3am. Tuesday 19th September. Somewhere in the North Sea.
My eyes blink several times and the blur that they reveal lingers longer than it usually takes to blend into clarity. I’m not sure exactly what it is that’s caused me to wake up, as all five of my senses are flared to levels that my tired mind is unable to fully comprehend. Only a moment or two pass before I’m fully awake, but I become aware of each feeling in a very specific order. Our farewell drink is beginning to strike revenge, as while asleep my tongue had settled like a dozing beached dad made into a mermaid sculpture; peaceful at first, but once disturbed sending a cascade of dryly compact sand directly onto each of my taste buds. I can feel the floor below me rocking like the proverbial casbah and turning my fragile stomach. From this I ascertain that we must still be at sea. The lights are on and harsh with the industrial glow only low cost accommodation can provide and this makes my waking up only the more disorienting. On the hangover scale I’m hitting a modest six at most – not enough to wake me up. Something else is afoot here. My ears and nose are yet to come around, but its these that will play the biggest part in setting the tone for the rest of my day.
TO GO HO*UUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUURGH*
Billie’s waking experience has undoubtedly been worse than mine; not even able to stir before ending up head in the bowl of a toilet she can’t climb out of long enough to flush. A morally complex and unbalanced mix of concern for my new travel partner’s wellbeing and utter, utter relief that I am on the top bunk washes over me. I climb down the ladder and choose my footing very carefully before priming my hands for holding back hair.
Day 1 of 273 isn’t a start as we meant to go on.
Our first 24 hours in the Netherlands could easily have ended with a quick return voyage. After eventually falling back to sleep, we woke again 4 minutes before we needed to leave the boat and threw everything we owned back into our backpacks to run back to shore. Not only was it becoming clear that even the most diluted guess at how much a person needs for a nine month adventure is bloody heavy when you’re carrying it everywhere, but I was in danger of losing Billie completely as her face blended into the emerald hoodie she was wearing. We were tired, dehydrated and generally disillusioned with what was supposed to be the beginning of a lifestyle change for the good. With only a tentative bread roll to settle the stomach and a small bottle of water for sustenance, we dragged our aching limbs across Rotterdam in several short stints, each very necessary stop positively disguised as a “nice little sit down” with a stiff upper lip, before passing out as soon as our heads hit the hotel pillow. We’d made it. Just.
Three weeks later and, while it hasn’t always been plain sailing, thankfully the waters have calmed considerably. We forced ourselves back out that first night into our borough of Rotterdam and were reminded of the reasons why we doing what we’re doing. The city is littered with posters which read:
“Take a picture of Rotterdam’s skyline today, for it won’t be the same tomorrow.”
Looking out over the now luminous 800m Erasmus Bridge and the kaleidoscope of colours stretching high in the distance, no quote would be more appropriate. The excitement within Rotterdam is almost tangible and its sense of newness and individuality in fact made it an ideal place to begin our travels. From the fittingly forcefully titled Powermask exhibit of the Wereldmuseum, to the truly Dutch diversity of the Fenix Food Factory, to the provocative beauty of over a thousand examples of street art, no place is quite like Rotterdam. What began with illness there soon became the medicine we knew travel would provide, and we are feeling all the better for it. Neither of us have mentioned going home since.
This rocky maiden voyage wasn’t the first problem we’ve overcome together (and not the first on this trip, but that’s for a later post), but it often comes as a surprise how well we’re able to deal with them when they arise. We’ve crossed two countries in the Netherlands and Germany, visiting three cities in each, and have plenty of stories to tell and memories to share. We can only apologise for making you wait so long for an update, but finding the time to document an amazing moment with more than a photograph (which we also have plenty of, be sure to follow our instagram at @bamthebackpackers) before the next one comes along has proved very difficult. We promise that future updates will improve not only in frequency, but variety and wisdom as well.