Introduction Video!

Tuesday, 6 August 2013

What exactly do you mean by ¨you can´t eat sailfish¨?

Met up with an old buddy I hadn´t seen in over a year - insert clever stories and hilarious japes here. It coincided with an unfortunate reprisal of Montezuma´s revenge, except that this time Montezuma was really pissed off. It took a week of anti-biotics to get my stomach back in order, in the mean time the nights of home-made cocktails and local beers were a cross of boozey indulgence and feeling like the nervous weird-looking kid on the waltzers who´s just started to go green; with regards to the climax of the latter I´ll get to in just a tick.

One of the groups of non-residing temporary pool-users (at this place you could pay a fee on the street for use of the facilities without actually getting a room - what do you have to do to get away from the bloody proles these days anyway!?) drew our attention to the fact that there was a barbecue at the hostel, so the following day we got some meat and coal and made magic happen.

Unfortunately the God of assholes decided that today was a surprise stormy-rain day, but with a bit of traditional British stiff upper-lip and, of a manner equally appropriate, an umbrella, we continued to make Jesus proud of the miracle of fire. Unfortunately I later left my 20 peso umbrella at the hostel when we left and had to spend almost 30 seconds being mildly irritated by the fact.

The following day things got even more exciting. We went fishing with a bunch of Slovakian guys and a local fireman who had converted a diving boat into a fishing boat by sticking a swivelly chair at one end and cramming in two outboard-motors on the back.

One of the Slovaks couldn´t handle the open seas, bloody landlubbers aren´t they - the Slovaks, and he spent the entire trip lying on the deck with his eyes closed. S´pose they don´t live on an Island like us sea-dwellin brits eh?

As it turned out I couldn´t handle the open seas either, but after puking my guts out (and there goes that 15 peso caramelised coffee I had for breakfast :( ) no less than twice (the second occasion was bile time, everyone´s favourite green slime direct from the liver, same-day delivery guaranteed...) I felt on top the world; and mere seconds later was reeling in our second catch of the day; a massive sailfish.

After posing with the catch briefly, the crew proceeded to throw buckets of water over my head for no apparent reason. First they said it was to help the sea-sickness, although later I realised it was because the fishes scales were highly acidic, and in fact I still have a rash where they missed washing off a line of scale slime.

We actually caught three that day, all sailfish, all big. On the back of suspicious advice from a local so-called professional fisherman that sailfish can´t be eaten and should be returned to the water after being caught, we had already given our fireman-come-captain the nod to beat out the brains of the ones we caught, chop them up, and divvy up the tasty fish-steaks!

The old-man crew member of the boat, there´s always one, licked his lips while he bagged up the fish-heads which are allegedly great for making soup (this is not a joke, I´m absolutely serious). That night we began our fish of several home-cooked sail-fish meals, and were happy to conclude that the nasty rumour that sailfish can´t be eaten is total bullshit (it tastes rather like swordfish actually).

We had so much of the damn stuff that after a few days we were bored shit of eating it and started giving it a way. The security guard at our last hostel in Puerto Escondido practically shat himself when we told him he could have everything that was in the fridge after we left for Oaxaca City. I guess there was a good five or six kilos left...

As it turns out we arrived in Oaxaca City the weekend of the famous dance festival, that was purely coincidental and somewhat unfortunate because prices had been hiked up all over town. On the bright side there was a good atmosphere and tons of Mexican tourists buzzing around doing things.

Not much to say about Oaxaca City other than it´s a good place to eat out and it´s got plenty to see with respect to the usual museums, churches, et al. We tried to see a baseball game but fucked up the times and ended up getting drunk and watching DVDs instead. After which my companion went on to start the job he´d found some months ago in the Mexican mountains, and I started my journey back east by travelling 16 hours on the bus to Palenque.

Friday, 19 July 2013

Anaconda, storms, mosquitos eating me alive, surfing, and sunburn.

Campeche went to shit because I forgot to book anything and by the time I realised, it was too late. I opted for an overnight bus all the way to the mountains and San Cristóbal de Las Casas, that gave me more than enough time to sort out three nights in the cheapest place in town. Don`t worry, it turned out alright. Sometimes being a massive tight-ass pays off (most of the time it doesn`t). The over-night bus on the other hand didn`t exactly go to plan, a combination of constant stops, paranoia about getting robbed, mosquitoes and discomfort meant I got a grand total of about fuck all sleep. (Ok, maybe I got a couple of hours...)

Fast forward a day of cultural indulgence, indigenous markets, old churches, non-stop rain and shit-ass ponchos which do almost nothing to stop you getting wet; and then the owners of the hostel invited me camping to a clear water lake on the border with Guatemala They were talking about unconfirmed sightings of an anaconda in the area and they neglected to mention it was a 6 hour round-trip until we were well underway with the journey, but the experience I had there was well worth it non the less. The rumours of an anaconda in the area were never proved true, I supposed that`s for the best. The local Mayan ruins were free and the best I`ve yet seen.

By the time we got back I had started to develop some horrific looking wounds on my feet where my sandal straps has been rubbing against mosquito bites. I didn`t think  too much of it, until I arrived to Puerto Escondido a day later and I realised that my characteristic ¨shuffle walk¨ had become more like an old man with a cane shoved up his arse. I went to a doctor, which here is a free consultancy attached to the pharmacies that convince you to spend money on drugs. She was very good actually, ordered me to buy some flip-flops so the straps were thinner and rubbing on my bites, and gave me some other instructions and medications which have thus-far proved useful but unmiraculous.

I am, however, still having big mosquito problems. I cover myself in 15% DEET mosquito repellent at night, but they bite the shit out of me anyway. My ankles are now almost more more bites and normal skin. Can`t someone just invent a genetic disease and kills these bloody awful creatures for fuck sake?

Despite all that I started my no-doubt long and successful surfing career by ignoring all the advice to take expensive lessons and just hiring a board and getting my ass out there. It was way harder than I expected, and the extremely unfriendly other surfers didn`t bother their arse to give me any tips, apart from regularly complaining that I should take classes before I kill someone. Self-righteous assholes... we all started somewhere you know. Plus I noticed the lone girls got plenty of free coaching, so why don`t you fuck off with your sexist bollocks?

I should really just get a class and maybe then I`d at least know how to steer the thing, but after that experience I`m almost tempted to just press on on my own just to spite the sanctimonious bastards. What`s it got to do with me if their heads get in the way of me cruising my surf and tearing up the waves anyway?

Stay tuned to find out how my illogical stubbornness leads us all to great new things!

Friday, 12 July 2013

Montezuma took his revenge

La Ley Seca ended with a bang in Playa del Carmen, and I ended up drinking Mezcal with a Colombian guy until 4am... the usual travel log ¨look what a great fucking time I had¨ bullshit.

Anyway, to cut a shit story short, on top of the worst hangover I`ve ever had this month, Montezuma well and truly got his revenge the day after; and if you don`t know what that means DAFS (CLICK HERE)!!!

In the morning I couldn`t face another day in Playa, I had to get out. My plan was to head up to Valladolid and hop accross to Chichen Itzá, the famed Mayan pyrimids, the next day. Unfortunately the hostels were all booked up and I ended up having to go straight to Mériida, meaning I overshot my mark by a good 2 and a half hour coach trip and with that my plan to see Chichen Itzá well and truly went to shit (for now).

Embarrssingly spent the whole day dosed up on painkillers and groaning incomprehensible gibberish at anyone who got within my awareness radius. Lucky I didn`t humiliate myself too much because I spent the whole time in the hostel bed twisting and turning and dropping my wallet and smartphone all over the place just to see if any other travellers had the balls to try and rob me. They were all ballless, but I learnt my lesson anyway when I woke up, panicked about losing everything, and then realised it was all just scattered on the floor.

I spent the next day fannying around with various tours and sight-seeing in the city, and the day after I did an awesome tour ran by the hostel along the coast, visiting some Mayan ruins , a cenote (natural fresh water source in the jungle(ish), and seeing some flamingos. Then I decided it was time to get the shit out of here and make some progress towards Oaxaca, where I`m visiting a buddy of mine. Booking coaches and hostels at this stage is ¨only for losers¨ and I`ll just be hopping on the bus whenever I get the energy to move and will sort out a room in the hostel when I get there.

I`m going to Campeche next, by the way. Probably.

Monday, 8 July 2013

All I need are turtles and alcohol.

Not sure where the shit to start because things have been more or less balls awesome since I got off the plane. I`m also painfully aware that no-one wants to read about the usual travel log dross, so I`ll try to make things as entertaining and non-generic as possible.

Cancùn didn`t look too spectacular, to quote a friend ´like Los Angeles without the golden facades´. I never bothered the short cheap bus trip down to the hotel beach-front, might do it on the way back. Hostel was a wannabe cabaña, but for the shit-all €14 I paid for a private room (and free toast/coffee) I have no complaints. The mosquitoes ate me alive, but I soon found that is the case everywhere.

Early next morning I began the day with a pretty piss poor attempt to get myself a SIM card with Internet. The vendors in the many mobile phone shops blasting out dance-trance hits at max volume barely knew what a SIM card was, let-alone that they can come with Internet. Maybe if i`d enquired about coloured mobile cases they`d have jumped to the rescue.

I grabbed my 1 hour trip to Playa del Carmen for about €4 (what the shit??), and was pretty proud of myself finding the cheap backstreet hostel I booked in under 10 minutes. Places don`t have numbers in Mexico, they just describe locations as being ´between such and such a street corner´. I have no idea how you send mail. As it turns out the hostel was pretty decent, just the usual colourful crusty save-the-world brigade who seem to run the coolest hostels all over the world these days. Ok that`s a little unfair. The main dude who seems to own or manage the place warmed up a lot after a few days. In fact he just passed me a free tequila on his way back from the kitchen, I take everything back, I just made a new best friend. Albeit he does call me ¨London Boy¨, which can fuck right off frankly.

La Ley Seca (The Dry Law)

Then came the horrendous news that I had arrived on election weekend when no-where sells alcohol in the province until Monday morning. I`m over it now, but at the time I was like ¨WHATTT THE UNHOLY SHIT IS THIS????¨

As it turned out, restaurants would give a limited number of beers with a meal. I`ve never felt the continual craving to drink beer so strong before in my live; and ended up getting hammered on my own in a restaurant. Prohibition does not work for shit folks.

I also paid for the teeth for it when the bill came, and the fucking enterprising bastards expected a tip on top of the €40 price tag (which they didn`t get). Maybe I`m being a little unfair considering I got completely bolloxed on their behalf, but it`s Mexico, I want cheap, and fuck them for taking advantage of a law which is complete bullshit. Down with anti-consumerist pricing!

Swimming with turtles

So I imagine this is the kind of shit people normally harp on about in travel blogs, so I`ll try to keep it brief. I was recommended the beach of Akumal for a virgin beach where you can go swimming with Sea Turtles. It`s about 35 minutes drive from Playa del Carmen and there`s no bus service there. So you gots three options: a communal van, a taxi, an over-priced bullshit tour (avoid!), or hire a car. I chose the cheapest and most awesome option, the communal van.

These bad-boys are basically just dudes in vans who plow up and down the coast picking up and dropping people off at every stop. They are awesomely cheap (round trip cost me about €4) and way cooler than the luxury Ado bus service. There`s not too many European tourists hopping on and off, but the locals are the friendly cooler type around here. I think some Paraguayans made a disparaging comment about a limey European getting on when  I first got on the bus, but when I tried to put them straight (guess they didn`t realise I spoke Spanish) they claimed to have no idea what I was talking about. Yeah right... watch it kids, I`m on your case.

So anyway... Akumel is about as much of a tropical Paradise as I could ever imagine. White sand, clear water, lizards, turtles, canañas... awesomeness.

Yes I went snorkeling, yes I saw turtles, yes I saw a sting-ray, no I didn`t touch anything. I bought a cheap snorkel mask from the shop, but didn`t have any flippers so I wasn`t quite fast enough to get a touch of turtle-mc-turtle. It was still bloody brilliant.

I did everything on the cheap for this little jaunt and it worked out great. The same can`t be said for the day-trip to Cozumel and the snorkeling I did there the day before on a package tour. Now I have no complaints at all about the service, but that cost me a damn fortune and was far inferior to my own spurt out to Akumal. Moral of the story, avoid marketing and salesmen and make up your own plan.

Sorry for the shit editing, but I don`t fancy spending hours blogging right now because this place is frankly too awesome. Catch ya soon!

Tuesday, 2 July 2013

D.I.Y Vaccinations - take `em or leave `em

Almost no time to go now till I`m zooming across the Atlantic, destination:Cancún, and I can`t be sure if my lack of nervousness is due to simply not thinking about it, or because I`m confident that everything is under control.

Errrr.. yeah; quite simply, it has to be the former.

So last Wednesday thanks to intermittent vague suggestions from friends that you need to have some vaccinations before going to Mexico I finally got round to typing the words into Google (I admit, doing this 2 months ago probably would have served better) and to my horror found that, indeed, several vaccinations are recommended for Mexico... but thank god, not required!

I didn`t feel all too comfortable browsing through the list of potential illnesses, investigating the side effects, and weighing up the potential risks; but I did it anyway and promptly moved on to making an appointment with the Doctor to see if there would be yet time to make up for this unfortunate oversight.

In the mean time I had the chance to learn all about Hepatitis A and Typhoid, the two recommended diseases to be vaccinated against before going to Mexico. In a way, they are similar. They are both transmitted through infected water, which in Mexico can mean the tap water. That also implies they can be caught from eating fruit and vegetables which have been washed in infected water, and from other foods which haven`t been thoroughly cooked. Luckily, neither of them seemed to be really dangerous. On top of that, both involve 3-4 unpleasant weeks bed-bound and the potential of getting to spend a great deal of quality time in the toilet; although for people with other problems, such as liver damage, they can be more complicated.

By this point I had obviously decided I didn`t want anything to do with either of them.

I also read that Hepatitis B could be a risk if you intend on exchanging bodily fluids with any locals, Rabies if you plan on getting close to any animals, and Malaria if you plan on getting bit by jungle insects. I decided I wouldn`t be doing any of those things and kept it simple by focusing on just the two which were most recommended.

On Friday I had my date with the Doc. After waiting 45 minutes longer than my allotted time (normal...) I went in, sat down, said one sentence, and was informed cheerily by her that I needed to make an appointment with ¨sanidad exterior¨ - the place where they apparently take care of vaccinations in Spain - and that most likely I hadn`t left enough time to sort it all out. She did, however, they reassure me that there were no necessary vaccinations for Mexico, only recommended ones; which I already knew of course.

So I speed marched back home, fired up Skype, phoned the number she give me, and had barely started blurting out the pre-concocted Spanish spiel in my head to the person on the other end when they abruptly interrupted me.

"Cuándo viajas?" (When do you travel?) they said. I told her when I would be travelling.

If you're confused at this point as to why there's Spanish going on before I reached Mexico, that's because I've lived in Spain for just under three years.

"La próxima cita libre es el 11 de agosto." (The next available appointment is the 11th of August.) they informed me, and then they proceeded to tell me off for leaving it too late. I began to sound a little hurt and their tone changed to a more helpful one. I was then told I would be put on stand-by and if there was a cancellation they would call me asap. The call ended with that and I had already decided that was more or less a lost cause.

So could I handle going without the jabs? I didn`t like the idea. Taking those sorts of risks stresses me out, so I decided to try one last long shot. I went straight to the nearest pharmacy and asked them if they knew of a private clinic where I could get the vaccinations done.

Guess what? They told me you can buy the bloody things right in the pharmacy! I almost didn´t believe it! The guy offered to order them in and told me they would be ready by tomorrow. Tomorrow! You´ve got to be kidding? 

I left pretty happy with that. I´d waltz in tomorrow, pick them up, take them, and that would be that, right? Well I was in for one last rather shocking surprise on this wonderful vaccination trawl, and as in happens it wasn´t the price. Both vaccines ended up costing me a measly €40. Well, perhaps itś not so measly but I was prepared for something more like €60.

However the surprise came when I got home and unpacked them...

Syringes?? You have got to be shitting me! Seriously?? SERIOUSLY??

Yes... seriously. The instructions casually informed me that the injections should be intramuscular, into a muscle, and that they should be performed by a trained medical professional. Well that wasn`t going to happen. I didn´t have the time or money to make that happen, and I decided I`d seen enough TV to give this a go myself. Yeah, that`s right - I decided it was self-injection time.

At this point I may be giving the impression that I went in all guns blazing Rambo style and plunged the needles directly into my thighs without a second thought, but the reality was quite different. I spent the next two hours reading about and watching videos on intramuscular self-injection.I bought a bottle of alcohol and cleaning swabs, and I got a few safety buddies ready on Skype to call the emergency services if I stopped responding due to, god forbid, an anaphylactic shock - should you be wondering that`s what happens in the billion-to-one possibility that you`re allergic to the drug.

The process was quite simple:
- Clean the area with an alcohol doused swab using circular motions going outwards.
- Prepare the needle (which in this case meant connect the part with the drug in it to the part with the needle on it).
- Push the end of the syringe until a drop of liquid forms on the end of the needle (this is to get the air out of the syringe).
- Grab hold of the top of your thigh muscle - the outer upper part about 2 thirds of the way up from your knee.
- Slowly insert the needle until it`s about an inch and a half deep (no, it doesn`t hurt at all).
- Pull on the plunger of the syringe a little to ensure no blood comes out - this is to make sure you didn`t hit a vein, which in this case would be bad and would require a complete restart with a new syringe.
- Finally, push down on the plunger until all the vaccine has entered the muscle, take out the syringe, and cover the spot with a swab to prevent bleeding.

Nevertheless, my heart was racing when I actually did it. In fact after doing the first one in my left thigh, I almost thought for a moment I was having a reaction just because my heart was beating so fast. But of course this was nothing more than nerves, and it subsided as I relaxed. The second one was almost routine.

And well, that was that. It`s now been almost 48 hours since I did all that and I`m hastily referring to it as a successful self-vaccination! Yeah! Hardcore! Screw the establishment! Or something! And all that bollocks!

Catch ya on the flip-side folks!

Monday, 24 June 2013

Dusting off the backpack...

Among the insanely nonsensical way in which I've been bouncing unpredictably around my room and somehow managing to gradually sort bits and pieces into various boxes and piles of trash, gift, and store, I also found a moment today to pull out my old travelling backpack from under my bed where it's been for the last year.

Now don't let me mislead you. That doesn't mean that the last time I went travelling with it was last year. As a matter of fact this bad-boy has only really seen true travelling action twice in its operating life. The most recent was when I moved to Spain, that was three years ago. But even then I'm not sure you could really consider that to be genuine backpack action, since it spent the majority of its time in field on its side in the back of my car.

So the only time this thing has really done its job is the first time I ever used it, when I was 17 and travelling western Europe. That was 13 years ago...

I was happy to see that it is a little smaller than I remember. That's a good thing. I want to take the absolute minimum with me on this trip. No bells, no whistles, no shit weighing me down that I really could do without.

As well as that big boy, I'm also taking a smaller rougher well-used orange backpack, which will be kept close by at all times and will most likely hold my netbook; which by the way, arrived in the post today. I haven't had a chance to really use it yet because it's still on the initial pre-use charge, but I'll make a little post/review of it once I've had a mess around. It was basically the cheapest device with a real keyboard (I hate touch screen, it's so slow and inefficient) I could buy.

Other than the two bags here's my draft "to take" list:

- Cheap Palm Top
- Passport
- Swim-shorts
- Shorts (two pairs)
- Sandals
- Light trousers
- T-shirts (four)
- Polo-shirt
- Mobile Phone (and back-up), USB charger
- E-reader, USB charger
- Underwear (5 pairs of pants and 1 pair of socks)
- Sun-glasses
- Credit card, Bank card, Driving License
- Travel towel
- Cheap lightweight shoes

Only other things of note... I hooked up my phone with Google Latitude which allows friends who I share it with to see my current location while I'm travelling... pretty cool. It does, of course, unfortunately also allow the American NSA to know where I am (as we are all already aware...) 

Thursday, 20 June 2013

Travel insurance? Money? Two weeks to go!

Travelling would be a whole lot easier if there was less administration to deal with.

I've just gone through the arduous task of enlisting travel insurance and performing a few tasks at my bank (telling them I'm going away, talking about money in Mexico, etc.). The difficult of these tasks was compounded significantly by the fact that I live in Spain. Unfortunately the phrase "meaningless red-tape" is often taken to new extremes over here...

I did have a bit of a debate with myself about the necessity for travel insurance. Honestly I'm not much of an "insurance" guy". Insurance is a business, people make money out of other people's insecurities, and very rarely an insurance company has to pay out a few bucks but only after fighting tooth and nail not to. However, a few people told me that medical care in Mexico was very expensive, and after a bit of research I found decent cover for EU residents (since I'm not a UK resident at this time) for less than €30 a month. So I took the plunge on that one.

As for the money issue... obviously I want to have as little real cash on me at any one time as possible. I don't intend on getting robbed, but if it does happen I don't want to have to hand over any more than $10-20. According to my research, credit card is a decent and well-accepted form of payment. So I'm going with that in mind. I have various credit cards (Mastercard, Visa, etc.) so coverage shouldn't be a problem. On top of that I'll probably take a few hundred in cash, and spread the quantities throughout my person and luggage. I still need to buy some kind of secret security belt to stick my passport etc. in....

Two weeks to go... I'm certainly not feeling "more relaxed" about it, but the thought of slapping up my first post-arrival blog update with a serving of Mexican food and beer is relatively soothing.