To Borneo or Bust!

Morning everyone, here’s yesterday’s Sunday Times Column. If you didn’t see it in the paper yesterday, you won’t know that they have a sexy new look for our columns. I now share a page with my very fave Sunday Times Columnist, Ndumiso Ngcobo. We’re cosy like that.

If you did see it, let me know what you think of it.

I dig it.


At the age of eighty, my dad is in Outer Mongolia on holiday. He’s probably riding a camel and drinking yak’s milk as I type this. As a result, when my next holiday rolls around, I can hardly just go to the Seychelles to drink a cocktail, read a book and shag a cabana boy for a week.

So, in the spirit of familial one-upmanship, my shortlist of possible holiday destinations currently looks like this:

There’s a restaurant in Spain, called El Diablo, where they cook the food over a volcano. I immediately picture my steak garnished with lava, but in reality it’s way less dramatic than it sounds. For now. The volcano hasn’t erupted since 1824, a fact people seem to take solace in. For me, the longer it lays dormant, the more concerned I get. It’s got to be building up to something.

But for now it just bubbles away gently, six feet below the ground. They’ve built a kind of braai hole over the volcano, where they lay a grid and braai Spanish food at about four hundred degrees Celsius. I suspect their steaks don’t come rare.

Or if that’s too tame for you, elsewhere in Spain and still diablo related, there’s the annual El Colacho Festival. Where, in a ritual dating back to 1620, you can dress up like the devil and jump over babies lying in the streets. Or you could stay home and take a tab of acid, and see the same thing. At least then you don’t have to deal with the flight.

I was also looking at South America as a possible wild holiday destination. They offer a particular tour that’s a million miles from normal. The San Pedro Prison in La Paz, Bolivia, is unlike any other prison in the world in that it has its own microcosmic society. Besides the 1500 prisoners (80% of which are in for drug-related crimes, and 75% are awaiting trial) the wives and children of the prisoners live within the prison walls too, and are free to come and go as they please. There’s even a marketplace, where it’s rumoured the inmates sell cocaine to visiting tourists to boost their income. There’s a strange irony in going to a prison to buy cocaine.

Years ago a British inmate started giving these illegal guided tours of San Pedro Prison. He’s long gone, possibly due to a shiv-related incident, but the tours continue. They’re still illegal, and it’s a pretty close contact affair in a dangerous environment. This place kicks Mongolia’s ass in the weird stakes. You know the world has gone mad when people are paying to go to a prison in South America.

Or for a sporty holiday, I briefly considered going retrocycling in Derby in the UK. It’s an annual bike race, where the riders sit on their handlebars and pedal backwards. They either crane their necks, or replace their bicycle seats with mirrors so they can see where they’re going. It looks quite tricky and results in lots of accidents and injuries. Now that sounds like my kind of spectator sport!

I’ve also been looking into The Testicle Festival, or Testy Festy. It’s held in Montana for five days every year. I’m assuming there’s much alcohol involved. They have big testicle, small testicle and wet testicle competitions. In fact, prepare to see more testicles than a pair of underpants. Sounds like a ball. Just don’t be surprised if nobody wants to see your holiday snaps when you get home.

In certain cultures animal testicles are considered a delicacy and not just an episode of Fear Factor. And since this is America, you know someone there is putting them on a stick, rolling them in batter and deep frying them, right? On the upside, if you’re health conscious, I’m told they’re full of protein.

Doesn’t anybody just go island hopping anymore, or to see the world’s biggest pineapple? How soon before we’re going to a restaurant on the moon, or dipping ourselves in gasoline, setting ourselves on fire and calling it a relaxing meander, or turning a mortuary into a B and B?

So far my favourite destination on the list is The Quiet Festival, which is held in New Jersey every November. They kick it off with a ‘Yawn Along’, and then it’s a week of silent movies, mimes and the world’s only signing choir. Throw in a book and a daiquiri and I’m there.
Forget about the cabana boy, if you can’t make a noise while you’re doing it, what’s the point?



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