Travel

Personal, often disjointed, musings on my travels around this big, small world.


Red, Dead or Med: Three Idiots, Three Countries and Three Seas, in Eight Days in the Middle East

Note: this was one of my early attempts to craft a single travel journal piece from an adventure. Two of my best buddies and I spent eight chaotic, harebrained days in the Middle East in the autumn of 2004. It took me more than ten years to see the opportunity to publish my writing. Jordan Waking up in Amman, the capital of Jordan, is like waking up to find that you are blocking a fuel price protest rally. There is such a pandemic of bleating car horns throughout the city that the sound melts down to one sustained, inharmonious note that pervades from dawn until late night. There is a lot of shouting too. Standing on street corners and shouting is something that an Englishman like me struggles to comprehend while much of the rest of the world gets on with it fervently. The cacophony rose throughout the morning as the sun’s heat […]


Chasing Peaks: Six Months at Buena Vista Surf Club 4

Note: this is one of two unusually long posts covering the six months we worked at Buena Vista Surf Club. If I was ever going to finish it, let alone keep it to a few pages, I had to let a lot go. There are many stories and people missing (you know who you are) but I had to be realistic with the time available. This piece is dedicated to Marc, Mariëlle, the guys and girls who keep Buena Vista going, and all the beautiful people around Playa Maderas who made us part of their tribe. And to you, Sergio – el hombre, el mito, la leyenda. Introduction: a Snapshot from the Lodge Extract from my journal, written at the time in early 2015: Here we are – me and my lady, Maeve – volunteering as Co-managers of Buena Vista Surf Club, just back from the beach at Playa Maderas, a short drive […]


My View from the Lip: Six Months of Surf and Self-reflection on the Nicaraguan Pacific 1

Note: this is an unusually long post, as it covers a six-month period in one place. And, while this post focuses on our surfing experience, it runs simultaneously with the more general piece about our lives as hotel managers at Buena Vista Surf Club during the same period. Back in my teens my best friend Nick was a surfer. I would accompany him on yearly trips to Cornwall, in the southwest corner of England, seven hours’ drive from our homes in Essex. We would wade into the North Atlantic, in the springtime when the water was still cold from the winter months. From there we gazed over the choppy, grey water that stretched all the way to North America. When I first saw the Pacific a few years later, the horizon looked the same, but knowing that the Pacific Ocean was even wider than the Atlantic somehow made it more astounding. I tried to imagine […]


Back to Civilisation in Granada, via Masaya & Apoyo

After the highlands of the north, we travelled south by bus to the city of Masaya. On the way we were struck by how uncultivated Nica was. Rather than crop-filled fields, we saw large areas of grass and trees. Everything was green. We passed fertile plains that were fringed by volcanoes, and sprinkled with colourful flowers. Cyclones of vultures, perhaps 100-strong, turned in the middle distance, gliding on some thermal, or over some dead animal. We got ourselves set-up in a windowless room at the centre of a shitty guesthouse in Masaya. I woke on our first morning there with a cold, probably induced by the chilly, damp nights of the northern highlands. An illness that I would normally associate with winters at home felt incongruous with Nica’s hot climate. A few miles from the city is the Masaya volcano. We were too cheap to pay for a guide so we walked up the […]


Hoofing it Through the Cloud Forest in Miraflor, Northern Highlands

Note: Following the previous post from Los Zorros, in the northwest of Nicaragua, we travelled by bus to Estelí, in the more central northern region of highlands that border Honduras. We followed instructions for where to catch buses from Estelí to Miraflor but were doubtful and uncomfortable when we got there. It was 05:15 and this place wasn’t much of a bus stop. “Pulperia Miraflor” was just a fish shop with no sign for buses, no shelter, just a couple of locals standing around with hard looks, and an annoying drunk who should have stumbled home hours earlier. Then that ubiquitous public transport of Central America, an old US school bus, gurgled to a halt alongside us. It filled instantly and we only managed to grab the wheelarch. But soon we were way off the Panamerica Highway that runs through Estelí, and were bouncing down a track only suitable for […]


Thunder and Turtle Eggs at Los Zorros & Padre Ramos Reserve 1

We took a microbus (minivan) from León to Chinandega. We could see tree-coated volcanoes right from start, flickering like a zoetrope through the trees at the side of road. While I tried to take photos of the view, a lady beside me brushed her hand on my shoulder. I reluctantly turned to see what she wanted but she was just keen to tell me that the view would be better for photos after the next bend in the road. She was just being kind. Somehow we fell into conversation in spite of my knowing only a few words of Spanish. The lady explained how the volcanoes had sent landslides across the plain and over the road, flattening homes and killing many. we talked about earthquakes and tornadoes. She wrote her phone number in our book in case we ever needed help, then negotiated a taxi for us when we reached our […]


León – Crumbling Under its own Passion 1

Jet lag and exhaustion caught us around 22:00 so we got an early night and woke to the sounds of a metalwork shop jangling through the gap between the wall and ceiling. It was the only rough edge to an otherwise blissful place to stay. We followed the Lonely Planet walking tour of the city’s main sights, feeling like amateurs for doing so but knowing we’d get to see plenty that way. But we soon found some colloquial charms, like the market where we bought fruit at around one Cordoba a piece. We soaked-up the city with every step on every street, it has such a consistent charm. Every building is painted in a bright pastel shade different to the one next to it. The streets are cobbled and the pavements are a mosaic of concrete and tiles. A mess of power lines is draped above. León has an abundance […]


American Diaries – 27 Aug 2003

Part 3/3. Reading this predictive piece now, thirteen years later, I am not surprised by my ambitions, and my failure to meet some of them. But I am also pleased that some of the things I wanted just, well, they just kinda happened anyway. I eat better now, I have a good tech setup, I still make time for my hobbies. I’ve even kept up with some of the people I listed. Best for me is that I put a big print of one of my photos on the wall for the first time ever just a few weeks ago. Wednesday 27 August 2003 14:30 Some goals for the UK: (let’s see if I will follow them!) Take more photos: Of those whom I love doing whatever they do Of those places I love and place of thing that has beauty for me Fire off risky shots, especially indoors and when moving, […]


American Diaries – 25 Aug 2003

Part 2/3. To my mind, this journal entry was written at the lowest point of our nine-month trip. We had planned a round-the-world journey since we were 15. We were now 23 and we’d made it from Vancouver to San Diego before we gave up and begged our way home. The language is confusing, I think, but I remember what I was trying to say. I can picture the imagery in my mind clearly even now, in 2016. The importance of this journal entry, and the previous one (20/08/03) which is similarly bleak, is to remember that paradise can be a trap of lethargy and discontent, just as hell can be heaven. It’s perspective, and it makes me smile, the way you smile at an old friend when they’re sad but you know they’ll be OK, even if they don’t. Monday 25 August 2003 The Apartment, San Diego 17:00 In two […]


American Diaries – 20 Aug 2003

Part 1/3. This is the first time I’ve transcribed an excerpt from the old black notebook I bought on my travels in 2002-3. I’ve kept the original wording, with only tiny amendments for spelling and grammar. Otherwise it’s verbatim: warts and all.   23:45 Wednesday 20 August 2003 4175 Executive Drive, La Jolla In short, I awoke this morning late again only to sink into my usual uncomfortable frustration at our current lack of progress. My back ached terribly, partly as a result of a bad night’s sleep (not for any particular reason) and partly because we had spent Monday night sleeping – trying to sleep – in the wilderness of the Angeles National Forest near Pasadena. Fortunately, Nick persuaded me to go for a surf with him and that sorted me right out. I got the workout that /I needed and my aching back and aching brain found total relief. On returning to the apartment […]