Alaska to Argentina – A Review!

TOP EXAGGERATIONS:

  • That title. I got to Nicaragua.  G got to Guatemala.  Woeful.
  • “Don’t go to Mexico man! They’ll kill you and cut your guts into drugs.”  No they won’t.  They’ll make me a delicious taco and cut me a slice of lime for my beer.

TOP UNDERSTATEMENTS:

  • “This Jeep Cherokee should at least make it over the Alaska border.” She did quite a bit better than that, Stavros and Ben.
  • “She may have some trouble with the radiator though.” Reduced to walking pace up any hill by her steaming innards, the air con fixed to MAXIMUM HEAT to take some of the furnace off her bubbling engine, I would say she did have some trouble in that department, yes.
  • “You and Catriona might hit it off.”
  • “The boat ride to the Corn Islands can be a little bumpy.” People were Team America spewing.  Everywhere.
  • “I don’t have that much money.” – Zabrina the German who travelled with us for 6 weeks. Pretty sure she still owes me $400!
  • “Moose don’t like humans too much, you should maybe stay out their way.” They are the angriest vegetarians on the planet!  And that includes SNP supporters.

TOP 5 ANIMALS (that we saw, not just in general – that would be irrelevant.  And it would obviously read – octopus, gorilla, puffin):

  • Whale Shark!
  • Manta Rays!
  • Wild Boar!
  • Brown Bear and cub!
  • Sea Turtle!

Unlucky moose.  Marked down for your anger issues.  Same goes to the Coral Snake that slid over G’s foot.  Too scary.  Oh, and the howler monkeys who sounded like orcs.  Or the squirrel monkeys that tried to crap on us.  Or that Reef Shark that swam at me when I was de-misting my goggles.  All disqualified! Rotters!

TOP 6 NATURAL WONDERS:

  • The cenotes of Yucatan, my personal fave going to this one: 
  • The coral reef off Belize. Like an aquatic Manhattan.
  • The Giant Redwoods of California.  Giant.
  • Any bit between Jasper and Banff. Nature just showing off.
  • This volcano. 
  • G’s invisible arse. How he sits on a toilet confounds me.

TOP 5 MAN-MADE WONDERS:

  • Tikal, Guatemala.
  • Boeing Factory, Everett, Washington. Biggest building (by volume) in the world!
  • The works of Diego Riviera. He looked like a constipated toad and cheated on Frida Kahlo with her SISTER, but sir – I am a fan.
  • El Mirador, Guatemala. Biggest pyramid in the Americas.  Basically a mountain but built by people who didn’t have the wheel.
  • A little convoluted, but certainly a wonder and certainly man-made – the wreck of one of the gun boats from the Bay of Pigs debacle, gradually being consumed by the coral and fish, like nature is cleaning up the evidence.

TOP 4 TOWNS OR CITIES

  • Guanajuato.  Just look at it.  Incidentally Diego Riviera’s home town!  
  • Havana – Like a once beautiful salsa dancer now addled with booze and falling apart.  Simultaneously ugly and devastatingly pretty, it’s Moscow + Madrid and it’s fantastic.
  • Portland – A man with one side burn serving you a craft beer while a homeless person brews you an espresso from a gramophone.
  • Leavensworth – For those who say America has no history – go here!  To a town entirely crafted to look like a historical German town!

TOP TIPS FOR BACKPACKING

  • Unsure of where to eat in Mexico or Central America? Look for the restaurant that A) has only garden furniture and B) isn’t empty.
  • Kindle’s save space for books brilliantly. But they are a nightmare for Lonely Planets.  Nightmare!  “Oooh let’s go to this point on the map…”  “Don’t touch the screen!  What have you done!  It’s gone back to the contents page!  How do I find Nicaragua again?!!”
  • Don’t listen to G – travel towels are essential. (Saying that, always check if a hostel will provide a towel for free and never refuse).
  • Also essential: swiss army knives, a good multi-plug adaptor, a silk liner, spare plastic bags and a back pack that opens on the front as well as the top. If you are Scottish – SUN CREAM.  Lots of sun cream.  And only with a screw top!
  • Don’t buy your hiking boots off a stoned hostel receptionist in Anchorage. They will not fit you and become a massive burden.
  • Back packing with a giant SLR camera looks like a right royal pain in the arse.
  • Never refuse an invitation.
  • Beer under a dollar and it’s not a brothel? Stay the afternoon!
  • Hostel has a ping pong table? Stay the week!
  • Hostel proudly proclaims that it’s a party hostel? Guaranteed to be filled with knobs. Stay somewhere else and sneak in for the drink promos.

BEST MUSEUM:

Anthropology Museum in Mexico City.  The guided tour was to be deep fried in a Mayan-Aztec batter.  A whole spectrum of history split wide open like the spleen of a human sacrifice.

 BEST FOOD:

Mexcio.  Mexico.  Mexico.  Specifically – pastor taco with cheese.  (And coriander, onion, habanero sauce and more cheese if possible).    When this is done right you enter another dimension.

BEST DRINK:

There’s a bar in Trinidad, Cuba that does this pina colada.  It costs $3.  It’s served by a man in a red dinner jacket.  It’s definitely the best thing on the planet.  That moment when a young child first tastes chocolate?  Better.  What about when you first fell in love?  Nope.  Won the lottery?  Married Eva Mendes?  Went to space?  Better than those, even if you added bacon.

BEST MEMORIES:

  • Racing a Cuban train on a horse with a bottle of rum in one hand. One of the most exhilarating moments of my life.
  • A night time sneak to the top of El Mirador to watch the stars sparkle.
  • Staying the night in a church crypt in the Guatemalan mountains after the whole village came to our rescue.
  • Buying Gina.
  • Selling Gina.
  • Our final night in Havana. Rum on the Malecon with dozens of locals and fellow travellers.  A solid Cuban farewell.
  • Climbing Mount Hope after an earthquake. And then joining the locals afterwards for a sing-song in their tiny bar.
  • The Corn Islands. Who wants to buy a house there with me?

WORST MOMENTS:

  • Getting Chikungunya fever for the day and not feeling my hands for 3 hours. Mosquitos are proof there is not a God.
  • Eating the free “food” that came with our beer in Campeche. Pretty sure it was ash-tray rolled in toilet paper.
  • Being told by spiritual guru Court Johnson that my twin soul is none other than Graham bloody Fleming.

THANK YOU TO THE FOLLOWING PEOPLE FOR LOOKING AFTER US!

Mark and Letty in Sewerd!  Austin in Anchorage!  Ciaran and Katy in Banff!  Craig in Kelowna!  Colin in Corvalles!  The three carpenters in Diamond Lake!  Griffin in San Francisco!  Michael Jones and the Monday Night Restaurant in Carmel!  Steve, Genie and Court Johnson in Santa Barbara (and the magic bus)!  Chris and Paige in Los Bariallos!  Ale and Pollo in Queretaro!  Papo and his crew in Trinidad!  The church minister in Campur!  Erin in LA!  Steve, Chris and Jeff in Melbourne!

EXTRA SPECIAL MENTION TO:

  • Petra and Zabrina for seeing Gina for the fabulous opportunity she was! Especially Zabrina for sticking around about 4 weeks and 2000 miles longer than you intended!
  • Karen for being our translator and minder in our first foray into Mexico. Your enthusiasm for diving got G annoyingly addicted to snorkelling.  I bet he’s at home right now in the bath with his bloody mask on.
  • Ellen for putting up with me for 82 DAYS. I just counted.
  • Catriona for continuing to put up with me. You are amazing.
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