December 27, 2005

The hottest pepper in the world. Seriously.

*I'm headed to Montreal later this morning, and rather than actually put effort into creating a post, I thought I'd provide a flashback to warmer times. This entry was written by Caroline more than a month ago while we were still traipsing through the jungles of Chiapas, Mexico. For me this is as easy as cut and paste...

Waterfall - Agua Azul (Chiapas)From the Zapatista stronghold of San Cristobal de las Casas we battled the bus route to the incredible waterfalls at Agua Azul, and were truly glad we bothered. Although the sun wasn't even out to enhance the vivid turquoise of the river, it was obvious the place hadn't been named "Blue Water" for nothing. Stretching through miles of lush Mexican jungle, the tropical pools are separated by brilliant white waterfalls, and by the time we grabbed our bathing suits we pretty much had the place to ourselves. After a dip in one of the pools and a quick lesson in barrel rolling (that's a swift water flood and river rescue technique, FYI), we decided it was dinner time and settled ourselves into a restaurant.

So it appears we're getting a bit blase about the ever-present hot sauces, having been travelling in Mexico for a good few weeks now, and none of us even hesitated before spooning an innocent-looking salsa onto our food. We only realised it was a lot more potent than it looked as our mouths seemed to catch fire. But far from repelling us from those powerful habanero chilis, when the restaurant-owner brought over a fresh one of the little devils to show us where the inferno in the salsa came from, we took it as a challenge.

Sally - another Canadian traveller we met in Mexico City, and self-proclaimed veteran of spicy foods - braved the first bite, and after boasting she could eat the entire thing "no problem", she soon gave up, eyes streaming and barely able to talk. Before long the evil green pepper was being passed around the table, with each person being dared to chew more of its tongue-destroying seeds. For some reason Ryan decided he was getting a kick out of the pain, and ate until saliva was pouring unchecked out of his mouth and he was forced to turn around in his chair and spit on the floor behind him. Classy.

And yes, for the second time in as many weeks, the boys' eyes were brimming with tears. Somebody tell me... when will the crying end?!

December 03, 2005

Welcome to the Jungle...

PalenqueAfter descending back out of the Madres for the umpteenth time, we were hunkered down less than 2 km from the Las Ruinas De Palenque (pictured). I'd never slept out in an open hammock in a real bonafide jungle before. The guide book insisted that the rainy season was over, but the cascading water falling out of the sky took no time finding it's way through the palm leaf shelter and into my face.

Guns and Roses was running through my head on some sort of infinite loop as we settled into a night of what felt, to me, like a scene from Platoon or Apocalypse Now without the killing.

Welcome to the jungle, it gets worse here every day...

Anybody who's ever slept in a forest at night without fire can attest to the fact that can be a little unnerving in the best of conditions. Make that forest a jungle and throw in a giant spider sighting (Tarantula?) just before dusk, a few howler monkeys in the distance doing their best impression of a dying human, the real possibility of man-eating snakes, a completely open air shelter, impossible darkness, and poor Willie retching, under the strain of Montezuma's revenge, nearby during what must have been one of the more miserable nights of his life and the simple act of trying to sleep becomes an adventure for even the bravest among our group.

Now add Mefloquine to the mix. The malarial drug coursing through my veins, most famous for it's side affects: paranoia, nightmares and 'psychotic behaviour'... suddenly this night, the eve of Brian's 24th birthday, becomes the scariest since The Boogy Man moved out of my closet -- sometime around Grade 3.

Independently we all suffered through this night to varying degrees. Brian emerged in the morning caked in mud as a result of one particularly wet and muddy slope between our hammocks and his tent; he fell three times in the night. I fell once on the same slope, mid-pee, and was convinced that something poisonous bit my big toe in the process. In the morning I discovered there was no swelling and concluded, disappointingly, that it must have been a sharp stick. Willie suffered the worst of it as fire-ants instigated a sneak attack on his arms and shoulders while he concentrated on expelling the contents of his stomach for most of the night. Caroline, Sally and Tom, the rest of our rag-tag group, slept through the night and woke refreshed.

We've slowed of pace of travel to allow Willie some time to recover and will stay in Palenque until he's well enough to travel. At the moment it looks like he's on the mend and there's a good possibility that this post will be our last from Mexico. By the time you read this we may be negotiating the remote border crossing across the Rio Usumacinta and into Guatemala. The northern jungles of Guatemala may not be the most convenient for Interneting, they've had a real rough go with Hurricane Stan and weren't in the best of positions to deal with it in the first place; The country ranks 120th out of 173 on the UN human development index. I'll do my best to keep a regular posting schedule. If anybody out there is willing to splash for a satellite phone and Internet connection, I promise it would be well received. I'd post every day, I swear.

-Ryan

San Cristóbal de Las Casas

Zapatista
So it seems some of the best of Mexico may have been saved for last. Or at least maybe. As we slept or stared into the darkness, the coach wound up and through the Sierra Madres; carrying us from the warmth of Zipolite to San Cristóbal De Las Casas - the coldest `damn` city in Mexico.

When we arrived in the day's hot sun, it was hard not to appreciate the beauty of the place. Half asleep or exhausted, the six of us weaved our way through the colonial streets on route to the 'Backpackers Hostel'. Once there, though sleep was on all of our minds, it was no option. We had all of twenty-four hours in the city, and intended to see as much as possible.

On top of elaborate indigenous markets, churches, and mellow streets, it seems that much of San Cristóbal's recent fame is owed to the Zapatistas. In protest of the inauguration of NAFTA, the leftist guerrilla army emerged from the surrounding mountains and woods January 1st 1994, to seize the city. Their aim was to improve the desperate and oft ignored living conditions of the rural indigenous population in the state of Chiapas, and their popularity is evidenced by hoards of t-shirts, key chains, and posters throughout the city.

The brief stroll we took through the city was enough to impress us, but we knew we had to move. Even after meeting many fun people in the late-night and early-morning hours, we broke camp early the next day. For all of its merits, Mexico is but one country in a very big world.

This photo was taken in Ocosingo, a self declared autonomous Zapatista municipality.

-Brian

December 01, 2005

Don Corleone - R.I.P.

Room with a View - ZipoliteZipolite is perhaps the most relaxed place on earth, and it remains my favourite place we've visited thus far. A tiny resort on the Oaxaca coast, it's so relaxed that on the western edge of the beach more than a few people are too laid back even to bother with bathing suits. But in every paradise there are sinister aspects lurking just below the surface, as Brian can attest. The sea has its various stingers, and every year the notoriously strong rip-tides inevitably drag panicked tourists to their deaths.

But not all the dangers of Zipolite lie in the water, as our good friend Don fatally discovered for himself on the night we left town. We'd met him on the first day. He spent most of his time lounging around the open air kitchen of Lo Cosmico, where we were staying. He never ventured down to the sea, preferring the shade of the cabanas away from the beach. Though he kept mostly to himself, his popularity with the guests of Lo Cosmico was unparalled. He had a real charisma and was a favourite of all of us.

As we were packing up to leave for San Cristobal there was a great commotion as word spread that Don Corleone had been stung by a scorpion. Now there are over 200 species of scorpion, and seven of them are known to have venom powerful enough to kill a human being. The trouble with Don is that he doesn't have the constitution of a healthy human, for he is a 9lb, fluffy house cat. While his owner, Diego, rushed into town to find help - a doctor; a vet; anybody who might be able to administer some sort of anti-venom - we all feared the worst.

To be fair, we're not absolutely certain that the cat died in the end, but as our taxi pulled away from the mean streets of Zipolite, we saw Diego sullenly making his way back to Lo Cosmico in the rain. He was alone and apparently empty-handed. We called out to wish him and 'The Don' the best...

If anybody reading this was at Lo Cosmico and has any concrete information about the fate of our friend, please share...

November 27, 2005

Pardise and Poison - Zipolite

Everything I own is failing me. First the camera went, and now that Willie came through with a digital camera, to support our cause, my USB stick won't work. This, of course is making for a real hassle in getting all the juicy photos from my computer to the Internet. One day I'll own an electronic device that doesn't break, but not today. Such is life.

Since Mexico City, we've moved to the Pacific Coast and crossed the line from North American Mexico to Central American Mexico. The tumbleweed and cacti have been replaced by jungle vines and banana trees. What was once sparse desert is now dense jungle. The cool mountain air has been replaced by the salty, humid breeze of the Pacific Ocean.

Zipolite is the name of the place we're at now. No Holiday Inn's, no swimming pools, no ATM's, and barely 200 meters of paved road. It's all hammocks, lizards and beach huts. Maybe we've died on the way? Maybe we were all killed in a dramatic plunge from the narrow road into a jungle crevice. It's a beach paradise that could very well be heaven. Until two hours ago, It could have been argued that this place was perfect.

Karma is a funny thing. Maybe, as humans, we're always looking for patterns in nature; maybe it doesn't actually exist. Either way I can't deny the co-incidence of events as Brian laughed and laughed at my obvious discomfort as I rolled in the surf throwing my delicious ham and cheese breakfast crepes up and into the sea. He was giggling and exclaiming that 'I probably had a weaker stomach than any other human being.' Just moments earlier he'd forced me under in the pounding surf, while I aggressively gulped for air and ended up with nothing but seawater.

While I was declaring that 'he'd get his'. My little Stingray friend was no doubt positioning himself underneath Brians feet and would strike a moment later. The laughing stopped. By the time we got him out of the water his foot had already started to swell. Every local we talked to said it would blow up like a basketball and would be more painful than a scorpion sting. He'd have to get a taxi to the next town and see a doctor for some shots to deal with the swelling.

As it turns out it wasn't that bad. It was only a glancing blow. Within a half hour, the swelling began to subside. There wasn't even time for a photo. For now he's back lounging on the beach and walking with only the slightest limp. No real drama and he we've all had a laugh about it.

November 26, 2005

¡Olé!

Ryan has now clearly set the stage and put enough pressure on me to stop procrastinating and start contributing. As the good man mentioned, I've had the right passwords since New York, but have a habit of putting these things off.

Today (22nd) as our crew departs from Mexico City, it is difficult to write a post about the time we spent in The City without rambling on about crowded street and subways, smog, all-night clubs, street fiestas, and (of course) beautiful women. While it all continues to resonate in our brains, Ryan and I are still jumping at any opportunity to talk about the strange and 'quintessentially Mexican' bullfight we experienced Sunday night.

We first learned of the weekly happening on the road from Zacatecas to Guanajuato. Guierrmo (our driver) spoke of the spectacle and its excitement, but did not have to work hard to convince us. Romantic visions of the bullfighting world depicted by Hemmingway in The Sun Also Rises were churning around in our heads and we were game.

Ryan and I went to the fight with three boys from the hostel who were as far as we were from being 'afficiados' of the sport. Even after the 50 pesos were paid for admission to the upper deck of the 48,000 seat ring, we had little idea what to expect. A yearning for tortas exasperated the problem and a food stop at the door ensured that we arrived in the fight too late to slowly figure things out. As we walked into the ring the first bull was teetering on the edge of defeat. Along with the horse-mounted picadors, the first matador had inflicted many wounds on the gallant beast. The audience was now silently awaiting a quick death. When the 19 year-old failed to deliver after several attempts, the audience became uneasy and even began to leave the stadium. Everyone in our group became quickly disgusted and began to question our choice of entertainment.

There were misgivings among us as the second bull was introduced to the ring and the various actors got to work. The enraged bull darted out of the pen and made a point to charge and ram anything that moved. Strangely dressed people quickly began to systematically get the attention of the bull with the intent of making him run laps around the stadium. Once sufficiently tired, the 19 year-old stepped in again to do the typical cape laden dance with the bull. Loud shouts of ¡Olé! were called out as the matador and the bull danced complete circles in the mud. The cry of horn signified the end of the first round, and the picadors lined up for their turn. They emerged on heavily padded and blindfolded horses bearing spears in their hands. It took little more than an instant for the bull to charge, and we were certainly taken off guard. He heartily chose the black horse as his next target and ran fast. Moments later the obedient horse was pinned against the wall - minus the picador who had fallen in the dirt. Our sympathy was immediately diverted to the horse as it slumped to the ground; unable to move under the weight of the leather armor. Although we concluded that we were now looking at a dead horse, this was fortunately not the case. As the matador ran some artistic diversions on the other side of the ring, the horse handlers removed enough armor for the horse (and picador) to walk out of the ring.

By the time the final round began, we were glued to the action. Ryan turned to me as the over-confident matador was almost gored for the second time and asked (in his typical fashion) "what if I really like bullfighting?"

The fight continued as such, bull after bull - until six dead ones were dragged out of the stadium. As the other people in the cheap seats began to take notice of us, we were continuously bombarded with wine skins and offerings of cheap beer. When it was over, we emerged glad for the experience - but had confirmed many of the misgivings we originally had regarding the sport. Ryan and I agreed to frequent no more bullfights outside of Spain...

-Brian

November 24, 2005

Desolation Angels

Day 48

Then come the long daydreams of what I'll do when I get out of there, that mountaintop trap. Just to drift and roam down that road, on 99 fast... and on in the morning... -why plan? I'll just drift down the road looking at unexpected events and I won't stop until Mexico City.

-Jack Kerouac

November 21, 2005

Teotihuacan - Outside of Mexico City

Teotithuacan - Main Street

This city was abandoned and in ruins even while the Aztecs flourished. In fact nobody even knows the name of it; Teotihuacan is simply what the Aztecs called it. My Aztec is rusty but I think it means 'The Place Where Men Became Gods'. We went, but honestly, I don't feel any different.

Thanks Tom, for letting me steal your pictures.

November 20, 2005

The Softer Side of Ryan and Brian

Hi everyone, it´s Caroline here, the random English girl that R&B picked up in San Diego. Hope you don´t mind me comandeering the website for a sec, but I just wanted to recount an incident that I figured the boys´ friends might be interested to hear. And you can bet your life they won´t be mentioning it themselves...

It all started on a bus the other day. There have been quite a few of those in the past few weeks, but I believe this particular one was from Chihuahua to Zacatecas. We settled into our seats for the day-long drive, during which we were treated to a few movies to pass the time. It was after lunch when the driver decided to screen a love story called The Notebook, and since it was in English for once, all of us (Brian, Ryan, another Brit friend called Tom, and a gay Canadian couple we´d started chatting to at the bus station) sat back to watch.

Now I have to admit I did fall asleep during part of the film, so perhaps I missed a vital part of the story and wasn´t quite as engaged in it as the others were. While I did enjoy what I saw, I can´t say I was particularly moved by it, and probably felt a closer bond with ET than I did with any of the characters in this film. However, it seemed I was alone in my thinking... as the closing credits rolled, I turned to the seat next to me to see Ryan looking heart-broken, grief-stricken, and wiping a tear from his eye.

¨Are you crying?!¨ I said (probably in a pitch so high only dogs could hear me).

¨It was sad!¨ he replied with a sorrowful sniff.

And as if this wasn´t shocking enough, I looked across the aisle to see Brian looking equally red-faced and emotional, and apparently scrabbling for a Kleenex. What was this? My two strapping, rugged, outdoorsy Canadian travel buddies were weeping at some cheesy chick flick?! And worse, was I some kind of cold-hearted ice-queen that I wasn´t overcome with emotion?!

I looked over at the two other Ontario natives to see their cheeks wet with tears, and realised it was only my fellow Londoner Tom who´d managed to keep his composure.

Anyway, we had a good laugh about it and decided it must be a Canadian thing. Either that or the boys were tired and emotional after so many hours on the road. But bless their hearts, we´ve promised not to mention it again so no teasing, you hear?!

November 19, 2005

Mexico City

So we´ve moved away from the series of sparkling clean Spanish colonial towns of the North and opted for something a little more raw. We bused it to Mexico City and have a place at a hostel in the middle of the city. While we spent today at the giant Mayan pyramids of Teotihuacan just out of town (a friend took some pictures...I´ll post them tomorrow) by far my favorite bit about this town so far are the masses of people and the smog. Nearly 20 million. After Tokyo, the second largest city in the world. Nearly two thirds of the entire population of Canada squished into a tiny mountain bowl. The bowl of course, keeps the wind out and the smog in; it blurs any semblance there may be of a skyline. It truly is a spectacular sight.

It seems to me that people back home are starting to get the feeling that I should get my ass in gear and start 'getting around the world'. I hear the sentiment, and feel it too sometimes... I'd actually imagined Mexico to be not much more than an obstacle between us and Central America. I was dead wrong. It's too much to pass up; If you can steer clear of the giant resorts and dig into proper Mexico, it really is an amazing place. I'm dreading, I may feel this way about every country I get into.

I'm having trouble tearing myself away from everything to post on a regular basis and have come up with an idea that may work. Brian has had the necessary access to post here since New York, I'll prod him a little, you may see something from him. As well, Caroline, the British backpacker we´ve been travelling with is actually a proper celebrity gossip journalist and has agreed to help with my volume as well.

For now, we´ll be in this city at least until Willie arrives on Monday, and are planning some exciting things. For now, Robbie Willams is playing a free outdoor concert in the Zocalo down the street. I'm not much of a fan but it seems that all of humanity has descended on the square. I shouldn't be sitting in front of a computer....

We've got to go.

November 15, 2005

Chihuahua - Zacatecas - Guanajuato

Day 40

In almost all human activity patterns emerge; routine creeps into our lives as surely as water flows downhill. My life as an aimless traveler is turning out to be fairly predictable in many ways as well. Since arriving in Mexico we've stayed, without exception, two nights in each town before moving on. We travel to wherever strikes our fancy by day, find accomodation, shower, eat then head out on the town to explore a little and sample the nightlife. The next day is usually spent seeing the sights and doing whatever it is that travellers do before heading out again with whatever new friends we've made along the way. And there are always friends.

If there's one thing that travelling induces in people, it's camaraderie. Immediately we all have a common ground combined with fantastic stories to tell; It's impossible not meet people. Since heading inland to Creel and getting away from the resort/touristy places, we seem to be moving en masse with a dozen or so travellers who periodically come and go. It's giving these picturesque colonial towns a real small town feel and, of course, is plenty of fun.

These towns, particularly Zacatecas and Guanajuato make me feel like I've left Mexico and landed smack in the middle of Spain. The narrow cobbled streets are steep and kept meticulously clean while colonial buildings crowd and seem to pile up on each other. There are no traffic lights or neon signs. They are obviously protective of their images. Both are UNESCO World Heritage Zones.

Still no Camera, though Willie Paul, a friend of ours, is flying into Mexico City on the 21st to make our duo a trio. He's promised to arrive armed with a digital camera so expect to see photos again on this site then.

November 11, 2005

Montezuma Exacts His Revenge

Day 36

In the year 1519 Hernan Cortez invaded what is now Mexico with 550 men, 16 horses, and 1 cannon. Less than two years later the Aztec king, Montezuma II, had been killed and the mighty Aztec kingdom was no more. After murdering the Aztec leader, many of Cortez's soldiers fell victim, not to Aztec spears, but rather an intestinal parasite during their retreat. His men believed the mysterious illness to be a curse placed on the foreigners by Motezuma himself. The curse continues to affect almost all foreign travellers to this day.

Having spent two days exploring the canyons and pine forests of Creel we felt it time to make a move. Not wanting to backtrack, the city of Chihuahua became our only logical destination. The bus ride out of the mountains to Chihuahua takes six hours to complete and would have been a pleasant journey had I not been locked in an epic battle with the Curse. There was no time for talking, reading or even watching the scenery on this trip. No, every ounce of energy was devoted to keeping the contents of my stomach actually in my stomach. Each minute seemed an eternity.

It's now one day later, and I'm pretty sure I've survived the worst of it though I certainly didn't win every battle. Less than an hour into the bus ride, I found myself wrestling with the door to the washroom on the bus only to discover that it was locked and out of order. No way. How could it be? In the hundreds of hours we've spent riding buses so far this trip, I've never once seen one that didn't work. What are the odds? Was this some kind of cruel joke? My initial horror at the discovery turned into pure terror. My stomach refused to wait. With nowhere left to turn, I was forced to leave a mess on the floor at the back of the bus. Thankfully the bus wasn't crowded and the mess was mostly water, as I'd deposited the rice pudding I'd eaten for breakfast into a pot-hole on the street moments before boarding.

This same routine repeated itself several times before making it to Chihuahua, and the safety of our hotel. A quick 18-hour nap seemed to solve most of my problems, and I feel I'm slowly putting myself back together. While it looks like Brian may have escaped unscathed it seems Caroline may be having her turn. She's currently splitting her time between the toilet bowl and her bed. We'll have to stay in Chihuahua until all parties are back up on their feet, until then Brian and I will spend some time exploring the city of Chihuahua, as far as I know, it's one of the best places in the world to buy cowboy boots.

November 08, 2005

The Copper Canyon

La Paz and our beloved Baja are worlds away from us now. I'd intended to put something up a couple days ago, when the pristine waters of Balandra Beach were still fresh in my mind. I'd planned to paint a complete picture of the Utopian beach from the blue sky straight down to the sandy Ocean floor. I wasn't quite sure how to put it; what words could I use to describe the sharpness and utter blueness of the sky? There's gotta be a better word than 'blueness'; just a little longer and I'm sure I'll think of one. How was I to describe the impossible contrast that existed between the rocky desert mountains, that had the bay surrounded, and the color and diversity in the life that teamed below the surface of the water? I didn't have the words to illustrate the beauty inherent in the thin white band of beach that separated the two extremes. We were all alone in our paradise save two devastating spanish girls who remained always just out of conversations reach and eventually disappeared in a beat-up old jalopy; forever. I wanted to somehow describe the scene I saw as I moved my mask from the stark, above-water environment into an impossible, alien world teaming with schools of strange fish of every colour swimming amongst stingrays, manta rays and plain old sun-rays, then back up to the blistering desert above. The diving gear was our own (bought earlier in the day). This was no guided tour. We were discovering this strange world on our own. Yes, I've spent the last couple days contemplating how I would write it and have missed my chance.... The world wouldn't wait; the red arrow marking our position simply couldn't hold still. The moment has passed.

Two full days of travel have brought us out of the tropics more than 2 km above sea level to Creel, deep in the Sierra Madres. The first order of business on this leg of the journey was to get over to mainland Mexico. We were whisked across the Sea of Cortez aboard a giant ferry to Toplobampo escorted by a few curious dolphins and whales spouting their approval in the distance. After one night in Los Mochis on the coast it was time for something completely different.

The Copper Canyon Railway gets it's name from the the Barranca Del Cobre (Copper Canyon), the largest of 20 spectacular canyons. Nine of these canyons are actually deeper than Arizona's Grand Canyon. How anybody could build a railway through this terrific wilderness is beyond me. From Los Mochis it was a 12-hour roller coaster ride for little more than $30 USD aboard the economica class train. Half the price and, as far as I'm concerned, far better than the stuffy first class trains as much of our time was spent actually between the rail cars with our heads hanging out always peering around the next corner.

Our little-engine-that-could started like a pussy cat through sprawling farmland but finished like a lion as she spit and sputtered her way upward through infinite tunnels and over impossible spans. She bravely hugged the canyon walls paying no heed to discarded rail ties and wrecked rail cars crumbled below.

It may have something to do with the euphoria we both experienced as the train reached it's climax. I have no proof that it happened but Brian and I both swear that we saw the sun set multiple times from both sides of the train as she spiralled forever upward. Was she racing the sun? Was she winning? In any case, it did set and we arrived in the mountain town of Creel in the dark. It's early in the morning and if you'll excuse me, we've got some exploring to do...

November 04, 2005

Dia De Los Muertos

Day 29

While Mexican children have, for obvious reasons, embraced the concept of free candy that Halloween offers, The Day of the Dead is a holiday that includes entire families along with their dead ancestors that has roots going back long before the Spaniards arrived with their catholic and pagan holidays.

We were lucky enough to tear ourselves away from the year round spring break of Cabo San Lucas to the much quieter and dustier colonial village of San Jose Del Cabo 33 km East for Dia De Los Angelitos (All Saints Day) on Nov 1st and Dia De Los Muertos (Day of The Dead) on Nov 2nd.

In San Jose Del Cabo, most of the excitement can either be found in the town square or out at the city cemetery where tombs and gravestones are extravagantly decorated with flowers and pretty much any other offering you could imagine would help dead souls feel welcome. Apparently this is the only day each year that they can visit - so why not treat them to a decorative feast?

What is particularly surprising is that the holiday, though it deals with death, doesn't appear to be morbid in the least. It truly is a celebration; a homecoming. Our Swedish Inn Keeper, who'd been living here 18 years, mentioned that Mexicans, more than any other culture seem to treat death with little sadness.

As the sun was setting, we were the only obvious foreigners at the cemetery along with what seemed to be the entire town. These are the photo opportunities that tear me apart as I mourn my broken camera. Children played, girls fussed over the decorations and flowers while old women armed with straw brooms fought a losing battle with the dust. All the while the lords prayer en espanol permeated the air; competing only with the vendors selling all sorts of balloons and strange snacks from decrepit bycicles. Had my belly not been full of marlin from a stir-fry we whipped up earlier in the evening, I would surely have tried them all.

In any case, that was 2 days ago. We've since moved back up to La Paz and plan to ride the ferry across the Sea of Cortez to Los Mochis and take a train into the Sierra Madres for a change from the desert, cactus and beaches of the Baja Peninsula.

November 01, 2005

Discussion Forums

About a week ago there was some talk of a discussion forum. Almost immediately Dave Ward , a friend from my days at John Island Camp, agreed to install a free package on my server. Thanks Dave.

Here´s the link to it: Discussion Forums

I´ve held off this long before giving out the link because I wanted to figure it out first. This I haven´t done. Nevertheless anybody who´s interested can register and post to it. I´ll try to make an appearance now and then.

As always, I appreciate any feedback or requests, but will be slow in implementing anything as I´m always rushed due to the fact that I pay for Internet access.

Oh yeah, Cabo San Lucas isn´t all bad; it´s actually quite nice. We handed out candy to hordes of tiny Mexican children last night from our hotel doorstep, away from the big resorts by the sea. And today we hiked out the the dramatic cape. The very bottom of the Baja peninsula, where the Pacific meets the sea of Cortez.

October 31, 2005

Cabo San Lucas

I´d thought we´d made it out of the American border towns that seem to serve no other purpose other than to cater to those who would otherwise be underage at home. Silly me. It´s now obvious that we´ll find these parties at all tourist destinations on the ´gringo trail´ south.

Initially Cabo San Lucas had all the fixings of a real Mexican town, including dusty unpaved roads, open air barbeque's, stray animals of all sorts and not a word of English. That was until we got to the waterfront. If I didn´t know any better, I´d swear we´d landed ourselves in some sort of Mexican themed night out in Daytona Beach. Tourists of all ages were out in force. We picked El Squid Roe, not because it was any different than anything else along the strip; it wasn´t. All that set it apart was that there were people in it; it was hopping on this Sunday night.

Sombrero´s and Tequilla sloshed around to the beat of mid 90´s hip-hop as Middle-aged men in Acalpulco shirts danced violently on table tops while drunk girls were constantly being encouraged to shed their tops and ´party hard´ by a whistle blowing Mexican standing front and centre in a tall steel tower labeled ´Substitute Pimp´. Hunter S Thompson describes the Circus Circus in Las Vegas as a reflection of ´how the whole world would be spending their Saturday nights, if the Nazi´s had won the war.´ Surely the same is true for this place.

While I´d like to say we turned our noses up and left, it´s not really our style. We bought the ticket and planned to take the ride. As tequila and Jello shooters were forced down our throats and our belly´s began to warm and Squid Roe began to feel a little more normal... We made the most of it and ended up having some fun.

October 30, 2005

La Paz

Day 24

Sorry for the intermittent posts, though this is my last apology as we head deeper South and into poorer regions it´ll become increasingly difficult to find the necessary Internet access.

I´ve heard some of your criticism and agree, sorta. You want ´more, more, more´ and you want me to write ´with all my five senses´ and I recognize that I´ve got a habit of filtering everything that might reveal anything at all about me out. It´s nothing new. In the past I´ve always made a point to record only factual information, fearing that anything personal, or emotional would embarrass me later on. It´s a dangerous thing; to throw it all out there, on the world wide web for all to see. Try to bear with me while I find my voice on this site. It may take some time as I´m only starting.

If you´re looking to get your kicks from here, forget it. Go get your own kicks. What you read here is merely a speck of dust in a giant world of my experiences. For now I live first and write as an after thought.

But enough of that. I´ve covered more than 2000km since the Alamo in Rosarito. As you can see from their website, it has the potential to be very nice, however the reality is worlds away from what you see online. The pool hasn´t been used for years, except as a sort of perverse wetland and the rest of the place is falling apart. There were never more than 7 of us on sight at anyone time, though admittedly it is the off season for Rosarita. It wasn´t all bad, the staff were friendly and it was relaxing. Caroline got away with a nasty case of Bed Bugs which doesn´t look comfortable at all and must have been less than ideal for our 24 hour bus ride South.

I´m writing to you fresh off the bus. Brian and Caroline have set out to see about hiring a car while I guard the bags and type. She´s a British journalist who´s also heading down the pacific coast. We all agreed that it´d be beneficial to travel together. Sorry to disappoint, but there is no greater conspiracy. We hope to head down to the cape to Cabo San Lucas, before returning to get the ferry across the Sea of Cortez to the Mexican mainland.

For the moment we´re in La Paz, near the bottom of the Baja Peninsula. The scenery on the way down was simultaneously spectacular and ´godforsaken´at the same time. I´d have loved to have some pictures to post, as they´d speak a thousand words more articulately than I ever could...

Trouble is, the camera is broken. It´s my first real casualty aside from the towel I left in Brooklyn and it´s something I don´t think I can live without. I´m sure it has something do do with sand in the lens. I´ve resolved to try to replace or repair it in Cabo San Lucas tomorrow.

104 hours on the bus so far and we´ve made it 20 degrees South, finally to some heat. Not much of a sailing trip yet, but if you recall, our plan all along was to have no plan. We may leave the Americas after Christmas, when the bulk of the boats sail the Pacific.

October 27, 2005

Tijuana

Yesterday afternoon we escaped San Diego. While it was great fun, the lifestyle at Pacific Beach was beginning to wear us down. A group from the Banana Bungalow were heading down to Mexico for a night out in Tijuana. We saw our chance to escape and took it. The plan was to cross the border with a few friendly faces to help us through the process, break away to find a place to stay then regroup with the gang to see what Tijuana was all about. Now anybody who's ever heard of Tijuana and the stereotypes that exist about it will appreciate the irony involved in checking into a downtown Tijuana hotel to escape the vice of San Diego.

The guide books tell us that it's much tamer than it was in the 80's. I don't believe it. I won't get into the gory details but mom, you can be rest assured that our hotel was actually a nice, clean and safe place that didn't offer rooms by the hour. We kept our wits about us.

Today is a different day. We're back on the beach in Rosarito, 1 hour south of Tijuana in a place called the Alamo. We're meeting up with Caroline, a British backpacker we met in San Diego and may spend a couple days here before heading down the coast.