I felt a rumble in my lower abdomen, a warning of nasty things to come. Or come out to be more precise. It wasn't going to be via the throat either. I kept on walking up the road and saw a group of blocks of flats. I walked past the first as it had enclosed parking. The second was a better option. The parking was unsecured and open to the public. I headed to the building core hoping like fuck that there was a toilet. Eureka, two of them. I made it just in time and when I was finished put up a biological hazard warning sign. To get to this point I'd hung around the Oktoberfest site for several hours, bemoaning the loss of my passort and wondering what had happened to the Yaapie lass. At the same time I was immensely enjoying the party atmosphere and the large glasses of beer brought around by the bierfraus. Somehow I lost the crew I'd gone with and by pumpkin time I was messy enough to decide to leave. I'd exited the festival site and gone wandering, looking for the buses heading back to the campsite. That's how I happened to be walking along this road somewhere in Munich a wasted, lost mess.
I went into wasted lost mess recovery mode which meant heading back to the festival site. As I did I saw a trio of other messes and enquired on their health on such a fine evening. They were busted-arse messed up drunks, like myself. They did however let me know that the last buses had left so it was time to look for alternatives. My immediate response was to hail the next taxi I saw.
"Its the only way. Shouldn't be too much split amongst four. Come on." I was a genius. Ended up costing about DM20. This meant the price of a couple of beers each. I put a gold medal around my neck as I gave the Turkish driver the destination. He said,
"Any mess, fifty mark." Fair enough, so I nodded my assent. I looked at the others and they didn't seem to hail from anywhere near the vicinity of Incontinentia or Spewsville, just Stupidtown.
Back at the campsite I made my way to my tent and was about to lurch onto my nest when I noticed a form on my bed. Two forms actually and they were moving. In unison. The dirty fuckers! Literally. The male who I didn't recognise was being ridden by a young lady who I also didn't recognise.
His feral voice broke the noise of passion,
"Geez mate. You don't wanna go slops do ya?" This didn't seem to impress either the young lady or myself.
"Nup. See ya." Then I walked away and discovered that yes, I had fucked up and gone to the wrong tent. I found mine, went in and passed out.
The following morning was attended by the results of a severe visitation of the hangover gorillas during the night. I steeled myself for the coming tribulations, went and showered, shaved, scraped my tongue of its fur and then joined in the bacon and egg breakfast scramble. It was a lifesaver. I then spied Gary talking to Lex and went over, nodding g'day to both of them.
"So Lex, what's the guff on passport replacement. Mine did a runner last night."
"So Gary was saying, you fucking drop kick. How much money did they get?"
I explained how I'd separated my valuables and he nodded,
"That's good. Now there's usually a shuttle into town in the morning around 11.00 o'clock and it can drop you near the Pommy consulate. They act as agents for the Aussie embassy in Bonn. You'll need a police report first though. So get dropped off near the police station. Get the report, get half a dozen passport photos from one of those machines and then go and visit the Poms. Hopefully the passport will get to the Poms before we leave. If not you'll be stuck here until its ready. You could go to Bonn if you want. Day there, hang around a day to get the passport, a day back."
"Fuck that. I'll get the Poms to do the leg work." I had a plan for the day. But first I needed to find out what happened to the Yaapie lass.
"Gary, where's that Seth Efriken chick?"
Gary smiled, shook his head and replied,
"Haven't seen her this morning. She must have found a decent fella at last." Bastard!
Oh well, all's fair in lust and beer I s'pose. Just have to do some more spadework elsewhere. Didn't really feel like it at the time so I went for a wander up to the main office and supermarket block and bought some smokes. As I was walking out I heard a very loud voice exclaim to the world,
I turned around and saw Dog. He was a bloke from Queensland who had been on the same Invasion of Scandinavia, USSR and Poland with me a few months earlier. One of the sayings we'd fashioned was "USELESS!" said very loudly when someone fucked up in grand style. The best example of this was when Jacko (she'd been named Jacko by some Melbourne blokes because they thought she looked like the Aussie Rules player, Mark "Jacko" Jackson, oi!). In mid border crossing between Poland and East Germany she'd not returned to the bus from a toilet break. We spotted her two lanes away trying to get the attention of the border guards. Stupid bint. Ian, the driver had opened the doors and yelled out "Over here you stupid tart!". She sauntered back very slowly and when she got back on board the whole bus erupted with a well earned USELESS! I would have felt sorry for her but she was as daft as a brush; silly as a wet hen. Dog's real name was Andrew and he was usually accompanied by Bear (his mate, Ian). But not this time. I went up and shook Dog's hand. We were both sporting huge grins at this unexpected meeting. One of our episodes in Berlin was when Dog and I evaded the group and went to Berlin Zoo to see the polar bear they'd captured during some blitzkrieg event in Greenland. We'd seen the big furry thing (and the polar bear) and Dog had snapped a bloody good photo of a couple of brown bears deep in the throws of passion. It was a classic. Bear was amused when he saw the pic a couple of weeks later.
Dog was at Oktoberfest for a couple of days only being in the midst of another trip around Europe. I explained my sad situation of having to go and front the Polizei then the British consulate. He reckoned it sounded like too much hard work. He'd prefer to go and sample the delights at the Oktoberfest site, so off he went. It was around two months previously when he first pulled the "USELESS" stunt on me. I was outside the hostel in Dingle (Ireland, County Cork) checking with the hostel manager about available beds and was having no luck when I heard the same call of "USELESS" launched from the adjacent campground. Yep, Dog, Bear Bev and Kris came bounding up. Bev was nice Canadian girl who'd been to Russia with us and Kris was a spunking girl from Melbourne. Kris was to Dog, "sex on a stick" and Dog's current prey. She hadn't wilted at that stage and didn't seem likely to, unfortunately for Dog. Bev however was very pleased to see me. I never worked it out but apparently she fancied me during that Russia trip. Stupid Therbs, opportunities lost! Regrets? Yeah, I had one right there. The next time I heard the same "USELESS" shout was the following year at the SCG during a Swans (Aussie Rules) game. I was walking from the bar near the Bill O'Reilly stand down to the concourse when Dog did it again, out of nowhere and otherwise totally unannounced. Funny sort of bloke. The Swans beat Brisbane that day much to Dog's chagrine and my delight.
(Enough of the USELESS and Dog anecdotes, okay Therbs? You're in Munich, at the campground waiting to get the shuttle into the cop shop in town.) ( Okay boss.)
The bus took a group of us in. We'd all lost our passports but one couple had actually been mugged. That was serious. We settled into the polizei bureau, they heard what we said, gave most of us carbon-papered, multi-lingual forms to fill in and took the mugged couple into a room to get details. I completed my form, took it to Schultz who duly witnessed it, stamped it and gave me three copies. Thanks Schultz, I'll get Lebeau to bake you a strudel. Then it was off to the nearest photobooth for a strip of passport pics. That done, I headed off to the Consulate de Pom.
I went in, they gave me a form for a replacement Aussie passport and had a whinge about the Australian embassy no longer posting agents at the British Consulate in Munich during Oktoberfest. They got the Oz mob on the blower from Bonn and handed me the phone. I explained what had happened and they said it would take four days to get a temporary replacement. That was cutting it very close to the departure of the Autotours crew for London. Could be tricky. I had the Brit consulate bod witness my application form and went and bought the Kraut version of an Express Post envelope, guaranteed next day delivery. I posted the fucker and then headed off to the Festival site. It was pretty much the same routine as the first day so I'll skip the details. Just suffice it to say there was a lot of clashing of glasses, "Cheers boys!" toasts and the "Aussie - Kiwi" chant. This time I made it back to camp on the bus with the rest of our crew. Slept pretty well that night considering I was alone. What ever did happen to the Yaapie lass?
In the morning we were very pensive as well as being hungover. Once we'd cleaned up, had breakfast and got on the bus we were really thinking hard about our destination. Dachau. I'd previously been to Matthausen camp and had some idea of what to expect but when you walk in to the barracks, see the narrow wooden planks which slept three adults and the sparse, utilatarian design to everything, the feeling is one of despair. Walking into the shower blocks I fingered the GAS shower token in my pocket. It was one fucked up feeling. I don't see ghosts but I felt thousands of them crying tales of true evil. We checked out everything, trying to numb down the feeling but that was impossible when the strands of hopeless fate caught themselves up with the cord of murderous, institutional slaughter. We exited Dachau a very sombre group of people, speechless, wandering in our minds looking for some sort of perspective. We knew why it had happened but couldn't see it happening. It was disbelief writ large but contradicted by what we'd just walked out of. There were some mutterings of "Fucking Nazis", "Wish they could have been nuked." and the like. I couldn't say anything. I pulled out a shower token and threw it at the building. It clanked against the wall and rolled a short way before coming to a stop. I left it there, hoping the fucking thing would rot.
The mood on the bus going back was still subdued but Lex had a couple of more places for us to visit. The Deutsches Museum and the Olympic site. Remember Munich? Oh yeah, the first major hit by nutjob terrorists in Europe since WWII. Lex took us through the site, the Museum and past the BMW building. There was a lot to ponder as we headed to the Oktoberfest site again. After a while in the beer tents we all loosened up, talked about how fucked the Nazis were, the looniness of the terrorists and the merits of a big stick. We drank, we "cheersed", we ate pork knuckles and eventually headed back to the campsite. I needed to find out where Janie was, so Gary and I started a search. We made it to the Contiki camp where we spotted two bicycles. A minute later we were tooling around the campground singing Queens' bicycle song. We dismounted at the bar, grabbed a couple of cans of beer and jumped aboard our trusty conveyances for another couple of laps, waving our beers in the air, saying "Yip yip yip yahoo!" and then cracking on with the Queen impersonation. Somehow we only attracted a minor level of attention, mainly from a bunch of Kiwis ranged around a group of busted-arse campervans. We had to pull up and say hello. They were doing the roochacha song.
"Roochacha roochacha roocha cha cha (repeated)
I'm singing in the rain
Singing in the rain
What a glorious feeling
I'm hap hap happy again.
Okay boys, Feet together
(Response) - Feet together
(response) - Legs together
"Roochacha roochacha roocha cha cha"
and so on and so forth.
One of them even offered me a slug of Jack Daniels, being impressed with my drink riding ability and our custody of Contiki bicycles. Gary was a bit confused at first but soon cottoned on. It was pisspots doing pisspot stuff, can't be that hard to figure out for a Canaussie.
We did return the bikes to Contiki and as we made our way back to the Autotours battleground Gary told me he reckoned Janie had found a fella. I think I already knew that didn't I? Yeah, I reckon I did. He was just rubbing it in. Bastard. I went to sleep still pissed off at the Nazis and the whackjobs but there was too much booze in my system for me not to fall asleep (read plummet like a giant anvil in a roadrunner cartoon). In the background I heard Bill Murray mutter something about getting his old job back, moving back into his apartment and making up with his girlfriend, just before he and Harold Ramis got collared by a couple of spunking MP's.
The next two days were pretty much replays of the first couple except that I did manage to find Janie. She'd shacked up with some Kiwi bloke for the duration. Foolish girl. In the afternoon I rang up the Pommy consulate, checking on my passport. Not there, should be in tomorrow. Great, the bus back to London coincided with this timing. It was going to be a close rui thing so I briefed Lex. He said they'd hold up for an hour but that was it. Timing was everything with the ferries and the pick up coach waiting at Dover. After breakfast the next morning I packed up my gear and headed into town, straight to the Brit consulate. My passport hadn't arrived in the morning post. Have to wait for the afternoon mail drop. 4.00 pm. Autours would be on their way by then. I wouldn't be with them. Fuck, here we go. Time for Plan B. Without a rail pass that was going to be a killer. This was before cheap airfares in Europe, except for pre-planned charter jobs. Hitch hike? That could well be the answer. Wouldn't be too bad, Take two or three days maybe but I'd make it. I went back to the campground and briefed the Autotours site rep and Lex. They were sorry they couldn't wait but that's how it goes. I then spotted someone doing stuff to a Contiki coach across the way. I turned to Lex,
"Whaddaya reckon? Looks like he's prepping for a night departure. No passengers about yet."
Lex nodded enthusiastically,
"Yeah, find out when he's leaving. If he's got a spare seat don't go above twenty quid. That's more than enough for the bugger."
I moseyed on over and did some spade work. Yep, he was taking off at 7.00 p.m. Yep, he had a spare seat. Twenty pounds cash was fine. Be here by 6.30 and you can pay then.
I spent the rest of the afternoon perched on an esky (ice chest, chilly bin) having a few settlers to get the fuel needle closer to sleep range for the night bus trip. The Autotours mob packed up and milled around the bus. They were leaving me behind but didn't seem that concerned. Most of them looked well fried and in need of a week's rest. I waved them off as they headed back to London, Therbsless. A little while later I cabbed it into the Brit consulate, grabbed my replacement passport and headed back to the campsite. I was hanging outside the bar drowning my sorrows when the Contiki driver came up,
"Could be a bit of a problem mate. The courier's some new bloke who's gotten a bit narky about the passenger manifest. Maybe you want to have a word with him yourself."
So I did. Went straight up to him and told him what was happening. Then I mentioned the names of the guys who'd taken me through Russia (Ivan and Ian). Turns out Ivan had run this guy's training trip and passed him. So there I was looking at this greenhorn straight out of the academy, busted arse that I was, unshaven, hungover and not feeling like engaging in diplomacy. He ummed, ahhed, looked at his manifest, looked at the driver, looked at me and looked at his clipboard again. This was getting ridic, I had to say something,
"Listen, Geoff is it? I know how much Contiki values customer assessment and how that affects bonuses for you guys at the end of a trip. You maybe get an extra fifty quid or something, that right? Well I'll guarantee you get excellent plusses up and down the board from this group of passengers. What do you reckon?"
He thought about it, nodded, and said,
"Yeah, why not. Back here at 6.30." He walked away.
"What a fucking knob!" Was my response to the driver's bemused look. I handed him twenty pounds and said I'd be back at 6.30. I then went and split a couple of beers with the Autotours site reps, explaining what had gone on. They found it quite amusing. One asked me how I was going to guarantee the high ranking.
"I'm not. Fuck it, once I get to Oosetende or wherever,I'm happy. I'll make my own way if needs be after that. But the driver seems a good bloke. I might just get the passenegers to hand me the forms and then bodgy them up a bit." This wouldn't take much. They'd all be messes by leaving time and open to any authoritative directions. Could be a laugh.
At 6.30 I bade farewell to the Auotours crew and said hello to my new best friends, Contiki. The bus was half full. We collected the other half of the complement at the Oktoberfest site. As we motored away from Munich I well knew I wouldn't be back for quite a while, if ever. Thanks Munchen, it was fun but you needn't have nicked my passport. I took my assessment form wrangling seriously. I grabbed them off the greenhorn courier and took them back to my seat.
The bloke next to me was confused.
"Just a bit of insurance paperwork." was my explanation. I went through them, marking ticks in the right boxes, but not one hundred per cent. Needed to be a bit realistic. I went up and down the bus getting people to sign them and then handed them back to the courier. He got on the mike
"Okay guys, thanks for completing the evaluations so quickly, Contiki really appreciates it. Sit back, relax, we have a long haul coming up. Next break will be in a couple of hours."
A voice piped up from Bad Boys Corner at the back of the bus,
"That was a shonk! Redraw!" I sauntered up the back and explained to Mr Argument that it was standard procedure and please shut the fuck up. I pulled a beer out of the esky in the aisle and handed it to him. He grabbed it, ripped off the ring pull and took a large mouthful, exclaiming,
"Ahhh. Never thought I could down anotheree but this is great. Aren't you having one yourself?" Dead easy. Distract them with shiny things or beer.
"Okay, may as well." I grabbed one, sat down, lit a smoke, raised my beer and started up a can clanging round of "cheers". It was a tad noisy and I looked up the front, seeing the driver grinning in the rear vision mirror. The long haul back had begun.