Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Trinidad and Trains

As I mentioned in my last post, Trinidad is a spectacularly pretty colonial town. While there are run-down parts, in general the historic centre is beautifully kept and worth a few hours stroll. The most common accommodation option for budget travellers are rooms in beautiful old houses built around interior courtyards, in a style similar to that seen in Andalucia in Spain. Ceilings are high, and the rooms are gloriously cool, even in the heat of ... early spring !

One of the unexpected highlights of the afternoon occurred at an impromptu rum bar on a footpath in a rundown part of town. The bar consisted of a folding card table, some rickety chairs; bottles of rum and much used glasses; filled (2-3 shots worth) for 1 or 2 cents. Staff, owners and clients were all men in their 60s or older. We pulled up a perch; and once we'd adjusted our ears to their unusual Spanish accents (and they'd done likewise to ours) we had a great afternoon chewing the fat and enjoying conversation with locals, motivated purely by mutual curiosity.

Apart from visiting the beach, and strolling the town; the main tourist attraction here is a steam train that runs through the sugar cane fields of the Valley de los Ingenios. The train trip itself was an authentic Cuban experience. Depending on who you asked, it was leaving at 2:00, 2:30 or 3:00 pm. At 1pm the ticket office closed as there was uncertainty as to whether the train was going at all.

Trinidad Ticket Office

And we were afraid that the train would be substituted for some more humble transport:

However we were saved by the toot; a puff of black smoke and a roar as the train finally pulled in (at 3:30).

The chaos was by no means over, however. There were no official communications during the trip; and although the various staff were happy to answer some questions, the answers were random, frequently contradictory and often wrong ! Thus, at the apparent last stop; the train lurched off up the valley. Those left behind had to wait 3 hours (in a one horse shit-hole) - luckily i jumped on as it was pulling out, mostly out of curiosity !

The scenery and experience was well worth it; however (as is often the case with tourist steam trains) the return trip couldn't go fast enough, especially after the sun set and we were travelling in pure darkness.

Monday, May 26, 2008

First Impressions from Trinidad

Trinidad in Cuba that is ... I haven't jumped across the Caribbean. Trinidad is an extremely picturesque colonial town near the south (Caribbean) coast of Cuba, a couple of hundred km from Havana. I'm spending some Saturday morning time in the super slow USD6/hour internet cafe, prior to taking a steam train through the sugar cane fields that are in a valley (Valle de los Ingenios) to the north of here.

Cuba has of course been an experience ... not extraordinarily different to what i expected. In some cases it has been easier ... the soviet style visa controls at the airport have been relaxed; and getting into town was a cinch, especially after befriending the two other solo travellers on the flight. There is however the impression common to travelling in other poor countries in that you the tourist are seen by many as a walking ATM; and sometimes it's a challenge to stop that from colouring every encounter that you have with the locals.

The Internet has spread in Cuba since my guide book was written, but still only one or two outlets per town and beyond the reach dollar-wise of any Cuban not in the dollar economy. The government are still pretty paranoid about the power of the web: that big central computer in Havana must be getting tired monitoring all the tourist emails it has to read ! Power comes and goes so a rigorous saving technique is called for.

I'm now in a town called Camaguey for 24 hours, on my way to Santiago de Cuba, Cuba's second and supposedly most scenic town. Camaguey is quieter and not very touristed, which is great, much less hustling on the streets and more of a chance to see real life here.
Camaguey Cinema

The shops are nearly evenly split between dollar shops versus peso shops, and the peso shops are quite similar to what i saw in Russia 10 odd years ago. I've only managed to buy snacks and rum (which was rough as guts) for pesos so far; all 'meals' accommodation, and travel must be paid for in dollars. Even the local donkey taxi wanted dollars to take me into the city ! Instead, I came into town in a 74 year old ford (possibly and L-class), powered by a 10 year old Lada engine which was quite a cack ! The driver was a real character and popped into the first destination (it was a shared taxi) for a coffee while I waited outside in the car.

I also went to the beach yesterday for my first dip in the Caribbean, in a place called Playa Ancon. Not quite yet the April Sun in Cuba (originally written March 30), but getting close. The beach itself was pretty but nothing too spectacular; it was also pretty distasteful watching the fat rich Italian and German men cavorting with teenage girls - apparently the northern (Atlantic) beaches are a lot worse for that, but it was bad enough. The immense 50 year old Russian lady with her lithe African 20 year old was not much more pleasant either, but unfortunately this is a reality of Cuban tourism (not the independent kind !) at the moment.

Playa Ancon

We took a 'cocotaxi' to the beach - this basically being a motorbike powering a yellow plastic cocunut shell shaped two seat contraption. They're very inventive with the transport here and i've experienced most of them - including the 1950s chevvy that is emblemic of Cuba. I'll save the pictures of that for the Havana post.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Missing Monte Alban

Cruel and Unusual Punishment

In the excitement of the escape from San Cristobal and the mammoth dash across the Yucatán Peninsula, I forgot to tell you about my first encounter with Mexican ruins, at Monte Albán. These ruins, located not far from Oaxaca, are of a Zapotec settlement, as opposed to the more famous Mayan ruins of the Yucatán Peninsula.

The Zapotec civilization pre-dates the Mayans, and Monte Alban is considered historically the first major city in the Western Hemisphere. It was founded in 500 BC, rose to dominance some time after 200 BC, and didn't lose its regional pre-eminence until the end of the Late Classic Era (500-700AD - as you all know !).

As (hopefully) you can see from my photos, it's a spectaular place to visit; as is often the case, best to get there early to avoid tour busses full of ageing and spreading Americans, and the Mexican sun.

Mexican Wrap

Generally, western travellers in Mexico, even those on a budget, take the first class busses to get from A to B. The reason for this became clear to me as I took my first second class bus (if that makes sense) Friday out to the village of Piste, which is town that is used base to visit the ruins of Chichen Itza, the most famous ruins in Mexico, and probably the best - although I personally preferred Palenque, for its 'romantic' jungle setting, and more practically, for the shade that the jungle provided !

Anyway, the first class bus from Merida to Piste takes 1.5 hours, the second class one 2.5 hours. It soon became clear why, as 10 minutes after we took off from Merida, we stopped - in Merida still. This was the pattern for the rest of the trip, in every village we passed we stopped at least once, and normally twice, and locals would struggle on with all sorts of things (no chickens yet though) and then struggle off again at the other end of the village. In addition street vendors would regularly wave the bus down, come on board with trays of cakes, ice-creams, fruit or whatever they had, walk up and down the corridor, and then wander off ! The upside is that you get a real chance to see the villages, and gardens as you pass them, especially as the bus had to slow down almost to a complete halt before what must be the world's most vicious speed humps. I took very few photos, as I was sitting next to the people who lived in these places and felt a little self-conscious.

Surreptitious Bus Window Shot

These busses are also 'speed limited' by virtue of a red light and buzzer that come on if the driver exceeds 95. Travelling between towns, you get used to the pattern of waking to a beep, flashing lights and then a surge as the driver takes his foot off the accelarator, then puts it down again to repeat 40 seconds later ... very peaceful !

At Piste we were surrounded by a horde of kids, trying to shepherd us to a local 'posada' (somewhere not quite classy enough to be a hotel, which given what I've experience so far here in Mexico is fair warning). Obviously if the guys needed kids to round up suspects, the place was pretty dodgy, but as the other place in town that might have been an option was at the other end of town and hidden, we relented and went to the Hotel Posada Maya.

The owner showed us to our cells, and we were too tired to argue or look for others (we had slept the previous night on busses) so we accepted. The only other guests in the venue (the Texan documentary makers from the Chichen Itza post) said they had seen three other places in town that were more expensive and worse, so i guess we weren't too badly off. The perils of a tourist trap !

Not the worst accomodation in Piste, apparently

Our host, short, fat and topless, returned to his hammock, rolled up newspaper in hand, where he was watching a discovery channel documentary on mosquitoes. It reminded me of the Leunig cartoon with the parent and child admiring a beautiful nature scene on their television, while outside, visible through the window in the room, is exactly the same scene. This guy (thwack) whacked himself every 30 seconds to get rid of some of the swarm of mosquitoes around him (thwack) as he watched intently more mosquitoes on the box. I was glad of my malaria tablets and spray - miraculously i haven't been bitten yet (no Mexico tummy either). *

My cell had been recently sprayed, but the shower was ventilated with a hole in the roof (covered by a slab of concrete supported by bricks) which was a fairly inviting entry for our buzzing friends. Anyway, i was exhausted and managed to sleep reasonably well until 6am wake up - again to avoid the ruins heat.

There are, of course, many more tales to tell, but it's getting late and time for dinner, so you'll have to wait until the slide show(s) on my return.

Mexico has been a tiring but fascinating experience. I knew I was in for a bit of a rushed trip, in order to get to Cuba in time and that turned out to be the case, but only as much as many other travellers. I saw as much as I expected, and everything that I really wanted except some of the villages around San Cristobal, but the early departure from there gave me today's rest day which will be used as preparation for Cuba.

So thanks for getting this far, and you'll hear more from me hopefully some time (internet cafes permitting) in the middle of my Cuba trip.

* One of my Danish friends ended up contracting Dengue fever - we suspect from here.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Random Rambling ? A note from the present ...

You may have noticed that this blog has changed names from 'Crapping On' to Random Rambling. Hopefully this hasn't mucked up anyone's reader settings etc.

I always envisaged that any blog I'd create would refer to crapping on somehow; as indeed I promised Brendan when I briefly mentioned the idea in Christchurch recently. However, a few days after the debut, I decided it was a little too self-deprecating - even for me; and mightn't encourage the curious to pay a visit. Hence the Rambling, which I like as it refers to the travel aspect - both in space (obviously) but also time; as well as maintaining the sense of non-thematic musings.

I wasn't surprised that Random Ramblings was a common enough blog name after searching; however it was a little disappointing to see just how common, so I may need to change again. I will wait until I've had a chance to get used to RR; in the meantime, any suggestions for alternative titles appreciated.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Documenting Chichen Itza

Chichen Itza is another site that deserves its own post. Whereas Palenque takes the prize for the steamy jungle atmosphere. Chichen Itza impresses by the sheer size and variety of ruins. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Chichén Itzá (as it written in Spanish), was major Northern Mayan centre from about 600AD until its unexplained decline around 1000 AD.
Mil Colonas at Chichen Itza

Chichen Itza Detail

Pelota Goal

Apart from the spectacular ruins, my visit there was enhanced by the company of some American documentary makers we'd met at the accommodation, who kindly transported us to the ruins and back, both in the morning and for the night time light show (well worth it !). As naturalists, they pointed out some of the rare birdlife and fauna in the surrounds, and we joined in the chase for the hard to find Motmot bird.


The Elusive Motmot

The 'price' for their generosity with time and transport was our participation in 'interviews' - in case their documentary, about Mexican sea turtles, turns into a more general Mexican documentary.

More photos.

Monday, May 19, 2008


My favourite ruins so far deserve a post all to themselves. With their setting surrounded by the jungle, and in varying stages of disrepair, Palenque ruins are the archetypal American ruins.

What might amaze you is that the ancient Mayans worshipped a dog-like animal who has since been adopted by modern North Americans; and answers to the name of: Snoopy !

I've posted many more photos here.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

San Cristobal Surprise

In a previous post I'd alluded to my first brush with the dodgier side of the Mexican travel experience. Although I did indeed escape lightly it could have been a whole lot worse. It went something like this:

On our way home from the bar in San Cristobal (around 1am), my Belgian co-traveller Philippe and I were stopped by two men in uniform, waving badges and claiming to be police. We had been taking the recommended precautions, walking together in a brightly lit square, purposefully, two males, but it was to no avail, as the only other people in the area were taxi drivers in on the game (as were at least some of the local police). The 'police' attempted to strip search us and asked for money cards etc, being quite aggressive and threatening violence.

We eventually got away - giving the signal in French so they wouldn't understand ! I was grateful that I was wearing heavy boots - good for kicking and sprinting on cobble-stones, and as I had prepared for going out by leaving everything of value in the hotel , all I lost was a phone card. Philippe suffered a bit more, losing a camera and his bag, but we were lucky (after being unlucky, I guess), and we eventually claimed sanctuary in a hotel on the square, with help of an American/PuertoRican couple who were guests there (the guy on the desk wanted nothing to do with us). We spent the night on the floor of the hotel, and at dawn sprinted back to the hotel, then to the bus station and onto the first bus the hell out of there !

It was a shame, because it was a nice town, but clearly corrupt and we wouldn't have been safe there anymore, the guys (6 in all) were expecting a much greater haul. But we were unharmed and determined to stay positive and enjoy the rest of the trip. Here then is one of the few photos from San Cristobal:

So back on the busses, to a town called Palenque, that exists really only for the Mayan ruins of the same name, 7km out of town. The trip is less than 200 kms, yet takes about 5 hours, even with a maniac behind the wheel. That gives you an idea of the roads - winding twisting through
beautiful mountain scenery, small Indian villages and breathtaking views. Unfortunately Cyriana, and one of the danish girls sitting next to us were green for the entire trip, and couldn't quite appreciate the scenery. But for me the trip was a real highlight, and fired off some speculative shots through the windows (which, of course, didn't do justice to the scenery).

Outside Palenque (a very ordinary and reputedly dodgy town), on the road to the ruins, is an ex-ranch in the middle of the jungle, now given over to various accommodation venues, ranging from a hut for hammocks, camping sites, through simple cabañas, through hotel quality rooms and serviced apartments. Purists look down on it as a bit of an enclave, but we'd had enough of the genuine mexican experience for a while, so we jumped into a combi-van and headed out there to claim the last three rooms of the site.

I had a fantastic, peaceful sleep in a clean (and enormous, for one person) room, with only the noise of the jungle outside, and I woke up feeling a lot better about everything, ready for an early attack of the ruins (to avoid the suffocating midday heat).

Friday, May 16, 2008

San Cristobal to Merida

Amazingly enough, my travel diary is all but up to date ... 10 pages now. One of the advantages of travelling alone is that you actually get time for recording your experiences. I'll extract some 'highlights' for you - until my hands get tired, or my credit at the cafe runs out !

Merida Doorway

I am now in Merida (same place as the previous post). I arrived here on Friday morning after an overnight bus trip from Palenque. This the bus trip with the worst reputation in Mexico, and i was hoping to share it with two Danish friends I'd met on my previous bus trip, for safety in numbers. It wasn't to be, so I waited for a couple of hours until they turned up on the later bus.

My first impressions of Merida were very negative ... Lonely Planet's charming colonial town was a dirty noisy crowded crumbling dump with very narrow and crowded footpaths, speeding busses and very aggressive street vendors who can spot a tourist from a hundred miles (and let's face it, two Danes and i weren't going to fool anyone, even without our backpacks).

So we did brekky, had a wander and went into the only shop that didn't physically try and manhandle us in, as the girls wanted to buy some of the hammocks that this town is famous for. This was the scene of my negotiating skills, after the guy gave us his final, already given you a big deal blah blah blah offer of 1800 pesos for the package', i offered 850 (the girls were willing to pay 1500) and wouldn't budge - bingo !

Merida is a few hours from the beach resorts (notably Cancun) and used to get many Americans, who have stopped coming since September 11, hence the over aggressiveness of the vendors. My opinion of the town has improved drastically today (Sunday) - the streets were closed to traffic, there are people everywhere in the main square, free concerts and even the vendors seem to have taken the day off (as i have, from travelling - two nights in the same bed for the first time in more than a week !). So come here on a Sunday if you plan to at all !

My favourite town remains Oaxaca, from where I last wrote. The pictures below might give you an idea of the feel of the town:

Oaxaca Kids


I've posted some more photos here for your enjoyment.

That night I visited the museum, then saw a free concert of traditional Indian musicians from the various tribes of the area, dressed traditionally. The next day I took a tour to visit three places: El Tule, famous for its big tree (!), Tlacalula, famous for Sunday markets, and Mitla (main destination for me) for its ruins of a Zapotec temple and mausoleum.

Big Tree at Tule

Chooks at Tlacolula Markets

Stairs at Mitla

I'm not a big fan of organised tours but this was the only way to see all three places in a single day. Our guide was useless, and tried to divert the tour to another market town that sold carpets, and then rushed us through the ruins with a very basic guide that covered half of what Lonely Planet had to say ! Still, good ruins, and I got to meet Philippe and Cyriana, a Belgian couple with whom i ended up travelling for the next few days.

Next stop was San Cristobal, a colonial town, also a student town and the capital of Chiapas state that was briefly occupied by the Zapatistas 8 years ago. We arrived at 7 in the morning after my first overnight bus trip and found a place to stay, but the rooms weren't ready until after lunch so we had a nice morning wandering around in smelly travelled-in day old clothes, until we could finally shower and we took the opportunity to have a siesta.

That night we went out for dinner and found a great bar 'El Revolucion' with live music and a driendly vibe. Cyriana eventually went home (she's expecting in 4 months) and Philippe and I stayed out for a few more bevvies and songs.

That was our mistake ...

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

In the Mierda in Merida

Welcome to part two of Duncan's travel dispatches. It's been a while since my last post, but between overnight bus trips, staying in the jungle, etc it's not been so easy to get to the keyboard. I can't blame a lack of internet cafes though, as they seem to be on every corner. In a country like Mexico computer ownership is not an option for many people so the cafes serve a real purpose, and are nearly always full.

Thanks to everyone who replied to episode one .. all replies read and appreciated. I haven't had time to reply (see above) so sorry, but keep them coming ...

I'm writing this from Merida in the Yucatan Peninsula. Tonight is my last night before i fly to Havana tomorrow (Monday) morning. I have been told that internet access in Cuba is rare, slow and expensive so i might disappear for a while.

Ok, first the summary for the impatient ones:

Food: getting better. Even tried gapuchines (not a Spaniard with a cold ordering capuccinos, but grasshoppers) which are surprisingly tasty, drowned in guacamole anyway. This is as close as i get to a Mike style scary food story.

I still haven't managed to order a dish without getting a bowl full of tortillas, but it happens to others as well, so I'm feeling better about that. While travelling the regions the food has got tastier and more interesting.

Corona: yes. Anyone who tells you how cheap coronas are in mexico is lying ... even in the dodgiest of bars you won't get one for less than 9 pesos which is probably $1.60 ish aussie (90c US) - not the 20 cents of legend ! The standard price in moderate restaurants is double that. My new favourite beer is Montejo, and the Modelo negra is pretty nice as well (like a classy Tooheys Old, if you can picture such a beast).

Tequila/Mezcal: yes as well. Mezcal is slightly smokier, from a different type of cactus and is nicer. Strangely even an order of beer always arrives with salt and lime, although i haven't seen anyone use the salt with their beer - yet !

Wine: no.

Coffee: universally disappointing. As far as coffee is concerned, the USA has won over Spain in the battle of the influences. Even if some parts of Mexico are now producing coffee beans. There is the occasional Starbucks-style cafe around, but ... well, it just ain't coffee !

Weather: bloody hot ! Reading my guide book, the towns I have been in recently have March average maximums of around 20 - yet it hasn't got below thirty during the day at all the whole trip. It rained last night (for the first time all trip) which was a relief, but it was straight back to blazing hot sun by 11am. This is playing havoc with the clean clothes and laundry schedule !

Transport: getting mighty sick of the busses. I spent a good 40 hours getting across the country to Merida (where I am now), and i'm glad i changed my Havana flight to leave from here instead of Cancun, a further 4-6 hours away on the coast. More about these busses in the detailed version ...

Ruins: yes, heaps and they're great ! I've taken too many photos of them though - be warned. Some nicely restored (not really 'ruinas' anymore, but that's what they call them), and some fantastically jungle strewn, with trees growing out of them etc.

Obligatory Mexican crime experience - yes. My (unusual for me) paranoia and preparation stood me in good stead and my losses were limited to one phone card. Don't worry Mum, I'm completely ok !

Jungle - yes ! No mossie bites so far, amazingly. Great monkey noises at night time but haven't seen any monkeys yet.

Prison cell - sort of. It was called a hotel room, but with the rotating clanging fan, naked bulb, swarms of mossies and concrete walls, you could be forgiven for thinking otherwise. I can recommend a great place not to stay in Piste (near the Chichen Itza ruins) if anyone is interested.

Negotiating skills - managed to haggle 70% off initial offering price for hammock and jewelry (my Danish friends were buying). Haven't got much myself as i over-packed and have limited room, plus i really hate the hustlers.

Ok, more detailed than expected. Stay tuned for part two ...

Oaxaca and Mexico City

Me again - how time flies ! I've already used 40 of my 60 minutes at the internet cafe - this 'long version' mightn't be so long after all ! I'll try not to repeat the summary too much - and no more whinging about the flight. I did sleep well on my first night. After I arrived about 10pm Mexican time I had a bite and a beer, and then crashed. I woke up at 8am next morning and thought i had jetlag beat, but i forgot about the dreaded second day (and the street party that decided to take place outside my window until 4am on the second night - thanks guys !). One of the highlights of my hotel room is the excellent bathroom, which just has to be shared:

Mexico City is an overwhelming place. From the air it goes for miles and miles.

I'd read so much about the crime, how they targetted tourists, how you should always leave your bank and credit cards in the safe, never take the metro alone, etc etc, that i found it hard to relax. I just wandered round the 'Centro Historico' on day one, visited the Templo Mayor (Aztec temple that they only uncovered in 1978 doing gas works) and the excellent associated museum.

I brought my camera bag with me, but wished i hadn't - there's nothing especially photogenic in the city centre, and it became just another thing to worry about, not to mention a heavy and sweat inducing load on what was the hottest March day in 50 years - above 35, and this is still winter. Next time just the digital camera and a bottle of water, and I'll leave the rest at the hotel - if i dare ! Anyway, here's a photo of the temple to justify the effort:

After my crap second night's sleep i decided i'd had enough of Mexico City and took the first bus out to Oaxaca, 6 hours west. Great bus, very comfy, and luckily the sound on the tele above my head wasn't too loud. On the bus I finished an excellent history of mexico I had been reading with a much better understanding of the place, and some questions about our own history !

My book contained an interesting paragraph about the American government, and how the Republicans in charge at the time were the party of big business in general, and the oil industry in particular; and most of their foreign policy resulted from that ! This in the 1920s.

Anyway, it was a great move leaving Mexico city. Oaxaca is a very cool place, full of colonial architecture and loads of Indian culture (16 different tribes, the most varied in all Mexico). It's also known as the home of finest mexican cuisine (although it evaded me last night), mescal and modern art. I took a shit load of photos today (more to come when the light gets better later) and did a fascinating tour of the botanic gardens - it lasted 2.5 hours which went in no time. They are in the gardens of the old domincan monastery (my next stop - now a cultural museum) which was a military base for 150 years. Gretat cactii, and did you know the frangipani was a native mexican plant ?

My hotel is newly opened so clean, an old convent (what a great move stripping the church of all its property in the 1860s) with all the rooms around a sheltered courtyard. I found it by accident, a sign already that things were on the up ! Next stop San Cristobal, but i have two more days here first, so i'll fill you all in in the next installment.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Greetings from Oaxaca

Hi everyone from Oaxaca, a very cute town in the south east of Mexico. Saturday afternoon my time, Sunday 7am for those of you in Australia, so (hopefully) you won't be reading this for a while.

For those of you with time constraints or jobs, i have prepared short and long versions of this email (now post). This is the short version:

Trip - bloody long and painful.
LA Airport - see above. 2 hours of queues
Mexico City Airport - see above, with more pushing.
Dallas Airport - nice and organised (get them to run LAX) - but no one was drinking in the lounge (at 4pm) except me and one pommy guy.
Door to Door - best part of 24 hours.
First Scab - taxi driver, asking for a tip on a prepaid trip clearly marked tipping not required.
Tequila/Mexcal - not yet, tonight maybe (Oaxaca is the home of mexcal - the difference is in the type of agave)
Corona - no. Sol, and Modelo Especial (my favourite) yes !
Food - so far, disappointing. Keep being given bloody fajitas even when i don't order them. I have a nice place lined up for tonight though.
Mexico City - dirty smelly chaotic.
Hotel - noisy, mossies, itchy sheets.
Aztecs - bloody and violent.
Spaniards - likewise.
Temples - only ruins so far.
Oaxaca - rocks. If i lived in the states i'd come here all the time. Like the most attractive spanish town you can think of (most like Salamanca) except a lot more colour and a lot more
run down.
Next stop - San Cristobal, via Tabasco (not stopping there as the main town - Villahermosa or Pretty Town is apparently anything but). San Cristobal is capital of the Chiapas state, some of you might remember a disturbance there a few years ago. Apparently all is ok now, but we'll see. Looking forward to my 12 hours overnight bus trip - the cheap trips are 16 hours !

Original Date: March 9, 2003


A while ago I found my old group emails sent from unreliable internet cafes in Cuba and Mexico during March and April 2003. It's a miracle they survived given both my personal and work laptops have died in the last 6 months, but they were still there in my yahoo sent file, rusting away. I somehow doubt my friends have saved them as great works of literature.

If I were to do such a trip again, I'd use a blog to keep the world (or at least those interested) informed of my progress. So I'm going to re-do my 2003 trip virtually; sharing it with whoever may stumble across this as I go.

The exercise is lightly inspired by the character Bartlebooth in George Perec's novel Life - A User's Manual who travels the world for 20 years, painting a picture every fortnight which is then turned into a jigsaw puzzle. Upon his return, he spends he next 20 years doing the jigsaw puzzles to re-create his trip.

I doubt I'll have the patience to do my Cuba and Mexico trip in real time - the goal is to get to know some blogger tricks; as well as maintaining a record of my trip for 'posterity' (whatever that means in the digital age). Knowing me, I'll be lucky to stretch the exercise over a week.

In my designs on posterity, I won't be mimicking Bartlebooth, whose paintings were ultimately returned to the place they were painted to be dissolved into blank sheets leaving no trace of his life's endeavour. Like so many 1s and 0s breaking up into the ether ...