with the brilliant idea of doing a break and enter, purely out of curiosity. It was broad daylight and it wasn’t until we scaled the fence and popped the fly-screen that I realized I didn’t want to steal anything. I just wanted to feel what ever this was. That being said, I did steal two very large surround sound speakers. The very next day I woke up with so much guilt that I wanted to return the speakers, but how do you return stolen goods? Well, I called up my buddy and we devised a plan to re-break into the house, and put back all the stuff we stole. I’m aware that morally speaking this isn’t the greatest story, but I have to admit, I laugh to myself sometimes when I imagine that guys reaction after getting off the phone to the police, and realizing all the items he just reported stolen are back in the house.
One of my favorite thrills of all time was to round up a couple of friends at midnight, and scale the fence into the school grounds. After running around in the dark bumping into each other like clumsy ninjas for while, we’d look for the nearest classroom to set off the motion alarms. From then on it was every man for himself. I’d perch myself on the rooftop, ready, for the madness to unfold.
Glaring out through the blackness, would come the blinking eyes of flashlights. Their beams seemed to scan right past us at first, and I’d struggle to force back the laughter climbing up the back of my throat. Then bam! The spotlight blinding one eye, the chase begins. We used to see how long we could last before getting caught, it really was a great game. Once I counted 8 guards and four security cars driving through the school grounds after us. The exhilaration must come from somewhere primal I think. Being hunted.
But I think my favourite thing of all time would have to be the summer sport of night surfing. The Pass is a world ranked surf spot, and when its good you can expect up to 300 people in the line up, which is just mental surfing around that many bobbing heads. So when the moon is full and the waters warm, a small group of us paddle out around the point just before midnight, when the moons at her highest. Its always hard to tell when a set wave is approaching as the horizon melts with the sky, but once you pick one and start paddling there really is no turning back. Alert with every muscle, I’d feel the wave lift up beneath me, waiting for the right moment to jump to my feet. Sliding down that wall of water, hearing the roaring foamball right behind me, I was alive, in the purest meaning of the word. I can only do my best to explain the feeling. Imagine standing on a surfboard under the stars, flying across the face of a perfectly smooth and powerful wave. By the time the peak’s thrown itself over you, encapsulating you in a tunnel of moonlit water, your mind isn’t even on a level of thinking. It just is. The moon’s reflection bends down the line with the waves curve, leading the only way out of the cave, collapsing all around you. Finally your spat out, skimming off into deeper water where its calm, and quiet. You get a chance to think again, think where you are.
After I graduated high school, some of my friends went to University, and some went traveling. But I was determined to get a job early on, to save money, and to not make the same mistakes my parents did, which was to marry young and have a huge mortgage.
Watching my parents struggle financially was hard. I mean, there’s always going to be someone poorer and someone richer than you in this world, but after the break up, neither of them was left with anything substantial. I think my mum struggled the most. Seeing her working so hard to provide for my brother who was still in school, made me want to put an end to this problem called money. I got a job as a junior video editor at an advertising agency in a nearby city. Before long I’d worked my way up to lead editor. A raise or two later, something was still missing. A friend of mine convinced me to take some time off to do a season snowboarding in Canada. I’d never seen the snow before. I agreed.
Six months later I was in Mexico eating a burrito, relaxing after a surf with a friend from San Diego. My original buddy that convinced me to fly to Canada in the first place bailed out a couple of months earlier. We rented a room together in Gastown off East Hastings street Vancouver for quite a while. It was an interesting part of town to say the least. Once a week the crack addicts of Gastown would awake from their drug induced slumber and walk the streets in search of cans and bottles to hand in for petty cash, or to collect welfare for those eligible. No exaggeration, some mornings the streets would be shoulder to shoulder with homeless people. I would have to use my skateboard as a bumper bar and just push my way out of East Hastings street. That being said, Vancouver was the first city I actually enjoyed living in. I made a good friend at the local jeans store, Colleen. She drove an older style white Mercedes and was always down for road trips or random adventures. She’s defiantly one of the most genuine people I’ve met so far. I tried snowboarding for the first time on some mountains near Kamloops. I made friends with a guy who worked for a five star ski resort at Sun Peaks, right next to the chairlifts. He told me about a couples room he’d just cleaned on the second floor. They were leaving Sun Peaks without return for two weeks, and left their door key at reception. After some mild persuasion, he agreed to snatch it for me. So, for the next two weeks I enjoyed the luxuries of their snowboards, lift passes and hotel room all for free. I got a few funny looks however from the lift workers as my ID card was 45year old woman called Barbara. After some unforgettable powder and mountains, I bought a car with three wheels for five hundred dollars. It seemed like a bad investment to my friend, but I was sure at the time it was a bargain. Once I’d found a fourth wheel, I fixed her up and headed south, straight into the heart of America.
It was here that I discovered a new kind of freedom, that of a traveler with no set destination. This was exactly what I was missing, the ultimate unknown. I’ve never felt so free in my whole life. Free from all connections with expectations, judgments, friends and enemies.
The thing that amazed me most about America, was the landscapes. One afternoon, I was determined to find the grand canyon. All we had to navigate ourselves was an old highway map, and since I’d managed to get us lost down these small gravel roads, my friend was loosing confidence in the whole idea. Eventually, I asked a guy in an old, soon to be run-down gas station, who told us we couldn’t make it before sundown, but there were some dirt roads a few miles away that might pass parts of the canyon. Transfixed, I blasted down the dustiest trail, chasing my shadow as the sun began to set behind me. Not long after I noticed the landscape, there was nothing. No houses, people, cars, no anything. I began playing with the thought of camping out here, in the middle of nowhere, when suddenly a clearing emerged revealing a tall steel fence. A ‘No Entry’ sign stared down on the car, advertising adventure. My friend opted to stay in the car. Before I could even acknowledge his decision, I was over that fence and running. After jumping another fence and sneaking over a helicopter tarmac, I was finally faced with open space. My heart was really racing now. Running as fast as I could towards what looked like the horizon. Then slowly the sky began to grow downwards, and the horizon fall, until suddenly I stood gasping on the very edge of it. The most immense gorge into the earths crust I’d ever seen. It felt like I’d switched to tunnel vision, as the sight was so vast it escaped either side of my peripherals. So I took a seat, swung my legs over the edge, and sat alone with the setting sun.
I survived in North America for roughly seven months on my original two-and-a-half thousand dollars. Spending a good month or so enjoying the American collage experience sleeping on the floor in the dorms of San Diego State Collage, and after that working on building sites with a guy up in Seattle who owned the company. When those seven months eventually came to an end, I packed the little belongings I had into a backpack, said goodbye to some friends in Vancouver, and begun my sad journey back to Australia.
Late 2007, back on Australian soil with no money or prospects, I called up an old friend of mine Arika, to pick me from the airport and escort me back to tiny town Byron Bay. And how tiny it was.
After one week back in Byron I was bored out of my mind, I needed some goals. I needed some money. I took the path of least resistance and returned to work back at the Ad Agency. It only took a few months before I had my goal, I had my cash. And a knew plan was in sight.
Missing the freedom of life on the road, the unknown, I had my next trip planned and ready to go. This time with a closer friend of mine Harry. Destination: London town. We bought an old ice-cream truck converted into a camper, and made our way through most of western Europe. Harry is one of my favourite people to travel with purely because of his energy. No matter what crazy ideas I throw at him, by default he comes back with double the enthusiasm.
One time, on the border of Austria and Germany, we concluded that we had to climb Berchtesgaden – Hitler’s Eagle Nest. It was a sunny so we were both wearing sneakers, basketball shorts and t-shirts. We had already started the climb when some people tried to stop us and warned that the climb was impossible because of the snow still on the mountain. I asked Harry if he still wanted to try and make it to the top, but before the words left my lips I already knew the answer. Three hours later, we stood shivering in waist deep snow, a stones through away from the peak. The sun was beginning to set, so we thought we would crack a window at Hitler’s place and spend the night up there. Then we noticed something bad. With all the snow, we’d wondered off the main trail. We were blocked in by a sheer rock face on one side and what looked like an avalanche trail on the other. Our shins were all cut up from the thin layer of ice covering the snow that cracked and let us fall through on every step. If I was with any one else I’m sure we would have turned back over an hour ago, or not even started for that matter. But that’s the best thing about Harry I guess. Defeated, so close to the summit, we were literally forced to turn back from the escaping daylight, and a serious fear of frostbite. My sneakers had a solid layer of compacted snow around my socks on the inside. I hadn’t been able to feel my feet since about one hour into the trek. When we finally made it back, we boiled water to thaw out our feet. I’ve never experienced this type of pain before. Excruciating.
The very next week our best friends band started Their European tour, so we decided to catch up and hang out for a week or so. We crammed a lot of adventures into that week, it was awesome. Exploring Verszaca Valley, snow boarding Mt Matterhorn in Zermatt and camping in some really remote areas of the Italian Alps. On the last night camping everyone got sick from a rusty pot I found and decided to cook in. I think they were relieved when we dropped them off back with the rest of the band at their hotel. It would be hard not to become accustomed to the high life. When your on tour its all free food, hotels and being treated like rockstars.
So it was back to me and Harry, on the road again. With so many sights and centuries of history compacted into such a small area, Europe seems like she’s become the Hollywood celebrity of all travel destinations. She surrounds her beauty with expensive hotels, endless advertisement, and above all, she expects her audience to pay money, to see her performance. Its was hard for me, traveling with such a small amount of money. But once I’d paid the stupid entrance fee and ignored the frenzied herds of tourists, flashing their cameras, I did manage to enjoy the odd monument.
Finally we crossed the beautiful country of Spain, and popped out the other side in Portugal. To see the open ocean again, to throw myself under the crashing waves was for me, in a word. Pure joy. If there was only one connection I had with this earth, it would be the Sea.
Harry returned to Australia on his own terms. I was distressed, some bad news from back home. My best friend Justin, was in prison. There were too many thoughts and emotions inside of me. I ached to go back to Australia, to help my friend, but there was nothing I could do. I chose to stay solo, live by the sea a little longer, before falling back into the Spanish countryside.
Eventually, a couple of months later I ended up in Denmark. Living in a tiny village called Hyllested, and working at a little café nearby in Ebeltoft.
Denmark in the summertime is surreal. We’d play soccer for hours under a never ending sunset, as the clock grew close to midnight. When it finally did get dark, a few friends and I would walk into the woods and light a fire down by the lake. The lake was huge, surrounded by tall trees that ensured a blanket of darkness. Like a massive mirror, the water was so dark it let the skies stars swim on its surface. We all splashed our way out towards the middle distorting the skies reflection, chasing the unbroken mirror. The water was warm. I swam out so far the fire faded away to a weak flicker on the shore, the others paddled back. I floated out there for quite a while. Still and silent, inside a warm blanket of stars.
My buddy Gaz was back home after his European tour, and contacted me about some work opportunities. He wanted my involvement in creating his bands first DVD documentary. This was the beginning of what would become Parkway Drive: The DVD.
And so I quit my Job at the Café in Ebeltoft, said goodbye to all my friends, and jumped continents once more.
Late 2008 I arrived back in Byron, just in time for Christmas. I moved into Gaz’s house in Ewingsdale, and started the process of writing interview questions for the Parkway Drive DVD. I was excited. I remember brainstorming ideas with Gaz everyday, although not really in the most traditional approach.
We called Gaz’s canoe ‘the office’, and paddled it out to sea off cape Byron regularly. Headed for either middle reef or Julian Rocks, equipped with such business utensils as snorkels and hand lines, we were ready for a business meeting.
We actually did come up with a lot of good ideas out there, though there was never a pen when you needed to write something down. The deadline for the DVD slowly grew nearer and eventually we faded out the canoe business meetings and began staying inside all day editing the documentary. But before that started, we shared a serious day to remember, a day of all days in the canoe.
It started out just like any other day at that time. A spinach and feta omelet for breakfast, followed by a drive up to the lighthouse to check the surf, listening to either ‘Golden brown’ by The Stranglers or any song by Bad Religion. On this day however, the surf was really bad. So we untied the canoe from the roof, packed some hand reels and began the paddle out to Middle Reef. As soon as we made it past the breaking waves we realized how bad the day had turned for canoeing. Clouds blocked out the sun, the wind changed direction and the water became dirty. After twenty minutes of bobbing around the reef without a bite, the wind grew stronger and it started to rain. It was officially the worst day for a canoe. We started to head back, when suddenly a splash in my peripheral caught my attention. As I focused my gaze I saw it again. About three hundred meters away a pod of Humpback Whales were going berserk. Flying then crashing, flapping their tails in what looked like some kind of festivity for giant mammals. We looked at each other in the eyes once, and it was on. We aimed ourselves 45 degrees from the whales apparent direction and began the paddling frenzy in an attempt to catch up to them, or at least get closer. Fifteen minutes later, with bloodied knuckles we stopped paddling. The water was calm now, and silent. My hands were bleeding from scraping the edges of the canoe, as my paddle was too short. The pod hadn’t surfaced in a while so we weren’t quite sure of our position. All of a sudden the water began to boil beneath the canoe. I leant forward to get a better view when I saw a dark shape of immense proportions rising up from below, directly under our canoe. Things got shaky, and at the last second our canoe was pushed aside as the water peeled back to reveal a monstrous dark body, the size of a bus. The Humpback Whale. Sitting right next to an animal that big, was beyond words for me. She floated there for a few seconds and just stared at us, eyes to eye. A huge blast exploded from her blowhole just before she began re submerging. Gaz and I were speechless, I think we were uttering gibberish to each other, then hissing the other one to ‘sshhh’ be quiet.
And then something unexpected happened. The baby popped up. About the size of family van, the baby whale came even closer. Slowly idling along side the canoe, starring right at us the whole time. I could hear its breaths, it was staying above water just to watch us. A good thirty seconds passed where I was literally lost looking into this baby whales eye, mesmerized. Then it was gone. Before either of us could form any kind of words about what just happened, they were a hundred meters away, flapping their tails. The entire paddle back to shore I was in a daze, replaying the images in my mind over and over. This is why I love the ocean.
That summer was not to be forgotten. Living with Gaz in the Parkway house was just an all round great time really. Going on tour with the band, surfing The Pass everyday or The Wreck when it turned on, taking Canoes down the rapids at my old farm with friends, my first wedding, watching LOST with Kevin and Rosie trying to figure out what the fuck was going on, and Jenny and Mondo’s barbeques. The good times just kept on coming. Until around one month before the DVD was due to be completed.
Parkway were preparing their DVD release tour, and we hadn’t even finished cutting the film yet. The sound mixing guy had fallen through, the levels were wrong, color grading was being rushed, it was all coming to a climax of stress. I searched a few cheap flights to see where I could go when the DVD was finished. Four hundred dollars later I had a return flight to Kuala Lumpur booked. Landing back in Australia the day before the release tour was starting. The night before I flew out to Kuala Lumpur, I was doing a mad panic in the editing room with Gaz. Double checking everything was ready for the tour when I got back. I said my goodbye’s, and organized a lift to the airport. It all seemed so surreal, I hadn’t even thought about what I would do once I landed in Kuala Lumpur. I knew nothing about the place.
After landing in sweltering hot Kuala Lumpur, I took a train to Pudu Raya (China Town) to find a cheap room and take a shower. It was wet season in South East Asia, and it seemed I was the only foreigner walking the streets. After eating an unknown substance I bought off a street cart on the walk back to my room, something hit me. What the fuck was I doing here. Seriously. The old fan in the corner of my room looked tired and was barely spinning. Like it accepted that the task of cooling my room down was just too big, it was just too hot. I tried the shower, it didn’t work either. Fuck. I fell onto my back, sticking to the sheets of my assumed clean bed, I remembered. My brothers in Thailand, how could I forget. I promised myself that when I awoke the next morning I would find my brother.
Four days later I’d made my way over the Malaysian border and into Thailand. My brother was training Muay Thai (Thai kickboxing) on a well known island in the gulf of Thailand called Kho Samui. The boat ride over helped form my initial impression of Kho Samui. I was jammed in with a rowdy crew of backpackers heading for a full moon party on a neighboring island. Kho Samui is no secret, it’s full of hotels, restaurants, night clubs and bar girls, all there to cater for the western tourist. But there is a flip side to the Kho Samui coin, and I would soon find it.
My brother slept and trained at WMC gym. Not in those expensive air conditioned rooms you pay extra for either, he slept in a tiny cement cell complex behind the gym with all the trainers. After meeting his friend Joe, and watching my first full Muay Thai lesson I made a decision. I wanted to train here, with my brother.
I hadn’t had any real boxing training before, and if the trainers hear this they don’t take you seriously and you wont train half as hard. So my brother gave me a crash course before my first day, and told the trainers I had some medium level boxing experience.
After that first days training came to an end, I realised two things. One was that I’ve never been pushed so hard for endurance physically and mentally ever in my whole life, and the other, was that I loved it, I was hooked. The next five weeks of my life would be intense to say the least. Six hours training everyday except Sundays. But I felt amazing, I felt alive.
Not long after getting started at WMC, my brother and I began renting a house together. The pad was wicked, so close to the gym and it backed right up against the jungle. Our friend Billy hooked us up with some cheap scooters also, so we were set.
After a while, the day to day life set in, and the real Kho Samui started to unfold. I got to know where the secret beaches and lookouts were. We explored the deepest parts of the islands jungle tracks on motorbikes, found waterfalls and played with elephants. Joe’s girlfriend cooked us amazing Thai dinners, but cooking Thai barbeques with the trainers after a long days training was the best.
You don’t get to choose who your trainer will be, they just choose you. My personal trainer was Nen, a great humored guy with a funny bowl cut hairstyle. Nen always took his time to explain a new technique with me, no matter how simple it seemed. When it came time for pad work at the end of training however, he wasted no time pushing me, testing me, to see how much I could take before collapse. Tum Madsui was another good trainer, as well as his best friend Kay, who was a Monk, and by far the hardest trainer there. If you didn’t have your guard up while training with Kay, expect to be knocked down fast. He told me a little about his life one night after training, in very broken English.
Kay began fighting Muay Thai from a really young age, and by the time he was seventeen he’d gone pro. But not long after his new found fame, he was involved in a tragic motorcycle accident, braking both his legs, and was told he could never fight Muay Thai again. He lost his way after this, he started using drugs and ended up working for the Thai Mafia.
At this point in the story he lowered his head and spoke more softly. Bending two finders down he formed the shape of a gun with his right hand, “Kay kill many people, bang bang, Kay did bad thing”.
He then went on to explain something I couldn’t quite understand. Something about a problem between the Mafia and his friend, and he was forced to quit and run away. The next ten years of his life he spent living in a temple in the middle of the jungle. When he emerged ten years later, he’d become a Monk. Since then he’s moved to Kho Samui (which is still controlled by the Thai Mafia) and started teaching Muay Thai. His body’s covered from head to toe in scribbled Buddhist tattoos. I was happy when Kay started training my brother before his fight. He needed someone like Kay to keep him in line and prepare him for his first fight.
My brother won his first fight, and afterwards, I realised it was time for me to leave Kho Samui. I’d lived there for five weeks already and within that time Thailand’s new immigration laws forced me to do three border runs to Burma (Myanmar), and I was skeptical whether I would be allowed another. Saying goodbye was genuinely hard. These streets had become so familiar, so homely. I hadn’t felt like this about a place since the farm.
I’d decided to head north as much as possible and to stay away from anything remotely touristy. All I felt like doing now was getting lost in the jungle somewhere. I made some good buddies exploring around Doi Pui up near Chiang Mai, before heading even more north up towards Chiang Rai. It was rainy season so it was actually pretty rare that I bumped into other westerners. I crossed the border into Laos just north of Houei Xai, and got my first glimpse of the mighty Mekong river. The Mekong starts its journey on the roof of the world, the Himalayas, and dissects the whole of South East Asia, eventually reaching the sea in Cambodia and Vietnam. I hopped on a boat and drifted down the Mekong for two full days. Sometimes seeing Laos village life along the shore, and other times seeing nothing but remote jungles and uninhabited landscapes. The boat drifted all the way down to Luang Prabang, the old capital of Laos. Even though Luang Prabang can be considered quite ‘touristy’, I still loved it. I was sleeping in a small shack just out of town, with the Mekong’s endless slither on one side, and the monks rhythmic chants echoing out from a temple on the other. I spent a good week or so just chilling in and around Luang Prabang. I made friends with Gikong, a local kid who worked in a bookstore that helped promote free education in Laos. He took me to his friends village which was quite remote, and I handed out some children’s books I’d bought earlier to the kids, they went absolutely mental. I remember two little girls staring at me and giggling for so long. When I asked what they were laughing at, Gikong explained they had never seen a white man before.
After recovering from a sever flu virus one week later, I left Luang Prabang to go further north up past Muang Khua, into the Phongsaly region of Laos, basically bordering China. This area was beautiful, so much of the land was still just wild, deep jungle.
I herd some people talking about trouble on the border crossing to Vietnam. Apparently the worst floods in twenty-five years had completely destroyed the roads that week, and some local villagers had already died in the floods. With the road completely closed for five days, my minibus was to be the first to take on the crossing. I’m not going to lie, it did get scary. Apart from the fact that we were in the middle of nowhere in the thick jungle with nothing, the roads were not really worthy of such names. Imagine deep thick clay and mud tracks, loosely cut into the face of massive mountains with soft soil sliding out everywhere. One time we got to a point on the road where there was nothing. A landslide had just taken the road out, leaving a gaping hole that fell hundreds of meters to the bottom of the valley. We had to all get out and help some locals dig a new road into the mountain face. And ‘we’ wasn’t such a huge taskforce. My fellow passengers were mostly elderly Hmong Village women and men, all carrying strange luggage including a bucket of live snakes, and a woven cage of chickens (they sat next to me). Eventually we did get through, and not long after the bus stopped and the taskforce was separated. For the second part of the crossing I met some girls from Quebec, who were trying to get to the same border in Vietnam. Tay Trang border. The trip was supposed to take one day. I was in that Jungle for nearly four. Alex, one of the Quebec girls really saved me when she offered me a boiled egg, I hadn’t eaten in two and a half days.
Finally we all made it out of the jungle, and eventually over to the Vietnam capital, Hanoi.
It was just another city for me, but I explored it with an open heart non the less. At times north Vietnam did have a bit of a tense atmosphere, the odd stare, a sly rude remark, but the younger generation there really seem to be open to moving on. A met some cool people in Hanoi.
After checking out Ha Long Bay and some other northern beaches, I realised I was running out of time. I booked a last minute flight down to Ho Chi Minh city in the south, and hooked up with a friend from couchsurfing, Hien. Staying with Hien and her family in Cat Lie, the older part of Saigon was an amazing experience. She was the only one in her family who spoke English, but that didn’t matter. I experienced everyday life in Saigon, and felt myself growing more and more attached to her family. Her younger sister took me out to karaoke bars with her friends one night which was pretty funny. Hien trusted me with driving her scooter, so we buzzed around Ho Chi Minh a lot and just had an all round great time. On a serious note though, driving a scooter in Ho Chi Minh city is absolutely mental. Some of the intersections I survived were twelve lanes converging all at once, thick with scooters handlebars on handlebars, all criss-crossing in different directions and not slowly either. I did see the inevitable one night on the drive home, a guy on a scooter got hit by a truck. I think he survived though.
Saying goodbye to Hien and her family was really sad for me, but I literally had one week to be back in Bangkok and fly back to Australia. Three bus rides later I was crossing the centre of Cambodia and on my way to Siem Reap.
Cambodia really surprised me. I think it was just a country I never thought I’d get a chance to visit, so I held no expectations what so ever. The people there are the most friendly, laughable characters in all of South East Asia. I really enjoyed my time there. Although I wasn’t there for long, wondering around the ancient temples of Angkor in Siem Reap was mind blowing. I couldn’t believe how quiet it was, there was no one there. I couldn’t work it out, the temples were completely empty. It was almost spooky because some of them were so huge I was just walking around on my own. I could of spent months there I think, or even live there.
Crossing back into busy Bangkok, Thailand was like a sharp slap in the face to wake me up from the dream I’d been living in Cambodia. Lucky for me I made a good friend quickly, Two. He turned out to be the absolute man and we instantly became close friends. I was lucky to meet him, as Bangkok is a hard city to get to know, and he knew it well. Three days hanging out in Bangkok with Two was not long enough, but I had to fly back to Australia. The tour was about to start.
The Parkway Drive DVD release tour was huge, we had a lot of fun. Sales were going well also, going Gold in the first week, and later going Platinum in the Australian charts. Wish I had some of those royalties now huh.
The tour was over and I’d just received my European Passport in the mail. Armed with this, I decided to pick it up where I last left off, Europe.
Its December 2009 in Tuscany, Italy. That is where I am right now typing this stuff, but I sense I wont be here for long.