That day I discovered I was stupid. Way too stupid. Dumbly stupid. Idiotly stupid. Stupidly stupid. Anyway, let’s say that , along with the day I bought some indomitable gothic platform boots for the modest sum of $100, and the one in which I decided to kill a fly on a lamp with a broom, this day will be definitely written in the annals of my darkest intellectuals moments.
Sitting next to the window, through which I have plainly seen coming towards me signs that say: “Southampton 5 miles”, “Welcome to Southampton” and finally, “Southampton Couch Station” (or something similar), and even when I see people starting to get off the bus, I can’t process that I also have to get off because, obviously, here is Southampton. On the other hand, I don’t know WHY THE HELL I remain stupefied seeing how half of the passengers get off the bus, stuck in some incoherent belief that this vehicle, for some reason, will take me to a more central Southampton than this one, from where 100 years ago even the Titanic sailed itself.
But I react when it’s too late: the bus has returned to take the highway, and takes my stupidity and me to a totally unknown destination. Besides Southampton, behind me I leave a plan of which logistics took me over an hour to figure it out last night, connected to internet from one of the crowded backpacker hostel’s common rooms where I stay with Luis in London.
The goal: to go to Stonehenge without disburse one of these stratospheric British amounts.
The prices to sightsee in UK are famous and absurdly high and Stonehenge is not an exception. Indeed, in the context of an austere journey as the one Luis and I make sponsored by Francesco, of which main purpose is to get a stamp in our passports to allow us to stay longer in Italy, Stonehenge appears to have no place. A couple of hours of expensive bus or train from London to Salisbury, and afterwards an hour on a unique and monopolized tour bus to Stonehenge (or in a taxi… yeah, right), all multiplied by sterling pounds… no way. I add, rest, multiply, divide (and I would do other mathematical operations if I had not forgotten them because of mental health) trying to fit the expedition into my budget and nothing. Luis even got tired of seeing me and has decided to stay lazily all day vegetating in the hostel instead of going with me.
But no: in my agenda there is no date called “maybe some other day.” My day to go to Stonehenge is today. Now or never. In these situations there is no other way than to get apocalyptic. If you start to think something is too far away, or too expensive, or that you need to get up very early to get there, only to end up consoling yourself with “maybe next time”, then you can bury that experience. The chances are that there won’t be a next time. So finite. So overwhelming. So real. There is no other option. So I keep clicking, jumping from Wikitravel’s forums to Lonely Planet’s to find some affordable way to go to Stonehenge.
Finally, after surfing the internet until getting dizzy, I figure it out: If I get up at 4 am, if I put on a few layers of coats to ease the morning autumn chill, if I take the first train of the day, if I get off at Victoria Couch Station, if I walk a few blocks and take the bus to Southampton before sunrise, if I get off after two hours and then take the train to Salisbury and then if I catch that fucking tour bus, at 11 am, at the latest, I would be staring at stones from the year 3100 BC in the middle of the English countryside. Done.
But nooooooooooo! Indeed: I get up at 4 am, I put on a few layers of coats to ease the morning autumn chill, I take the first train of the day, I get off at Victoria Couch Station, I walk a few blocks and I take the bus to Southampton before sunrise, buuuuuut I remain, after two hours, like the idiot I am, staring at people getting off the bus and head up to a destination so mysterious as the Stonehenge’s construction method itself.
Unable to jump out from a moving bus’ window, and as it analogously happened when I was deported from Albania, I end up in a town from which I will never know its name, this time in the middle of England.
I get off the bus and I hate myself. I walk to the train station to see how the fuck do I head towards Salisbury and I hate myself. I go into the train and I hate myself. And I hate myself even more when, on top of it, the train has a mechanical problem and I lose I don’t know how much time sitting in a first-class carriage (to which I have been upgraded in a polite attempt to appease my anger at the precious time lost). Very nice and comfortable seat, but the First Class letters don’t give me back the hours I’ve been trying to get to Stonehenge from London, which, as a matter of fact, now are totaling more than half a day. Nor do they return me the 17 extra pounds I have spent in such a reckless journey.
Now that I write it in perspective, 17 pounds is a ridiculous amount, considering that I was going to see one of the finalists of the 7 new wonders of the world (if a circle of stones from 3100 BC can be called “new”). But at that moment I felt as if I had been stripped of virtually all economic safety. And just because I am stupid! Stupid because I didn’t get off at Southampton when I had to; stupid because I am making a day-trip when I have no money after more than a week in London; stupid because I spent the money that I would have invested on the dinner I will have later with Aleja (a Ecuadorian girl from my Ruta), whom I have to meet at 6 pm back at London Waterloo station. Now I’ll have to hastily see Stonehenge and then starve myself. Great.
Anyway, breathing my stupidity, I spot, after giving many tumbles, the legendary megalithic monument in the middle of a sunny, windy and not so mystical afternoon. I attempt to strip my mind from all negative energy caused by my inability to simply get off at my bus stop, and I descend with the herd of tourists to this observatory, temple or religious monument. No one really knows what was the hassle about to transport these stones that weight I don’t know how many tons from I don’t know which remote and impossible place in England in order to perform I don’t to know what sort of archaic rituals.
Also, I try to let go any previous review about Stonehenge I’ve read in several forums and heard from other nomadic backpackers: Stonehenge, like the Mona Lisa and Dracula’s castle is supposed to be a huge disappointment, as huge as the size of its millenary stones.
However, as I approach, I feel even more stupid than hours earlier in Southampton. Well, this is just a stone circle where during summer solstice the sun’s rays fall through the construction axis. And besides the heavy stones that fit together like if they were Lego pieces, I can’t find anything impressive. I don’t know what I expected it, if something of the caliber of Machu Picchu or the pyramids of Egypt, a cosmic energy floating in the air that can make me understand the origin of the universe, to receive the ancient wisdom from a druid or something similar, but I’m glad that this thing was not chosen among the wonders of the world. Overrated. The place is quite small (it doesn’t even take an hour to walk around listening to all the audio guide’s explanations) and they charge an outrageous fee to access to it, as if the transportation to go there was a bargain.
I mean, I got up at 4.am, I have put on a few layers of coats to ease the autumn chill in the morning , I took the first train of the day, I got off at Victoria Couch Station, I walked a few blocks, I have caught the bus to Southampton before the sunrise, I’ve been seated two hours on a bus, I have seen people getting off at Southampton as the great stupid that I am, I’ve gone to who knows which town in England, I took a train that stopped in the middle of nowhere and I have been seated I don’t know for how long on a first class seat unable to compensate for all my lost time, I’ve spent the money I used to have for dinner and, in total, an awful lot of money I no longer have, everything, everything, EVERYTHING to see a set of stones that tell me absolutely nothing , beyond the fact they are wonderful because no one understands what they were and how they got there. In short, I have made a significant investment just to amaze myself by contemporary human ignorance.
Especially because, regarding to these mysterious sights, I have some issues. As soon as people don’t understand how something was built, they even enunciate, definitely, that was possibly made by aliens. I mean, logic dictates that your ancestors could not be smarter than you, your current pride doesn’t allow you to think that they, with the limitations of their time, could be clever enough to move those stones I don’t know how many kilometers and put them in the countryside just to, 5000 years later, humankind doesn’t understand the move and start to charge several pounds to see a circle of stones with a foolishly open mouth. No, that’s unthinkable. And even when there is an intrinsic historical value in these stones (that I photograph from all the possible angles to see if I ever find it), the truth is that, by themselves, they are not such a major attraction. I am sincerely happy that Stonehenge didn’t make it to the 7 wonders of the world because I would be ashamed that humankind would be more amazed by a circle of stones than by Angkor Wat, the Alhambra or Teotihuacan, which also didn’t make it, but certainly due to the fact that the vote was done by internet, a way beyond the access of the world population’s vast majority.
Disappointed, and with an irrefutable sense of having been scammed, I go back to London, where Aleja waits for me and with whom I can maybe just eat a bag of popcorn for dinner. Along the way, while in front of my eyes parading all those English plains which may keep in its soil’s memories the secret of why Stonehenge is Stonehenge, I console myself thinking that, after all, I’m not so stupid. Yes, I knew Stonehenge would possibly disappoint me. Yes, I knew it was expensive and out of my budget. And yes, I knew I would add it to the 7 largest scams in the world.
But I had no choice. For me, to stay sleeping in the hostel was not an option. In these cases, the only way is to remove the idea from your head, to go and check for yourself if that really sucks, to substantiate it from your own eyes and not from others. Sometimes you have to see bad movies, read mediocre books, eat what disgust you. Even sleeping with men you don’t love. Life comes with a natural flow of disappointment, but in the end, no one will take you away what you have lived.
So I don’t regret not having stayed with Luis vegetating in the hostel all day, recharging batteries. We can always sleep. Every night we do. Nor do I regret that 17 extra pounds that cost me to see a bunch of stones. Today that doesn’t make me richer or poorer. Especially it doesn’t bother me ending up with Aleja eating a simple hamburger on the banks of the Thames. We can always eat, us, who are fortunate enough to be able to do it every day. And there will be always a McDonald’s nearby. But not a Stonehenge, even when it was a scam. That’s the advantage of being stupid, but not enough to let go opportunities just to recover sleep that you can catch again the same night, to save money that eventually will go back to your account and food that you will shit, at the most, the next day.PLEASE NOTE: English is not my mother tongue! These ones are rough translations from
the original Spanish version Sobre el caballito.Sorry about the mistakes! 😉
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