We had to give up trying to chase her back into the stables everynight when she statred out smarting us..and out running us..Funny little piggy
Being a member of WWOOF Italia (World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farming) allows me access to farms throughout the country in need of assistance and so while in La Spezia I take the time to contact one in Modena, near Bologna where I will work with cattle.
After some quick goodbyes and a mad sprint for the bus I make it to the train station where my slowly improving language skills help me board the right train. Once bitten, twice shy and all that. –Once got on the wrong train in Scotland and went 200 miles the wrong way-.
We’re not half an hour into our journey before an almighty bang sounds from the front. Our train seems to lift slightly for a second while shaking violently from side to side and as I look through the window I see stones spray from beneath my carriage.
My first thought was that we were coming off the tracks and “Fuck, I never got to finish my book”! Maybe a fallen tree or a damaged rail, but after coming to a stop I then see the driver along with a hoard of official looking people out surveying the damage and checking the wheels under my coach until finally, after an hour a conclusion is reached that our train is indeed fucked.
As we make a very slow retreat back to our nearest platform to catch a different train, I spy the culprit, a big fucking goat. It really is a big goat. From its head to its tail lie a distance of about a kilometre!
Train vs goat
Like always my train of thought is directed from within my pants. I convince myself that this is where it’s going to happen. Yes Andy, you will arrive here and the farmer will greet you with open arms. “Well hello there, you’ve made it just in time. I have many daughters needing serviced and milked, one hundred cows to be eaten and a fountain of beer waiting just for you”!
What I do find is a Mother/Son family farm with about twenty cows, bulls, calves, five goats, horses, ducks, peacocks, turkeys a chicken and one potbellied pig called Maylina. No daughters but an endless supply of wine and probably the best food I’ve ever had in my life.
My first day on the farm and I’m being led around by an 84 year old woman helping to change beds, fold sheets and prepare rooms for guests arriving as this small farm also doubles up as a restaurant and bed n’ breakfast. The raw meat I ate last-night is doing some serious damage to my stomach today but with no way of explaining this I decide to suffer in silence while tucking in beds, mopping floors and trying not to shit myself.
While she leaves the room for a moment I seize this opportunity and fly towards the on suite making it just in time. Our special guests are expected any minute now and if this old lady catches me stinking up their toilet or whole house for that matter, I’m in no doubt that she’ll beat the crap right out me however, that might not be such a bad thing right now.
I don’t even bother opening a window because I’ll just forget to close it and an open toilet window would just make it more obvious that someone’s done a big jobbie. My hopes are on the idea that year’s spent living on a cow farm has made her indifferent to such smells. Maybe she’ll like it? I’m in the clear but never straying far from a toilet for the next few days until my system can handle such fine, fresh, raw Italian produce, but oh what a pickle if that toilet hadn’t flushed!
An Italian/French friend I’ve met here who is also volunteering leaves to go home now and it’s my turn to work in the stables feeding cows and clearing shit. I enjoy this job a lot and you get used to the smell pretty quickly. I do come under fire occasionally from a stubborn goat who doesn’t give a fuck and a bull that sends out one shattering kick right on my balls. I’m not a man who’d normally condone violence to animals but I will make an exception in this occasion. It does cheer me up no end though to watch our biggest bull slip, fall and land on top of the farm hand. Maybe I deserve to be kicked in the balls?
On numerous occasions I’m treated to the sight of the farmers Mum stomping after the goats armed with a pitchfork shouting “DIE, DIE”! I would later learn that ‘dai’ actually means come on in Italian and she doesn’t really hate those goats quite as much as I thought.
You’d expect to see a pigeon..maybe a blackbird perched on your windowsill..
What little I can understand from her is that if I keep feeding the cows they will explode. Cool! Her son Stefano does one mean impression of a cow and what facial expressions to look for when they want fed. Trouble is they always look like that unless they’re still eating. Or exploding.
After slamming my ankle in the van door one day as we set off to pick up about a year’s supply of wine, I can’t help but feel a little stupid and confused as to how I managed to do that. It really hurts like a bitch. Then Azis, the Afghan farm hand realises while taking a tight bend that his doors still wide open. I’ve never seen anyone do that before and from the reaction on his face from watching his bosses’ door almost get ripped from its hinges, I wouldn’t be at all surprised if there’s a sneaky little pooh in his pants right now!
I’m taken to Bologna to work in a market during the night selling hot food to hot students and other farmers. It would seem that Bologna is where it’s all at in terms of tasty Italian women and I’m liking this city immensely. There’s definitely something about Bologna, a certain charm and appeal. Or maybe it’s the fact that the only bit of affection I’ve received so far is being licked half to death by calves.
. . .
Looking back I can recall one time around the age of fourteen, maybe fifteen when myself and a group of friends ‘borrowed’ a car and took it for a little spin in an empty car park close to where we lived. It was a hatchback and being the last to enter an already packed vehicle, I took up position in the back with just enough room to kneel down. My driving friend would later claim that the steering wheel locked and there was nothing he could do, but after hitting that embankment, launching into the air before coming down hard on the nose and finally slamming back down to earth on all four wheels sending me through that family car like a fucking pinball. It’s fair to say I was somewhat shaken.
Nothing compared to the terror I now face sitting uncomfortably once again but now behind the single seat of a large, suspension-less tractor with no rear window to lean against as we cut a passage through impossibly steep slopes in the hills of Modena, Monteombraro.
When Death comes to town she’ll be riding one of these!
Clinging on for dear life to the handles of a sunroof with my heart in my mouth as we bulldoze through deep scrub that offers no clues to what degree of shit we’re running into and Stefano doesn’t give a rats ass. Maybe Bolognas last football defeat was the just too much and he’s given up on life altogether choosing now to be buried in a heap of petrol, metal and burning rubber, but I don’t want to die just yet. As nice as this place is I’ve still got a book to write and things I’d like to do!
My knuckles are white from gripping so hard and I’m shitting bricks. As he smashes through yet more small trees in search of the other tractor he fucked up around here I perch on my feet and ready myself to jump out the gaping hole behind me as we start to climb an even worse slope. Not a chance in Hell if I jump from here, which is exactly where I’ll go now that I look down 800 meters to the rock filled bottom. So I take my chances with this big, blue contraption of Death as suicide by way of being shat from the backend of a tractor isn’t quite my style.
We level out and come to a clearing where lies the remains of the last tractor to come here and I shift my aching ass from that cabin just grateful to be alive and not imbedded between ground and tractor. We take the long, safe route home and it’s about thirty minutes quicker than the shortcut!
“Moo”! You took the words right out of my mouth
. . .
Breakfast for fat bastards!
Seven months into 2012 and what have I done?
A visit from Ulrica, my Swedish friend was great during the New Year, but I did make her sick as hell for about four days due to a deep fried Mars Bar with chips- yeah, that’s not just a Scottish myth-.
Then the standard; Swimming in the sea to mark the beginning of a New Year dressed as a pink fairy. Demolished a meter long burrito to earn a T-shirt and then completed a twelve mile assault course including fire, water, mud, ropes and electric shocks in a respectable time. To be honest I was just trying to outrun those fucking midges (Scottish mosquitoes).
Right in the face..Hell yeah!
I’ve given up drink for now because I want to save for my next adventure and cold beer on a cold day’s pretty shit anyway.
After an email from a South Korean girl I met in Nicaragua suggesting a farm in Italy and a Facebook message from an Italian friend asking if anyone fancied a project in Bosnia, I decide that two birds can indeed be killed with one stone.
In Scotland the word bird can also be used to describe a girl. Let me just assure you that both girls are very much alive and well. In this case I am just suggesting I can do both things at once.. kind off.
. . .
My phone springs to life at 4am and it’s time for Bosnia. Time for my mobile to shut the fuck up and with that I drift back to sleep.
Today I’m at my friends house in Venice and about to set off on a road trip with her friends while she jets off towards the UK for a job interview. We will drive through.. Sorry.. They will drive through the winding valleys of Slovenia, flat and open spaces stretching for miles through Croatia and finally into the wild, rouged terrain of Bosnia and Herzegovina listening to me talk shite all the way.
A scout house not so far from Gracanica in the Sprsk Republic is what we will call home during our youth work here before taking part in a summer camp in Miricina with people from both Serbian and Muslim communities aged 15 to 25. At the risk of sounding like a fucking travel brochure I really have to say that the country side around here is some of the best I’ve seen, on this side of the world anyway. I’ll enjoy the tranquillity of it before the tourists start to flock.
In the grounds of our school I’m kept on my toes with football, arm wrestling, making Dream Catchers and the local favourite game of Black man! In this game I have to run around the football pitch catching kids before they make it past the line and turn them also into Black men. Hey, I didn’t make the name!
In this 40oC heat I have to say I’m dying a little, running out of clean socks and therefor smelling a little and needing ease up on the Rakija (Bosnian spirit). If you ever choose to travel with a group of people from other parts of the world might I take this opportunity to recommend Italians? Sure, they have a reputation for changing sides when the shit hits the fan but their way with food convinces me that they could make a fucking chair taste delicious! That and of course their kind of easy on the eye.
We’re taken to an amazing waterfall/lagoon deep enough for diving and high enough for dying probably if I get this wrong. After dozens of dives, belly flops and a game of water polo we wind up our time back at the school with a game of bingo.
Now, so far I’ve not done anything stupid but as I hold my bag of Scottish gifts open for our first winner I suddenly remember with stark horror that I have a packet of Whisky flavoured condoms that might just be in this bag. Fuck!
Thankfully my contraceptive water-balloons are nowhere to be seen and must be lurking in another bag waiting for me to get some future soul all wet and dripping.
–Was that subtle enough?-
Joining the other volunteers for a restaurant meal inside a shopping mall, I waste to time in digging myself a hole by adding to the conversation on books, that I have just been reading Porno. Eh? I try desperately to explain that it’s not a naughty magazine but actually the sequel to a very funny book about heroin addicts. That possibly sounds worse. This moment is turning almost as bad as the time I tried to google my favourite System Of A Down song and typed in a search for Violent Pornography in a packed out Costa Rican internet café. No blocks on that computer then!
Summer camp introduces me to the world of volleyball. For my Scottish friends that would be a strange game played by those who can’t play football. As a nation of shit footballers (Scotland), I believe this is just what we need! I’m completely shit but the rest of my team are amazing and not only do we win our first game but also the entire tournament. 100% record bitch! Modesty’s not my thing.
Not just an introduction to volleyball, but also one really hot Bosnian girl fluent in Italian. Maybe time to learn a few words? Fuck it, that shit never ends well anyway!
On our return from a picnic not far from summer camp (another school), I walk alongside a few new friends when I’m advised by one to keep on the path because if I step on a landmine we’ll all be fucked. I thought he was joking but apparently not. Signs warning of landmines are frequent and plentiful around these parts bringing a stark reminder that things were pretty messed up around here and fifteen years was not so long ago.
After my usual shit attempts at saying goodbye, I realize I’ve just promised I’ll be back next year. Thing is that I have no idea what I’ll be doing this time next year but if I’m not busy coaching Scotland’s new volleyball team then I’ll be sure to make a note in my diary:
BOSNIA AND HERZEGOVINA!
The scout house..Home for about two weeks
No mans an island..Unless you are the Isle of Man.. This is not the Isle of Man though
Now far be it for me to give advice on ladies. In-fact, I may well have less knowledge on the subject than a packet of peanuts. But, I can offer one nugget of info.
If you do meet a cute girl on your travels of whom you enjoy the company of. Might I suggest not handing her a first draught of your book containing material such as masturbation, faeces and attempted sexual exploits gone magnificently wrong?
Also, it would be a great idea not to accidentally show that same Central European girl a photo of yourself balancing a clump of hair above your lip while throwing out a fascist salute. –I’d just had my head shaved and it seemed funny at the time..just forgot I still had that on my phone-. To be honest I’m still surprised she wanted to go for coffee’s at all after me growing a little..erm..excited at the waterfall in the company of her and her hot friend. I didn’t even notice until Jack pointed it out. Could have killed a monkey with that thing! Also, I’m pretty sure she saw me kick a dog in the face on the way to my house. Theres only so much shit I can take from those stupid, ankle bitting, overgrown rats!
An introduction to my Tico family led me to forget everyone’s name including hers. I breathe. I embrace. I write it all down. That way at least someone else might learn from my mistakes or at the very least get a giggle out of it.
Weight of the world taken of these shoulders and laid to rest on paper, resisting the urge to drive this fuckin pen through my leg with frustration that I’ve done it again.
An extended stay in a foreign land just couldn’t be without a shining example of Andy showing us all exactly how to make a girl think you’re a massive idiot. But stride straight ahead and never look back for we just don’t know what tomorrow’s outcomes will be. Unless it’s wearing a beautiful smile, heart of gold and eyes that pierce your soul.
Costa Rica was a great place for interesting first times. My first time being in a shopping mall held up by gun men. First time having a pistol pointed at my head for fun (separate occasion). Throwing sticks at crocodiles, poking snakes, running with bulls, throwing myself into shallow waterfalls and reaching my highest peak at 3880 meters on Mt Chirripo where I climbed my last 400 at 3am, rediscovering a small fear of heights as I set foot on the top.
On the way up a mountain
Others who have scaled this same mountain might wonder at how the fuck I managed to get lost on my way back when there is only one path all the way down. My answer is this.
There is one other path at the very last km and with a fifty per cent chance of getting it right I followed my gut instinct and jogged on with my Danish friend Krispy Kris to the wrong side of the mountain (hats off to a man who scaled an almost four thousand meter mountain with a suitcase full of books!). Our victory beer would have to wait as we made our mad dash towards the last bus of the day, making it just in time.
Ocean must remember me cause it’s giving a big wave.. Sorry!
One weekend on a world renowned beach would set the scene for one of my favourite first times.
. . .
Lifting myself back onto the board, I claw my way through the water towards the barrelling waves of Dominical.
The back of my legs are stinging in the blistering heat on the Pacific Coast in Costa Rica even after two bottles of sun-cream, but my first couple of days surfing have been a success and I ride in standing tall (kind of) on almost every wave loving every minute.
A brief calm gives myself and Jack the chance to paddle out further in search of the big one, but in the end it’s a big one that finds me.
It came out of nowhere, crashing on top of me like a twenty foot wall, slamming and tossing my body like a rag doll completely at the mercy of the Oceans wrath. My legs tangle in the elastic cable strapped from my ankle to the surfboard as I start to rise only to be smashed back down by the next big wave.
I grab my T-shirt as it’s pulled over my head in the strong under-current, but there’s nothing I can do about my Hasselhoff red shorts that fly out to sea as I perform perfect, underwater somersaults at break-neck speed. Freeing my legs I climb back onto my board, naked as the day I was born.
I frantically paddle towards the coast wishing to avoid the next battering the Ocean has to offer, but I’m heading straight for a busy, family filled beach with my dong out and my white ass for all to see.
So many sharp stones lie in the shallows of the water and I’m cruelly dragged across them all by more waves as I try desperately to protect and hide my willy while Life-guards laugh and parents bring their kids to watch. Jacks laughing so hard he doesn’t see the giant wave that drives his surfboard into his face giving him a Botox lip. Fucking good karma!
My leg is still attached to the board and I see a red object floating in the water between us. It’s my shorts. They got caught in the elastic cable and by quickly un-strapping my ankle I’m able to slip back into them before further damage is caused.
Later that day as I reminisce, telling my story to some fit surfer girls from Germany and Holland, I find myself asking about their tits. Just if there chest got as red as mine while on the board. I don’t know why, but I do have a tendency to say the wrong thing from time to time, or most of the time. I’m harmless enough so they don’t beat me.
Can never have too many surf photos..Dude..
IT WAS THIS BIG!
Settling down with my new host family in Quebradas, three hours South of San Jose, I quickly set about making no favours for myself by handing my Costa Rican Mum a Valentines letter instead of a Birthday card reading along the lines of “Our hearts will be together forever”. I think it was more of a straight forward love card than a Valentines one but she was a bit of a MILF anyway so no big deal from me. Talking about our host families at the bar would earn us a few strange looks from American tourists when we come out with lines like “Well, I’d definetly do my Mum but I would’t touch yours”. As it would happen my little card fuck up wouldn’t hold a candle to events during one uncomfortable evening sat at the dinner table.
“Me caes muy bien, eres especial para mi”. It was in Spanish and translated, my text message read “I like you very much, you are very special for me”.
My pants transform into a massive (!) pitched tent and I’m left stranded at the dinner table sitting next to my host family. “Shit, I can’t move”. I tell myself as I try to think of something that won’t turn me on.
The Father of the family flutters around the connecting living room and remembering that he owns a gun I draw myself further into the table feeling ashamed yet unable to control the image in my head of the beautiful girl and sender of recent saucy messages that I met two days ago while giving out information flyer’s during an International Fare.
Staring at my plate I concentrate on the food gathered in front of me.
“Potatoes”. I say to myself. “Potatoes, sausages and beans”. It’s almost working. “My big, hard sausage tearing its way through her mashed potato, banging her firm white ass through the wall and into the street”. Fuck, I’ve just made it worse!
Looking up for a second I catch my kinda hot, but jail bait host family sister sucking grease from her fingers. “You’re not helping here”. I almost say aloud as my eyes dart back towards my plate hoping her gun wielding Father didn’t notice.
Five days with-out stretching one of is something I will never do again. It’s much needed medicine to combat a Jekyll and Hyde style transformation from laid back, nice guy to psychotic – fuck anything that moves- monster. Living with a new family will certainly throw you into situations you could have never have imagined although it could just be me.
One by one they finish their meal and re-treat back towards the living area to watch CSI in Spanish. I’m calming down now just in time as my tidy 24 year old (host) cousin enters wearing her hot pants. My phone springs to life with another text. “Fuck off bitch, you can wait until I’m back in my room”!
I would later receive messages along the lines of “Are you a good kisser”?
I’m in there is the obvious thought to enter my mind!
Her reply to my suggestion that we will find that out at the weekend would then read “No Andy. I was only joking! I just want to be friends!”
You know what?
I’m not looking for friends. I’ve got fucking friends and to quote The Big Yin “I just want to get hot and sweaty”!
We live and learn eh? I learned to let Jack answer future messages from her. She’s not an issue now.
JACK..WHAT THE FUCK DID YOU WRITE?
Not a bad place to work
Andy vs Beast.. Turns out I can run!
With little or no concept of political correctness , we found ourselves glued to the popular bull festival containing dwarf people dressed as matadors getting mullard by bulls and then lost for words while visiting another friend’s house near the Corcovado National Park.
Ben hadn’t met our other English friend before and introduced her to his host family as being from Germany. His Dad didn’t waste time.
“So you’re a Nazi? Do you like Hitler”?
A previous volunteer at this house had in-fact been German and had had to leave for a new family. For reasons I can imagine.
. . .
Wading waist high through a river we’re told plays home to crocodiles and even bull sharks when the tide comes in and on our way towards camp in the Corcovado National Park after a 27km hike through a half forest, half beach trail on the very day our coasts on alert from a tidal wave expected from the massive earthquake in Japan.
I collapse in a heap on the narrow stretch of grass beside the Ranger station and get promptly told “Can you move please? There’s a plane landing”! Not every day you find yourself sunbathing on a landing strip in the middle of the jungle.
Little runway in the jungle
Following a night of being cooked in my thermal sleeping bag, eaten my mosquitos and pawed at by some large rodent like scavenger through our thin tent, we make our way back through the trails.
There’s a puma in the area. We hear it sun bathes near- by but our search only leads us to being pissed on by monkeys and the sighting of a jaguarondi-small jaguar- a mere twenty meters from us which is just as good for me. But no puma.
We tackle shark river once more. Deeper now and more likely to have a shark or croc this time. With phone in hand, bag in the other I wade out like some human sacrifice to appease the appetite of some man-eating river monster
Already losing my only water bottle due to the bright idea of throwing it over first only to watch it slip from my fingers early and flush out to sea. Probably going to die of dehydration now so I might as well take a stupid dolphin with me.
A group of men dressed in military uniforms, rifles slung with Costa Rican patches pass us by. Trouble with this picture is Costa Rica doesn’t have an army. Poachers after our puma but I aint stopping them.
Making it back in time for what feels like the best beer I’ve ever had and our last bus to Ben’s house of racism, we can only marvel at the sight of scarlet macaws everywhere standing out so clearly against a stunning background of blue skies and green palm trees.
That night we gorge ourselves on shrimp, octopus, snails and pizza before spending a night sleeping on a floor surrounded by scuttling cockroaches. Awoken by the snuggling of a tic riddled puppy I’m given a breakfast of bull testicals from the local ‘castration of the bulls’ festival.
We make our way to a river where we throw sticks at crocs just to see what happens and I make a hasty retreat from the water’s edge after one fine specimen menacingly turns and makes its way towards us.
My own experience of the San Isidro Bull Festival –no castration here-would take place inside a small arena packed full for the last days show.
After presenting a copy of my passport and signing a disclaimer written in Spanish I join the other participants on one knee as we receive our last rights from the local Priest. Retreating backstage to limber up I start to wonder what the hell I’ve led myself into this time.
A gauntlet of lady-boys has set up shop along the passage way leading back into the arena. It’s a common thing to wear a fancy-dress costume for this event but I’m not convinced they’re only acting when passing through them I’m lifted off my feet by my balls and savagely groped by twenty pairs of hands. Making it through I pause to catch my breath before being grabbed by the collar and dragged backwards for a second assault receiving more attention than I’ve ever had in my life.
My third time through and I’m feeling bruised, abused and a little flustered. Did I just score?!
The bulls are let out one, sometimes two at a time and chase us down for fifteen minutes before a cowboy on horseback comes to lead it away then the next bursts from the pen to take its place.
All shapes and sizes are found here from smaller fast bulls with sinister, demon like horns to gigantic half water buffalo. The bravest – or dumbest- it would appear are actually the lady-boys who try to grab the bull by the horns quite literally before getting smashed, trampled, bitten and skewered by these raging beasts –none of which are harmed as they take care of their bulls in this country-.
At one point all the medics and security guards leave their stations to have a game of football in where a set of posts are planted at each end of the arena and points are awarded to the team who can get the bull to cross your oppositions goal line. The bull is the ball basically.
In the midst of all this I pull out my phone and begin snapping some pictures before noticing the great, hulking mass bearing down on me. I run for my life, bring my foot upon a small wooden ledge a meter high along the surrounding barrier and throw myself face first into the lens of a television camera.
Mr Bull.. Better luck next time eh?
For five hours this would continue and I can now say for sure that a man can in-fact out run a bull and thank fuck for that
My real surprize from this whole experience would actually come from the Costa Rican people who believe everything is so ‘peligroso’ (dangerous). If I swim in the river its peligroso. If I pick up a snake its peligroso –fair enough-. If I walk to the shops its peligroso. But when I’m on my way to run with bulls it’s “have fun”!
Grabbing the bull by the horns..I’ll pass thanks.