Bulgaria 2014

Ali drops me at the airport at 6:30am. It is cold and dark. It feels strange to not be going with her. I check in and get all my boarding passes for the whole journey in one go. Whoopee, no tearing around trying to find transfer desks in what my body thinks is 3 in the morning.

I get a coffee and Danish and slowly start to wake up. I need to go to the toilet. There are 3 cubicles. The end one is occupied so I try the first one. It is covered in shit and the floor is wet. So I take the middle one. Don’t ask. Generally I don’t have a problem with public toilets but these give me the creeps. The guy in the end cubicle flushes then flushes again and again and again and again. Then someone goes into the first cubicle and I shudder.

Somewhere there is probably a sign saying something like “If these facilities are not clean please notify…….” But here we have a brand new airport with shitty toilets before 7:00am in the morning. Heaven help those flying later.

No worries though. I am about to get on a plane that begins my 36 hour journey to see my brothers in Bulgaria.

Christchurch – Auckland – Bangkok – Vienna – Varna

By the time we take off it is sunny and bright. I look down and see the braiding in the land below from the time when the river used to run across this landscape before it was tramelled to its present course. As we fly over the river, the slanting early morning sun highlights a streak of mist that runs almost but not quite parallel to the river and shows as a white blur going all the way to the sea. Like the river remembering itself of old.

I am in Auckland airport in the departure lounge. It is busy but relaxed, I am walking through and I feel my nose is running so I brush it with the back of my hand and see blood smeared. I go to the toilet and blood pours from my nose. Copious amounts of cold water later and it is OK.

Eventually we leave for Bangkok. It is a long flight and what can I say except it was a long flight and twelve hours later I was in Bangkok waiting for a ten hour flight to Vienna. Along with a bunch of fellow travellers I am sitting there waiting when once again I feel my nose run and there is the blood. Believe it or not but I am surprised.

The next flight takes us to Vienna and another nosebleed. WTF? For the next five hours as I wait for the next flight, my awareness is focused on my nose expecting blood at any second but nothing shows.

Five hours later and finally I am in the plane on the last leg of the journey. I am more tired than even I can imagine. It must border on a kind of madness this tiredness, this numbness to the world. Wars have been fought in this state and I can see how horror becomes mundane. Give me a gun and point me in the right direction I am ready to do anything. But instead I sit in my seat and wait. A hand puts a serviette in front of me and gives me a packet of pretzels. I pick out an aeroplane shaped pretzel to put on the serviette. I look down and see a small spot of blood. My hand flies to my nose but it is dry. I look again and see that in fact it is the logo of Austrian Air.


Arriving in Varna,

I stumble to the immigration counter and am detained while they study my passport, every other passenger passes by while I wait. First one, then another official peers intently at my passport page by page. By now I am beyond it and don’t give a fuck. I see them running their fingers over the embossing. The impromptu conference terminates when they hand it back to me smiling and say, “Nice passport”. It appears they have never seen our new digital passports before.

Finally, 44 hours later, there is my brother. Blood behind me and blood in front of me. I have arrived in Bulgaria.