Por que nowhere

Putting the chur in churros, and other stories

Coma chameleon

Keeping easy, Burleigh Heads.  Photo: Jessica Philips.

Keeping easy, Burleigh Heads. Photo: Jessica Philips.

You get pretty stoked when you beat an All Black captain at tennis.  The All Blacks are one of the most feared teams in the world, and rightfully so; our national rugby team has dominated the sport for the last 65 years.

To be fair, this one isn’t at his peak.  At 86, John Tanner is one of the oldest All Blacks still alive.  But he’s still a competitor.  Like any great captain, John quickly figures out your weaknesses – any time you get out of position on court he’ll send a pinpoint scorcher down the line.  You have to take your chances, stay on your toes, and go for the drop shot as much as possible.  If your hips were as bad as his, you can bet he’d do the same.

A wisdom tooth infection from Mexico came back to haunt with a vengeance last month.  The tooth was removed here in the Gold Coast in a painless but rather brutish operation; even the surgeon’s assistant, surely an experienced witness to the battle of man vs mouth, had to look away for minutes at a time.

In a stroke of bad luck, the swelling and trismus (reduced jaw movement) returned in March.  I was rushed into emergency surgery at the local hospital upon arrival – an abscess was dangerously close to my airway, and growing by the hour – and wouldn’t wake up from the operation and subsequent induced coma for the next 24 hours.

Same trip, better result: spearfishing Niue.  Photo: Gabby Beans.

Same trip, better result: spearfishing in Niue. Photo: Gabby Beans.

Almost 200,000 people have watched two videos of my dive to the sea floor on the Pacific Island of Niue in 2010 (you can watch them here and here if you like).  I had no idea until a dive buddy asked if he could license the footage to a Discovery Channel subsidiary a couple of months ago.

The migrating humpback whales were so close that day that you could feel the deep vibrato of their calls resonating in your chest and fins on the descents.  As David Attenborough might say, it is quite spectacular to be alone in thought, ‘flying’ through the water in a silence only broken by a song more felt than heard, from some of Earth’s largest and most magnificent creatures.

Unfortunately I ran out of air on the ascent, passed out briefly on the surface, and in the process sparked some sort of online outrage.  Matt Baker, a YouTube member from the Unites States since 7 April 2012, tells me: “maby next tiem ur dumb hillbilly ass wont wake up.”  I’d like to say the footage is going to appear on Blue Planet - but I’m told it’s going to be on  Seconds from Disaster instead.

The doctors had to get pin-hole camera into my trachea (throat) through my smaller-than-pin-hole right nostril, because my mouth wouldn’t open wide enough to intubate me in the standard fashion.  The lead surgeon chipped away like a lead digger in The Great Escape.  Although I was locally anesthetised, the forced creaking and thonking sounded and felt like half an hour of getting punched in the face.

I woke up a couple of times after they finally put me under, utterly confused and undersedated: the ICU nurses told me that I had needed 150 times more sedative than some patients.  I remember feeling like I was in a red-lit photography room as I switched in and out of consciousness.  With a breathing tube in my throat, unable to speak, and seeing shapes and colours rather than faces and forms, the only way I could communicate was by grabbing a doctor’s pen and chart, scribbling on it (‘WTF?!’ and ‘I need: books, magazines, etc’) and gesturing at the tube.

When someone did yank the tube out the next morning, my previously suppressed cough reflex kicked in to expel the built up mucus.  I was weak, and it felt like I was drowning.  I thought at that moment that I was going to die.

High as a kite, a couple hours after having the breathing tube removed.

High as a kite and swollen as anything, a couple of hours after having the breathing tube removed.

The staff in the intensive care unit have a wicked sense of humour, but one doctor just seemed out of touch.  He came up two or three times while I was in ICU wanting to talk to me about my previous history of deep vein thrombosis, a serious condition no doubt, but one completely unrelated to the infection and hospitalisation.  “This is serious”, he would say to me, “I mean we’re talking about some serious stuff here”.  Alright man I thought to myself.  I’ve got two IVs pumping antibiotics into my hands, I’m getting fed through a tube in my nose, I’m coming off some fairly heavy drugs and I’m peeing into a bag as we speak.  I hear what you’re saying but I’ve got some other stuff on my mind at the moment.

The hospital discharged me after two nights in ICU and five days total.  It was at times terrifying and painful, but at others pretty entertaining.  I’m very grateful to the staff at Southport Hospital in Surfer’s Paradise.  But I hope to never see them ever again.

I wouldn’t say that

Megan Al and me, some burgers some beers some laughs, dive bar, The Mission, San Francisco

Some burgers some beers some laughs, The Mission, San Francisco

He was filthy, red, and bearded; probably Irish.  But the man had a van with a load of surfboards on his roof rack, and looked liked he was doing a similar trip to my own in Central America.  He wandered over for a chat after seeing our haul of crayfish (lobster) in the parking lot at Hastings Point, New South Wales, Australia.

The man was actually from a town about an hour inland.  His speech was slurred and his eyes wandered.  “I just put the roof rack on top this morning” he told me.  “I needed a bit more space to get around because Christmas is coming up”.  He looked to me for confirmation that Christmas was, in fact coming up.  His partner and daughter mulled around in the background.  I didn’t have the heart to tell him that the holiday was three days ago.

Autumn in Berkeley, looking down towards the San Francisco Bay.  Photo: Alex Hughes.

Autumn in Berkeley, looking down towards San Francisco Bay. Photo: Alex Hughes.

You see a lot of people sleeping rough in the San Francisco Bay Area.  They are more visible than the homeless of Auckland; they speak their minds more liberally and more audibly.  Coming out of a laundromat across the street from my brother’s house, one Vietnam veteran looked me square in the eyes.  “Boobs”,  he shouted at me.  I averted my eyes and started walking away, not sure how to reply.  He continued, to no one in particular, “it’s just like that song California Girls by the Beach Boys”, he said out loud, laughing, before breaking out in song: “I wish they all could be California Girls…”

Now doing weddings..

Now doing weddings..

What now for John from Taos?  While being ordained as a priest of the Church of the Latter-Day Dude recently, my thoughts drifted to John, and the one in ten Americans who thought the world would have ended by now.  Where do you go from here?  And at one point do you replace the baked beans underneath the sink?

I was lucky enough to celebrate The End outdoors at the Golden Dawn Tavern of Power (a bar, not a temple) in Auckland, New Zealand.  Summer nights in New Zealand are some of the best in the world – warm clear skies, cold gin and tonics, and the sun doesn’t set until almost 9pm.  The house band played on after midnight.  The End passed without fanfare.

View from the porch, Gold Coast, Australia.  Photo: Evan Hughes.

View from the porch, Gold Coast, Australia. Photo: Evan Hughes.

The young people of San Francisco have an infectious energy about them.  Their excitement about new ideas, progressive ideals, and the city itself comes across freely and easily.  It’s no wonder the head offices of Google, Apple, Facebook and hundreds of other groundbreaking companies are based there.  It’s an amazing place to be.

The hippies are still in the San Francisco Bay area also.  Berkeley, where my brother lives, was the centre of anti-Vietnam protests in the 70s.  The youngsters who bore the torch then are the oldies who still do so now, although they’ve directed their angst at those violating city ordinances.  Parking infringers beware.

Diving for spotted crayfish, Hastings Point, New South Wales, Australia.  Hastings Point is spectacular.  Yet like most of New South Wales' northern coast it is unremarkable - clear waves breaking onto two long lonely white beaches backing into native bush on either side of a rocky headland.  The sand here is whiter than Hawaii's and the beaches emptier.  If there was only one of them instead of so many, the beach might be one of the best in the world.

Diving for spotted crayfish, Hastings Point, New South Wales, Australia. Hastings Point is spectacular. Yet like most of New South Wales’ northern coast it is unremarkable – clear waves breaking onto two long lonely white beaches backing into native bush on either side of a rocky headland. The sand here is whiter than Hawaii’s and the beaches emptier. If there was only one of them instead of so many, the beach might be one of the best in the world.

They’re at Hastings Point, New South Wales, also.  The ex-commune of Byron Bay lies 30 km or so to the south.  My brother Alex and I went back for more crayfish the day after our first dive session there.  But one of my  fins separated from the footpocket on the way out, forcing me to retire from the strong tides to the parking lot.  An old boy from Byron came up to tell me that he had predicted that that would happen, and that I “obviously didn’t know anything about the ocean”.

Already heated from the fin breakage, I pointed out Al, still diving a few hundred metres away, told the man about the lobsters from the day before, and also about my experience in the water over the last 27 years.  With speargun menacingly in hand, I asked him if he was saying that I didn’t know anything about the ocean.  “Oh no” said the old timer, “I wouldn’t say that.”

Cousin Ev jumping in at the local, Burleigh Heads, Queensland, Australia.  Photo: Anna Smith.

Cousin Ev jumping in at the local, Gold Coast, Queensland, Australia. Photo: Anna Smith.

The dude abides

Peace plaza left, Guanajuato University right, Guanajuato, Mexico

Peace plaza left, Guanajuato University right, Guanajuato, Mexico

John from Texas is a man who rarely gets out of his bathrobe.  His patter is easy to listen to – his gums smack together when he speaks, like he’s chewing on peanut butter – and there’s a youthfulness about him that seeps through his long-haired, plump, grey, 65-year-old frame.  John’s quips about everything from baseball to dating older women are considered and perfectly timed; the best ones start with a shaking of the head and a “you know man”.  And he treats everyone (except smokers – “the classless”) with a level of respect rarely seen in people of this world.  It seems to make sense then when he claims that he is not of this world at all.

Deer in the backyard, Gunnison, Colorado

Deer in the backyard, Gunnison, Colorado

The recent US election highlighted for me how disunited people are here.  Those who I’ve spoken to tend to be single issue voters – life vs choice, to bomb or not to bomb Iran, reduced spending vs higher taxes.  I overheard a man ask a woman only half-jokingly whether she had voted for ‘The Christian’ or ‘The Muslim’.  The country is deeply polarised.

America is now in serious debt.  Two costly wars, a huge recession and a rapidly retiring baby boomer population will do that to you.  New Year’s Eve now looms as a deadline for whether the country’s lawmakers can agree on how to reduce the deficit.  With a Republican-controlled congress pushing for cuts to money going out, a Democrat-controlled senate and presidency holding out for increases to money coming in, and both parties seeming unwilling to compromise, those divisions will soon come to the fore again.  Whatever the outcome, the country is due to realise that it can’t go on borrowing to sustain the lifestyle it is currently living.

Bridge at sunset, Taos, New Mexico

Bridge at sunset, Taos, New Mexico

A traveller himself, John spends half of his time in Mexico and half in the USA.  When watching the baseball world series together over a few drinks, he told me he’d won a world series ring as a baseball scout.  He became a millionaire selling American jeans to Londoners and was an admiral in the state Navy.  After a few more he informed me that we are both Nocturnians (entities from another dimension), that the world is going to end on 21 December, and that he has prepared with six months’ worth of food and water in his house, and $20,000 worth of gold bars hidden underneath his bed.  Walmart turned him away earlier that day when he went in to buy a handgun – they said that he’d already bought too many the week before.

Truth and fiction blurred at a certain point; I can’t be certain where that was exactly.  But when I checked his cupboards, every single one was packed to the brim with baked beans and booze.

Superchilling, Gunnison, Colorado

Superchilling, Gunnison, Colorado

I’m at my brother’s house in San Francisco now, having spent the last month or so in Colorado.  Unfortunately I’ve picked up a DVT (blood clot) in my leg.  It’s a medical condition serious enough for my insurer to send me home early and to keep medicated for the next six months or so.  But more positively I’m off the mind-numbing pain meds and on the road to recovery.

So it’s not the end of the world yet (or this blog for that matter).

Looking out over the drop, Black Canyon, Colorado

Looking out over the drop, Black Canyon, Colorado

Highway 50, the lonliest road in America, Utah

Highway 50, the loneliest road in America, Utah

 

Morgan Freeman does not live in Zihuatenejo

Sunset session, Puerto Escondido, Oaxaca, Mexico

You get tired after more than six months on the road.  When your guard is down, that niggling voice of reason starts reminding you that you need to start thinking about settling down a bit (What about your career man.  Get a job son.)  And then those other thoughts invite themselves in for a cuppa as well, and are difficult to get rid of – where should I go, what should I do, and when should I do it.

An afternoon in a quiet lineup at La Punta, Puerto Escondido, Mexico is great for clearing your head out.  It’s 34 degrees there, and not much cooler in the surf.  The usually 40-strong crowd dwindled to eight one day due to the prevailing onshore.  To the north, the green hills in back of the town looked as if they were painted Dinseyland-like onto the horizon – each one fading further into the atmospheric veil until the last was subsumed into a thunderstorm raging up the road.  It’s as if the heavens were saying that there is nothing beyond this town; there is no better place than here, no better time than now.  Good.  Change was in the air.  Soon we would be treated to some of the best surf seen around for weeks, and without any of the usual competition.  Good.

Over the next two hours I would catch two of the better waves of my life.  On a fast left hander reaching more than double over head, I scorched through from the outside indicator break on two of the perhaps dozen or so waves that made it past a vicious rocky end section and through to the inside lineup, whacking the lip every once in a while, but mostly just picking up speed.  It’s a ride more than 250 breathtaking and exhausting metres long.  You can holler and cheer at the end but no one cheer with you – it’s not that type of scene.  There’s not much else to do but pick your board up and walk back around the rocks to jump in again.  Just make sure you look as cool as possible when you do.

Antigua became stale and frustrating by the end.  My Spanish plateaued along with my effort to study any further, so I needed to get out.  But the town still managed to surprise once or twice.

I’d had my first few salsa lessons with my travel buddy Ellen before we went dancing at a salsa club one Sunday night.  The usual suspects were there, locals and foreigners for whom dancing seems to be a lifestyle rather than a pastime.  The cliquey vibe changed when a group of twentysomethings walked in, seemingly out of the pages of an adidas catalogue.  They were different to the normal crowd – quiet confidence and effortless beauty versus upturned noses and layers of makeup.  It turns out that they are a Venezuelan dance group called Casino Stars.  And they are the salsa champions of the world.

Over the next hour and half the 40-strong bar crowd were treated to the most energetic, passionate, and skilled dancing some of us would ever see.  The movements were effortless, at times playful and others lusting.  With a suggestive wink here and a blatant shake of the head there, it was like watching all the emotions of a Mexican soap opera packed into a three and a half minute dance.  And the rest of us were still working out left two three right two three..

Here is one of their youtube videos here, or just google Casino Stars salsa.

The rest of Mexico went by quickly.  With a new Norwegian in tow, we scored some killer waves at the almost-inaccessible island village of Chacahua and up the road in Rio Nexpa (sorry didn’t bring a camera lads…); sank beers in the latest “fourth most dangerous city” in the world, Acapulco; got sick as dogs in Zihuatenejo  (a fishing village of Shawshank Redemption fame); and had a whirlwind tour of the beautiful UNESCO world heritage town of Guanajuato.

I got back to the United States a week ago.  Mexico, and indeed everywhere south of the border, was awesome.  You could ask why you’d want to return to America: why trade dozing in hammocks and beachside cabañas for freezing in the back of the car in Walmart carparks, and fresh seafood from old mamas’ kitchens  for convenience fare.  For me, Mexico with all of its constant action was tiring in the end. It feels good to let the guard down here, and tone down the automated vigilance that you develop heading into unfamiliar areas.  The niggling thoughts, sickness and tiredness are gone for now.  It is good to be back.

Clocktower, Antigua, Guatemala. Photo: Thomas Nief.

Traditional dress, Antigua, Guatemala. Photo: Thomas Nief.

Volcan Fuego at night, Antigua, Guatemala. Photo: Thomas Nief.

Guanajuato, Mexico. Photo: Miriam Alveberg.

Sunset, Pie de la Cuesta, Acapulco, Mexico. Photo: Miriam Alveberg.

Red sky at night, rollerblader’s delight

Not a bad spot, Popoyo, Nicaragua.  Photo: Alex Hughes.

The local cockroach gangs make themselves scarce when you keep chasing them up into the ceiling and under the porch in El Tunco, El Salvador.  Tonight we are fishing for tarantulas, the fist-sized spiders that live metres away from our hammocks, and we need bait.  The cockroaches seem to know what will happen if they’re too slow, and they aren’t keen on sticking around for such a brutal end.

When you’re a couple of beers down staring into the dingily lit space between the footstones leading to the pool area, the arachnid’s attack is a fearsome sight.  Three men in their mid-20s to mid-30s have been known to giggle like schoolgirls at the very thought of it.

After witnessing the odd bit of crime and dodging a fair amount of large potholes, I’m still not comfortable driving around cities after dark here.  Despite the stares from every man, woman and child in the city, I was absolutely convinced we were going the right way through the street-vendor packed alleys of Escuintla, Guatemala en route to the colonial city of Antigua.  But when every other car on the one-lane road started heading towards us, I started hoping for a sign.  The sign did come, but not in the most conventional fashion – I knew it was time to turn off the road when a lone aggressive rollerblader came striding head-on into our lane with fists in the air.  I´m still trying to figure out if fashion in this country is 20 years behind the times, or 20 years ahead.

It took two days to get to Semuc Champey, Guatemala because Google Maps effed us (pardon).  The drive from Antigua said it would be three hours and 30 minutes through the heart of the country.  Three hours into the journey, we were only a third of the way there, and even the local bicycle riding cowboys were starting to stare back.  We had reached the only bridge within cooee – it was upturned in an eddy about 100 metres downriver from its pylons.  A local Queqchi woman told us that we had just missed the proverbial boat – a storm had washed the bridge out two years ago.  After six hours we were back where we started, and had to do it all again the next day.

You should have been here yesterday…Photo: Ellen Hesselberg

When we did get to Semuc Champey, we found some of the most beautiful countryside we had ever seen.  One of my Norwegian travel companions described the place as exactly what she always imagined heaven to look like as a child, except that there were no lollies growing on the trees.  Instead, crystal green water cascades down bum-runnable descents into natural stacked terrace pools.  It is the perfect place to swim off a fairly heavy hangover.  The day ended without major injury, despite pushing boundaries with an unscouted 10 metre waterfall jump and barely managing to swim the landing pool below to avoid a lifejacketless trip down a subsequent class IV rapid.

Sunrise at our hostel in Lanquin, near Semuc Champey. We swam every morning in the river down the bottom of the cornfields in the foreground.  Photo: Ellen Hesselberg.

I’m back in Antigua, Guatemala now doing a Spanish course for a couple of weeks.  On Thursday, the normally smoking Volcan Fuego, 16 kilometres away, erupted in spectacular fashion.  Twenty or so students and teachers watched as gas shot out of the volcano at what seemed like hundreds of metres per second, spewing an ash cloud more than three kilometres in the sky.  The raw fury was spectacular to witness, if not tinged with some concern for the 30,000 people who were evacuated as a result.  At night, my housemates and I stood in awe watching lava spurt out of the top of the volcano, framed by lightning storm raging in the distance.  A magnificent sight.  We really are lucky to be here.

View from the Antiguena Spanish School garden of Volcan Fuego erupting. Thirty minutes later, the ash cloud had shot more than three kilometres into the air. Photo: Nathan Halverson.

Sorting out a raft trip, Lanquin, Guatemala. One of my travel buddies, Kyle, guided – he does so professionally back in Colorado. We would’ve been more confident in his skills if he hadn’t been bucked out of the boat on the first class IV rapid we hit ! Photo: Ellen Hesselberg.

Rub a dub dub, three men in a tub, Honduras.  Photo: Ellen Hesselberg.

Typical driving scene: San Cristobal Volcano, Nicaragua.  This volcano also erupted last week, forcing 3,000 residents to evacuate.  Photo: Ellen Hesselberg.

Man grooves in the mangroves

One hour up, one minute down: volcano boarding in Nicaragua.  Photo: Ellen Hesselberg.

The shakes start well before I get up to any sort of speed.  Thirty of us gringoes are sweating it out in prisonbreak-chic orange jumpsuits and Beastie Boys-chic painter goggles on top of a Nicaraguan volcano.  Our volcano boards are tucked hard under our arms - these two centimetre wooden boards with rope handles will be the only things separating arse from ash.  In front of us lies a 600 metre, 41 degree run.  And the Korean girl in front of us has just wiped out at 80km/h, flipping like a ragdoll several times through the air before coming to a gritty stop.

I´ve spent most of the last three weeks surfing and spearfishing in San Juan del Sur (and written about it once already).  Saying that, it really was quite an easy decision to leave.  For all its natural beauty, the town has its problems – drinking and drugs being the big ones.  Some users are in so deep that they seem to get possessive about their state of mind.  Even after a few beers, you are just a visitor to la la land – they are permanent residents in perpetual wastedness.  And they let you  know about it.

I met Kyle from Colorado at the hostel we stayed at across from the beach.  Almost as soon as he arrived in town, he found himself on the wrong side of a local crackhead.  On the beach one morning, the local told Kyle he was going to kill him if Kyle didn´t give him $20.  Later that night on the way home from the pub the crackhead approached both of us, saying that the $20 Kyle gave him earlier was torn.  He said if we didn´t pay, he had friends in San Juan.  I asked “donde està tu amigo?”, “where is your friend?”.  Within seconds, a teenager with gangland swagger ran up, pulled out a knife and swung it at me while the crackhead restrained him.  With heart racing and hands raised I walked off, before turning around and taking my shirt off to give to Kyle to tie around his arm should the worst eventuate.  After a standoff of several minutes we went back to the hostel and Kyle gave them the money - a small price to pay for personal safety.

There are five of us now travelling in my three seater pickup truck.  We partied at Nicaragua´s biggest annual cowboy fiesta last weekend, slept in hammocks in a treehouse up in the hills, and made the 8 hour drive across northern Nicaragua, Honduras and El Salvador in 14 hours the other day (including border stops).  We´re in El Tunco now, where Greg and I stopped for a couple of days on the way down.  It´s hot here, and the water is so warm that it provides little relief.  But the best wave I have ever surfed is a five minute walk from my air-conditioned dorm room.  I won´t be leaving anytime soon.

Go Pro the dojo – sleeping in a treehouse, Nicaragua

Confidence levels were low after watching successive pretenders getting bucked off their volcano boards and rolling on the sharp gravel.  But as soon as  I was on, falling never seemed like an option.  Eating grit and hollering my lungs out down the volcano, I was clocked at a respectable 67 km/h, the third fastest time of the day.  Lean back and chahoo, I thought.  It doesn’t get much better than this.

Beastie Boys, volcano boarding, Nicaragua.

Nah cha ven ya – channelling the Lion King, Nicaragua.  Photo: Ellen Hesselberg.

Red Cross, Granada, Nicaragua.  Photo: Ellen Hesselberg.

Don’t swim in the water, Lake Nicaragua.  Photo: Ellen Hesselberg.

Fortress, Granada, Nicaragua. Ometepe is in the background – a double volcano right in the middle of Central America’s biggest freshwater lake.  Photo: Ellen Hesselberg.

Fiesta, Granada. The two large puppets symbolise Spanish conquistadors, while the short puppet sitting underneath the tree symbolises the colonised local people.  Photo: Ellen Hesselberg.

Basketball, Granada. Unlike most of Central America, football is only the third biggest sport in Nicaragua. Baseball and basketball rule here. Photo: Ellen Hesselberg.

Road trip

Life is a lot more interesting when you have an alcoholic along for the ride.  Greg was the only person to respond to my ad for a travel buddy to Costa Rica from Guatemala.  We’d met several times before at our favourite rooftop bar in Antigua, but the chemistry was never quite there.  But as soon as we got on the road, I knew this would be a trip to remember.

The Antigua beat is a slow one for the local police.  The bandits who terrorise Guatemala City half an hour to the east generally don’t stray into Antigua, so the cops entertain themselves by fleecing infringing bar owners and stumbling drunk tourists for spare cash.  So it was a bit odd to strike up a conversation with the policewoman who was looking after my car.  She had seen me pack a piñata and booze in the truck for our going away party and kept asking me for a piece of cake.  I said I would make sure that she got her slice.

When Greg and I turned up the next morning to set off to Costa Rica, the policewoman kept on asking for her cake.  A friend of Greg’s had coincidentally prepared two cakes for him as a sending off present, one of which was duly handed over.  We smiled as we rolled out of the parking lot; the policewoman waved back as she wiped chocolate frosting off of her lip.  It was only after we were on our way that Greg told me that the cakes were in fact made with potent local hashish.  We figured that she would be in for an interesting afternoon.

We’re in San Juan del Sure Nicaragua now, and it is beautiful.  We’re paying $7 a night to stay across the road from the beach.  The surf is small, but the water is refreshingly cooler than up north.  You can buy beachfront property for $US10,000 in this area, which is certainly worth thinking about.  I shared several waves yesterday with pods of stingrays, cruising Star Wars style down the line.  There might be something bigger in the water as well – the things regularly jump more than a metre in the air.  I have a feeling that they are the hunted rather than hunters around here.

The drive down has had its share of incidents.  Every federale in Honduras wanted to see my original passport, licence and car registration.  I carry copies, but the bastards are insistent.  It is scary to hand over these documents to officials of a country with so many problems – the army expelled Honduras’ president only three years ago.  One pulled us over for 45 minutes, ego and machismo oozing out of his tiny frame, while he searched the car for something to pin us with.  At one point I whispered to Greg that a chocolate peace-offering might not be such a good idea this time.

Nicaragua was completely different.  Fresh from celebrating our escape from Honduras we pulled into a checkpoint.  The policewoman there, gesturing towards the two open beer cans in the drink holder, told us that it’s illegal to drink and drive in Nicaragua.  “Okay”, we said.  After a brief moment she waved us through.

Sunset over Playa Hermosa, San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua. Photo: Beth Jay Jones.

Turtle power, Yucatan

Cuba libre, Havana

Baseball kids, Havana

Che day, Havana

For real, Viñales Valley

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