With Lauren recovering from mono and the rainy season already starting, trekking was off the cards. No Everest Base Camp or Annapurna Circuit for me, at least not this year.
Nepal is plagued by chronic electricity shortages – scheduled power cuts happen every day for several hours, not to mention the unscheduled ones. Unless you’re using cellular data, internet speeds are glacially slow as well. It’s a terrible place to try to get any work done online.
For three weeks, then, I couldn’t do what most visitors do in Nepal (trek), and I couldn’t do what I usually do anywhere else in the world (work). What on earth did I actually do, then?
I stepped away.Continue Reading →
Sometimes I return to a city for the weather.
Sometimes I return to a city for the culture.
Sometimes I return to a city to visit friends and family.
They’re all good reasons… and none of them were why I went back to Portland in March.
No, I went back to Portland to eat.Continue Reading →
“What the hell?”
The bus lurched to a stop, passengers scrambling over each other to press their faces against the grimy windows. Sweat dripped from my forehead as the fickle breeze disappeared, while loud voices competed with distorted hip-hop from a dozen mobile phones.
In my exhausted state I could understand little of the heavily-accented Creole, but eventually a single word started to make itself heard over and over again.
A few people snapped photos on their phone as the bus eventually started to move, police waving the traffic on past what looked like a bundle of clothes in the middle of the road. Drawing closer, I realised that what I’d thought was discarded clothing was nothing of the sort.
The body of a man lay face-up on the highway, the broken remains of a motorbike scattered up and down the road. Thick, dark blood lay pooled around his head and body, baking in the heat of a tropical morning. The white towel over his face explained why I couldn’t hear the wail of an approaching siren.
There would be no point calling this man an ambulance.
The murmurs from other passengers increased in volume as we passed, that single word being passed around like a football once again.
Dead.Continue Reading →
For someone with a history degree, I really didn’t know much about the Mayans before I arrived in Mexico. I mean, it’s not like they’d exactly had a huge impact on my home country of New Zealand – but you could say the same about the Greeks, Romans and Egyptians, and god knows I spent enough time studying the minutiae of what they got up to.
I was vaguely aware of a few stereotypes – ball games, fondness for animal and human sacrifice, a well-known calendar – but knew little detail. The few pictures I’d seen of Mayan pyramids didn’t seem that impressive compared to those that housed the pharaohs, and all in all, I just didn’t expect to be particularly wowed by the historical sites on the Yucatan peninsula.
And then, well, I went to them.Continue Reading →
Mexico gets a bad rap.
Listen to the news reports and you’ll be told the entire country is a corrupt, violent, drug-filled hellhole. Murderous gangs roam the landscape, apparently, and a vacation south of the US border is as likely to leave you decapitated as sunburnt. It’s just better to stay at home, where you’re nice and safe behind your big fence and double-locked door, and watch another episode of Funniest Home Videos.
The media just loves to spread fear and uncertainty, and it does a great job of it. After three months in the US being told how scary and dangerous Mexico was, I’d almost started to believe the stories myself.
Until, of course, I actually went there.Continue Reading →
“Please come this way.”
The young immigration officer ushered me towards an open door, his immaculately-polished shoes squeaking slightly on the waxed airport floor.
“Is there a problem?” I asked, as innocently as possible.
“Maybe. Maybe not.” The officer’s face gave nothing away, but I already suspected that my afternoon was about to get a whole lot worse.
A few minutes later, it did.Continue Reading →
Last weekend a few of us rented a car here in Playa del Carmen and headed down the highway to the ruined Mayan city of Coba, about 90 minutes away. Only a few sections have been cleared from the jungle, but it’s estimated that the city limits stretched as much as eighty or ninety square kilometres.
While there are what seems like thousands of cycles available to rent (and dozens of persistent tour guides and cycle taxi drivers), we opted to walk around the ruins instead. The key, as always, was getting there just after opening time when the crowds were fewer, the temperatures cooler and the entire experience far more enjoyable than later in the day.Continue Reading →
Crumbling ruins, lazy iguanas and pristine Caribbean beaches. Now that’s what I look for in my historic sites.
Tulum, on Mexico’s Yucatan peninsula, is one of the premier attractions in the area, and it’s not hard to see why. I’d never been to an archaeological site where you can wander around admiring historic attractions for a while and then walk down to a perfect white beach to swim in a crystal clear ocean.
Of course, being a major attraction only a couple of hours from the resorts of Cancun, it’s highly advisable to get there early. We took a colectivo (shared van) from Playa del Carmen that arrived shortly after the 8:00am opening time, and had the place almost entirely to ourselves.
By late morning, the tour buses had descended and the quiet contemplation and deserted beaches had turned into a heaving mass of humanity.
Before the crowds arrive, though? It’s one of the most beautiful places in the world.Continue Reading →