The first thousand

So after a few months living comfortably with all the food and luxury you’d expect to come with working and living in French ski chalets, we decided to do something slightly less comfortable….ride over 10,000km on a pair of cheap bikes with no training, experience and very little preparation. Yeah we like to mix it up a bit.

A cycling trip is something that’s always been in the back of my mind to do, but I never actually thought it would happen…I blame Kelly.

We had originally discussed cycling across Canada in the next 2 years sometime and thought it would be a good idea to see if we liked it by taking a small trip on bikes.

It started out as cycling around Iceland, then changed to riding around Croatia and Montenegro, then to Croatia from France and then one day Kelly walked in and said, “So I’ve had an idea….” Which usually means she’s been thinking of something slightly mental and isn’t sure what I’ll think of it.

Turns out she thought cycling to China just a couple of months after a serious knee injury was a good idea…I fully agreed!

So the ‘small trip to prepare for the bigger trip’ actually became quite a lot larger than the bigger trip and we had a matter of weeks to get our shit together and get organized!

We went on a furious eBay spree and ordered all the finest (cheapest) cycle crap that china had to offer. Seems a waste of postage now that we’re cycling back to china with all the gear.

Seemed like the last few weeks of work cleaning toilets and cooking mighty feasts (in that order) for rich ski tourist types dragged on forever and we were itching to hop on the bikes and ride off in search of a bit of adventure and silly times.

We were both pretty nervous seeing as Kelly was still limping badly from her knee injury and neither of us had a clue about how to fix any problems that may arise with the bikes and the fact that it decided to start snowing again a couple of days before we left…the weather can be a harsh little dick.

Nevertheless we didn’t let anything stop us from rolling down the hill from the ski station that had been home for the past few months and out of the alps, even when Kelly’s cheap shitty panniers broke several minutes before we set off for the first time. Gaffa tape saved the day!

The first hill down was pretty nerve racking, was still freezing cold and fingertips went numb and could barely pull the brakes plus seeing as we hadn’t actually rode with the bikes loaded up with all our crap was a bit scary, but we survived!

The first day on the bike I knew I had found something I loved. The freedom of being able to zip down hills with your home and possessions strapped behind you and travel for as far as your legs will take you made me giddy and excited like a dumb child with a pet turnip.

We found a park outside Albertville somewhere and set up our tiny green tent that would be our home for the next 7 or 8 months and my excitement grew as I realized that from now on anywhere with a free patch of ground could be home.

France was an excellent introduction to the world of cycle touring; it is set up for cyclists with excellent roads, drivers that respect people on bikes, beautiful country side and cycle routes through most towns.

We were pretty keen to see some new scenery after spending quite a while working in France so took the shortest route out to Italy. The shortest route due to the mountain passes still being covered in snow at the time was actually a huge detour that took us in completely the opposite direction and then back into the alps for a grueling mountain pass but hey, we like a challenge. Balls out!

It was a bit of a reality check when we finally began ascending to the pass into Italy as we’d had pretty much flat cycling for the first week and were then faced with the shitty fact that hills exist and we will have to climb them. I think we did pretty well tackling our first mountain on a bike even though the wind decided it hated us and changed to blow icy cold fury in our faces at the steepest point.

It was on this first mountain that hunger kicked in. We’d eaten pretty well for the first few days and hadn’t felt too much more hungry than normal, but once we hit this hill every fibre of my being was screaming for a snickers. This is when we started attacking French sticks like vicious badgers. I’ve never experienced the kind of hunger pains that happened on that mountain, I felt like I could eat all the stinky cheese in France and still not be full.

We kept motivated by promising ourselves a huge pizza and beer as soon as we crossed into Italy and continued and eventually conquered the 2067m col du lautaret pass and then the second (much easier) col du something le something pass into Italia!!!

happy to be at the top!

happy to be at the top!

 

We felt victorious…we could do this whole cycle touring thing and eventually, possibly make it to china! The celebratory pizza and beer tasted ten times better as we felt we’d earned it….plus we’d been living off cream cheese and baguettes for a week and my guts were in need of some grease.

We shot across Italy in less than two weeks as we are both tight asses and traveling on a pretty low budget so were attempting to make it to the Balkans as quickly as our feeble legs would take us so we could munch on some cheap fatty burek and live like biking Vikings.

Italy was just as much of a beginner cyclists’ delight as France with flat roads and relatively easy wild camping plus amazing countryside and mind-blowingly good coffee.

The only down side was the weather. The past month we worked in France it had been abnormally sunny and warm for the time of year with very little snowfall or rain, but of course that all changed when we got on a bike.

We were followed by constant rain and storms all across Italy and it was slowly crushing our spirits. The first time we got caught in a sudden downpour we didn’t even stop to discuss what to do, if we should stop and shelter or just continue, we just pushed on through the rain. The first and last time we did that.

As I mentioned we are poor stingy folk who can’t afford the fancy waterproof panniers and German designed cycle gear weaved from genuine goat scrotum and carbon fibre so everything we own ended up wet including our tent and sleeping bags. Miserable soggy times.

When we did get a sunny day though, the cycling in Italy was glorious. One of the highlights was riding around Turin past poppy fields and rolling green hills. Kelly may disagree as she unfortunately got her front wheel jammed in a tram track in Turin and came off the bike injuring her shoulder and straining her neck as well as bumping her bad knee…she now had knee, shoulder and neck problems to deal with for the next few weeks cycle but like a trooper she pushed on!!

awesome cycle route outside Turin

awesome cycle route outside Turin

Managed to find some pretty awesome wild camping spots in Italy, random farmers fields, outside a salami factory, a beautiful tree grove and in desperation one night a ditch 2 meters from the side of the main road. Nothing like waking up to the sound of rats gnawing at the burnt on pasta chunks you left in you pots outside the tent!

Due to the rain and storms we did have to cave-in several times and stay in cheap hotels so our budget took a bit of a firm bumming, but we still did alright and thanks to the fine folk at the discount supermarket chain Lidl we ate like royalty gorging on chocolate, granola and pesto pasta constantly.

a rare sunny day!!

a rare sunny day!!

It was all a bit surreal still and I don’t think it had fully sunk in that we were actually doing it and following through with a crazy idea to jump on bikes and just go, but it kind of hit home when we finally reached the coast and clocked up the 1000km mark at Rimini!!!

We were on a massive high that day after cranking out our biggest day yet (107km), reaching the coast and going over the thousand km mark and treated ourselves to a cheap but amazing hotel room complete with buffet breakfast!!

After our first buffet breakfast experience of the cycle trip in Turin we had made it our number one priority to seek buffets wherever possible. We are like mighty pterodactyls at a buffet; swooping down with skill and precision to fill our plates and selves full of more food than the hotel staff thought possible for any human to fit inside them. In fact, we are a more skilled and terrifying to any buffet than a simple minded pterodactyl…we have hands and backpacks and we will sneakily fill them with enough food to keep a pair of hungry cyclists fed for several days.

Mountains of cheese, boiled eggs, slices of cake, pastries, bread rolls, containers of jam, honey and nuttella all slip into our bags unnoticed (or noticed, we don’t really give a shit) and we eat until our bikes strain under our weight.

So that was it, we had finally crossed our second country on a bicycle and hit the thousand kilometer milestone that we weren’t even sure we could achieve. All that was left was to turn the bikes south and get to Ancona to catch the ferry to Croatia…yeah that’s right a ferry. No it’s not cheating…jerk.

Decided against riding north and then looping south through Croatia as we have a slight time deadline and thought we could shave a bit off that way. Plus catching ferries makes me feel like a fearless pirate.

Phase 1 complete!! We had thought of France and Italy as the ‘training period’ for the rest of the trip and we’d shaped up well! No flat tires, hadn’t been arrested for wild camping and hadn’t cycled off a cliff. All bonuses.

Now for the Balkans…there’s no hills in the Balkans right? Right?!?!

le monal village, france

le monal village, france

le monal village, finally hiked up from sainte foy ski station yesterday

racoon getting frisky

racoon getting frisky

racoon feeling relaxed in manuel antonio national park, cost rica

Howdy California my old chum!!!

Felt strange leaving Nevada and returning to California after over two months of driving around the U.S and 6500 miles covered, the road trip was coming to an end!

Set off early in the morning from the motel parking lot we’d spent the night sleeping in and enjoyed our traditional breakfast meal of yoghurt and a banana in the car park and a ‘shower’ in a Wal-Mart bathroom sink.

Passed through some pretty bleak looking towns on the way into death valley and could feel the temperature changing as we got closer to the park…was starting to understand the name ‘death valley’.

Stepped out of the car at the visitor’s centre and thought my internal organs were going to melt. It was only 8.30 and was already in the mid 40s.

We had considered camping in Death Valley but with the insane temperature and after getting a glimpse of a few of the campsites (rocky dessert floor with no shade whatsoever, would have been like setting up a tent on a bbq hot plate) decided to just pass through.

Crazy landscape; beautiful, but desolate and scary. Tried a short hike through a canyon but lasted about 20 minutes before we turned back.

From death valley we ended up napping under a tree in a shady park in a small town called lone pine for several hours before finding a state park outside bishop and parking the car next to a river in the hills and sleeping in the tray of the truck again. Cooked a tin of mushroom soup for dinner…I deserve several Michelin stars for the fine cuisine prepared on this trip.

Then set off for one of the national parks that I’d been looking forward to the most on this trip, Yosemite!

Arrived and luckily managed to score one of the only tent sites left in the park. Back to bear country! Had a camp fire for only the second time on the trip which was cool….charred all the pots and pans and melted my jacket sleeves but that’s all part of the fun.

Within the first ten minutes of our first hike in the park saw two rattlesnakes, the second of which was roughly the size of a bus and in the middle of the path. Luckily Kelly spotted it before I walked into its mouth.

Yosemite was beautiful and possibly my favourite park after Yellowstone. The hike up to glacier point was well worth the 4 miles of uphill hiking and switchbacks to enjoy the amazing view of the park. Had the perfect view of all the waterfalls in the park, the half dome mountain peak and the valley.

Continued on to do the panorama trail, about 13 miles and my second favourite hike of the trip….plus we saw a grouse doing a funky sex dance on a rock and a wolf in the middle of the path! Wasn’t expecting to encounter a wolf, neither of us really knew what to do, just stopped and stared at him while he stared right back about ten meters in front of us so I did what any good tourist would do…tried to take a photo. He was too fast and ran off, what a jerk of a wolf.

We were planning on climbing the half dome mountain to experience the silliness of having to pull yourself up a cliff face by a chain attached to the rock and no harness, but apparently people die and stuff so you need a silly permit. Yogi bear was right; park rangers are dirty tits.

From Yosemite we were planning on camping/sleeping in the car in king’s canyon and sequoia national park, but it had been our longest stretch without a bed or shower and were both feeling the effects of over 2 months of living like stinky bums so caved and went to a motel.

After 5 nights of camping/sleeping in a car and hiking a hot shower, clean bed and several cold beers feels like a powerful full body orgasm. We stopped in somewhere called Tulare after seeing a sign for a cheap motel and walked around looking for somewhere to eat.

Found a Mexican restaurant that brought me out a plate of food containing a burrito, a taco, a chili relano, rice, beans and a salad plus a stein of blue moon beer. The plate was spectacular. It was honestly the size of my torso, I have no idea how they expected me to fit a plate of food inside me that was actually larger than my body, but I am forever grateful for the opportunity they provided me with. Every man should no his limits…I was defeated and had to ask for a takeaway box…Mexican breakfast the next day was excellent.

We were in wind down mode from the trip now, it was coming to an end and we’d be back in los angeles in a few days to return the car that had been our home for the last couple of months.

Had some stuff to take care of before returning the truck to my mate, the tent and sleeping bags had become pretty filthy and stinky and needed a thorough clean. There was nothing else to do but assemble the tent in the motel car park, strip off to my shorts, get half drunk and clean the tent with a dish cloth. Got a lot of funny looks from the weird characters living in the motel.

In the morning visited sequoia national park and had a walk through the biggest trees on earth! Saw general Sherman the largest tree on earth….was more obese than big. Don’t get me wrong it was pretty big, but it was more fat than massive. The other trees in the park were more impressive I thought. General Sherman was just a big fatty.

From sequoia it was time to go back to the beginning and return to l.a! it had now been about 2 and a half months since we first arrived but felt like a year ago.

We were going to attempt to sleep in the car one last night in Ventura but couldn’t find anywhere suitable to sleep plus the weather had turned to shit so that kind of destroyed our plan of hanging around on the beach until dark.

On top of that my navigating skills had slightly failed us and led to a bit of stress and tension between the two of us. All in all I think we did extremely well considering we’ve been traveling together and around each other 24/7 so only a minor incident or two is pretty good going really.

We decided to just head to a cheap hostel in L.A, but having experienced la peak hour traffic previously thought it best to wait it out in Santa Monica until it cleared up.

Eventually arrived at our hostel in Inglewood…what a weird place. Possibly the strangest hostel I’ve ever stayed in, felt like a shit motel molesting an even shitter hostel in the face. Some pretty sleazy dodgy characters and a funky odour in the dorm room….but it did have a ‘continental’ breakfast. Blueberry muffins are very continental you know.

Managed not to get shot in Inglewood, got the truck cleaned and all of our shit out of it and made the sad journey to Redondo beach to return it to Ryan.

Was pretty weird handing it over to him, it had been like our home for a few months and we’d both become kind of attached to it. Amazingly nothing had gone wrong with it the entire time and didn’t have any accidents so returned it to him in the same condition…apart from the fact that it smelt like 2 aussie’s sweaty bum cracks and it had done a few thousand more miles.

So that was it, all that was left to do was get completely fucking drunk.

Had a massive binge session with Ryan and Andre who we’d stayed with at the start of trip which took us across many bars throughout Hermosa beach and culminated in a huge cake fight between myself and Kelly in the middle of a crowded bar. Not really sure how or why that happened or who’s cake it was. I do remember washing my tshirt in the sink of a bar bathroom packed with people and being amazed that we weren’t kicked out.

Woke up back in Inglewood with cake jammed deep in my ear canal, a horrible pounding headache and a wallet that was severely lighter than the day before. At least a good time was had.

Had originally thought that we’d head straight to Mexico from l.a but with the severity of the hangover only made it as far as San Diego. Glad we stopped in San Diego though, really cool town, friendly people and good food. It’s a shame that the public transport from Inglewood to the greyhound station actually took us a lot longer than the bus ride to San Diego.

So it’s all over now, the road trip is dead! No more car and no more U.S.A for us. It’s a pretty odd feeling, it seems like it’s all done because we’re leaving the states but really it’s just the beginning of the rest of the trip; Mexico is where the real trip begins!! Met some awesome people in the states and got to catch up with some old friends, all in all was an amazing time.

Hasta luego U.S.A, hola Mexico!!!!!!

Tequila, tacos, sunburn and burrito belly; Hola Mexico!!!

After close to 3 months road tripping across the west coast of the USA it was time to get down to the business at hand; heading south.

Felt strange getting on the bus to Tijuana from San Diego, kind of like the real trip was beginning now. I loved every minute of traveling the states, but it was a different experience road tripping and having a car to live out of, now it was back to what I was used to…backpacking!!

Managed to get rid of all my u.s coins at the border crossing to Tijuana by buying a huge bag of heavily discounted and heavily out of date pretzel m&ms. I feel it’s always a wise decision to eat several hundred grammes of expired Mexican chocolate when entering a new country.

Crossing the border into mexico was easy….a little too easy; nobody actually looked at our passports, we just got off the bus and walked through a building and out of the door into Mexico.

When we realised that we’d actually just walked straight into mexico we turned around and went in search of someone to stamp our passport for fear of being squeezed for a bribe when trying to exit the country without an entry stamp.

Eventually found a booth to pay for our passport stamp and to our surprise when we walked out of the building again our bus was still waiting for us.

Decided not to stick around in Tijuana as we had heard it was a bit of a hole so headed south to ensenada.

Ensenada was a cool little port town, not a lot to see but was a good introduction to Baja California plus stayed in a cool hostel.

We got a lot of recommendations of places to go in Mexico from an older American guy staying in the hostel but then the conversation turned to his conspiracy theories and we were cornered in the kitchen for an hour while he explained to us how the world really works. I’ve never heard the word ‘chemtrails’ used so many times in one conversation.

From ensenada we continued south on an overnight bus to la paz.

Before boarding I was unaware that toilets on Mexican buses were not capable of handling the disturbing aftermath of a dodgy burrito and expired m&ms. Within the first 10 minutes of our 17 hour journey I’d managed to fumigate the entire bus. My bad.

The bus made a mysterious stop at 1am…turns out it was to have a cleaner come on board and sort out the toilet situation. Oops. You live, you learn, you shit.

La paz was a really cool little beach town, nice waterfront boardwalk and some decent beaches and places to eat.

Continued our ‘winding down’ from the us trip by just hanging out and being beach bums for a couple of days. Also actually attempted some exercise for the first the time in a while by going for morning walk along the waterfront. The locals looked confused, I don’t think they’d ever seen a gringo with a completely shaved shiny conehead and beard break the sound barrier power walking.

We had planned on catching a ferry across to mainland Mexico after a couple of nights on la paz but discovered that the ferry wasn’t for another 2 nights so had some extra time up our sleeve. Had heard cabo San Lucas was a touristy resort town but decided to check it out anyway.

What we had heard was correct; resort central. Got hassled constantly to go on fishing tours and various other shit, one of the many reasons I’m not a fan of resort towns. Cabo itself was kind of cool, I could picture it being an amazing place maybe 20 years ago before the shitty beach front hotels and cheesy restaurants moved in.

Still had a pretty good time despite not being the biggest fan of the place, did what everyone else was their to do…get smashed! Discovered our hostel had a bottle of tequila in the fridge with a note on it with a very dangerous word written on….’free’.

Myself Kelly and a German guy called fritz or clause or some such German nonsense finished the bottle with some lime and headed out on the town!

The evenings events are all a bit hazy, I actually used to hate tequila but for some reason on this occasion I thought it was the best wetness I’d ever had in my mouth.

Went to several bars across town and scored some pretty good deals. $5 for 2 beers and 2 shots of tequila sounds fair to me!

The night ended with me eating a mysterious meal from a street cart…maybe a burrito? Maybe a kebab? Only the drunken mexican food gods know the answer, all I know is I woke up with the taste of tequila and onions seared into the roof of my mouth mind and soul. Also as the day went on it was revealed that Kelly the vegetarian had eaten some of my meal…a win for carnivores everywhere!

It seemed like such a great idea at the time drinking a tonne of tequila and beer and then catching a bus in the morning and an overnight ferry. What a fucking dickhead.

The walk to the bus station was torture. Set off late after throwing our belongings in our bags and scoffing breakfast. Walked out into the already meltingly hot sun with 20 minutes to make the the half hour walk to the bus station to get our bus in time. Somehow managed to get on the bus about a minute before it took off.

Felt like a big greasy blanket full of shit all day. I could feel the tequila seeping out of my skin and soaking the bus seats. Truly horrible trip.

Made it back to la paz in time to get a shuttle bus to the ferry terminal outside of town and even had time spare to nap on the concrete floor before getting in the ferry.

The ferry was surprisingly good, reclining chairs, a free meal and an amazing sunset from the deck.

So we were finally heading to ‘the real Mexico’ as a few people had put it to us. Arrived in mazatlan hangover free and keen to shower and sleep.

Found a cheap hotel with an amazing location on the waterfront that a guy in the last hostel had recommended.

Hotel Belmar is one of the most surreal places I’ve ever stayed, it was a fancy grand old hotel in the early 1900s with around 200 rooms that had been left to decay and crumble and was now looking a bit shabby.

The mayor of mazatlan had been assassinated in the lobby in the 30s, John Wayne and other celebrities used to frequently visit it but then it shut down and began to rot. At one stage it had a rat problem…so the caretakers dumped hundreds of snakes in the boarded up hotel to take care of them. Genius!

We scored a dusty sweaty room for roughly $9 each and spent some time poking around the ruined sections and hanging out on the roof watching the sunset.

I loved mazatlan, lots of character, awesome quite old streets back from the waterfront with brightly coloured houses and cool shady little town squares with old restaurants surrounding the square.

Heard music everywhere we went, old guys hanging out playing guitar on park benches, jazz bands out the front of restaurants and just generally heard music wafting down the streets from somewhere.

Mazatlan had a lot charm, could see that years ago it was a very posh seaside getaway but now everything was slightly run down and in disrepair but i think that only added to the character of the place. Or maybe I’m just weird.

From mazatlan it was another overnight bus to Zacatecas…overnight buses! What a joy, especially when the guy in front with his two screaming kids decides he needs to spew in a plastic bag/all over the floor. Don’t worry though, the driver had a can of air freshener. Smelt like crisp morning dew in springtime.

Got into Zacatecas and found our hostel despite google maps trying to sabotage us. Cool old building with a nice old gent working behind the counter who had invented his own form of language known as the Mexican mumble.

Had a cheeky nap to recover from the lack of sleep on the bus and then headed out into the beautiful hilly town of Zacatecas! Awesome place, had loads of amazing buildings and cool alleyways but hardly any tourists.

Tried my new favourite meal, gorditas! So good and do cheap, just pick a variety of fillings for them to stuff into the pita bread and chow down! Just mske sure you Avoid the the sloppy pork crackle gorditas…not a pleasant experience.

Wandered around town looking into the many churches and catching a cable car up to the top of the hills for an excellent view of the city and then chilled out attempting to learn some Spanish on the hostel rooftop.

Next day we went into the silver mines that the town is famous for and did a tour in a Spanish. Kelly acted as translator and I now know the word for several minerals in Spanish. Knowledge is power my friends.

That night we decided to go for an evening walk and found a crowd of 20 or so people dancing around like maniacs in a town square while a small marching band went nuts and got everyone moving.

After ten minutes of standing at the side and having a little dance around too we decided to follow the crowd when the marching band took off playing through the streets. Traffic was stopping while everyone conga lined across the road and partied on the streets. After a while we saw another band with another even bigger rowdier crowd heading up the street towards us….and they were following a donkey.

We made the choice to abandon our group and cross the street to tag along with the other crowd.

We Noticed that everyone in this group was carrying a small bag and had a ceramic shot cup tied around their neck. Took roughly ten seconds before we were offered tequila and had two separate guys running off in search of shot cups for us. They returned with a bag of cut limes and another of salt plus our very own tequila shot cup that was promptly placed around our necks and filled with tequila from the massive 5 litre plastic bottle.

We were now a part of the family! Got introduced to the bride and groom, their brothers and sisters, aunties and uncles and many many cousins.

The man with the 5 litres of tequila was making his rounds topping up everyone’s cup but we were soon taken over to the donkey where we discovered it had four massive terracotta urns full of tequila strapped to its sides. That’s when things began getting messy.

Everyone was incredibly friendly and happy to meet us and insisted that we do a shot every minute or so. I’m really not sure how it happened but I am now deeply in love with tequila and lime. It might just be that I like lime and i’m willing to put up with tequila for an excuse to suck a fat juicy lime.

Too much tequila was had to recall all the specifics but I’m sure it was an amazing night. Myself and kelly were separated early on when an auntie of the groom decided she was her ‘Australian best friend’ and grabbed her around the neck to dance around and meet everyone in Mexico.

I was cornered by a 5 foot guy in a cowboy hat with an extremely impressive moustache and forced to speak in front of a group of teenage girls so they could giggle at my Aussie ‘surfer dude’ accent.

The flow of tequila was constant and the mariachi band kept pumping out music for the crowd to go mental too. I remember looking up and seeing the groom being thrown above everyone’s heads, caught and then tossed up again.

The young guy that was in charge of dispensing the donkey booze had passed out on the steps of the square we were now gathered in and the donkey quickly ran dry of juice.

Luckily there was a deli selling booze across from the store so every single can of beer in the shop was bought and piled onto the the steps for everyone to get into.

I really wish I could remember more details because it was the highlight night of the Mexico trip so far for me, but the tequila has wiped my memory a bit.

i know we spent a lot of the night hanging out with some cool Mexican Americans from san Diego and San Francisco, we were fed at some point, I was dancing in the middle of a circle of people who kept calling me ‘sisou’ or something like that because I apparently look like a failed French soccer player and Kelly swears that I was insisting on stopping off at a pub on the way back to the hostel for ‘just one more shot’…..but she has a tendency to confuse her drunken antics with mine.

It was a great night and we were made to swear that we would be at the wedding ceremony and reception the next day which we agreed too but the next day when we woke up with another tequila based hangover we remembered we had a bus to catch. Another hungover bus trip.

The trip from Zacatecas to Guanajuato was pretty unpleasant but thankfully not too long and we found the hostel quickly.

Guanajuato was another cool unesco listed town surrounded by hills with nice colourful streets and beautiful old churches. The markets were probably my favourite part of our visit…I ate a chorizo ham and cheese toasted ciabatta roll that made me want to make love to the chefs beautiful mind.

The only down side to our stay in Guanajuato was that Kelly ate some dodgy salsa at the markets and got very ill for the next couple of days in queretaro.

The day had finally come for me to get further into my late twenties. 28 years old…At least I got the getting fat and bald thing out of the way early so don’t have to fear that anymore. Not too happy about the amount of grey hairs in my dirty hobo beard though.

Kelly booked a fancy boutique hotel and massages for my birthday (because she’s a bit of a legend) so we had a nice relaxing night with a few beers, wine and a spa.

Queretaro seemed like a cool place, small historic downtown area and one of the best hostels I’ve ever stayed in.

they did have two dogs in the hostel…never walk into a dorm without shoes on and the lights out when there are dogs around. Definitely don’t pick up the mysterious damp squishy object you just stepped on to investigate what it is…chances are you’ll pick up a steaming mound of fresh dog shit and have to vigorously scrub your hands and feet before going to bed.

Kelly was pretty ill for the couple of days in queretaro and decided it would be a good idea to give it to me as a late birthday present. So generous.

On the bus to Mexico City I knew my stomach wasn’t quite right but I thought everything would be fine once we got in and settled into our couch surfers apartment.

As we walked around the streets trying to find his apartment I realised things were a lot worse than I originally thought. My guts were on fire and were about to explode in a violent orgy of brown lava.

After we finally got into the apartment and I took care of some business I convinced myself I’d be fine to get back onto the metro and make the 45 minute journey to downtown Mexico City…made it two stops before the intense sharp stabbing pains and the sense of impending doom from deep within my bowels began.

I had to run out of the metro station in desperate search of a toilet, luckily there was a KFC across the road so I made a run for it through insane Mexico City peak hour traffic and made it to the the sacred bowl just in time.

Now I know people probably don’t want to read these kind of details but I feel that getting the shits is a pretty integral part of traveling; it happens to everyone at some stage. I wasn’t even aware that you could catch food poisoning from another person but apparently so. I got all the pain and none of the joy of actually eating the meal.

The metro trip back to the apartment is in the top 5 worst experiences of my life. I was honestly convinced I was going to ruin my jeans and vomit all over a crowded Mexican metro carriage. Felt so incredibly drained of energy and lightheaded as we walked towards the the platform I had to sit down on the floor before I passed out.

Brought back memories of me fainting on a train in Perth earlier this year due to an extreme hangover and dehydration. Was not keen to repeat that incident.

I was doubled over in pain, sweating and clinging onto a pole in the carriage to stop myself from collapsing. ‘The curse of the Mayans’ the locals call it. Fucking Mayans, they should stick to making shitty inaccurate callanders and stay the fuck away from our salsa!

As we exited the metro station I stumbled in a daze not knowing who I was or why the world hated my bowels and gut so much but managed to make it to Burger King for the most relieving feeling of my life.

Felt pretty guilty the whole time Mexico City because we were staying in a couch surfers house and basically hanging around being miserable due to illness. Kelly thought she was better but it came back with vengeance a couple of days later. As I write this I’m hoping like fuck this terrifying ordeal is over.

We did manage to get out and about but it had to be done with skill and finesse and never too far from a toilet.

Teotouhacan pyramids outside of Mexico were amazing, the mayan museum in downtown was really impressive, and xilmilcho ‘the Venice of Mexico’ was pretty cool too. Seeing mariachi bands and guys trying to sell pot plants while floating on a gondola down a canal was a weird sight.

So I now write this on a night bus to the south where we will change for another bus out of beautiful amazing Mexico to enter Guatemala and begin the next phase of the trip; the part where I actually learn some Spanish!

Begin Spanish classes and move in with a host family on Monday for three months of lessons and volunteer work. Hopefully I can become at least conversational in three months so kelly can stop doing all the work and I can start complimenting the chefs on their mighty fine empanadas.

Only 3 or so weeks in Mexico which is nowhere near enough time to do it justice but I know I’ll be back again at some stage so I’m happy with our trip, great people, great food, great tequila….shitty Mayan curses!!

Adios Mexico!!!

Viva Las Vegas! Time to spew in my sleep and lose my mind

The time had finally come to enter Nevada and get silly in Vegas. The plan from the start had always been to get to Vegas for Kelly’s birthday and we’d managed to stick to it and time it well.

It had been a while between showers and beds so were keen to get in and enjoy some comfort and blow off some steam. Booked the first night in the Luxor hotel, the big one shaped like an Egyptian pyramid with a massive sphinx out the front. Slightly different from sleeping in the car.

Vegas was everything I expected it to be; tacky, sleazy, touristy and fucking excellent! Drinking frozen daiquiris on the strip and eating like a pig, good times were had!

Took it relatively easy the first night and just relaxed in the pool and had a few quiet drinks walking down the strip and checking out the weirdness.

Moved from the Luxor to the circus circus and let the silly times begin. Next few days are all a bit blurry but I can assure you fun times were had.

So many free drinks sitting at slot machines placing 25 cent bets waiting for waitresses to appear.

At first we weren’t very good at scoring free booze but became pros by the end and even stalked the waitresses in one casino to find the door they all come through so could hang around and place our free orders. One waitress brought us 4 Kahlua and milks each in the space of about 10 minutes.

Had a minor water fight in New York New York, Kelly humped a stuffed m&m in the m&m store and stole multiple handfuls of various crazy flavours (pretzel m&ms are fucking amazing!) and just generally drank as much as could fit inside our bodies. I recall buying a 500ml can of alcoholic peach ice tea that was 12 per cent and cost $1.50…after that I’m not too sure what went on.

Those kind of antics continued for a couple of days apart from the one night we decided to go to a buffet. Amazing and terrifying experience. The food was unbelievable and we both ate so much that we were in physical pain and could no longer enjoy our night of booziness so had to return to the hotel defeated to chunder uncontrollably like a dying goose.

Other silliness occurred but I don’t think it’s wise to discuss such events.

Exited Vegas feeling shaky and dirty and started heading back to California! Full circle and stuff! Elton john was right, it is the circle of life. Mufasa for president!

Were trying to get to death valley but made it about an hour outside of Vegas before deciding driving was shit after a pretty heavy few days of booze. Tried to find somewhere to stay in some backwards anal wart of a town outside Vegas only to find the only two places to sleep thought $100 seemed like a reasonable amount for a room. Bunch of jerks. We showed them what we thought of that price by parking the car in the motel parking lot, inflating the mattress and sleeping in the tray outside the motel. Felt like a victory.

So that was it, finally on our way ‘home’ to California! Death valley sounds nice right?

Red rock, Mormons, Karl Malone and a big friggin hole in the earth! Utah and the Grand Canyon.

Salt lake city was already surprising us before we’d even arrived; sent some couch requests on the day we were heading there and had 2 people reply saying we were welcome to stay with them that night. Pretty amazing, usually hard enough with giving a few days notice let alone on the same day.

Decided to go with a family with 4 kids which we were slightly concerned about after the experiences in Eugene staying with children, but turned out to be a good choice. Good people who took us in for a few days and took us out hiking and to a family dinner with some pretty amazing food. If a Mormon ever offers you funeral potatoes, eat them with your face as quickly as you can!

As we were in town on a Sunday decided to go to watch the Mormon tabernacle choir perform…I don’t really know why but it seemed like the thing to do at the time. Was pretty interesting anyway. Tried to start a circle pit but they weren’t into it. Didn’t appreciate me yelling requests either; I thought they’d at least know ‘master of puppets’.

Got some cool tips from our couchsurfing hosts about where to go so headed to capitol reef to check out the petroglyphs and canyons. Kelly said it was her favourite drive of the trip….she went a bit psycho and drove us through a canyon at top speed yelling that she wanted to recreate the final scene from Thelma and Louise. What a nutter.

Ended up driving to calf creek in the same day only to find the camp sites full but found an excellent spot in the state park and slept in the tray of the truck again. Calf creek was awesome, did a cool hike through a canyon to a spectacular waterfall. It was a hot day and all we’d talked about the entire walk was how we’re definitely jumping in the water when we get there…the water was like ice but still glad we did it even though we were in for a total of 5 seconds. Felt liberating like kissing the titties of god.

Bryce canyon was amazing, beautiful deep red rock formations that glowed in the sun. awesome hiking through the valley of these weird formations that stick up out of the ground, some pretty intense switchbacks that made my thighs feel like exploding at some points but one of the best hiking spots of the trip so far.

Camped in Bryce, had our new favourite meal tinned vegie chili with parmesan cheese. If master chef ever does a camping show I shall surely take the crown.

Zion national park was next for what was definitely the best hike of the trip for me up the narrows. When hiking the aim is to usually keep your feet dry at all costs otherwise things can become pretty unpleasant….not on this occasion!

‘Hiking’ the narrows is actually wading through a river for many many miles. Some people hire wetsuits and specifically designed gear…not us, we’re dicks! Just wore our regular hiking shoes and jumped into the icy waters and started heading up the canyon. Such a good day, at first we were all cautious of getting the rest of our clothes wet and careful not to slip on rocks but by the end of the hike were pretty much charging through rapids at top speed and soaking ourselves intentionally. Best hike ever!

We were going to call it a day then, but decided to attempt angels landing hike too. Did the majority of the hike straight up mountain side path and made it up to the ridiculous section where you climb alongside the mountain without a harness hanging onto chains drilled into the rock. It got absolutely stupid coming to the end which was pretty much vertical and an extremely narrow path with a sheer drop either side off the mountain with people trying to pass each other coming in both directions.

Decided it was too much for one day and our legs were slightly fucked from the narrows so turned back. Yes we wimped out but I’d rather be a pussy and still be alive….saw a lady with a six year old girl walk past us. Made me feel pretty shit.

From Zion we made the shitty journey back through the park during public holiday traffic…took over an hour to make a 20 minute journey.

The trip from Zion to the Grand Canyon in Arizona was the most desolate and boring one of the trip. The longest stretch of nothing we’ve seen so far…and Kelly needed to pee so was pretty uncomfortable for several hours.

Arrived to find all the campsites were fully booked but tried the trick of going to the state forest outside the park where you’re allowed to camp wherever you like for free! God bless America.

Found a good spot and slept under the stars in the tray again and then went and checked out the grand canyon; natures great glory hole.

Hiking was pretty intense, completely exposed to the baking hot sun for a good seven hour round trip hike into the canyon. On the way back up I was beginning to feel light headed and dizzy…don’t mess with the Arizona sun!

Was worth the effort, I can understand why the grand canyon is so famous it’s a pretty incredible place and I don’t think it can be fully appreciated by just standing on the edge and looking in.

That night we decided to get rid of the bag of marshmallows that had melted, reset, and then melted again several times in the car to form one extremely large pillow sized marshmallow. It was a savage display involving us tearing chunks of mallow out with forks like wild beasts and toasting them over the flame of our shitty gas cooker. Good thing the camping is nearly over because we pretty much covered and baked marshmallow onto all our gear.

So that was it, decided not to head any further south from Grand Canyon as at this stage we’d been traveling for around 2 months and had to return the truck soon and get the hell out of the country before immigration hunted us down.

VEGAS TIME! Let the stupidity begin.