Karelās letters written during travelling
Letters written when working while travelling, part 10.
In this email:
long time no talk. The reason why Iām asking you to subscribe to the online system is (a) about a year ago my laptop harddrive fried and Iāve been learning to backup absolutely everything online. I just donāt trust these harddrives anymore, as several others failed at the same time and I lost a ton of information; (b) I upgraded the email program I use to send mass emails and the new one does not allow me to export the email addresses in the list, so I cannot back it up and decided to do this instead.
Iāve actually written a massive update to the travel blob up to recently, but I still need to proofread it again, add pictures, make links and all that. Trying to improve the quality, so it is taking me longer ā not to mention that I have all sorts of other work.
Anyway, to compensate you for having to online-subscribe to this goofball newsletter, Iāll write a quick synopsis of everything that happened since my last update, which should concern the end of last summer after I was tree planting in Canada.
So I flew back to London, visited my aunt, cousin and nephews, was making a video about tree planting, spent about 4 hours on it, then I guess the laptop was overheating or it was simply too much for my old but reliable laptop, and went into "memory dump" mode. A horrible blue screen of death and the harddrive light was constantly lit. I thought that might mean that the processor was going full throttle and I was worried that the laptop might overheat and get damaged, so I did a very naughty thing by forcing a manual restart by holding down the power button. Eventually I learned that this is okay when the processor is working full throttle, but not when the harddrive is. When the harddive button is lit constantly like that, it means that the computer is either storing or drawing data from the harddrive, meaning the harddrive is spinning spinning spinning. Forcing a poweroff in this state is dangerous, and inevitably the spinning disk got knocked off its pedestal and buried itself into the data storage plate. No more spinny, no more data, and I spent more than a month recovering my main business computer. So donāt do the same mistake yourselves, kiddies!
Then it was back to Cyprus, middle of August, when it was still so warm that getting into the ocean was like into a warm bath, and it certainly did not refresh me from the burning hot outside.
About a month later a friend came for a visit, for about a month, and we played tennis every day.
Then I got a job offer from a friend to help him reconstruct his houses in Bulgaria and Greece.
At three months, the tree planting season was too short to save up much, after paying for the plane ticket, equipment, health insurance, and my boss shortchanged me a couple of thousand bucks. I still wasnāt earning much through the internet, so it took me a while to save up cash so that I could get the beast off the island and drive up to Bulgaria.
For various reason I was receiving signs that it was time to get out of the Turkish side of the island. Such as a gun pointed at my head, and I discovered I was supposed to pay 60 bucks a month for road tax for my beast (meaning over 1000 USD about). I quickly "escaped" using my Canadian passport and parked myself in the islandās capital, on the Greek side, so that I could continue using my Turkish internet (the Greeks required that I had a permanent address there in order to get a contract for their high speed mobile internet).
Naturally I would park as close to the border as I could, to get the best signal, but both sides seem to have a confusion as to what a "buffer zone" is. Speaking to some UN troops stationed there, it was clear that the buffer zone and some dozen nation troops were stationed there to keep the two babies from fighting. But the Greeks had the impression that it was some holy zone that shouldnāt even be ventured near to. The fact that Greek houses lined the border seemed to evade their logic. In any case, they kept telling me to move, coming out in groups of combinations of police and military personnel, demanding to see all my papers, ask what I am doing, and eventually someone reported that I was probably a spy (they were absolutely shocked when I told them I was getting internet from OVER the buffer zone and immediately blamed me of "collaborating" with the Turks), so they confiscated all my electronic equipment so that they could dismantle and study it over a day. Just when I had a translation to complete too. In hindsight, I think perhaps the neighbour complained. I realized later I must have stunk up his rubbish bin with my occasional double garbage bag.
Generally I found the Greeks so much less friendly than the Turks, suspicious and almost hostile, and I was looking forward to getting off the island.
Eventually saved up enough and made it to the islandās main port. They told me the price in advance, but when it came time to pay, I found I had to pay an additional 350 Euro in port taxes. That cleaned me almost dry, but I donāt like going backwards, so I went for it anyway.
Had to fly to Athens cause they only let you sleep in your caravan truck if it is at least 22 metres long (another tactic they have developed to keep cheap caravan bums like myself off the island).
Was an adventure just to find where the ship with my truck was supposed to dock, but eventually found that, and then I found out I was supposed to pay an additional 60 Euro just to be "released" onto continental Europe. I told the guy I was clean out of cash but that I could bring it on Monday, when I expected to receive a payment. He said the office is closed on Friday and Monday due to a national holiday, that means 5 days, at 60 Euro parking a day, makes an additional 300 Euros. I looked down at him, turned around, and drove off, thinking "You can blow me". Fortunately there was no cement hurdles to plough through, as I had almost resorted to at the islandās airport (read before), and if any cop at any time in the future calls me on it, Iāll just say I did pay and it must be some fault of the bureaucratic, pencil pushing morons. A hard statement to argue against.
Checked out Athens for about a week and then circled the island of Corinthians just to the west. That was fantastic. Got back onto the mainland, snaked my way up the coast (always about 2 to 4 hours a day of driving, and sometimes stayed in one location a few days), hooked up with a friend who was visiting his girlfriend down from Prague, and headed towards Bulgaria. Wasnāt paying great attention and accidentally went through Macedonia, when instead I could have gone straight from Greece to Bulgaria. Getting in was no problem but when getting out the cop at the end was looking for any excuse to fine me. He saw the mess in my truck, said it smelled, and kept shaking his head, saying, "Karel, Karel, Karel". Finally he determined that I did not have the original copy of my car insurance with me. I told him Allianz said an electronic printout was sufficient. He wasnāt interested and made a big hullaballoo. I made even a bigger hullaballoo, he eventually gave up (as they always seem to ā when faced with a madman), and I proceeded to the Bulgarian entry point.
That was comical because there were a total of nine booths ā one asking for my passport, the second wrote down my licence plate number, the third looked at my registration, the fourth looked inside the truckā¦ I canāt even remember but it was ridiculous. State aided overemployment I guess. The goofiest of all was I was supposed to carry a memory stick they gave me, so that at each booth they transfer the information to their computer. Ever heard of a data cable??
Got to the Bulgarian projects, a week later went for a month to the Greek projects on the island of Thassos, then back to Bulgaria for about a month.
Meanwhile, several close friends stated they were going for a visit from the US to Prague. I was racking my brain trying to find a way how I could hook up with them, and then my brother asked me to be his best man at his wedding. That I could NOT miss, borrowed the bossās van (mine sucks too much fuel and is not physically ready to enter the west yet) and drove up through Serbia. That was cool, and eventually hooked up with one of the US visiting friends who took a train down to Bratislava. We wound our way through the Slovakian Tatras, Krakow Poland and back through northern Czech.
Hung out in Prague for about a month, then found one friend who was willing to give me a hundred Euro for the ride down to Bulgaria with me. But first he needed to pick up some stuff in Amsterdam, for which he offered to pay for gas and my food.
On the way to Amst visited another cousin and aunt in Hannover, 4 days in Amst, then back to Prague for a few days.
But while I was in Prague the first time, was cooking for some relatives, they loved it and said if I cook for them they got crash space for me in Croatia, and a place on a yacht. Why not, I said. So we drove through Austria and Slovenia and hung out for a few days in the gorgeous sun. Then we continued our way, but I wanted to try something different so we drove through Albania. Very poor country, but interesting also, because since they could not afford any tunnels for their major highway going east (actually, more like a winding country road), they just painted it on top of the terrain and mountain ridges. A beautiful ride indeed, eventually through Macedonia, and back in bg.
There for about a month, my friend the owner left for a cruise through the Mediterranean for 6 weeks, and left the project to be run by me and the main foreman. But the main foreman cant control his alcohol and eventually he cracked me in the mouth for not being interested in taking any of his drunken crap. Like immature little boys we were scuffling in the front seat of the bossās van, I was holding onto his forearms so he couldnāt hurt me anymore, but got tired of all the struggling, let go of the farthest-from-me forearm, took slow aim and cracked him a real good one in the face.
Now Iām fired and ready to head to Greece, cause itās getting too cold to sleep in the truck up here in the beautiful mountains. Contacted some old customers and immediately got a stream of work, which is good cause our incident happened one day after payday and when I paid a lot of debts, so my cash situation is very meager.
Stocking up on cheap Bulgarian cooking food and ready to head south any day now. Tentative final winter destination: Sicily.
The adventure continues!
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Published - August 2012