Dark Sparkes -TRAVEL G(C)RIME
By David Sparkes | 22 June 2012
Indonesia, right. All Pics: sparkesphoto
Winter time. It's ironic, really, that the best time of year at home for swell and offshores is the time when surfers travel the most. Of course, when you consider that the main destination for Australian winter sojourns is Indonesia, the timing makes sense. Perfect, clean, hollow, swell thumping sense. And travel is a thing that people just universally froth over. People are always envious and admiring of someone with travel plans, someone just about to head off. "Can you fit me in your suitcase?" is a popular one. "Sure," I often say, "jump right in. You do know you'll be asphyxiated and frozen solid when we get there though, don't you?" That usually gets a strange look, but god knows I've had plenty of those thrown at me. But travel isn't ALL good, is it? Most people cite travel aspirations as one of their major goals: "Oh, I hope to do lots of travel in the future!" they gush, as if it's the end to all their problems. And it has got a lot going for it of course, but what about the shit-fight aspect of travel?
For a start, the stress. From the moment you leave your home, it starts. When do I need to check in by? Will I make the flight? Will I get a shithouse seat? Will I have a Stab staff member sitting next to me, being all cool squirrel and attitude? Then you get to the airport and immediately get stung by the first rip-off, the $4 trolley fee. Imagine supermarkets trying to charge that! So you check in, and if you have excess, God help you. You used to be able to get away with a lot of it, but it's pretty hard to pull it off nowadays.
Atacama Desert, Chile.
Even going through immigration is weird, they suss you out as if they assume you're attempting to smuggle something nasty out of the country, and even if you're not, you're probably a criminal of some kind.
Once you get through that, you must endure the subtle rape of the security screening, performed by humourless automatons who will shoot you in the face if you attempt to carry a bottle of water or, worse, a pair of deadly nail clippers. They go over randomly selected desperado types with the explosive test strips as if they expect you to detonate on the spot, and almost seem disappointed when the test comes back negative.
Billy Kean and kids, Sumatra.
You are then excreted through the cynically positioned, impossible to detour around duty free liquor rectum and into the departure lounge. Here, the next phase of the Great Travel Rip Off takes place. Exorbitantly priced alcohol and food are provided on a "if you don't fucking like it fuck off" basis. There is simply no reason for the insane pricing apart from the fact it is a monopoly, and the sheer nastiness of the policy makes me want to just make the biggest mess at my table possible, which is a shame because it only hurts the poor employees. But you know what? They're not helpless puppets any more than Nazi soldiers were, and "just doing my job" sounds like the catchcry of either a wet fish, an imbecile or someone that just doesn't care, so bad luck – clean it up.
Bruno Santos, Banyaks.
Ok, so you finally board the flight, and then the Big Chill begins. This is something that has always perplexed me – why can't they heat aircraft interiors? They can fly a plane as big as a football field around the world at 800km/h, but they can't keep it warm. I absolutely freeze on most flights, I can never get warm enough even if I wear fleecy winter Everest gear, and then I have to deal with the tropical blast at the other end, sweating feverishly in an Indo airport and cursing the guy who organises the heating situation on aircraft. Turn it up for Christ’s sake!
Right, now the baggage claim ordeal has to be endured, and this next is really one of my major pet hates of travel – the dreaded Carousel Crowders. What idiotic impulse causes greenhorn tourists to perch like cockroaches right on edge of the baggage carousel, preventing anyone else from even seeing their bag, let alone actually getting it? This riles me so much that I've developed a delightfully evil tactic to counter it, one that inevitably leaves people shocked, occasionally bruised, and always mindful next time they try it. What I do is, when I do finally see my bag through the cracks in the frothers, I launch in like a maniac and reef the thing out so violently that it just about takes their heads off. "Oh sorry!" I cackle psychotically, "maybe you should stand back a bit, you weren't the only person on that flight you know!" Some of the looks I get are just priceless, and I wonder when airport staff will begin to actually police the debacle and keep the clowns back a bit?
Once you get out of there, you face the millions of desperate Third World people struggling to earn a buck, who look at your comparative great wealth with understandable hunger. That's when you have to keep your shit together, keep your hands on your money and your documents, and just hold on tight. You'll be home soon.