Juanito’s Travels 50 yr backpacker – 1995 Jaipur. Rajasthan, India, this guy Steve from Australia, a Belgian couple, elephant rides and a dead tiger on a floor, pt21


I was woken just before dawn by the conductor. They were so efficient these Indians, and super polite, I was constantly feeling like a regal gentleman, even though I was clearly a hippy with just a few dollars to his name. “Mr Royston, your stop is soon”, he said. And I woke up and looked out the window at the pre dawn light as we pulled closer to Jaipur and the Indian guy scoured and the British guy remained sound asleep.

Maybe 20 minutes later I was outside looking for a rickshaw to take me to meet Steve, who wanted me to meet him at another cheaper place he was staying by himself before we headed to the place he’d read about in his Lonely Planet that he invited me to come along to so he could share the cost. He’d written down the address of the place he was staying on a bit of paper which I unscrambled and explained to the auto rickshaw driver.

There was hardly anybody on the roads at this time. It was dusty. the place was just waking up. The cows were sitting under trees. People slept out in the open here and there. The pedal rickshaw driver drove around a bit past a few crossings and then back down some of the same street until I eventually spotted the name of the hotel Steve had told me about and got him to stop there.

I was barely able to stay awake. I sat around in the garden of the hotel under some trees with monkeys in them, clutching anything small enough for the monkeys to take as they would take it if you turned your eyes for a few seconds. The hotel had a bit of a restaurant happening outside. I was hungry and ordered some chai and whatever else they had on offer, perhaps some more chapatis, or even corn flakes and yoghurt. Steve showed up in a bit and looked up at the monkeys. “I hate those monkeys, they take anything”. He has remained as charming as when I first met him in New Delhi. He had his bags ready, he seemed pretty confident I was going to come. I wasn’t too fussed to be there, but Jaipur was an improvement on New Delhi in terms of the sound, and even had more trees and the like. It was almost suburban where we were.

We made our way to the famous hotel from Lonely Planet. I just wanted to sleep. When checking in I kept yawning.

“Cover your mouth when you yawn”, the man at reception barked.

“What, sorry, I have been travelling all night.”

“Only illiterate people don’t cover their mouth when they yawn”, he said.

‘Sorry”, I said. A few moments later, I yawned again and was so tired I forgot to raise my hand to my mouth in time. This time the guys just glared at me. We got the keys and I went sheepishly off to the room.

The room had two beds and I immediately lay down on mine after taking my shoes off and just lay and rested. Steve asked what I was going to see in Jaipur.

“I dunno”, I said, “I don’t have any guidebook or anything, I wasn’t really planning on being in India at all, so no idea, I’m gonna rest a bit first before doing anything.”

“I’m going to go to look around a bit.”

I waved him off and got in maybe a half hour power nap which left me slightly more refreshed. I got up and looked around the hotel. It had a beautiful garden that included a peacock and some fine roses. It was kind of fancy, much more than I’d be able to afford anywhere else in the world. Still it was a bit of a stretch in my meagre budget so I could only do a maximum of 2 nights there I figured.

I found Steve in the garden smoking a cigarette and drinking some chai. I sat down at the table with him. He had his Lonely Planet sitting next to him on the table closed. I pointed to it.

“Do you mind if I take a look at your guide?” I asked.

He looked at me as though I had asked him to donate a kidney. “You should have bought your own rather than bludge off someone else”.

“Woh, ok” I said. Not sure what distorted sort of childhood this guy Steve had but anyway I wasn’t going to argue.

Steve seems to regret his outburst and a minute or so later tries to explain himself. “I met a lot of people with no money in India, trying to take advantage, that’s all”.

“Up to you mate, I don’t mind”. I said. It’s funny the things that stick in your head over the decades, like some guy called Steve who wouldn’t lend me a Lonely Planet, while so many other details are lost.

He was a weird one that Steve. I got up and went back to the room to freshen up. What I really wanted was a shower. I didn’t have the energy to engage with Steve over his fancy Lonely Planet book. I had a prejudice against Lonely Planet, in my mind it wasn’t for real travellers anyway. Real travellers just went with the flow. In 2023 I’ve drawn on them extensively because they provide some great tips. I even contributed to one, helping edit the Ireland guide (I think in 1997) while doing a placement for my university writing and editing course.

But back in 1995, I had a shower and got into some fresh clothes, it always seems like a layer or dirt was scraped off your body whenever you showered in India. There was just so much dust, and in New Delhi the added smog. It will be an amazing transition when they have electric auto rickshaws and electric cars zooming around the streets.

I sat back down on my bed. Steve came in a bit later. He apologised and handed me the Lonely Planet guide to have a look at. I wasn’t too proud to take it and flicked through for some ideas as to what to do for the day. I saw there was a fort on a hill outside of town.

“This Amber Fort sounds good”, I said.

“I went there yesterday”, said Steve.

“Cool, well I might head off there. Do you want to catch up for dinner late for something.”

“Sure”, said Steve.

After a bit more resting I made my way to the fort. Jaipur was a pretty pretty city (the first pretty used in the sense of quite – when I travelled with Corinne years earlier she was struck by the phrase ‘pretty ugly’ thinking it must mean pretty and ugly at the same time, rather than quite ugly. In some ways Jaipur was also pretty ugly. It had beautiful buildings dominated by this marvellous pink colour but also its ugly side, rubbish, dust, grime, a wall where men just pissed out in the open and the urine ran between their legs into the gutter. Of course it also had its cows, I loved the cows.

When I got to the fort I spotted a line for elephants which were taking people to the top of the hill to visit the fort. In 2023 I’m more aware of the welfare of elephants, and my wife and I are planning a trip to an ethical, non-riding, elephant sanctuary in Laos. Back in 1995 I was super keen to jump on the back of one and make my way up the hill like a Raj on a tiger hunt. And it only cost around 120 rupee return – about a $1.20AUD maybe, based on more recent exchange rates.

The line was kind of like those at a theme park where they had to fill a carriage and they have a spare seat and they yell out for anyone who is there by themselves, like they sometimes do on lines to get on roller coasters at Movie World and other theme parks on the Gold Coast. A couple had climbed onto an elephant and were waiting to depart. The mahout called me up and asked whether I wanted to ride with the couple.

“Is that ok with you guys?” I asked the couple.

“Yes, that is fine.” they replied.

So I climbed on and we rocked back and forth, and side to side, as we went slowly up the hill. As soon as the elephant had departed there were at least two hawkers, who seemed to be officially assigned to the elephant, who tried to sell their wares on the way up the hill, yelling offer after offer. One was selling bracelets, scarves and other knick knacks, the other string puppets. I had no room,  or interest, for either in my backpack but ignoring them, saying no, saying I wasn’t interested had zero effect on them, they were like super-hero level hawkers in India and the word ‘no’ had no effect on them, only a sale would stop them. At least the puppet man, who followed us the whole way up the hill. I think he started trying to sell the puppets for 400 rupees and by the time we’d gotten to the top was offering them to us for 200, or maybe even 100. It is like when you go to the supermarket and you see all these signs everywhere saying everything’s 50% off. Yeah, that’s only because you jack up the prices by 50% first every now and again. I’m sure this guy went on to be a consultant for Coles and Woolworths.

The couple I was sharing the elephant with ended up being Belgian. Well they also started off being Belgian. They didn’t suddenly change as they went up the hill in line with the puppet prices, perhaps starting as Swedish and working their way down through Denmark and Holland until they declared they were actually Belgian. That’s no reflection on the value of Belgians, and these ones were very, very nice. They were newlyweds and had decided to go on a trip to India for their honeymoon. They were smiley and very friendly and we chatted about our trips and where we were off to next. They had a plan to visit some bird sanctuary and of course I had no freakin idea.

In 2023 my wife and I listened to a podcast from some newlyweds who were commercialising their love by making a podcast about their honeymoon. The episode was about Chiang Mai, and they kept mentioning they were newlyweds and that they had met other newlyweds and blah, blah, blah, the usual inane shit. My wife and I are constantly on honeymoon and we don’t go making podcasts about it. I did start this blog though I guess, but that’s different. I don’t think anyone reads it and I’m merely hoping for posthumous fame, like Franz Kafka when they discovered his work and published it. It was genius. That’s all I want, people to find this when I die and say, wow, he was a genius. So just after vanity not money. I do have my principles.

I don’t remember a great deal about the Amber Fort. I guess that’s why, in 2023 we take millions of photos of everything, so we can look back and look at them and say, oh yeah, I must have visited this place and that place because I have all these photos of it. Back then in 1995, I just experienced the place, and for the most part left that back in the 90s. I do remember some room of mirrors and some beautiful architecture, and sitting and looking out at the value below looking at the view, the reddy soil, the acacias, the vultures riding the thermal winds, and the monkeys scurrying over the Parapets, the tourists walking through the place taking photos. I think I was too tired to take it all at the time. Though that happens sometimes, when you visit places. When I went to Italy with my daughter we visited Pompeii, which is amazing, but we just wandered the streets aimlessly and were kinda too tired to see how amazing it was. That’s travel.

After our fort tour, the Belgians and I got back on our elephant and headed back down the hill, with several more hawkers in tow. At the bottom, I went and bought the elephant a mango and fed it to her and patted her trunk. She didn’t seem too unhappy, no less unhappy than many of the poor Indians in India at the time. Just trying to survive. The Belgians invited me back to their hotel for a drink. I was like sure. We headed back.

Wow, these Belgians were staying at a super fancy place. It was quite literally an ex palace of a Raj. They showed me their room – don’t worry this is a g-rated blog and this is not about to degenerate into some sordid offer a threesome with the newlyweds. They were, and as far as I know still, happily married. They were just being nice and Belgian – I don’t think I’ve met any other Belgians so I’m assuming their whole country is full of nice people. Whether or not they are into threesomes, I don’t know, it’s not for me to judge, and if they are it doesn’t in any way diminish their niceness. Anyway they had a fancy four poster bed and even a real dead tiger as a carpet on the floor.

Ok it was a real dead tiger, I think it had been dead for quite some time and when it was killed attitudes were very different, so I’m not sure why you would throw out a perfectly good dead tiger skin. And besides, India has recently reintroduced cheetahs back into India and the cheetahs are even having babies, so let’s focus not he presence. I must admit the tiger did look freaking awesome.

The Belgians seemed cornered that I had no plans so they offered to take me with them to the bird sanctuary they were visiting the next day. They had hired their own personal driver so they could offer me a seat there. I was like sure and we agreed to meet the next day.

I went back to the hotel and Steve and I went out for dinner. I told him of the elephant ride and the plan to go to the bird sanctuary. He said, ‘looking at some birds is a waste of time’. I’m not sure what his plans were, I think he may have mentioned that he was going to Pushkar or something before heading back to New Delhi and back to Australia.

We chatted a bit more and ate some more dhal and chapatis. Steve went on about how grubby India was, he didn’t like the place, the rubbish in the streets, the peeing wall, the constant hassling of the hawkers. To an extent I agree, the intensity of the place was driving me a bit crazy as well. But Steve, he really hated the place, I just found it tough to handle. Steve had a greater appetite than mine and ordered around 6-7 chapatis to my 2-3. We went back to the hotel, and the next day went our own ways.

When I got back to Australia I looked up Steve. I rang up his house and his mum answered. She told me he’d killed himself. Seems he’d gone to their holiday home somewhere and shot himself. I’m not sure she was as detailed as that but she may have been. I guess it wasn’t just India that was too much for him, it was life in general. In retrospect he must have been very depressed. I felt for him and his family. R.I.P


Juanito’s Travels 50-Yr-Backpacker – 1995 New Delhi to Jaipur, India on a train to meet Steve, or whatever his name was, the Aussie guy, Pt20

Map in hand, I headed to New Delhi railway station. I had plenty of time, the train didn’t even leave for another 2 1/2 hours or something, I felt super organised.

From the map it looked like I probably;y just needed to walk a kilometre or two, so after getting there I thought I’d just be able to relax and have some more dhal, and perhaps a mango lassi and another chai, perhaps my fourth or fifth for the day, as I waited.

I couldn’t quite figure out the direction of the map so I asked a gentleman with another fine moustache for some help.

“Excuse me sir, I was wondering if you may help me find the railway station.”

He stopped and asked, “Indeed, where are you going to?”

“Jaipur” I said. “According to the map the station should be around here somewhere”.

“Jaipur? I travelled there many times. This is not the station you want, the train leaves from a station across town.”

“Are you sure?” I asked.

“Totally certain. I travelled to Jaipur by train many years. Every month I would go there, the train departs from old Delhi station. It is across town.”

“Oh! How long does it take to get there?”

“Maybe 40 or 50 minutes. When does your train leave?”

“In around 2 hours, so I better get over there.”

“That should be fine.”

“Thank you”, I said.

“You’re welcome, enjoy your time in Jaipur, the pink city, it is very beautiful”.

He waved me down an auto rickshaw (the smoky ones with kerosene or petrol power) and explained to the driver where I was going, after some negotiation he agreed on a price for me and I thanked him again and headed off.

Oh well, I thought, I’d still have enough time for a dhal and chapatis when I got to the station and checked my bags in and in about an hour I had arrived. I wandered casually onto the station and looked around for my train, clutching my train ticket for the travel agent at the fancy hotel. There were not too many English speakers around but after 10-15 minutes of searching I found a train conductor who spoke English and showed him my ticket.

The train conductor looked at my ticket and looked at me, and rocked his head from side to side in the familiar Indian way and said, “This train is not for foreigners, you need to go to New Delhi station. This is old Delhi station. Why did you come here?”

My face went pale, I replied “I was walking to New Delhi station and I asked someone for directions and he said he always took the rain from this station, not the one I was walking to.”

As usual a couple of interested crowd members gathered around to watch the confused foreigner who had gotten lost. It was like watching reality TV I guess. The train conductor shook his head and clicked his tongue and said, “this train is just an Indian train. The train taking tourists leaves from New Delhi station. What time is your train”.

I told him that it was now about 1 hour away.

“Hurry!” he declared, “if you go now you might make it!”. A rickshaw driver was somehow privy to this conversation and motioned me to jump on his rickshaw. I stood by it for a few seconds and haggled over the price to the station. You didn’t want to sit down until you’d negotiated a price, otherwise you may end up paying anything. The negotiations were rather rushed, the rickshaw driver was getting almost as nervous as I that I would miss the train. He agreed on a price and I dived on and he tore through the streets at record speed.

The rickshaw driver could have easily been a stunt driver for a James Bond film, he weaved around cows, people, narrowly missed trucks and did everything short of using wooden planks to jump over the crowd. He was an absolute legend. I just sat back waiting for us to hit something, my life was in the hands of Ganesh, any other god who’d wager for it. I looked at my Mickey Mouse watch – I haven’t mentioned that before so I may not have had a Mickey Mouse watch with me, but I did own one at some stage and I did need a way of telling time before having an iPhone so it’s quite possible I did have Mickey on my wrist.

The train was due to depart in about 20 minutes. I had no idea of whether we were getting closer but I feel like we didn’t stop for anything.

“You’re doing really well!” I yelled over the noise of the engine. I wasn’t sure we’d make it in time, but ten minutes later we were there. As we approached I carefully counted out the amount of rupees we’d agreed upon and then added about a dollar’s worth more. He deserved whatever little extra I could give.

I jumped off the rickshaw as it slowed, handed him the cash, he went to give me some change, and I was like keep the change please, and I put my palms together in reverence at his super-human rickshaw driving abilities. I ran into the station, frantically asking whoever I could get the attention of for the directions to the platform I ran along, and several train conductors stood together around a clipboard. They saw me coming and motioned for me to come towards them. I ran over to them, panting.

As I approached the man in charge of the clipboard yelled to me, “Mr Royston”. Royston was my middle name so I knew it must be me. “Yes!” I yelled back as I got nearer.

“Hurry”, the train is about to depart.

“Sorry, I’m so late, I was told to go to old Delhi station. So I had to rush back here.”

“What sort of person would tell you to go to old Delhi?”

I reached the train conductors and handed the man with the clipboard the ticket, he looked at it and then said, “this is your carriage, hurry!” he shook his head “why would someone tell you to go to old Delhi, that is a local train, not the tourist train”, he was in disbelief as to how someone could have done such a thing. I could see it was a genuine mistake, but now I never trust directions. Google maps is the only one you can rely on, the rest is mere suggestions.

I jumped on the train, a few moments later it was pulling out of the station. I looked out of the window at the train conductors, there seems a sense of pride on their faces that they’d got the tourist on board. Nowadays I’d put a clapping emoji on a picture of them and post their picture on instagram, back then I just slumped in my seat and let the adrenaline subside as I watched them disappear as the train pulled away from the station.


I had a sleeper carriage, first class A/C – it was still only $5 or $6 and had saved me another night’s accommodation. It was around a 7-8 journey, so I’d get some rest, before arriving early in the morning. I was sharing the berth, if that’s what you call them, or was it just a carriage, with two other men.

We got to talking a bit. One of the guys was a British Indian businessman on a trip over and the other a local businessman who didn’t speak any English. So the British guy translated for us. I don’t remember much of what we chatted about, perhaps where we were from, what we do. I remember the British guy saying the other businessman was very surprised when he told him that they had to clean their own houses in Britain. “What, no servants?” the guy had said, and we laughed a bit before I said I better get some sleep.

A few hours later we pulled into a station. I was still a bit peckish and asked whether there was a chance of getting something to eat. Of course there were people selling wares on the platform and I think I managed to get something to eat, and also a chai in a clay cup. The train stopped for a few minutes, enough time to drink the chai. I asked the British guy what I should do with the empty clay cup and he said, “just throw it onto the platform, they will collect them and make more” and chuckled a little. He was a jolly man.

So I wound back my arm like I used to when playing baseball at high school and pitched the clay cup onto the platform, narrowly missing the head of the conductor and others around before smashing into small bits on the platform.

“Sorry!” I yelled. The British man chuckled again. “You don’t know your own strength”, he gently lobbed his empty cup onto the platform.

There was the usual array of kids, families, women with children, dogs, cows and the like around. A man watched as his young daughter peed on the tracks away a bit. The air was still very warm, almost without a hint of chill. I went back and rested some more.


Juanito’s Travels 50-Yr-Backpacker London Again, Priscilla Queen of the Desert , Cardiff, Wales 1995 BlogPt7


I contacted one of the guys who’d done the 3-day Vipassana course with me a few weeks earlier. He’d agreed to put me up on his couch for a couple of nights in London. I don’t think he was that keen on putting me up, but he agreed, which was good enough.

I’d like to say I think he was an Aussie guy who’d been living in London for a few years. Truth is I can’t remember exactly. He might have been a kiwi. He was tall and I feel kind of blondie and probably from my neck of the woods. Maybe the Gold Coast or somewhere.

Once I got off the train from Herefordshire I got a double decker bus or two to get to his flat. I’d never been on a double decker bus. Even before I’d read the Harry Potter books, or watched the movies, I still found this quintessential London fun new and exciting, just as the train through the English countryside from Hereford had been.

It took me most of the day to get from Hereford to London, so by the time I’d arrived at Aussie/Kiwi guy’s flat it was evening. And because it was still spring, a little cool, much cooler than the equivalent time in Australia would be, but fine for a light jumper, with no need for my green Melbourne tram conductor’s coat, as cool and fashionable that was.

I dumped my backpack by the Aussie/Kiwi guy’s couch and then the guy announced. ‘We’re going off to see a movie if you want to come.’ I can’t recall who the ‘we’ were, perhaps we were meeting someone there, or he had an imaginary friend, or a house else like Dobby from Harry Potter. I don’t remember anyone else at the flat, but there could have been some others lurking.

‘Sure’, I said. It would be a bit weird if I hadn’t agreed, hanging out in the flat by myself, having just met the dude, it would be awkward. House guest protocol dictated that I go.

‘It starts in about an hour’, so we better go.

We got onto a few more double decker buses and made our way to Piccadilly Circus. Another place I usually tried to buy when playing Monopoly as the yellow ones were mid-priced and it was both affordable and achievable to get all 3 of them.

The movie was Priscilla Queen of the Desert. Before the movie started there was a drag show. It was the first drag show I’d ever been to. I liked it more than the movie. I did like the movie. I just liked the drag show a little more.

I was tired and couldn’t remember most of the rest of the night. I think we walked around a bit and grabbed something to eat. I barely remember eating much the whole trip. I wasn’t much of a foodie back then and just ate for sustenance. When I couldn’t cook myself, a bit of vegetarian pizza would usually suffice.

We got back to the flat and I crashed on the couch. I had breakfast with the guy but then he had to go off to work. He trusted me enough to leave me there by myself, but I assume I didn’t have keys so I had to meet up with him later in the day so he could let me in.

I made my way back to the Irish Embassy to see if my Irish passport had finally arrived. I discovered it was still somehow in transit after 2 and a bit weeks. I was not disappointed, I just accepted the news. It was just news, neither good nor bad, just the way it was. I told them I couldn’t wait any longer and they said when the passport arrived they could forward it along to Dublin GPO. I thanked them and left.

I hung out in Hyde Park a bit, I liked seeing British people walking about. I went and took a squiz at Buckingham Palace again, then took another walk along the Thames. I think I found a vegetarian curry somewhere and at that as I looked over the river towards Westminster. I didn’t realise I was looking at Big Ben as well. I was the worst tourist, more of a traveller.

I’d already made my mind up to go to Ireland when I was at the meditation centre, some time after the 3-day course I did. I was walking around looking at pheasants and hawks and hares and I knew I needed to go to Ireland. There was no other option really. I had to keep going, to move forward.

I was still desperately short of cash. I was lucky to have scored a couple of nights with Aussie/Kiwi guy but I couldn’t push it. Every pound spent lessened my chances of staying longer on this side of the world. I was determined to see if I could make a go of it in Ireland at least.

I felt like Patrick Leigh Fermor. He walked from Holland to Constantinople (in his time, recently renamed Istanbul)  in the 1930s, saving every precious penny he could, living off cheese, bread, tobacco and booze. He just decided one day to walk across Europe and to the edge of Asia. He pretty much walked the whole way, refusing offers to get trains part of the distance. He occasionally got a lift with someone to visit places, but the rest was on foot. I think people in their twenties should be much more of the Fermor mindset and much less of the worried-about-getting-a-mortgage-and-house-and-job-and-all-that-responsible-stuff mindset.

Then again I’m turning 50 this year – the inspiration for this blog leading up to my planned 50th birthday trip next year – and while I have a good job, the housing market has escaped me. Perhaps all the more reason to just abandon it all and hit the road for a bit and ignore the whole worried-about-getting-a-mortgage-and-house mindset.

As it stood, I probably had enough money to go over to Ireland for a few days, perhaps a week or so, and then make my way back to London where I could still use the return ticket to Australia. I had a super flexible ticket, so as long as there were seats available I could get back home. If it was today I probably wouldn’t risk it. Back in 1995 I figured I could stretch the whole trip to this part of the world if I didn’t have to pay for accommodation for a few weeks, and maybe score a job somewhere straight away.

I decided to try my luck contacting the Irish woman I had the address of in Wexford Ireland that my friend’s mother’s boyfriend had given me – the only contact I had in Ireland besides those in my WWOOFing guide. Unfortunately I didn’t have a phone number for the place so I’d just have to rock up and see how I went.

I booked a train ticket for Cardiff, Wales for the next day. From there I was in striking distance to Ireland.

Had I known my passport was not going to be there in London I could have maybe saved a few quid going across the country and just headed straight down from Herefordshire to Cardiff. I didn’t have Google maps back then though so I hadn’t realised Hereford was only like a 2 hour drive away from Cardiff.  I could have probably hitched the distance in a day. Then again it was only 3 hours to London, and I’d only spent a couple of pounds on bus fares, a cinema and drag show ticket and some food. So worth a detour after the couple of weeks of meditation.

It was all such short distances compared to Australia, where you could travel 8-15 hours between big cities. So going back and forth across the country didn’t seem like a big deal.

I had another contact from a dude who did the 3-day Vipassana course with me who lived in Cardiff. I rang him and asked if I could crash a night or 2 on the way to Ireland. He didn’t seem that keen either but he was like, ‘Well, I guess you don’t have anywhere else to stay?’.

‘No’, I said.

The next day I got up, packed my backpack and headed out. I found an ATM and got out a bit of cash. I went back to Aussie/Kiwi guy’s flat and slipped £20 under his door to say thanks, and then went to the station and got on the train for Cardiff.



The guy in Cardiff met me at the train station. He lived with his girlfriend. He apologised for not just immediately saying yes to me staying. He’d been a bit of a street person at times and still found it difficult to trust people due to being burnt a few times in the past. I didn’t judge him, he could of said yes or no, it was up to him.

I was grateful to stay with him and offered to cook him and his girlfriend some dinner to say thanks. We went to a little store and bought some rice, a few spices, some frozen broad beans, and other veggies, and  a tin of tomatoes. Then we went to some street stall and bought a few potatoes and carrots, and some garlic. I whipped them up a vegetable curry which was very average but which they seemed to enjoy. I don’t think the Anglo-British were used to using spices despite their love of Indian (which was mostly Bangladeshi) take out.

The guy and his girlfriend were happy that their guest was showing his appreciation for their trust. The guy worked as a cook, but I’m sure he wasn’t into gourmet shit, more your British fried fares and pies I imagined.

The girlfriend was very nice and I chatted with them about the Vipassana course. The guy was keen to do the 10-day course soon. He said he could see that it had a good impact on me and that he wanted to continue his spiritual journey. His girlfriend was also keen to try it out. I think they did a course a few months later.

The guy showed me some of the sights of Cardiff, including a castle that had been built in mediaeval times on the spot the ancient Romans had once had a fort on. I didn’t go inside, it cost money. I couldn’t spare money at the moment.

The guy kept talking about the weather, it was spring he said and he was waiting for some warmer weather. We were getting tops of maybe 17 when I was there, he was hoping that it’d crack the 20s at some point soon.

I remember passing a car at some point which had had the window smashed. I asked whether we should tell the police and the guy said it was best to keep out of it.

The next day he took me to get the bus down to Fishguard, where you get the ferry across to Ireland. At some point during the visit he’d taken me on the bus somewhere out of Cardiff to show me something I can’t even remember seeing now. I remember the bus and also him trying to sell the remaining portion of his ticket to random people once we got back to Cardiff. I think the tickets lasted the whole day so you could get a little back if you sold it on. I think we went somewhere near the beach, or to the country. It obviously didn’t make a huge impact on me.

I remember hearing people speaking Welsh. It was nice. Especially the older ladies, speaking their Welsh.

I think I spent 2-3 nights there. That was the limit for guests and fresh fish before going off.

I didn’t go overboard with my thanks this time and I didn’t give them £20. I think they were happy to have someone cook a meal for them and to leave a few things in the pantry. I kept in contact with them for years but I didn’t quite hit the social media era so once our letters stopped and I forgot their address I lost touch.

He was a nice guy. His girlfriend was also nice. To help a stranger out, it’s a bit of a risk. It’s nice people do it from time to time.

Heading to Fishguard I realised I’d made it another step of the way on the journey.  I was on my way to Ireland.