Sunday, 4 April 2010

Why I shouldn't be left on my own for too long...

I should warn you that I'm basically putting myself on the couch in this issue - it's not really travel journalism

My week in Fiji was pretty non-eventful. Or rather, I should say, it was a non-event. I was staying in a fantastic 12 acre resort for an incredibly small amount of money. There were organised activities galore, free snorkelling on reefs, kayaks a pool, massages, beach volleyball…the list goes on.

The thing is, I find it so difficult to buy into and get involved in all these activities as a solo flyer. Given even one friend to encourage me I could have happily indulged in any and all of these activities. But this last week, as the population of the Mango Bay Resort waxed and waned, I found it harder than ever to cross the seemingly vast chasms in between tables in order to strike up conversations and make new friends, especially with the attractive, unaccompanied young girls that festooned the restaurant/cocktail bar every evening. I was going through some seriously misanthropic shit, imprisoned in my own feelings of loneliness and inadequacy. I spent lonely hour after lonely hour berating myself for failing to possess the easy charm and quick wits that I felt would surely lead me too socio-sexual fulfilment.

Whilst I realise that extremely brief friendships with fellow travellers and short-lived romances are hardly some kind of neurological philosophers stone; capable of healing my mental scars and empowering me with endless supplies of exuberant panache, some kind of intimacy would have delivered a much needed endorphin kick, a self-confidence boost and quite possibly someone to go scuba-diving with.

As it was, my feeble attempts at striking up conversation met with such a damp response that each interaction sent me plunging deeper and deeper into a vortex of self-loathing. ‘No point going to the bar’ I told myself ‘they all despise me’. Not that the vast majority of the people there had even been given much opportunity to assess me beyond the cheap Hawaiian shirt I had chosen to sport as my usual daywear, I determined that I had been deemed an outcast and set about projecting the aura of a misfit whenever I dared venture out of my hut.

My feelings of isolation were not helped by the fact that there were four dorms in total, three of which were at least half full, and then there was mine which I had entirely to myself. This further reduced my chances of effecting those random, low key domestic interactions that spawn most travellers’ friendships.

------------------------------------------------------------------------------

In the past I’ve not normally struggled in the romantic arena. In fact I’ve been very lucky to be involved with some incredibly charming, beautiful women. And some not so charming ones, but I usually found that out later. The thing is that 2009 was for some reason the year when every girl I met and expressed an interest in decided to crush my ego beneath her stiletto-clad meta-heel.

Potential love interest after potential love interest ignored or humiliated me in a chain of rejection so crushing that it led to me internally downgrading my sexual status from, admittedly hairy, champ to muddy chimp. It has got to the point now where I can’t remember what it was like to feel sexually confident. When considering my chances with a woman I feel like a joke, ugly and irrelevant, having been kicked out of the deep-end of the gene-pool by some kind of cosmic life-guard.
Sadly, despite having decided that love or even soulless rutting with anyone I’m vaguely aroused by is just not happening, I am a male human animal and I can’t switch off the desire. So when accident or some tirelessly charismatic social animal throws me in the path of some delightful creature or other I attempt to wheel out the charm. Now inevitably this plays out in one of two ways: either she is utterly disinterested from the off, or having made some kind of half-decent impression, I have no idea how to move the conversation on to actually being flirtatious. I am so scared of crossing the physical line, or even asking a simple question like ‘do you have a boyfriend’ that signals some kind of intent and being rejected once again that I inevitably choose to back away from the situation and go to bed in a sulk.

I dread to think what percentage of my waking hours are currently spent worrying about what a failure I am because of the absence of romance or sexuality in my life. It’s no surprise either considering how many physical and chemical processes are being but on hold as the primal urges of my DNA go repeatedly unanswered; and how much pressure society puts on us to be in a relationship of some kind or sexually active in a more casual context.

I always feel I’m at my conversational best in a sober, semi-serious situation where I can draw on my knowledge of science, religion, music, technology or politics to be interesting – to the few that find such subjects interesting. I’m not a quick-witted surrealist or master of the sarcastic put-down – not with near strangers, certainly. And I have never felt able to even have a one night stand without a genuine interest in and admiration for my playmate. These attributes do not a master of romance make – especially on an extended multi-stop trip. And oh how well I know it. But yet inside there is the constant yearning to be either this smooth, Bond-like lady-killer or to meet the woman of my dreams, marry her on the spot and start researching white-picket prices.

I suspect I am destined to remain frustrated – and lonely – for the near future. I’ve been trying to think of some kind of positive conclusion to round this out with but I think the most comforting sentiment I can think of is that the grass is always greener.

The grass is ALWAYS greener.

Voodoo out.

Sunday, 28 March 2010

These Are a Few of My Favourite Things

There are no pictures to go with this blog because the upload speeds here are atrocious


Things I have appreciated on this trip: cheap fags and occasionally the opportunity to smoke them indoors. I'm still only halfway through the 400 I bought in Costa Rica for around a pound a packet, and although my lungs no doubt would rather I found a new hobby it's certainly been something to occupy my hands with and mitigate the unpleasantness of adopting a marijuana free lifestyle. One vice at a time I tell myself.

My wonderful Dell laptop, which, dodgy touchpad aside has outperformed all my expectations, keeping me in touch by text, voice, video call and blog; creatively productive and thoroughly entertained. All my L-R-G clothes which always leave me feeling quietly confident that, although my apparel may be slightly brash, it's quality, well engineered brash. The fantastic All Saints wallet Sy Hackney gave me for my birthday last year which never fails to make me feel like a gent.

My British passport - the rest of the world’s immigration systems have not quite caught up with what a bankrupt and oppressive regime it now represents and I have regularly been waved through borders far faster than those bearing less respectable documentation.

My rather late entrance to the worldwide party that is Ableton Live! - despite my long term resistance to its charms I have been revelling in the ability to not only continue to develop my dj skills in the absence of decks, but to perform moves that are simply impossible with the traditional pair of turntables.

The ocean. The ocean has been a near constant companion on this trip. I am no beach bunny, and in fact I have no doubt that most of my readers would be both shocked and appalled by how little time I have spent on the frankly idyllic beaches that have been practically on tap since my departure from E11. The simple fact is that, without excellent company I swiftly grow bored on beaches. After taking in the majesty of the view, the blueness of wave and sky and the whiteness of the sand I am left rather stuck. I am not a surfer, and serious sunbathing reduces me to tears of tedium - not to mention that for me to survive more than half an hour of equatorial sun requires me to wear sunblock of such a numerically well endowed nature that it renders the entire exercise rather intellectual. Despite all this...perhaps it's best to describe it as indifference...to actual beaching, simply knowing that an unimaginably vast expanse of roaring, thudding, powerful ocean is a mere stones throw away has provided a rather subtle feeling of...satisfaction.

My Nokia N86 smartphone which has been a solid stills and video camera, apart from in low light, an mp3 player, a backup video player and web browser, currency and unit converter and which I used to write the first draft of this blog while sitting in an upmarket Indian restaurant in Fiji.

Things I have not appreciated so much. Sadly, my Serato setup. The one gig I have played on my journey had a system installed. And that was in my first week. Since then there has been no call for it whatsoever and I’m pretty sure the vinyl will be fatally damaged by the time I get it back home. Other than that I think I have used everything else in my kit, from the mini travel gaffa tape, to the Nintendo DS or the shiny Adidas track pants (perfect for flying)- they have all found their time and their place and justified their existence.

My shoe choices have worked out, after being supplemented with some smart trainers and I’ve used and in some cases replaced all the toiletries. The only thing I’ve really missed? I laughed at it when I say it on the list of must have items provided by my favourite camping shop, but I really wish I’d brought...a universal sink plug. No hostels have plugs in their sinks - never ever thought it would get to me, but there you go. People are strange. Wherever you go.

Voodoo out.

Saturday, 20 March 2010

The Zombies of the United States



Well here I am in a town so small it doesn’t really have a name. It’s a collection of houses by a motorway; my hostel's street address is 59,000 and something. I’m on the north shore of the most populous Hawaiian Island; Oahu, in a district imaginatively called North Shore. It’s the home of surfing's most prestigious international competition and, surprisingly, it’s as grey and miserable as a November morning in Leytonstone. This suits me fine as my shorts need a wash and I can bust out the denim.



I know it’s been a while since I wrote: I did do a short piece on the woes of American public transport but I decided no-one wanted to read a thousand word rant about trains. Suffice to say they have about three trains, which are very nice and modern, but they don’t join up to each other. Or the airports. Which makes them about as much use as a Play-dough drill-bit.



When I came back from San Diego on the Amtrak double decker to go to Venice Beach I couldn’t get from the biggest train station in LA to one of their biggest tourist districts on the underground and had to make a one-hour journey by public bus through some pretty damn ropey neighbourhoods. My subsequent journey to the international airport, which was only a very short distance away, again had to made on a special hotel/airport shuttle service (private minibus) as the state simply does not feel it necessary to enable these kinds of routine journeys by public transport.


The Botanical Centre in San Diego's incredible Balboa Park - imagine Hyde Park, but with all the South Kensington Museums, both Tate's, the ICA, the Globe Theatre AND Kew Gardens all inside it - stunning

You’ve all read many times about how dependant the USA is on the car. Let me tell you that it is no exaggeration. Even in the rich, populous, progressive towns and cities I have visited the infrastructure for a car free life simply does not exist. I can only imagine what it must be like in rural areas but I have only yesterday read a despairing account of a man who has to drive 40m between stores because there are simply no public crossings and his children are not safe.



What is strange is the way the drivers behave around the occasional pedestrian they do encounter. Whereas in London both foot and car passengers are always in a precocious rush, each exploiting any gap they come across, here all the drivers slow down and come to a halt for you at traffic-light free intersections. And it’s so strange because I'm used to just letting the cars go and then walking behind them, but here I’ve been locked into a number of traffic halting impasses where I’ve been waving at the driver to proceed and he’s refused.



I have come to the conclusion that it is because they feel sorry for the pedestrian, assuming he or she is either a lunatic lefty-liberal or one of the army of disenfranchised non-persons that populate every urban area.


Didn't have a suitably grim shot of an 'untouchable' so I've used a beautiful sunset to symbolise hope instead :P

Even here in Oahu where a two or three bedroom wooden house of unappealing and uninspired design can sell for over $3,000,000 (they say London has inflated property prices – San Diego and Hawaii laugh us out of town) and the average income is no less than $63,000 annually there are still the homeless by every retail outlet, on the beach and surprising you by being completely normal looking and then begging money, food and cigarettes on the steps of Starbucks.



More than the rampant safety culture, more than the sheep like pedestrians waiting for a signal to cross an empty road, more than the doggy massage parlours and relentless, insular, ignorant and paranoid patriotism; what has upset me again and again and made me sure I could never live in the United States permanently is its divisiveness, elitism and willingness to abandon its citizens. There are people and then there are non-white people and then there are the non-people. If you have an accident, and your arm is horrendously mutilated and your insurance will not cover it then the government will pay for the operation. But if you will never work again, you will never be insured again. And you will never be able to repay the government or pay taxes again. So you join the army of the disenfranchised untouchables forever cursed to remain outside of society looking in through beard and beer obfuscated rimy eyes, sleeping on cardboard with a jacket over your head.



Now, every country has its failings. America’s market systems have driven huge growth, globalisation, the creation of many technologies for which we are all dependent on a daily basis. Taxation is relatively low. But give me the Norwegian system any day. I’d rather pay high taxes and know that every human being is given at the very least all the chances they need to try and be who they want to be, all the healthcare possible to help them survive. And can probably get a bloody train to the airport.

Voodoo out.


ps. in response to my last post about Disney songs, two people requested 'everybody wants to be a cat' from the Aristocats, so here it is! I've never seen the film, but I think I might have to now :)

Saturday, 13 March 2010

Some banging Disney tunes

Random I know, but I fancied something light hearted after all that writing...



A Friend Like Me from Aladdin

Robin Williams smashing it :)




Can You Feel The Love Tonight from the Lion King

The instrumentation is so phat in this. One of the all time great power-cheese ballads!



A Whole New World from Aladdin

Aww...



I Wanna Be Like You from Jungle Book

Sung, of course, by the inimitable Louis Armstrong.


Any one else got some favourite Disney bangers?

Monday, 8 March 2010

Costa Rica Round-Up



I’m in the departure lounge of San Jose International, and it’s cute! Petit, one might say, sporting as it does a meagre sixteen gates. Heathrow probably passes sixteen gates sitting upon the throne post-breakfast. I like to imagine it would have a full English and then read the Telegraph while at stool. San Jose International is very busy this morning, I suspect an expansion project or second international airport will be necessary very soon.

----------------------------

It’s been a while since I did any bona fide travelogue-ery so I think a round up of my Costa Rican exploits is in order. It’s as brief as it could be. Which when you are writing up around a months worth of travel isn't very brief at all.

I last travel blogged my waterfall scaling escapade in Montezuma. As you may remember I was not impressed with Montezuma town proper. It’s very dirty, very touristic and the huge number of dope smokers means it fully earns its nickname ‘Montefumar’ (fumar being the Spanish verb for smoking). Not the ideal location for a reformed pothead to find himself in. My actual destination was Manuel Antonio on the southern Pacific coast of the mainland.


Montezuma bay


on a boat

Next up however was a one hour speedboat ride across the bay to the infamous tourist destination Jaco. Which is either pronounced ‘hack-o’ or ‘yakko’ depending on the dialect being spoken. I’d been warned not to go and that it was full of ‘disgusting’ prostitutes, but that's where the boat left from.

It was a horribly built up pit of sleaze there’s no doubt about it. The only thing it had going for it in my book was that the hostel was the single place I have stayed at so far (USA included) that has been equipped with a frankly luxurious 3Mb broadband connection. And it had air-conditioning.

Needless to say, I tucked myself away in the dorm and downloaded several series of Top Gear which has been my faithful cultural anchor throughout the journey so far. I will soon have watched everything Clarkson and co have ever recorded and am not quite sure what I’ll do when that fateful day finally arrives. But I digress.


The hostel in Jaco


I checked out of whatever the hostel was called (probably Jaco Backpackers or some such) around 7.30am and went to queue up for a bus before the sun got too hot – Jaco is the hottest Costa Rican town I visited. I got talking to a nice American lady who was an experienced CR veteran. We boarded the bus to Quepos together but sadly I’d overcompensated for the massively dehydrating effects of Jaco’s supremely inhospitable climate. I had to bail in a small town called Parrita and find myself a portacabin.


Now this was not quite the disaster it might at first seem. Firstly the inter-town buses cost around $2 a piece despite the large distances they cover so I wasn’t massively out of pocket for my unplanned toilet stop. Secondly, as is usually the case after around five minutes, conversation with the female had dried up to a trickle. Thirdly I was supremely happy to be in a medium sized Tico town which was not in any way touristic. I had a wonderful lunch and some free wifi at a place called Don Camilo’s, which is a fairly generic restaurant name in CR, and caught the next bus to Quepos, which cost a dollar.

At Quepos I did not stop to do any sightseeing as it’s another dodgy little tourist trap and immediately boarded the Manuel Antonio bus, tame monkeys and giant iguanas set firmly in my sights.



In Manuel Antonio I stayed at the imaginatively titled Manuel Antonio Backpackers.

It was probably my joint favourite time in Costa Rica. Some of the Swedes from Funky Monkey turned up and I met a bunch of interesting Canadians, Americans, Germans and another Brit. I made a visit to the national park and saw a kind of giant rodent, several very tame Howler and White-Faced monkeys and a variety of large lizards and iguanas. On another trip a friend also photographed a bright green venomous snake in the act of consuming a large toad two or three times the size of it’s own head.


The provocatively named 'bastard palm'



Houses in Manuel Antonio - there are many different styles of house building in close proximity: mock Asian, European, Latin, Modern

We also went out to a couple of awful attempts at a club night which reinforced my notion that should I experience a total death of ambition at some point I could make a fortune with a truck and a soundsystem travelling around the country putting on decent shows. ‘Cause they don’t have any. The 20 years past visit’s of Depeche Mode and Iron Maiden are still being discussed and while I’m sure it does exist somewhere a native music scene was at no point promoted to me. Each town just has a ‘discoteque’ or two playing the some combination of salsa, meringue, house and reggaeton. Which doesn’t sound too bad until you realise all the DJ’s are playing from the pretty much the same bag.




From Manuel Antonio I plotted an expedition to the mountainous cloud forests of the Monteverde region. I hoped to do the whole trip in one day. I got on a bus to the port town of Puntarenas and settled down to the metal-fusion stylings of Planet X. Sadly, when I arrived and booted it round the corner to the Monteverde bus stop I’d missed the last bus by half an hour. I was going to have to pay for a night in Monteverde and a hotel room in Puntarenas. Puntarenas stank, and looked like someone had transported Southend-on-Sea to Mexico and then dropped a bomb on it. It was ruined and I felt a constant need to look over my shoulder.


Puntarenas

There was no internet in sight and the tourist information office was shut because it was a Sunday. I found a bank that bizarrely was open and they told me to check in to the Imperial Hotel as it was cheap. As I’d already spotted it I decided to take the path of least resistance. I never really felt that paranoid in Costa Rica, but walking around the place with my big touristic backpack made me feel, and look, like a target and I wanted rid of it ASAP.

I the entirety of my life I have rarely encountered such a poorly-monikered facility as the ‘Grand Imperial Hotel’. A crumbling wooden edifice it was managed by a fat, balding fifty-something man who could literally only read by holding items such as bills, maps etc around two inches from his squinting visage. He was still quite capable of renting me a smelly little hole of a shack for $20. I put up and shut up, set my alarm for 6am and got an early night.



I have to admit that Puntarenas was slightly more attractive in the beautiful morning light. I caught the 7.15 bus after a traditional beans, rice and scrambled egg breakfast – which really sets you up for the day but doesn’t leave you feeling as bloated as an English. It was a tiny little broken down thing but yet it bravely set off like a faithful pack animal responding to its master’s whip. It was a slow and winding crawl, sometimes on tarmac and sometimes on gravel but many hours later we shuddered into Monteverde with what was left of my spine.



The village of Santa Elena forms the tourist hub of the Monteverde region – from here you can book all kinds of activities ranging from coffee plantation tours to bungee jumping. Sadly the first thing I had to deal with was the ridiculously pushy host of the place I’d booked into. Everywhere, from the booking confirmation email, to the receptionist, to a poster on the bedroom wall and even extending to an obviously fake laminated letter beneath the transparent table cloth on the kitchen table was the repeated instruction to only book tours through the host.

I really hate being told what to do.

So the repeated exhortations just made me want to absolutely nothing, especially nothing booked through her. The village did have a snake warm and ‘Insect World’ however so I trundled off to pay them a visit.



Insect World was up first and it was, tbh, a little bit disappointing. The downstairs was full of glass display cases of the kind that went out of fashion in the 1950s. Hundreds of pins skewered a host of giant, exotically coloured and shaped beetles, butterflies, scorpions and spiders. Possibly most dramatic were the giant locusts whose size simply astonished me. Upstairs they have the live stuff, which is what I’d paid up to see. Poisonous scorpions, big skittery tarantulas, a Wandering spider – which did NOT come out of its cage, no surprises there – and various big cricket-y hings, giant beetles etc. The guide was absolutely fearless, poking and prodding various fearsome bugs that simply couldn’t be bothered to appear threatening. I declined his repeated offers to hold the wriggling beasties.

I pootled up the hill to the snake farm. Which turned out to be a snake zoo. I’d been hoping to hold some nice big snakes (funny how I love holding snakes but would rather run a marathon on hot coals than hold a tarantula) but that wasn’t on the agenda. I did see some pretty cool snakes though. Interestingly, none of the venomous snakes were moving, whereas several of the much larger constrictors were very busy – trying to escape from their glass prisons. Some of them were performing quite astonishingly acrobatic feats in their attempts to scale the walls of their enclosures.


The deadly Eyelash viper


The next day my buddy Bren showed up and we checked into a far nicer hostel a couple of doors down the street. Here the dope smoking, music loving host got us beer and mainly just let us get on with it. A vast improvement.

Bren convinced me that we should book places on the ‘Extremo’ tour in the morning.



Ever heard of a 'canopy tour'? No, well there all the rage in CR. Basically they involve either walking, swinging or zip-lining through hills and tree-tops. Extremo involves 9 cables crossing valleys at heights of...I don't know. Far too bloody high!



They pop you in a climbing harness and then you hike to a hilltop, get attached to a cable and then zip across the gulf separating two hillocks. There is also a Tarzan swing where you are attached to a rope and then pushed off a ledge to have a swing around...trouser-browning stuff. Then there's the superman. 1km of cable with no controls on your speed...


video

It's fine for the Special Forces I'm sure, but I was never meant to travel by being strapped to a half inch steel cable and pushed of a cliff by a small man called Jose.


From Monteverde it was a four-and-a-half hour bus ride back to San Jose. Fortunately I’d learnt my lesson and slightly dehydrated myself before the ride meaning it was as smooth and comfortable as a four hour ride in a twenty year old bus in Central America is ever likely to be. I stayed at Galileo hostel again, it’s very like 491 and they are very friendly there. Saturday I had one more Casado for old times sake and caught a taxi for San Jose International.

Voodoo out.

I realise this would have been better as two or more articles... In future should I write more about the travel or my thoughts and random stuff? Let me know.

I understand people have been struggling to sign up to Blogger in order to comment. If you have a googlemail account it’s quite straightforward as you can just link Blogger to that.

Wednesday, 3 March 2010

A Rambling Confession

I have to admit I'm really struggling with being on my own. I knew that my friends were incredibly important to me, but now I realise how much I depend on them as a kind of buffer zone or distraction from the contents of my head. I wonder as well if chronic fatigue is an issue, because even though I have not smoked marijuana for a month now I often find myself unable to motivate myself. I really hoped that I would study composition, work out and maybe read some philosophy while on my trip. However most of the time I simply need to rest.

I am so thoroughly determined to not waste my life; more than ever I feel that I must make a success of something in my life. Whether it is to be as a DJ, running a bar, being a politician, journalism or continuing to run events professionally I am not content with simply more coasting and unnaturally extended adolescence. But yet I find it so hard to turn these desires into focused, continual effort. And I am not so naive as to believe greatness, or even a measure of success will come without putting in thousands of hours of work. Which is so, so hard for me.

Someone here told me I should think about seeing a psychiatrist - that my depression was a result of putting too much pressure on myself. I wonder - but I don't think you get anywhere in life without being determined to be better at something than 99.9% of everyone else in the same field. And I guess I still believe I deserve to be a superstar.

I don't know if this confessional will cheer you up. Writing some of my thoughts down helps me to process and order the chaos in my head. Another issue is that I miss my ex-girlfriend more than ever. That experience changed my life forever, made me an adult (a bit more of one, at any rate). However clichéd it is to write this, she showed me what love was. Whatever genetic function love fulfils it is undoubtedly a very real part of being a human being - yes, some things have yet to be explained by science. Still, I feel that the kind of happiness, stability and love I know I deserve, and the family I will one day have, will only come from continually refining and improving the package that is Robin Eden.

Tears are actually running down my face as I sit in a public place writing this. Maybe they are necessary too.

Don't worry about me too much. I'm safe, and I haven't done anything too stupid. I will persevere and ultimately win whatever crazy game I am playing (I think it's called being a human being).

I wrote this as a letter to my father.

Voodoo out. but not for the count!

Tuesday, 2 March 2010

My Big Phat Cock-Up




I remarked to my brother shortly before i left how useless the body's proclivity toward heating up in times of stress is. I had arrived at my local station one frosty winters morning only to discover i had left my ticket at home.

Despite the fact that my respiratory system had insisted on me remaining distressingly cold throughout the walk to the station, as soon as I was mildly distressed i became hotter beneath the collar than a hard pressed Gordon Brown at prime ministers question time.

Presumably our bodies keep the thermostat set fairly low the majority of the time thanks to some part its sell-by date evolutionary dictum to conserve energy. This is clearly unnecessary in a modern world where most of us are dramatically overburdened with calories and, indeed, would welcome the opportunity to consume a few more guilt free. Forget skimming pills and designer diets, imagine being able to lose weight simply by jumping into a chest freezer.

The reason i'm talking about this now is that this afternoon i had a similarly armpit-moistening moment. Funnily enough it was also caused by a transport cock-up. This one was on a substantially more epic scale. I'd been very proud of the hundred dollar ticket to California I'd managed to book myself online. The travel agent back home couldn't compete and I'd been quietly chuffed about it ever since.

Unfortunately, when I went to check in online this afternoon the smile was thoroughly wiped from my face. It turns out there are two San Jose's. One is in California, and there's no prizes for guessing where my hundred flight left from. Or the size of the refund I'll be getting. So, down a hundred bucks, looking at six hundred more on my credit card, sweating like a pig in my, admittedly lovely this time, hotel room and feeling like a prize...

Well, i'm not going to put that in print that it's a family blog. You can fill in the blanks can't you? You managed earlier. Tune in next week!

Voodoo out.

ps, there's a mosquito in here somewhere, I know it!

Monday, 22 February 2010

El Voodoo Climbs a Waterfall


This morning I breakfasted on three pints of water, one of coffee and a native version of Walls’s classic ‘Feast’ choc ice. Then, equipping myself with camera, towel, two packets of peanuts and a large bottle of mineral water I struck out at half past nine for the famous Montezuma waterfalls, feet stowed in the trusty Merrell walking shoes.

Located a short walk from the town, the waterfall trail opens out from a secluded, tree shrouded car park. I crossed the car park, pausing only to note an extremely obese man and couple of unremarkable middle aged men half his size shepherding a trio of rather obviously, um, enhanced, females toward the start of the trail. Putting testosterone to one side for the moment I got stuck into the trail.



As I began following the stream through the forest, hopping goat-like from rock to rock, one thing became immediately clear: the Merrells had not been a waste of money or weight allowance. Whilst others gingerly picked their way along the right hand bank of the stream, I was scrambling from side to side, pursuing the shifting patterns of light and shade as I attempted to capture the alien environment with the Nokia. Simultaneously, I was recapturing a sensation of exploration and physical fluidity that was very much a part of my childhood and has been so very lacking in my urban, warehouse dwelling twenties.



I rounded a corner and beheld the first waterfall. This is the smallest of the three and the most accessible. I hung around for a while, taking a gratuitous number of photographs in the hope that I might espy the lovelies from the car park again. In the end I decided that they were obviously incapable of independent movement and once more resumed my hike.



As I bounced, hopped and slithered across the sometimes damp rocks, steadying myself with a judiciously grabbed creeper from time to time, I saw tiny little fish, more iguana (one quite large and close, though it ran before I could get its photo) and the most amazing butterflies, all sunshine yellow and electric blue. Sadly my patience and equipment were not up to the task of recording them so you’ll have to take my word for it.


The second waterfall, which is where most people stop, is really quite special. As you might imagine the noise rather gave it away as I advanced along the stream bed and then it emerged from the thick foliage, everything I had hoped for and more. Descending majestically over 30m of rocky escarpment it empties into a deep and cool pool where conveniently located rock formations provide natural diving boards at height of roughly two, four and ten metres. There were already a few bathers wallowing in its soothing green waters or diving, whilst others sat at the side, taking in the glorious environment and resting before returning. Or, as was my plan, attempting the next stage. I ate the first packet of nuts.



Before long a bunch of Californian language students (all female) I’d been blathering on in my self-aggrandising way to the night before arrived; as they seemed more inclined to jump in the pool and scream at each other than allow me to continue conducting my personal brass band in their general direction I reasoned it was time to see waterfall three.

Now, whilst the first two waterfalls are for the majority of people eminently reachable, the third, highest waterfall is an entirely different proposition. At first I looked at the near vertical ascent and reasoned I must be looking in the wrong place. A quick word with a fellow explorer (tourist) confirmed that this fifteen metre free climb was, in fact, my destiny. Consoling myself with thoughts of my climbing days at the Mile End wall, and putting thoughts of ropes and crash mats (and their absence) from my mind, I put boot to rock and started to climb.

It wasn’t particularly hard going, the slope was a good few degrees from vertical and handy tree roots and vines provided solid, manageable hand- and footholds. My mind did briefly conjure images of the old ‘hero grabs snake masquerading as vine’ routine, but I deemed these thoughts ridiculous and ploughed on. Looking down was a mistake though, thrusting as it inevitably did my heart firmly against my not-so-pearly-whites.


View from near the top of my climb down onto the 2nd waterfall's pool

It’s a long way up to waterfall three, involving inching along precipices, paths that terminate in breathtaking views over falls of certain death, and, basically, proper rock climbing. By the time I slithered down to the shady ledge overlooking the drop pool I was sore and shaking. But immensely proud of myself for not wussing out or dying.


The top of waterfall 3

Rejecting the calls of some more muscle-bound locals to make a frankly ridiculous dive into the pool from yet another brain-buggering height, I ate the second packet of nuts, drank most of the water and set off back down before my muscles seized up and rendered me immobile. Despite the exhaustion, I was riding high on adrenaline. A more experienced climber pointed out the ideal descent route – before doing it at triple my speed despite being around fifty years of age.

Having made it back to the swimming pool I figured I should have a bit of a dive. I’ve never swum in a natural pool before. Hot and sweaty as I was from the climbing it was about as revitalising as that adrenaline shot into the heart was for Uma Thurman in Pulp Fiction. I will confess to only tackling the baby dive though: I’ve got a video of a couple of guys doing the top ledge and it’s no joke.

After letting the fearsome Central American noon-time sun scorch the water from my body I practically ran back along the path I’d cautiously picked at on the way there, pausing only for a quick chortle at yet more American girls who’d decided to do the trail barefoot. Arriving back at the first waterfall, I discovered what the obese man and his gaggle of beauties had been up to all this while: an all-nude photoshoot in the plunge pool of the first ‘fall. Acting on the principle of 'pictures or it didn't happen', I grabbed an obligatory voyeur shot and skipped back to Shitezuma. An altogether pleasant morning.




Voodoo out.

Friday, 19 February 2010

Crimson Vood



The four wheel drive Toyota driven by the smiling man from Santa Theresa turned a bend in the road and my eyes were bathed in a balmy vista: a wide sweeping beach, framed by lush vegetation dotted with beachfront bars and hammocks. This, then, was Montezuma. I checked into my shabby little room and walked out of the backdoor on to what I thought was a fantastic looking beach.

It was at this point that the illusion started to crumble.

I popped off my sandals and my soles were confronted not with pristine white sand, but shingle, á la any third-rate British beach. And then I noticed the pollution. Mankind (I suspect mainly of the rich, white and western type) has not been kind to Playa Montezuma (Montezuma beach). No matter, thought I, we’ll go check out the town.

And for that first hour I was happy enough – sure my box of a room smelt like a fishing boat and had no exterior windows, but I reasoned that would get me out on to the beach which literally opens off the back porch of El Parque Hostel. After all, I can hang around a bedroom back home.

I scrambled and hopped up the largest beach rocks in sight, saw the biggest ‘wild’ crabs I’ve ever seen and a flock of at least half a dozen Pelicans. I took a whole bunch of pictures and was looking forward to getting a bit more outdoors-y than I had been at the, frankly, idyllic Funky Monkey.



However, it was midday and I was at serious risk of turning into Lobster Voodoo so I did what you do in Costa Rica and sauntered into a beachside café for a Casado*.

The guy came over with the menu and I was pleasantly surprised by the range of meals and cocktails listed therein. There were even a couple of drinks I’d never heard of before. ‘Excellent’, thought I, ‘I might finally get my lips round a decent Mojito’, not that I was currently in the marketplace for an alcohol.

Dragging my eyes away from the larger, more expensive, dishes I went straight for the Beef Casado backed up with another Costa Rican classic, watermelon smoothie , ‘casido con agua’. All good. It was neither the best nor the worst I’d sampled, the boiled carrots reminding somewhat of what my young padawan George describes as Mother England. I finished up and requested the bill.

And this is when the trouble really started. There were my items, there was the tax. Standard. And then the total, which was 500 higher than it should have been. I decided that I couldn’t be bothered to argue with the greasily smiling proprietor and that I would call it a tip and walk.


But then when I sat down at an internet café (this is the first hostel I’ve stayed in which doesn’t have free WiFi) I was charged $4US for an ice cream, and then I was charged for two instead of one hours internet. My attempts at arguing with the skinny youth behind the desk went nowhere as his English had mysteriously dried up. I paid him. I was now starting to see things tinted deep crimson.

Storming back to the hostel I was eventually given some attention by a man who did not appear to even work there. He recommended Zuma Tours as being a decent business. He was wearing a Zuma Tours t-shirt. Opting, against my better judgement, to check it out as I knew I could pick up the Zuma WiFi signal faintly in my shit-box of a room and figuring I could leach in future, I wandered up to Zuma. Where the guy tried to charge me about 20 pence A MINUTE. I blew a Zen fuse, flipped the bird in his general direction and returned, once more at pace, to El Shit-sandwich. Where I was ignored some more and then told to go back to the first bunch of tourist-exploiting cowboys.


Instead, devoid of any more human outlet for my now incandescent rage I returned to the fishy-smelling solitary isolation ward to vent to Microsoft Word (2003 if you’re interested – what’s with the obtuse 2007?).




After the honesty and good vibrations of Santa Theresa this is all too much. I think the difference is that ST is a surf town, and most of the staff have moved there to surf – therefore staff and patrons mingle freely and often socialise – regardless of whatever culture they originated from they are drawn together by a set of shared values. Conversely, Montezuma is not known for its surf and there is a clear divide between the Ticos (Costa Ricans) running the disgustingly overpriced bars and peddling trinkets, dope and hammocks on the beach and the hideously exploited Gringos.

The national motto of CR is ‘Pura Vida’, it means Pure Life. If this is pure give me an East End pub full of chavs and coke-dealers any day. At least they’re honest about it.

Crimson Voodoo out.



*for those that missed my earlier description of a ‘Casado’, it’s the standard Costa Rican lunch/dinner dish consisting of rice, salad, potato or yucca, ‘Gallo Pinto’(like a dwarf kidney bean, pretty much the national food of CR) and a pan-fried fillet of beef, chicken or fish.

Funky Monkey




I am currently holed up in the idyllic town of Santa Theresa on the Southwestern tip of the Nicoya Peninsula, staying at a sprawling hostel called Funky Monkey. The owners describe it as being situated within a private jungle; this is barely an exaggeration. Monkeys, lizards and scorpions (small and not poisonous) roam amongst the carefully maintained wilderness garden.
Aside from the shared accommodation it very much reminds me of some of the places I have stayed at in Kenya: fantastic wooden architecture, gravel paths winding between the shrub-shrouded dormitory buildings. The bar is run by an extremely skilled chef called Rafa (Rafael) who on one night might cook traditional French cuisine and another Sushi. His gourmet cheeseburger is not to be sniffed at either. It has bacon and avocado in it. 'Nuff said.
All of the staff here are lovely, and the whole package is tarnished only by the moody owners who treat staff and patrons alike with a healthy dose of money grabbing contempt - something which, I happen to know, is about to cost them the vast majority of their friendly, intelligent and hard working staff. In fact as I sit here working on this text the managers are having a discussion with their key staff at the other end of the bar. It’s a discussion of the ‘full and frank’ persuasion.



Back to Funky Monkey: They have a private swimming pool, and if you are a surfer the nearby beach has some of the best medium sized waves in the world - meaning that almost everyone in town is a bronzed slab of classically Herculean proportions. Still, I console myself that barely one of them is a DJ or can fix a computer so there would still be a role for me to play if I were to consider moving here (which I'm not). The main club here in Santa Theresa sucks by the way, it's run by another money grabbing skeleton of a woman who refused to even listen to my demo after I twice walked a mile and a half, the second time with my laptop, to ply my wares.
I have spent the last two hours with a temporary office set up here in the bar trying to plan a route round some national parks/wildlife reserves for my last 11 days in Costa Rica. Unfortunately, all though they are all trying to be helpful, I have had around a dozen solid suggestions for my next destination this morning and am no closer to finalising an itinerary and booking some more accommodation. I have learned to spell accommodation though!
You may be pleased to know that, being marijuana free for a fortnight now, socialising has been relatively easy. My brain, though impeded by the odd beer or three and the intense midday heat has recovered somewhat and hopefully my IQ has crept back over 100. I was still disastrously beaten at chess by an American; though he was a high-level website engineer it still hurt, I despise losing at chess.
I have made friends with the Argentinian and Costa Rican staff here, as well as some lovely Swedes and an English lady called Jackie who has very similar background to me - and, rather synchronistically, a son called Robin. So I've had company when I want it, and when I don't it's easy to find a quiet spot by the pool or in the dorm for a bit of reading or an episode of Top Gear, to which I have become hopelessly addicted.

Tonight is one of the crews birthday so we are going to the beach for a Latin music party - which may well involve a lot of sexy dancing and a headache in the morning. What a hard life.

Wednesday, 17 February 2010

Living the Pura Vida

San Jose




You thought London was polluted? Think again. As you might imagine, two thirds of the vehicle owners in San Jose seem to be in possession of a vehicle built long before emissions were a concern for anyone except a yogurt weaving yurt-dweller. And to have then drilled a half-inch diameter hole in the exhaust pipe. San Jose at 6am is noisier and more crowded than the A12 in rush hour, if, that is, everyone on that wonderful road felt the need to announce their presence with a near continuous deployment of the horn. For the first time in my life I wished I had a Japanese-style face mask to protect myself from the smog-belching lorries and stuttering, farting motorcycles.

Think the screeching metal soundtrack of a team working on the Central Line at 2am and you still have no conception of the intensity of the sound four metres from your inevitably open window. In San Jose, you get up with the rest of the city. A surprise here though was that it was actually less intimidating to cross the road in SJ than in South Beach, Miami. In Miami, everyone drives slowly but pays very little attention to the pedestrian (zebra) crossings – so you never really know what they are going to do next – will she let me out, won’t she…? The bigger roads were simply terrifying, especially when you factor in the whole driving on the right thing – I constantly found myself expecting traffic to be in the other lane – leading to a couple of hair-raising near misses. Not cool. In San Jose, everyone drives as fast as possible, announces their presence with a blare of electronic bullhorn and treats red lights as optional. Which somehow made more sense to a Londoner. In London (unlike Australia) we’ve never heard of jay-walking. We spot a gap and exploit it as hard as we would a third world grain harvest.

Fresher than fresh food for a handful of pocket change. Above all this would be the line to sell me San Jose. Costa Ricans call themselves ‘Ticos’ and the national dish is the ‘casado’. This is a plate of rice, ‘Gallo pinto’ (black beans), fried yucca (like the most fantastically crispy and wholesome chips – that’s French Fries, non-Brits), the days local, fresh vegetables and fillet of either beef, pork, chicken, fish or some shrimp with a tasty, salsa-drenched salad.
Like every Spanish speaking country I’ve been to, which is two, they truly prize fresh food. Everywhere you go in Costa Rica you find little unpretentious family run cafes called ‘sodas’. Despite their humble appearances, every soda I’ve eaten in has served up food of a freshness simply unattainable in London unless you’re a Chelsea-dwelling, farmers-market-patronising WAG or bean-threading, raw-foodist trustafarian (I don’t thread beads). And for a price that so far has never exceeded three of your English pounds.




Why is there nothing to do in San Jose? And if this is a relaxed, cosmopolitan Central American capital, what’s Panama City or the capital of Nicaragua like? I have no idea, but the fact remains that in San Jose there is a market district, three museums, the National Theatre and a night-clubbing district. You can literally exhaust the touristic options in three days.

Voodoo out.

Monday, 15 February 2010

Dynamic Voodoo.

Dynamic means in a state of flux, variable, not fixed. Despite the fact that corporate iSpeak has corrupted this wonderful and multi-purpose word to mean ‘thrusting’ and, quite possibly, ‘has a personality entirely fuelled by cocaine’, it is a brilliant word. Because, in a practical sense, it means ‘not boring’.

In music, ‘dynamics’ are, essentially, contrasts. The difference between fast and slow, loud and quiet, hard and soft. Whilst listening, dynamics – for example your iPouch jumping from Gotan Project to Slayer or an organ and strings break in the middle of a blisteringly heavy Cradle of Filth tune – are what gets you to pause in your discussions of the latest Canon full-frame sensor or the England rugby teams World Cup prospects. Dynamics are what pull the girls back on to the dancefloor after they’ve abandoned an unrelenting jungle racket for a fag and a group deconstruction of the preposterously posing males still gurning amongst the empties and sweat.
All of which brings me on to the concept of dynamic range. Quite obviously I suppose, this is the measurable difference between extremes – between the hardest and softest, lightest and darkest etc. When we build a system to measure, record or reproduce something we have to concern ourselves with dynamic range – if a camera is too sensitive it will always over expose unless you are in near darkness. Conversely, not sensitive enough and you can only take pictures in blazing sunlight. As, with my trusty Nokia N86, I know all too well. Those of you who have been following my photographic exploits on face-space know it does a perfectly acceptable job of reproducing a sunlight-laden beach scene. But ask it take a picture during twilight, or even just indoors, and you get a grainy, blurry underexposed travesty of jpeg-noise and shoddy LED flash.

Last night I looked up at a truly magnificent vista of blazing stars in the mercifully unpolluted Santa Theresa firmament. It was incredible, the three stars of Orion’s belt blazing like a 1970s underground Russian nuclear test. Now while the Canon 1D, I am assured, can see in the dark, it costs over four thousand pounds , weighs four kilograms, and you still need a tripod to take a half decent picture of the heavenly void. Whereas my eyes cost me nothing, weigh a handful of grams and let me see both stars and a trio of bikini clad Californian beach-babes reclining on a UV soaked tropical beach without any additional equipment whatsoever. Now that is dynamic range.

Dynamics are fantastic. And so is the human body.


Wednesday, 10 February 2010

Miami Flashback




MIAMI



(Posted very late due to tiredness/having fun)

Well, here I am in Panama Tocumen airport, two hours into the frankly insanely tedious ten hour wait for my connecting flight to San Jose. After discovering that there was not a sniff of a smoking area inside passport control, and reasoning that there would be more fun to be had actually in Panama City rather than hanging around the departure lounge for the entire day, I decided to temporarily immigrate. Then changed my mind in a hurry, confronted by my embarrassingly poor Spanish and complete and utter lack of any information whatsoever about Panama. That and it’s pushing thirty degrees C out there and the Miami security took my bottle of sunblock. I can still feel my skin protesting at the five minutes of exposure it took while I had a cigarette. Intense.
So, I’ve sat myself down next to a car rental desk in the airport lobby, laptop screen on its dimmest setting in an attempt to eek out every last minute of computing goodness. My main concern at this point is falling asleep involuntarily and being either robbed or more likely mocked by the slightly bemused looking Latinos lounging around looking tanned and chirpy. I had to leave for Miami International at 4am last night after a 2nd gig at the hostel and loads of Superbowl cheap drinks. I think I grabbed an hour on the first flight but the grand total in the last twenty four hours is substantially below the regulation eight. There’s also a mild hangover struggling to make itself known through the fog of fatigue and travel stress.

Time to do my write up of Miami.

As I stepped out of the arrivals area all my thoughts of shuttle services and buses flew out the window when confronted by the reality of how strange it all was. I did what I do best and hailed a cab. The drive to South Beach was everything you imagine it to be – villas, rugged looking areas with Hispanic architecture, vast marinas stocked with an armada of luxury yachts (I think my single most favourite thing I saw the whole time was a huge mirror-finished black pleasure craft with matching helicopter on deck) and more palm trees than you could shake Kew Gardens at. It was epic.




But before I talk about anything else we need to cover the 24th Superbowl. In case you don’t know, the Superbowl is the US equivalent of the FA cup final. The New Orleans Saints vs. the Minneapolis Colts in an epic sporting battle watched by a staggeringly large number of millions of Americans and syndicated viewers worldwide. I am informed BBC1 showed it, so it’s definitely a big deal! The first I knew of it was the US customs guy “you here for the Superbowl” ”Err...no...Can I still come in?”

(My brain is desperate to shut down and embrace sleeps sweet oblivion)

The city was crazy for the Superbowl – especially from Friday onwards when all the New Orleans fans, almost uniformly enormous, black and loud, started arriving en masse. The Saints theme goes “Who Dat, Who Dat something something something” but the main point is that if anyone shouts “Who Dat!” in a boisterous Southern accent half the street answers the rallying cry with a powerful reciprocal “Who Dat”. The fans call themselves the “Who Dat Nation” and the slogan is on shirts, body painted fan girls and echoing out of hotel windows down into the throng below.

As I was fairly firmly ensconced in the area known as South Beach the focal point for me was the (apparently) world famous Ocean Drive. The Drive runs parallel to the beach for a couple of miles and had been turned into a pedestrianised mini-festival for SBXXIV. The street is lined with bars and restaurants of the cheesy tourist variety, each of which has a sexy ‘hostess’ or three outside trying to get passers by to examine the days specials and come in for overpriced cocktails and people watching. There were various promo girls trying to force everything from detergent samples to Pepsi Max on the revellers. I eventually gave up wondering who was being exploited most – however, I did strike up a conversation with a restaurant hostess at one point – if you can call a dialogue where every other sentence is interrupted by “we’ve got a great menu today for you guys…” a conversation. The point is though that if you sit down and watch them it’s incredibly hard tedious work.

My living quarters was the charming South Beach Hostel on Washington Avenue, one of the three main north-south streets in South Beach, lined with restaurants, strip clubs, shopping and very fast cars. SB Hostel is run by a couple of charming Puerto Rican brothers, Jose and Jorge (pronounced ho-hey). They have just recently taken over and combine clean, cheap rooms with some delicious bar snacks (Jorge is a pro chef – we talked food a lot) and daily drink specials. The internet is reasonably fast too. I turned out that they both DJ drum and bass also and I managed to charm them into bringing down the 1210s on a couple of nights so we could “throw down”.

I have to say though that South Beach is a stupid place to go as a backpacker, even with my relatively princely £40 per diem. The average meal costs at least £10 meaning I could basically afford food, sunblock and the odd bottle of cheap ‘liquor’ (what we would call spirits). Still, I made friends with a Russian, a Canadian and a Fin and had a reasonably good time. The women made my eyes melt and the beach was incredible. Still, I have to say I was glad to check out at 4am on the 8th and start my Latin American adventure.

Time to embrace the Pura Vida!

Wednesday, 3 February 2010

Touchdown

Well, I've landed!

It's going to take a while to gather my thoughts on Miami - it's a lot to take in. It's beautiful: hi-tech America meets slightly down-at-heel Latino architecture next in the middle of a marina full of playboys yachts. Saw a boat with a helicopter on it just casually moored amongst the double radar-domed pleasure cruisers. Already, Americas obsession with cosmetic surgery has made itself abundantly clear: a free newspaper I picked up seemed to have classifieds for nothing but beauty enhancing private treatments - including a clinic that specialised in couples with a strap line along the lines of "couples that laser together stay together". Mind blowing.
I've checked in to my somewhat smelly but friendly and well equipped hostel. At least the internet is free here, unlike in some over-priced British institutions.

It turns out it's Super Bowl - and it's here in Miami. I know nothing of sport, let alone American Football, but it's such a big event in their culture I guess I'm going to get caught up in the superbowl madness. Can't complain!

I have to admit the utter lack of any kind of anchor, cultural or social, is pretty terrifying. The legendary American friendliness hasn't exactly been on show either, I haven't been engaged with on the other persons initiative even once yet. Still, that's pretty standard for me. As I type, a man is using his laptop as a phone and holding up to his face so he's inside it like a fast talking techno-Spanish sandwich. Guess it won't be long till I'm doing the same.

Wish me luck. I'm going outside!

Posting from Heathrow T5 :)

Well, when my Nokia flashed up 8.30pm last night the realisation of what I'd done hit me in the stomach like Uwe Boll dealing with a spot of negative PR. Shit. Big adrenaline, had to quash a incipient panic attack quick sharp. Picked up the painstakingly packed rucksack and headed downstairs. Said 'goodbye' to my little sister Carol (nearly cried) and set off for East Ham Tube. As my flight was at 9am I had decided to stay at the Thistle Hotel near the airport for one night. This turned out to be a waste of time and money.

The 'new' District Line train rattled and bounced around emitting a cacophonous sonata of shrieking metal. Eventually it completed it's tedious crawl to Earls Court and I changed to a surprisingly full Piccadilly Line train. I was already regretting every little luxury I'd decided to allow myself to pack. The rucksack was/is terrifying me. I'm only committed to it for another four months (gulp).

The hotel claimed online to have 4 stars, but all I can say is I've never stayed in a three star that was that disappointing. They were rude, there was no lift, no smoking rooms and the facilities were bloody basic. Additionally, they wanted £10 for the use of their internet for 24 hours, when not a single hostel I've looked at in Costa Rica doesn't have free WiFi access. When I got up the injury was compounded by sitting down at the (remember, allegedly 4 stars) breakfast table only to discover they wanted £16 for the buffet-style continental. Fuming!

Still, at least the transport is pretty sorted for hotel goers at Heathrow - there are several bus routes covering all the hotels and £4 got me there in no time at all.

Now, I'm sure you've all heard the horror stories about Terminal 5. Bags lost, massive delays etc. Now, although it's true that I haven't actually got my bag back at the other end yet, it's been very quiet, efficient and clean so far. the building, whilst not exactly fantastic is still very impressive architecturally. I'll post some pics when I can, time is starting to get a little pressed here in T5! In fact got to go!

Saturday, 23 January 2010

Enter the Voodinator

Hey hey and welcome to the first edition of My Big Phat DJourney!

I'm going to be using this blog both as a travelogue to keep all of my loved ones informed and envious of my worldwide adventures, and also as an outlet for my thoughts on subjects as diverse as love, politics, science and the human condition. So in other words I'm going to re-write my favourite articles from the week every Friday and publish them (shurely shome mistake?!).

It's a conceit of mine that I can put some of the concepts that amuse and excite me into an enjoyable online readable and learn a little about myself and the written word as I do so.

So, while I might need to talk about LRG clothes or Intel processors from time to time, or to get a little too worked up about how a particular device will 'change humanity forever', I'll also be touching down in locations like Miami, Hawaii and New Zealand and giving you the palm-tree pornography we Brits love so much.

---

Right now I'm lying on a relatively uncomfortable mattress (which is on a bed I might point out) at my parents house tapping away at my Dell Inspiron 11z. Despite the substandard touchpad this lime green 11-incher has proved to be a great buy and i wouldn't hesitate to recommend it to anyone that can be bothered to carry an external mouse. I use a Bluetooth one from Microsoft which has three advantages: no wires, no dongle, and it doesn't use up a USB port.

----

Pretty much as soon as I decided the dates for my expedition I knew that one part of my life would have to change: I could no longer be surrounded by a range different uber-specced out desktop PCs, one per region of my work area or task. No, I would have to have just one computer. And, to be fair, I have adapted relatively well.

The truth, ladies and gentlemen, is that I'm missing my clothes a lot more.

You see, to go travelling I moved 97% of my possessions into a warehouse somewhere in the South-East of England - and while it's been good conditioning myself to survive from the contents of a 60l back pack (and I'm not very strong so a minimally packed one at that) I have to say that the limited clothing choices are starting to grate. When did I become such a tart? Probably about ten years ago ;) It's very strange to lock up a big ol' wooden crate containing ALL YOUR STUFF on a Thursday night and have it whisked away before you even get up again the next day. Strange, but the feeling of liberation easily compensates for the surreality. There is definitely some kind of satisfaction in knowing your entire life fits into a large wheely-suitcase.
I guess this would be a good point to big up the Osprey Meridian bag (http://www.ospreypacks.com/Packs/MeridianSeries/) which is now my best friend and only constant companion - it's quite a piece of engineering and I highly recommend Osprey to anyone considering a new backpack.

---

On a more serious note though I am majorly excited about my upcoming departure. Just eleven days away now! The upcoming period seems to be both a yawning chasm of time that contains almost nothing of note schedule wise and a frantic scramble to see those nearest and dearest to me and close the final holes in my plan(s) of action. Checklists have now become almost as tedious as the torrent of advice that pours forth from friends and family whenever the subject of my trip comes up - sadly both are invaluable so I am compelled to take note. I started getting self help (e)books today as I plan on a lot of self-improvement while I'm away - I'll come back a king of communication, master games-man, physical genius, musical messiah! At least with a few more chords under my belt and a couple more notches on the travel sleeping bag.

Tomorrow I must find: music theory books, walking shoes and more MP3s.

----

I'd like to conclude this first post by stating that although the reasons for me leaving where I was are complex enough to be an epic post in their own right, this blog represents my commitment to a new life and 1000% more success and happiness in future - and may even be a strand of that new emotional and physical prosperity. To all of you reading this...cheers!

Followers