Archive for November, 2008

Location update

28 November, 2008 Leave a comment

left Campemente Vincente today, a small place with cabanas and communal eating, and wildlife (see below) which was near Bonampak and Yaxchilan. Bonampak, not so much, Yaxchilan excellent. No problems with Guatemalan border control. The officer thought i spoke spanish… yes, the accent on my buenos dias, i learn it from a booook, was excellent. Am currently in Flores, staying the night on a road. in the middle of it as far as the noise in the room is. but on the hotel balcony there is a stunning view of the lake. And tomorrow to Tikal where i shall stay in the the Jaguar hotel for a few days before heading to Belize to get my diving gear on. ttfn.


For Joelle: a new story

28 November, 2008 Leave a comment

Dearest Joelle, two things

1. the oral tradition is something we don’t do enough of in our family, let alone in our country… the retelling of stories, and the acceptance of listening to them being told – and actively taking part in the telling of the story (almost as a performance interactive experience) is something that, i believe, would benefit us all. But as my sister will tell you, I do like to tell a story and I do like to get on my high horse about this kind of thing – so I’m not getting at you, just my view. If you disagree, I will enjoy the debate. BUT…

2. I don’t have to bore you with the scorpion story any more!!!!!! oh no, the scorpion, although about a foot long at the last telling, with pincers the size of shears and a bloodthirsty look in its eye… has been eclipsed. ” by what?” I hear you cry … and “where’s the evidence?” I hear Jack and Matthew shout from behind you… well, worry not, I have photographic evidence of the BIGGEST BEETLE you have ever seen –  by a country mile. this thing was the size of a small puppy ( a chihauhau or some other kind of pointless rodent/canine) and, worse, made an arial assault. I kid you not. At first, it got stuck on top of the canopy above the dinner table. I thought it was a bat and therefore harmless, right? nope. not a bat. I could tell by the way it was crawling towards the centre of the room… you could see eight points touching the canopy. i mean, it was about the size of a bat (i know because i came across some of them a couple of days ago, dangling on top of my hat as i went through the Mayan Labyrinth building in Palenque. Very dark and dank, they were right at home, I was invading and left quietly (and quite quickly)) but bats don’t have 8 legs. And, it turned out, neither did this beast. It had 6 legs and a couple of rather tasty looking mandibles – at least two inches long (that’s 5cm). I realise that this might just sound like another uncle richard story… boring… dull… lacking in detail. So I made sure pictures were taken [link added later]. but, alas, I can’t upload them here… technology has foiled my storytelling and i have had to rely on prose alone. suffice it to say that, until i can get somewhere to upload the picture, you will have to trust me that this prehistoric-hangover is the size of a fag packet. That’s about the size of your hand. and did i say it flew? it flew… in a mesmeric manner making the monstrous monotonous moniker of a maniacal mower. a mower of mens’ souls.

ok, so i got carried away, but you get the picture.

well, not yet, but you will when i upload it.

in the meantime, if the above doesn’t paint a picture in words, then i shall take a short-cut. It looked exactly like the evil scarab beetles from The Mummy. You know why? Because it was a scarab beetle.

And on that note, I shall leave you to google images and wikipedia. Don’t believe *everything* you read, but i’ll leave you to decide whether, or how much, you believe me.

with much love, Uncle Richard.

Chilling with the howlers

24 November, 2008 2 comments

Been chilling out at El Panchan near the ruins site at Palenque for a couple of days. Meeting a few people, chatting, hearing some interesting, and some phenomenally dull stories… oh, and having a debate about the biassed nature of the Blair Broadcasting Corporation. joy. why is it people are always more willing to believe in conspiracy and always want there to be a black and white. whereas shades of grey prevail…

Plus, of course, watching groups of younger travellers flirt and get over excited with each other over a Corona, or have in-depth debates about whether to take the colectivo bus or, like, the premier bus because it’s, like, three hours quicker  but costs two dollars more…

tomorrow at 6am get on a bus to go see Bonampak and Yaxchilan on the Guatemalan border. Then spend weds in the jungle with a Lancandon guide (indigenous indian community that has always lived in this particular jungle) – and then do the border crossing and get on a bus to Flores in northern Guatemala. Mildly concerned about the security issues here, and the chances of getting ripped off during the immigration process… but one takes ones chances. Surely a cheeky chappy smile or a rakish grin will get me by, right?


24 November, 2008 Leave a comment

I think I mentioned i met a very nice bunch of Seattle artists in Oaxaca and went to their gallery exhibition. A lovely evening was had by all… and thanks so much to Deborah Caplow, who organised their trip but also invited me along to the evening opening, and who knows a thing or two about art and mexican-ness. Her picks of the trip are here.

Brit abroad

18 November, 2008 Leave a comment

ps. So far have come across less than 10 brits – and half of them were in Mexico City. What is it about this part of the world for us? is it not marketed? does everyone go to Goa, South Africa, US, Argentina instead if they’re prepared to do an 11 hour flight? Seems odd as I have encountered many bus-loads of french, spanish, germans, and even a number of scandos and eastern europeans. odd. M&D, you need to redress the balance.

pps. Not seen another ginge so far. you know how i like to feel special…

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Going dark-ish

18 November, 2008 Leave a comment

First post for a few days, and tomorrow probably going on a 5 day trip into the jungle. Apparently they don’t have any wifi there (yet – someone in brazil was developing self-sustaining solar-powered wifi pods which you can put on the top of trees and they daisy chain to each other using mesh tech).

Yesterday got into San Cristobal de las Casas at 0830 and spent the day mooching. Actually, spent the morning wandering around, talking to a local guide/tour company who offers me a range of trips, all touristy and says ‘unfortunately everyone wants to do something off the beaten track. but off the beaten track causes certain security and social issues’ (i paraphrase). In other words, don’t go hill walking on your own, and many of the local villages will take umbrage to tourists. so, had a snooze and spent the afternoon wondering what the hell i was doing in this cold, damp, one-pony town where there was nothing to see and little to do. Also wishing i was better at spanish. But then it all changes round so fast… a walk to the local Ecotourism Explora centre and suddenly there’s an interesting guided trek to do – pricey but good. On the way back I find Koniki, a funky little Salon de Te, record shop, cafe and independent cinema. with wifi. and i get chatting to Don (dallas) and his gf Caitlin (Pennsylvania) who are medics up on a break from their clinic in the middle of nowhere in El Salvador. Cue discussion of presidents, hope, travel, empires, central american poverty and revolution. Oh, and immigration/emigration. Fact: whereas an estimated 20-25m mexicans live in the US (a population of around 100m in MX itself), a whopping one third of the population of El Salvador lives in the US. It’s a country of 8m and another 2.5 live in the states. Very pleasant people.

Back to the hotel, in much better mood and with a plan for today. Early bed with lots of blankets (SC is at 2100m and the clouds came in yesterday afternoon so temperature is a modest 10degrees according to the ayersometer).

So, am currently in net cafe on a machine that has got 29 viruses and a trojan, but with quick access – and will spend the next hour researching flights from Guatemala to Santiago, and from Honduras to Santiago. The diving’s much better and cheaper in Honduras they say – and although the blue hole of Belize attracts me, not as much as trying out Honduras.

Expected rest of itinerary looking like: a week or so travelling to Bonampak, Yaxchilan, Palenque and then over into Guatemala to Flores and Tikal. Then, from there, it’s either over to Belize and head to the coast for diving and back to Antigua, Guatemala City and fly out to Santiago, or Tikal down to Antigua then fly to Honduras for some diving and from there on to Santiago. Unless, of course, i decide that Cuba is just too attractive. Decisions, decisions.

Either way, likely to be online a bit less, so ttfn.

I’m in (iPhone) heaven

15 November, 2008 1 comment

Picking up hotel wifi connections, taking decent quality pictures which can then be sent straight to flickr, playing me my ‘get by in spanish’ course, playing random tunes from it’s surprisingly dcent quality speaker and… my favourite new thing: I can record audio in decent enough quality using the iTalk app.

Last night recorded a xylopohne band, some traditional music, and a 10-man street party band. 

De Botton’s point, echoing Ruskin, in Art of Travel is that we should not so much seek to possess the beauty and the experience of travel by relinquishing all our attentive capabilities to modern technology – and i totally agree. In my photography I have always tried to capture just enough of the feeling of a moment or a place so that it will act as a fulfilling psychological prompt.

But the beauty of this one device is that it has just given me a new way, through audio, to retain the experience and re-live it at a later date.

I took heed of Mr Fry’s advice but have no need of a laptop. And forgetting the charger for my camera is, in a way, a godsend as it forces me to be even more economical with time and my attempts to capture experience.

There are problems of course – the processor just isn’t powerful enough to handle this blog page – and so i have to revert to the “tradition” of the net cafe – for example. But for now, it’s a blessing.

Monte Alban and descent

15 November, 2008 Leave a comment

Remarkable. Architecturally, socially, artistically.

The descent from the mountain slightly less edifying,  but nonetheless enjoyable. I’m sitting in the back of a massive SUV which is overloaded at 11 people – coming away from 5 hours at a stunningly beautiful mountain top deserted city from 2000 years ago – the girl in front of me is selling her bracelets to the girls beside me – 2 trader/hawkers are getting a lift down the mountain with the bags of their goods – we’re passing varieties of poverty, corregated iron and tuck tucks (in this country probably called tucko tuckos) ….. and the driver is treating us to ROCK!!! /o/ (closest i could get to rock finger salute on this keyboard) Yes, we had 3 of  the greatest hits of Guns n Roses, followed, masterfully, by a switch to AC/DC and Back in Black. Top work.


Blociador Soledad

15 November, 2008 2 comments

I was going into the Farmacia to find “numero cuarenta” (factor 40) … but they have Factoro Cinquanta !!! Stunned and delighted. That’s factor 50. It actually just reflects the sun. They use it on the hull of the space shuttle.

los gingeros extinctos!

14 November, 2008 Leave a comment

Today I had an amazing massage and sauna – which included a late middle-aged lady called Ana beating me with some wet, hot herbs and a lot of heat in the world´s smallest sauna with a lot of rose water – so my holiday must finally have begun.

However, it was slightly disconcerting that the lady booking my massage/sauna asked me

“where do you come from”,

“london” says I,

“oh, well i thought it might be ireland or scotland with your red hair”,

“well, I have some irish family” [dad, i know that´s irrlevant, but its the easiest way to respond]

“I see. Well I was reading an article the other day about how, in 5 years people with red hair will only be 5% of the population – that you are becoming extinct. ”

You can imagine my mouth dropped open on two fronts: firstly, the use of extinct, secondly, that the issue of red head recessive genes should have stretched so far round the world. And finally, of course, I think she was being very generous, bearing in mind the number of chinese and indian gingers.

On Mexican women

14 November, 2008 Leave a comment

ok, so i haven´t seen all of them – but this should give you a taste. Miss Oaxaca 2009 competition is currently looking for entrants. The height qualification is 168cm. That´s about 5ft 7in. And that will thin the field considerably. Of course, height isn´t everything, i´m sure there are some very pretty oaxacan ladies – i just haven´t seen them yet. and they´re all munchkins. if i see one, i will politely ask to have my picture with them and post it.

Start spreading the news, I´m leaving today…

11 November, 2008 1 comment

Leaving Mexico City, that is. Heading to Oaxaca in the south of the country. Just booking a place to stay. Lovely dinner with Aran of Inside Mexico last night in the Lamm Restaurant. Good way to end.

Went to the the shrine/cathedral of the Virgin of Guadalupe and the pyramids yesterday – impressive but over-touristyfied – then, purely by coincidence, noticed that Alien v Predator which was on tv was all based inside an aztec pyramid. how weird.

Long bus journey this afternoon – should get down to Oaxaca about 8pm.

Pictures: check the Flickr feed. I left my camera charger in london so i´m using the iphone instead and uploading to flickr rather than this blog.

Spanish level: 0.1

48 hours – in Mexico City

10 November, 2008 1 comment

One lovely long lunch. One museum. One Cathedral. One tallest-tower. One tail – lost him, I am a londoner after all. Two gardens. Several enchiladas. Two guides, one excellent, one ok and good with the hustle.

Still no spanish.

Mexico City / NZ

6 November, 2008 1 comment


  • Hotel booked: Hotel Casa de la Condesa as recommended by Aran, who’s being wonderful. Knows everything, which isn’t that much of a surprise as he’s the man behind


  • Doubtful Sound 3 day boat trip also booked. Now looking into Abel Tasman or the Routeburn treks…
  • Christmas with Fi’s friends Hannah and Steve. They’re golfers. goody.

RTW – new route

1 November, 2008 Leave a comment

Flights are booked so there’s no changing it now….

8 Nov: LHR – Mexico City, Mexico

< 5 weeks pass  – probably work my way down from mexico to belize for diving and then guatemala and maybe peru >

16 Dec: Santiago, Chile – Auckland, NZ

19 Jan: Auckland – Hong Kong

25 Jan: HK – Amman, Jordan

12 Feb: Beirut, Lebanon – LHR – Highbury – Curry House.

Brand Ross

1 November, 2008 Leave a comment

Gobsmacked by the PM commenting. Disappointed by slow management reaction. Not surprised by the Mail on Sunday. Saddened for Leslie Douglas. Best coverage on the Media Guardian.

Just listen to it:

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