They say the victors write the history books. My family is
living proof, of course. But we are just the surface of
that onion which no historian in his right mind is gonna risk
tenure to peel back further. I think it all started with the
Phoenicians, but that is a trip for another day, perhaps if
the weather 'round here remains so cold and showery.
The proof abounds, for those with eyes to see, but sometimes
people forget about the Towers. A remote Tower seemed like a
good place to visit next.
There is a geographical anomaly, a single island with two names.
This happens once in a while, I suppose, when the land is
in two parts, joined by a narrow isthmus. Grande Miquelon
and Langlade come to mind as a good example. Odd, but odder still
is the fact that where I am now, the name of the half to the
south of me spills across the isthmus and covers part of my island.
The weather was dreary as I got to the Standing Stones, but the
Tower was only a Swedish mile further up the road to the north,
so I ditched the car and walked the beautiful, treeless landscape,
and had the good fortune of being able to contemplate the ruin
As the rain and windy chill continued to grate on my old
bones, I decided a change of temperature was in the cards
after all. Though I didn't escape the wind when I got here,
I could stay weeks or months without seeing a raindrop if I
was lucky, and I'm usually lucky.
These Towers have always fascinated me, being that there are so
many on the island, all designed and arranged as if there was
some master plan, and by who knows who (although some have glimped
the obvious connections). Some have estimated as many as 30,000 sites,
though only several thousand have been found by the so-called
"experts". That still seemed like alot to me, especially as
relatively obscure as they are.
As much as I enjoyed wriggling into the narrow doorways of
these prehistoric structures to escape the wind, and to
hide what needed to be hidden, I think the real reason I
keep coming back here is to sample the local unique
liqueur and the interesting cuisine. And if I'm not careful, I'll
get stuck on one of the beautiful, deserted sandy beaches and
never leave. Oh well, where to next ... ?
D'oh! I forgot my shades, so I had to cruise on back
home. I hadn't needed them until now, of course. One
of my favorites of the Towers has to be the one close to
home, so I went downtown to see if anyone had unraveled
my old friend's enigma yet. Those who talk of traitors
are barking up the wrong tree, of course, but one tough
customer claims to have figured the whole kit and caboodle,
if you can believe it. Those truly in the know always keep
I've been here, before, of course, so there was no need to
dawdle -- just take it easy, do what needed to be done, and
get back to my travels.
Ah, Midsummer's Eve, my favorite day of the year. Where to spend
it this year? Since They were expecting me to be at the obvious
places, and I've spent it at all the obvious places before, I
decided to go somewhere completely unexpected, where They would never
think to look -- a place where I could watch the sun rise and set
at the same time. How that is possible I'll leave the "experts"
to figure out, but it is possible because I've seen it, and its
worth watching at least once in your lifetime, but be sure to not
forget your shades.
About 45 miles to the south, in the middle of the desert, is
a waterfall. How improbable is that, I thought? It is a tremendous
place of power and remoteness, and a place They will never think
to look, or bother trying to get to. No tourists here, of course,
but, like at the top of a rugged mountain, a cairn of rocks awaits you
to joyously add to once you have completed your rugged journey to the
It was a busy day, and I was hungry. Back to where I watched the
sun do its thing this morning (evening?) for a local delicacy,
washed down with a shot of the local burnt wine.
I stayed there for awhile, but soon it came time to leave the land
of contrast and improbabilities, and head back to civilization.
Places of religion always seem to inspire, so I headed to a place
where the fingerprints of the New and Old still lingered in harmony
(unlike so many other parts of the world, sadly), often literally
I strolled over to the cathedral, the largest in the region, which
was set in the center of the 1400 year old town and one time power
center, where the Old way officially yielded to the New a little
over 900 years ago. As I became absorbed in the majestic and
powerful architecture of the place, and the Old and New intertwined
on the stones, an ironic thought occurred to me.
It seemed somewhat ironic that the modern day believers and
followers of my ancestors and their comrades are also today's
followers of the Old religion, the "W and W folks", as it were,
yet of course it is well known and that my family's crowd were
staunch defenders of the New. Funny how things work out sometimes,
but it makes sense when you think about it -- it was never about Old
nor New, but In or Out, though of course spirit and truth are
eternal, even as the names, words, and trappings muddle. Plus
ca change, plus c'est le meme chose ...
Oh well. Past the stones which speak more clearly than I, and on
to the 400 plus year old castle, which has the best secret passage
of any I've ever visited. This was a good place, where would it
lead to next ...
I came to a capital of yesteryear, about 30 miles west of the
land's present day capital city. This place was strategically
built on one of a score of islands, scattered about
half as many lakes. This lake's name derives from the word for
"head" in the local language, or so I'm told, and local lore
has it that this is because the lake needs to sacrifice
someone's head, or perhaps because the lake looks like a head.
I didn't comprehend the local lore, nor the local language, but
found the place beautiful to look at and explore just the same.
Though not a truly free country for all that long, this land has
a rich history, interesting architecture, and natural treasures,
and I never tire of coming back here, despite it being a touch
outside of my traditional stomping grounds. Whether its to walk
the narrow, cobbled streets of the capital's old town, or to
prospect for amber on the beach after a springtime storm, its
a fun and interesting place to visit. And most importantly,
they have good, though not well known, beer here.
After I was done here, I wasn't sure where to go next.
Globetrotting, and writing about it, can burn you out ...
I got the sense that They were getting on to me. They could
be quite clever, with their computers and other annoyances, so I
had to continue to be sharp. They had a couple of 2000 year
old secrets, that to me, were no big deal, but people can
get so up in arms about what to me seemed the most natural
and normal things.
It seemed a good time to throw Them a curve ball, to fade away to
a remote place, where at first glance, one would have no clue which
hemisphere to even look in, much less which continent, though the
local language with its double "Q" and other curiosities could
be a giveaway, as could a local meat, (which tastes somewhat like
liver, incidentally), illegal in many other parts of the world. It
always seemed to me a bit odd that foods, spirits or drugs could be
perfectly normal in one place, then you cross some imaginary line
that They set up along time ago, and all the sudden the rules change.
Do people change also as they cross these imaginary lines?
Does Right and Wrong change?
I didn't need to show a passport to visit this place,
(which of course was the idea, and they laughed at me when I tried
to get mine stamped at the post office), nor did the first outsiders,
who gave this place its original name as part of a marketing scam, perhaps
the only so-named place in the world? Though they explored this
land over 1000 years ago, they only discovered this village,
the largest on its coast, a little over 100 years ago. Seemed like
as good a place as any to do some hiding.
I've always had a soft spot for royalty, when done right
anyway. I often wonder what the United States, for example,
would be like today if my ancestors had had their way and we
managed to establish a monarchy instead. Better? Worse?
Few know how close this dream came to becoming reality.
My other soft spots, obviously, are castles and mountains, so
I set off to find all three. I'm not sure that I did, but it
was a novelty all the same to find a place where the head of
state actually lives in their own twelfth century castle, rather
than those boring government mansions and apartments they move
into and out of every few years. This was as good a place to
be as anywhere, I figured, as it wasn't a tourist trap open to
As I sat downtown admiring the stunning view and my dinner of
local wild stag, it occurred to me that this was only one of
two countries in the world where a certain geographical fact
was true, the other being Uzbekistan. I've never been to
Uzbekistan, though I imagine similar scenery in places. Perhaps
I should go there next ...
So I moved onto the capital of a land where they love
their king. Though there are many ancient cities in this
land worth visiting, the capital is my favorite, as you can
stroll around all quarters of the uncrowded, scenic and clean
city, and no one will bother you. One thing I found fascinating
about this place was how the drivers totally disregarded
traffic lights, and consequently, intersections were bedlam.
Not a place for a rookie to book a rent-a-car. I did what I
needed to do in this place, and otherwise didn't have the will
to write much else today.
I had just been to plenty of cold, rainy, bizarre, and
hectic places, and with winter approaching, it seemed a good
time to set sail for more relaxing, and warmer latitudes.
I found this gem of an island, that, though fairly small,
ran the gamut with four star beaches, rain forest hiking
and birding, and its most striking and famous features,
the pair of verdant mountains rising out of the sea, bookending
a beautiful, though developed beach.
The northern one was not climbable, without gear, or so I
was told, but there was supposedly a strenuous, though hikable
trail to the summit of the southern one. Though I came to lay
on the beach, I guess a hike up a mountain, even in paradise,
will always trump the boredom of lazing around on the beach
sipping umbrella drinks, as far as I'm concerned.
I made my way down the rocky road to the small village at the
base to find the trail, but instead found a "guide" that I
would "need" to guide me to the top, for a wallet thinning $60
to follow a trail. The trail was strenuous, and many of the
lobster-skinned tourists couldn't handle it, or so my "guide"
told me, but the views from the top were well worth it. Since
few people were going to make it up here, it seemed, this
was a good place for number eleven.
While I was enjoying the view, I was a bit surprised when my "guide"
offered me some local ganga; when I declined, he went on
toking without me, while I considered the odd fact that the taller
of the peaks is called "small" in the local dialect, and the shorter
of the two is named "big". He explained to me why this was, and
it made sense, sort of, when looked at from the right angle.
Back at the resort, I enjoyed the local brew named for these
mountains, which admittedly was not in the same league as some
of those sampled earlier in my travels.
It has been a long trip, and it was time to really get away from
it all, find a low key place and a beach were no one could
ever find me.
So my final destination was a few islands away, to one
of the most special places on the planet. Unlike most of
the islands in the region, this place is not volcanic in
origin, nor covered with rain forest; it is best described
as a big hunk of coral covered with scrubby brush and cacti,
and ringed with over two dozen beaches, most of them uncrowded
and world class. Few tourists come here, for there are no
high rises, casinos, or package tour hotels, but those few
who do come here return season after season, and are passionately
loyal to the place.
Its hard to see why, at first, when you step off the boat,
usually from a much more spectacularly scenic place, or a place
in another riddle, but it doesn't take long for the magic to
take hold. Its just different here -- whether its the small,
but fantastic beachside or cliffside restaurants, friendly
islanders, or remote beaches.
The remote beach I ended up on is actually one of the more
famous ones on the island, despite its small size and hidden
location. I figured to have the place to myself, as the
only way to get there is by boat, or with a little know
how via a little known technique that is not for everyone.
Typically people bring their snorkeling gear for some of the
best snorkeling on the planet, a picnic lunch, or their best
friend; I simply brought myself, my thoughts and experiences,
and one last thing to leave behind. As I filled the final
page of my journal, whose words and pictures I hoped would
provide amusement to whomever stumbled upon it, I realised,
of all things, that the name of this island appeared on an
earlier page, in a way that no one will ever figure out, even
when they figure it out ... cool, an unintended
As I gazed out at the tranquil sea, and considered the past,
present, and future, I never wanted to return to the world.
Note: "Territory" means country or "quasi country". There is no
great way to define what this means, and no list is perfect; I
just happen to use the
Traveler's Century Club list. This means that The United
States, Alaska, Hong Kong, England, and Finland are examples
of territories, whereas North Carolina and the UK are not.