Georgia Bound

In the Orlando Greyhound Terminal all is hustle and bustle: a short young woman of astonishing pinkness is trying to coax a can of Coke from a huge vending machine: a small child is glued to her side literally riding on the roll of flesh that encircles her midriff. Seated across from us are three men who could step in as extras for a remake of ‘The Shawshank Redemption’ without a wardrobe change or recourse to a makeup artist. A man in baggy tracksuit pants shuffles from the ‘restroom’ clutching his groin: he needs to as if he releases the material the pants will fall to the ground, they barely cover his backside as it is. In the land where the car is king taking a bus might seem like a poor decision. Perhaps: perhaps not. Continue reading

Guns and God

I settled happily into my seat on American Airline flight 922 from La Paz to Miami: it had been delayed for 13-hours and we were ready to get going. Sitting in the window seat was a well-built young man wearing a bright yellow FIFA football top. Buckled and upright we began a round of formal chat of the ‘where we’d been and what we’d been doing’ style. Adam was a Pastor’s son from Indianapolis, Indiana and had been visiting his Bolivian girlfriend’s family in Santa Cruz in the eastern side of the country. Yasmin, pretty in the picture on his cellphone, was on another flight back to the US and her college where she was taking a degree in music. She and Adam had met at his church 3-years previously when she came with a choir to sing there. Continue reading

Love Letter to a Fellow Walker

We met walking. And by that I mean it was when we first really spent time doing something that we both loved to do. The summit of Pen Y Fan in the Brecon Beacons, Wales in late summer of 2003 will always hold a very special place in our collective memories: it was where ‘We’ began. Continue reading

“Let’s go Someplace like Bolivia”

The Toyota Land Cruiser pulled up outside the Butch Cassidy Hostal. I stepped outside and stretched a body stiff from 5-hours bouncing along rough dirt tracks. My mouth, like the rest of me, had a fine coating of dust and I spat gritty saliva onto the road. Bolivia tasted of adobe. In 4-days we had driven over 1,100-kilometres through some of the strangest terrain imaginable. The altiplano in winter, the dry season, is a near-deserted vastness of unprecedented geological complexity stretched out beneath a deep blue sky. Continue reading

The Daily Betrayal

I took the bowl of warm milk with a few oat flakes floating on the surface from her and set it gently down on the table. “I just want some normal porridge’ she cried softly, tears welling. It seemed like a small thing to be upset about but this was our second attempt at breakfast and it had gone as badly as the first. We had both been ill recently and were in that vulnerable phase where food was a vital ingredient on the road to well-being. But the tears were not just being spilt over a pitifully poor example of a bowl of porridge, these were tears of grief at the state of our distant homeland, the United Kingdom, split down the middle by a referendum on whether or not to leave the European Union. The vote went to Leave. Continue reading

Tennis and Tension in the Sacred Valley

Sunday dawned deep blue and windless, a perfect combination. Closing the window and walking to the bathroom the aches from yesterday’s rapid ascent of Montana Machu Picchu – 1,850-feet in 50-minutes if you care to know – were experienced afresh. Today was therefore designated a rest day and also happened to be the final of the French Open taking place over 6,000-miles away and 6-hours ahead of us in Paris. Andy Murray would be taking on Novak Djokovic, a scenario that is currently the greatest rivalry in tennis. Murray would be playing to gain his third Grand Slam and a place amongst only ten players to have won three slams, whilst Djokovic would be playing to be the current holder of all four grand slams, a feat achieved only by a few other players in the entire history of tennis in the open era. It was also National election day in Peru. Setting my priorities accordingly we went in search of a television set that might happen to be capable of showing the tennis. Continue reading

Atahualpa’s Last Bath

I stared at the large sunken stone-lined bath: you could fit a whole rugby team in it, maybe even both sides. Empty now but with the lifting of two wooden gates hot mineral rich water from deep underground would race through stone cut channels and fill it to the brim. A bath fit for a king, as indeed it was on the 16th November 1532 when the Incan Emperor Atahualpa was soaking away the cares from administering to an empire that extended for over two thousand miles either side of the massive spine of the Andes in South America. Continue reading

The Long Wave Goodbye

I got my first surfboard on my 17th birthday, 12th May 1979. It wasn’t a custom made model but was what was called a ‘pop-out’ in those days. At 7-foot long, white with a long red arrow on the deck (presumably to indicate which was the front and the intended direction of travel!), it was the perfect present for a Londoner newly arrived to the wilds of North Cornwall. Continue reading

Death in the Afternoon

It all went quiet, the ‘Toril’ (Gates of Death) were flung open and 550-kilograms of prime Ecuadorian fighting bull charged across the freshly raked sand and into the centre of the arena. Separated from the herd and in a circular ring with no place to hide his hackles were up and everything in the ring was a potential threat. Selectively bred from Iberian cattle to possess an overwhelming urge to charge any aggravating shapes that appeared before him, everything had led to this occasion, his sole reason for being born at all, his fifteen minutes in the limelight, his time to die. Continue reading