Travels Part 2: The Americas

 

 

There are lots of fine sites and people on this side of the hemisphere. A little basic Spanish goes a long way to augmenting the experience further south. I learned some from working in medical clinics and from the fellows who operated the New River ferry in Northern Belize. “Useful” phrases were ” you have eyes like stars in the sky” or more pragmatically ” I would like to buy some butter and eggs”. In one shop I used both with a little Mayan grandmother. It worked well. Hispanic people are very decent. Lets first look at…

Costa Rica...

My memories of this country centre around lush cloud forests, volcanic sand beaches, exotic birds, howler monkeys and a volcano called Arenal. It woke me up with a huge bang at 4am. The hotel rooms faced the mountain and the view of sparks and hot lava streaming down the side was quite a sight. Next morning we were treated to a tour of steaming lava fields and the bong sound of 3 wattled bell birds. Another adventure involved a little Cesna ride to a remote parrot infested lodge on the Panama border. The grass “runway” was overrun by cattle so the pilot dove down and swooped over their heads to scare them off. Good times.

Guatemala...

My experience there was limited to a visit to the marvel of Mayan archaeology called Tikal about 2 hours west of the Belize border. While driving there we were stopped by the Guatemalan military brandishing assault rifles and asking to inspect passports. The soldiers looked like pubescent young teenage boys. A good time to have a Canadian passport and a Spanish-speaking guide.

Tikal however was amazing..

Belize…

I lived there for 5 years and its a good place to call home if you think you might like Dodge City C1883. But as a general medical experience it was a great education. It’s very third world: Crime, poverty, crumbling infrastructure and slow internet.
An ideal place for DIY-minimalist-libertarians. But I liked the locals. My modest home (above) was in a small fishing village and I made sure I was well-connected to the world (when the electricity worked).

I was able to feed herring to southern stingrays while snorkeling, swim with nurse sharks and kayak on tropical lagoons.
I made many good friends with a local brothel owner where I acquired free contraband Mexican beer. He offered me a job as the house gynecologist. I declined. I was not exactly board certified in this field. Another of life’s many regrets however.

Ecuador…

My first exposure to this fascinating place was in Quito, a lovely colonial city with a shortage of oxygen due to the high altitude. The highlight of the trip was a few days at La Selva Lodge in the Amazon rainforest close to the Peru populated with parrots, swinging monkeys and caymans. I had hoped to visit (on the list of activities) with the infrequently contacted Huaroani tribe (above) who eat monkeys and hunted with blow guns but the trip was cancelled due to border clashes with the Peruvians. This was in 1993, so by now they are probably wearing Nike apparel and watching reality TV.

After La Selva was the Galapagos Islands…..

Where else can you swim with seals and penguins and get up and close and personal with a 125 year old celery munching tortoise called Lonesome George^

The Caribbean..

In the eighties I shamelessly went through a middle class bourgeois Club Med phase of travel. These all-inclusive resorts were lavish orgies of non stop food and wine at anytime. The 7 day stays were at: Dominican Republic, Jamaica, St Lucia, Barbados and Bahamas. The resorts looked the same and could have been anywhere. I did enjoy feeding baguettes to Atlantic spadefish. Jamaica did have river rafting and jungle tours. There is only so much sunbathing you could do while incubating a skin cancer.

Guests were encouraged to participate in all manner of sports and recreations but mine primarily included ping pong and snorkeling. I prefered to leave the resorts and meet up with the locals and check the sights as a distraction from the monotonous views (above). I did meet other interesting young professionals, and I played ping-pong with a little bearded dude from Montreal named Henry Morgentaler at the Eleuthera resort, I lost each round.

Mexico..

I have travelled to and driven through much of this country and enjoyed all of it. If you stay away from Michoacan and Sinaloa you are safe. It has warm friendly people who have a communal, religious familial attitude to life that assumes priority over aquisitive materialism. And as a bonus you get great cuisine, pyramids, colorful toilets, hospitality, white sand beaches, local markets, colonial architecture, Mexican Spanish, cenotes and Tequila. What’s not to like? I would retire there tomorrow and upgrade my grade 4 spanish.

United States of America

This is a tough one. America would be a terrific place if 1/2 of the populace didn’t suffer from republican disorder. I lived there for 7 years and it was mostly enjoyable. But that was in the 90’s before 9-11 and folks were not as nasty and paranoid. I lived north of a little white bread town where racism was just below the surface. Trucks had gun racks. The only black fellow I met did contracting when he was sober. I hired him for a small cement job and he drove the mixer truck over my picnic table-turning it into toothpicks while impaired. The job turned out well though and I did get a new table.

I kept busy with work and a hobby farm home to a variety of exotic wildlife everything from wallabies to mini donkeys. In truth on an individual level most folks were friendly and helpful, though this was the midwest and fairly earthy. More cows than people.
There was interesting history to be found as I did find an old stagecoach inn from the Butterfield Overland days and a couple of very old graves in the middle of nothing with 3 barely readable names of soldiers from the 7th cavalry 1871. A local told me that George Custer was stationed at Fort Riley a few hours east and patrolled the area. I inquired about the possibility of these fellows had been scalped and so on but he said that it was probably diphtheria.

Chicago had a green river on March 17, New Orleans had jambalaya, Colorado looked like Switzerland and Texas had great steaks.
But I have no desire to go back or visit.

Canada

After Switzerland, Canada is the second best country on earth overall climate notwithstanding, and I am proud it is my home and birthplace. The top 5 nations are all democratic socialist like Denmark,Norway and Switzerland and if there are differences between Canada and its big neighbour to the south one should remember this…

I grew up in Quebec and learned passable French and travelled to the East coast to watch whales and eat lobster but it was my time in the high arctic that is most memorable.

I visited many settlements along the arctic coast stretching from Inuvik to Iqaluit then known as Frobisher Bay. I enjoyed working with the Inuit who had a dry sense of humour and were very hospitable people. I ate musk ox (like goat) and Arctic Char. I was offered seal but said no thanks.

My most memorable experiences were on the “court plane”. The circuit court travelled to remote settlements dispensing justice in the far north. On board were the defence and crown, the superior court judge, clerks and myself as amicus curaie = friend of the court/ expert witness. The pilot was a former WW 2 Polish squadron Spitfire veteran. We took off from Yellowknife in a luxury DC 3 with plush furniture and a bar and our very own cute blonde stewardess from Newfoundland. On one occasion we first landed in Cambridge Bay to fuel up and then on to Spence Bay to deal with an arson case. We couldn’t leave though as the rear wheel on the plane went flat and we had no spare so that meant waiting 6 hours till one could be flown up from Yellowknife. So I visited with Ernie Lyall a former Hudson Bay fur trader and had cookies and tea.

The local nurse asked me and the defence attorney over to sit in her hot tub and drink wine but we declined, another missed opportunity. After the tire was replaced we flew on to Pond Inlet which has to be the most scenic spot in Canada (after Pangnirtung) where it sits opposite Bylot Island (top pic)

The case involved the post mistress stealing funds to support her abusive husband’s gambling habit. She got 4 months for that. We had to take her back with us on the plane in handcuffs to the jail in Yellowknife. But first we flew to Resolute Bay to gas up. However the left engine fouled up and started spitting out pieces of metal and smoke. Not good at all. So we were stuck waiting 6 hours for a Twin Otter to come get us. The big problem was that the latter, though a great northern bush plane, had no bathroom. And the defence attorney and I (we didn’t care for the crown prosecutor much) had consumed a considerable amount of Molson beer. So by the time we landed we had to race off to a hangar to urinate for several minutes against the outside walls at -30c.
Canada lives here

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One Response to “Travels Part 2: The Americas”

  1. kristina nadreau says:

    would prefere more detail and more installments. doing 2 continents at once is not useful

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