The city of Mérida, Yucatán, is humid and crowded and busy and colourful and alive.
The pedestrian crossings play a jaunty tune when it’s time to cross the street and in the evenings people gather in the parks in ones and twos and small groups, just to be together.
There is a clear Spanish colonial influence to the city, which is understandable, and its architecture contrasts with the enormous temples and sprawling cities of the Mayans. I’m told that when the Spanish first arrived in Mérida there was a huge Mayan pyramid, that the conquistadors wasted no time in dismantling the temple, taking the stones to build a cathedral instead.
Other than the recycled stones, all that remains of the pyramid now is a plaque celebrating achieving the impossible feat of destroying the marvel of architectural engineering.
For some time, in my head I’ve an idea for an adventure.
It’s been there, in some dark corner, getting kicked about occasionally like a half-deflated football. I’ve been wondering about a trek covering the entire length, top to bottom, through Central and South America — taking in the Aztecs, Mayans, and Incas along the way, as well as the cities, towns and scenery. I have no idea how long such an adventure would take,or how possible it could be — let alone how to even begin funding something like that. So it’s stayed as the half-deflated football — it comes out occasionally when I’m bored, and I try to kick around for a while, but give up before too long.
Then, last week, the idea evolved.
I read a BBC News report about Sir Ranulph Fiennes and his upcoming record-breaking attempt at an Antarctic expedition. The story asked if there are any real adventures left: now the highest peaks have been climbed, the oceans explored (apart from their depths), and everything available to view on Google Earth. As a side note, I remember one day at an early age telling my Dad that I when I grew up I wanted to be an explorer. He let me down gently, but told me there wasn’t anything left to explore: all the lands were discovered, and the maps published. I guess the Queen of Spain will never give me a fleet of ships to seek out new lands. The BBC article also asked people to respond with what they thought, what adventures could be left — I wondered myself if adventures couldn’t be had (or records broken) with time constraints.
Oh, sure, you can circumnavigate the globe — but how quickly can you do it?
Then that old half-forgotten idea of the Americas adventure resurfaced, but this time I had another thought relating to it. Thankfully, not about how quickly such an adventure could be completed (which with my flat feet and no sense of direction couldn’t ever be quickly) but since at the time I was enjoying Canada so much I thought “Why not include North America?”. And I came up with the adventure I am calling “By Any Means Necessary”. Like the Arctic Adventure (or “Jay and the Great Arctic Fundraising Challenge” to give it the full title) and “The Year of the Dragon”, it’s important to start an idea for an adventure with an interesting title: it saves time when you commission a book deal later on.
The adventure involves a journey through North and South America, from Alaska to the southern most tip of Argentina, by any means necessary. It could involve hiking, dog sledding, snow mobiling, travel by motorbike and perhaps even kayaking — pretty much whatever options were open, so long as there’s no cheating and taking a bus or train for several days. At some points, I recognise, it might occasionally be necessary to include something more robust — since it isn’t meant to be a survival challenge, but as I say it would be cheating to take a bus through a whole country.
Right now this is just a silly dream. I have no idea how long something like that would take, or if it would even be remotely possible for a number of reasons: like how would I ever fund or equip such a journey, what employer would ever give me the time off from a job to pursue it, let alone who could possibly want to stick around in my life while I disappear for however-long chasing such a crazy adventure. And most of all: is it even physically possible to do it at all?
I really really don’t want to go ‘back to sleep’ and forget about this idea, or have it be a story I tell, or a dream I have that’s never realised (“Oh, have you heard about Jay’s crazy dream of an adventure? Tell them about it, Jay, it’s really funny, he’s been talking about this for years…”) but right now I see no way to even approach getting it started.
Flat feet, no sense of direction — but a burning sense of adventure