The Climber's Wife

The Six Foot Track

Posted on May 23, 2016

This Easter I set off with a fiddle playing friend (sadly, sans fiddle) on the Six Foot Track from Katoomba to Jenolan caves.

The Blue Mountains, like Australia more generally, lack well-marked challenging walks.  It seems you can either have markings or you can have challenge, but you can’t have both. Every physically challenging walk also seems to require at least some navigating, errors dooming you to die of exposure.  The Six Foot Track is not an exception to this rule.

It is incredibly well marked but lacks any real physical challenge other than those inherent in walking 45 km or so over a few days.  There are no scrambly bits or other difficulties.  Note that the map is completely unnecessary, as well as being useless (the scale is all wrong for the length of walk).

We chose to take the walk over three days, preferring to stroll along rather than rush.  I was  a bit nervous about my fitness so I was pleased that the rather fitter Fiddler was happy with a slower pace.

Day one of the walk starts at Explorers Tree, just outside Katoomba. After a minor hiking-boots-left-in-Coogee disaster (happily solved by some very kind locals) we were dropped off at the tree.  Note that the tree is in fact a stump and is unlikely to be the tree actually engraved by Blaxland, Lawson and Wentworth on their historic crossing. (Look for a caged stump by the side of the highway).

From the tree you descend into Nellies Glen, which is a lovely little walk on sandstone paths and stairs edged with ferns and gurgling creeks. The trail then smooths out to take you past the historic Megalong Village site.  Somewhere along here we were surprised by a lyrebird that popped out of the bush, darted across the trail and then disappeared, as quickly as it came, back into the bush.  The horses in the adjoining paddocks stayed in view much longer and were terribly picturesque.

By the side of the track – off to the right – there was a happy little ford and wider creek crossing that was perfect for a lunch stop.  We also investigated a little further up that road and discovered the cutest little stone cottage held in the green bowl of the valley. I want to live there…so long as I have an endless supply of firewood.

In the early afternoon we passed the historic cemetery – it’s difficult to make out any of the gravestones, it’s more of a wild little patch of scrub.  The path thins to a proper little footpath and takes you up and over some smooth round green hills, home to some very placid and fat black cows.  The surrounding views back over to the cliff line are really lovely – the walls of the mountains rise up magnificently in the distance.

Near the end of the day’s walking you come to the crossing of the Coxs River.  We went for a wander upstream for a private bath.  The water has worn smooth and quite deep little pools in the bedrock of the river, many are perfectly round and invite splashing and frolicking.  The river can also be crossed by the suspension bridge, which looked fun (and would be essential if the river was in flood) but the long queue dissuaded us and so we crossed in the usual manner.

The campsite at Coxs River was absolutely packed – as you’d naturally expect of a sunny Easter long weekend.  It’s a pretty little spot in the curve of the river with ample grassed campsites even for a weekend deluge of walkers and car campers (I’d only attempt access by four wheel drive).  There are safe sandy paddling spots all along the river near here and there is a pit toilet, sheltered picnic tables and water tank.  We treated our water with chlorine tablets and had no issues with the tank water.

The first day of walking was great – interesting scenery, fun activities, and enough exercise that you felt you deserved your tasty angel hair pasta with garlic mushrooms for dinner but not so much exercise that you’d wake up stiff or sore.

Unfortunately the second day of the six foot track had very little to recommend it.  Almost the entire day was walked uphill on fire trails, the dust and general ambiance of which was definitely not improved by a significant number of four wheel drives and a handful of hooning dirt bikes.  Yuck.

After 18 boring kilometres (the highlight of which was five minutes of walking along Alum creek and a black bean taco lunch) we reached the Black Range camping ground which has car camping access, a toilet, water tank and sheltered picnic tables.  It’s not a particularly scenic spot but we enjoyed the incredible star-scape, a sneaky 1 litre shower and a tasty dinner.

The third day was incredibly short and sadly most of the walking was on boring fire trails or about five metres to the side of a road.  We saw some black cockatoos and a mob of kangaroos and had a funny conversation with a very nice man who had brought a six pack of ‘Up and go’ as a lightweight (??) breakfast option.  The pleasantest part of the walk was the curve along a walking track into Jenolan.  The views were wide and very pretty.

As we curled in towards Jenolan we paused at the lookout with a view of the impressive Carlotta Arch, a classic limestone arch and cave remnant (no visible bolts).  The teeming multitudes in Jenolan decided us firmly against attempting a caving adventure and so we (with some cajoling) blagged a seat on a ‘booked-out’ bus back to Blackhealth.  Watching the driver in action, against the deep and mystifying stupidity of long-weekend drivers, was worth every penny of the $40 bus fare.

We really enjoyed ourselves but I would hesitate to recommend this walk.  There is just too much road walking for it to be an agreeable hike.  I’d perhaps suggest an overnighter from Katoomba to Coxs River and back instead.  The hunt for a challenging Australian walk where you won’t get easily lost continues…


Royal National Park Coastal Walk from Bundeena to Otford

Posted on April 26, 2016

I’ve done the Bundeena to Otford Royal National Park Coastal Walk twice now and loved it both times.  It is ridiculously easy to get to from Sydney and is the most delightfully scenic path you can imagine.

Living in Coogee I’m fairly spoilt for intensely beautiful views of the pacific coast but I’m still overwhelmed – to the point of laughter and dancing – by how gorgeous the Royal National Park views are.  Obviously the view out to sea is more or less the same as in the Eastern Suburbs (stunning) but it’s the wild open scrub and cliffs free of the trappings of human habitation that really set off those same endless blue seas, tall reckless cliffs with surging white foam at their feet, and long smiling golden beaches.

The whipping air from the ocean is no doubt the same down in the National Park to what we have only 30km north but it feels so much fresher and more open and invigorating.  Somehow there is more space between your cells.

The walk is about 31km end to end but as it’s mostly flat it’s quite a comfortable day walk.  Having said that, my experience of the walking times was quite variable.  On both occasions we got the first ferry over from Cronulla to Otford, at 8.30am.  You can drive down or get the train from Central.  On the first walk (with five people, which is of course slower) we ran the last 2km of the track to try and make the 7.15pm train but missed it (the next and last train is at 9.30pm).  The second time (only two of us) I really didn’t think we were going any faster (and there was certainly no running involved) but we somehow made the 5.15pm train, with almost an hour to spare.

Both times I’ve done the walk we stopped for quite a long and restful lunch as well as morning tea and a few ‘I’m tired and I think I want to sit down for a minute and enjoy the view’ afternoon stops.  On the second trip my walking companion shared her top tip for a freshwater swim with me.  It’s a bit past Wattamolla Beach – on the ocean side of the track there is a pool in the creek.  If you follow this towards the sea you come to what looks like a natural infinity pool.  A beautiful series of crystal clear pools float on the cliff edge and the eye connects them to the infinity of the sea beyond.  It’s pretty amazing and demands a nudie swim.  We timed ours pretty well – we only flashed one couple and were conveniently re-dressed by the time a party of 20 middle aged women decided they’d also like to stop for a little paddle.

This was one of two large groups we saw on our walk that day (excluding of course the road trippers at Wattamolla).  The easy access from Sydney means that you’re sharing the track with many other people.  The Park authorities seem to be in the middle of completely re-surfacing most of the track (well, at least from Bundeena to Wattamolla).  This section is very eroded (on our first walk we were knee deep in water the whole of this section).  Although I have no great love of walking on platforms or on sandstone stairs, it’s probably the only sensible thing to do.

Once they have finished the upgrade, the walk will be accessible for almost anyone who can walk.  If you’re in a wheelchair that can take on the flat-but-still-very-bumpy clifftops, the new ramps will take you much further than before but you’ll eventually get stuck (I think about 1km in) where there are stairs and have to turn around.

There have also been ‘upgrades’ of a more dubious nature at the famous Wedding Cake rock.  This section of cliff looks like a big slice of white cake, jutting out over the impossibly blue platter of the Pacific.  The first time we did the walk I was hugely impressed by the view.  Unfortunately, since then, someone has seen fit to put a hideous metal fence around the edge of the cliff (it’s becoming more unstable is will eventually slide off into the sea).  This completely destroys the scenic value of the area and doesn’t stop people crawling under or jumping over the fence to sit on the edge of the cliff.

The cliffs smooth out closer to Otford into rolling green escarpment that, while not as immediately impressive as the soaring cliffs, has its own kind of beauty.  In the folds of the hills there are clusters of coastal cabins which were built in the 1920’s and 1930’s.  These are charming little houses, every one a unique specimen.  Towards the end of the walk you also wend your way through the ‘palm forest’ (kind of dark and spooky and very ‘rainforest’ feeling) then have a bit of a climb up a more typical ‘bush’ hill.  Near the top of this last climb there is a fantastic resting spot on a large flat sunny rock with a gorgeous view out across the sea and the side of the hills.

From that rest spot it’s only an extended stroll to the train station. And you’re done!

The walk would be a very pleasant two day adventure (there are a number of camping spots along the way) for a family with young children or for slow walkers.  As you can drive in to some of the camp sites you could also have less mobile friends and family meet you there (with the added advantage that you wouldn’t need to carry your camping gear!).

Of course, you can also do the walk from Otford back to Bundeena which means you’d end the day with the most spectacular scenery.  I might try this next time :)



Koh Yao Noi, a quiet climbing holiday in Southern Thailand

Posted on December 26, 2015

Koh Yao Noi floats in the sultry blue of Thailand’s southern Andaman Sea, a quiet little island with some great rock climbing.
We caught the regular ferry over from the mainland, which is an oversized wooden long-tail laden with locals and their goods (notably, an enormous bag of raw chicken wings). It takes about an hour and is a really beautiful ride. Hundreds of island rise steeply out of the water in this area – limestone monoliths topped with abundant shaggy jungle. Many of the cliff faces are cut in at their base by the sea – from a distance (particularly at low tide) they look like so many marbles rolled carelessly into a clear, still, puddle.
Compared to neighbouring islands like Phi Phi, Yao Noi is really low key. Along the sea front you’ll find bungalow resort after bungalow resort but venture a little inland and every curve of the dirt road brings you another mile of rubber tree plantations, fields of pineapples or wild limestone outcrops hugged by banana plants.
The inland villages are sleepy little affairs with one general store selling everything from shampoo (one kind) to chilli (at least five kinds) and a couple of side-of-the-road, menu-less, restaurants. To me, they (and the scenery) are the main attraction of the island, other than climbing.
The beaches are low lying tidal sand/mud flats with (to Australian eyes) quite a lot of rubbish on them (although I’ve seen worse on the Med). We gingerly attempted one swim then decided we’d wait until we got home – living 200 metres from one of the world’s great metropolitan beaches kind of spoils you. As you’d expect, most of the tourists there (and really, in the whole area at this time of year) are Europeans desperate to escape the winter and happy with any place that offers sunshine and warm weather – the Thais are very happy to supply their need.
We stayed at the inventively named ‘Holiday Resort’ which was reasonably cheap and cheerful, especially considering we were visiting at the hight of the high season. We had an in-room bathroom with hot water (sort of) and a flushing western style toilet. The fan was great and I could do my yoga session under it without totally melting. We even had a kettle and complimentary tea and coffee. Pretty luxurious by our usual standards!
The main crags are located in the far north of the island, near ‘Paradise Resort’. To get there from the pier and most of the accommodation, it’s a long scooter ride along a bumpy and steep dirt path. With two people and a climbing pack, it scared the bananas out of me and I ended up jumping off and walking down all the steep sections, which felt a lot safer.
Once you reach Paradise Resort it’s a decent hike through the jungle to the first crag, bee wall. Back in the day you used to be able to walk right through the resort, which cut about 20 minutes of hiking time off your walk, but the Resort now refuses to let climbers through. They also refuse to let long-tails stop at ‘their’ beach (which used to be an alternative to the sketchy bike ride). The Resort itself is expensive and (like the rest of the island) has a mudflat for a ‘beach’, so I wouldn’t recommend staying there.
Luckily the jungle (or what is growing back between the rubber plantations) is absolutely gorgeous. It’s a riot of greens: slender banana palms with their tall sails of india green and young pale-chartreuse leaves waiting to unfurl – drooping stems with their rich maroon flowers and delicate pale hands of fruit; crocodile coloured vines as thick as a girls’ wrist, twisting and looping from the tall trees; huge leafed Elephant Ears in a bright forest green; purple-green trailing things with cruel spikes; tiny absinthe coloured leaves quivering in the heat; and cool celadon mosses draped over the curves of rocks, roots and branches. It’s worth the walk in itself (although I’d recommend actual walking shoes rather than plimsoles or flip flops).
Bee wall, predictably enough, was covered in bee hives. Some of them were absolutely massive – you look up to a good 60 metres of white, cream and pink-orange cliff and it takes your eyes a moment to adjust to see the hives – enormous golden brown oyster mushroom shapes clinging to the walls. Really impressive, but not exactly inviting.
Around the corner (you can walk along the beach at low tide) you’ll find signs to The Mitt (off to your left) and HB wall (off to your right). Further along to the right you’ll eventually come to Big Tree wall. The ‘Big Tree’ is in fact very very big – we got a boat there last time we visited and I remember being pretty impressed. Actually, now I think about it, you could probably get a boat to Big Tree and walk in from that direction – nice!
The Climber ran up a few climbs (I think up to a 7b) and I enjoyed a few holiday graded 6a’s. There is quite a lot around those grades and even the easy stuff is basically polish free (hurrah!). The limestone offers a lot of fun tufa moves and although things can degenerate into jug hauls (especially on the easy routes) they’re interesting jug hauls, often with tricky feet. I really enjoyed it and there was enough to keep a 7c (limit) kind of climber entertained for a few days – but there isn’t all that much, that I saw, if you’re climbing harder than that.
It’s a beautifully quiet area – we had three days at The Mitt and HB wall and really only saw a handful of people. We climbed, hung out in the hammock and just enjoyed the gorgeous view of the sea and islands (best from the top of a route, obviously!). It was pretty special to have a place like that to ourselves and I’d definitely consider visiting again.

In Sickness and in Health (Part II)

Posted on August 31, 2015

The Climber waved me goodbye from the glass and chrome Berlin Hauptbahnhof and off I zoomed on a comfortable German train.  Unfortunately the comfort only lasted about 20 minutes until someone came to sit in my seat.  It turns out that there is a step in the booking process where you are supposed to secure an actual seat number and we’d somehow missed that.  So, true to form, I rode the rest of the way sickly curled up in a ball in front of the toilet compartment.  I did so calling showers of blessings on my genius self for having booked a night at the Sheraton at Frankfurt Airport.  I struggled off the train and into the waiting arms of a proper hotel complete with fluffy bed, big clean bath and room service.  If I felt miserably sick at least I was clean, well slept and miserably sick.

The flight was fairly uneventful.  My tummy hurt most of the way:  I got fairly good at ignoring it (yay for mediative breathing techniques)  but was extremely pleased to eventually land (after bunny hops through the Middle East and Perth) in Adelaide.  It was really wonderful to see my Mum, her husband (the Bicycle Bandit) and an Aunty and cousin who had come to get me.  Honestly though, I was pretty glum about the trip ending and kept thinking that I wasn’t really sick or in enough pain to warrant missing out on India.

In a classic case of getting what you foolishly wish for, by the second night at home my tummy pain was starting to become a little overwhelming.  It wasn’t particularly excruciating, it was just that I was so tired and weak that I couldn’t bully/meditate myself into not feeling it any more.  At about 10pm we decided that, to be on the safe side, we should head to the hospital.  The Bicycle Bandit was quite sure that I had appendicitis because of where the pain was (he had it himself…that being the entirety of his medical training).  Mum thought that was unlikely – how could the German hospital have missed something so obvious for four whole days?

We had the usual sign in thing and the waiting with the ill and weird (and both).  I got given some kind of totally awesome painkiller and from that point on everything got kind of fuzzy.

I do recall getting to lie down in a bed (yay!) and my mumsie sitting with me for ages.  A few different doctors came and went and I had to give my medical history fifty times.  They had fun with my German hospital discharge summary and Google Translate.  Eventually it seemed like nothing more would happen that night and so Mum went home and left me to snooze between painkillers.

Those nice little tablets more or less wiped out the whole of the next day as well.  The only thing I clearly remember is that at about 2am the following night a nice surgeon came to tell me that she was pretty sure that I had appendicitis.  1 to Bicycle Bandit, 0 to Naila Hospital.  She wanted me to sign some forms and then she would operate – “In the morning?”, “No, now.  You should probably call your Mum”.  Uh oh.

So off they wheeled me to the surgical prep area.  Getting my contacts out proved to be something of a drama, as did finding a contact lens case (or perhaps I was focussing on the solvable issues…ha ha).  And then into the big white room with the machine that goes ‘ping’ and doctors and nurses in scrubs and the needle and the count down and I’m feeling so heavy and blink..   blink..      blink.

I woke up in an enormous post op room, just two nurses and me.  The conversation was kind of weird; I kept floating in and out of it.  I could hear what they were saying and knew when it was my turn to respond but I couldn’t get the thoughts and words together quickly enough to say anything.  I’d blub blub down into the cool water of not-listening then make another effort to swim up to the conversation, realise it was my turn to say something and maybe get something out or float down again to try next time.  I suspect I wasn’t exactly a scintillating conversationalist.  They’re probably used to that.

Eventually I must have been wheeled up to the ward.  The nurse told me not to worry about overdosing on the painkillers because the machine (you click a little thing and drugs go into your veins) had a safety thing on it. I distinctly recall thinking “That consideration did not even enter my mind…”.

The surgeons and their student sidekicks came to say hello and poke me a few times.  I discovered that my innards now lacked both an appendix and 17 cm of large intestine.  I also discovered that the appendix had completely perforated (i.e. exploded/disintegrated) and there was a crazy infection.  This meant that when they got to making the second incision for the proposed laparoscopic surgery they held their scalpels up in horror and said “By Jove!  This is revolting and I can’t see a thing!  Let’s get out the big knife and open her up navel to pubis:  yeeha!” (I paraphrase).   It turns out that hacking (or even delicately cutting, with enviable precision) through your stomach muscles, down to your organs, isn’t totally great for said muscles which are, in their turn, quite useful for rolling over, sitting, standing etc.  On the bright side, I hadn’t died of septicaemia (when the infection gets into your blood stream and kills you in a couple of presumably very unpleasant days) because a phlegmon had formed and walled off the infection.  A phlegmon is basically a big ball of infected pus and disgustingness.  Yay for phlegie!

At the time though, I wasn’t terribly interested in all this butcher-shop talk.  My primary concern was trying to stay drugged and asleep so it would all go away.  This wasn’t always possible and I have vivid memories of being agonisingly lifted and wheeled places in the middle of the night, on a number of occasions, because something was terribly wrong.  I actually can’t remember what exactly was wrong but the pain was intense.  Being gently bumped felt like someone stomping on me with jackboots and being lifted from my bed onto the table was totally excruciating – every very nerve ending screaming.  At some point I managed to get vomit/random liquid on my lungs (charming, I know) and so a rugby team of nurses shoved a rather large tube down my throat to my lungs.  My little eyes were bugging out of my face and I was thinking “this is seriously not happening, seriously this is not happening”.

And where was the Climber during all of this, you ask?  Trying to get into Berghain and clubbing in Berlin.  Damn him.

My Daddy came for a visit though, which was lovely.  I knew I looked pretty awful when he took one look and his eyes got all glassy and teary – and I didn’t even have the tube in anymore!  At least I felt justified in feeling crap (my line of reasoning being that if I look terrible enough to make my Dad cry I truly deserve to be in hospital).  And of course my darling Mum was there every day to cluck cluck over her little chick.  They were awesome.

Little by little I started to get better and the number of bibs and bobs sticking into me reduced in number and ferocity.  First the ghastly throat tube, then the catheter, then this patch of needles, then that.  I had my first shower (possibly the best five steps of my life), I had my first poop (a thrilling event for all involved as it was proof that they’d stuck the right bits back together rather than accidentally wiring the colon to the heart or something dreadful like that).   Best of all, the Climber had managed to get to Sweden and sell the van and was trying to book a flight – yay!

It turned out though that I had also somehow acquired a resilient kind of bacteria (not exactly a ‘super bug’ but kind of the same idea).  The upside was my own room (which sadly, I couldn’t really care less about at the time).

After a couple of weeks of fun and games in hospital I was able to eat custard.  Actually I couldn’t eat the hospital custard, which was vomitus even if you didn’t already feel like vomiting, but proper Heinz baby custard which my wonderful mother promptly bought a case of once she worked out that I’d eat it.  I had also walked the four steps to the toilet, used it, and walked back to bed all by myself.  At this point the hospital decided that as I wasn’t actively trying to die I was probably ready to go home.  Today.  Mother wasn’t at all convinced and tried to discuss her concerns with the nurse.  Unfortunately the nurse on duty was the only grumpy and mean person we had met in the entire hospital.  So I went home.

My poor mum had to do more or less everything for me – from helping me to the toilet to washing me to bringing me cut up bits of Splices (the only food in the world that was vaguely non-vomit inducing).  Mum’s are ridiculously awesome (well, mine is).

Annoyingly my stupid wound got infected after a few days and so back to the hospital we went (riding in cars was not at all fun).   The surgeon and the consultant had a poke around and decided that they should open up the wound again and drain it.  Being that cutting into scar tissue doesn’t hurt (there are no nerve endings or something) they were merrily slicing away WHILE I WAS TOTALLY AWAKE AND COULD SEE WHAT THEY WERE DOING!!!  Fortunately there was a halfway sensible nurse there who patted me on the head and told me I was a brave girl.

The recovery process was long and rather boring.  I had daily antibiotic IV treatments and nursing visits to dress my wound. It took about a month to be able to walk to the corner of the street and back. The only highlights were the Endone prescription (otherwise known as ‘hillbilly heroin’) and the giant hug of love I was enveloped in the whole time by my family, friends and my darling climber.   My people are so amazing they make me cry.  Thank you xx

In sickness and in Health (Part I)

Posted on August 31, 2015

On a quiet morning in the dappled light of the pine forest, the Climber and I made our way through the raspberries (nibbling quite a few on the way) to a little crag in the Frankenjura.  It’s a very pretty spot, tall trees above and a springy carpet of pine needles below.  The rock was a bit damp from the light overnight rain but not wet.

The Climber did a few laps on some of the harder stuff (easy for him) and I tested out my lead head with a few 5a+’s.  I felt awesome!  Sure it’s easy climbing (the jugs were big enough for wildflowers to grown in) but it felt so good to not be vomitusly terrified.  I ended the day tired but terribly pleased with my effort and ready to crank it up a notch the next day.  The think the Climber was pretty chuffed that I was finally enjoying leading.

Unfortunately, in the night I started to feel a little bit sick.  By morning I was proper sick – complete with almost uncontrollable vomiting and frantic hole digging.  Yuck.  The Climber was certain that this was caused by the raspberries from the day before and was sure that if only I ate enough bananas I would soon be cured.  I have no idea where he gets these ideas.  After two days of this we decided that we should probably visit a chemist as it wasn’t getting better by itself.  I took the stuff he gave us and miserably returned to the forest to see if there was any improvement.

I was quite conscious of the fact that I had six days before my flight to Kathmandu (on my way to Rishikesh) and I was damned if I was going to let some stupid tummy bug stop me finally getting to India.  So I demanded that David drive us to Berlin, so that I could be sure that I was in place to get my flight to Paris (the first leg of the trip).

We started driving and got about a quarter of the way before something about my slumped figure indicated to the Climber that the time had come to detour to the nearest hospital.  Apparently ‘I’m FINE!’ becomes less convincing when you haven’t stopped vomiting in four days. We were, at this juncture, in the absolute middle of German no-where and the closest hospital was in Naila.  Haven’t heard of it?  Don’t worry.  You’re not missing much.*

At the hospital we were directed to the waiting room where the nurses quickly decided I was a diabolical germ menace and so we were promptly seen to by a doctor.  Well, I think he was a doctor.  Curiously, despite the fact that every second person you meet in Germany speaks more or less fluent English, absolutely no one (expect for one Indian doctor) spoke English at Naila hospital.  It was rather lucky that the Climber speaks German.

In any event, I was taken to an isolation room, where I was to spend the next four days.  By ‘isolation’ I mean that I wasn’t supposed to leave but everyone else came in at will, some bothering with the gowns and masks, most not.

In what my mother-in-law assures me is typical German hospital fashion (she should know, she was a nurse there), the nurses didn’t feel it was at all necessary for me to have access to a shower, and in fact refused to let me across the hall to one.  Now, I felt rather sick, but you have to feel quite deathly to not care about having not showered in a week and being covered in your own bodily fluids.  So, after enduring the filth for three long hospital days, I dragged myself to the bathroom sink determined not to leave until I passed out or washed myself properly.  Totes didn’t pass out.

On the first day the hospital didn’t bother with food – just a cracker or two and the drip.  That was fine with me.  The second day it must have been decreed that I should try some light food.  I would have thought that a few more crackers and perhaps a bit of dry toast would be in order but obviously I think quite differently to the German health authorities.  Wurst Salat (a number of different sausages chopped up and stirred together with some diabolical approximation of mayonnaise) is not a dish I would recommend to anyone and I would strongly attempt to dissuade anyone who feels even the slightest bit unwell from smelling it, let alone consuming it.

I continued to feel horridly unwell and so it was proposed that an endoscopy and colonoscopy be undertaken.  Oh joy.  I had managed pretty well until the second jug of the pooping mixture started to take effect and then I burst into tears of exhaustion and frustration.  Meanwhile, the Climber was fighting his own battle against the hospital accounts woman: Das Boarface.  She was of the opinion that the Climber ought to go directly to an ATM, withdraw several thousand Euros and deliver these to her and then he could make a claim on our insurance when we returned home.  He was of the opinion that she should accept the guarantee being offered by the insurer.  This was complicated by the fact that the insurer’s contact was in Spain and their German agent, based in Greece, was on holiday and that they hadn’t any other staff who could speak German.  Das Boarface was unwilling to accept an officially translated letter and couldn’t get her head around the idea that the insurance procedures for medical expenses are quite different to those for a lost handbag.

Four days after arriving in Naila I still felt wretched and was also now quite puffy from all the saline (when you poked my skin it was kind of squishy, like a waterbed).  Nevertheless, the doctors decided that my ‘levels’, whatever these might be, were sufficiently reduced to release me.  I was strongly encouraged to not rebook my flight to Kathmandu but instead stay in Europe or return to Australia.

I couldn’t actually stay in Europe as my visa was going to expire in three days and so, at my mother’s insistence, I booked myself tickets from Berlin to Adelaide.  The Climber decided to drive the van back to Sweden to sell it and then meet me in Australia.

And so we headed to Berlin.

In consideration of my being sick we’d decided to splurge on indoor plumbing and booked into a cheap and cute little hotel in an old apartment building near Kreuzberg.  It was very comfortable but I didn’t really sleep either night because I had absolutely awful stabbing stomach pains.  The Climber demanded that I eat more bananas.

In the two days we were there I managed a few gentle strolls around the area.  We visited an old crossing of the Wall where there was a very moving memorial to Peter Fechter, who at 18 became the first person to die trying to cross to the West.   We also had a bit of a poke around Kreuzberg itself, admiring the street art and having a look at a few of the fun little shops and bars.  Feeling weak and tired, I made the most of the green space of the Prinzessinnengarten, a lovely little community garden.  There were tables set up under the trees and we spent a morning and an afternoon quietly talking, cuddling, trying to read German newspapers and enjoying the soft light of a European summer.  It wasn’t the raging party weekend I’d planned to finish the trip with, but it was very sweet.

*actually, one damned interesting thing did happen near Naila, once.