Monday, 31 January 2011

Catch a Wave

My blog, covering surfing in Varkal, Kerala, is now at:
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Sunday, 31 October 2010

From home... to home.

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Sunday, 1 August 2010

The Saviour!

Contrary to some mis-interpretations of my recent irony-laden post on El Salvador, it was one of the surprise highlights of the trip. Surprise because of the bad-wrap El Salvador receives from all and sundry, a deep-rooted prejudice I played-up with all the subtlety of a pantomime dame in ‘that’ post in the hope that readers could see both sides of the coin. Perhaps irony and blogging are mutually exclusive or perhaps we’re are so used to hearing El Salvador maligned that negative asssumptions were made — making an ass out of u and me.

I write this in a high-back Chesterfield chair in the heart of the astoundingly beautiful Sussex countryside as I try (and so far fail) to acclimatise to the voracious consumption-driven society of modern Britain — if you’re not spending then you’re asleep — and The Saviour’s absence makes the heart grow even fonder. God, I’m missing those waves, those people, those avocados and the most valuable commodity of all, that delicious, engulfing, luxuriant time. Precious time. Even though this is, in essence, is just the UK leg of the trip before we head back to post-monsoon India to open the Soul&Surf House in Kerala, and I’m not at work there is something about this society that rips the hours and minutes from your grasp, never to be regained. How on earth I managed to hold down a job aswell as jumping through all of the hoops it takes to exist here I will never know.

Oh for the simple life — Simple pleasures.
Good food.
Good company.
Good health.
Good heart.
Good waves.

Now how do I integrate that into life back home?
Answers on a postcard please.
(Or by mail to

Please Note:
This blog is slowly moving over to my site at:

Saturday, 17 July 2010

Give us a break.

Everybody needs a break.
Even those of us already on a ten month break.
We needed a break from the break.

With three surfboards and and the associated paraphernalia in tow we’re not exactly nimble travellers so we’ve tended to find a nice spot near the coast and stay put for a while. But, we’ve learned, there’s more to life than the beach so we take the occasional mini-break from our break. We leave our cumbersome baggage with trustworthy coastal dwellers and skip, fleet-footed inland with only daypacks to hold us down. Our trip has been punctuated throughout with these weekenders and because of their contrast to surf-life they remain some of our strongest memories in a trip brimming over with highlights. The long weekend in Fort Cochin, northern Kerala and a spring-break in Ubud and the central highlands mark indelibly on my otherwise moribund memory.

Leaving our boards and travel-bag with the wonderfully sweet Jani at our hotel in El Tunco we drank down the last drops of farewell with our newfound international surf-family and took a shuttle west for a bit of culture(innit). Guatemala is the only Central American country which genuinely retains some indigenous culture. Mayan villages, peoples, language, dress and customs remain surprisingly intact, particularly in the highlands, uncorrupted by the inexorable Yank-ification which, via CIA militia-funding and corporate colonialism, has already consumed most surrounding countries. It was this American colonial defiance which drew us first to Antigua, ironically to see a well—preserved Spanish colonial-town, then to Lake Atitlan for the real deal.

Despite the hordes of tourists that both of these ‘authentic’ sites attract their inherent beauty remained and enough real life weaved around the tourist-focused attractions for us to gain a sense that these were still living, thriving communities. Now they just have a $ boost from the gringo.

Hours after our departure from El Tunco a flash-flood consumed our hotel, sweeping cars and cattle down the street and out to sea. The river rose three metres within 30 minutes engulfing the ground floor in a swirling, swampy broth. Our bag had been stored in the ground-floor office of the hotel so we returned to a bag full of mud-drenched clothes, books, travel documents, notebooks, medical kit, toiletries and all the aide-memoirs we’ve been lugging around the world with us for nearly a year. As we sifted through our soiled, sorry possessions our heads and hearts dropped. The flood, and subsequent storms had scared off most itinerant surfers, the place was empty, the locals were rebuilding and repairing and our spirits were low. That evening we chatted, laboriously via google translate, with our still smiling, gun-toting, effusive night guard. He and his family of four lived a little further up stream and they, along with their neighbours, had lost pretty much everything. Their clothes, furniture TV, cooking equipment… everything. Only minutes after the water first crept under their door their two young boys were up to their necks and scrambling and swimming for their lives in the pitch darkness as the water continued to rise. Thankfully everyone in the area survived, but it put our measly inconvenience into perspective and shook us from our self-indulgent bourgeois despair.

PLEASE NOTE: This blog is moving to my own page here:

Monday, 5 July 2010

D-d-d-d-d-d-d-d-d-don’t do it… baby.

El Salvador. The most dangerous, god-forsaken hell-hole in all of Christendom. What in Beelzebub’s name were we thinking coming to a place with such a bad reputation. Even in the badlands of Nicaragua people would lean in, speaking in hushed tones, as they told tales of hapless surf-travellers being accosted on the beach, a line being drawn in the sand over which they were forced to lie face down with their heads on one side of the line their bodies on the other as the prelude to an horrific, yet reassuringly accurate beheading. The cheery old yank on Ometepe joyfully assured us our bus would be stopped and ransacked by gangsters with AK47’s as soon as we crossed the border from Honduras, and you know he was right, damn him. Travel is mind numbingly slow in this country as you negotiate one set of gangsters after another, one step forwards two steps back, each gang taking a little more of your stuff and a little more of your time until the A23/Croydon route into London with it’s intricately mistimed traffic lights seems like a breeze.

Arriving in the La Libertad area, the beginning of the Ruta del Surf, penniless, possesion-less, naked and late is disappointing beyond comprehension. The succession of famed, long, clean right hand point-break waves are a mere fabrication — Give me ‘hotpipes’, the Power station outlet pipe near Shoreham harbour, any day.

Sunzal point is an inconsistent, short right that’s hardly worth the three mile paddle out and it doesn’t hold any size at all — I don’t remember witnessing a succession of double-overhead days in the space of a fortnight. Punta Roca, the jewel in Central America’s pointbreaks is worse. A muddy dribble of an excuse. It wasn’t fast, shallow or remotely exhilarating and the chance of getting there and back with your board and shorts are pretty slim in this crime-ridden area. KM59? Don’t even bother. Ugly, dull and lifeless with locals who’ll stab you in the back as soon as look at you.

We stayed in a dreary, drab hotel on the El Tunco riverbank. With no swimming pool, no wifi and no kitchen the $15 a night we paid was extortionate. We stayed for a month.

And the people! Don’t get me started on the people. There was never a good atmosphere in the water, the locals never smiled, never waved ‘Hola’ as you paddled out, they never gave you a wave or beamed ‘No problem’ if you accidently dropped in. The travelling surfers were worse, the Brazilians were mean and unsmiling, the Aussie’s and NZ’ers their usual dour-faced misery-guts, the Canadians lived up to their billing of the most unpleasant, hostile people on Earth and the Americans, particularly those from Utah, were closed-minded, humourless people. We didn’t hang out with any of them and we certainly didn’t have a really good party one night with Vinny, Luis, Jay & Eric involving tequila and swimming pools.

Papusas? Poo-poo-sas more like. The 35¢ maize flour patties filled with combinations of pollo, cheese, frijoles, an unidentified green vegetable and pork, made to order and griddled on road-side stoves were only marginally better than the burritos we were forced to endure. Packed with ripe avocados, beans, rice and chicken forcing one down was a real strength of will over wisdom.

So if you’re planning a surf trip to El Salvador, do yourself a favour, don’t do it.
Honestly. ; )

PLEASE NOTE: This blog is moving to my own page here: