Sunday, 31 October 2010

From home... to home.

The next post can be found at

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:

Saturday, 12 June 2010

Blog Change

From now on I'll be blogging on my own website;
I'll still this page for a while and for archives but please note the change of address.

Friday, 11 June 2010

Mana-Gwa, Nica-Ragwa with a Jag-wa.

The trouble with these remote access Central American point breaks is that you can’t take a camera. To get to Lance’s Left near El Astillero, Nicaragua we took a bone-rattling ride in Johnny’s pint-sized hire-car to the fishing village. We then walked for half an hour North up the beach, fording rivers and scrambling over high-tide storm debris until we reached the headland which forms the point-break. We then had to inch our way around the rocky headland, making a dash for it between sets to avoid being dashed upon the rocks before finally reaching the paddle out spot. Even if I wanted to risk bringing my D200 on that trip I wouldn’t have like to hide it in the bushes whilst we surfed… So in nearly 3 weeks of Nica-Surfing I’ve not got a single photograph. Which begs a peculiarly 21st Century question ‘If I didn’t photograph it, did it really happen?’. With almost every appliance we own, bar the toaster, boasting a 11.1 Mega-pixel digital camera red, green and blue pixels have replaced memory and story-telling as our primary means of recounting our experiences.

So let me tell you this.
The waves in the Popoyo area are good. Popoyo reef, the areas main attraction is great but too crowded, if you aren’t local and you don’t rip then expect to bob more than you surf. Lance’s left was huge, scary and with regular clean-up sets, long hold downs, murky brown water and a rip-from-hell it doesn’t sound much like fun - but it was. I survived, I caught some great waves and the rides were 100m+ leg-burners.
The rocks are sharp and often shallow and took chunks out of my board, costing $15 in excellent ding repair.
The weather was often stormy as we caught the periphery of Agatha, the tropical storm that wreaked havoc on Guatamala, turning the ocean into frothing chocolate milk.
The isolated surf outpost of Popoyo —a 30 minute low-tide wade through a mangrove estuary and across salt flats to the nearest shop, a 2 hour odyssey to the nearest super-mercado — was galvanized by a blitz-spirit community. The power failed regularly and toward the end of our stay we were left sans-electricity for a day or more, so the few surf devotees dotted around the river-mouth congregated at the place we called home, Vaca Loca, a guest-house and pizza/pasta joint run by a wonderful Italian couple. Chess was played, guitars were strummed, rum was produced, ice was found, beers were cooled so by the time the power returned after dusk we were primed and raring to go, culminating in a midnight mass skinny-dip, which only Sofie and I translated as a ‘skinny’ dip.

But the waves are lefts and I’m a regular foot surfer and we’ve been surfing lefts, lefts and more lefts since November so the draw of El Salvadors right points within spitting distance to the North was too much for me. So we packed, again, and lugged our boards, bags and gadgets first to Ometepe, a magical island formed from two volcanoes peeking out of Lago de Nicaragua for a few days of culture, fresh-spring dips, some hiking, some bug-battling and some monkey wrangling. Then back to the featurelss, grim and downright dangerous city of Managua for our cross-border ride to San Salvador, and the rights, the rights, the rights….

Tuesday, 25 May 2010

Money makes you go round the world

The benefits we have been exploiting of global differences in currency valuesthe £10k saved in 8 months of UK work would last a scant 3 months of UK living, yet translated into Rupees, Rupiahs and Cordobas it yields 10 months of the good life and global travelthroughout this trip played in reverse once we set foot on thedevelopedsoil of Australia, New Zealand and even Tonga in a budget-crushing three week spell. Sterling has traditionally been one of the World’s strongest currencies rendering most-of-the-rest-of-the-world as bargain destinations. The descent of the £ as a result of the global Financial fiasco has reversed that trend with a vengeance. Our daily budget which in more exotic climes would give us our own luxurious bungalow, large terrace overlooking the shared pool, breakfast, lunch, dinner, scooter rental, a few drinks and the odd treat t’boot barely got us lunch and coffees in Australia. Sure, it’s becoming more expensive down-under anywayis there really any need for a bottle of Samuel Smith’s bitter to cost £15 in a Melbourne bar? — but combine that with sterling’s plummet made living unaided here impossible for us. As we’ve meandered the globe the tumble of the pound has been a constant companion. When we arrived in India we got Rs.75 to the £, by the time we left it was under Rs.70. We kicked off Indo with a whopping Rs15,000 to a single £ but eft with a meagre Rs.13,000 in our pockets in exchange for our golden-nugget. Month by month, country by country, treat by treat we’ve had to cut out a chai a day here, a Beng-Beng there, a packet of (chocolate enrobed) Chikys over there until eventually I guess well be reduced to drinking from puddles and sleeping in hedges.

The £3 Global Lunch Equation 2009/2010
United = 1x limp, soggy, plastic wrappered prawn sandwich
France = 1x jambon et fromage croissant
India = 6x all-you-can-eat sublime vegetarian Thalis incl. pickles and drink
Indonesia = 3x delicious Nasi Campur incl. tempe & sambal
Australia = 1x microwaved meat pie
New Zealand = 1x Lamb Pide sandwich
Tonga = 1 tiny sandwich incl. 1 soggy tomato slice & 1 fluro cheese-slice
Nicaragua = 2x Fish Casados incl. rice, beans, plantain & salad.
El Salvador = tbc.

In Aus we were staying for free with family and friends who (over)fed, (over)watered, clothed and (over)indulged our every whim and we still blew our budget on a few coffees, the odd lunch, a few drinks and a missed internal flight. My family and Sofie’s friends were generous, happy and willing hosts yet our poverty and the sense of impotency that accompanies it made us a little uncomfortable. The feeling that even if they had let uswhich they probably wouldn’t — we couldn’t contribute was unnerving. Providing, momentarily, a tiny peek, via a miniscule crack through a door into true, genuine poverty and how debilitating and humiliating that must be on top of the physical hardships that it inevitably produces.

For all my miserly griping our Australia visit was sublime. The Brisbanians were great company, great entertainers and truly wonderful hosts, all of them from 3 year-old Bubba to 49 year-old Pappa. The simple pleasures of being with family, conversation and beach football and cricket with the kids was a highlight of our trip, so much so I didn’t even notice there was a good swell running on the Gold Coast points. My brother even arranged a radio interview for me to talk about India and our Soul&Surf venture. And the Melbourneans matched the Queenslanders generosity throwing bike-rides, booze and bands our way with gay abandon! Tonga was grey, flat and expensive.

Were back on an even keel now thanks to Nicaragua! Once more our budget stretches to a large room with an equally large balcony, a huge four-poster bed, a swing (yes), a hammock, a view through the tree-tops to the pounding Pacific surf, wifi, breakfast, lunch and a knee-trembling dinner of home-made pasta with a putanesca sauce made by Kiara, our Italian hostess, a ding repaired, 2 surfs a day, a trip to Rivas on the chicken-bus… and still have a few Cord’s left for a PiƱa Colada.

Currency and it’s differences makes the world go round and has certainly helped us go round the world thus far. Fingers crossed the £ doesn’t sink any further marooning us here in the real Wild West of America.

Saturday, 22 May 2010

Bali hu?

Wednesday, 12 May 2010

Time Flies (pics)

Tuesday, 11 May 2010

Time Flies

It’s amazing how busy you become when you retire. Leaving my company and my job behind as I set forth on this journey I naively imagined the vast expanses of time I was opening up would be used to explore new vocations, skills and pastimes yet there aren’t enough hours in the day to even write this damn blog. Since I last dispatched a month ago the grand tour has taken in Lombok, Bali again, excitement and fury at Singapore Airlines as they refused to allow us to board our flight to Brisbane due to a ticketing error, family & friends time in Australia as we rediscovered sofas, tv & booze (and realised we’re pretty good at all 3), a stopover in New Zealand and a week’s breather here in Tonga before our assault on Nicaragua, a country where our meagre budget will allow us to blossom again. During this time I’ve tried (and infuriatingly failed) to buy a shipment of Kush Kush caps from India to sell back in the UK, I’ve been developing and planning an e-commerce idea and designed and launched an early-bird website for our winter venture in Kerala, Soul&Surf/India whilst continuing working on the main marketing site. Whew.

The expectation is that on an extended trip like this we leave all cares and worries behind, and that through the absence of a job all problems cease. Not the case I’m afraid. I know I won’t be attracting much in the way of sympathy from those working 50 hour weeks back home but what I’ve learned is that our usual character traits come with us. We find new ways to be busy, stressed and anxious or at least I do. Personal projects, travel arrangements, budget concerns and existential angst fill the shoes of the mundane home-life triggers which continue to swirl around the maelstrom-mind. It’s the character traits we need to work on, not their location, detail or circumstances.

But enough guff, it’s our time in Lombok that I wish to recount. I was enthralled by this wild, rugged, beautiful land. Yes, it’s well known as a destination, easy to get to and sprinkled with resorts but in most parts it’s raw charms prevail and unlike it’s westernised tarnished neighbour it feels like Indonesia proper. The roads are horrific, trees sprout from the centre of the cracked tarmac south coast road, yet traffic is almost non-existent. Villages of traditional thatched bamboo huts fleck the rolling hills which meet the ocean in dramatic crescent shaped bays and people smile and wave as you approach with genuine warmth rather than as a ploy to extract your tourist buck. Visiting, as we did, at the end of the rainy season, showed the oft arid south coast off at it’s verdant best, the grass was green, the rivers full and the roaming livestock fat and contented. And the surf… The south coast is indented and scalloped by bay after bay creating breaks of numerous variety…. Except beach-break. The easiest wave in the area at inside-Grupuk attracted 90% of the travelling surfers, despite the boat-ride access, leaving empty line-ups elsewhere for the more adventurous. Inside-Grupuk also attracted groups of Japanese surfers who pay locals to snake, block and drop-in in order to clear the wave for themselves. Is this the future of colonial-style surf travel in increasingly busy global line-ups? I hope not.

Yet despite my natural affinity with Lombok it’s lack of beach-break beginners waves left Sofie as a frustrated observer for much of the time so with an egalitarian spirit we headed back to Bali.

Thursday, 8 April 2010

No parking lot in this paradise…

No parking lot in this paradise…

On previous visits to Bali my prejudice has kept me from visiting the Gili Islands off the North West coast of Lombok. Dubbed a travellers paradise my visions of stoned, dreadlocked, friendship-banded euro geeks gamboling about the place overshadowed the reported beauty of the 3 tiny tropical islands… and I guess the supposed lack of surf didn’t help.

Sofie really wanted to visit so in an admirable act of generosity and compromise I consented to the trip. My lips, burnt to a crisp from over-zealous midday surfing in Bali, were raw and cracked so a few days out of the water wouldn’t harm anyway. We chose the quieter of the 3 islands, Gili Meno, and from the moment we waded ashore from the shuttle boat the serene seclusion of this tropical idyll enveloped us. Time warped and heart-beats slowed whilst in stark contrast to it’s near neighbour, Bali, the sound of silence generated by an absolute absence of motorised vehicles was deafening.

Sandy tracks circumnavigate and criss-cross the 2km island, the only transport is shank’s pony or bell-jangling pony & trap cidomos. The island is fringed with white sand beaches protected from the surf by coral reefs and the pure, clear water reflects blues of every hue imaginable as the tropical sky evolves and transforms throughout the day. Sun rising over the active volcano Gunung Rinjani on Lombok, tropical squalls passing as quickly as they appear, azure clear skys give way to firey sunsets over Bali’s extinct volcano Gunung Agung. Snaffling a coconut infused carrot and bean salad-like lunch of Urap Urap one stiflingly hot lunch time the awesome Rinjani coughed and spluttered into life sending an immense plume of thick grey smoke into the atmosphere. Not a bad digestif actually.

A tempting right-hand reef point wave reels down the south west coast of the island, an even better looking one off Gili Trawanagan, yet my ravaged lips thwarted all but the briefest forays into the salty water, yet to slow down for a while, rising to watch sunrise and sleeping not long after sunset and doing very little in between besides snorkelling the teeming outer reefs, lolling, lounging and sprawling sprinkled with delcious cheap local Sasak food was enough to fall in love with this as yet unspoiled tropical Eden.

Thursday, 1 April 2010


Letting one of the tiddlers go by at Mawi...

Monday, 22 March 2010

Day at the Beach (continued)

A new move, perfected by me over the course of several hours diligent practice...

Friday, 19 March 2010

A day at the beach.

Wednesday, 17 March 2010

Paved Paradise