On not being Interesting The Jagged Heights


On not being Interesting

The Jagged Heights

This Generous Moment

How to cope when someone snores like a rutting wildebeest.

Whistler, British Columbia
August, 2001

I've been carrying my waterproofs for four months. Today I finally get to use them. Hooray. It's wet in Whistler. I've started the Moose West Pass, two weeks of travel in British Columbia and Alberta, through the Pacific Coast Range and the Rockies. Endless magnificient mountain views and hiking opportunities. And a fat lot of good that is when it's pissing down.

As a hiker and orienteer bred and trained in Ireland, you'd think I could take a little rain now and then. No! No. I've had it with all that miserable damp. What do you think I came 8000 miles for? The problem is, I've had four months of almost continual summer and I'm a little spoilt. I've come to expect sunshine as a matter of right.

Of course, I could always take up a muddy sport like mountain biking. But all my cycling has been on a touring bike, on roads. I'm too far behind to learn all the moves and, more importantly, the cool biking banter to hang out with the bike crowd here. I mean, they can all bunny hop and everything. I dismount when I reach the kerb.

My initial moose bus group has moved on, while I chose to stay. Probably just as well. We went out drinking and dancing the other night. One group member decided he "owned the night" and started dirty dancing with a nameless female on top of a nightclub podium. That member is feeling very sorry and somewhat gassy today, believe you me.

Cheerful Morning Person

I can take this opportunity to switch off and re-generate. Travel is becoming more and more wearing. It's not just the physical fatigue, the dirt and insects and lack of sleep. I feel an emotional ennui. I can't keep meeting people forver, forever greeting, and talking, and justifying myself. And making new friends. And saying goodbye. And being alone again. Over and over.

The lack of privacy is the hardest part. In this dormitory life, this hostel life, there is nowhere to escape to, nowhere to re-build your personality without someone wanting to talk to you, or someone falling over your rucksack, or someone hanging around the shower room looking creepy and weird, or someone snoring like a rutting wildebeest.

The cheerful morning people are the worst. There is nothing worse - imagine, you've just woken up, bad sleep because of aforesaid wildebeest, tired, sitting in bed wearing only your jocks, no shower or breakfast yet, NO COFFEE YET, and some bright little head suddenly appears at your hip, all smiles and "Hey there mate! How are we today? Oooh a little grumpy! And what are you up to today, eh?"

"Facing charges for taking off your fucking head you impertinent little shit if you're still here when I get down. Although, when I explain that you were a cheery morning person, the judge will bring down the charge to justifiable homicide, no doubt."

Volley Ball Improvements

Vancouver. I should have come here ten years ago and left the bog behind forever. There is so much to do here. In the evenings the people gather to walk, jog, cycle, play volleyball with their mates. There is so much more to life here than just going to the pub.

I started to learn volleyball in the east. So far, I've developed one technique. Whenever the ball comes my way, I bend my knees, brace my arms, and dig, knocking the ball up , up in a perfect looping arc, as all my team gather to watch, as it curves like a shining white swallow. Up! Up... and back... back... Back! Completely the wrong direction. It falls behind my team, out of the court, onto the roof of a building, or into a lake, some distance away, from which it must be retrieved.

This has caused some consternation among my team-mates.

I've hit on an improvement. Now, just before the ball falls to me, I turn myself 180 degrees round, and dig as before. The ball still falls out, but now in the right direction.


Vancouver. It has the perfect setting, between the mountains and the sea. Grouse mountain is famed for its view over the city, so I decided to climb the path up it, the Grouse Grind. This turned out to be an endless staircase cut into the side of the hill, 1000m high. Nothing to do then but place one foot over the other then and keep going. At least I would be rewarded with the spectacular view from the top. 52 minutes later I emerged, humid but triumphant - to see - nothing. Nothing! A giant cloud of smog covered the city. I took the ski lift down.

Kristy. I met a beautiful young woman while I was in Mexico who insisted that I contact her when I came to Vancouver. I didn't expect anything more than to meet for a drink or a meal some evening, but Kristy over-whelmed me by devoting two whole days to make sure that I saw the best of Vancouver. We went cycling all over the city together, visiting every part of town, from the Stanley Park sea wall to the Granville Market where we stopped for a drink over-looking the harbour.

We went hiking in the coastal mountains when it wasn't raining. I am a dark and cynical old man, as you all know, but for all that I can be struck by kindness all the more. And as we drove back along the Sea to Sky highway, watching the island mountains shoulder easily through the sunset water, I thought, this golden moment, despite all the whining and griping and insects and weirdos, Kristy, these generous moments are all I travel for.




Squamish Chief


Top of Squamish Chief


Hat & Spoon



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The Facts

Where I stayed
Vancouver: HI Vancouver Jericho Beach. Large hostel by the sea. Airy, good for the beaches, but far from town.
Whistler: Shoestring Lodge. Hotel converted into backpackers lodge. Nice rooms, small kitchen, bar attached.

How I got around: Moose tours. Excellent hop-on/hop-off service. The staff struggle to do their best for you wherever they can. Can be heavily booked.