September 6, 2016 Mother’s Ruin

  Juniper hates to be picked. The dusky blue berries nestle amongst a snarl of malevolent green spikes that make the berries inaccessible to all but goats. Hot, sweaty and in dire need of a bière pression at a bar in the village, we assess the mean looking bush in front of us. Ok.   I say decisively and pull out a plastic bag. I'm going in. Ow! Shit!   I withdraw quickly, pincering a single berry...

August 20, 2016 A Kernel Of Truth

The kitchen is full of murky looking jars of liquid which resemble badly kept lab specimens. I peer in to one of them, shaking it a little and watching the pink filaments swim through the dark liquid. Something shifts at the bottom sending up and eddy of deep brown, sludgy looking matter. The sunlight barely makes it through the jar, just a deep, tawny coloured glow eminating faintly from the...

August 20, 2016 Hair of the dog

The drought bleached fields stretch out in front of us as we emerge from the shade of the pine forest and the sun bounces off the pale, dry stalks and in to our eyes. The heat is almost a noise; a low, lazy throb heaving itself over and under us, lurching after us as we sweat and walk. A faded JCB stands lonesome by the path under the wide, unblinking...

August 2, 2016 You say crawfish, I say crayfish. Crawfish! Crayfish!

I haul him out of the water. He doesn't come without a fight and he really wants to finish his bacon. The feel of his claws dragging through the silt trembles up through the taut string until suddenly he loses grip and bloop, he plunges into the air still gobbling smoked pork. He is a North American Signal crayfish and he is angry. His boxing glove claws flick up sharply...

August 1, 2016 Bread & Cheese

  Hawthorn Deciduous thorny shrub Grey, fissured bark on a knotted, twisted trunk Toothed leaves that appear before a mass of wonderful scented blossom The deeply lobed leaves turn orange and dark-red in autumn Fruits ripen to red berries, which are called "haws" by an unknown author on www.naturescalendar.org.uk who was merely listing the properties of the hawthorn tree but accidentally became a poet for a moment.       I snatch at some...

May 8, 2016 An ending

The final nights of this long journey have begun. Robin Rawhide the Suzuki DL 650, pimped up in Jamie's homemade welding and loaded down with souvenirs took us 18,500 miles and the other 7000, we made by train, plane and automobile. The taxi pulls away and we follow  the lavishly ivied walls to a gated entrance that rumbles back on castors after a confusingly Portuguese moment on the intercom. Inside...

April 30, 2016 Mountains of marmosets

Beautiful great fat, splatting drops of rain are drumming on the rooftop when we wake in the morning. Jamie and I cheer loudly. We have had enough of sunshine for a very, very long time. Suzie and David, who have only just escaped a woefully damp Great British springtime, are less impressed. They are heading to the Brazilian side of the falls today to drink in a little more of...

April 28, 2016 Lions and tigers and badgers, oh my!

The language coming out of people’s faces here sounds like a mouthful of Walkers crisps. At first I am flummoxed by it, uncomprehending and a little alarmed. How will we get around now? I think while a woman spouts incomprehensible, crunchy sounds me at me. Gradually though, it begins to make a little sense and I even try it myself.   Bom noit! Rua Do Oriente, Santa Teresa….por…favour…..   I say haltingly to the...

April 19, 2016 Two utopias and a a bear in the hole.

    I lie in bed listening to Suzie, David and Jamie crashing about, having energetic showers and preparing sandwiches. They really like to get up early this lot. I reluctantly peel myself out from between the blankets and join in the cheerful, noisy start to the day. Despite rising at six we don’t leave until eight and the departure is punctuated by last minute dashes back I to the cabin to...

April 14, 2016 Pig caramel

Sausages?   Asks David, peering in confusion at the little packet of dulce de leche.   Did you say sausages?   And the whole table erupts in laughter at what will become a running joke for the rest of our trip.   I said dulce de leche!   I chortle.   SAUSAGES?   shouts Jamie, cupping his hand to his ear.   It’s apricot jam!   insists David, on closer inspection of what is clearly not apricot jam but boiled milk caramel. He spreads some on his bread...

March 14, 2016 Blond and dumb, lives with her mum.

    This time, my extreme enthusiasm for the desert breaks me. We spend all day exploring Humberstone, the glorious rusting wreck of a saltpetre mining town, closed and abandoned 50 years ago. Sunburnt, sand whipped and exhausted I finally leave after a seven hour expedition through every inch of the site and drag myself to the car. As I flop in to the passenger seat I notice a dull pain in...

March 3, 2016 Humberstone calling!

  A thunderstorm louder than any I have heard before booms and rolls over the island during the night. It is so loud and so close that I wake with my heart beating fast, a little afraid we will be washed away. Jamie sleeps soundly through the rippling flashes and godlike growls and looks at us blankly when Suzie and David come downstairs to share stories of a wakeful night. We...

February 6, 2016 Angry alpacas.

  To the dismay of the Peruvian Government, naked people have been on the increase at Machu Picchu. It has been described as 'a rash of naked tourism' but I am rather disappointed to note that they must be referring to the mosquito bitten bums of some rather solitary streakers rather than crowds of nude backpackers. We see the stern warnings on the information boards as we arrive, darkly advising us...

February 3, 2016 Parents and potatoes.

  January steals up on us furtively. With no icey weather and bleak, driving rain to announce the new year, we are discombobulated, only vaguely aware that Christmas has come and gone and we have jumped in to the precipice of 2016. Ten days in Santa Cruz with Gary and Jen speeds by in a blur of firecrackers, barbecued yucca snacks and bad Spanish. Patsy and John leave first, home to...

January 24, 2016 Out of one year and in to another.

  The pig lies on the table looking pleased and cooked. Rice spills from its belly and a golden bow has been tied around its neck. The children gather around and giggle at the mirthful porcine face and settle on the name 'George'. George the pig, though he doesn't say so, seems contented with his new moniker and smiles peaceably. Then we eat him. Suckling pig is Christmas dinner here and one...

January 23, 2016 Starwars spoilers and spliffs.

  A beetle shuffles though the grass which is impeding the way at every turn. It squeezes though a gap beneath a horizontal stem and clambers over another then disappears beneath a clump of wide blades and out of sight. An ant marches in to the recently vacated clearing and waves its antennae at me suspiciously. I sigh and sit up, feeling my spine pop and look around me. I am sitting...

January 9, 2016 Don’t cry for me Alfajores.

  Take two!   Says the nice man who has just sold us Argentinian vehicle insurance. He means alfajores, a delicious, dulce de leche filled shortbread sold all over South America but particularly virulent here in Argentina. I have been making eyes at the great hefts of chocolate smothered biscuit and asked, in a wheedly voice if perhaps we could take one instead of our change. Breakfast! I say triumphantly to Jamie, holding...

January 5, 2016 The Walking Dead

    I spot the cemetery from a distance which isn't difficult when the flat desert spools out from under us for miles in every direction. At first a nudge from the corner of my eye then, when I turn, the battered wooden crosses stand out in sharp relief against the blanched, sandy ground. I tap Jamie on the shoulder and point. Our intercom is only working intermittently and now is one...

December 30, 2015 Visiting the past.

  Light streaks in through the holes in the rusted, corrugated roofs and lands in bright, coiny spots on the floor. The sky, such a brilliant, bursting blue that it almost hurts to look at it, peeks through the rough, orange edges. I push my finger through the silky dust on a dessicated window ledge and watch as the fine motes burble in the dry air. In each house, the desert...

December 22, 2015 A change of plan.

    Cusco has been very bad for Robin's waistline. She pulls out of the city groaning under the weight of 30 balls of baby alpaca yarn, a bag of striped fabric, five reels of woollen braid, an alpaca scarf and a handwoven lambs wool blanket. The blanket is particularly special and particularly bulky, lending unwanted love handles on Robin's already ample sides. We take a collectivo packed with people out of Cusco...

December 15, 2015 Tiradito Anonymous

  When my passionfruit pisco sours arrives, it is a foot tall. Jamie looks at it with horror and embarrassment. I look at the 12 inches of yellow, icy, alcoholic glory with a philosophical smile. It is here now, so it must be enjoyed. The long, bulbous glass is propped in a wooden structure designed by people who like making an impression but have never had to sit in a restaurant...

November 25, 2015 Cat Blanket

    There is a skeleton somewhere along this road, lying by a shrine, half buried by sand. I watch out for it each time one of the many, colourful little shrines flick past. A cyclist riding through South America has posted a forlorn photo of him standing looking down at the skeleton of the woman. She still has her long, black hair, he says, and her legs are badly broken. He...

November 22, 2015 Sueing Peru.

  I don't realise what the sound is at first, I think it's the squeak of floorboards, the tinny sound of a radio in a distant room, birds on the roof. Then it comes to me. Rats, under the floorboards, echoing in the pipes in the courtyard, chattering in a hidden space behind the bathroom walls. The rain has brought them up along with a deathly stench that fills the bedroom...

November 20, 2015 Get Thee To A Nunnery.

  A nun with ill-judged blusher opens the door and looks at us uncertainly. We are wearing our motorbike gear with Robin parked behind us, unusual visitors to a convent undoubtedly.   Erm...

November 12, 2015 The Rock.

    Guatapé is a sunny little town, each house painted with a different design in bright, schoolroom colours. It sits in a beautiful nook deep in a fractured rolling landscape of myriad lakes as far as the eye can see. This we discover from the lookout after 725 steps to the top of the enormous rock. You can see the rock from miles off. It is shaped like a big grubby...

November 9, 2015 A Passion For Prawns.

  There is a huge, floating Scientology church in front of us as we contemplatively chew on our final meal aboard the Stahlratte. The enormous cruiser is called Freewinds and sails the seven seas posing as a training facility for level 8 Scientologists. We wonder if Tom Cruise is onboard leaping about on the soft furnishings but it seems to be peopled only by efficient looking, blue shirted crew. Or perhaps...

November 4, 2015 Hopping continents the hard way.

  A collection of motorbikes is huddled on the rickety peer. Amongst them Robin Rawhide is crouched shyly, caked in a layer of dust and filth. She has a rope tied loosely around her handlebars and another looped through the frame and piled up on the saddle with which she will later be winched high in the air. Tolga, a Turkish film maker is crouched beside her staring intently at the...

November 4, 2015 WordPress says no.

This is a public service announcement. Monkey supped on her molasses as she wrote a lovely long post all about our five days in Panama. We stayed in a cockroachy, mirror clad hotel with a picture of a bemused horse standing under a chandlier, we crossed the border with great difficulty and not a lot of amusement, we stood in an air conditioned room sipping piña coladas and looking at...

October 23, 2015 Four times twenty nine.

Oh oh and fuck it! Yeah and bollocks!   Crows Mary gleefully.   Yes fuck it!   She says again enjoying the taste of an English accent on her tongue. It is Michael's birthday and a birthday in paradise is a tall order. What more can you add? So we have taken a boat tour to a little island off the coast called Isla Tortuga where an extra dollop of utopia awaits. Sharing the trip with...

October 18, 2015 Bear Grylls and the piña colada

The cows swim upstream and eat my flowers.   Says Sue matter of factly. My mouth drops open. Cows can swim? Cows can swim upstream to eat your flowers? Our Canadian host sits on the end of the jetty with us overlooking the wide, brown river that divides Tortuguero village from the mainland at all but one slim point and tells us that she tries to stop the cows but this has proven...

October 7, 2015 A Kindle Of Kittens.

Michael raises one beardy eyebrow at the mention of afternoon naps and we realise that our lazy days are numbered. Within the space of a day he has collected a gnashing little motorbike from a German man in town, hoisted us out of bed, onto Robin Rawhide and up in to the mountains. He revs about happily sniffing the air and grinning. Sometimes he catches up to us on a...

September 25, 2015 A British Beard.

The real world arrives at 2.20pm on Iberia flight 6313 sporting a large beard and a huge holdall. We arrive at the airport a little early all excited which means I talk too much and make bad jokes and Jamie looks stoic and unmoved.   Aren't you excited?   I ask, puzzled.   Yes I'm really excited!   Replies Jamie without moving his facial features. He folds his arm and gazes beyond me searching for his brother in...

September 12, 2015 Stalking Nucky Thompson.

Leon is hot. Blindingly so. Soupily, poundingly, head swimmingly hot. Google informs us that the day is a crispy 38 degrees but 'feels like 44'. How can a day feel six degrees hotter than it is? Shouldn't it be illegal, weather like this? I wonder how they can get anyone to go to work here without including 'bath of icecubes' in the list of perks. It is simply unholy and...

September 3, 2015 The Trout Saver Gang; trouble in El Salvador.

If you must type 'murder rates in Central America' in to Google, I'd recommend not doing so just before you are about to drive through on a motorbike. Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala show up as an intense, bloody red island in a swirling sea of the pale pinks and off whites that represent other countries in the Americas. Only Venezuela shares the leaky crimson colour and, if you are...

August 28, 2015 Hasta luego Mexico!

Blargh!   I shout suddenly, jumping up and pointing.   Blargh!   Jamie leaps up gasping too.   What? Is it a monkey?   He says in a panicked voice. I don't have time to wander why he thinks I would have a panic attack if there were a monkey coming to visit. I'd be more likely to adopt it and call it Bobo. Then he sees it.   Oogh!   I say as the large, hairy, black tarantula stumbles across the porch in...

August 28, 2015 Bunting is not necessarily festive.

We have ignored the emphatic directions of two locals to come to the waterfall, trusting Tripadvisor instead. This is perhaos unwise given the amount of restaurants we have not found using their maps. We bump precariously down a long, rock strewn road passing empty fields and private property signs wondering if we have, indeed, made a mistake. We are sans panniers having left them in our hostel room and I...

August 15, 2015 Tom Cruise and the pimped out pineapple.

'Giant Sandwiches'. The name of the stall just about sums things up. We are deep in Oaxaca's central market tucked away down gloomy avenues of leather bags, mysterious twists of animal hide, piled fruits and shopping bags with Frida Kahlo's face on. Or the Virgin Mary. They seem to have equal standing here. We have found 'Tortas Gigantas' lurking down one of the fruit lanes opposite the textiles shop where...

August 14, 2015 Beanz meanz frownz.

It's not that I don't like refried beans I just draw the line at the thin, dark smear hiding in my cheese on toast. Yeah I know, it's molletes and it's supposed to have refried beans on but jesus, please give it a rest! Unfortunately, it's beans here on out. They love a bean do these Latinos, they love a bean. I know it's getting a little desperate when I...

July 29, 2015 I’ll be back for the jelly.

The thing I really like about Latin America is how often I can eat jelly without raising eyebrows. Here, jelly is an adult dessert, for grown ups. You can buy it from street vendors, restaurants, corner shops and market stalls. I have just finished a 'mosaic' jelly from the local off license with a speckled enamal spoon bought in Utah. I buy jelly whenever possible and if it not possible,...

July 27, 2015 For reasons of hygiene.

Why do they call it the House Of Fingers?   Jamie whispers. I don't know what he means and stare around me hoping for a clue. The cathedral is gloomy and hushed inside, the walls painted starkly in white. Gold leafing delicately traces the arching stone work across the ceiling and the glass crosses hanging from the chandeliers catch the last of the day's light as the gloaming descends on the interior....

July 21, 2015 The owl and the pussycat.

Lying on my stomach fills me slowly with seasickness like a bath fed by a half turned tap. I turn over on the narrow metal bench and breathe in the warm, salty air steadily and look up at the stars rocking crazily back and forth above me. Jamie, lying on a bench next to me shouts out that the stars are moving and we watch the strange illusion for a...

July 16, 2015 Hold tight, hold tight!

The Mexican border official looks serious as he produces two forms for us to fill in. We nervously reach for pens and begin to fill the papers in pausing momentarily to ask him questions. He stands over us pointing out errors and I wonder if there is going to be trouble. Perhaps our journey ends here at the Tecate border. Where will we go? I wonder. The official sniffs and...

July 5, 2015 Whores, pimps, gamblers and sons of bitches.

Cannery Row in Monterey in California is a poem, a stink, a grating noise, a quality of light, a tone, a habit, over nostalgic, a corporation's dream. Cannery Row is the gathered and the moneyed, wads of cash and tans and glittering windows, smooth pavements and tourists and shops, sardine canneries made new, rich, desirable restaurants and chi chi boutiques, and crowded aquariums, and bars and bakeries. The last sardine cannery...

July 2, 2015 All across the nation such a strange vibration

There is nothing on earth quite like a chocolate cream pie from which you have been separated by a vast, unforgiving wilderness in which you are not at all adept. We sit with pink cheeks and slow smiles in Jack's Restaurant in the little town of Bishop from where we started our ill fated hiking mission almost a week previously discussing our regret percentages and eating salads and burgers. Jamie,...

June 25, 2015 Walking in the wake of John Muir

Do chickens get sweaty armpits?   I puzzle as I hold my jacket open in poultryesque fashion letting the hot air flutter deliciously round my arms and back. I flap my wings a few times to change the direction of the air currents snaking up my neck and think about sunbathing chickens. In hot weather they will sit in the grass and gleam in the sunshine holding their wings out like princesses...

June 8, 2015 Vineyards in Vegas

We started in Venice on a travelator. Later, we were flung about, stomachs dropping out as we hurtled downhill on a rollercoaster in New York and then ate lunch in the dimly lit streets of Paris, the Eiffel Tower above us, its legs stuck through the painted sky. We take in the Bellagio, Luxor, Treasure Island and Caesars Palace, watching in horrid fascination as candy floss haired women tuck lines...

June 5, 2015 Meat & Margaritas

Mormons aren't famed for margarita swiggin' I discover. Perhaps it is too waggish a drink, too Vegas, too California, too Rufus Wainwright to be associated with The Church of Jesus Christ Of The Latter Day Saints. I am spending much of my time on the back of Robin Rawhide thinking about tequila and lime. I keep imagining the crunchy, granulated ice particles, slippery with sugar and alcohol tinkling in the...

May 30, 2015 Cheeseweed and other edibles

I want to eat the inner bark of the trembling aspen!   I shout to Jamie, my boots full of mud and tripping over a submerged rock.   What?   Jamie is bounding through the water, lurching in all directions, arms flailing and either isn't listening or isn't listening. He's too busy being Charlie Sheen in Apocalypse Now. We are some way in to a twelve mile hike up a river. When we look at the...

May 24, 2015 The hundredth meridian west

Great billowing, grey canvas drapes stretch out above us in all directions, the biggest 'shall I bring a jacket?' sky I have ever seen. The stubbly Iowa fields turn flat and and black, the little towns tower with huge, rusting agricultural equipment we cannot name and the rain begins in a cheap drizzle. This is Nebraska. Men with big bellies nudging the denim of their overalls wish us good morning...

May 19, 2015 Illuminating Grandma

My head has been bent at such an angle that I am sure that when I get off motorbike, it will permanently loll to one side on a stretched flap of skin that was once my neck. We ride in to Omaha early, buffeted and worn out, admire a small manmade lake and zip straight in to the carpark of the Super 8 motel in the happy knowledge that soon...

May 9, 2015 An Arrival

Jamie has had an allergic reaction to David Cameron. He is feels like he's going to throw up he says, he is pale and drawn, moving slowly like a man of 90. We are checking for rashes and for any difficulties in breathing. So far there is no swelling but we are waiting nervously just in case. It begins after a smoosh of goodbyes, passport control and painful jaw clenching. We...

April 28, 2015 A Bike With No Name.

  The first part of the journey is done. The bike is bubble wrapped, cling-filmed, squeezed in to a cardboard shell and then barricaded in to a wooden crate. We are sent photos. Jamie's heart squeezes to see them. He is Frankenstein and the bike his monster. He has, for the last few months, emerged with red rimmed eyes and filth deeply embedded in every pore of his body after long...