After flying in, it was really nice to meet up with Tegs and Tim and have a guide while I found my way around, so I didn’t have to struggle to get directions, use public transport and find my hostel. They ended up at the Flying Pig Beach Hostel in Noordvijk where they found work, so it was my first point of call. The Flying Pig is a really nice relaxed hostel, on one of only three beaches in Holland, with shops just down the road, and sand dunes in the other direction. The whole place has a beach feel, with surfboards and guitars hanging on the ceiling and walls, and beach scenes painted in all of the rooms with bright colours. I spent most of my time in the smoking room my first week, sitting on the multi-coloured cushions on the stage, or the awkward wooden bar stools, enjoying the morning sun coming through the windows and reading a book or writing, and chatting with the regulars.
There are four different types of people who frequent the Pig. Staff, who work here for free food and accommodation, guests, locals, as it is one of few venues in town with a bar and a smoking room, and the furniture. I quickly became part of the furniture with other guests who stay during the week, socialising with the staff when it’s quiet. On the weekends the place is a noisy madhouse, filled with guests from many different nations intermixed with locals, speaking twenty different languages, smoking, drinking and making a pleasant ruckus. My first run in with such guests, were five Germans who checked into my room late on a Thursday night. Unfortunately they were put in my room despite the empty rooms around me due to the length of their stay. They woke me up when they entered, apologising and saying reception said I could move, but I would have to pay more. I chose to stay, assuming I can sleep through anything, I was wrong. Welcome to the wonderful world of hostels. At about 4am they came crashing in, still talking at the top of their lungs and getting ready for bed. An hour later I finally fell asleep, and found out the next morning they had woken the whole hostel. Luckily for me, when I complained the next day, I was moved to a smaller room on the top floor for free (thanks Lori). After my first few days, I moved downstairs to the 20 bed dorm, staying with staff and regulars. I quickly learned to fall asleep with the sound of music over my head in the bar, blocking out the snoring of drunk males. I am so glad I sleep easily.
Many days were wasted in this manner, and I thoroughly enjoyed myself. I quickly adapted to going to bed late and rising later. During my first days I was up around 8am each day and was told I was an early riser. I had to laugh, thinking of 6am starts back home, but as reception and breakfast doesn’t open until 9am anyway, there is really no point in being up earlier. So I stayed up late, having random conversations with a range of people, most of whom I still don’t know the names of. In hostels, people tend to start conversations with where are you from and how long have you been travelling, bypassing normal introductions until you have been talking for an hour, and it is now past the point where you can safely ask someone’s name without being embarrassed. I met one guy who really loved the anonymity of it all. Sometimes you glean a name here and there, from groups who call each other by name, or people who tell stories about themselves or talk in the third person, but mostly people are referred to by their country of origin. There’s the Canadian guy, the French group, the Irish couple, or the more obscure Australian-Canadian, French-Italian, or my favourite The Swede. I am often mistaken for staff and help out where I can, unofficially, while enjoying myself and waiting for my visa appointment so I too may look for work.
Early one such night, I enjoyed a pint of beer and sampled the local wares. Unfortunately, my Australian constitution was not prepared for such an encounter. After only one beer and a few samples, I found myself very tired and feeling pretty bent. I decided to go to bed before I passed out on the cushions and stumbled my way up the stairs. I was then faced with the challenging task of unlocking my door, with a key that I had struggled to use all week. Fortune was in my favour, it opened easily, and I turned the light on so I could aim for the bed then turned it off and made my way over. Next thing I remember I felt quite strange, like I’d had a weird dream and the bed was very hard. I pushed my fingers against it, to notice there was carpet underhand. I opened my eyes to confirm I was on the floor. As I tried to remember if I had bent down to get something then passed out, I noticed a large shadow looming overhead. Thinking I was imagining things, or it was a play of light and shadow, I got up and turned the light switch back on. Only to see an entire bunk bed laying diagonally across the room, the mattresses dangling from it by the bedcovers on a strange angle. I could make out a vague crash in my memory’s subconscious, and realised I must have reached for the bed to support myself as I blacked out, and pulled it down on top of me until it crashed into my bed frame. Keep in mind that these are made of cast iron, and lifting it back to upright while still under the weather was a mammoth effort. I thanked my guardian angels once again, that the smallness of my room meant my bed had propped it up as it fell, instead of crashing on top of me to my demise. I have only ever blacked out one other time in my life, and for those who know the story, this time I was luckier still. It is a scary thing, and while the story is hilarious in retrospect, it also serves as a reminder to me to take it easy while over here, encountering local pastimes that do not compare with anything we can experience back home. I also vowed to spend less time in the smoking room, as I think the aromas I inhaled from sitting with smokers all day, had a more profound effect than I had first imagined.
Keeping this in mind I was more cautious on my first attempt to consume truffles. Similar to ‘magic mushrooms’ though those are now illegal here, they are supposed to create a euphoric effect and enhance vision and sound. We went to the beautiful dunes down the road to try them, and shared a packet of 15 grams. After waiting an hour, watching the sunset, kids playing in the dunes and people walking their dogs, we decided it was too cold and went home. After warming up for an hour and watching some TV, we got the giggles like a teenage schoolgirl and found some very interesting patterns in the bedframes and coloured jigsaw puzzle paintings around the room. It was a mild effect and while we looked like idiots to anyone who paid attention, it was an enjoyable evening. I look forward to my next full box of truffles at the beach, as it is truly a picturesque location with beautiful sights and sounds to observe on your gentle wanderings.
Stay tuned for my first weekend in Belgium…