Once upon a time, I enjoyed backpacking. It’s a culture, not just an activity. Overnight buses, cramped dorms, sleepless nights, do-it-yourself tours. I’m not a backpacker anymore. Those days are gone. I don’t need luxury. But I do like to have my own room. I can handle a thin mattress. But I don’t much want to clamber up a ladder to the top bunk. There’s an awful lot about backpacking that an intelligent person doesn’t miss. And look, I’m forty years old. My joints creak a little these days. There is one thing that I do miss though. The people you meet.
You bump into all sorts of people on the backpacking trail. They make or break a destination. I had mixed fortunes in Mexico, but only really bummed out twice. Tulum was full of couples, and I was rather the odd one out. And in Guanajuato, I bumped into some Brits bent on a beer binge. We quickly went our separate ways. But mostly the people I met were good bunch.
I met the gang of guys and girls above on a night bus from Tulum to Palenque. It was a horrible 14 hour journey, and I slept not one wink. As a group we managed to find a single room in Palenque at about 6am and went to bed. They two guys woke us an hour later – they’d booked a trip to the Agua Azul. A place I must return too. It’s tough to fully appreciate somewhere on just an hours sleep.
The two girls on the left, from France, were the only ones I kept in touch with by email, albeit for a brief spell, after the Mexican adventure ended. I also traveled on with them to San Cristobal. The large chap in the green shirt, I remember him for a day’s worth of whining. He broke a sandal. Jeez, it was just a sandal. If he should stumble across this post, I’d like to say sorry for my unspoken contempt for his whining. As I found out later, he was right – it is next to freaking impossible to find a size 11 shoe of any sort in Mexico.
The crew above I met at San Blas. Two American guys and two British girls. We spent nearly a week on the beach, boating up rivers and drinking in town. I got on better with the guys. But I met the girls again a week or two later in Creel, in the Copper Canyon. We were in the same dorm. They came back very late one night. The lights were out, everyone was asleep, and a full moon bathed the room in a ghostly light.
They decided to chance it. But I wasn’t asleep. I had one eye craftily open. I saw both full moons that night. If the not unattractive blonde girl should by chance find her way to these parts, then I’d just like to say…nice bum.
The final photo. I remember the guy sitting down was a decent guitarist. He struck up a few riffs, or whatever you call guitar songs, in the town centre one evening. The guy standing up was French. And stone deaf. Travelling by himself. That’s courage for you. Some swine stole his Lonely Planet travel guide, and he had only just started his trip. In the interests of mending a thousand years of broken Anglo French relations, I gave him mine.
I was, after all, virtually at the end of my trip. A bus to Chihuahua beckoned, and then a final bus across the border at Ciudad Juarez/El Paso. I just photocopied the few pages I needed. But my Lonely Planet guide was precious to me. It had taken me across the country. A very loyal companion, so it was. And I had a ton of notes in it. I gave him my address, and he promised to post it back to me.
If my deaf French buddy should happen to read this entry, then I’d just like to say you are a thieving little frog bastard. Give me my bloody book back. Quite frankly, I don’t care if ten years have passed, I still want it. Our ancestors managed to keep grudges going over centuries. A decade is nothing, ya hear me?! No, you probably don’t.. 🙂