OK, NOW FOR THE DAMASCUS STORIES

I like Damascus, it’s a hiker-focused, small town of 900 people which hosts the biggest trail event starting next week. Apparently they are expecting 30-35,000 for ‘Trail Days’ as it’s the 75 th anniversary of the trail and the mind boggles at how their infrastructure is going to cope with such an overload.

I got into Damascus on the 6th and am waiting here ‘til the 12th for Suzanne to arrive. In those days, and especially last night, I have met #2,3 & 4 crazy people that have got me thinking that I should make a list of the 10 craziest people I meet on the trail. I mean, I’m around a fifth of the trail through and up to 4 crazy people already.

So onto these crazies and why I call them such.

I’m eccentric, but not a crazy. There is a difference.

Crazies

A few nights ago, I was at Quinceys which is a pizza shop bar. I was there with Gandalf who had arrived that day and we had finished our dinner and decided to have a beer before heading back to our camp ground. At the bar we saw ‘Gator’, a hiker we had met in the Smokey Mountains. To be honest, I was a little surprised to see him as I didn’t have him pegged as much of a hiker. He is a pretty rough looking guy with a tatt next to his left eye which kind of looked like a jail tatt.

OK, NOW FOR THE DAMASCUS STORIES Photo Gallery




In the Smokies, once he’d found out I was an Aussie, he had chewed my ear off (not literally) telling me all about the dangerous creatures in Florida.

The night in Damascus however he was pretty sloshed and didn’t recognise me, which was fine by me. The bartender had called last drinks and Gator kept avoiding his bill until he made a run for it.

The kitchen was right next to the bar and the bar tender yelled out, “We got a runner.” Both the chefs ran through the kitchen to the back door and four patrons took off afer him through the front.

I was pretty full from the two serves of bean soup, 10 inch pizza, apple strudel and a couple of beers so I quickly judged that there were enough people chasing him. Instead I stayed guarding the bar and checked out his tab – they print it out for you.

Gator had done a runner on a $9.65 tab. Slowly, the guys that had chased him came back. I paid his tab with a $10 bill.

I mean seriously, you’re in a small town where word spreads like a bushfire. On a trail, where the word spreads just as quickly, why on earth would you do a runner for the cost of half an hour’s work?

Later on, as I listened to the people bad-mouthing him, I heard he was supposed to be part of the ‘Circle of Light-Rainbow family’ for which the locals had little respect. The locals explained to me the ‘Circle of Light-Rainbow family’ were a group that masqueraded as hippies but were more like anarchistic gypsies, stealing and taking advantage of everyone they came across.

As always, a lot has been happening but I’ve had trouble finding the time or the facilities to write. Now we, Sheila (trail name for Suzanne) and I are back in Damascus for Trail Days and I’m in the basement of the First Baptist Church which has been converted into a mini Internet cafe to deal with the mass overflow of hikers in this town hungry for their www fix.

Before I talk about the days on the trail with Sheila or the beginning of ‘Trail days’ I need to tell you about Crazies #3 & 4 because it’s a story worth telling. I’m not sure exactly which night it was, but Gandalf was camping up in our little spot along with the couple that had been there since I arrived in Damascus. I think the man’s name was Richard and I can’t remember her name but from now on I’ll refer to them as #3 & 4. They had spent the past couple of nights in town because it had been raining and I hadn’t really seen them at all.

Gandalf decided that we should get some beers. He headed into town to pick them up and some ice whilst I kept busy collecting firewood and starting a fire up. I’d got the fire going and was stoking it up into a blaze when a local called ‘Timber’ offered me a beer. We got talking and he asked if he could pitch his hammock a little up the trail which was fine by me. Gandalf got back with the beers and we sat around the fire having a chat and some pretty quiet beers.

The couple (#3 & 4) then arrived and said they were pretty tired and were going to bed to which we all wished them a good night and stayed around the fire.

Night came and we still weren’t loud as we could hear the couple having a bit of a domestic. All of a sudden #4 came out and asked if she could sit around the fire with which we agreed. At that point #3 started abusing us with really foul language which I don’t want to repeat..

We were all quite taken aback by his outburst. Then Timber told him to come out and have a beer with us and sit around the fire as we were all friendly here and there wasn’t any reason to be mad.

#3 came out and once he had a beer in his hand, the change was instantaneous. He went from borderline psychotic to ambivalently friendly. Kind of disturbing to witness, I have to say.

A brief description of the couple: #3 was an older 60-ish bloke fairly mundane looking, 6 foot, whilst his ‘wife’ (who we found out later was by ‘common law’ so not marital) #4 was at least 10 -15 years younger, kind of hippyish who liked to talk about fairies.

#3 was a pseudo intellectual and kept naming Russian authors and asking if we knew them, while #4 talked about chasing butterflies in Costa Rico and would begin singing whenever #3 annoyed her. As you can imagine, it was kind of awkward having mentally fragile people big-noting themselves especially as Timber was delighting in playing with them as they were so scattered you could say anything to them.

I was quite over their company, especially as #4 kept trying to get cosy with all of us, so I excused myself and went to bed. This led to a mass exodus as Gandalf couldn’t wait to get away as he had been trapped by #3 for a while and was too nice a guy to get himself out of it.

#4 stayed by the fire as she didn’t want to go into the tent with #3 and they began their domestic again. I still can’t believe that an older couple could even use that sort of language, especially in public.

As this was happening #4 began shaking my tent and asking if she could come in, to which I gave a disbelieving and definite “No”. She then tried to come in but luckily she tried to come in from the side of the tent by burrowing under the fly. For you non-tent users that’s like trying to enter a room through a wall when the door is a few feet away.

After her failed attempt and my more forceful rejection, she went into the tent with #3 which was around the time that #3 couldn’t find his wallet.

Timber yelled at them to shut up, I yelled at them to shut up, hell even Gandalf yelled at them to shut up. But our efforts only gave us 5-10 minutes of silence before their cyclonic conversation began again. By about 2 am, I’d given up trying to sleep and was reading. I fell asleep soon after but was woken up at 5 am by them having a huge domestic with more ridiculously foul language that can’t be repeated here. Then she left to go to town and I went back to sleep. Finally rising at around 10, I headed into town and saw #3 coming up the path. He was all apologetic but I wasn’t having a bar of it and forcibly said that he was leaving the campsite as we weren’t going to put up with that charade again. Postscript… She found her phone, he found his wallet and they left our campsite and us some memories.

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