On Thursday I packed up and left the hostel with bag in tow, caught the tram to the Guggenheim. It’s a hard building to describe because it is just so different from any building I’ve ever seen. For a start the outside is completely covered by thin stainless steel panels which reflect the day, and anything near-by depending on your view point. The building is also surrounded by water, adding to the reflective element and integrating the river running alongside it. A giant welded steel spider lurks near the river – this work of Louise Bourgois lovingly (??) inspired by her Mother. Out the front entrance of the museum is a giant puppy made of pansies by Jeff Koons.
Archive for the '1' Category
Beepbeep. beepbeep. beebeep. beepbeep. beepbeep. beepbeep. beepbeep. beepbeep. beepbeep. My alarm beeps nine times. I wait until the last beep before I tell myself I have to get up. Arrggh, I moan. And the sneaky thought passes through my head: Do I really want to go to Spain today? Wouldn’t I much rather stay in bed? I could just pull up the covers and sleep all day. At 6.15am its not going to be light for at least….two hours. But I suppose if one wants to get out of the caravan once in a while and go to far and distant countries, one must really get up…. [read on]
Day three was miserable. I was miserable. For some reason all that standing around on rocks yesterday waiting for the sun to set in the freezing cold had left me with a killer sore-throat. The rain had started up again and I had at least four long hours drive to get to Achill Island. Woe is me. I decided to take a break in the city of Derry/London Derry (as it is known so as not to offend either Northerners or Southerners) for lunch and ended up spending an hour trying to find the Post Office as I was under the impression postage would be cheaper here- which it was not… [read on]
Funny how you never know what little surprise life will throw into your day….
Day Two started off well, as days like these tend to do. I could see blue sky and sea from my window. The forecast was great – here was a rare summery day, though the wind carried a wintery chill, tidings from the season to come. I had a leisurely breakfast, then leisurely set off on my way to the Giant‘s Causeway, car packed to the brim with useless camping equipment and a restless surfboard. I had a 20 minute drive around the coast ahead of me so I thought perhaps a morning surf, then the rest of the day at the Causeway, which was after all, the natural phenomena I had driven seven hours to see. First thing I did was head out of town in the wrong direction. ….. [read on]
“Come on Henry!” I shouted, “My work here is done, it’s time to go on a road-trip!” Henry sat in a fug of unspent motor oil, still in half slumber, his side-mirrors twitching as he dreamed of running free down endless roads with a sexy lady Toyota at his side.“Henry!” “Wake up!” Henry grumbled back to life and reluctantly let me take control to back out of the car park. He’s always grumpy when he wakes up. So we were off. Off to far and distant lands, new countries, new cultures. Well at least one new country. Kind of. We were off to the far and distant land of Northern Ireland. Only six hours driving to go….
We arrived in Mexico City with barely a smattering of Spanish. Lyn knew a few words from time in the USA, I knew a bit of Italian and Ang knew how to say “Donde esta el bano”.As advised, we caught a safe taxi from the airport and were quickly introduced to the Mexican style of driving, and the large cavernous language gap as our driver began gesturing and verbalizing in such a way that demanded a response. Anything. Three long blank stares and some useless attempts at communication later, he eventually found his way to our accomodation in the historical centre where, once settled, we realized a communist rally was in full swing in the zocalo. Not wanting to be recruited we walked carefully around the protestors on our way to the supermarket where purchases included the essential staple of muesli bars and the not so essential purchase of Mexicos healthy alternative to Oreos, “Lors”.
Dinner proved to be a near futile mission until the server in one small hole in the wall pointed out a young woman in response to my unsucessful vegetarian enquiry. Convieniently she spoke English and was able to translate a few things and we ended up with Enchiladas con verdes. Though Lyn had pointed out that verdes was a sauce, and I suspected it would have something green in it, I was unprepared to find my enchiladas floating in what at first glance was unidentifiable (though definitely green), but what I now believe to be green jalapeno sauce. I believe this to be so from the extreme temperature of my entire body after eating a plateful with no refreshment of an kind. Such was the effect that it required the purchase of a bottle of milk with a picture of smiling kids on the label from the nearest seven-eleven. The phrase “sin verdes” will forever be etched on my traumatized tongue in preparation for future meal orders. Our next days foray into the city included a visit to the Cathedral and a walk up to the bell towers. Our group guide was verbal and demonstrative and imparted a lot of information, most of which I think was about bells. And some guy named Juan. But I cant be entirely sure. We did see the bell-ringers ringing the bells however, which was cool. Our other main excursion involved a rather awkward encounter in a farmacia, where at a counter full of staring Mexicans one member of our trio tried to describe and eventually purchased certain items necessary to females at certain times of the month. Very conveniently these particular items were actually shelved in a long line above the counter and in plain pointing view. But that would’ve been too easy…..
Our third day in Mexico we took a tour out to Teotihuacan, an ancient city with two pyramids, one dedicated to the Moon and one to the Sun. The archeological site is believed to have been built in 100AD and predates the Aztec culture. Of course this all sounds terribly interesting and intriguing until one actually stands in front of each pyramid and realizes they are aptly named for the close proximity of their summits to the very high Moon and the extremely high Sun. And that one is expected to climb into Deep Space.
Of course the tour guides all know this ahead of time so they take you to see pretty sculptures and quiet churches and ply you with Mexican delicacies and liquors such as pulque and tequila from the Agave plant. So as to lull you into a false sense of easy effortless booze fuelled gaiety. Then they take you out in the hottest part of the day, stick you in front of a 70 meter pyramid, whack you on the behind and tell you to climb, dammit, climb.
Three hours later we stumbled back to the van with jelly thighs and cotton brains and some really good pictures taken from way up high. But it would be an extra hour before we left the archeological site, after a group head count revealed we were one short.. .. Though no one could actually describe what the missing person looked like, we remembered that he couldn’t speak any English or Spanish and that he was wearing either a green shirt, a white shirt or a black shirt, had either glasses or a cap and may or may not have had a moustache. After checking all the exits we had to leave. The van trip back was sombre, everyone’s mind on our poor missing teammate unable to communicate, probably curled up at the base of the pyramid fending off scorpions and rattlesnakes with either a cap or pair of glasses. Until we walked into the hostel and were greeted by our missing tourist wearing a blue shirt and glasses who explained in very comprehensible English that he had waited twenty minutes (at the wrong exit) then decided to catch a bus back.
The next day we left the bustle of Mexico City and caught an early bus to Cuernavaca where we found ourselves stranded in front of an unnamed locked gate, our supposed accommodation for the night. After a half hour sitting around outside, technical genius Ang identified a string leading to the other side. A natural engineer, she determined that pulling on the string did ring a bell on the other side of the gate. After another half hour of ringing the bell intermittently, our racket was finally answered by one of the occupants inside who helpfully pointed out the phone number on the wall to ring and then spoke to the person on the other end of the phone, politely explaining in Spanish that three “gringas” were waiting for their room, probably adding adjectives such as annoying, loud, pain in the arse, etc, etc.
Once our hostess arrived we dropped our bags in the room and took a taxi out to Tepotzlan, a village stretching out from the base of a cliff face, known for its temple which sat 2km up atop the cliff, and its icecream. But mostly known by us for its icecream. Having walked one hundred kilometres into deep space the day before we decided that the God of Icecream was due some worshipping, rather than the God of Things That Have To Be Climbed. Of course we could have climbed the measly 2km steep hike upward in thirty degree heat if we wanted to. But we didn’t. Just cos we didn’t want to. But we could have if we wanted to. Instead we visited two of the four icecream shops sampling their wares, including Tequila y Limon, Coco, Café con Leche, Yoghurt, no-one brave enough to try the Pineapple Chilli flavour.
After eating icecream and ignoring the temple for a while, we caught a 40 minute taxi for $15 back to Cuernavaca and sweated ourselves to sleep – or at least I did, while Ang and Lyn stayed up for eight hours chasing a mosquito around the room, eventually luring it into the bathroom and trapping it in a sheet.
What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas…….
We’d been driving for hours – five at least,- with just the one stop in a bustling rest area where rich RV-ers accompanied their pooping pets to the desert bathroom and Indian traders sold their wares under the hot sun.The sun was beginning to disappear and the desert landscape had long since been transformed from the empty tundras of earlier in the day. The incoming night lay ahead, broken only by the headlights of our hire car. Squinting out the window conjured enchanted forests where firs stood in the milky black, only the snow under each tree holding light, a silver shadowy deathbed.
In time the ink breaks as a gas station comes into view. We drive straight past it – almost miss it but for a keen eye spotting the small blinking neon sign. The flickering of a wasted H barely visible next to its doomed capital brothers O S T E L.
We turn around on the deserted highway and pull in next to a pick-up truck. The block of rooms seem abandoned so we walk through the crisp night and into the gas station. An electronic bell as we enter. A Western cliché playng on the radio. An old soap from the 80’s showing on a small TV behind the counter. “We’re looking for the people who run the hostel?” “You’ve found him” came the drawl. “Uh… we have a booking”. He turns slowly to a calendar on the wall behind him, and looks for our booking. Slowly. Then he turns back to face us with cotton eyes. Slowly.
A tortoise in a plaid shirt and glasses.
An old man in a baseball cap, grey and bearded sits in a corner staring at the Twinkies. Grinning maniacally.
Then with a whir the music winds up again, the 80’s actress falls to the ground and Dismal Desmond slowly takes our cash and gives us a key. We walk back outside shivering with the blast of cold that envelopes us…..or do we tremble with trepidation? No one says anything but every one is thinking the same as we walk slowly along the block of rooms until we come to Room 13. Several feral cats scrounge around the building as we enter the room and someone tries the lightswitch. Nothing. In the dim light we see four rickety bunk beds with stained mattresses, an empty chest of drawers and demon shadows.
The bravest spokesperson from our party of three ventures back to the “office” in search of linens and light. And returns with Mr Dismal who proceeds to open every other room one by one, slowly. He walks away, not very fast, leaving us huddling together in the snow-laced night contemplating our fate. Someone tries the heater – it struggles. Could we really last a night here with no blankets? Perhaps we could snuggle. Perhaps we could find some alternative…outside a feline caterwauls and we all consider the unthinkable….
Moments later our survival plans are interrupted by the arrival of another man, a strange shadowy figure with an aura of authority, who appears to be Desmond’s boss. He ignores the greeting, neither speaking nor looking at us. Is this avoidance of eye contact merely because he lacks social graces, or is it really because he doesn’t like to get-to-know his prey? This man is not slow like Desmond, but his rough beard and gaunt contours belie a deeper handicap of the soul. We have not seen his eyes, but we suspect they too are cotton.
The Boss repeats Dismal’s inspection of the surrounding rooms… one by one by one. They’re all empty of blankets. And people. We huddle outside the room, watching the moths hurling themselves at the one working light on the empty path, a small pile of their dead comrades marking the ever-futile battles of nights past. The Boss concludes his search and disappears, only to return a moment later with a bulb which he screws into the only fixture, still without looking at us. Perhaps he thinks this will mollify us, that we too will be drawn to the light, and, like the moths, to our deaths?
The Boss leaves us alone on the path, wondering if he will ever return with blankets. Breath frosts the air, we clutch our insufficient jackets closer and contemplate – again – just how far a cat pelt would stretch. Finally, having seen neither hide nor hair of anyone for at least ten minutes, we retreat into the false warmth of the gas station. The chime over the door makes an eery ‘uh-oh’ as we enter. As Dismal Desmond drags his gaze, slowly, away from the grainy TV, an urge to stab ourselves with the “Desert State” novelty toothpicks adorning the counter overcomes us. Before anyone is self-maimed, we see The Boss outside in the cold, gesturing violently and communing with some unseen force in the dark. It is mutually decided without need of words that it is time to leave, but Dismal’s snail-pace leaves us cornered as The Boss enters, finally addressing us directly although eerily his eyes remain in shadow, and he assures us that blankets are coming….
The Boss is summoned back outside by the unseen force of darkness that controls him, and we see our opportunity to escape. Dismal finally has our money in hand, we grab it and run, breaking free of the cloying decay that eminates from this desert grave.
We screech off into the night, our last image through the rear-view mirror is of neon light – pulsating in the inky night the only illuminated letters, the H, the E, and the L.
(Based on a true story. Co-written by E, L, A).