Paddling the Nile
The first ever paddle down the Blue Nile from source to sea. 5,000km through wild rapids, war zones, crocodile and hippo infested waters, disease, terrorists, guns, arrests; the works...
Newly married amongst the neon glow and dumpling vendors as we bumble our way trying to figure out the world's most populous nation at this exciting time in it's history...
The Great Canadian Bike Trek
23 years old and naive, I set off in the middle of Canada's barbaric winter perched on a woolskin seat-cover peddling solo from one side of Canada to the other...
December 23, 1998 -Vancouver: A diddle-shrinking -8 degrees and about a foot of snow. For a young man like myself who had spent most of my youthful life in sub-tropical Wellington, it was quite a thrill. I didn't waste any time, and kitted up in my warmest gears, I launched many snowballs at both my flat mates and a few unfortunate people harmlessly walking under the Burrard Street Bridge. The freak snowstorm was perfect timing for Christmas and went hand in hand with the lights and decorations.
We were given strict instructions from our Christmas hosts, Jerri and Kelly Beeman, to stop 'California dreaming' and stay in Vancouver as the dumping of snow had taken its toll on the roads across the Pacific Northwest and the driving conditions were treacherous. But being 'young, dumb and full of cum' (as McCracken would say), we decided to brave the elements, and with our bags packed and our Davie Crocket Raccoon hats, we left the snowy mountains of Vancouver behind and headed south.
We arrived at the Beemans in Vancouver, WA. safely, late on Christmas Eve, with no real driving disruptions. As expected, we were treated to some very fine hospitality. Christmas morning bought with it a traditional present opening session and a superb breakfast. The venue for Christmas dinner was the Beeman's family friends, the Waschs, who very kindly took us strange looking, raccoon hat wearing tourists into their lovely old family home in the suburbs of Portland.
A very joyous time was had by all. Breaking the tradition of Christmas Turkey, we went for red meat, in the form of 18 pounds of tender prime rib beef, cooked to perfection. Apparently Mr. Wasch, who was given carving duty, couldn't get over how much meat was consumed by the tourists among the group. Satisfied after 3 courses, and numerous helpings, of what would easily rank into my top-10 meals ever, and a bit of yacking, we returned to the Beemans.
On arrival at the Beeman lodge, Tipu, James and myself were all too bloated to sleep, so we sat and played trivial pursuits on Tipu's Bed. About a minute into the game, Beef induced McCracken let out a fairly shy fart, followed by a ripper. I was soon to follow suit, and the two of us competed with each other in a two-hour frenzy of continual farting - the single best display that I have ever seen. The immense quantity of beef had made us helpless, and provided a continual supply of very loud, long farts. When we were finally all gassed-out, McCracken and myself retired to our bedroom, to leave Tipu bathing in our potent wind.
After a pleasant sleep in the fresh air and a savory breakfast of French toast, we said our good byes and left with some cookies, muffins and left over pie, kindly dispensed by Jerri Beeman.
After a few laps of Portland's freeway system and instructions from a local, we finally found our way through the scenic Oregon State out to the Coast, stopping at a few shops along the way. The Oregon Coast was some very nice scenery. We stopped for dinner in a lovely little town called Depot Bay for the locally bragged about buffet. Unfortunately due to daylight restrictions, it was too dark to see any more of the coast, so we made our way inland onto the Interstate bound for sunny California. Well into the night, we stopped in the middle of nowhere and made the cramped Pontiac Grand Am, our bed for the evening.
The next morning we traveled down to the hills of San Francisco, which put on a pearler of a day. San Francisco is an exceptional town with heaps of character, a lot like Wellington, but bigger with a couple of bridges.
We checked into the hostel (a very low class establishment), cleaned ourselves up, and set off on our merry way to explore the town. Our hostel was in a busy part of town, with a pretty interesting bunch of people. People everywhere - tough looking black guys walking down the sidewalk carrying ghetto blasters on their shoulders, fast-talking Rolex watch sellers, and some rogues reclining on the pavement selling old books. We made our way up through to Chinatown, where we had a traditional Chinese lunch and met a few locals.
The world famous San Francisco trams were the next activity on our agenda and we purchased a day pass, so we could ride around and jump on and off when we pleased. I loved the things and really enjoyed riding on the side and swinging on the bars. We journeyed up and down some of the steep streets before we were told to get off for riding on the wrong part of the tram. So, back to beating the feet, we plodded down to Fisherman's Wharf, where we soaked up the atmosphere and looked at the tourist attractions including Pier 39 and the fascinating Ripley's Believe it or Not Museum. We caught the tram back into the city and walked around the seedy district, where I almost got my head beaten in by some jive talking big black momma.
After a great nights sleep in our quarters, a couple of 89c McChickens and some of Jerri's pie, we assembled back at the car to see some more of the city. We stopped at the park which is famous for it's brief appearance on the start of the TV show Full House for a few photos and met up with a guy Rick, who used to be a hippie in San Francisco about 30 years ago. After chucking around a football for a bit, him, his two kids, sexy wife and mother in-law showed us some of the sites and told us a few stories and a bit of history. Lunch was at a pizza parlour in the Hate-Ashbury vicinity where all of the hippies used to, and still do, hang out.
After lunch we had to part with our newfound friends, as there was much more of the city to see. We drove down the windiest road in the world, Lombard Street, on our way to see the Golden Gate Bridge at sunset. Across the bridge, from the lookout on top of the hill, looking west to the sun setting in the Pacific, and East to the Golden Gate Bridge and the city was one of the most beautiful sites that I have ever seen, and we savoured the occasion with many a photo.
After crossing back over the bridge, we made our way to Castro, the gayest district in San Francisco. In one of the shops we met Uncle Dave, who owned the shop that won the funkiest shop in San Francisco. Being a very helpful guy, he bought us up to date with all of the homosexual terms and facts. We ate dinner at a restaurant recommended by Dave and then visited Detour, one of the sought after gay bars in vicinity. This was your very typical gay bar - nicely toned barmen wearing singlets and cowboy hats, down sloping mirrors above the toilet, so you could check out the prey, and worst of all, an abnormally low hand basin that required the person washing his hands to bend over more than usual.
I think the other men took a fondness to our raccoon hats because it seemed to me like it was easier to get laid in this gay bar than a brothel! Some short black guy wearing a leather hat was buying me drinks, a slimy Hispanic Fag, Silvaz, was talking dirty to me all night and some devoted wig wearing Asian fellow was trying to kiss me for a good part of the evening.
Leaving behind the city of San Francisco, and its high profile gay population, we traveled south the next morning, en route for the squeaky sands of Santa Cruise. Palm Trees, a whole lot of sand and sub-Arctic waters set the scene for my first swim since the summer of '98 back in NZ. My traveling companions and I frolicked amongst the waves until we could handle the cold water no longer.
Our next port of call was Monterey, a lovely little town famous for its aquarium and golf course, Pebble Beach. We went out for a few beers at some of the local pubs, and ended up spending half the night with four sisters, which was a pleasant change from the predominantly male patrons we had drunken with the preceding evening.
We hit the road again the next day, driving down along the rugged cliffs of the surreal coastal highway 99. It was a spectacular trip. We soldiered on, leaving the sandy shores of the California Coast, bound inland for Vegas, where we arrived at 2am, as the lights lit up the Nevada sky.
Gambling, sex, alcohol, sleaze and 24 hour marriage parlours - Las Vegas was really a good place for the family. I was taken away by the shear scale of the place which was still alive and kicking at the early hours of the morning. To the casinos we went, where we stayed until 8am. Exhausted from our night, we headed to our hostel where we immediately slept until the early afternoon on the Eve of 1999.
The hostel was a fine establishment, and being choco-block for the event, we were bunked up with a couple of Danish girls and a lovely girl from somewhere in the Eastern- block. A swim in the pool was followed by some all-you can drink kegs that the hostel had provided for a nominal fee of $5 each. There was a good turnout at the event, with most of the hostel's guests attending. The last complementary shuttle to the Strip (where all the casinos are) was at 10:30pm, so we all packed in for a very rowdy trip down.
The Strip was packed from end to end, with an estimated 300,000-400,000 people, the equivalent of every man, woman and child in Wellington, choosing the destination to see in the New Year. Everybody was in a very festive mood except a few Mexican brothers who wanted to attack McCracken and a black guy who said that he would shoot us. The night went on, and after being escorted out of one of the 'higher class' casinos, we ended up playing black jack on the $1 tables at some low class casino with 99-cent bacon and eggs.
After another sleep in, we tried our luck again at the casinos, winning a few stuffed animals at one of the family orientated casinos, Circus, Circus, and then braved a ride on New York, New York's famous roller coaster, followed by a high class buffet dinner.
After making pigs of ourselves we took a couple of hours to deflate, and then went to Beaches, a nightclub that was like something on TV. Full of silicon, dancing girls, bar ladies in bikinis, steroid pumped patrons and a slimy, bare-chested Peter Endre imitator, sleazing onto anything with breasts (real or not). On our way out I couldn't help but notice a rough looking character who had been wrestled to the ground by a bouncer, while the other bouncers had red-laser pointers from their pistols locked on the young mans head.
The next morning on our way out of town we celebrated the marriage of some lovely newly-weds and then left the town, vouching to return again someday, maybe for marriage.