Tuesday, 8 May 2012

Malaysia Part 1 - Kuala Lumpur, Batuarang, Magick River and some sad goodbyes

This is mine and Mr. Furious' last big hurrah as crusty duo Pidge and The Wizard: a gruelling thirty-six hour trip to the village of Batuarang, Malaysia. Mr. Furious has a plane to catch from Kuala Lumpur in a few days, and, having spent the last four years working and living in and out of Malaysia, has a few goodbye hugs to hand out before he leaves for Londontown.

The train ride to southern Thailand is brutal. We're crammed into third class, stacked human Jenga peices - if anyone moves, then the whole carriage threatens to fall apart. Passengers sit on hard chairs, the floor or by the side doors, smoking out into the speeding night. A brief reprieve is found in the restaurant carriage. We drink until it closes, and stagger back to the claustrophobic reality of the train carriage. Settling into discomfort, I find it impossible to concentrate. Music and books offer no consolation. My mind ebbs and flows, waves of boredom morph into stress, anger and sadness... there's a few moments blissed out contentment, before slipping back into boredom to kick off the mundane cycle once more. Shards of sleep become indistinguishable from shards of wakefulness. Is this what it feels like to go insane? After thirteen hours of this, we hit a town in southern Thailand and book a bus to Kuala Lumpur. 

The bus is a palace in comparison. The seats have cushioning on them and everything. We arrive in KL late. Mr. Furious, on home turf, is more confident now - he knows the routine here. I, on the other hand, am a crumpled mess of a man. Nausea is gurgling in the depths of my stomach from from excessive travelling, tiredness and bad food. My energy is spent on babbled half-sentences, drinking coffee and sitting. Mr. Furious organises us a ride to Batuarang, where the charity he helped set up (Reboot The Roots - check them out here) is based. Augustine and Hazar, two giving gentlemen, pick us up and we begin the final half hour stretch. Half way there, the stomach grumblings surge towards my throat. I pathetically beg Augustine to pull over. I fall out of the minivan, sway toward the roadside and assume the classic vomiting position: bent over, hands on thighs, breathing heavily. There's a moment's silent tension... then my stomach and brain explode out of my mouth in a geyser of vomit, my body rejecting all the stress, all the intoxicants, all the hitchhiking, all the nightmarish joy of the last two months. Wiping the chunks of vegetable fried rice from my mouth, I climb back into the van full of cheer. I haven't thrown up like that since I was a child. Awesome. "The bizarre euphoria after an hour's puking", as Chris Morris once put it. The chaps in the van are polite in their acceptance of my ill-timed bodily functions. Thanks guys.

We pull up to Reboot The Roots HQ, where I babble thanks to Hazar and Augustine, murmur hellos to resident workers Soon and Myriam, before stumbling into bed for a hard-earned, dreamless sleep.

I wake fully rested. Soon, Myriam and Mr. Furious have been up for ages. Apparently there was an attempt to rescue me from my temporary coma, but it was in vain. It's soon evident that my stomach hasn't stopped rebelling against the sudden calm just yet, as my arse explodes several times in the toilet (my introductions to Malaysians really need work). Soon gives me some Chinese herbal remedies and some classic, liver-destroying Western remedies. In tandem, they work wonders. This is the first of many acts of kindness from Soon, a guy whose patience and diligence in working with reformed addicts using radical forum theatre is simply awe-inspiring.

Now to Magick River so Mr. Furious can spend his last few days in Malaysia with his "Malaysian Dad" Antares - the shaman who runs the informal community guesthouse, who I've heard much about and am interested in meeting. Mr. Furious says his final goodbyes to Soon and Batuarang. I know Reboot The Roots is very, very close to his heart, and his hard work has been a real driving force. Even from my outsider perspective, it's a brief but sad moment.

We take a train to Kuala Kubu Baru, and Antares and his wife are waiting at the station, delivering us to Magick River. Magick River is invigorating, peaceful and the perfect way to trickle away our last few days together. For five days, we live simply and quietly. We swim in the namesake's river, basking in the sun. We hang out with Antares - a unique, witty and consistently interesting man. We live simply and quietly in the Bamboo Palace. Our friends Laura from Bangkok and Caroline from Pai comes down. Its all being rounded off with novel-shaped clarity.

As inevitable as the dawn, the one and only Mr. Furious must depart for The Big Smoke, returning to see his Mum, and then our squatting family in London. Laura's leaving with him for India via KL. I haven't gone into much detail about all the amazing individuals we've met, mainly because it'd take bloody ages. But Laura has been vital chemical to ignite our adventure, a bottomless well of infectious energy. She will be missed greatly.

We all hug what will never be enough time. To share this mind-bending beauty with Mr. Furious has been an utter privilege. He's got the impassioned eloquence, the magical spontaneity and manic flashes behind his eyes to make it not merely a trip, not merely a journey, but a real adventureIn the warm early sun, I'm shamefully eluded for words. Tears block my throat. 

"Thank you."

"No, mate, thank you."

And that's it. Hugs reluctantly part, and Mr. Furious and Laura disappear into the distance. The Crusty Tour has ended, and I'm solo here on in. It was... 

... what?





It was everything.

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