Off Topic: Taasha Coates

Taasha Coates, singer of ARIAwinning duo The Audreys, travelled across Asia and Europe for six months after finishing university.

Coates and her Audreys partner-in-crime, Tristan Goodall, left for Indonesia 10 years ago, about six months before they formed their alt.folk outfit . From Indonesia they traveled across Asia and Europe by train, bus and boat, which included a two-week journey on the Trans-Siberian. “The first stop was Ulaanbaatar in Mongolia, which is beautiful and odd at the same time, as it’s just so bare,” Coates begins. “They don’t really grow anything and that’s why they’re nomadic, they rely on live stock. It’s baron. Our next stop was Irkutsk in Siberia. We started to go further north and the views from the windows were amazing, Dr Zhivago sets for hours upon hours, just snow and desolate little trees. It was incredible. We thought we would be bored on a train for two weeks so we brought all these books. Neither of us touched a page. It was the most fascinating trip. “We ended up in a carriage with four Russians who knew no English. All we knew in Russian was ‘da’ and ‘nyet’ (yes and no) and they pulled out the most ridiculous two litre bottles of home made moonshine vodka – nasty. Tristan and I thought we had some drinking chops but we were put to shame. They were insisting that we drink with them and if we didn’t they would get quite upset, so everyone had to scull at the same time. We were trying really hard to express to them that I couldn’t drink as much as them because I was a woman. They didn’t understand. It tasted really bad. “These guys started to get really drunk and what started out as a fun cultural experience started to get a bit weird. Tristan left the carriage to get some food. We must have got to the border because the police boarded the train and started to go through the carriages. The guys obviously knew what was going on – we didn’t. I was in there by myself at that stage with four big Russian men. And one of them pulled out a huge knife, like the Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves knife, not a little one. It was a ridiculous knife and he was really upset and agitated. He was shaking the knife at me and shouting at me. I thought he was threatening ;me with a massive knife. I was really freaked out. I could hear the Russian police outside. I didn’t know what was going on and they were really agitated. They all kept nodding at me, ‘yes, yes, yes’ with this knife. “I jumped on the top bunk, cradled into the corner and pulled the covers over me, with just my little eyes peaking out. Tristan said it was one of the funniest sights he had ever seen, as he had left and I had been in this great jovial mood drinking with these guys. Then he came back and something had obviously gone horribly wrong and I’m sitting there slightly terrified. “Tristan went and got a provodnitsa (on every carriage they have this woman who is like an attendant). She came and took us out of that carriage and put us into another carriage with some other travelers. It was eventually explained to us that they were smuggling this knife. They wanted me to hide it in their bag, because the police wouldn’t have checked it. “Apparently it’s really common, which we hadn’t been warned about. People smuggle things by putting them in tourists’ bags. And they offer tourists ;money to do it. He obviously got sprung because we never saw him again. He must have got thrown off the train in the middle of Siberia somewhere.” Coates and Goodall then caught the Baltic Express, which took them trough Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia and Poland. After a short visit to the UK, for a wedding, they visited ;friends in the Netherlands. It was there that they decided to go back to Australia, while in an Amsterdam cafe, to form The Audreys. “We had this epic eight-hour conversation in this Amsterdam cafe. We didn’t have high hopes for success. To mark the occasion we took a photo of ourselves at the table in the cafe. For years we had it stuck on the toilet door to remind ourselves of that moment.” theaudreys.com.au

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