El Mecico Nov21

El Mecico

It was with a sense of adventure and a feeling of backpacking proper that I took an assured step off the red-eye flight from San Diego to Cancun. I had previously alighted in Cancun airport, and had stayed at the same hostel, only 18 months prior on an explosive lads holiday with J-man, a friend from University, so knew the in’s and out’s of the bus system and the layout of downtown Cancun – often the most troublesome times for a backpacker of getting from a alighting point to hostel. Mirroring the change in travelling mantra and lifestyle choice from our Alaskan cruise to San Francisco, the step down in the proverbial ladder of change from San Diego to Mexico was taking us to a backpacking lifestyle in the vein that mums and dads believe how backpacking looks. We were carrying our life on our backs (in our packs), we were ending up in foreign non-English speaking countries and walking 2miles instead of taking a taxi to save ourselves a dollar. We had booked ourselves just two nights at the party orientated Quetzal Hostel in the grimy, sweaty, dirty, nightlife loving, American spring break craziness city of Cancun. On the backpacking scene the city is generally considered a place to party, drink, sleep in and repeat – and although I’d done it before (loving the infamous Coco Bongo’s nightclub) – Han and I were using it a base to see Chichenitza, arguably the most famous East Mexican ruins before quickly moving on to the more sedate and cultural Merida. I struggled to not join in the drinking games and party the night away, even when free tequila was given out with dinner; my social, party, sin driven devil arguing with my conscious, early morning...

LA, Hollywood, San Diego and Beyond...

Los Angeles! To me I had taken LA to mean one city, where choices of where to stay were based on recommendations, reviews and scores, and less so on location. There would be a centre where hostels would try and crowd around and promote as distance scores from main attractions. However, upon planning our stop at this expanse of a region, it soon prevailed that Los Angeles has no core, no main area, and is actually an amalgamation of lots of different cities, towns and areas that make up Greater Los Angeles. Deciding where to stay would be based on what we were after. With no real idea exactly what that would be, we opted to stay at the highly recommended option of a USA Hostel in Hollywood. Was this to be the place of movie stars and chique boutique hotels and shops? Most definitely not – it was something even better. Hollywood turned out to be an electric energy fuelled buzzing area where tourists seem to crowd in as touts shout from streets, beer and food specials fly at you, and costume shops and souvenir stalls line the walkways. Our hostel was located almost in the middle of this, but down a side road that seemed to shelter it from the noise and crowds. We had 2 days at the hostel before two of Han’s friends, Georgie and Amy, were amazingly making their way out from the UK to meet up with us for a 7 day holiday. Being slightly lackadaisical and welcoming some downtime before they came out, recharging after our Grand Canyon run, we took the time to recoupe and just ‘took our time’ around the area. I took a Beverly Hills tour to see some of the grand mansions of...

Vegas and the Grand Canyon

Although I love Vegas, and Han hadn’t been there before, leaving me both intrigued and worried about her reaction to such obvious shows of financial freedom and over-the-top adventures, we also had a secondary aim; a trip to the Grand Canyon to run the Rim-to-Rim (South to North). We had booked ourselves into the aptly named Circus Circus hotel for a few nights, before picking up our hire car and heading to tackle the canyon. The hotel lies at the Northern end of the strip which meant longer walks to and from our hotel, but also no questions on which way to turn out of the doors when we did wake up. Like all first timers to the strip, we wandered up and down the boulevard, through all the major hotels, watched the magical water show at the Bellagio, took the circular escalators at Caesars, and ate monster portions of cheesecake and drinks. We even placed a few bets to some fast losses and slower wins. Han actually pulled out a straight flush on one hand, netting her the fortune of $13 back from her initial 25 cents on the video poker. We danced at the themed bar of Coyote Ugly, drank margaritas at a time of night when sleeping would usually be in order, placed a bet on red for it to come up black, saw an NBA game at the Mandalay Bay, taste tested at the largest candy wall in the world, and generally drank, ate and had a blast as much as we could on our limited backpacker budget. Vegas was all that it promised to be and more, and juxtaposedly sometimes less, and a little surprisingly Han actually enjoyed some of the aspects I was worried she would hate, and hated some of the aspects I thought she would love; who would have thought she would love a $3.50 slushed Margarita at 11pm on our way back to the hotel, or half naked Coyote girls at the Coyote Ugly themed bar? Vegas therefore confused me as much as it always does, and once again had me wanting to come back for more, more and more, yet also had me wondering if I ever need to come back. Please specify a Flickr ID for this gallery And with such ambiguous paragraphs and thoughts such as the above, I found myself contemplating the city as we chewed up the miles in our hire car heading along the mind numbingly straight Route 15 North and East out of the city on our way to the Grand Canyon. Wanting to run the canyon in a day bought with it some logistical problems; obviously you end up 20 plus miles away from where you started. Not fancying running the Rim-to-Rim-to-Rim (ie repeat it backwards), we had organised a plan to a) Get picked up by a shuttle bus company from the North rim around 2pm the first day b) With only our running gear, a toothbrush, some money and the energy bars and trail mix we’d need the next day, arrive at the South Rim around dusk c) Stay at a lodge on the South Rim and grab some dinner there d) Wake up around 5:30am, and head out to run back to our car on the North Rim Even with a small issue of a late car pickup we made our shuttle bus in time and found ourselves gorging on ‘chilli in a bread bowl’ in a somewhat error prone meal-before-a-big-run food intake, but which was to prove surprisingly tasty and filling, energy inducing and error-free the next day. Early starts are never easy, but when you wake, put on your running shoes, don your hydration packs and look out over one of the most colossal natural wonders of the world I’ve ever seen, it certainly helps. We had decided to take the slightly longer option of descending down...

Lake Tahoe

With a tent, roll-mat and sleeping bag still crying out to be used again before we were to relieve ourselves of the camping equipment on our journey south to enter the world of Mexico and beyond, and with a spacious boot to carry the load instead of our backs, we planned to head North to camp at Lake Tahoe for a few nights. Situated on the border of California and Nevada, Lake Tahoe is America’s second deepest lake covering 191 square miles, and lies 200 miles inland from Cali’s coast, being part of both California and Nevada. We jumped in the car from the Big Sur and made the 6 hour adventure to camp on the Southern shoreline near the imaginatively named town of South Lake Tahoe. We had been told by other adventurous souls that Lake Tahoe has a ‘serious’ temperature difference between night and day. As we rumbled over the passes and down the twisting turning roads to our final destination, with the first glimpses of the largest alpine lake in North America in view whilst the sun was still glittering of its never ending surface, with a car air conditioning conditioning the air, we were not seriously worried or trepiditious about the cold. Please specify a Flickr ID for this gallery We had booked ourselves into the mildly historic Camp Richardson. With a history that spanned back about as far as it could for the area (circa 150 years) the camp spanned a fairly large area, sitting a mere 100m from the shoreline of the lake and situated within a rustic untouched protected forest that we were warned we were to share with coyotes and bears. We had had our share of dangerous wild North American animals over the past couple of months, but the warming spacious lodge and sprinkling of RV’s close by stemmed any real fears from surfacing as we welcomed the warming showers and bathrooms that our more rustic campsite at Mount Tam, and previously our camping expedition in the Yukon, previously didn’t house. The main attraction of Lake Tahoe, maybe somewhat unsurprisingly, was the Lake itself and we made plans to explore some of its more well known coves, shorelines and beaches, once again enjoying the freedom and mobility that our own car gave us. We spent a luxuriously lazy day sitting on the shores of Emerald Cove and wandering around it’s shoreline; reading, juggling, throwing juggling clubs into freezing waters, paddling, snoozing and having to swim after the said club in just boxers (to the delight of the nearby women) …. the usual antics. With the mountainous backdrop, aquamarine shimmering waters, and sun dappled shores, the next day we headed out on a great trail run along a shoreline path, circumnavigating and exploring a couple of beaches and some vertigo inducing drops, before visiting a trickling waterfall and catching some beers and food back at camp. However, the warning and precursors were soon to be realised; when the sun sets the heat sets as well, and as our camp slowly became engulfed in a cold bitter evening, our freezing digits wondering why chopping vegetables numbed and froze them, and washing up involved them scrubbing pans in ice cold running tap water, my mind was confused whether to enjoy the beautiful moon dappled forest with another tea, or climb into the warming, welcoming, sleeping bag lined tent. A little of both was thrown in as we warmed water up into our drinking containers, hugging them like water bottles in the tent, and drifted off to sleep still in trousers, t-shirts, jumpers, hat and scarf. Please specify a Flickr ID for this gallery With a couple more days in the area however, a little cold at night didn’t stop us from enjoying the area and planning some more trail runs and relaxing days. As the rays of the sun slowly warmed our tent...