Drifting Part Two

Area we got stuck

Before we get started, here’s some rules about canal boat conduct:

  • Always pass other boats on the right.
  • Always pass other boats at walking pace.
  • Do not intentionally ram other boats at top speed.

And while we’re at it, here are a few facts about the boats themselves:

  • They are long and narrow. Kind of ram-shaped.
  • They are bastard impossible to steer. Impossible!
  • They have absolutely NO BRAKES. NONE.
  • They hate you.
  • They want you to die screaming.

Putting all that together, you might gain an insight into the first few minutes and hours of our boat stewardship.

Read the rest of this entry

Drifting – Part One

Side-of-boat

Four adults on a relaxing, 4-night canal boat cruise. What could possibly go wrong?

Unfortunately, when three of the adults are Slaters, things are bound to get interesting…

It’s always been a dream of ours to try living aboard a narrow boat, and drift along the English countryside on the canals, occasionally winding a lock up or down. It all sounds so relaxing…

Read the rest of this entry

So, where were we?

Huashan SunsetOh, that’s right. We’d arrived at the top. Except, it wasn’t the top. It was the beginning of an immense, circuitous route which visited each of the five peaks of the sacred mountain; from the North Peak, where we were now, over the much-higher Central Peak, to the West Peak, where our hostel was, and to the notorious East Peak, where we wanted to go tomorrow. I forget what the other peak was called.

Mountain view

Now, where exactly was that hostel again?

Owing to the slight delay in our starting time, it was 7pm, and the light was already beginning to fail. It made for some gorgeous pictures of the valley below, and the lights of nearby Xi’an City were very nearly visible through the smog. But not quite. We gazed up at the ridiculous ribbon of the Dragonback Ridge payed out above us, and resigned ourselves to another epic stair-climbing session – but not before a brief comedy interlude:

Propergander DeskOh, yes! The bloke behind the desk clearly didn’t appreciate the irony, and I wasn’t about to tell him as he was armed to the teeth. Like all good Tourist Information officers.

And so to the stairs! Forgotten those, hadn’t you? Or blocked them out… Sadly, we didn’t have that luxury. Dragonback ridge followed the barest knife-edge of the rock, a path at times less than a meter wide, with sheer cliffs plunging down on either side. Not a great place to be drunk, I thought, or to meet anyone coming the other way…  At first I thought we were lucky with this, our lateness meaning most visitors had already left the area; but later on we discovered it’s a strictly enforced one-way system, as it is simply too dangerous to allow people to try to pass each other on the ridge.

Looking down Dragonback Ridge

Looking back down the Ridge was even more dramatic!

Beyond the ridge we came to an unexpected guesthouse, that wasn’t listed on any of our maps (Ha! Maps? We had a 2-inch line drawing on the back of our ticket. Labelled in Chinese.) The manager offered us a discount, but Roo and I had been in China long enough by this point to expect a scam of some kind. We pressed on, hauling ourselves up the ragged stone steps, until a gap in the foliage allowed us a glimpse of our destination.

“Bugger that,” I said to Roo. She agreed. The West Peak shone in the distance, the last rays of sun picking out a tiny building clinging to the slope facing us. It was bloody miles away.

So, steps retraced, we booked into the cheapest dorm, and spent the night with eighteen other people, packed in so tight I could feel tremors in my bunk whenever the guy at the far side of the room scratched his arse. We’d scored some free hot water from the manager to make our noodles; in China boiling water is always freely available, in hotels, on trains, in libraries… cold water, though, was an issue. No matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t convince the manager that it was safe to give me any. I had a bag full of water purification pills and a state-of-the-art UV steriliser in my bag, but still I spent two hours decanting boiling water from cup to cup until it was cool enough to pour into our plastic drink bottles!

Huashan Hostel

Gateway to the central peak… where a dorm-bed for $20 is a ‘discount’!

Then we settled in for some sleep. We didn’t get any of course, but what were we expecting, really?

It’s one of the eternal mysteries of the universe: how do people who snore like a drunken sumo-wrestler, always get to sleep before everyone else? Within minutes of the lights going out, a fat bloke two beds over started moaning like a water-buffalo with its balls caught in a barbwire fence. His vocal range was impressive; from squeaks to ecstatic sighs, he covered every noise the human body is capable of making – all with the volume knob set to 11. None of it sounded healthy. Every so often, he would lapse into silence for up to a minute, and I would have the happy thought, “At last! He’s died!”

But no. After an hour, I got up and shook him awake. He jabbered at me in Chinese, and I gave him my best pissed-off look, and went back to bed. He sat up, hacked and coughed for a few seconds, then spat a massive gob-full of phlegm onto the floor. And went back to sleep.

Huashan Hostel Dorm

Close Quarters; the 20 bed dorm maximizes the breathing-space-to-profit ratio…

I don’t think anyone else in that dorm slept. Three other people got up and woke him throughout the night, and each time he was snoring again before they climbed back into their bunks. One girl on the opposite side kept throwing her pillow at him. I spent at least an hour contemplating tipping him out of bed, and making some kind of scene so that the whole dorm could tell him what he was doing to them – but then, the faintest stirrings of light in the room made me realise than dawn was on the way. My alarm was set for 5:00am anyway, so it hardly seemed worth bothering.

At 4:00am the room came alive. All these people were eager to see the dawn, but they still had an hour and a half for that. I think they all just wanted to get the hell out of there, and a few stern words were directed at the snorer as the room emptied. This ended rather abruptly, when he stood up and pulled on a police uniform! It made me quite glad I hadn’t physically assaulted him in the night.

So, dawn it was – we ate our last instant noodles on the darkened deck, and slowly, feeling every step in leg muscles still burning from the previous day’s climb – we headed upwards.

As we went, we passed hundreds of people waiting to see the dawn; they thronged the path, making it more of a shoving match than a hike. There was no sign of dawn, as we moved up past them; nor would there be, as a dense curtain of vegetation shadowed most of the route. But hell, they were the ones who’d invested all this effort in seeing the sunrise. Let them stand wherever the hell they wanted! I was far more concerned with something else just up ahead…

Crowds on Huashan

Dawn is a rare sight in China!

As it happened, we did see the dawn. By not waiting for it, we’d already climbed higher than most by the time it arrived, and emerged onto the crest of a bare ridge. It wasn’t as impressive as the crowds suggested; even this high up a sacred mountain, we were still only an hour from the city. As a result, it was more of a smog-rise than anything else.

Huashan Dawn

The sun rises above the… well, let’s call them clouds, shall we?

But there were other benefits to being up early. After following a series of very helpful signs (WARNING: sarcasm), we managed to find our way to the East Peak… and THIS:

Huashan Plank Walk at dawnThe plank-walk, notorious around the internet as ‘The Most Dangerous Hike In The World’ ™ – is not actually part of the trail. It’s an optional extra that, sadly, now requires the wearing of a harness. I know! How rude. But Roo was having a few last-minute nerves, especially after seeing the metal rungs we had to climb down just to get there…

Rungs down to huashan plank walkSo, maybe the harness was for the best! It certainly gave us the freedom to have a little fun (more of which later…) And because we were the first there, we had the entire Plank Walk to ourselves! We spent about 20 minutes traversing slowly around the cliff face, alone with the spectacular view, and each other. We took so long that other people started to arrive; on the way back we had to pass several tourists, a particularly scary experience involving one party unclipping their safety straps while the other squeezes around them…

Huashan Plank WalkRoo on plank walk rocks

Hua shan plank walk

Ever felt like you were flying?

And then, the excitement was done. There were of course a vast number of stairs still to climb, as we hiked the circuit between the peaks – another 8km in total, that took us over four hours. Some of it was crazy-steep, some utterly-ridiculously steep. And then there were some…

Hua Shan Steep Stairs

Climbing Hua ShanSteep Steps on Hua ShanUnsurprisingly, I climbed this last one a few times too! I just can’t help myself. There’s a video of it HERE, if you’re interested (it’s the one that’s been floating around on Facebook). It wasn’t too difficult; a tiny old Chinese woman did it just after I’d finished. But, um, let’s pretend I didn’t say that. Yes, hero-type-stuff, this climb was… :0)

We were on the way down now, and I couldn’t help noticing the ongoing Disneyfication of the place that had bothered me on the way up. We watched a gang of workmen with hammers chipping the ancient stone steps into gravel – while another gang set the formwork to pour concrete replacements! I think the plan is, by 2015, to turn the entire mountain into a multi-storey car park…

Huashan repairs

“Hey, if we smash these crappy old steps into gravel, we can use it in the concrete for the new ones!”

Far more interesting – and amazing – was the labour they were using to facilitate their ‘repairs’. We passed porters on the way up – carrying everything from huge granite blocks, to vast lengths of metal reinforcing bars – on their shoulders! Having climbed the Soldiers Path yesterday, I could hardly believe these guys were doing it for a living – presumably several times a day – with at least thirty kilos of stone on their backs! Incredible.

Huashan PorterHuashan PorterFinally… at long, long last… we were done. Utterly spent! We’d never planned to hike all the way back down, as it would only be torturing ourselves to cover the same ground; instead we shelled out $15 each, to enjoy the view from the cable cars.

Cable Car view Huashan

As we follow the other cars down, you can just see some of the Soldier’s Path below us!

And of course, the bus ride back to Xi’an was fraught with the usual problems. Such as when the driver kicked us out at a random bus stop on the edge of the city, leaving us lost yet again…

But I won’t bore you with details. Instead, here it is – the video from the dreaded Plank Walk… with a twist! Enjoy!

(And please, let me know what you think in the comments!)

SerenDIPity

I’ve entered a contest run by Cherie and Chris of Technomadia, where they’ve asked travellers (like me!) to write about how serendipity has influenced our lives. If you want to know why I’ve written SerenDIPity like that, check out this post about the contest. If you’re already here via Technomadia, welcome!

And if you’re not? Well, we can’t all be perfect. Welcome anyway :0)

This is my story.

 

Paradise Lost?

I left England for Thailand, intending to spend three months volunteering in an animal clinic. I had visions of a tiny paradise island – and I was dead right! Koh Phangan had everything I could have asked for – postcard-perfect beaches, dense tropical jungle and a party scene so wild I very nearly didn’t survive it.

It was so good, I couldn’t even think about going home.

Actually I missed my flight.

It was accidentally-on-purpose. I’d sort of seen it coming; I hadn’t bothered to check my ticket for a long time, and I wasn’t exactly devastated to find the flight had left without me. I just climbed back into my hammock and appreciated one more fiery sunset over the ocean.

I ended up staying for nearly a year.

I had no desire to go back to England at all – I was taking people Scuba-diving for a living, still working at the animal clinic in-between times and still loving life on that tiny tropical island.

Every day was different; whether guiding customers through shoals of brightly coloured fish, nursing stray dogs back to health at the clinic, or rescuing irate monkeys from places they really shouldn’t be (like restaurants); as far as I was concerned, my life there was perfect.

Palm Tree ClimbingThai BeachEventually though, I began to run out of money; I’d spent everything I could, then borrowed more and spent that too. My diving wages had all gone on dive gear and I was fighting the realisation that my trip was nearly over.  The final blow was when a thief broke into my bungalow and stole the last of my cash. I was getting desperate. Being suddenly penniless 6,000 miles from home, in a country where no-one in authority speaks your language, is pretty scary. Home would be boring – it would certainly mean the end of my adventures – but it would be safe.

Then I got a phone call from my sister. She was on holiday in Australia, staying with a friend she’d met whilst traveling, and the two of them were planning a grand trip around the country. She’d called to see if she could convince me to leave Thailand, fly to Australia, and come with them!

I said I’d have loved to, if only I could afford it.

“No worries!” she said. Her friend Krista had a place I could stay while I looked for work.

It all seemed likely to end in tears – my sister and I have had a volatile relationship in the past, and being dependant entirely on her friend’s charity would be the total opposite of the freedom I’d become accustomed to.

Plus there was paperwork, and visas, and… that ever-present fear of the unknown.

But sometimes you’ve just got to go for it.

Trust to fate, I thought.

I went for it.

I flew into Perth on a maxed out credit card, arriving with nothing but the clothes on my back – the animals had destroyed the rest! My entire luggage allowance was taken up by one huge bag of diving gear.

I couldn’t even afford a cup of coffee in the airport.

But then, who can these days?

Gill and Krista came to pick me up in a crumbling van they’d bought and decorated with multi-coloured hand prints! Appropriately enough, they’d called it ‘Rusty’.

Krista had set up an interview for me with a local job agency for the following day.

I started work the day after that.

She drove me in to work herself, and picked me up afterwards, every day for the couple of weeks it took me to get back on my feet. Sometimes she’d even bring me cookies or cake! I had so much fun hanging out with her, I decided to risk joining the grand adventure after all; as soon as I had a bit of cash saved up we all piled into ‘Rusty’ and set off for parts unknown.

Six years later, Krista and I are still travelling.

In that time we’ve hardly been apart, despite being residents of two countries on opposite sides of the world. We’ve had a lot of adventures and done a lot of crazy things – and we always trust to fate, or to Serendipity, to get us where we’re meant to be.

We were married last year in an English castle, with guests from seven different countries helping us celebrate.

I was a bit scared of marriage, at first.

But like with anything else, sometimes you’ve just got to go for it.

Wedding photo

This one’s for YOU!

In preparation for conquering the world – at least as far as book sales go –  I’ve been reading a fantastic book by John Locke called ‘How I Sold A Million Ebooks’. In it he advises authors to get to know their audience, and to write what their audience wants to read. Good advice. So I started to think about that.

Who exactly are my readers?

Well, based on the feedback I’ve been getting they’re of all ages (eight to a hundred and eighty eight) and genders (male, female, other), from a wide variety of countries (even Ireland! Who knew?). But they all have this in common: they are intelligent, sophisticated, highly attractive people – who love to laugh at me making an idiot out of myself.

So with this in mind, I trawled my archives (What? I can’t have archives now?) and looked for examples of me doing stupid things. I found plenty.

The result is this: here for your enjoyment is a short piece I wrote for a competition which I didn’t win, probably because I wrote the piece after the deadline had already passed. I know, I know. Always read the small print! Or, you know, any of the print…

Anyway. This happened while I was in Australia for the first time. Enjoy!

Field Day

    “Tony, wake up! Gotta get ready for work!” My girlfriend Roo was prodding me insistently – with the butt-end of a torch. Outside of our tiny tent darkness reigned and the civilised world still slept; but we had a new job to go to, on a sandalwood plantation, and one thing all agricultural work had in common was an early start. Damn it.

In fairness, this was the height of the Australian summer and our camping ground was in the far north. Intellectually I knew that by 6am the inside of the tent would be like a blast furnace. But I still loathed and detested 5am.

Infinite Field    Dawn found us sitting in a rapidly disintegrating minibus, bouncing along a knackered dirt track towards the plantation. The vehicle was in roughly the same state of repair as the road; there were holes in the roof; there were holes in the floor. It needed to be push-started every time, and was stopped by ‘natural breaking’ – ie, coasting until it either ran out of speed, or hit something. Or both.

Eight other workers were crammed into the torn vinyl-covered seats alongside Roo and myself, and every one of us was braced in position with arms legs and in a few cases, heads pressed against what was left of the dented metal roof.

“She’ll be right!” The boss had said, in true Aussie fashion, when I’d commented to him that only the paint was holding his van together.

After which he’d introduced himself as ‘Johno’.

Johno loved to drive that wreck of a van. He loved to drive it at speed. He prided himself on knowing exactly how to coax what he wanted from the ancient engine. He deftly slotted it between openings in the fence and shot across makeshift bridges over a network of irrigation ditches. He was grinning at me in the rear-view mirror, as if to say ‘See?’

When suddenly the world turned upside down and the seat in front of me took a swipe at my ribs. I twisted as I fell, and ended up lying on my face across the mud-encrusted windows.

Roo was lying on top of me. And at least three people were lying on top of her. The van was on it’s side, nose down in a ditch, and I was slowly being suffocated. This must be what it’s like to play the Aussies at rugby, I thought.

“I can get out the window!” someone called from the front.

“Yeah, me too!”

And one by one we squeezed out of whatever opening presented itself. After all, there were plenty of them.

Johno stood on the bank, counting heads as we crawled up to him.

“Sorry lads!” he said cheerily, ignoring the presence of several women. “It gets a bit narrow there.”

Apparently this satisfied him that the situation was back under control. He pulled out his cell phone and took a deep breath before punching a number in.

“Hey there Big Man! Yeah, we’ve, um, had a bit of a crash…”

He held the phone away from his ear for a few seconds while the swearing on the other end subsided. His mood deteriorated as the noise continued.

“Yeah… that narrow part, by the ditch… yeah, in the ditch. Upside down.”

There was a final blast of abuse from the speaker.

“Yes,” he agreed glumly. “Again.”

The voice did not sound impressed.

Luckily for us, the crash-site wasn’t far from the job-site.

Johno, eager to get back in the good books, led us straight into the field and got us started. ‘Weeding’ would be an accurate description of the job that ensued. Not that I was sure exactly what we were weeding and why, but the contrast with our last job picking pumpkins was unbelievable. It was just so… easy! After two weeks of straining, back-breaking toil hefting gigantic pumpkins into the back of a tractor moving at jogging pace, this wasn’t even work at all.

I strolled over to Roo, who was busily pulling a small leafy plant from the soil.

“This is incredible,” I commented.

“I know! Shh!” She was obviously thinking the same thing – we had to keep this job at all costs.

Another lazy hour drifted by. I wandered up another furrow, pulling up whatever came closest to hand. There was a certain dark green, very persistent weed that seemed to be everywhere. “Check this out!” I dropped a handful of the plants in front of Roo. These things are in every row!”

“That’s because they’re the support plants,” she hissed. “Don’t pull them out. okay? We’ll get in trouble.”

“Oh, really? Shit. Sorry!”

She herself was leaving a trail of remarkably similar looking plants uprooted.

“What’s the difference?”

She sighed. She always had to help me with stuff like this. I was never a particularly observant person. “These are weeds.”

I took the proffered plant and studied it.

“This is the support tree.” The fingers of her free hand gently lifted the leaves atop the stalk nearest to her.

To me, they looked identical.

“See?”

“Of course,” I lied.

“Good.”

“And what about this one?” I held up another of my recent victims. “We pull these out too, right?”

“That’s the sandalwood tree!”

“Oh! Now I get it!”

In spite of herself, Roo was starting to giggle. “How many… how many of those have you… ripped up?”

“Um, well… all of them. I think.”

She burst out laughing, but caught herself – with effort – after one guffaw. “Shit!” she coughed out between suppressed giggles. “Don’t… pick… any more!”

It was all I could do not to crack up myself. We were halfway through the day and I must have divested about a quarter of the field of it’s primary raison d’etre.

Weed pulling

About to commit another crime...

We picked on in silence for the next half-hour.

“Woah!  Careful there!” It was Johno, stomping up the furrow behind me. “Don’t be pulling that one out, mate!”

I froze mid-motion.

“That there’s a sandalwood – just looks a bit different ‘cause it ain’t grown as much,” he explained.

I released my grip on the immature specimen.

“Phew! Glad I stopped you there!” And he strode past me towards the next keen plucker.

I stopped for a few seconds and mopped sweat from my forehead with a bandanna. “So those ones too eh? This job is harder than I thought!”

As Johno drove us home I couldn’t resist asking; “Is this job real? There has to be a catch? Like, deep underground you’ve got some super-secret weapons lab, and we’re just here to make it look innocent on the satellite photos? And you pay us eighteen bucks an hour to pick weeds so no-one rocks the boat, right?”

“Not quite that exciting!” He replied. “See, these sandalwood trees will be producing oil in a couple of years and that oil is expensive stuff. Some trees will make loads, some not as much, but when they’re mature they’ll be worth between three and fifteen thousand dollars each.”

There was a stunned silence. I couldn’t have spoken even if I’d wanted to. My throat had suddenly gone dry.

“F-fifteen? Thousand?” I finally croaked.

“Jeez,” one of the other workers exclaimed, “that’s crazy man! What if someone steals one!”

“Security. Whole place is fenced all around. Got cctv cameras on the fence posts. And our own fire station on site, in case a bush fire gets too close! Yeah, this field is worth something like eighty-five million dollars. They go all out to protect these babies.”

I felt vaguely sick. Whilst at the same time I had the hideous feeling that deep inside me was welling up a great big belly laugh. I’d worked here for one day. By rough estimate I’d done at least a million dollars’ worth of damage…

Roo was nudging me with her foot. I glanced over at her. Her expression was unmistakable ‘Say Nothing!’ it read. I was inclined to agree.

Sandalwoods

That's one pricey plant!

Back at the camp site that evening we discussed our options. Well more accurately, Roo discussed them while I fell around the place laughing. “It’ll take them a long time to get it out of my salary!”

“Come on, seriously!” Roo chastised me. “What are we going to do?”

I took a few deep breaths to calm myself and sat on the scrubby grass next to her.

“If we don’t go back it’ll look really suspicious,” I pointed out. “On the other hand, if we do go back and they spot my little mistake, it’s quite possible they’ll drown us in a ditch.”

“Or they could just put us in a car with Johno driving…” Roo added.

“So what do you reckon? Shall we look for new jobs?”

With a theatrical sigh, Roo reached for our cell phone. “I put Johno’s number in here, I’ll send him a text.”

I watched over her shoulder as she typed.

‘From Tony and Roo. Thanks for an amazing experience.’

Which I thought was quite generous. She paused for a moment, then shrugged. “Not much else to say,” she said. And added ‘We Quit.’

Revenge

Roo's Revenge!

 

So, did you enjoy that one? I hope so! Let me know what you think in the Comments. And if anyone wants to be told when my next blog post comes out, please feel free to stick your email address in the box on the sidebar. It only sends you an email when I publish a new blog post, and I don’t do that too often – I promise you won’t be deleting stacks of emails from me! I usually manage to post about once every ten days or so. And I try to keep it amusing! Well, thanks for reading! You can also find me on:

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/TonyJamesSlater

And Twitter: @TonyJamesSlater

THANK-YOU!!!

For them that’s wondering (and have been hiding under a stone for the last week while I’ve been shouting it from the rooftops) – the free promotion of ‘That Bear Ate My Pants!’ was a huge success. Okay, that’s not big enough; it was a

HUGE

success!

In total, 22,701 people downloaded a copy of the book – that’s Twenty-two thousand, seven-hundred and one for those who prefer text to figures.

I rose as high as no.9 overall in the Amazon.com free charts, and held onto the coveted no.1 spot overall on Amazon.co.uk for most of the day!

I’m over the moon. Obviously! Which is why I’d decided to write this post, thanking everyone who helped me to spread the word, and helped made this day the incredible trip that it was.

Here’s a screenshot I’m particularly fond of:

Humor bestseller list

'That Bear Ate My Pants!' at No.1 in humour!

I took dozens of them! But this one, showing me at the top of the ‘humor’ category in Amazon.com – the world’s biggest bookshop – just blew my mind.

So, without further ado, here is the Roll of Honour:

Twitter Followers:

A MASSIVE THANK-YOU to everyone who mentioned, re-tweeted and followed me over the two days. Messages were flying back and forth, so it didn’t occur to me ‘till after it was all over to do a search for ‘That Bear Ate My Pants’ – and there were hundreds of Tweets in that list, all from people who don’t even know me on Twitter!

So here is my list of Top Tweeters, by no means an exclusive list – just a few good souls who seemed to be working hard on my behalf  :0)

@JoeVampireBlog (Steven Luna)

@fuentes_kate1 (Kate Fuentes)

@KatherynLane (Katheryn Lane)

@mad_gods (Athanasios)

@vickiejohnstone (Vickie Johnstone)

@emeraldkell (Allison Bruning)

@stantondaniel (Daniel Stanton)

@DavidAntrobus (David Antrobus)

@jacquehopkins (Jacqueline R Walton)

@unknown_templar (John Paul Davis)

@GerberMgerber (M.H. Gerber)

@FreeBookSy

@KristineCayne (Kristine Cayne)

@rennabruce (Renna Bruce)

@judith_price (Judith Price)

@christinenolfi (Christine Nolfi)

@roberto_baggins (Rob Powell)

@DavinaPearson (Davina Pearson) – Nomad!

@sandranorval (Sandra Noval)

@Flickimp (Imran Siddiq) – Nomad!

Please share the love by following these awesome people!

I’d like to say a specific thank-you to ‘Joo’, a reviewer and active member of the UK Kindle Forums, for being a one-woman promo army!

http://www.kuforum.co.uk/kindleusersforum/

 

Facebook Groups:

(that didn’t kick up too much of a fuss when I posted my link on their Wall! – please note, if doing this yourself – I checked all their guidelines and/or websites first, where I could find ‘em)

http://www.facebook.com/iauthor?sk=wall

http://www.facebook.com/pages/UK-Kindle-Book-Lovers/175617412524192

http://www.facebook.com/pages/Top-Travel-Tips/188870634488744

http://www.facebook.com/readingkindle

http://www.facebook.com/pages/IndieKindle/106911752752245

http://www.facebook.com/weloveebooks

http://www.facebook.com/eReader1

http://www.facebook.com/pages/Kindle-Finds/217115528350246

http://www.facebook.com/freeebookdeal?sk=wall

http://www.facebook.com/pages/Authors-on-the-Cheap/202517513144047

http://www.facebook.com/pages/Kindle-Author/168316526565998

http://www.facebook.com/earthsbooknook

http://www.facebook.com/allthingskindle

http://www.facebook.com/IndieBookLounge

http://www.facebook.com/kindle

http://www.facebook.com/TheKindleObsessed

 

And finally, the Big Guns:

(When these people say they’ll tell everyone – they really tell EVERYONE!)

Melissa Foster of the World Literary Cafe

Steve WindTalker of Kindle Nation Daily

Anthony Wessel of Digital Book Today

Phil Torcivia of the Kindle Daily Deal

Elizabeth Trudgeon Brown of the Frugal E-Reader

Ricci of FreeBookSy

Holly Bourque of Bargain eBook Hunter

Jack and Shaina of IndieBooksList

Sharon Rosen of Pixel Of Ink

Greg of Ereader News Today

And the team at Kindle On The Cheap

If you’re about to do a free day and you need the world to know – THIS is who you’re gonna call!

Thanks for reading folks. I know this isn’t my usual style of blog post – no swearing for starters, AND no pictures of me naked – sorry ‘bout that. Business shall resume as normal from next week  :0)

I love you all!

Tony

Something For Nothing

It’s okay! I’m safe. Rumours of my demise have been greatly exaggerated. Rumours of another kind, however, are completely and utterly true:

My book, ‘THAT BEAR ATE ME PANTS!’ – is now FREE!

For the next couple of days, at least (February 15th & 16th).

So, if you’ve ever been even remotely tempted – but perhaps put off by the fact that the other is obviously an idiot – NOW is the time to buy get one FREE!

UK:  http://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B0057P6FNO/

US:  http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0057P6FNO/

Book coverAnd here’s the link to the free Kindle reading software, for anyone wanting to read the book on their Mac, PC, iPad or Smartphone:

UK:  http://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/feature.html/ref=kcp_ipad_mkt_lnd?docId=1000425503

US:  http://www.amazon.com/gp/feature.html/ref=sa_menu_karl3?ie=UTF8&docId=1000493771

My aim with this promotion is to make a huge splash – by the end of it I should be wetter than… um… okay, I’ll let you finish off that sentence. In case there are children reading this. (In which case, Oi! It’s okay, you can carry on reading, but still – Oi!)

So. Wetter than a Welsh Wednesday, which in fact it is. Wednesday, that is, not Welsh or wet – I live in Perth Australia for gawd’s sake, we haven’t seen rain since the continents shifted. If water fell from the sky here, thousands would adopt religion on the spot.

Right. Went a bit off track there. Sorry ‘bout that.

This is what happened the last time I did a promotion for the book – during its launch on July 1st, 2011:

Best seller list

MY BOOK on the travel best-sellers list - just ahead of Bill Bryson!

Best seller list 2

...And just behind 'Eat, Pray, Love!'

SO! I have a task for you, my minions…

In fact I have TWO tasks! (Yes, I am a demanding evil overlord. But my health plan is worth it.)

1)   DOWNLOAD MY BOOK! If you haven’t already. Did I mention, it’s FREE? Hell, if you have got it already, get it again! Oh wait – Amazon doesn’t work that way. D’oh. Well then, tell someone else to get it instead.

Which leads me sneakily on to Mission Two:

2)   TELL SOMEONE ELSE TO GET IN INSTEAD! What I’m getting at here is, spread the word people! You all know how utterly awesome my book is (unless you don’t, in which case let me tell you this: it is utterly awesome). Imagine how grateful your friends/family/pet gerbil/chemistry teacher/that nutter that always sits next to you on the bus will be, when you tell them about an awesome book they can download for free – and it will make them wet themselves!

*Note: certain species of Bus Nutter are already adept at wetting themselves, and should NOT be encouraged. Tell the driver instead.

To help you spread the word, I’ve put together a couple of Tweets and Facebook messages that you can copy-and-paste if you want – because I’m a lazy, lazy man, and I can’t exactly complain if my minions are the same, can I?

TWITTER:

Best-selling #travel #comedy THAT BEAR ATE MY PANTS! by @TonyJamesSlater is FREE TODAY on #Kindle – grab it quick! http://amzn.to/thatbearus

FACEBOOK (If you’re from the UK):

Hey everyone! My friend Tony James Slater has made his awesome book ‘THAT BEAR ATE MY PANTS!’ available for FREE on Amazon Kindle! It takes one click to download it and it’s pants-wettingly funny. Even if you haven’t got a Kindle, you can read it on any Mac or PC, iPad or smartphone with free Kindle software!
What are you waiting for? Here’s the link to Amazon: http://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B0057P6FNO/

FACEBOOK (US/Everywhere else):

Hey everyone! My friend Tony James Slater has made his awesome book ‘THAT BEAR ATE MY PANTS!’ available for FREE on Amazon Kindle! It takes one click to download it and it’s pants-wettingly funny. Even if you haven’t got a Kindle, you can read it on any Mac or PC, iPad or smartphone with free Kindle software!
What are you waiting for? Here’s the link to Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0057P6FNO/

Please feel free to alter any of the above however you want, or tell people about the book in your own way – you can even send ‘em to this blog, like this:

‘Some idiot is rambling on about his book being free. Have a look if you can be arsed: http://www.AdventureWithoutEnd.com

Right! Thanks for that folks! I mean it when I say, I really do appreciate all the help you give me. I’m literally doing this on my own otherwise, and honestly I don’t think I’d stand a chance.

The OTHER GOOD NEWS – is that, once this is over you’ll never have to worry about me pushing my book on you again! Because anyone who doesn’t get it when it’s free – well, there’s a good chance they just don’t want the damn thing. So rest easy folks! The end is in sight…

From next week: Business As Normal. So stay tuned for an exciting story about… ah, who the hell knows? I haven’t written it yet. Watch this space.

I love you all,

Tony

Ps. If you come late to this post and have missed the free days, go to the ‘Contact Me’ page and send me an email. If you ask me nicely I’ll probably send you a copy – because I’m nice like that and, ultimately, a sucker.

Ever have that feeling that a year has passed quicker than a dodgy Thai curry?

Yeah, me too. I had that thought again, that if they keep going by at this rate I’m be drooling into a care home pillow before I get to do half the things I want to do.

But then I looked back and thought – yeah. Not too shabby. I did good this year.

So, in celebration of that fact, I’m finally going to do one of those smug bastard ‘How Great Was My Year!’ type posts… oh, yes! Revel in the knowledge that I, a mere mortal (and a pretty rubbish one at that), still managed to do something in 2011. And if I can, so too can you… No, wait a minute. I did it. 2011 is over. So if you didn’t do it already, you’re pretty much screwed. Ah well. Better luck next year…

January: Okay. So I didn’t get off to a flying start… um, let’s just gloss over this one shall we? No-one ever does anything worthwhile in January anyway. That’s a fact.

Bloody January.

February: 1) Learnt to spell ‘February’. Actually I did that just now, so it doesn’t count. Hmmm. February, February, must have done something…Snow Angel

Oh yeah! I went to France. My sister Gill and her hubby Chris were working there (they have ‘jobs’ you see. How strange!). So the missis, the mother and I headed over to do a spot of snowboarding. It was a great trip – Gill introduced us to the Ski (and après ski) culture, which was new to us (New Zealand not being much for culture of any kind, unless it’s rugby ball-shaped.) I then got KILLED by an irate, uncultured New Zealander! With a rugby ball.

Okay, I didn’t. I did ride insanely fast down a mountain (possibly drunk), fall badly and hurt myself, rendering me unable to do much more than drink for the rest of the holiday. Oh, and I ate fondue.  Because, y’know, I’m not cheesy enough already  :0)

MarchI went to Jordan. In the same company – Mum having paid for the entire trip due to fears of going alone. Jordan was an incredible place, with history literally lying around on the floor for you to pick up, take home and give as presents to horrified (yet secretly pleased) archaeologists you may know. Ahem. The two things I remember most about Jordan are 1) how amazing the ancient sites would have been if they weren’t crammed with assholes trying to sell me shit, and 2) the millions of assholes trying to sell me shit.

Oh, and 3) all the unnecessary shit I bought.

But it was great fun, and I had the rare opportunity to sneak into a Wonder of the World without paying the exorbitant entrance fee (of £50!) by impersonating an Australian who had already paid it. See, how much fun travelling can be?

I blogged about it HERE and HERE.

Ruins in Jordan

Find a monument. Climb on it. That's how I roll...

April – I recovered. Not from the holidays, but from a bit of news I received at the York Festival of Writing. It was there that I discovered I would never be published in the conventional sense – two agents out of two said they loved my work, but simply couldn’t sell it. Travel books, it seems, are only to be written by the already-famous. I had a blast at the Festival (my account of it is HERE) and returned with a New Mission: Publish Myself! And an epic hangover.

May – You know what? I honestly can’t remember. If you know where I was, or what I was doing in May, 2011 – please drop me a line. Unless it’s really, really embarrassing. What’s that? It IS? Oh, right then. Best keep it to yourself.

June: Just vanished. The preparations for my baby sister’s wedding took over everything, and then – oh yeah. MY BABY SISTER GOT MARRIED!!!

Wedding

Ain't she pretty!

July was a mixed bag. I will remember it forever as the month I finally married my gorgeous girlfriend Krista. In fact we got married twice, once (legally) to a CD of Dueling Banjos, which was not at all how I’d imagined it, and again a few minutes later, in the secret garden of Taunton Castle, to the trilling of a harp. It was magical – so much so that I’ve yet to blog about it at all… um… yeah. Getting married does tend to drive things like blogging out of the mind.

I will remember July as the month I launched my book: ‘That Bear Ate My Pants!’ took off better than I’d dared hope, sliding up the Amazon charts to #1 in all it’s categories and #423 overall. Ever since I’ve been meaning to ask someone more knowledgeable that I, whether or not that qualifies me as a ‘bestselling author’. Well, a man can dream…

I will also remember July as the month my Uncle Paul, stalwart guardian of his family, passed on to Whatever Comes Next. I never told him until right at the end, but he was the strongest man I’ve ever known. Uncle Paul, I love you, and I miss you. Sleep tight.

Where are we now? August. Krista and I took our first Honeymoon in Spain, a gift from my parents. It was just what I needed – to unplug, just for a week, from everything. The internet; the book launch; the insanely busy life I had somehow created for myself over the last six months – and my grief. Spain was a time of healing for me, a time of tanning on the beach, and a time of… well. It was my honeymoon!

September! Jeez, I better finish this quick – or anyone who’s still reading will be bleeding out of their eyeballs by the end! September I decided to apply for a visa to emigrate to Australia. I’d been meaning to look into it for months, but stuff kinda got in the way. See above for details. Immediately I noticed three things:

1)   It was going to cost me a fortune. Just over £2,000 so far, and counting.

2)   It was going to take Forever. Six months in fact; as of writing, I still don’t have my visa, or the legal right to work in Australia. Which is kind of a shame, as I’m living here.

3)   It was going to be a lot of work. Just the application form was over 40 pages long and every page turn revealed a new delight. Such as this innocuous question; ‘Is your spouse Australian? Yes? Please attach her birth certificate.’

What a mission. It delayed all other plans while I collected Police Clearance Certificates from every country I’ve lived in for more than a year (!), hundreds of documents supporting the validity of my relationship with Roo, sworn statements from Australians, medicals, financial reports… well, fictitious financial reports anyway. I mean come on! What government in their right mind would honestly let me in?*

*If you’re reading this, Australia, I’m sorry. Please let me live in you.

Octoberbegan the odyssey which became known as ‘The Grand Adventure!’. Actually it was always called that. I hoped to gather enough crazy experiences to fill another book; alas, England in the dank, cold Autumn, is not a Mecca for adventure. Well, unless you’re a train spotter. We had a great time, (almost) hiking the length of Hadrian’s Wall, and returned home just in time to Grandad-sit while my parents took a much deserved holiday.

Monument... on it. Innit.

The Grand Adventure blog (which was actually bloody funny!) is HERE, HERE and HERE.

November: this was when the reality of emigrating to Australia began to sink in. Largely because it was happening at the end of the month! Roo and I packed our cases, realized we had FAR too much stuff to put in them, and ordered a ‘small box’ from a shipping company. They sent us a large and a small ‘just in case’. Clever bastards! I suspect our story is not unusual; we quickly gave up on the small box and filled the large. Then we placed a quick call to the shipping company, altered our quote slightly, and started filling the small as well. About the time Roo floated the question ‘I wonder how much they charge for a third box…’ I called time; anything that wasn’t packed already was staying. Cue another frantic round of unpacking and re-packing, with Roo shoving stuff in one side and me removing it from the other. In the end our boxes were less than 1 kilo under the maximum allowed weight – between them. It truly was a feat of tessellation. We left England praying to every God that our bathroom scales were accurate…

December.Malaysia. Theme parks inside shopping malls, insane luxury in a 5-star villa (a wedding gift courtesy of Roo’s family) and much assorted ridiculousness. It rained torrentially every day in Kuala Lumpur, so we skipped on to Perth – where it rained torrentially every day. The hottest year since records began, but for once a wet one – the perfect way to acclimatize after a year and a half in England! Since then we’ve been to the beach (and got sunburnt), been to the gym (and got busted), been outside (and got bitten), been inside (and still got bitten), and I have personally killed over a dozen cockroaches (every shoe has at least some limbs stuck to it). I did not, however, kill a scorpion – that honour was bestowed upon Sonja, Roo’s sister, who caught the little bugger trying to sneak into the fridge.

Theme Park

All this is INSIDE a shopping centre - I shit you not!

Australia, eh? It’s a pretty crazy place. Who knows what next year will bring…

PS. Roo and I, along with my family, also renovated three houses during the course of the year! The story of one of them is HERE.

So. Tell me. What did you guys get up to?

A Very Australian Christmas!

‘Twas the night before Christmas…

In Australia.

It’s a whole different experience!

So I thought I’d take this opportunity to tell you about some of the differences between a northern hemisphere Christmas, and a southern one… For starters, it’s hot. Or, as the locals would say, ‘bloody hot mate!

I went to the beach a couple of days ago – not to do anything as crazy as sunbathing mind, just for a casual stroll around. We were there for about 20 minutes, admiring the postcard-perfect vista of golden sands and deep blue ocean. Beautiful! Then we leapt back into the air-conditioned sanctuary of the car, and counted ourselves lucky that we weren’t waiting around for public transport in the 34-degree heat – or even worse, walking home!

Still, those few moments took their toll – here’s what has been keeping me awake at night ever since:

Sun burned back

The Australian Red Back - not just a spider...

I can’t see any difference myself, but then I’m colour-blind. It makes traffic lights fun, which is one reason why I only learned to drive last month (at age 33) – that, of course, is a story for another time.

Apparently I got burned pretty badly in those 20 minutes. All because they ain’t got none o’ that Ozone Layer around these parts… This leads to very high instances of skin cancer, caused by something as simple as relaxing by the pool for just a little too long. The operation to remove them, and replace the skin with a bit from your bum, is one of the most commonly performed in Australia.  As the saying goes, ‘if you’re not careful you’ll be wearing your arse on your face!”

Although with the size of my nose, I don’t think anyone would notice.

Australian Christmas Poem

This is my take on Christmas in Australia. I was expecting it to go viral, but my Social Media ‘reach’ is not even as long as my physical reach. Yes, it’s true – I have arms like a gorilla.

Frogs.

There are frogs in Australia – just in case you didn’t know.

But they’re not… how do I say this? Normal. The don’t croak – no ‘ribbet, ribbet’ around here. No, these frogs whistle – and some make a ‘boing!’ sound, like the string of a banjo being plucked. No prize for guessing their names – the Aussies are nothing if not straightforward – the Whistling Frog and the Banjo Frog, they are. And then there’s the one that sounds like a motorbike idling at the lights… no, I’m serious! The motorbike frog fires up with a cough, then develops a ‘rmmm, RMMM, rmmm, RMMM’ type rhythm which will have you looking out of the window for unexpected guests.

Or it would, during the day.

These frogs are most vocal at night – and where we live, in what is politely referred to as a more ‘rural’ suburb… they have every one of them! It’s deafening!

But then, frogs are fairly benign. There are plenty of other critters lurking in the countryside – Australia is famous for them. Pretty much everything that crawls, walks or flies here wants a piece of you – and if there’s one way to ensure they all get one, it’s this; live in the countryside!

By way of example, last night we trapped a pretty large Huntsman Spider. Not huge – about the size of a hand – between the two sliding panes of the kitchen window. None of us were brave enough to face the thing in single combat, so we put off the decision on what to do with the creature until morning.

We had a lie in, and were baked out of bed by the sun at 9am. It was a balmy 32 degrees. One of Krista’s sisters had gotten up early to go to work, and left us this message on the snazzy neon note board:

NoticeboardThe spider was, in fact, gone. But had it escaped to the outside… or had it come in…?

We’ve yet to find out.

So if I don’t come back for a post-Christmas post, you can assume I’ve been swallowed whole by this monster and will be slowly digesting over the New Year.

On the upside, there’s one Australian Christmas tradition I was more than happy to participate in:

The buying of ridiculous amounts of booze!

The place to buy alcohol is a ‘bottle shop’ (or ‘bottlo’, as Australians are unable to pronounce a word that doesn’t end in ‘o’.). It has occasionally been referred to as a ‘grog shop’ – regardless, it’s like a supermarket dedicated to booze. And, on the day before Christmas Eve, it was RAMMED. Full to bursting. Four of us went in, and only two survived. Both showed serious signs of trolley-induced trauma, including the outline of a wheel scored into Krista’s ankle – but we staggered out under the burden of almost $250 worth of alcohol! A moderate sum, given that there will be six of us partaking of it – we saw blatantly single guys (yeah, you know the type!) manhandling seven or eight cases of beer into knackered cars – if there’s one thing Aussies can do, it’s drink.

Trolley full of boozeI know that’s what I’ll be doing!

What about you guys?

When Is A Massage Not A Massage? A Malaysian Mystery

Roo and I were enjoying unrivaled luxury in our private villa in the Sunway Lagoon and Resort, Malaysia. Her family had invested a sizeable chunk of cash in pampering us on our honeymoon, to the extent that we had our own infinity-edge pool, dinner served for us on our balcony and a private butler on call 24 hours a day. How the other half live, eh! As habitual backpackers we were thrilled not to have to share a dorm room with ten snoring, farting, travelling piss-heads. This was, quite literally, another world.

Luxury honeymoon bed

So, hot on the heel of our first massage came the excitement of the second. Our package specified two and our private butler was eager to help arrange it.

“Second massage… is in your villa, is… in bath, like ah… Roman Bath.” Her English was broken and heavily accented, but still the words were enough to send a chill down my spine. Roman baths brought only one thing to mind. “The girls come ah… eleven O clock, to your villa?”

Back at the villa, Roo was seriously uneasy. “Aren’t the Romans famous for having orgies? In the baths?”

Yes, yes they were. But I didn’t say that, because the aim of the holiday was to relax.

I couldn’t help but wander into our bathroom and stare at the tub, huge and sunken into the marble-tiled floor. How the hell were they going to massage us in the bath? Kneeling on the tiles? With sponges on long sticks?

A Big Sunken Bath

Did I mention there was a pic of Roo in the bath in this post :0)

“What if they want to get in there with us?” Roo asked.

There wasn’t much of an answer to that. Not on our honeymoon, anyway.

Roo didn’t sleep that night. She was too afraid. Next morning, after breakfast, we got the call – two girls from the spa were on their way to our villa. They had an hour set aside to prepare the bathroom… We spent this time trying to remain calm in the lounge, watching old movies on a channel called ‘Star’.

“I’m keeping my swimsuit ON,” Roo was adamant. “If they tell me to take it off, I’m not doing it. I’ll leave.”

“It’ll be fine love, we’re probably stressing for nothing.”

But I didn’t know how it could be fine. I’d taken certain lengths, before the last massage, to ensure that I couldn’t get an embarrassing erection in the middle of it. Even so, I’d only just gotten through – it’s hard, sometimes, being a guy. We’re not exactly in control of all our appendages… If I ended up four in a bath with my wife and two semi-naked massage-ladies… well, let’s just say there was bound to be a development.

“What if they want us one at a time,” Roo asked. “I don’t want to go in there on my own!”

They girls had been in their for an hour now, in their robes and sandals, running water and chattering about something. Oh God… it was time.

“We, ah… ready for you now,” one of the girls said. She lingered by the bathroom door, beckoning.

Roo and I shuffled forwards, hugging our loose robes around us.

“Okay, thank-you!” The masseur beamed at me, and at Roo, shouldered her bag of supplies, and left. Her friend followed her out.

“But… what…? Are they gone?”

“I dunno?”

“Check, please,” Roo begged me. Perhaps they were waiting around the corner, giving us privacy to allow us to strip off. That had happened at the last massage. Hell, maybe they were around the corner stripping off themselves! (That had NOT happened at the last massage…)

But no. They were gone. Disappeared down the path to the spa with impressive speed, given their size. Roo and I were alone. Stressed to the point of sweating into our silken dressing gowns. As one we approached the bathroom, still half afraid there was someone waiting in there for us. This is what we saw:

Bath with petals surrounding itIt was beautiful. Luxurious, inviting and hot as hell – placing the rose petals had obviously taken most of the girls’ time while the tub was filling. I dipped a toe in and a delicate fragrance was released from the water. It rose on the steam, filling the bathroom with the scent of exotic flowers…

It was then that I realized. This wasn’t a Roman Bath.

It was an Aromatherapy Bath.

Somewhere, lost in translation, was the truth that would have set us free from a night of sleeplessness and a morning on the borders of panic.

Aroma-bloody therapy.

So I now know of four types of massage it is possible to arrange in Asia:

  • The Comfortable One (which is bliss, but with a high likelihood of causing Accidental Arousal. Which can then become Uncomfortable)
  • The Uncomfortable One (where they break you into little pieces, stamp on those pieces and then sweep them up into a pile that is vaguely you-shaped. This is the one with the longest-lasting effect, except for possibly:
  • The Illegal One (which is a bit unsanitary, could leave you with a present you’ll be needing the doctor’s help to get rid of, and nine times out of ten turns out to be conducted by a man in a dress)

And Introducing…

  • The One That Isn’t A Massage – it’s a bath. Which they run for you. And fill with petals that get lodged between your bum cheeks so that you’re still finding them in the shower days later…

The joys of travel eh? Come on then – massage stories, front and centre! Got anything to add to my list?