Thursday, 22 April 2010


Heaven is stepping off a collectivo on an empty piece of highway and trudging down a path to a deserted stretch of Carribean; creeping down rocky path to swim in my first cenote, a deserted, mangrove circled peace and quiet; alone save for brush breaking wildlife sneaking closer (the dirty perves) and little fish that nibble my ankles in a pleasing food chain reversal.

It is returning to the beach to snack on carrots while I read then wading into the Carribean, sea blinding clear and shallow turquoise. Palm fringed sands like a dream, but barely another in sight. It's knowing that there are no trees like this in Cancun, where the tourists pay big for their piece of behemoth Hilton. Schadenfreude.

It is hopping off the bus at Cenote Dos Ojos and wandering up to the dive centre, splashing out on a snorkel so as to tour the cave depths of this mammoth network of tunnels and towers, shining fish and deep passageways I can't reach; scooting under the surface when an American afraid of bats declares 'you know the best part will be telling people I did this.' Knowing how wrong she is. Holding my breath to forge deep through a tunnel and emerge triumphant, only to realise I narrowly missed smashing my skull on the cave roof. Laughing.

It is fending off Decision Panic when the cabanas I head for are closed, only to land on another stretch of perfect sand. Diving under the blue so I can hear nothing and emerging to watch the thunder clouds roll in, fascinated by this pale turquoise ocean and indigo sky, like a house paint sampler; colours I have never seen side by side.

Heaven is tucking into an overpriced salad and beer at a candle lit, sand floor restaurant, while the black outside takes shape only beneath a lightening strike, and thinking that my most stressful day at work paid for this.

Sunday, 18 April 2010

from palenque with love

I wonder what will be left of our great cities in years to come, when ours is the ancient. Churches and houses of parliament, galleries and perhaps the foundations of our skyscrapers. Twists of metal and plastic; my mothers' ornamental plates, broken apart; your iphones, smashed to pieces.

What new age hippies of eras to come will wander down George St, stand on Gowings corner, where Supré today sports neon, and say 'Wow, I can really feel the power of this place.'

Will my touristic ancestors mosey the crumbled ruins of the QVB on some cliché journey of self-development, while their mothers receive postcards with pithy sentiments about disruptive tour groups and monkeys?

I close my eyes and try to imagine Palenque, this great city so named by the Spanish, as it once stood, bricks deep red and Mayans wandering, ruling, fucking, worshipping, eating and sleeping. I amble up temples and sporting arenas and wonder what it would now look like if the same effort had been put into constructing houses as these tombs and pyramids.

I was told to get a tour here and so, concerned about time, I took that advice. But, after comical mechanical disasters, we arrived late and 2 hours at Palenque was not nearly enough. I returned today to take my time in the sun, sit beside waterfalls and clamber down forbidden jungle paths, rest atop monuments, listen to the birds and discuss life, love, travel, anxiety and tattoos with a barefoot German yoga teacher called Gita.


Thursday, 15 April 2010

oh I do wish things would stop going right

I have nothing to blog about. Things are trotting along rather nicely; what is a self-decrecating chronicler of embarrassment and disaster to do? I have been trying to court catastrophe, but it's just not working for me. Examples of the efforts I have gone to in order to entertain you are as follows:

Adventure 1: Hiking
Risks: Fitness level, crazed fellow tourists who kill me or provoke me to kill them, lost in woods a la Kanangra 2002, fitness levels, fusion foot (in which my bones are growing together where they should not), death from smoke inhalation due to open fire in cabana left alight while sleeping, did I mention fitness levels?
Result: It was awesome. The hikes were challenging but totally manageable (about 12-14km per day). We stayed in cosy cabanas with open fireplaces in the Pueblos Mancomunados, a collective of Indigenous villages who have formed a successful community ecotourism organisation in the Sierra Norte. I was convinced that I was to die of smoke inhalation in said cabana which led to an amusing slapstick-esque routine in which I would get out of bed, open windows and leap back under the covers then Julie, quite cold at 3000m, would leap out, shut them and hop back in to her bed. All this repeated til we slept. And did not die. The scenery was varied and beautiful, we learned loads about local flora and medicinal herbs and stuff, we saw woodpeckers, we ate like vegetarian queens, the hot chocolate made Australian hot chocolate taste like dirt and wee and water, fusion foot only hurt on the very last day AND my fellow travellers were absolutely lovely. So lovely in fact that they too value fancy food and we celebrated our success with a visit to a super posh Mexican restaurant that was all fusiony and did a degustation with black bean cappuccino. BLACK BEAN CAPPUCCINO.

Adventure 2: Night Bus
Risks: Had been told horror tales of drugging and burglary, do not sleep well in transit and often tiredness can lead to lost belongings (Pierre Cardin watch, Norway, 2008) and falling over, generally have misfortune of sitting next to large, smelly, talkative people who carry stereos on bus and play them all night.
Result: Best night bus experience ever. I had a seat to myself, fellow passengers were silent, I took enough melatonin to knock out an albino horse and slept like a little baby, only waking up when people got off to check none of them made off with my precious belongings.

Adventure 3: Travelling solo
Risks: Going slightly mad, being kidnapped, falling over in a forest and no one hearing a sound!
Result: Look, it's not all roses, sometimes I get a bit lonesome (cue country music) but mostly it's pretty sweet. I decide what I do and when and early in the morning, I eat breakfast with appallingly bad table manners, when no one else is watching. I did have an unfortunate and terrifying run in with a middle aged, painfully tanned German woman in a g-string who creeped creepily toward my bed in the middle of the night at a hostel. It turned out she was seeking the source of a smell she believed to be my shoes. It was her towel on the end of her bed. Lesson learnt - no more hostels.

Adventure 4: Eating lots of Beans
Risks: Farting and diarhoea.
Result: When I fart, I pretend it was someone else.

So you see, I am at a loss. I have met other travellers who have been walking in the hills only to be surrounded by Zapatista rebels and held for half an hour with little information supplied (seriously!). But I have had no such adventurous madness myself. I plod through the days, learning lots, climbing hills, sitting quietly and finishing novels, eating yummies, writing postcards (none of which I've sent yet...), learning to use my camera well, investigating side streets and back alleys for street art and colourful corners, thinking thoughtful thoughts and hoping something out of the ordinary happens so I can write about it wittily and have you all think I am awesome. But it's no good.

There is only one solution: I shall run about town dropping banana peels in the hope that I'll slip on one, break something and be taken to a Mexican hospital in which I can't comunicate with the staff (my Spanish is still restricted to discussing food, bus tickets, costs for internet usage and shop opening hours). They will mis-interpret my injury and amputate a limb or somesuch and I will awake confused and shocked and staring into the eyes of a concerned nurse who realised the error but was ignored in the heat of surgery by the arrogant doctor (damn doctors, they never respect nurses!). Guilt-stricken the doctor will pay me off and I will use the bribe to fly myself and the attractive nurse (who has short hair and wears sensible shoes) to some exotic location where, slowly but surely, she will coach me in the use of my prosthesis and we will fall desperately in love while watching sunsets over the Carribean and sipping cocktails and doing physiotherapy and swimming with dolphins and stuff. I will sell my self-penned story to some trashmag, only to have a world renowned editor with a penchant for trashmags pick it up, decide I am totally witty and stuff, and commission me for a book. Book complete, and royalty cheque deposited me and my nurse shall travel the world, attempting to court disaster in order to inspire book number two.

Now if you'll excuse me, I must go buy some bananas.


Thursday, 8 April 2010

am changed woman.

Everyone knows than when westerners travel they have grand revelations and change and stuff, right? Sometimes these changes are evidenced by alterations to appearance: weight gain or loss due to beer or exercise; darkening in skin colour (occuring, no doubt due to a greater synchronicity with the local people of the nation one is visiting and not at all due to sun burn); overnight tattoo additions (complete with hepatitis if ya lucky); hickeys acquired via grand romances that last 3 days and that earnest look / clothing with spiritual themes which demonstrates one's greater understanding of the world and its varied cultures.

Well, I am here to tell you that I too have undergone great change in the past week. So that you may recognise me on my return (providing that I return and don't run off to join some hippie cult in the jungle) I have compiled a list of these Great Revelatory Alternations to my Being.

NB: Photographic evidence to support the below shall appear once I can find a computer that successfully uploads.

1. Am now animal whisperer - I connect on a deep level with Mexico's wildlife. I first suspected I may have a spiritual connection to my CS host's dog when she sat next to me and reached out her little paw to take my hand. Likewise the four cats living in the house (yes, host was a lesbo) took to both me and my luggage like we were long lost lovers. They gathered around me like I was a fairytale princess, reaching for me with outstretched arms as I ate my dinner. Perhaps in a past life I was a Mexican street pup or feline. "This doesn't make you an Animal Whisperer!" I hear you cry. "These are but domesticated pets!" Well, this is what I thought til I met the Squirrel. I was near Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera's abode in San Angel when I turned away from this great piece of artistic history to spy a squirrel running along a wire. With glee I took some happy snaps, but it ran away (it was probably appalled by the way that sites related to Kahlo are so dominated by Rivera paraphenalia that one would think she never painted a thing! I agreed with the Squirrel wholeheartedly, but a rant on the male domination of history is for another day). Anyway, (and here is where it gets creepy), what must have been that very same Squirrel appeared in Jardin Bombilla mere hours later. This time when I took out my camera it RAN towards me, came right up to me and then posed for my photos in a tree. AM. ANIMAL. WHISPERER.

2. I hike now. Well, I am hiking tomorrow. For three days. At altitude. In the cloud forests of the Sierra Norte. And I am definitely not nervous. I definitely did not ask the bemused woman at the hiking company to point out all the uphill bits on the trek. And I sure as hell didn't check whether I could take a short cut tomorrow if my period pain plays up (I can actually, but she just volunteered that information, as I wouldn't dream of asking). I can confirm that at no point have I panicked and had terrifying flashbacks to the hiking disasters of Outward Bound 1996 or Norwegian Hill 2008. Nor did I consider updating my will in case of cliff-based accident. Incidentally, if an accident were to occur, I would like everything to go to the animals of Mexico (see point 1). So, in conclusion, I am now fit and sporty and hike-y and I'm defying gravity and nothing's gonna bring me down, bring meeeee doooowwwwn. Hmm. Must remember not to break into show tunes mid-hike...
As an aside, it's times like these that I wish I was being followed by a camera crew who could film said hike and edit it together into inspirational montage a la The Biggest Loser or Mighty Ducks.

3. I'm getting married. I was thinking, earlier in my trip, as I ate some plain tortillas, that I was now of an age and class that I could enjoy Mexico's cuisine in a different way. While I spent much of Europe munching on bread and peanut butter, I think in this fair nation, it may be worth checking out some of the classier establishments. And so it was that I set off for Saks Restaurant, Lonely Planet in hand, in search of promised vegetarian Mexican classics. (will neither confirm nor deny not actually knowing that Saks was a classy establishment, nor arriving inappropriately attired and grubby from day of sightseeing). You know what is awesome? Taking yourself on a romantic dinner date; sitting joyously at a well set table, taking as long as you want to order without anyone getting annoyed, slowly sipping a corona and reading your book while consuming chile poblano stuffed with beans and cheese with tomato sauce and avocado. Did same at a Oaxaca restaurant last night.* And so it is that I have decided to propose to myself. Possibly soon (in case of hiking accident), or maybe at some romantic location such as Mount Rushmore or Vegas.

* After I had completed my cactus taco, another solo adventurer arrived seeking a windowside table such as my own. Her disappointed face when told that they were reserved inspired me to offer the short-haired French woman a seat at my table. We chatted for a while and she let me know she would be going on a 3 day hike in the Sierra Norte leaving tomorrow. Despite her use of the phrase "my ex-boyfriend" I decided meeting her was a sign... See point 2.


The Blurb

For maevegobash: yeah, I just like thinking/writing/talking about myself. That's what blogs are for, right? For vegepalooza: I have been vegetarian for 25 years now - so that's always for me. My mothers cooked a storm up in the kitchen and I am carrying the torch filling my friends bellies at every opportunity. I love food and want to share my recipes, tips and tricks here to encourage creative vegetarian eating. There will also be a lot of vegan recipes for my friends with more willpower than me (sorry kids, I just love the cheese). Anyway enjoy, feel free to criticise and most of all Happy Eating!