India: Roaming the streets


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Navigating a city by foot in some of Asia´s most modern, sophisticated and clustered cities is truly a spectacle in itself.  It´s a sensory overload, stimulation magnet and life fully thrust into the fast lane with a population density that is ridiculously off the charts.  In Seoul, during rush hour, it´s a clustered incubus of Hyundai cars all going nowhere at the same time.  In a city such as Ho Chi Minh, you´ll find a sea of motorbikes all scouring the road in what seems to be an endless maze of confusion.  However, in India it´s just a whole new realm.  It´s a different ballgame.  It´s just infinitely more insane in every way plausible.

Imagine what it would be like to be negotiating your way down an impossibly narrow lane of an Ancient bazaar in modern times.  Designed hundreds if not thousands of years ago for a population of locals FAR fewer than what exists today with simpler modes of transportation and a slower pace of life.  It would have been DAMN hectic even back then.  After-all, this is India!  Fast forward to modern times with a populace that has mushroomed FAR (astronomically) beyond initial capacity, a transportation system that now includes a plethora of clogging motorized vehicles to go along with the old methods of transportation that are still in use, sprinkle in a host of wayward animals along with a tourist hoard and you´ve got ABSOLUTE CHAOS ON THE ROADS.  It´s functional anarchy at its best and a disaster waiting to completely implode at its worst.  At any given moment you along with a wayward, independent or cart-wielding cow, ox, monkey, donkey, mule, camel, horse, cat, dog, car, truck, tractor, rickshaw, auto-rickshaw,  motorbike or bicycle NOT TO MENTION one of the zillion locals walking by foot might be inching for that shred of space that doesn´t actually even really exist.  If that wasn´t bad enough there is just this sense of kamikaze urgency for each and every person, creature or machine to get somewhere faster than anyone/anybeast/anymachine else 😛  Horns are firing off in such reckless abandon that you aren´t even able to place where it is coming from let alone distinguish it from one sound to the next.  Rickshaws, bikes and motorcycles are zooming about in reckless wantonness weaving in and out, zigzagging all over and darting from one place to the next as if this was a video game where infinite lives and chances exist.  On top of that the streets are full of eyesore rubbish piles, animal and human feces piles (no typo here), decaying structures and at times open manholes that one could potentially slip on, into or under.  No rules seem to exist for etiquette, order or structure.  There are few if any stoplights, traffic police or emergency vehicles.  It´s just survival of the fittest in the most stringent and stressed of artificial environments.  For those not lucky enough to escape it unscathed the evidence is right there before your eyes – creatures, humans, vehicles looking battered, worn down or limbless.  YIKES!  I´m not even kidding.

As challenging as this all seems it´s been truly amazing (otherworldly at times) pounding the pavement in some of India´s bazaars.  I could definitely find more comfortable ways of trying to take in the country and avoid the chaos of certain areas but it just wouldn´t seem right in my mind.  This is the way I like to explore places and in India it offers up a whole new experience – shock to my system – or whatever else you´d like to call it.  It is what it is and it sure is fascinating for those brave enough to give it a try.  Essentially it is just INDESCRIBABLE INDIA at its best/worst/most raw form 🙂

Samuel Jeffery

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‘Well’ ‘Suited’


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I’ve once again descended down upon Thailand, the undisputed tourist Mecca of Asia jumping right into the frying pan known as Bangkok – truly an amazing city on entirely different levels. The palaces, temples and other Buddhist structures known as “Wat” are a perfect way to spend an afternoon giddy, gasping and snapping plenty of photos from these impressive sites. However, the problem is that they are spread out across one of Asiaดs largest and most hectic cities in an environment so hot & humid you’d almost swear if they increased the temperature by just one more degree youดd literally be in a torture chamber. In other words, even as a fit individual walking is out of the question. The roads ploughing through the city are saturated with every possible mode of transportation you both could & couldn’t imagine. One of the staples found on the road is something called a tuk-tuk. For those who have been abroad to SE Asia or to some other region that is considered a developing area, the sight of one of these would be all too familiar. However, for anybody who hasnดt, a tuk-tuk can be best described as a cross between a golf cart and a low powered motorcycle morphed into one structure. These vehicles are often the ‘preferred’ mode of transportation for tourists and backpackers on short haul trips given that they are cheaper than a metered taxi. I’ve hopped aboard on more than one occasion – they’re plenty of fun 🙂

Anyhow, fees are negotiable and range from nearly free to astronomical ripoff. Typically, those individuals clumped in the later category are fresh off the boat and a little wet behind the ears. The nearly free category, as you might have guessed, does indeed come with catch. Bangkok is world renowned for its custom tailors. Some manufacturing centers produce high quality products that are found on the racks of the most posh European display cases. On the other hand, a suit from a less than stellar merchant will literally be disposable after only one use. With a supply outstripping demand, at least amongst tourists, these tailors have brokered deals with the Tuk-tuk drivers. If they bring a tourist into one of these shops they shall receive a coupon for either gas and/or a food stamp. Itดs ridiculously easy. Just bring them in for a moment & a reward is earned. Well, once again, it’s just not quite that simple. The rule of thumb is that the tourist should stay inside for at least ten minutes in order for the driver to qualify for the stamp. Although, completely a farce, the tailors at least are privy towards somebody who is totally disinterested & just merely putting in time. I know this because I once went inside one of these shops and was kicked out after less than sixty seconds. It was all too obvious I wasnดt at all interested in a looking at or buying a suit. Even worse, my Tuk-tuk driver in a fit of anger chewed pavement and took off in a rage leaving me in a deserted area which was well outside of my internal radar. To avoid this situation entirely paying an inflated tourist price on a full fare tuk-tuk ride is a way to get from point A to B. However, for those who are somewhat miserly and up for a bit of an adventure and free acting lesson, going into one of these shops is a must.

Iดve done this before. I know what to expect. I walk into the door of this ragged and worn down shop and I’m immediately blasted by air-conditioning so powerful that I would have preferred a harsh slap to the face.  Before you can count down even a nanosecond, a trusty employee, non Thai, likely of South Asian descent, smothered in cheap cologne and drowning in about ten kilograms of hair gel is on me like a fly inching for room on a well saturated log.

Itดs time for me to make a half decent first impression or get kicked out of this absurd game we’re both playing. As a quick aside, you’re talking about somebody who has worn a suit no more than the fingers and thumb located on one hand. However, with enough experience in these shops, I’ve become a quick study about something that is completely irrelevant in my life. Taking a quick glance at what I was wearing reveals the telling truth. A turned around baseball cap, sweat soaked t-shirt and shorts that had been worn at least one day too long along with ragged flip flops conforms more towards the image of a swashbuckling pirate than it does to one looking for some formal attire. Sir, our finest silk can be used to design you the eyepatch of your desire. I digress, the point I’m trying to hammer home is that it’s time for me to convince the tailor I’m interested in potentially having made a custom made suit.

Iดd like to take a look at the different quality of fabric you have on display. Do you have this in green? I ‘d like to have a shirt made that will compliment the jacket. Is this your finest Kashmir? I don’t want a standard three button suit. Iดm more interested in a two button one. Please show me something that is less formal. I want to be able to wear this to a wedding and also with jeans. Is it possible to order a second suit when I get back home. Is the pocket reinforced? What is your shipping policy? These are just a sample of some of the phrases one might hear coming out from my phony mouth as I’m putting in my ten minutes of time. Usually after looking at the fabric and trying on a couple of sample suits itดs time to sit down in a room that’s even more chilly than the front entrance. Sometimes a beverage is served or a small something to nibble on. Itดs now time to talk about the pricing. Itดs first going to be totally inflated. In stealth mode, I take a quick glance down at my watch to ensure Iดve put in the allotted amount of time. I have. It’s time for my exit strategy.

This is where it gets tricky and complicated. Iดve tried a plethora of different excuses. The sales representative has an answer for each and every one of them:

Sam: “Look at the time. Iดm late for an appointment with my friend. Could you please give me your business card & Iดll come back at a later time?

Clerk: “Just give me two minutes and weดll do some quick measurements.”

Sam: “Iดm really interested in your suits, but unfortunately I left my credit card at my hostel today.”

Clerk: “No problem. You just make small deposit now and weดll drive you to your guesthouse to complete the payment.”

I could go on and on with the dialogue but I donดt want to make your eyes & ears bleed.

The point is that theyดll literally do anything but tackle you to the ground to get you to make some form of commitment towards a purchase. The more I talk the less I walk. In other words, a quick ten minutes can easily turn into a half hour or longer. Thus, it’s time for me to slowly start slinking my way out the door. I use random excuses and a few polite assurances that I’ll certainly be back as I finally push my way out onto the street only to be blasted even worse by the heat and humidity. My tuk-tuk driver smiles as a hop on board. He’s received his coupon and I’m not too worse for the wear sans the ten minutes of my life I’ve just wasted playing make believe. Some would call this a compromise of integrity. I’d have a hard time arguing this point. However, having saved a few coins to be spent elsewhere I’m now off to visit the next temple on my itinerary. I’ll be taking lots of photos and marvelling at the impressive architecture. Definitely something I’m more “well” “suited” for…

Samuel Jeffery

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Joy Ride(s)


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INTRO:  Taking a Bus in South America
The journey from Potosi, Bolivia back to Buenos Aires officially marks my final and ´crowning´ bus journey in South America.  It is only now, armed with four months of perspicacity, that I´ve figured out the decoded language that was once all too foreign to my ears.  Having logged over 15,000 kilometers I feel I´ve just about seen it all.  To put this into perspective, it´s the equivalent of doing a ´return´ road trip from Vancouver to Halifax twice! However, much unlike the paved and spacious Trans-Canada highway, the road conditions I´ve encountered here have included paths that were nothing short of white knuckle nightmares.  The bus rides were unforgettable for both the best and worst reasons plausible.  The astonishing scenery, at times, dazzled my every sense, yet, the constant scams, lies and abhorrent conditions of both the buses and roads made for some formidable moments.  Anyhow, getting back on topic, the concept of deception is no doubt a part of being a passenger in South America.  Being the fool that I am, more often than not I took promises at face value.  However, I´ve now become privy to the what certain promises actually entail in reality.  If you´ll take the time I´d like to share some of my experiences with you.
DIRECT BUS
One would generally think, direct service means literally going from point A to point B without making any unnecessary stops.  If I´m wrong please correct me on this.  However, direct service from the outpost in Ecuador to Quito, Ecuador meant getting on board a fake PanAmerican Bus (quite a reputable international service company) and stopping off in every little dusty hole you can imagine to pick up passengers, who frequently got on and off the bus, along with ´unofficial´ stops at VERY off the beaten path warehouses where conspicuous looking crates were on and off loaded by shifty hands.  Finally, the ´direct´ bus arrived in Quito over 5 hours later than scheduled, at an ungodly hour (3am), in an unofficial part of town with no street lighting, taxis, hotels or hostels anywhere in close proximity.
As I´m waxing on nostalgic, a direct pus from Potosi, Bolivia to Buenos Aires, Argentina meant leaving at 3pm, a full 6 hours later than the promised 9am departure schedule, after spending an impossibly long 5 hours at customs searching for contraband on Bolivian passengers who are notorious for entering either illegally with or without drugs.  After finally crossing the border, it meant stopping off at Jujuy for no apparent reason, with the immediate demand that ALL passengers get off the bus.  Our bus with our main bags is then driven off to some service depot and we´re stuck waiting at this unfamiliar bus station late at night wondering whether we´ll see our bus or valuables ever again.  Finally, another bus arrives back at the station several hours later with our bags and the direct service now leads us to every bloody town imaginable where passengers hop on and off at will.  Compounding things was the fact our bus full of visible minorities was stopped by no less than four military checkpoints.  Argentinian soldiers boarded our bus, checked our passports and ripped apart the bags of select Bolivian passengers.  Clearly discriminatory, the procedure added hours to our journey.  What was supposed to be a day and a half trip ended up totaling 49 hours!  A full 12 hours behind schedule we finally pulled into Retiro station, the largest bus terminal I´ve ever seen in my life feeling groggy, ravenous, dehydrated, disoriented and tired beyond belief, yet, absolutely thrilled to have completed my final bus journey.
There were countless other examples of direct buses not quite living up to the those exact standards, but these were the two most vivid examples I can
remember.
MEAL ON BOARD
A delicious hot meal shall be served told the lady selling me the bus ticket.  You´ll get a full sized meal twice on your journey of 24 hours.  Well going from Lima, Peru to Tumbles, Peru we got fed a grand total of once.  A miniscule two slices of bread with a thin spread of margarine and a soggy slice of processed meat with no accompanying beverages.  It wouldn´t have been so bad had we been given the opportunity to purchase food or beverages at some roadside stops along the way.  I´m all for fasting but kind of enjoy having it self directed not enforced.  What made this experience even worse was that I got robbed at the border crossing into Equador.  In my guidebook, clearly stated as the worst border crossing, I had been warned by a friend who had been robbed about 10 days prior about this infamous border.  Feeling clever and well informed I figured I could avoid this madness by taking a more reputable option.  It ended up being the worst experience of my entire time in South America as I was taken to a back door warehouse ´mafia style´ demanded to hand over the equivalent of $50 USD.  Luckily, I was not harmed physically or had my valuables stolen.  The thieves dropped me off in no-man’s-land and I had to figure out the border crossing on foot, across the most seedy looking illegal market one could ever imagine.
COMFORT COMES AT A PRICE
Bolivia is known for its horrific road conditions.  Cities and towns only a few hundred kilometers apart can take up to half a day or even a full 24 hours to reach by bus.  Part of this is natural given the impossibly difficult terrain which is compounded immensely by the fact  the government itself has invested next to nothing to ensure quality and safety are paramount in any way, shape or form.  Anyhow, after enduring the worst of road conditions on my initial northbound route, I decided to ride in style going south from La Paz (current capital) to Sucre (former capital) of Bolivia.  Paying nearly three times as much as a regular bus, I purchased a Cama ticket, the most posh coach available.  Spacious reclining seats, a toilet graced by Mr. Clean himself and food and beverages were all part of the promised deal.  Things start off well.  I meet a traveler who I haven´t seen in a few weeks.  A well traveled lady from Wales in her mid 30´s who has traveled extensively to over 60 countries.  Everything is dandy as I have good company and my seat comfortably reclines although I notice it is without a seatbelt.  However, the shenanigans begin when I feel the urge to go to the bathroom.  The door is locked.  Why?  I ask the bus driver and he informs me that the toilet is broken which immediately sets off my internal bs detector, a well oiled machine, time tested and true in South America.  We finally stop at some dusty roadside shanty town., a place the bowels of the earth may have rejected.  A group of us with screaming bladders dart off the bus with the vehemence of a prowling cheetah to relieve ourselves on the side of the road, hardly the comfort we supposedly paid for.  Time progresses and we also come to the effectuation we´re not going to get even a crumb for dinner.  We´re now down two of the luxuries we´ve supposedly paid for with our relatively expensive tickets.  However, we´ve got positive plucky attitudes and with just 5 hours left on our journey we can make it without grumbling too severely.  Well, not exactly.  The bus comes to a screeching halt in the wee hours just past midnight.  We look outside and notice nothing but mountains 360 degrees around us.  We´re in the middle of nowhere, the temperature is subzero as it´s officially winter in the southern hemisphere.  We´re up in the high altitude region of the Andes some thousands of kilometers above sea level.  The bus has broken down.  We have no idea what is going on.  A clever young lad who speaks English well enough informs us that the gear box is totalled and we´re stranded.  With only meager blankets provided we´re FREEZING cold and shivering.  Trying our best to focus on anything but the bleak conditions, we desperately attempt to catch some shuteye but are awaken every 10 to 15 minutes by our shivering bodies feverishly trying to warm up.  Instead of keeping the bus turned on to provide some minimal warmth, the asinine driver shut turns off the ignition locking us inside with the bathroom still locked!  The mob begins to grumble and suddenly I notice somebody hammering on the door of the bus driver demanding intensely that the washroom be opened immediately irregardless of its condition.  Initially the request is denied, but others join in and finally the bus driver driven by surmounting pressure is forced to open it.  Low and behold not a single thing is wrong with the toilet other than the fact it likely HAS NOT been cleaned in months.  Finally in service, the filth pit was so unbelievably disgusting it probably would have been more sanitary soiling our pants than daring to set foot inside.  Others decide to bear the elements and force the driver to open up the door of the bus.  The desperate passengers, benumb all the while, squat on the side of the road, nearly freezing off vital appendages, a daunting task for anyone.  We somehow hope that after a few hours we will be rescued but our reprieve does not come until a full 8 hours later.  We bare the sub zero conditions in darkness.  Our new bus finally arrives to the sound of roaring cheers.  Desperately exhausted, yet relieved we reload our bags and we´re finally on our way to our final destination.  However, during this period of instability, over half of the passengers have jumped aboard vehicles offering hitchhiking services.  By the time we board our salvation bus it is literally half empty.  You would think the bus company might be in a hurry to get us to our final destination given the circumstances.  You would be totally wrong.  The driver with an uncharacteriscally empty bus decides to pick up passengers randomly along the way.  We stop in every which direction as a loud mouth assistant shouts out of the window trying to fill every seat on the bus.  It´s clear that 100% of the proceeds are going directly in the bus driver´s pockets as these are unofficial passengers.  The toilet on the new bus has also been locked and we have not eaten or drank anything for close to 20 hours.  Upon fierce demand the bus driver finally stops at a corner store.  Realizing there are no potential passengers at this station, he gives us literally two minutes to purchase sodas and junk food and or relieve ourselves.  Finally we arrive in Sucre.  The trip was a scheduled 12 hours but ends up being 24.  We ask for some kind of compensation or refund given the whole ordeal but the man behind the counter smiles and starts laughing uncontrollably.  It takes every once of restriction not to run my fist all over his face.  He most comfortably explains, we got you here, what´s the problem?
SAFE BORDER CROSSING
Crossing the Peruvian-Ecuadorian border is a horror gong-show.  Even in my guidebook the warning is simple and well stated:  the worst border in all of South America – truly quite a feat because the competition is damn fierce. Warned in a advance by a friend, I figure I´ll be okay with a company claiming to take me across directly.  Well, can you guess what happened?  I´m dropped off several kilometers from either border post.  I´m now faced with the same situation my friend encountered.  Deciding to take a taxi finally I´m dropped off at the Peruvian side for my exit stamp.  Things appears to be going well until we get into no-man’s-land where I´m taken to a warehouse mafia style and demanded to pay a hefty $50 fee.  Completely outnumbered I feel beyond lucky that I have not been physically harmed and that my belongings have not been confiscated.  I reluctantly oblige and they dump me outside somewhere not even close to the Ecuadorian border.  I meet up with another stranded traveler and we finally find our way to the crossing on foot first passing the seedy looking unofficial markets (think contraband) I´ve ever seen in my whole life.  Check out what this person has to say about it all:
CONCLUSIONS:  FINAL THOUGHTS
Taking a bus in South America is an experience for better or worse.  It´s how most travel, since flying often means paying through the teeth for a ticket that costs nearly as much as flight to your country of origin.  Although Chile and Argentina offer generally high standards of service making your way through the Andean countries is well, WOW! The memories I have from these bus journeys I´ll keep with me an entire lifetime, but during the most intense moments the heinous conditions were prostrating.  I guess having survived it all I can laugh about it now knowing full well the ¨joy rides¨ are firmly in the rearview mirror 🙂
Sammy J 😛
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All Hell For A Basement


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Imagine the most abominable day you´ve ever had at the office.  Unless you´ve been the unfortunate victim of a debilitating workplace injury you might piss and moan of an irrational & tyrannical boss, insolent customers or impossibly elongated working hours.  Although I´m sure you´ve got a point, and your expostulations are no doubt valid, they likely pale in comparison to what happens in a snug little place called Potosi located in southern most region of Bolivia.
Potosi is often particularized in superlatives and it becomes apparent upon arrival that it more than lives up to its prodigious reputation.  Impressive enough is the fact that this city is the highest in the world (4060m), a UNESCO heritage site and home to possibly the most ignominious mines on the entire planet.  Potosi in its heyday was the lifeblood of Spain during colonial times, supplying silver and literally fueling the empire.  Rumors has it that enough silver has been exported to Spain over the past centuries to build a bridge from Potosi to Spain and back while not even coming close to exhausting the -´then´ bounteous supplies.  Today reservoirs have largely been exhausted and the mines themselves severely depleted; however, without another viable option to drive the economy miners today still drudge for the remaining scraps under conditions that are in a word, SHOCKING!
The city itself was discovered in 1545 following the discovery of ore deposits in the mountains and quickly became the wealthiest city in all of South America.  The streets were ´paved´ by silver and the impressive colonial architecture that still stands today serves as a prime example of how this city went from riches to rags by dint of colonial exploitation.  Millions (mostly indigenous and some African slaves) have given their blood, sweat and LIVES in these mines under the most abhorrent of conditions known to man.  During colonial times it has been estimated that over 8 million workers have succumbed to the ghastly working conditions of the mines.  It this isn´t enough to send chills up your spin, present day reality doesn´t paint a rosier picture.
Current reality is just as bleak as it was for the slaves back in colonial times.  Today the cooperative mines are home to many workers who are desperately trying to carve out a living and support hungry mouths at home.  The workers are not associated with any particular company and are completely independent.  They fund and organize their own crews, equipment and designated working areas.  If they are lucky they can pocket as much as $150 a month under the most ideal conditions.  The unfortunate reality is that the lifespan of these workers is usually between one to two decades from the time they enter the mines.  They go in consciously knowing this fact, but faced with severely limited options, seem to accept they have no other choice in life as most workers are descendants of generations past who have known nothing else.  Most succumb to silicosis pneumonia via constant exposure to noxious chemicals, often diagnosed after spitting out blood.
A tour to these mines reveals the melancholic truth about a world that is filled with both splendor and woe.  It all begins with a trip to the miners market where gifts are purchased for the underemployed workers.  Most appreciated are sticks of dynamite, alcohol (96% variety), coca leaves, cigarettes, and soda.  We´re quickly whisked off to another section where we drape ourselves with grimy mining gear and finally arrive at the miscreant mines.  Upon arriving it quickly becomes apparent the conditions are bleak.  Accommodations nearby are equipped with all the decay one could ever imagine and seem to be on the brink of total ruin.  A small dark tunnel, hardly large enough for a hobbit awaits us as we begin the tour.  Upon entering the hole you quickly realizes the sudden drop in levels of oxygen and the ever present noxious gases penetrating your lungs.  It´s only the beginning as things seem to become narrower by the nano second.  We´re only on the first level and it apparently gets much worse on the lower levels as temperatures increase, space becomes more scarce and the chemicals fill your lungs with far more fervency.  The journey to lower levels is a claustrophobic individuals worst nightmare.  Crawling head first you worm your way down a shaft that digs into your ribs and offers little to no grip as you borrow you way further down.
Needless to say the one hour spent inside the mines was enough to make me realize I have a very felicitous existence.  Even as an athletic type who enjoys jogging and recurrent exercise, I came out of the shafts coughing and hacking up all kinds of hideous gunk and phlegm balls aplenty.  I honestly felt as if I had just reduced my lifespan by at least a month crawling around in these macabre mines and for the life of me couldn´t imagine workers toiling under these conditions day after day without reprieve.  It was a stark reminder that I´m very fortunate to roam the world as I please compared to those who spend their lives in Hell´s Basement.
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Tall Travel Tales


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I can´t help but fathom travel makes you a better storyteller.  The adventurous, quirky, mundane, profane, humorous and everything else in between are bound to happen to you once or twice or possibly even more, if you stay on the dusty trail long enough.  The stories you hear at times make you shake your head in disbelief and every once in a while you encounter a real whopping jaw dropper.   However, it´s the tales that keep coming up again and again that I´m going to rant about in this particular post.  These stories are nothing but totally stale; however, the latest rambler often tries to put his/her unique spin on it.  Even somebody blessed with the highest degree of enthusiasm and a mouth made to motor can´t quite refresh these refried beans of tales told far too many times UNLESS of course you´re the victim hearing it for the first time.  I suppose the term urban legend or myth is most appropriate to describe these tall tales, as you never quite get enough specifics to quantify if it actually really happened or not.  Often these are tales told of far away places involving friends of a friend and are just too good to be actually true 🙂

Tale A

Imagine the joy of a newlywed couple.  The perfect honeymoon is in order and of course it´s in an exotic locale.  I´m not even going to mention where it is because this tale has been told so many times it´s not of any significant importance.  The planes, hotels and tours are booked.  It´s now just time for these two lovebirds to venture off and have the time of their lives.  Everything is sappy peaches and cream as things progress into the final days of their itinerary.  This particular morning the couple will take a cab ride to a nearby village to have some pictures taken.  Everything is going smoother than a PIMP drinking gin and juice out of a sippy cup on a lazy Sunday afternoon.  However, suddenly the car is swerving out of control.  The couple once saturated with joy and ease suddenly are jolted into a state of terror and shock.  The car comes to an abrupt stop and a huge collective sigh of relief radiates even miles away as nothing serious has just happened.  The driver naturally needs some assistance fixing the vehicle and who better to lend a helping hand than the ever so handy Mr. Fix-it husband.  The bride sits in the back seat collecting her breath as just moments before she felt her life flash before her eyes.  Suddenly, at the most opportunistic moment, without any sense of hesitation the taxi driver bolts to the front and hops into the driver´s seat.  Before you can snap your fingers twice he´s already locked the doors and is speeding off chewing dirt and spinning dust with the bride screaming in the back and looking out the rear window in an act of total desperation.  The husband chases after the car with all of the enthusiasm of a raging bull but it´s far too late.  He´s fallen flat on his face and the car in front of him is nothing more than a spec disappearing into the horizon.  Years pass and the tragic story is never resolved.  It´s assumed the wife has been sold into prostitution and the husband in all of his agony and disbelief never does find her again.  It´s a classic tale of doom and gloom and if I had a dime for every time I´ve heard this story I´d be collecting a rather nice pension fund right about now 🙂

Tale B

A group of mates decide to paint the town red after a serious trek in the mountains.  The long and grueling bus rides, treacherous hiking and high altitude have taken its toll on these young lads.  It´s time for them to let off some steam and enjoy a few free flowing pints of bubbly or whatever else is on tap.  It´s going to be a wild night and the watering hole they´ve cafefully selected is more than willing to dish out the goodies.  Things are going typically well as a few of the blokes have already picked up a sizzlin´ senorita and have long since exited the premises.  However, much maligned, Trevor and Todd are still drinking like fish that have just about ran out of water.  Todd naturally gets separated from Trevor and is starting to feel more than just a bit fuzzy in the head.  He´s of course plastered but doesn´t realize the little something that´s been slipped into his drink while he so carelessly left it open and completely unattended on the bar table while going to pay a short visit to urinal.  The progression of a normal blackout usually involves some completely isolated incidents of total stupidity in which a mate nearby often picks up the pieces and removes the said offender.  However, since Todd is alone he hits the ground hard and without a sound as nobody in the bar knows him or gives even the slightest damn about the corpse found sprawled out on the floor.   To the commoner in the crowd, he´s just another wilting flower that´s collapsed on the floor a little too early – hardly a newfound sight for these grizzled hard-knockers.  Anyhow, hours go by and Trevor finally is semi-conscious once again.  Completely disoriented and feeling extremely weak all over, he notices a cell phone placed in his hand.  He quickly tries to jerk himself up but a pain so intense slams him back to the ground like two freight trains colliding head on.  He quickly realizes something is totally disturbing about this situation.  Not even slightly aware of where he is he suddenly realizes he´s just crumpled up a piece of paper found in his other hand.  He unravels the mess and discovers a series of seven sequenced numbers.  The message is blunt:  ´´Your kidney has been removed.  Call this number or YOU WILL DIE.´´

These two examples are just a few of many types of stories one may encounter while backpacking around the globe.  It doesn´t really matter where you are because these can happen in random country X.  I´ve heard these kind of stories more than I´d like to admit and my ear drums are bleeding right now, so please forgive me.   The funny thing is that you´ll likely hear these tall tales again, and again, and again once more,  but if you do encounter an eager young lad telling it to you for the first time try to take it a little bit easy on him because in his mind it´s hot off the press and fresh news to your supposed virgin ears 🙂

*Please note my blog/website is now at http://nomadicsamuel.com
Please come and check it out!*

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