There’s a gentle little stretch of road weaving its way from La Paz to Coroico, Bolivia, negotiating a 3500m descent from snow-capped mountain ridges, over 61 kilometres, to the humid Bolivian rainforest. It’s called the North Yungas road, and up until 15 years ago it was the only thoroughfare between the two cities.
So, who’s ready for more HALF-THOUGHTS ABOUT PERU TOWNS
The centrepiece of the Incan empire was a bit of a personal fave. A rainbow flag hanging from every shop, but DEFINITELY NOT A GAY THING. Apparently it’s the Andean flag. Seems to me a certain mountain range is sitting stoically at the back of an unlit closet. Word is the sassy bastards gilded the entire city at one point in the 1400s. Presumably the gold was pissed off by tanked 15th century party-goers judging by the amount of old fellas leaning into walls around the square. A festival every weekend. We asked our Peruvian guide Elmer what one was for. ‘Just some more Jesus shit’. Got it.
The name looks like someone’s had a stroke over a keyboard. Or someone’s tried to transcribe a beatboxer. This is sort of where you start the Inca trail from though guys! Honestly about as cute as a town can be. It is catered to the gringo traveller set though, so a bit of the local charm is lost with people charging $7 for a kinder surprise. Watched Barcelona win the champions league. Was unmoved. But was provided with a reason to beer.
A city perched on the shores of Lake Titikaka. A funny name made even funnier for the fact ‘kaka’ said in an Aussie accent means ‘shit’. Lake titty shit feeds the black market electronics trade from Bolivia – in Puno you can pick up a 60” plasma for 2 chooks and a firm handshake. Ice cream shops on every corner which, for a chilly town sitting at 3200m, is an odd choice. Didn’t stop me indulging in a 4 scoop for the grand total of 45c though. Ate guinea pig. Low effort to reward ratio.
Got introduced to the reed people who are people who live on floating islands of reeds, get around in reed boats and sleep on reed beds. Reminded me of how the Flintstones made everything out of stones. They have to spend approximately half of their lives rebuilding their reed setup, because, as it happens, reeds are pretty biodegradable. Gave them a Stratco catalogue and let them think about their choices.
Had a homestay with a local family for a night on the shores of Lake Titikaka. Were welcomed by a three piece band that were assumedly a combination of tone-deaf and completely unaware that each other were there. We were then thrown into a game of soccer with the locals. Siz kept goal like David Seaman. Super glad I could reference David Seaman. Ended the festivities with a local dance that I was about 13 beers short of.
Stayed with Herman and Nelida, a local couple of about 60 who ran a small farm. Ate in awkward silence. Laughed and smiled at any word that was said, despite most of them probably being ‘look at these idiot no-spanish Australians’. Ate 9 different types of potato. Tended to a flock of mini-sheep. Spent 3 hours of Sunday morning with Freddy, a 7 year old, trying to sock pigeons with a black-market slingshot. Failed miserably.
So that’s it. Peru is dusted. But Fishy, what did you take from this 3 week squirt? Honestly, not much. As mentioned earlier, the tour structure didn’t allow us to strip down starkers and wade into the lake of local culture. We loved Peru, took shit-tonnes of pretty photos, and met some crown mint people, but to get a proper feel for the place we’d need to go back and do it on our own terms.
That said, Peru is an old fashioned stunner. The history and scenery are unbelievably unique and varied. The brief encounters that we had with locals showed how proud they are of their culture, and how keen they are to share it. The Inca Trail alone made it worth the spend, and if anything, we’ve just come out the other end with even more reasons to go back.
In what will appear to be a case of an unemployed travelling dickbag taking the piss, backpacking can be tiring. When you arrive in some busted arse town at 9pm with nowhere to sleep that night and no real ability to speak to people above saying English words in a racist Mexican accent, the fun can be sucked out of the thing. ‘FISHY, YOU LITERALLY DO NOTHING ALL DAY AND HAVE NOT ONE RESPONSIBILTY IN YOUR LIFE RIGHT NOW’ I hear you say. Good call.
Be that as it may, Siz and I decided early on to give ourselves a break from this organising malarkey and booked a tour through Peru. There’s a shit-ton of must-sees in and around the Andes, and the big ones like Machu Picchu need to be teed up early, so dropping a few dollary-doos on a Peru highlights package with the knowledge that we couldn’t fuck it up seemed to us a sound investment.
The only trouble with organised tours is you ship in and out of places via the tourist trails without ever sinking your teeth into the juicy steak of local culture. The guide points at something, you take photos of the something, then you leave the something. The only Espanol I’ve spoken since this one started is when I’ve accidentally mispronounced Machu Picchu to mean Old Penis. This being the case, the last couple of weeks haven’t given us the sort of in depth Peru experience that we might have otherwise received, giving me the green light to blast through the West of Peru in dot point format.
The Capital. Points for sounding like Llama which is pretty Peruvian and easy to remember. Minus a few for being the most Westernised place we’ve yet seen in South America. Dogs in bags. KFC. A disappointingly low count of street cocaine and massage offers. It’s better for those living there, obviously, but I didn’t sit and occasionally poop on 2 days worth of international transport to see Adelaide. Single-handedly keeping the Paragliding industry alive.
Sounds like Nascar which isn’t South American at all. A town built off of the backs of people who made lines in the dirt a while back. Got into a plane with a saucy multi-lingual pilot and two French birds named Michelle. Apparently that was reason enough for me to also be called Michelle for the whole flight. Wasn’t sure if it was an innocent mistake and didn’t have the swinging room to kick off with him in the light aircraft anyway. The lines were both mind-blowing (how they do it, yo?) and a little bit shit (that it though?). Had some nice chicken.
Second biggest joint in Peru. Doesn’t sound like anything, so lost points on the difficulty to pun. Good looking. If Arequipa was a person, it’d be Hellen Mirren. Hot and old. Surrounded by snow-capped mountains that gave me the feeling I was constantly looking at a bottle of Evian. Or that I’d walk up to it and it’d be a big painted wall like in The Truman Show. Disconcerting. Had a fight with a couple of wine bottles that our hotel toilet ended up losing.
Chivay is high. Chivay’s in the sky. Pete Doherty will tell you when you’re that high all the time you can come across a bit cold. With a severe lack of heating in our hotel room, Chivay to me is famous junkie Pete Doherty. It’s the gateway to the world’s 3rd deepest canyon, Colca. I both threw rocks into and got naked at Colca Cayon. I can only label that day a success. Got suggestively whipped by a local while we were interpretive dancing the symptoms of yellow fever. Undecided whether or not it’s my thing.
So half down, half to go. As a general rule thus far, Peru is disgustingly beautiful, culturally fascinating, and charming the pants right off me. In the meantime Siz has got the Machu Picchu shenanigans covered.
Bogota is the capital of Columbia. Officially it’s a city of 8 million, but when taking into account the uncounted – the homeless, the indigenous refugees displaced by civil war, the hard-to-pin-down workers of the drug trade – the number reportedly swells to around 13 million. So with around 40% of the population not ‘officially counting’ for one reason or another, it wasn’t a surprise to find the reputation of Bogota wasn’t the tits. We had a flight out of Bogota to duck down to Lima, and chatting to the other travellers who had come from the area, the general feel of the conversations were ‘Oh mate, Bogota? Nah mate fuck Bogota. You sure you need to fly out of Bogota? Try getting into town a couple of hours before the flight man cos, y’know, it’s Bogota’. BOY, WERE WE KEEN.
We had an early flight out, so teed up a one night stay in town. After locking it all down we bumped in to a local Bogotan at our Medellin hostel who assured us there was way more going on in the Bog than our Gringo backpacking connects would know. Her name was Sarah, and she offered to chauffeur us around and help us squeeze every last nug out of our 24-hour stint on the Bog.
But in the end, in a sales technique that my old boss Tim used to extol, Bogota is a classic case of under-promise and over-deliver. When your sights are set as low as ours, any whimper of anything cool will likely get you smiling, so in that way I feel like we tackled the Colombian capital in the right way.
What people had failed to mention was the fact that Bogota is the emerging street-art capital OF THE WORLD. It’s been flourishing over the last 10 years, and has got to the point now where artists are heading there specifically to set up camp.
The main drawcard is the attitude of the authorities. Rather than hang anyone with a hoodie and a spraycan up by their short and curlies, the local popo instead help protect the artists while they’re working. The flow on effect is the artists can work casually in broad daylight, which in turn makes the art of a ridiculous quality. The building owners are happy to donate a wall, as it not only looks mint, it means they don’t have to go and fork out for a fresh lick of paint themselves.
As much a Medellin thing as a Bog thing, the custom rig trade is flourishing in metropolitan Colombia. The preference is for junk. In the front and in the trunk. SO MANY BOOTY. I never had the Spanish/balls to ask, but I imagine arse implants being like forever sitting on one of those ring shaped haemorrhoid pillows. Comfy, but disconcerting. Reportedly if you’re a 15 year old well-to-do Colombian chica with certain parents, you might expect a crisp body enhancement voucher for your welcome into womanhood. If you’re a 15 year old Colombian chica from a more blue-collar background, you might invest in $5 worth of plaster and mock up a nosepiece for yourself, and tell the girls at recess that you’ve had a little scrape off the shnoz. Shit’s just that normal. ‘SHUT UP KAREN EVERYONE KNOWS YOU’VE STILL GOT YOUR OLD NOSE’.
Our lovely mate Sarah squeezed us into a few of the cool local joints later in the evening, and we hit the hay with 3 hours ticking down before we had our flight to catch. It could be argued that we were dickheads to not invest a bit more time into the joint, but all the more reason to head back.
4/5 – would Bog again.
When travelling Colombia, you’re going to be pointed to a couple of places straight off the bat – ‘Ooh, the Caribbean Coast’ they’ll say, or ‘Oh my stars you need to check out Medellin you sexy bastard’. And too true, these places are grouse, rad, and any other 80s slang for good you can think of. But being intrepid as shit, we threw the scrunched up metaphorical map back in the metaphorical face of this advice, and headed country.
Sizzle being from a town of 300 (if a couple of buses break down on the way through) and I being a kid from a throbbing 1000 strong metropolis, the hustle and bustle of a big city or a tourist haven tends to wear us down. Thankfully, Colombia has a shit ton of options if you’re into seeing mother nature in her intimates.
EXTREME. This is all that we were told about San Gil prior to heading there. EXTREME. IT’S HARD NOT TO SHOUT IT. Nestled in the mountains of the Santander region, it’s made it’s name as the adventure capital of Colombia. There’s 40,000 people squeezed into a cute little town that is a hot mess of old world charm. Cobblestone streets, old fellas having Tuesday morning beers while getting their loafers shined, Virgin Mary statues that have needed a lick of paint since 1983, it all comes together in exactly the way you’d hope. And the slow, chilled façade works magnificently as a counterpoint to the tourist activities, which, as I mentioned, are FUCKING EXTREME.
Canyoning. For the uninitiated, it’s as simple as getting dropped at the top of a canyon, and by whatever means necessary, you make it to the bottom of said canyon. In our case it meant starting with a spot of caving. If you were to ask me prior to San Gil ‘What is blacker than black?’ I would have answered with ‘don’t be a fuckwit’. Now I’ve changed that answer to caving. We had the benefit of headlamps for the most part, but every now and then, while we hung with bats, the lights would go out and we’d drop into what I assume the inside of a black hole looks like. From there we returned to daylight and abseiled down a couple of sizeable cliffs, rock climbed more minor drops, and finished with cliff jumping into a rock pool at the bottom. My triple salto with pike scored well with the Colombian judge.
We also knocked over some rafting, tackling rapids ranging from levels 1 to 5. Without knowing much about the ratings system, I’d convert that on the poo-yourself scale to 1 being a pop-off at your Nan’s place and 5 being thick spread vegemite in the briefs. There was a 30 minute safety demonstration at the start that had everyone worried that there would be a pile of cadavers at the finish line, but as long as you’re in control of your faculties there isn’t too much to worry about.
Colombia has a big rock. It’s called El Penon, which, creatively, is Spanish for ‘the rock’. It’s about 220m tall and 350m long, like a junior Uluru, but the landscape around it is the duck’s nuts. It’s located outside the township of Guatape, which is a town that was built in the 60s after a man-made lake was created to run a hydro-electric dam. The town could be seen as the antithesis of San Gil in that there’s no real history to speak of, but that has allowed them to create their own super unique aesthetic. At the front of every building you’ll find three dimensional tiles with pictograms of whatever tickles the building owner’s fancy. And the colour schemes are hyper, not only on the tiles but the entire buildings. It gives the impression they’ve tried to paint the entire town using whatever free sample packs Dulux have handed out. But in a yuck good way.
But what made Guatape more than anything for us was the hostel we stayed at. Sean is an English lad who’s set up a hostel right under the rock with his Columbian missus, and it is a peach of a place. You’ve got the rock out the front, the lake out the back, and home in the middle. If not for the fact we have to go to friggin’ Peru to see some friggin’ Inca stuff, I’d have stayed forever.
TRY TO BE NORMAL FUCKING ASSHOLE
THANK YOU FOR NOT STAING
So get this guys, we’re in South America. We’re almost 2 weeks down in Colombia and thus far have done Cartagena, Santa Marta, San Gil and Medellin. All of these places probably mean as blot to you as they did to me a fortnight ago. I can confirm though that they are all splendid.
Some notes on Columbia so far;
Cold Friggin’ Buses
So the temp in Colombia hasn’t dropped below about 20⁰C for us. Up on the northern coast where we spent our first week we were lucky to get anything below 30⁰C & 100% humidity overnight. PRO TIP: when it’s that hot, ask if your room has A/C prior to booking, as drowning in your own sweat makes for an embarrassing funeral.
So we had a 10 hour overnight shuttle down to San Gil, and obviously bussing around in this sort of climate I popped on a smart pair of rolled up shorts and a fresh singlet to frame the pipes. But I couldn’t help but notice as more people got on that everyone had either a wad of blankets under the arm or were wearing a hoodie and trackie dacks (replete with pit and groinal sweat). Then the bus started.
It’s quite hard to describe the next 10 hours. It was almost an out of body experience – I was constantly shivering and constantly half asleep, so the trip felt as though it went for both 10 minutes and 10 days. As far as getting a celcius reading on what I was dealing with, I licked my finger and held it up to get a gauge but it turned black and fell off.
The ONLY good thing about being a bloody Gringo English speaker in Colombia – and it’s a small perk – is you get the joy of Spanglish fashion. It’s almost always in the form of a tie-dye top with sparkly English wording, near enough to grammatically correct so that Colombians can’t tell, but wrong/weird enough for us to find it funny. Some examples spelt verbatim;
YOU ARE EXPIRED
YOU CANONLY BE AS GOOD AS YOU TASTE
It’s what I imagine a Frenchy feeling like when he/she walks down the perfume aisle at David Jones.
Where Are The Hot Ones;
Prior to getting here there was ONE THING I knew about the Colombian people. They are smokin’. They’re all perfectly formed, carved from marble, Mister and Miss Universe contestants in the making. I was quite prepared to paper-bag my face on arrival so as not to offend the local Greek Gods and Goddesses.
AS IT TURNS OUT, they’re not all that flash. The fact that they win Miss World every second year is, as far as I can tell, just down to a shitload of luck. Sure, you get your sharper looking cats every now and then, but they are most certainly the exception. And I realise it’s hard for me to call out peeps on hotness when I’m no Rembrandt, but we’re being sold a lie. On the upside it makes you focus on their personality more, which I’m sure would be beautiful if I could understand a fuckin’ word they said.
SIDENOTE; You can’t get on Colombian television if you’re any shade darker than Vanilla Macchiato.
From New Orleans to Memphis we rolled. Memphis, where freaking Elvis and Johnny Cash both got their starts. The place must be a bustling metropolis with streets of gold where everyone’s got a chance to make it BIG.
Describe it in a 10 word sentence: You can’t polish a turd. But Elvis lived there once
Recommend something to see please: So the town itself is a bit out of luck. If Memphis were a racehorse, the curtain would have been around it a while ago. Thankfully something that they have managed to keep a hold of is a professional sports team. And you are now reading the words of a fully-fledged Memphis Grizzlies Superfan. I got my first taste of American sports and I was not short-changed. Apart from the fact that this mob of basketballers kept on interrupting the sideline entertainment. Rude. Anyways we won and left with free Grizz hand towels that presumably were compensation for the fact we were dropping $14AU per beer.
Tell us one thing that happened there: We stayed at a Holiday Inn in the CBD of Memphis, and just across the road was a lovely gilded building that had a constant stream of retirees flowing in and out of it. We wandered over and learnt it was the Peabody Hotel, the most famous hotel in Memphis don’t you know. And ‘OH BOY’ they said, ‘You come over here at 11am tomorrow and you’re in for a TREAT’. Well that sounded exciting, so next morning we did just that. We walked into the foyer to see a crowd of a few hundred people listening to a fella in a suit giving a bit of a town-crier style talk. He explained he was the DUCK MASTER, and he was about to drop some shit on us that would blow our fuckin’ faces off. He jumped in the foyer lift and went up. About 2 minutes later, to the sound of angels singing and an 80 piece orchestra, the lift doors open and 5 ducks come walking out, down a red carpet, and jump in the fountain in the middle of the lobby. Then just sat there. WOOOO.
Star Rating: 2 ½. It could have been worse but we found out that the tallest building in town – a 30-odd storey old art deco hotel – was on the market for $1.2 mil, so I’m now seeing the whole joint as an investment opportunity.
Describe it in a 10 word sentence: There’s nothing good about country music, can you please stop
Recommend something to see please: Thankfully, there’s a bit more to Nashville than people singing about their pickup trucks. Being the cool cat that you’re all very aware I am, you won’t be surprised to know I was on the lookout for the hip part of town. We found it out East at a place called 5 points – an intersection of 5 roads that had a whole heap of cool little bars and shops. The beers were many and varied, and the waitstaff all said ‘y’all’ about every third word, which is scientifically proven to be the most welcoming word in the English language. But only in a Southern accent.
Tell us one thing that happened there: In Nashville there’s a theatre called the Ryman. Up until the mid-70s it hosted The Grand Ole Oprey, which is a country music concert held once a week since forever that is simulcast on radio. Apparently it’s a fair old institution in the US so we joined a group and got a backstage tour. So the fella guiding the tour was in his 20s and pretty jolly, and every name that he shot at us went straight over my head (bar Johnny Cash). But it became fairly apparent fairly quickly that the young man was about 8 jackets deep in the closet. Nashville being what I’d term Southern-progressive, I’m sure he wouldn’t have been run out of town for enjoying the lads, but he was certainly trying his best to dial down his femininity. With hilarious results. Every now and then he’d just come out (not literally) with the gayest arrangement of words possible, and we just had to glance at each other and try not to laugh. It was a lot like trying to hold in the giggles at church. Cathoes REPRESENT.
Star Rating: 3. I do realise that a fair few people DO like country tunes, so obviously their score would be higher. Add ½ a point for every Lee Kernaghan album you own.
Oh shit, the blog! Good lord we’re behind. I didn’t realise that holidaying was such a full time job. We’re not even getting paid for this.
So following on from Coachella we flew straight to Austin because we were starting our SOUTHERN ROAD TRIP. Cos what would a trip to the US be without haulin’ ass down route 66 in a drop-top Cadillac. Except in our case we were doing interstate 10 in a Hyundai. Just like in the films.
So the plan was simple (because we didn’t organise a thing), Austin-New Orleans-Memphis-Nashville over 10 days. Mary and Kosta joined us in Austin 3 days after we arrived, which we had spent with couchsurfing host AJ, a Grade-A chunk of lad who is officially the wisest 22 year old either of us have ever met. We collected a few times over the next week and a half so to save both your and my time, I’m going to dot point this shit.
Describe it in a 10 word sentence: A cooler version of Adelaide in March with more variety.
Recommend something to see please: Food trucks have become a real institution in Austin over the years and the area that they congregate – SOCO – is a super cool joint. The city’s unofficial slogan in ‘Keep Austin Weird’, and this is the area that most lives up to the tagline. Made even more so by the hot rod convention going on the weekend we were there. Also Rainey street is a party street that the locals go to, and it’s just a series of converted houses. It felt like we were skipping from house party to house party the whole night. Mint.
Tell us one thing that happened there: We went to Untapped beer festival 15 minutes out of town while we were there. It had over 200 breweries offering tastings of their entire ranges – for a fiver you could buy a tasting card for 12x 60ml cups and you just wandered round filling yours up. It maybe had 5000 punters attending and there were live bands to keep you occupied. We noticed though that the beer tents were starting to pack up about 3 hours before the scheduled finish. Just before the headliners started there were maybe 20% of the original tents still serving. Mary and Kosta were on their way to pick us up by this point so we were relieved that we weren’t missing out on anything. As we were walking out the front to meet them though thunder and lightning came from nowhere, and a gentle breeze turned into a gale. We ran the last 500m to the car and jumped in just before it started drizzling. As we got in we noticed an F150 with about 12 lads in the tray heading off too (apparently legal in Texas?). When we got 200m down the street the rain came pelting down. I’ve never seen anything like it. We were going about 15kph, but could only see about 5m in front of us so we still felt like we would crash and die. This went on for about 15 minutes until we waited it out at a servo and drove back to town in “normal” heavy rain. God knows what happened to the festival-goers and stalls that were still at the grounds, or the lads in the back of the ute for that matter.
Star Rating: 4 ½
Describe it in a 10 word sentence: A sweaty, wild, musical joint with history out the arse.
Recommend something to see please: New Orleans is famous for Bourbon street – the party street that everyone goes to for their cheap beers and loose times. Which is fine – if you’re in the mood for a grimy Saturday night, brilliant. The only problem is it STINKS. Just sitting water everywhere that you know isn’t just water. You also have the hustling side of things which comes with that sort of place. So instead, there’s Frenchmen’s street. It has awesome live blues and jazz in every bar, and less of the piss-where-you-please clientele.
Tell us one thing that happened there: We were wandering around the rich part of the French Quarter one night looking at the unreal architecture and old white couples on horse and cart tours when we spotted a mint old house on the corner of a couple of main streets. The curtains were open so we peered inside and it was CRISP. It looked as though there was a plantation owner still around who hadn’t touched a thing since 1850, just kept it tidy. We couldn’t decide whether in was a museum or an art gallery until we walked around the other side of the house and a man was standing in the doorway. ‘So do you run this place?’ I asked. ‘I own it’ He said, ‘wanna take a look?’. So we followed him in, and it turned out that this was his holiday house. Chip was a semi-retired 60 year old lawyer from a few towns over with an accent that made you felt like you were swimming in chocolate. He told us on good authority that he had the highest ceilings in Old New Orleans, and his ensuite was once an entire house. We took a couple of happy snaps of us faking the high life before things got a bit rapey and we high-tailed it out. No Chip, I don’t want your special home-brew lemonade.
Star Rating: 3 ½
Coachella in my mind has always been a mythical place that I assumed I’d never see, just hear about every year because something huge happened that had every music-loving person in the world at half chub. When I realised it might fit into our US schedule I got a bit excited myself, but when Siz got me tix as a pressie, I was peaking. Little did I know…
We got going from LA early-ish Thursday morning thanks to Mary and Kosta weaselling another few days off, and it paid off. What can sometimes be a 5 hour trek was done in 2. I had noticed when packing the car that there was a severe lack of tent and sleeping gear, but I put that down to Coachella perhaps having a strict provided-tents-only policy. Things started to seem stranger when we pulled up to a country club in town instead of a paddock. ‘Should we tell Fish what’s happening?’ asked Siz. They decided not to. I thought I might be in for a late birthday lunch or something, but then we went inside and there was a Coachella check-in desk. We got handed a welcome pack and were instructed to follow a concierge in a car to the grounds. Now still at this point I just assumed this was standard operating procedure for Coachella goers and this was the most fucking mintly organised festival ever dreamed up by mankind.
Things started to click when we arrived at the festival proper. We pulled up in a car park marked ‘Safari’ and 8 people spread over 4 golf carts rushed over to meet us. ‘Hey Fish, see these golf carts?’ Kosta asked, ‘they drive us to the stages’. We weren’t at Falls anymore. The carts took our bags and ourselves and drove from the car park into an Adelaide oval quality patch of turf with immaculately constructed white tents arranged in a bicycle spoke pattern around a central larger tent. They dropped us at a tent 3 from the centre, where our concierge unzipped the front flaps to display two friggin’ queen size beds, a bar fridge, air conditioner, full length mirror and the cutest little outdoor setting you’ve seen in your whole darned life. Fair to say I was a touch taken aback. ‘And guys if you want to book in for your massages just wander over to the front desk there and they’ll take care of you’. What the hell.
So anyways on top of the most palatial tent on God’s green earth and daily rub-downs, we got;
- Full buffet breakfasts and midnight snacks daily, as well free non-alcoholic beverages
- Fancy pants shower and dunny blocks away from the plebs
- The aforementioned shuttle service to the back of any stage we choose
- An area at the front of each stage reserved for Safari campers and artists
- Entry into the VIP and artist areas of the festival
- A feeling of being better than everyone else
I was honestly a bit overawed by the whole thing, and it took a while to process the princely situation that we were going to be living. For a fella who hasn’t ever showered at a festival before and more often than not ends up with some sort of bodily fluid in his tent by the end, the thought that I could have the awesome times without the grimier times at Coachella was something else. Especially for the fact the average temperature for Coachella in April is around 40c.
So I decompressed in the car while we ducked out to Slab City from the movie Into The Wild. It’s a crazy hippie commune in the middle of the desert (an hour away from Coachella) that features a huge mound of dirt that a fella spent 28 years covering in papier mache and painting preachy religious slogans on. I can only assume his choice of ‘Jesus come upon my body’ didn’t quite have the connotations back in the 80s that it does today. Or maybe, as the info booth noted, he was just too hopped up on acid to notice.
Thursday night was enjoyed at our abode with a free feed put on for us high rollers with a DJ pumping out tunes in the central tent. I started to get the feeling the excesses were having an effect on me when I dropped a mountain of fried chicken on the floor and instead of being a normal dude and crying, I laughed and went and got more. Sorry starved African kiddies 😦
I’ll let Siz talk you through the festival proper but I will just say that the one band that I was drop dead keen on – Royal Blood – blew my face off and were by far and away my highlight of the festival. But there were so many hidden gems and stunning headliners that it would probably take the equivalent of a Bryce Courtenay novel to describe everyone/everything.
In summation, we done fun.
So on we went from San Fran. After 4 hours sleep and 0 cups of coffee we got picked up at 8am Friday by Mary and Kosta from John Wayne airport, heading straight to Lake Havasu for the Easter weekend. FUN FACT: All you have to do in America to get an airport named after you is be in a film.
All I’d heard from people about Havasu before getting there was that it’s a cradle of college filth. If you have a dip in the water you’ll either get pregnant or have the best skin in the world. The major trade along the shoreline is in Pastieez (cos how ELSE would you spell it) which are sticky nipple discs you can chuck on so as not to get locked up for indecent exposure when you’re saying G’day to someone with your chesticles.
All this and more was running through my head when the bomb was dropped that we are currently in the middle of SPRING BREAK for southern California. SPRING BREAK by all reports is exactly like what you see in the movies. Also SPRING BREAK has to be capitalised when written because SPRING BREAK.
We got to Havasu though and it seemed like a chilled out version of Renmark. It’s situated 4 hours inland from LA and it is legitimately in the middle of nowhere – the 4 hours drive was pure desert and apart from the servos that fed the freeway there was not a sign of humanity. Mary’s lovely mum Tina and stepdad Dave have an awesome pair of places that back on to a golf course 5 minutes drive from the lake. Us young pups set up camp at chateau #2 while the oldies held court at #1. The Friday night was spent beering and barbecuing around the Jacuzzi, and thanks to the early start had ended for us by 11pm.
Saturday was scheduled as lake time, and after a slow start by a few people we ended up getting out to the water by lunchtime. Mary’s extended family has teamed up to buy the sweet combo of a pontoon boat (floating bar that does 30kph) and a Nautica ski boat (the most mint ski boat I’ve ever seen). We drove around the lake until we found a nice little clearing, tied the two together and set about our business, which included and was limited to beers.
I did end up having a quick wakeboard at the end of the day but it wasn’t great because it was choppy and I’d had many beers and people were looking and my mustache was sore and the barometric pressure was way off and excuses. To mend the aches we had family burritos that night and watched the Crows start the season in style, explaining what the hell these lads were doing every 30 seconds to the Americans.
Sunday was just chill central. We got back on the pontoon boat for a few hours for a couple more drinks but there were some sore heads and a 4 hour drive to knock over back to LA, so everyone kept themselves in check. Havasu’s must see is London Bridge, which is a previous version of the actual London Bridge that they shipped into the middle of the friggin’ American desert brick by brick and recreated. Pointless, excessive and awesome. The words that come to mind for about 98% of the US that I’ve seen so far.
We got back at 11:30pm Sunday thanks to another marathon effort from Kosta behind the wheel. The poor bastard was the only one of us who needed to work in the morning as well. What a trooper.
For a slice of the Havasu life and to get the title reference, do yourself a favour and have a squiz – www.youtube.com/watch?v=jUw4Qh9uFK8