I was in Stroud a couple months back. Just wandering around the town with Angus, popping in and out of shops. There was some sort of festival on and the streets were alive with quirky activity. Colourful people danced and jostled around looking at the next passing attraction.
We stopped in a bookshop and spread out to explore, picking up books and commenting across the hushed isles. Here i came across a book, whose title eludes me, with a passage that struck a chord. I’ll try and paraphrase as best I can but I did not memorise word for word. The gist of it was;
When one is alone, one does not feel lonely as you are happy with yourself for company. Only when one is surrounded by people with whom you share no connection does one feel lonely
Today I rose late and updated my blog. I’m enjoying writing and had become a few days behind so this took a couple hours. The day was to be a lazy one, just getting a feel of the place and finding people to chat with about the climbs available. There are loads of climbers here, with little else as an attraction in this cliff bound bay. I thought it would be easy to strike up a conversation but it was proving difficult. I approached several small groups of people but they seemed unresponsive and dismissive. Not willing to engage in conversation and when climbing was ventured, politely told me they had a group of friends already and didn’t need any more.
Oh well, their loss. But this did leave me remembering the stroud bookshop quote. There seemed so much life and joival activity, yet I was stuck on the outside. I’m no stranger to this feeling, as a kid i wasn’t “cool” but, perhaps naively, i thought i had escaped this by reaching adulthood?
I wandered around the segregated village up to mamma chicken for a late, large lunch. This fly covered shack, i was assured, produced the best food for the price in the area. I had been warned by a recovering German of the infamous “ton sai tummy” sickness that everyone was guaranteed to get staying here. I feared this might be the source of the malady but ordered anyway. Having passed through rural vietnam and eaten goats heart, I figured I had a fairly tough constitution. Not wishing to jinx it, but I’ve not been sick yet.
I went to hang out at a conspicuous bar called Viking. Here I listened to my music and played on the slacklines while watching a pretty girl graffiti the boundary wall with a poem. I had arranged to meet a chap here from a UKC forum to do some climbing. We were the only brits in the whole of South East Asia, apparently, that wanted to do climbing.
He made an appearance and had similar experience as me with the climbers here. Maybe it’s just a UK trait to welcome lone climbers? We struck up conversation and headed down to the beach for a swim. The water was urine warm and looked as clean too. We walked along the beach a bit to find an area less polluted, clearer but still cloudy and rubbish for the snorkle i had brought along. We floated at the waters edge admiring the 7a+ climbers and chatted.
Suddenly, a ripping boom above us signaled the arrival of a base jumper. He swooped down steeply and clipped the waters edge on landing to a cheering round of applause. I had been shown by the sick German a video of a base jumper who had gotten it wrong and ended up hanging from a tree halfway up the rockface at Ton Sai. I applauded too, out of relief. It takes a special kind of stupid to base jump, the kind I’m unlikely to develop, I think. But never say never. His 3 base jumping companions also joined him on the beach shortly afterwards, all safely. I don’t think I could watch someone hit the deck if the chute didn’t open.
Heading back up to the bar in front of my accommodation Geoff had some dinner. We agreed to find nice accommodation tomorrow and split the cost. My current hut was home to more insects than humans, made of wood and wobbled when i walked around. I was just happy of the conversation and company. Travelling can be a very lonely thing I’ve found, unless you consistently make an effort and roll with the punches.