Saturday, May 31, 2008

Tucson, Arizona

In Tucson, Arizona, the buildings are tall and glassy, the streets are wide, impeccably maintained and virtually free of pedestrians. There’s nobody on foot because everyone drives enormous, heavily tinted trucks. The people without cars are subject to the merciless atmosphere; dry and hot like mustard powder with a desert wind that chases away all traces of moisture and sanity. Thus, anyone on foot is, as Angie in her psychology-speak says, ‘loopy’. The most prominent symptoms of this desert-affliction are the tendency to argue with invisible adversaries and a fondness for green, over-the-face visors.

The people fortunate enough to be in cars just looked at us through their dark glass with a confused/wary look on their faces that said either ‘ewww, carless’ or ‘what happened to their car?’

Friday, May 30, 2008

Signs in Texas

‘This is NOT an Exit’. After all the time we spent in Spanish speaking countries, it was a little thrill to enter the United States and see the English language on display everywhere. No need to translate anymore, I could understand just about every word I saw without having to think about it.

‘Prudential Uniform Service’ on a passing truck. ‘BE CAREFUL. DON’T HIT THE WALL’ in the carpark. ‘EXIT’ ‘Parking’ ‘Feeding the birds is PROHIBITED’ Wonderful!

Even though it was in English, the large board calmly stating the words ‘BREAKFAST CHICKEN BISCUIT’ was one that I didn’t quite understand.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Buy this.

Or at least go to the newsagents and have flick through. It's the June/July issue of a travel magazine called Wanderlust, and on page 26 you'll find a brutally edited version of the shipwreck story (that I wrote). People in Britain, I believe it's out now. Everyone else, I'm not sure when it comes out overseas.

Adios Latin America!

A statistic: After fourteen and a half months, we left Latin America and entered El Paso, Texas. In the 444 nights since we landed in Santiago, Chile, we stayed in 148 different hotels and hostels. Some of those hotels we stayed in more than once, and we also spent 20 nights sleeping on buses. Add up other random nights on boats and camping and we come to a total of 211 different sleeping places. So, on average, we moved to a new bed every 2.1 nights.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Puppies, Filth and Murder: Ah, Chihuahua!

In the hotels of Chihuahua, this is the most popular wall decoration

‘Ah, Chihuahua’ is the infectious phrase conjured up by the state’s/city’s tourism board. It’s fun to say, and it kind of rhymes, and it actually quite catchy. Whenever I saw something of note in the city, I would hold Angie’s hand and say ‘Ah, Chihuahua!’

In the main square, we found these two small chihuahuas along with a small Chihuahuan.

Ah, Chihuahua!

A clean bathroom is a hygienic bathroom

Accommodation in Chihuahua was depressingly polarized. When forced to choose between a hundred-dollar-a-night chain hotel or a fourteen-dollar-a-night safety hazard, economics forces us into the latter. This was the kind of room we had largely managed to avoid on the trip. It came with a menagerie of insect life: bees in the bathroom, mosquitos, two kinds of cockroaches and even fleas in the blankets. Every time I brushed against something in the room, say the bedhead or the floor, I came away with a big dirty mark where I had made contact. I slept on my back so that I couldn’t smell the pillow, and crawled underneath the sheets with my eyes closed so I wouldn’t see the stained, probably unwashed, sheets. And this was the best of the seven or so rooms we looked at.

Ah, Chihuahua!

We were walking through the city centre when we heard a quick series of loud bangs from the other side of the square. They sounded like gunshots (but what series of loud bangs doesn’t?), and people started streaming over to the location of the sounds. In these situations at home, people walk with a kind of quick, disinterested swagger that gets them there fast on the off-chance something morbidly interesting has happened, but they don’t look like they’re rushing, which would make them look silly when they round the corner to find a dog with a broken balloon in it’s mouth and a startled look on it’s face.

There was none of that here in Chihuahua, though. Grown men loped unashamedly across the square, shoving the slower women out of the way and knocking over bins in order to see what was going on. They had a unsettling, morbid kind of joy in their eyes. I swaggered quickly and disinterestedly around the corner and found people crowded around a ute pointing mobile phones at the cabin.

Angie got her camera out (of course I’d left mine in the hotel room) and started snapping pictures, as was the local custom.

Seven shells

The police showed up and cordoned off the area, breaking up the mosh pit. People didn’t really take the yellow tape seriously though, and the bicycle cops had a hard time keeping the crowd away.

The press showed up shortly after the first police, and used the police trucks to get a better angle on the action.

The next day, we bought a paper (one illustrated far more graphically than this post) and found out that the victim was an ex-police officer who died on his way to hospital. His girlfriend was uninjured and the shooters escaped on motorcycles.

Ah, Chihuahua!!!

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

The Missing Hotel Room of Chihuahua

Missing Mirror

Missing Powerpoint

Missing Toilet Seat

Missing Light Bulb

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Valley of the Euphemisms

Apparently, the local name for this valley translates into 'Valley of the Erect Penises'. I don't see why they'd call it that. Anyway, it now has the more tourist-brochure-friendly name of 'Valley of the Monks'.

Valleys of the Mushrooms and Frogs

This is a valley where some of the locals live in caves

This is from the Valley of the Mushrooms


This is the Valley of the Frogs, which isn't actually a valley, it is a hill. And there's only one frog.

Trippinvignettes - Number 3

In which ‘Shazza’ reveals the complex dichotomy of her feelings towards coati, the cute and cuddly ground-koalas of South America. Upon meeting us, she told us how she hadn’t had a drink for well over a week. Later that evening at dinner, in a blizzard of strine-flavoured profanity, she drunkenly displayed the reason for her period of self-denial. Hair styling by Miss Breoni Taylor.

'...a***holes... except this one... Smell ya fingas: BURNT TOAST!! Not just 'like'- EXACTLY!! Burnt f***** toast!!!'

Arabian Restaurant, La Paz, Bolivia.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Friday, May 23, 2008

Copper Canyon Railway

The Copper Canyon railway connects the coast with the mountains.

There's plenty of fantastic scenery as the train winds through the hills

This is the cherry on top - the Copper Canyon itself. The train stops for 15 minutes to let you get out and look while being yelled at by people selling tacos.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Charming Puerto Vallarta

Angie, self-portrait with 2-for-1 margarita

Enormous, waddlesome tourists clutching ice creams and fistfuls of pesos guffaw along the spotless waterfront. Tour agency spruikers attempt frantically to strike up conversation in the hope of a commission. ‘Hey, are you guys from Minneapolis?’ they ask us too brightly, their distended eyes betraying their desperation as we keep moving, heads down. We hear their anguished calls from afar: ‘Do you want to go to Yelapa??’

Restaurant spruikers block the pavement and manhandle pedestrians into their establishments. The touchy-feely one dressed in a gorilla suit seems especially popular. Taxi drivers cluster on the dark corners and offer drugs, massages or taxi rides (in that order). Plump North American students in seas of gelatinous sequins joggle in the windows of loud, flashing clubs like satiric Amsterdam window displays. They wear balloon sculptures on their heads and chug 2-for-1 margaritas. Their liquored, glossy lips mime along to the music: ‘Man, I feel like a woman’.

A block away, in the brimming tourist market, untold oceans of lurid fecal matter (or souvenirs) are on display. Listless t-shirts hang like carcases in the suffocating, breezeless air while small fans struggle valiantly to circulate the wretched atmosphere of an marketplace both figuratively and literally overcrowded. ‘I’m shy, BUT I’VE GOT A BIG DICK!!! Puerto Vallarta’ the shirts proclaim. ‘F.B.I.- Federal Breast Inspector. Puerto Vallarta’ sings another. Below the shirts are shelves filled with souvenirs- pieces of crap that have been superglued to other pieces of crap. The resulting amalgamations have then had ‘Pto. Vallarta’ scribbled on them with felt-tip marker and been thrust optimistically into the world.

In contrast to the tack of the waterfront, the people at the hotel were lovely, and even had Escher in to do the staircases

That this exists is novel and amusing at first, but it soon becomes scary and intensely depressing. All this stuff is here because that’s how people want it. They buy the shirts and guzzle the weak drinks and get groped by gorillas and look positively enthralled and come back for more next holidays. It’s everything the Gold Coast wishes it could be, and once the novelty of the spectacle had dissipated, we couldn’t get out of there fast enough.

Trippinvignettes - Number 2

In which ‘Protein Man’ relates to us some of his finer points.

‘I’m probably the strongest man in Buenos Aires. No wait, I AM the strongest man in Buenos Aires’.

Hotel La Casona, CartageƱa, Colombia.

Runners up from the same night:

‘I drive fast and furious’

‘I drive better drunk than most Canadians do sober’ (This was his explanation as to why he should be allowed to drink-drive)

Monday, May 19, 2008


The Zihuatenago 'ruins', an abandoned and crumbling beachfront hotel

Yet another sleepy little beach town...