The terrible news came out of nowhere on an otherwise perfect day. I had been for a swim in the sea, read a few chapters of the latest book and was just preparing to head back to the hostel to get ready for my evening sunset kayak tour. But first I flicked on the mobile data on my phone, cos let’s face it, this is the 21st Century and I hadn’t looked at it for at least an hour.
And there it was. A What’sApp message from Karoline. This, you may recall is Kayaking Kampingplatz Karoline who spent a weekend in close proximity to me, sharing my tent, my kayak, and let’s not forget, my name back in Doubtful Sound a couple of weeks ago. I knew she was going to be in Kaikoura at the same time as me, but I also knew that she thinks backpacking hostels are beneath her and was going to be staying at a holiday park by night and joining some sort of dolphin-tracking conservation team by day, so I was optimistic that I could definitely make sure I was busy every time she was free and that our paths would never cross.
Not anymore. Karoline’s message read: “Hi Caroline, so great we both here in Kaikoura. We have now so many opportunities for meet. Tomorrow evening I will go to an interesting evening session on reducing household rubbish in Canterbury. I think it sounds very great, perhaps you will join? If it is too short or you have busy then we still have so many more opportunities 🙂 Where do you stay? I have now booked a shared room in the Albatross until the end of the week…..”
This is where I stopped reading. Because I am also in a shared room in the Albatross, and I had purposely not shared this news with Karoline so that she didn’t know where to come looking for me. But now, she’d presumably started to run out of money and was finding she had no choice but to stay at the backpacking hostels she had deemed to be beneath her, and by some terrible twist of fate had unknowingly chosen the same backpackers as me. And if I was really unlucky she would probably be bedding down opposite me or jiggling around in the top bunk above me.
Obviously the first thing I did was swear loudly and repeatedly. The second thing I did was compose a reply. Not to tell her that I was also at the Albatross, I planned to keep that a secret for as long as possible, but to ask her what time the highly interesting talk on household rubbish would be tomorrow, so that I would know when it would be safe for me to hang out at the Albatross without bumping into her.
I have been travelling for four months and the Albatross is my favourite hostel so far. It is quirky, full of beautiful murals and run by a lovely couple. There’s a cat and a piano, a selection of drums and guitars, a painting corner, and baking ingredients which anyone can use so long as they share whatever they bake with everyone else. The lampshades are all different but each is based upon the theme of Alice in Wonderland. All instructions and information have been written in poetry, and music is piped into all communal areas 24/7, a great selection of all my favourite Golden Oldies – it’s as if they wrote to me ahead of my stay and asked me to send them my perfect idea of a playlist. One of the other guests clearly doesn’t enjoy this sort of music, because everytime I see him, he is listening to music through his own set of giant headphones, singing along to something with a completely different beat, judging from the frequency by which he nods his head to the music. There are huge tables to sit at, giant beanbags, comfy sofas. I loved the atmosphere but there was no way that I was going to be able to chill out and enjoy any more relaxed evenings at the Albatross with Karoline by my side.
What is so annoying about Karoline, I hear you ask. Well, where to begin. We shared a kayak and a tent during a weekend on the otherwise tranquil Doubtful Sound and during this time she decided that I was her best friend, whilst I couldn’t wait to say goodbye to her. Karoline complained about everything (too hot, too cold, too late, too early, too hungry,) and within our first half an hour together I had already learnt all about how she doesn’t talk to any of her sisters and is perilously close to disowning her mother as well. We all had to fill out extensive risk assessment forms, which amongst many other things asked us to disclose medical conditions, and because she’s nosy, she had a good look at mine and spent the rest of the weekend quizzing me about my colitis, making huge and inaccurate comparisons between me having colitis and her being a vegan, and asking me how my tummy was at far too frequent intervals and usually in front of lots of other people which annoys me because I prefer for complete strangers not to know that my digestive and bowel health is dodgy unless they absolutely have to. When it was time to put up the tent, Karoline told me that I didn’t need to help if my tummy wasn’t feeling up to it, causing several people to ask me what was wrong with my tummy, and when I went to visit the toilet just before bedtime, she rested her hand on mine, smiled at me sympathetically and told me to take my time and not to feel under any pressure. Until she said that, it hadn’t occurred to me to feel under any pressure, but the thought of Karoline quizzing me extensively on the details of my toilet trip after the event certainly made me feel far more apprehensive than I usually would.
When you kayak as a pair, the person sitting in front has no control over the direction of the kayak, this is detemined by the person sitting in the back who uses foot pedals to steer the kayak. When it was Karoline’s turn to steer, she veered wildly all over the fjord, crashing into the bank and other people’s boats whilst I sat in the front powerless to do anything other than brace myself as each crash came upon us, repeatedly apologising to everyone as we crashed into them and hoping they’d realise it was the other Karoline causing the crash not me. Occasionally she’d have things under control and we’d be kayaking quite happily alongside another pair, but if I found myself having a nice chat with those people and Karoline didn’t feel included, she would immediately steer us far away to the other side of the fjord, quickly bringing my conversation to a close. We had been issued with wetsuits and thermal layers and I had hung mine out to dry overnight. The next morning, Karoline took my clothes off the line and changed into them, leaving me to put on her wetsuit and thermal that she had left festering in a damp sweaty pile outside the tent. Once we got back into the kayak for day two, she decided she was too tired to do any paddling and spent the time moaning and taking photos, leaving me to do all the paddling and steering whilst the rest of the group constantly had to stop and wait for us to catch up. After our lunch stop she lost her lifejacket and put mine on, so the rest of the group were held up as we all hunted high and low for the missing jacket (which is bright orange, so pretty hard to lose) which everyone wrongly believed that I had lost.
Consequently I was berating myself for being foolish enough to tell her the truth about my future travel plans, and not creating a vague lie so that she wouldn’t realise that we were both going to be in Kaikoura at the same time. But until today’s fateful What’sApp message, I had been sure I would be able to get away with not seeing her.
Now though it was time for Mission Impossible. Would I be able to exist alongside Karoline at the Albatross without her realising I was staying there too? It would be particularly hard if we were sharing a room, but I was willing to give it a go. What was helpful was that the bunk beds in my room each had a curtain that you could close around you, primarily designed for blocking out the light and getting dressed in private, but now also very useful for hiding from annoying ex-kayak partners. As long as we weren’t actually in the room at the same time, I could easily creep into bed and close the curtain around me and she would never know that I was sleeping in close proximity to her.
Technology helped. By pretending that I was genuinely interested in Karoline and her life, I could find out exactly where she was and what her plans were. What’sApping to ask her what her plans were for the evening and if she’d checked in to the Albatross yet certainly sounded as if I was trying to compare our plans to see when we could meet, when really I was just working out when it was safe for me to hang out in the hostel living room and when I would need to go and hide in the pub down the road.
But she caught me unawares on Monday. The weather was so bad that my whale watching trip had been cancelled for the second day in a row, so had my swim with the seals, but despite all this I was in a cheerful mood, enjoying the hostel atmosphere, editing the story about the unblissful chocolate bliss in Christchurch and checking on my laundry, when suddenly I heard the unmistakable annoying voice of Karoline, and there she was at reception, wearing the same pacamac and pair of practical trousers that she had been wearing the day we met. So quick as a flash I jumped up and headed out the back door as fast as Hyacinth Bucket’s neighbours in an episode of “Keeping Up Appearances”.
Once out the back, I regretted leaving so quickly. In the hurry to save myself I had left everything at the table – my laptop, my phone, a USB stick containing all my travel photos, my entire selection of colourful pens and a freshly made mug of Fairtrade Hot Chocolate (nothing but the best at The Albatross!) I should have gathered them up and brought them with me, Karoline was far too focussed on boring the pants off the lovely landlady and would have been unlikely to notice me gathering up my things before I made my hurried departure.
I’ve already told you how much I like the Albatross, and I now began to appreciate another of its features – the fact that there were three different entrances and exits to what is essentially the same giant room, and several windows for peering inside. I found a good place where I could hover in a doorway, keeping an eye on my belongings until Karoline left the room.
Not that it was going to happen any time soon. I could hear her loud monotonous voice, and it was clear that this wasn’t Karoline’s first meeting with the lovely landlady. She had presumably checked in earlier today, and was now of the mistaken opinion that the landlady needed to know absolutely everything that had happened to her since the last time they saw each other. On and on she droned with her monologue, explaining something fairly complicated and quite boring about some luggage restriction on a bus she had travelled on at some point in her life. I decided I wasn’t going to waste any more time lurking in doorways eavesdropping on boring conversations. For the first time since I arrived in New Zealand I was glad that the weather was so bad as it meant I was wearing my hoodie. I put the hood up to hide my hair and most of my face, powered into the room, gathered up all of my things as quickly as possible, and then hot-footed it out of the room before Karoline finished talking to the landlady.
Back in my dorm room I inspected the room for evidence of new room mates. I knew that at least two of last night’s room mates had checked out so if I was unlucky Karoline might have been given one of their beds. One bed had a newly dumped backpack on it, with a Canadian flag and the name “Sebastian” whilst the other had one of those serious backpacks – the ones you get from mountaineering shops, that are as far a cry from my own stripy suitcase as you can imagine. Karoline doesn’t actually climb mountains but does seem to favour mountaineering clothes, so the presence of a mountaineering backpack was a little ominous.
These curtains I told you about, the ones we can pull across our beds to create private spaces are very useful, but also make it difficult for you to know if there’s anyone behind them or if you’re in the room on your own, and whilst I was peering at the label on the ominous mountaineering backpack a bit more closely than was probably polite, the curtain of another bed was pulled back, and Not Hot Scott started to talk to me.
It’s probably a little unfair of me to call him Not Hot Scott, because he looks absolutely fine, it’s just that when you grew up watching Neighbours in the eighties, you assume that all Scotts are going to be blonde surfers who hang out at the beach all day, and this Scott is as far removed from that stereotype as you can imagine. He is a Cambridge graduate, but hasn’t yet left Cambridge because he’s still at the university, being very clever and doing all sorts of things that he told me about in great detail when we first met, but which I failed to be able to comprehend after about the fifth word. He’s very disappointed to only be in New Zealand for three weeks but it seems that Cambridge simply can’t survive without him for any longer than that. As far as I can tell though, Not Hot Scott spends most of his time behind his curtain reading books rather than packing as much adventure as possible into his short time in New Zealand, so it would have been far cheaper and more sensible of him to spend his annual leave hanging out at a library rather than flying to the other side of the world.
“Hi,” said Not Hot Scott, looking a bit forlorn and throwing more sadness and anguish into his delivery of the word “hi” than you could possibly imagine.
“Hi Scott,” I said brightly. “How are you?”
“Fine,” he said, in a voice that clearly suggested he wasn’t.
“What are you reading?” I asked, and he held up a well-worn copy of Wuthering Heights which isn’t the sort of book that would immediately spring to my mind as a good holiday read.
“Have you read it?” he asked.
“No, but I know the song,” I said.
He looked blank, so I started to sing it in my best high pitched voice. You can do things like that when you’re backpacking. It doesn’t really matter what people think of you if you know you’re unlikely to see them ever again. Plus I doubted that many people ever burst into spontaneous song in front of Not Hot Scott, so it would be a new experience for him.
He shook his head. “I don’t understand.”
“It’s a faster version of the book,” I explained. “Same storyline, just not quite so much detail. I won’t sing it all. Don’t want to spoil the ending for you.”
Not Hot Scott is as baffled by my sense of humour as I am by his explanations of what he does at Cambridge University.
“Right,” he said earnestly, as if filing this piece of information away in his brain for a future date.
“Anyway, I’ll let you get back to your reading,” I said, because we were in danger of approaching another Awkward Silence. Not Hot Scott and I have been sharing a dorm long enough to have exchanged all the usual background information that backpackers share and now it’s incredibly obvious every time we see each other that we have nothing left to say. Nevertheless we regularly try to fill the Awkward Silences with Awkward Conversations that neither of us really want to be having.
Not Hot Scott retreated back behind his curtain and I gathered up a few belongings and went into town for a walk.
Later on I headed back to the hostel and peered through the windows into the living room, feeling a little bit like a stalker, although it occurred to me that I was probably the exact opposite of a stalker, because my goal was to not see Karoline, rather than to see her. It wasn’t ever so easy to see everything through the window, but I was hopeful that Karoline was still at her rubbish talk, and went inside where Daydream Believer was the latest song playing on the continual loop of excellent songs.
There was no sign of Karoline, so I went ahead with my plan of cooking tea. The best hostels have free range chickens and vegetable patches, and the Albatross lets you use all the produce and eggs for free, so I was combining the available ingredients to cook what would probably be the only “yellow courgette and stripy tomato omelette” I would ever eat in my life. I was aware that cooking an omelette was a bit risky – what if Karoline turned up before I had finished cooking – but I was hopeful that the people of Canterbury would have a lot to say on the topic of household waste and that I would be able to cook and eat my omelette in peace.
It sort of worked. I sat at the big communal table to eat my omelette serenaded by Dolly Parton, Billy Joel and Neil Diamond. The headphone guy was sitting at the table eating his meal and lost in his music, but the rest of the diners were probably a bit surprised to see how frequently I kept snapping my head round to look at the door every time someone came in.
And then she appeared. Poor old Mathieu from France, I had only been half listening to his earnest tales of apple picking in the first place because I’d been so busy watching the door, but now I wasn’t listening at all as I sat frozen to the spot watching Karoline make her way into the room, wearing the same uniform of practical trousers and a pac-a-mac. “Surprise!” I was going to say. “Isn’t it funny that we’re staying at the same hostel?”
But there was no need because she walked straight past the table and into the open-plan kitchen without even glancing in my direction. I pretended to listen attentively to Mathieu’s apple picking anecdotes, all the while watching as Karoline made a drink, bypassed the table, sat down in a comfy chair and took out her phone.
And then I realised how easy it is to hide from someone if they don’t know you’re going to be there. So I carried on with my evening, tentatively at first, but gaining more confidence as time went on. Mathieu and I chatted about French ski resorts, I did my washing up, made and drank a hot chocolate, and all the while Karoline sat within metres of me, concentrating on her phone screen. Encouraged by this, I took out my own phone and sent her a What’sApp message, asking her how the talk had been, whether she liked the Albatross, what she was up to this evening and when she was going to bed. She replied pretty promptly to say that she’d enjoyed the talk, she liked the Albatross and would be going to bed soon, which I was obviously very pleased to hear. And true to her word, she soon packed up her things and headed off to bed, leaving me to enjoy the atmosphere of the Albatross once again. The room was dark when I went to bed and I quickly and quietly made my way into bed and closed my privacy curtain, then lay awake stifling giggles for a good ten minutes at the thought that Karoline might be sleeping above me with no idea that I was underneath.
The next morning I was having another attempt at swimming with the dolphins. I had come to Kaikoura specifically to swim with dolphins, swim with seals, go whale watching and do a sunset kayak, but Cyclone Gita had done such a good job of churning up the sea, that so far everything had been cancelled, apart from the Sunset Kayak which I had renamed the Seasick Kayak and sorely wished had been cancelled too when I found myself kayaking on a very bumpy sea trying to stop my lunch and tea from making a reappearance.
Today though the dolphin swim was finally going to happen. I was encouraged by last night’s revolutionary discovery of how easy it is to hide from people who aren’t looking for you, but all the same I employed my best secret agent skills, peeping out from behind my privacy curtain before getting out of bed, peering round corners before entering the bathrooms and kitchens to make sure I wasn’t going to come face to face with Karoline, and my mission appeared to be successful.
Until I tried to leave the building. Because there on the only path that led out of the Albatross garden was Karoline. Karoline and a bicycle that she had presumably borrowed from the Albatross. I waited out of sight for her to climb on and cycle off into the distance, but she seemed to be carrying out some very thorough checks to ensure the bike was roadworthy and hadn’t even put on her helmet yet. I sighed deeply. There was no way I was going to risk missing the dolphins by turning up late, but I didn’t want to walk past Karoline either.
There was only one thing for it. With Karoline engrossed in her bicycle checks, I tiptoed behind her across the lawn and climbed rather spectacularly over the fence. I started walking towards the dolphin meeting point, anticipating that Karoline would come cycling past at any moment, but there was no sign of her – she really was taking those bicycle checks seriously. And then just as I was reaching my destination I heard her, calling my name, sounding so excited to see me that I almost felt bad for avoiding her.
“Caroline! Hello! This is so great!”
“Oh, hello,” I said and then added rather untruthfully “I didn’t expect to see you on a bicycle.”
“I know. It’s so great. I borrow from the hostel. Where do you stay?”
“Over there,” I said, waving my hand vaguely so that it indicated the entire town of Kaikoura. “Pretty close to you I think.”
“Oh. That is so great. Maybe tonight we can meet. I want to do yoga. Maybe you can join? I think it would be so great. Or maybe now we can have breakfast? That would be so great.”
I had forgotten that despite her constant moaning and complaining, everything else in Karoline’s life was so great.
“I can’t,” I said, looking at my watch. “I’m about to swim with the dolphins.”
“Oh, that is so great.”
“Yes,” I said. “In fact, I must dash. I don’t want to be late. I’ll message you later.”
“That would be so great,” said Karoline as I paced off towards the dolphin centre as fast as I could.
The dolphin swim was good. We were encouraged to attract the dolphins by singing to them through our snorkel masks, so I sang my way through the score of my current favourite musical “The Girls” and found I got the most attention from the dolphins when singing “So I’ve had a little work done” which is a song about having a boob job – not something you’d expect dolphins to know very much about, but clearly something they found interesting.
After the dolphins I had to race back to the Albatross to have a quick shower and change before racing straight out again for my whale watch which had been rescheduled for the third time. I snuck quietly into my room hoping that Not Hot Scott wasn’t going to emerge from behind his curtain because I didn’t have time to have an Awkward Conversation with him as well as a shower, so I grabbed my towel and raced off to the bathrooms at lightning speed.
To get to the shower, you either have to walk through the communal living room or go across the front garden. Usually at noon on a Monday there wouldn’t be very many people around, but today the living room was packed full of people having a Harry Potter marathon. With the aftermath of Cyclone Gita still whirling around making outdoor activity less enticing, the golden oldie music had been turned off and lots of backpackers were camped out in front of the TV with no intention of moving until they had seen every single Harry Potter movie from start to finish. In my hurry to avoid Not Hot Scott, I had only grabbed a towel from the room and no clothes, so after my shower I decided to go back to my room via the garden, rather than treat the Harry Potter audience to the sight of me in my towel, but as I made my way into the garden I discovered the obstacle of Karoline sitting on a picnic bench eating pasta. My only passageway back to my room was to walk right in front of the TV, so I made a point of grinning at everyone as I walked past in my towel and they all laughed at me as I hurried back to my room to get dressed.
Whale watching was expensive but not exciting. Not Hot Scott had waxed lyrical about his whale watch a few days ago, but my trip involved a two hour erratic jaunt around the bay trying to track down the elusive whale, whilst people who hadn’t yet discovered that “Kaikoura” is synonymous with “seasickness” threw up into little white paper bags all around me. The majority of the whale is under the water, so when we found the whale we just saw a grey oval of skin for about ten minutes and then the magical whale tail at the end. By the time my whale watch was over I decided I wouldn’t have minded if it had never been rescheduled after the first cancellation, but of course until you do these things, you don’t know that they’re not going to be wonderful.
Back at the Albatross, Harry Potter was still in full swing, but a different story was being retold in the kitchen. I briefly stood unseen in the doorway and watched as the lovely landlady busily cleaned the kitchen, bustling about from one surface to the next, clearly trying to get things done, whilst Karoline followed her around, getting in the way, loudly delivering the same monologue that I’d heard in the kayak a few weeks ago, the one about how she’s disowned most of her family and had come to New Zealand without bothering to tell any of them where she was going. I returned to my room and Not Hot Scott opened his curtain immediately.
“Hi,” he said, as morose as ever.
“Hi,” I replied. “How’s your day?”
Scott held up a copy of The Woman in White. “I started reading this,” he said sadly.
I wondered if it would be a good time to tell him that I’d seen the musical twice, had the soundtrack and knew most of the songs off by heart.
“Are you purposely reading books beginning with W?” I asked instead.
“Wuthering Heights, Woman in White,” I listed. “I thought maybe there was a theme.”
“Well I’m going to read the Mayor of Casterbridge next, so no, there isn’t a theme,” he said, and I wished I had sung him one of the songs from Woman in White instead.
I went out for tea, with Woman in White songs whirling around my head and then returned to the Albatross where the Harry Potter Marathon was still in full swing. This was wonderful because it meant the whole room was dark apart from the television. For the whole evening, Karoline sat at the table, totally oblivious that I was sitting round the corner writing a story about her. Harry Potter truly did have magical powers.
The next day I was leaving. Which was easier said than done. Cyclone Gita had caused so much damage that the roads to Kaikoura were closed. Nobody could get in and nobody could get out. And I would have been happy to stay at the Albatross indefinitely, playing Hide and Seek with Karoline and cooking yellow courgette omelettes, however after four weeks of back-to-back backpacking hostels, my next destination was an airbnb apartment at one of the best beaches on the south island. I didn’t want to miss the beach and I definitely didn’t want to miss the apartment. Backpacking is fun, but you can’t beat the amazing feeling of closing a bedroom door and sleeping by yourself in complete silence, or making a meal in a shiny kitchen with sparkly new utensils. So I had hired a private plane to fly me out of Kaikoura.
It sounds far more grand than it actually was. Even though I hadn’t found them very exciting, the whales are big business in Kaikoura and lots of people pay $150 to go whale watching by air. Now that Cyclone Gita had closed the roads, the whale watching plane company had spotted an opportunity and were flying stranded tourists and locals in and out of Kaikoura until the roads opened again.
I woke before my alarm to the sound of room mate conversation. Or rather the monologue of Not Hot Scott explaining in dull tones what he does at Cambridge University. The monotony of his voice was almost enough to gently guide me back to sleep, until the person he was talking to said in a loud voice:
“That is so great.”
Unmistakably, Kayaking Karoline was in the room. Thank goodness for the private curtains. All the same my heart started racing. I had a flight to catch, and I knew how long Karoline could talk for. How long would I have to hide away behind my curtain listening to the conversation between Not Hot Scott and Kayaking Karoline?
“I am actually here to make some dolphin conservation work which is so great,” Karoline was saying. “In fact I was supposed to be making it for five days but today that said they don’t want me to come which is not so great, but later I will make a trip with the boat to see the whales which I think will be so great.”
Not Hot Scott started to talk in an enthusiastic monotone about his whale trip, but Karoline doesn’t like to let anyone else talk for very long, so quickly interrupted him and started to tell him about how inconvenient it is for her that the supermarket had closed down because trying to find vegan food in Kaikoura is not so great.
“I think in the long term it’s probably more inconvenient for the supermarket staff who worked there than it is for you,” said Not Hot Scott bluntly, and I stifled a giggle from behind my curtain.
“Exactly, this is what I think too,” said Karoline unconvincingly and the conversation came to an abrupt halt.
I drifted in and out of sleep until my alarm went off and then I surreptitiously peered out of my curtain to see if the coast was clear. Nobody seemed to be about, so I tentatively got out of bed, ready to grab my stuff and hot foot it to the bathroom, but not before Not Hot Scott drew back his curtain.
“I don’t like our room mates,” he grumbled.
I didn’t know if Karoline was behind one of the other curtains, so I did the only thing I could think of in this situation and disguised my voice by putting on my best Irish accent.
Not Hot Scott sighed “Somebody came in last night whilst I was asleep and turned on the lights. And then they spent ages zipping and unzipping their bag like a million times.”
“People are so rude, I hate it when they do that,” I said, aware that I was almost definitely the culprit, and that my Irish accent was turning a bit Liverpudlian. The previous night I had gone to pack my suitcase at 8:30 and found the room in darkness. I couldn’t work out if Not Hot Scott was behind his ever-closed curtain or not, but I had decided that 8:30 was far too early for anyone to go to bed and besides I could hardly pack in the dark, so I had turned the light on, packed my case and then returned to sit round the corner from Karoline at the Harry Potter marathon.
Not Hot Scott shook his head glumly. “Where are you going today?”
“I’m leaving,” I said and explained about my private plane.
Not Hot Scott looked surprised. “Oh,” he said. “I was going to ask if you wanted to go for dinner tonight.”
I looked even more surprised that Not Hot Scott. Dinner? Did he not realise just how many Awkward Silences would occur on the walk into town alone, not to mention when we were actually sitting across from each other in a restaurant.
“Oh,” I said, my fake accent turning a bit Brummy in all the surprise. “We’ll have to do it another time.”
Not Hot Scott nodded like he’d heard that one many times before, and I escaped to go and have my shower.
The shower passed without incident, this time I had remembered to take clothes with me, so I emerged from the shower fully dressed, only to discover Karoline standing right in front of the door with her back to me cleaning her teeth. As she looked in the mirror to see what was happening behind her, I quickly closed the door and locked it for extra safety. After successfully avoiding her for all this time, surely she wasn’t going to discover me now, just as I was leaving. I wondered if Karoline had only come to the bathroom to brush her teeth or if she was waiting for a shower, in which case I was stuck in a stalemate. I could hear the showers either side of me in use, and from the noises and conversations taking place, all the other people had only just started showering, so it could be a while before another one became free for Karoline to use, and I had a $150 plane to catch.
I got my towel and arranged it turban-like on my head to form a disguise, hoping that my original theory that it’s easy to hide from someone if they’re not expecting to see you would still be true, even if you have to make eye contact with them as you leave a shower. But when I unlocked the door ready to face the music, the bathroom was empty.
I walked through the garden, peering in through the window to see if Karoline was in the living room or kitchen, but there was no sign of her, which meant she might be in the bedroom, which would make retrieving my stripy suitcase a bit difficult, and even more so if Not Hot Scott was also thrown into the equation.
Back in the dorm I could hear Karoline before I saw her. “Ja, das ist so toll,” she was saying in an animated voice, and I saw that she was lying on the bunk above mine, talking on the phone, with just her feet visible. Brazenly I walked into the room, crouched down to put my last few things into the suitcase, then zipped it up, no doubt annoying Not Hot Scott in the process as he read his book behind his curtain. Karoline remained on the top bunk talking into her phone, completely unaware that I was there, or that I had been sleeping beneath her for the last two nights.
Against all odds, it was mission accomplished. I crept out of the room as quietly as any person can when they have a stripy suitcase on wheels, said goodbye to the lovely landlady at reception and then just like any other secret agent, I boarded my private plane and flew far away ready to see what my next adventure would bring.