“What’s the local drink?” Michael asked at a bar.
“Chacha,” was the reply
Michael looking at me, scratching his head in confusion.
“Did I say something funny or is he being sarcastic?”
“No, I think it’s the name of the drink,” I said, “Two Chacha please bar-keep!”
The barman poured out clear, slightly viscous liquor into two glasses. It was a volume of liquid that you find out too late is too much to fit in your mouth in one gulp, especially when combined with a surge of salvia your body forces into your mouth to combat the taste.
After I felt the liquid burn slowly down my throat, I swear it bypassed my stomach and surged through my veins and into my brain, just like as if I’d been administered a general aesthetic.
Before we knew it, we were clapping along to a couple that had started dancing to the jazz band. They were awesome. At one point, the man broke away from the women and performed a high kick, with a straight leg, right up to his head.
Dancing is different in this part of the world. It’s not like in the west, where people generally dance around with their mates until they’re drunk enough to approach other people. Here, as was the case in Azerbaijan, people go up in couples and dance together. I looked Michael.
“Fancy a da-“
We went to another bar and sat down. There was someone speaking English a few tables away from us.
“Sounds American” I said.
“He’s Irish!” said Michael.
I listened again. It was difficult to hear because the place was noisy but I was pretty sure.
“I bet you he’s American”
“What’s the bet?”
“If I win we do another shot of ChaCha”
“And if I win?”
“We do another shot of Chacha”
This is the last thing either of us can remember. I woke up on the wooden floor, a metre or so from my bed, to the sound of Michael’s ominous confession:
“Mate, I’ve pissed somewhere in the room. It could have been on our bags, it could have been on you.”
I grumbled, unable to speak.
“It’s ok though, it’s only beer piss”, he added.
Phew, I thought. It’s only beer piss.
By the time we’d regained our senses, we realised that not only had we lost another day on the schedule, due to the severity of our hangovers, but also, someone, possibly me or Michael, had hacked a crude looking mohawk into my head.
Nothing says “nutter” like a mohawk that looks like it’s been fashioned by Ed Scissorhands on the business end of ketamine binge.
“What the hell happened last night?” asked Michael
“All I can remember is having a fight with this scruffy Irish tramp”, I replied, “He was trying to rob your coat! Ergh I can still smell his vile musk on me now”
“No, Rich, that was me. I went to put my coat on and you started fighting me”
“Oh right, yeah. Sorry about that mate”
The night duty receptionist knocked on the door and poked his head inside.
“Hello, good morning, you had quite a night, no?”
“One of you left this 100 Lari note ($60) on the table”
“Wow thank you so much! That’s very noble of you”
People are great.
Later on, still feeling Chacha’d, I turned to Michael,
“According to the schedule we were supposed to be in Greece, 3’000km away, by now”.
We hung our aching heads at the realisation that we were going to fail The Rich-Mike Hitchhike.