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Letters from the road
Tuesday, 2 February 2016
The Mother Road Route 66
Topic: North America

Cadillac Ranch photo r6639.jpg

 

              Route 66 the Mother Road, a 2448 mile highway that wanders towards the sun, sand, and Californian girls.  Hundreds of people from all over the world head here to drive through fields of peas and corn for days on end, on a road that technically no longer exists. Somehow this has become the best known bit of bitumen in the world.  It’s September 2009, Chris and I hired a car and headed off to find the soul of America. Apparently It starts Chicago Illinois right beside the Big Lake, and ends up in Venice Beach California next to Pamela Anderson.  We had hired Chevy PT Cruiser, and driven it from Philadelphia, on the other great American road, the Lincoln Highway. Topped up the tank in Chicago, were wearing sunglasses, lets hit it.  Straight off to the suburbs.  Frank Lloyd Wright, America’s most famous architect had family home in Oak Park just off the route.  I seem to remember his house as a unremarkable family home in a nice old neighbourhood.  Enough time wasted, lets go .  We got a couple of miles before we hit  a huge pot hole, and I mean hit.  Four lanes of traffic, and nowhere to go.  Bang.  They must have been a bit of concrete reo by sticking up in the hole, all the sudden our tyre developed a slight leak, being lazy bastards we decided not to fix this,  and just punched  the nearest  Eurocar  dealer into the GPS .  When we got there he wasn’t interested in changing it either so we just swapped cars.  Our new ride was a very nice 6 cylinder Chevy sedan, much better than the PT Cruiser, it had a boot that we can put our luggage in, and a v6 which was much  zippier.  Next Stop Joliet Illinois  made famous  by being  the first  stop in the Blues Brothers movie.  The old prison no longer operates   but the prison gate that Jake Blues  walked out of  still look the same as I did  in the 70’s . Obligatory Photo stop. We pretty soon got into the swing of things cruising along and looking at my route 66 guided book that my brother had bought me.  Every 20 or 30 miles would be a gas station Dinner or other place of interest.  The first couple of we got out and had a look at, then we would mostly just do a rolling stop and take a picture out the car window.

      Chris was convinced we could live on American fast food. I knew this was impossible.  I kind of like Mexican food, but Chris was convinced that it was all made of a hundred percent napalm. His view of a bowl of Mexican Chilli, it could eat a hole right through the back of your head from the other side of the room. Hence, no Mexican.  Breakfast was at whatever dinner we could find. These are the hidden culinary gems of the U.S., Eggs, “Just say scrambled”. I never understood the complexity of ordering eggs in the States. Bacon won’t look like bacon but you are in the middle of nowhere. Hash browns, always good. Gravy, grits, and, anything else leave to the locals. Coffee will be like Crude Oil once the light aromatics have been removed. Add sugar and milk to taste, and then hide your cup at the far end of the table so they can’t pour more crude in while you’re not looking. Lunch, whatever untried weird fast food outlet we stumbled across. The food was uniformly grey, greasy, and plastic, and don’t order the upgrade. A 72 ounce cup of Pepsi should really last you a life time. Dinner, hit the nearest bar. Steaks and ribs are no brianers, wash em down with a beer and you can’t go wrong. This worked well until somewhere around Oklahoma. We pulled up at a place to find a family of 300 pound wilder beasts, feeding on a whole hog, three of them where under ten. I asked how the good lady of the establishment was going, and got the reply “Blessed, Where all blessed”. These are code words for “DANGER”. We got the chicken tenders and a chicken sandwich, me forgetting a sandwich is a burger in this part of the world. The chicken was deep fried in Corn Fructose Syrup, and covered with a inch of bread crumbs, it all seemed bereft of chicken. Both meals looked exactly the same, thank god we had 72 ounces of industrial grade cleaner to wash them down with. If your waitress greats you with the words “I’m Blessed”, RUN. The next day we ate Mexican.

 Our days became a routine, drive, eat, drive some more. US Route 66 is no longer a major high way,  and most towns have long since been bypassed by the interstates built  in the 50's and 60's. Soulless hotels and fast food joints, live beside the interstates. Around about 5 o'clock in the evening  we would punch accommodation into the GPS, and look at the list of options.  We would generally try and find something off the highway that suited our budget which was pretty minimal.  As it was 2009, the U.S. banking system, and the world economy was collapsing around us.  Places like “Down and Out” budget motel seem to attract our attention first.  We would pull up, give it a quick look from the outside, looking for things like bullet holes and crack dealers. Any more than three of either we would move on.  Next we’d to talk to some guy through a grill  about the price .  Somewhere around $29.40 seemed to be pretty typical.  The next question before we handed over the cash was “is there a bar around here” .  Generally there was one of the other side of the road or just down then just down the hill.  All the essentials being established, we will would move into a luxury room. Air conditioner,  fresh towels and clean beds . Off to the bar to get a meal .   American bars are great, generally full of locals  who haven't been further than 50 miles in either direction out of town. A few Harley’s and pickups parked out the front. All you had to do was open your mouth, and before you knew it some helpful local was explaining the intricacies of deer hunting, tank collecting, or American football .  After an hour you generally had trouble buying a beer, I cannot remember what happened most nights after that. Bars were always a great place to find out what the local must not miss things, and where the best breakfast around was .  The local museum is another good option, though after talking to the locals for ten minutes they will probably want to continue the conversation in the local bar. You got the same info both places.

  People always asked where we were from, and why we were there. I'D tell them we were driving route 66 and quite often they would say I’ve always wanted to do that.  The fact that they had a car and lived on “66” already did not seem ironic. Towns with names like Normal, Lincoln, Lebanon, and Springfield rolled past with regular monotony. There is a Springfield and every state of America, and we went through most of them .  At Springfield Missouri  we found a cowboy bar  which was great fun . Wet tshirt contest ,  bull riding , and $1 beer  what more could one want .  Eventually the peas and corn started to fade and the desert started .  It was around here we picked up a hitchhiker.  He was a 40ish bloke on the side of the road  who  gave us some handy hints on how to survive in the states when you have no money .  As soon as he got in the car he offered us some deer back straps off a bit of fresh roadkill that he picked up  the night before and barbecued.  He headed east with his girlfriend in her car and  was headed west alone now the relationship soured. Over the next six of hours, with only a stop at the famous Cadillac Ranch, he kept us occupied with stories . Did you know American government is suppressing the facts that  you can re grow your brain cells if you snort enough meth. You have to hit it hard but it works apparently.  More is better than less he was a firm believer of this fact . He had once held a job  for Los Angles for 20 years in  the California Lands Department  but had to run from aliens, or something else just before he got his pension . He had a son in the army,  another somewhere else  but didn't really see them that often.  Back west he mostly lived at his elderly parents at parents house .  Someone had given him  ten bucks, so he went  to the local casino to  get some chips, and 2 free meal vouchers  by becoming a member .  I know a smorgasbord will keep you going all day especially if you put a bit in your pockets .  You go gamble $10 worth of chips - red and black, and get your cash back,  after a couple of days  you can either go to the next casino, or continue trip .  He offered to put us up in California  but we wanted to take a bit of a side trip to visit some friends. We dropped him off near Amarillo Texas with a six pack of beer and some biscuits . He said he had a few friends at the bus station they could fix us up with whatever we required but we passed that one .  He was actually a really nice bloke. 

      Somewhere we passed an Indian reservation selling fireworks.  Chris stopped to buy the biggest box he could find. At Taos New Mexico we caught up with our friends who own an ice cream shop on a ski field, and spent great couple spend a couple of days with them. Taos is a beautiful place up in the high desert miles from anywhere and it was nice to have a break from the driving.  Their little daughter now believes that Australians always turn up with a  boot full of explosives then proceed to let them off for about half an hour in the middle of the night, even the neighbours were very impressed.  By now we really are in the middle of nowhere, Petrified forests and Giant Craters become the sights.  Before we left Oz I had warned Chris that we weren’t going anywhere interesting. Once we got to the middle of nowhere intresting he suddenly asked me “how far is Sturgis”.  “Its in South Dakota three days drive from here, and it doesn't happen till August.” “What about New Orleans” .  “ Three days drives drive from here in the wrong direction Sunshine” .  “I told you I was taking you to the middle of the way you just didn't believed me” .  Fortunately it’s only a day’s drive to the Grand Canyon and Las Vegas, that's a bit more touristy. We get to Phoenix  and turn off 66 and head north. Chris's happy because at last we seeing something that’s not flat highway. The Grand Canyon is just that, and  we spend a couple of hours just looking at the canyon and the views, before  jumping in the car for Vegas .  Arriving at Las Vegas late at night is not a great thing to do,  as the hotels jack their prices up after lunch time.  The only casino room we can find is $500, but we find a dodgy hotel for $80 and settle in for the night.  The next morning Chris wants to go,  but I say give me a chance to see we can get a cheap hotel somewhere else . I wandered down the street for some milk, and see an office that says  free hotels and sightseeing. In side is this lovely woman that you actually organizes accommodation for people coming to see time share apartments. It is Las Vegas, the economy is crashing, and everybody's trying to sell properties before the shit hits the fan. She's pretty busy but she had a good chat to me and tells me that the internet specials of the day of the Bellagio for 40 bucks. A pretty good price she tells me, you just have to turn up before lunch  and ask for the internet special. On the way out she opens the boot of her car which has about ten thousand vouchers in it and hands me a couple of “two for one” meal or show specials. Catch the magician at Hooters if you guys want a really good show. I say thank you and we had off the Bellagio and move into a luxury that we've been looking for the whole trip. It’s stinking hot and I head to the pool with lazy river, and rent $5 inner tube.  As I float around in circles, I look at downtown Las Vegas being built next door,  5 high rises and a billion dollar casino  they all to lock up  but none of them are finished. All being built on imaginary cash that has disappeared over night. That's what my friend and everybody else in Las Vegas was trying to get rid of I thought. I look at the guys working on the buildings and think there is still a lot of pain to be had here.  It came true Las Vegas was one of the hardest hit with property prices dropping 60%, I hope my timeshare lady survived it.

    We spend the next couple days living it up  seeing magicians, or  heading off for the all you can eat breakfast, and staying there long enough to have the all you can eat lunch at the same time. Our hobo friend would have been proud of us. During the day we walked around the casinos just checking out what's happening  or go down to Fremont Street. We think about hanging out at Thunder Down Under the all aussie male strip show at the Excabalur but decide we probably wouldn’t survive. After a couple of days It’s the weekend and prices go up so we head on our way. Just out of town we go to the gun store and shoot machine guns for an hour or two. I get a free “ I don’t dial 911” t-shirt on the way out. 

Its only 5 hours across the desert to Los Angeles.  We take off through the cactuses, and head to Barstow. It’s a town attached to a huge military base with no redeeming features, but we find a good Irish bar playing country and western. WTF?  At least I got some decent ribs. I take on the driving, Chris's never really got the hang of driving on the other side of the road, and it's going to get a bit more hectic from here on in.  The Los Angeles freeway system has more traffic than I’ve seen in a long time.  Finally we get to Tammy’s place  in Long Beach .  She has a work supplied unit,  and  her friend is just moved out so she's managed to score it for us for a night.  We spent time catching up  and drinking. By the time it gets late I’m hungry. The only place open is “IN and Out Burger” It's really simple you can either get a burger a double burger, cheese burger or double cheeseburger, cake or lemonade. That's about it. Unlike most fast food they’re good. On the way home I take a wrong turn and briefly end up on the wrong side of the road. At least there was only one car coming, a cop car. We get pulled over.  I'm sorry Mate I'm used to driving on the other side of the road, and we just got here.  He lets me go, thank god for the accent.  After a couple days with Tammy we head into a L.A proper and bunk near the beach.  Grauman's Chinese theatre, the Walk of Stars, Santa Monica Pier and Venice beach . I play tourist guide.  I ask Chris what he wants to eat for his final American meal, he floors me by saying Mexican food . We find a good little restaurant around the corner we’re the only people  in it . The lady there  tells us  about their life  and the Californian bureaucracy .  We have a great chat  and she mentions  that she couldn't talk like this if there were any other Americans in the bar . We pay her and give her the obligatory  tip which she returned saying thank you I had a great night I really enjoyed having the conversation, it was a pleasure. Final night in Los Angeles and we get tip for dinning in a restaurant, I couldn't finish on a better note than that .  I told Chris how was going to take him to the middle of nowhere to see the little country towns, and  real Americans. Lots of people come here and go to Los Angeles and New York, but you've got to see something that that they will never see.  We hand in the car and catch the new subway to the airport,  thanks for the ride guy’s you’ve been good to us .

 


Posted by bondrj at 11:35 AM EADT
Updated: Tuesday, 2 February 2016 12:22 PM EADT
Tuesday, 22 December 2015
The worlds most boring place.
Topic: Asia
 photo 11855792_930080170382846_8647546275548074218_n.jpg

        Brunei Airlines has the cheapest tickets to Europe from Australian. There are only a couple of downsides to them. One is two "stop off's", and the  other is to have to go via Brunei.  Brunei is relativity clean and modern, everything works, the airport is new, and customs are efficient. There are lots of signs saying future retail space, leaving plenty of room inside the terminal to sit and watch the future retail space. My hotel was cheep, clean, and included a good breakfast. A airport shuttle was included in the room cost to and from the airport, this also took me to the night market, where you could get a good feed for a couple of bucks. All good aye.

            The only problem is it is the worlds most boring place. There are no Bars, no girls and no booze. I'm sure North Korea has a more exciting night life. The weather ranges from hot, and steamy, to wet, hot, and steamy. Apart from the odd shopping centre, the other main attraction is a large gold domed mosque viable from everywhere, and it's only visitable during non prayer times, which is hardly ever. No photos inside please. There once was a fun park, apparently it closed down year ago because no one knew what to do there. Advertising seems to be limited to large billboards of the King. A rather cool looking dude in his forties, who the billboards inform us is actually sixty seven. If you want a quite holiday ( only interrupted by the odd call to prayer) here is one place I can definitely recommend.

 Click the pic for more Hylights

 


Posted by bondrj at 9:46 PM EADT
Updated: Tuesday, 2 February 2016 12:24 PM EADT
Wednesday, 4 November 2015
Dubai, It could have been the worlds most boring place
Topic: Middle East

 

 

      It's a nice day in the 1950's, your the Sultan Dubai, and you've got a problem. You own 50 million acres of sand and not much else. Not a problem drill a hole in the sand, and find some oil like everyone else.  The only problem is when you drill a hole you just get more sand, and now you have a real problem. How am I going to keep up with the neighbours.
       This was Dubai in the 1960. With a thousand mile wide beach.  It could have be in the world's most boring place but instead it's actually kind of cool. From a place that basically had nothing  they built something pretty magical. Dubai is kind of like a "pimp my ride project" on steroids. Ring up 50 of the worlds best architects, build stuff and they will come. And I have. 
     I'm in Dubai breaking my trip home. I've been through the here before but I've never stopped over. I'm looking forward to  checking out the place. I've arrived at  Dubai at 3 a.m. I get through customs and find the Starbucks, first time for everything. After a couple of coffees, and 5 hours reading my book, I head to the Subway. It's Friday, holy day, I have to wait another hour till ten for the subway to start running .Finally the prayers to stop, and I head to my hotel .
     My hotel  is conveniently located beside the ski field.  Hold it a sec you say. It's 50 degrees outside and they have a ski field. Don't worry the Ski Field is in the Mall, they have 50 shopping mall's here and they have to do something pretty outrageous to get noticed. The Dubai mall is the worlds largest, but it doesn't have a ski field. Mine does. They even have their own month long shopping festival here. If shopping was an olympic sport, the locals would be assured of a medal. I check in to my hotel. and after a quick power nap, and a swim, I head to the mall. It's but  a short hot walk from my hotel. Fortunately the mall is  air conditioned like everything else  in Dubai. The train is  air conditioned, the walkway are air conditioned, cars, buildings,  even the bloody bus stops are air conditioned.   For a place that has to import everything but but sand, this pretty impressive.  The sides of the freeways  are covered in grass, amazing what you can do with sprinklers running 24/7.  Spectacular buildings are popping up everywhere, growing 24 hours a day.  The malls have every type of designer shop ever invented, and fast food. After a junk food fix I head to the Burj, it's the tallest building in the world  at 830 metres high.  By the time I get there it's 11 p.m, but that's ok. That's the time all locals come out to play..
     During the day everyone hides from the heat, at night it's totally different  it's cool, the locals all get out, and hang around the cafe's,  they smoke there a hooker's,  drink coffee,  and pig out on Middle Eastern sweets, while chatting over the days events.  To get to the Burj  you jump on the subway,  then hop on a mile long  moving walkway. It takes you to the Mall of Dubai. It's only after walking another mile through shops selling solid gold crap, that  you actually get  there. Pay your $50 bucks,  hop on 1 of the 124  elevators,  and head to the 148th floor  to be greeted  buy a spectacular view.  Of course I did none of that,  by the time I got through the mall it was getting late  so I just wandered around the lake and restaurants at the bottom. 
       The next day the choice was  go skiing,  look at some sand hills, or  go to water park.  My friend recommended the water park, so I decided to walk there. Funnily  it was hot, and I didn't see anybody else walking in the entire 40 minutes it took me to get there.  Thank God for the air conditioned bus shelters  perfect to have a break and cool down. 
      The water park is called Wild Wadi, and it lives up to its name. It's on Jumeirah beach beside the 7 star Sail hotel, and has the third best view in the town. It has  every sort of waterslide you could imagine, and  even better It has water Jets that push you up the slides. No climbing steps. You don't  even have to climb up the steps to get to the top of the rides. There is a wave pool,  a lazy river,  50 different  types of water slides,  a couple of raft slides  you can go on with four  your closest friends, and for the adventurous, a ride where you step into a shower cubicle.  After a countdown the bottom drops out of it, and you plunged straight down  at 100 miles an hour  before  heading into a 90 degree bend  and ending up in a pile of spray at the bottom. The experience is very much like being flushed down a giant loo. More than a few big strong blokes took one look, and headed back down the stairs. After 6 and a half hours of being blasted by water jets, I don't think I've ever been cleaner in my life.          
              As my plane flight is leaving at 5am , I headed back for a quick meal and a couple of hours sleep before getting up  in the middle of the night. Unfortunately the rugby world cup was on the telly,  plenty of time to sleep on the plane. I hopped a cab back to the airport, and grabbed a pumpkin spiced latte. Not really but I could have, Mr Starbucks personally I don't see whats wrong with coffee flavoured coffee. After 3 months away home is calling.
 
The first five pics are from Wikipedia click here for more.

Posted by bondrj at 2:49 AM EADT
Updated: Tuesday, 2 February 2016 12:25 PM EADT
Friday, 25 September 2015
Yacht Therapy
Topic: Europe
Ist photo IMG_0326.jpg

 

        A few years ago I went sailing around the Greek Islands with some friends. Unusually I can't have made to much of a pig out of myself because they invited me back again, or more like I invited myself back again. This years target is the Dalmatians in Croatia. Boats and weather are unpredictable beasts, so Mick and I fly into Split, about in the middle of Croatia. After a couple of locating texts we  catch the bus up to Zardar to meet up with our “crew”.  

       Fitzy and Kate run Loki. She is a beautiful 48 foot Swan (yacht ), with one, sometimes two, of everything you need for comfortable cruising. They are great sailors, and have spent the last couple of Aussie winters sailing around the Med. The eventual aim is to head back to Oz sometime in the future slowly. Mick hasn’t been on a yacht before, so he is surprised to learn that (1) sailing is more expensive than motoring. (sails cost lots of money), (2) every where you stop some one wants to charge you for the pleasure of stopping there, even more so if they provide no facilities at all, and (3) yachts have no head room and lots of bulkheads. This last one he never really quite cottoned on to, even after many lessons.

         Our days moved into a routine of breakfast, go explore the island we are anchored at, or sail to the next, swim ( weather permitting), drinkies on deck, go ashore, and check out the local dinner options, eat too much, repeat next day. Northern Croatian Islands tend to be green, have pleasant little villages, and a couple of good restaurants. They are conveniently staggered a couple of hours sailing from each other. Alas it was all over to quickly, we headed off on the ferry to Slovenia , letting the crew return to there usual peaceful life one again. Thanks for all Guys.

 

More photos you know what to do

 

Kate is a great photographer and has a blog click here to see some better pics, and catch her side of the story.


Posted by bondrj at 10:22 AM NZT
Updated: Tuesday, 2 February 2016 12:17 PM EADT
Friday, 11 September 2015
Snails and Frogs in cheese sauce Merci.
The Good photo 20150910_092143.jpg

 

          “ Don't eat all the the French food , leave some for me”one of my friends commented . I like to eat. Most people who know me, know that. Don't share a pizza with me. You'll lose. French food on the other hand, I can take or leave. So can the French, their largest employer is McDonalds. I mean, who puts artichokes on pizza, or aubergines, or fruit . Take something, pour cream and wine on it, it's a casserole. Pour wine and cream on it, it's still a casserole, not a completely new dish that the chef expects to be awarded the “legion of honour” for. Chilli, one decent pod would probably kill all the native French with in 200 km., Curry, No Merci. They have something called curry sauce, it's a bit like English Summer, the same word, totally different meaning. Think of luke warm cat puke, French curry sauce. I tried to buy some liquid stock to cook a brown stew with. I went to Carrafoure, Intermarchie and, Cassino, nothing but walls of stock cubes. Yes I know you can make stock from scratch, somehow I don't think they do. Next, French people, chips are not a vegetable, nor a substitute for. Every meal does not need melted cheese. Two different types of melted cheese do not cancel each other out.

          Its not all bad. Bart Simpson called them cheese eating surrender monkey's, personally I don't think he emphasised the cheese eating enough. French cheese is the best, even the goat cheese is almost eatable. The standard supermarket has 4 aisles of the stuff along with 4 aisles of wine, proportionally correct as far as I’m concerned. They do great steaks, and they don't over cook them. The Menu, the midday workers lunch, is generally great value. Starter, Main, dessert, and a glass of wine for 15 Euro's. Winner. Cream, cheese. and wine casserole can be great, but not as a complete diet. Immigrants have bought their own cuisine. They have good Vietnamese pho. Kebab shops exist in most big towns. If you ask nicely you may even find the Kebab bloke has some Illegal chilly locked in the safe out the back, beside the Kalashnikov. With a bit of care even the pizza ain’t bad, if you avoid the artichokes. Me, I'm hanging for a vindaloo.


Posted by bondrj at 8:46 AM NZT
Saturday, 29 August 2015
Mad dogs and english men.
The Hill photo IMG_0119.jpg

       Over the years I've had many offers to try a spot of bike riding in Great Britain. I've easily managed to resist the temptation. If I’m going to fly to the opposite side of the world to get on a bicycle, it better be sunny, warm and dry. None of these things do I associate with the English summer. It isn't called a green and pleasant land for nothing. For some reason this changed after watching Michael Palin walking from Liverpool to Sheffield. What could be more pleasant than strolling along an old canal in the sunshine with a pub conveniently located every couple of hundred meters. Better still, do it on a bike, more time to chat to the quirky locals at the pub stops. The stars all align. My cousins want me to drive them around Europe, I'm being forced to fly to Heathrow, and I've forgotten about the English definition of summer.

       This may come as a surprise to some of you but sometime I do have to work. A thanks here to the Australian Tax office for giving my life meaning. So I passed the planning off to my brother Mick. “Bike, Pubs, Canal, Liverpool to somewhere close to Liverpool”. Over the next couple of months I got regular emails with things like bike hire, and suggested route in them, which I skimmed the headers of, and then replied that’s fine. He even managed to sucker our friend Cath, to coming along. And thus I found myself at Euston station with a ticket to Liverpool, and a nagging thought in the back of my head that perhaps I should have read a few more of those emails.

      I arrive and catch up with Cath and Mick at the station. We have a nice hotel booked in a converted mill in the middle of town, Cath has borrowed her sister’s bike. Just a` little summer rain to great us. Did you know the Beatles and Cilla Black where born here? Not that you can move more than ten feet around town without being reminded. Liverpool is a wonderful town with lots of bars and great old buildings. It's industrial history is everywhere, from the imposing East India` Building, to the old dock warehouses now turned into trendy flats and cafe's. We avoid all this and go for a dodgy Indian buffet in the back streets. The next morning we wander off to collect our renta bikes, it's only raining slightly.

Mick has also persuaded two English couples who we met in Cuba to come along as well. This is a stroke of genesis, not only may they have some idea of where we are going, Andrea has taken up the mantel of master logistics planner. I learn that we are ridding the Trans Pennine Trail (TPT). A two hundred mile trek that does follow some canals (without pubs), and climbs the Alpe D' Huez of England. First day, a leisurely fifty miles, the basted didn't put that in the header. We head off through the town bike trails down to the river. The sun comes out, and a brisk tail wind springs up. We ride along the Manchester ship canal ( to big for pubs), then duck on to one of the many abandoned rail lines that criss cross the area. All around us are remains of mighty Victorian industries. Coal pits, canals, train lines,and huge viaducts, all abandoned. A small note here on English bike paths, they are perfect except for the local councils love of putting obstructions on them. Every Kilometre, especially at the top or at the bottom of a steep hill there seems to be a narrow gate which you have to weave your bike through. A lot of time and effort has gone into making these extremely difficult to get a bike through, add random large rocks placed in the middle of the path, and you have made your signed bike path the most impracticably way of getting from “A to B” on a bike. Our track mainly avoids towns, but being Tom and Andrea's local they manage to find us a nice pub for lunch. Only 20 miles to go. After lunch continue till we hit Manchester. Only 4 miles to go. We ride around the Mersey and lose the trail. Only 4 miles to go. We leave the Mersey and hit the streets. Only 4 miles to go. Eventually we get to Tom's house where we are staying for the night. Only four miles to go becomes the standard distance measure to anywhere from now on. A few beers, a quick shower, chuck our washing in the machine,off to the local curry house for a non dodgy curry and some reds. Life couldn’t be better.

       After a fab breakfast, we head out on our next leg. Tom brings out his riding secret. One hundred millilitre shots of condensed beetroot juice, this is the gear Lance Armstrong was on. For the next four days every time I go to the loo I think I have bowel cancer. The ride is only forty miles across what poses as a mountain range round here. Fortunately we are in the Costa del Sol of England so the weather is perfect. A few stops and a couple of hills and we find a pub for lunch. The trail continues rising slightly along an old line with great views as we rise above the valleys. John and Burnie, our other couple become our de facto leaders, John blazing the trail, and Burnie keeping an eye out for the pubs. Eventually we can see the top of our days ride, Its only about 4 miles down hill on the other side. There is a 3 mile tunnel through the hill. Great. Unfortunately it's full of high voltage power lines, put there after the line closed. We have to push (not ride) our bikes up a goat track another couple of miles to the summit. Eventually we get to the top, roll back down to the other end of the tunnel, only to find we need to ride back up the main road to get to our hotel for the night. It's worth it, beer and good grub await at the end. We all sleep well.

      Day three. Selby only another leisurely 50 miles. Who organised this again.. I arrange to meet a mate, John at the end. Weather good as you would expect. Cath's sister has stuffed up her flights, and she has to leave us at the end of the day. That’s her story anyway, “Liz make sure she buys you a bottle of wine”. The trail is meant to be pretty much flat from here but some how we get lost and go down a steep hill. It takes us a hour to find the trail again. We ride another 4 miles to Bently train station . Three generations of the same family under 40 pushing prams, and a lack of trains are the only remarkable things about the place. Much to Cath's disgust we have to ride 4 miles back into Doncaster to get her a train out. She escapes while I try to find a loo in a Brit Rail station. We give up and check into the local motel. Total distance 37 miles. Bummer I missed John Stoddart for a bit of chat about the cricket which the Aussies are loosing along the track. Thank god for small mercies.

        Day 4 50 miles, weather ominous. Trail flat. A good days ride past old airfields and along canals again. A bit of a Cuban tail wind ( straight in your face ) has sprung up. Lunch in Selby and I finally meet John for that chat. He joins us for the afternoon but heads back when the clouds arrive. We have a bit of trouble finding a place to stay so end up doing 60 miles for the day. It's starting to rain as we pull in to South Cave for the night but the food and beer is good

       Day Six. 15 miles. Weather crap. The English summer has arrived with a vengeance. I get out the rain coat. Mick and I only have 15 miles to Hull. The others are foolishly going on to Hornsea. Another 15 miles. The track is good and we stop for a cuppa at the Hummber bridge which we can barely see through the mist. Soaking we finally get to lunch, and afterwards bid our English friends goodbye. They struggle along a muddy track for the next couple of hours but arrive in the end after a couple of punchers. I jump on my bike to ride a couple of hundred meters to to the car hire place. I've go a flat. It's close enough I'll walk.

      We drive 200 miles back to Liverpool, through the mist to return the bikes, and spend the night in Southend reliving a bit of faded English glory, Basel Faulty would have been right at home at our “Prin of Wales Hote”. The Letters had fallen off the end of the sign. G n T, full English Breakfast, and a view over the mud where all available though. Back to Hull next morning to return the car, we arrive right on our 24 hour time slot. It's like ground hog day.

 Thanks to Mick and Andrea for the planning, Tom for the bed, and the rest for being silly enough to come along.

 

Click The pic for more photos


Posted by bondrj at 10:52 AM NZT
Updated: Saturday, 29 August 2015 10:59 AM NZT
Friday, 17 July 2015
Ruinas y Cenotes
Vehicle Assembly Building photo 20150303_111111.jpg
 
Ruins and Swimming Holes
Ruins are an individual taste. One man's castle is another man's pile of rocks, sometimes not even a very impressive pile of rocks. Two friends of mine  (you know who you are) are great fun to accompany on a site visit. She sees a magnificent ancient greek temple, He sees a pile old rubble ripe for a unit development. Myself I have a bit of a foot in both camps. Mexico has many great Mayan/Aztec sites. Some of theses survived successfully for many hundreds of years, only to then be abandoned then resurrected by later civilizations. These people believed the original creators where gods. Teotihuacan,Chichen Itza, Palenque, and Monte Alban, are pretty much, must sees if you are going past. Thirty years ago I first visited  Mexico and wandered many of these sights. Tourist guides where the locals trying to make a buck, Fences and keep out signs were non existent. Pay ten Pesos at the gate or sneak in the back door. Bash your way through the bush like Indiana Jones and climb whatever you please. In the eighties for  twenty bucks I reckon I could have taken an excavator in with me. I have fond memories of sneaking up to the Sun Temple, climbing down and checking out  rocket man from "Chariots of the Gods" fame. Nothing like some Magic mushies and turning out the torch four stories down at midnight,in a burial crypt to bring history to life. Sadly such enlightened attitudes have changed. In Palenque a million peoples acid breath has closed the rocket god's tomb to visitors. Most of the major temples can only be viewed from the ground.The sites are still spectacular but a bit like Ayers rock It's not quite the same. Fortunately the ancients were productive little bastards.There still are plenty of lesser sites where you can climb till your heart's content. Unfortunately many of theses will fall into the pile of rocks category.
   Cenotes on the other hand are something I can never get enough of. The Aztec's believed in the heaven, the earth, and the underworld. Gods lived in heaven, temples on earth worshiped them, and foretold celestia events, Cenotes were the paths to the underworld, where virgins and captured enemies were sacrificed much to the relief of the goat population. Eighty million years ago a giant comet smashed into the earth just north of Mexico. The resulting shock waves shattered the limestone allowing water to seep in.  This eventually developed in to cave systems. Where the roofs collapsed in places, you are left with bright clear lakes connected with underground rivers, The water in them teams little fish, flickering shafts of light reflect off the walls. Stalagmites climb out of the warm pools,  underground rivers keep the pools crystal clear. Stick your head under the water and low roofed little caverns become grand ball rooms, full of mirror balls and mysterious paths to the unknown. These are the swimming pools you have always dreamed of having in your back yard. Maintenance free and ever changing.  Central America and the Caribbean are full of them. See Ya  later I'm off to catch up with the gods.

Posted by bondrj at 12:06 AM NZT
Updated: Friday, 17 July 2015 12:35 AM NZT
Sunday, 7 June 2015
Thanking God in Las Vegas
 photo 20150330_223959.jpg
    "God thank you for coming to Las Vegas, God knows we need you here. Vagas ain't what it used to be". Thus we were greeted at the ramp door on our flight from Mexico.  No Shit. Vagas ain't what it used to be. The old deal was simple. Vagas was a mob owned neon illuminated hole in the middle of the nowhere. Walk two blocks off the strip, your surrounded by sand. You came here to gamble, solo, there was nothing else to do. Casinos gave you free booze,  cheap rooms and the odd show starring a 60's has been. If you knew the system, you could live for practically nothing. Free breakfasts and $3.99 banquets were the lure every casino used to suck you in past a never ending row of one armed bandits, and smiling croupiers. If they did there job properly in two days, you would be hitching back to Texas, after blowing your last twenty bucks on a 35 to one "get out of jail" spin on the wheel of death. If truth in advertising existed the "Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas" sign would have "Thanks Sucker" written ten feet high on the back of it. The place was the perfect cash cow.
    Then greed killed it. Las Vegas was the fastest growing city in the US for 20 years running. The mob left and the corporates turned the place into a retirement village, with a amusement park in the center. One hundred percent non recourse mortgages, and a global financial crisis did the rest. When the music stopped, it was hit harder than just about anywhere else. States everywhere else legalized pokies, and all of a sudden the average loser did not need to jump on a plane to pay his voluntary tax. 
     Like a roller coaster its still worth a spin but it's lost it's dirty rotten soul. Heres a bit I wrote thirty years ago in the good old days.  Vale old Vegas. I will miss you.


     Imagine your driving through the desert, hour after hour, mile after mile, gas stations, wierd military bases, and cactus are the only things that mark the passage of time. It gets dark and only gas stations come and go, then on the horizon a dull glow appears. As you go on it gets brighter, half an hour later the glow is enormous and as you top the hill it appears, a tiny neon blip in the middle of a dry valley. “The strip”. 3 miles of pure fantasy. As you drive toward the lights, billboards everywhere extol the virtues of 10s or better video poker, $1.99 meals, 50c drinks and cabaret shows.

 

   You park the car free in the middle of the city, something unknown in the U.S. You hop on the monorail shuttle bus and your off into the world of the unbelievable. The first thing you notice is the light followed by the noise. The lights dull almost dark but punctuated by flashing miniature bulbs, thousands upon thousands and then the noise 5000 poker machines, crashing and clanging, paying out and taking in.

 

   Come in, come in, all interstate visitors get a free chance to win a car. Step right up, step right up, $1.50 to win a helicopter, 75c to win a Ferrari, 15c to win a new Chev a penny to win a .357. Time stops. There are no clocks, things happen 24 hours a day, in the corner the band plays, down the hall $1.99 for a 4 course meal and as much as you can eat up on the mezzanine.

 

    At Circus Circus the stage is set in the sky above the Tables, It drags the punters in, bright flashy lights keep them mesmerized. The kids to the video games, the adults to the slots, look up, see the lion tamer, the traipse act. The real show is on the floor below. Time stops, reels turn, coins clatter, Ma and Pa feed the machines.

 

    Walk out the front door and grab a handful of coupons on a way for a free telephone call at the Stardust, or a free meal at the Nevada. Hey the sign out the front takes as much power as a small town to run and uses $5000 worth of electricity a month. Enter the next place, the games the same, only the characters have changed, block after block, mile after mile, everyone’s a winner.

 

   You wont believe this but one of the guys at the hostel was telling Me how he needed to get a job in the morning and at 7 o’clock that night he rolls up in a chauffeur driven limo. He’s come to pick up his bags. Seems like he went down the Mint, put $5 on the blackjack tables, 5 hours later he’s $70,000 richer ($100,000 - 30,000 tax), and the casino has given him a limo, a room, and some Hookers for the night.  And if they don’t get it back off him again tonight, tomorrow he flies home to Austria,. Everyone loves a winner.

 

    Feel a bit lonely, rent a girl (this is Nevada you know) of course its not legal on the strip but in the next county and they give a private limo service. All major credit cards accepted. Then perhaps you feel like something a little more permanent. Wedding chapels operate 24 hours a day. For $49 Elvis can marry you and your girlfriend, boyfriend, mother, cat, dog, car, handgun. No blood tests, free documentation, flowers, photos and motels all arranged, for extra cash of course, or use your credit card, or someone else’s, it doesn't matter. Get a government cheque, any government cheque and they will cash it for you minus their take, they get payed whether its hot or not.

 

   You walk back out to the car. How long has it been? 2 hours or 2 days, Times stopped you've walked a million miles, pulled a million slots your tired and broke. You start the car the noise slowly disappears, you drive, soon the lights are just a dull glow, suddenly its back to desert, cactus, gas stations every now and then, and lonely black miles. Did it happen? Did it really exist or was it just a dream, another gas station: you start to wonder.

 

For a few more pics click here 

 

 Ps. For a feel of the old Vegas go to Reno, 70's decore, cheap meals and you can still smoke at the tables.


Posted by bondrj at 2:35 AM NZT
Updated: Sunday, 7 June 2015 9:33 PM NZT
Friday, 8 May 2015
Socialist Biking.
Town photo 20150313_095902.jpg
       The original idea of going to to Cuba, was to go bike riding. We normally just rock up with some bikes and a brief idea of where we are going, then wing it from there. For one reason or another this wasn't going to cut it in Cuba. Finding a place to rent, buy, bikes in the internet non friendly Cuba while in Oz wasn't very fruitful. As a matter of fact finding anything web based in Cuba is pretty hard. There are plenty of bike blogs, and tour's that offer some good information, but nearly everyone seems to take their own bike. In Cuba everything is owned/organized by the government, think of your own experience with your government. Yer I know, not hopeful. Right. Second problem. When first mentioned we got a few of the Fat Boys interested, but this gradually dwindled from four to three to two. The Fat Brothers tour was it.
      No bikes, two people, the only other option was a organized tour. We chose this one here, as for the process involved in that you will have to ask Mick. They sent us lots of information, which I didn't read, as close as I could get to winging it. At some stage I gave them money, which should be illegal under socialism, but they took it anyhow. Welcome to Cuba, land of paradoxes. The trip was all inclusive, all we need to do was buy a couple of meals, and pay some tips. After a couple of days in old Havana, we headed off to our first hotel to meet up with our group. Our first hotel would be familiar to any one who has been to the old Soviet Union. It's even owned by the Russians and is only missing the Intourist logo out the front. Saying that, it had a pool. and was ten times nicer than what I was expecting. Most of our group were arriving that night so we ate the buffet and tried to guess which other dinners would join us tomorrow. Unfortunately all our guesses turned out to be a polish netball team. Being an English company, our group of eighteen was mostly English, Canadian, with a couple of Irish, Aussie, South African stragglers. Most but not all of us had some riding experience. We met in the foyer after breakfast, there we were introduced to our guide Eric, drivers Tuna and Miguel, and bike mechanic William. They gave me a helmet, apparently I was meant to bring one, and a nice mountain bike. I hadn't read the itinerary, so from there on pretty much every thing was a surprise. 
       We rode back into old Havana,and were cruising down one of Cuba's rare hills, when the bloke in front of me took a huge face plant into the bitumen. First thought, now the guide is going to earn their cash. Second thought. It is the guide. I thought he had broken his jaw as there was claret everywhere, and he landed with a huge splat. Great start, scratch one guide, and the only English speaker. I hope they come in six packs if this keeps up. Once he had been despatched to the hospital on one of the buses, our bike mechanic William took over as leader, and I got to practice a bit of my Spanish asking about various things we where looking at. We eventually ended up in the middle of town only to find Eric waiting for us, much worse for wear with a bandaged chin, but still breathing. Talking was hard work, and he couldn't ride for a week. He had also hurt his arm, but like the six million dollar man the Cuban hospital system had rebuilt him. They went to the first hospital and they told him he would have to wait for an hour. Not five hours, One hour. This wasn't good enough, so he went to the next hospital and he got seen to straight away, and as always in Cuba, free of charge. We then jumped on to the bus, and off to our first nights accommodation a couple of hours bus ride away.
           This was pretty much the template for the rest of the trip. Eric would give us the profile of the days riding. This generally went something like, "The first bit is hard but the road is not to bad", "The second section is really hard, and there is a hill", "The last section is very difficult, and when you reach town look out because the locals may mug you." Generally the riding was flat and easy, along good but sometimes bumpy bitumen roads. Cubans don't have hills, more speed humps, and the locals were friendlier than most other places I have been to. Rest stops where every 15/20 km, where you would have a snack and fill up your water bottle. You could buy commie cola, or freshly crushed cane juice on the side of the road everywhere. If you got tired you could take the bus and chat to the drivers.  We would either ride  the first part, then bus the last bit, or visa versa. The lunch stop was during, or at the end of the ride. Lunch was either homemade sandwiches in a little bar, or a sit down meal in a restaurant. When we got to the next stopover town we would do a tour. This was hard work after riding as I generally wanted to just have a shower and relax, but there was no other time to fit it in. Dinner was in a restaurant or a home cooked meal from one of the local little home stays that have opened up recently. A few beers in the bar, a bit of a chat, then off to bed for generally a 7am breakfast the next morning. Breakfasts where generally fruit, Bacon, Eggs, and toast, with lots of good Cuban coffee. All stuff I love, but not particularly good bike riding food when you're setting yourself up to do 70 km on a bike. 
      Our group was a good mix. Something's you cannot order before hand, but if you can order a good group, pay extra. Psychiatrists and accountants seemed to be overly represented. Most of them liked a drink, some of them even liked bike riding. The support crew were great as well. Eric the guide, was in his 30's, and kept us amused with facts about the Cuban revolution. This could be a bit of a juggling act sometimes. Quite often with several opposing viewpoints presented in the same sentence. Our drivers Tuna and Miguel, both had young families. Tuna who was in his late forties, had just had his first child. She was only a month old, half of which he had spent driving us around. In the season they quite often do lots of back to back trips, with just one night at home in between.  William the bike mechanic, was the character of the bunch. He normally only rides the first  three days to set up the bikes, but due to Eric trying to remove himself from the gene pool, he became our de facto road leader for the whole trip. 50ish, super fit, onetime professional bike rider, latino, and unashamedly ladies man. He  had 5 children from 5 women in five different places in Cuba. He could ride all day, fix the bikes all night, then try and get  me into trouble with my bad Spanish, and the bar girls before taking over himself. Ten Dollars could buy you a lot of entertainment in Cuba.
        We only had one non traveling day, in Trinidad.Most of our enthusiastic crew went off diving or hiking, the Bond brothers,slept in, then went back to our usual lifestyle. Wander down town, find a coffee, find lunch, have a few drinks, find dinner, find more drinks.  If I did it again, I would pick atrip with a few more rest days, as it's just nice to wander around town and check out the place at your own pace. I loved the riding, but my highlights where the interaction with the locals. Lunch with Tunas extended family, teaching our casa peculiar host how to cook Spag Bol, buying beers and pizza in the non touristy places, and chatting to the locals "wherever". We meet some people on another companies bike trip, and ours was definitely the pick of the two. Because we were staying in the "nice" hotels we also met a few bus tourists who were spending their days being whisked from one revolutionary monument to the next. Riding was definitely better.
       The riding was generally along good sealed roads. Sometimes these were a little rough due to the number of work crews pouring tar on every crack as soon as it appears. Tar and labor are cheap in Cuba. We would quite often ride through little towns with the locals all sitting on their veranda's and using the telephone. The Cuban telephone, that is. Every one would be conversing with the neighbours by yelling acreoss the street, that way the whole village would know what was happening. There was not much traffic to drown out the reception. The weather was very hot to extremely hot if you were English, or warm to hot if you were Australian. Cuba is windy. On our easterly leg we always had head winds, until we reached the end of the island at Santiago de Cuba. After that we turned 180 deg and enjoyed the famous Cuban tail wind our guide had told us about. It blew in our faces all the way back to Havana. We never forgave him. Our bikes were good quality mountain bikes, with the hardest seats I have ever ridden on. The only fault I could find was that couldn't lock the front shockers, and neither could anyone else. This wasn't a great problem as the roads were generally flat. Cuban roads are full of bikes, horses, carts, pedestrian's, tractors, and dump trucks transporting people from one town to another. Cubans are used to slow traffic so the rare car that went past was really good around cyclists.
       We finished up the tour at the Bodeguita de Medio, a bar in Havana that Hemingway used to drink at. All bars in Havana have this in common, even the ones opened after his death.The Bodeguita is the only one surrounded by tourists, that has a capitalist advertising sign above the front door. It's hard to miss. We said our goodbyes, and most people flew straight out over the next couple of hours, We checked into a $30 casa paticular in the middle of town, for a bit of working plumbing and a final couple of Cuba Libre's.
     Oh, and a sleep in.
           
Click the pic for more photo's..

Posted by bondrj at 12:48 AM NZT
Updated: Wednesday, 13 May 2015 10:00 PM NZT
Wednesday, 15 April 2015
Viva La Revoloution
Until Victory Always photo 20150320_183339.jpg

 Cuba 2015

 

     When we first landed I thought they had made a mistake. I peered out the window through the misty rain at a dilapidated semi abandoned 1950's terminal in need of a good paint. Bugger I've got on the wrong plane and ended up at Heathrow. An old bus eventually arrived, and they herded us on to the terminal, 60's, minimalist style. I looked at the crappy fluorescent lighting, and realised that I wasn't at Heathrow. Most of the lights where working. There is a bit of a line through customs, but none of this " how long are you staying here ? " crap. A quick stamp on the visa we are through,and free to stare at the baggage carousel.
     This is Cuba. Along with our baggage at the check in counter we are surrounded with the delights of the decadent west. Ac units, stoves, car tyres, boxes of who knows what. Every one is allowed 40KG of baggage allowance and the local take full advantage. They bring back every thing but the " Five Brothers", more of them later. Cuban customs search every bag thoroughly looking for, Sat phones, GPS's, undeclared capitalist goods and porn. Well mostly porn. My bag comes out with a broken zip, and the keys to the padlock which where on a clip on the outside missing. Good start Guy's. Where here to go bike riding but have opted to start our trip with two nights of luxury in the Hotel Sevilla in Old Havana. It was a favourite of  the Mob, and Al Capone, and has my hotel picking essential. A pool. From the bar at the top you can look out over town. First stop go to pool, first thing order a drink. Cuba Libre. First observation of the Cuban Economy, rum is 80% cheaper than coke by the proportions in my glass. Vitamin R as our guide calls it, it never seems to be in short supply. A staple at every meal along with the 5 brothers. Beans, Rice, Chicken, Pork, Fish. 
     Next day we wander around town, which is seeing the effects of 55 years of socialist revolution. At the Museum of the Revolution we learn what CIA has been up to . Any industry that has collapsed, disease, pandemic that has struck, or mysterious failure of the great socialist plan, can squarely be traced back to the agents of evil. The main industry here seems to be museums. Cars are museum pieces, most buildings that haven't fallen down also. Factory's are preserved in almost the exact state they where when they where nationalised in the 60's, a few zombie workers hang around,nothing much else seems to emerge from the halls or chimney's. The grand train station has more platforms than the country has working engines.
     The sole exception to this seems to be the oil refinery just across the river which belches out black smoke over town 24/7. Advertising is limited to bill boards of three dead dudes. ( or all most ) Chavas, Fidel, and Mandela, with some inspirational slogan underneath , like " The revolution is the only thing stopping people slipping back in to fudel serfdom." "Viva la Trabadors" or "Implement the  ideals of the 6th workers congress"
    The few local newspaper I looked at are full of outcomes of the local committee meetings. Uncle Chavas made a gift of supplying the Cuban people with access to the state run Venezuelan TV. The locals think its nice to have an alternative point of view, while in the hotels we can get Fox news, and Mexican soap operas.I reckon they should show Fox News to the Cuban people as that's enough to make any one hate Americans and capitalism. They probably don't think the locals would believe it was not propaganda invented by the state.
    Since the collapse of Russia, and more recently Venezuela, things have been pretty tough here. The Cuban average wage is about a dollar a day. The get free housing, health care, education , and subsidised food rations. Still Cubans end up spending about 80% of there wages on food. Fortunately the good old capitalist tourist has stepped in to help out our brothers. Tourists unlike locals demand things that work, so the government is busy rebuilding the centre of old Havana. New  restaurants and bars with apathetic government workers, that take only CUC's ( Tourist Money) are springing up around town. A fleet of modern Chinese buses whisk "las touristas" from one museum to another, or back to one of the nice tourist hotels where most things in the room will sort of work, probably not all at once. You may have hot water but it will only come out the bath spout, only cold will come out the shower head. Hotels generally have cards so you can log on to the internet, but no working computers, or computers but no cards. My favourite was the breakfast buffet that had cereal, bowls and milk that where only available one at a time so you could not have a bowl of inedible coco rocks even if you wanted one.
    All the same most Cubans seem reasonably happy with their lot. Large quantity of cheap vitamin R may go some way to explain this, but they take justified pride in their revolution. Also their survival in the face of the imperialist Yanquis. There is great music everywhere.No need to search for it , it comes to you. You cannot sit quietly anywhere in old Havana without a three piece band miraculously appearing in search of a tip. Capitalism has again reared it's ugly head and it is now possible to own a small restaurant, or rent out a small room as a B and B. These are generally the clean places with good service and fully functioning bathrooms at a fraction of the cost of the  government hotels. Of course the government does it's best to discourage this with tax and hordes of paperwork, but still some people seem to be on the up. Crime and corruption are pretty low. Cubans a free to complain about their government but not change it, and unlike most other central american country's they actually do receive some services. People sit out in the squares and chat, rather than watch TV.  All in All 4.5 out of 10, not a pass but better than a lot of other places I have been. 

    On the way out of the country I try to buy some cigars. I can buy 150 with my credit card, which is to many to bring back to Australia, or I can go to another shop and buy ten with cash which I don't have enough of. I give up and go to the bar where for my five CUC's I can get a Cuba Libre or two coffees for me and Mick. I explain to the barman in my best Spanish that I am a good brother because I am buying my brother a coffee with my last change even though I want a rum. He gets me the coffees. Then when I sit down comes over with a rum and a smile. Thanks Cuba.

 

Click the pic above for some photos


Posted by bondrj at 3:20 AM NZT
Updated: Wednesday, 13 May 2015 10:02 PM NZT

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