We managed to jump over a couple strings of cars and get out of the yard and were wandering past suburban houses when two cop cars rolled out of nowhere. A bald, angry-looking officer swaggered over to us. “Cat-and-mouse game, huh? Looks like we win,” he scoffed. The other, a soft-spoken “good cop,” asked us a lot of questions about ourselves, and we managed to build up a friendly rapport. The bald one narrowed his eyes and glared at Jackson: “You’ve got a wedding ring on and a nice-ass camera around your neck. So what are you doing out here?”
So begins Rudyard “Mowgli” Kipling’s epic tale of the worst-roadtrip-ever, as told by PBS’s The National Parks: America’s Best Idea (a Ken Burns joint). In 1889, the British author/cranky traveller took the “grand tour” of Yellowstone Park, paying about $150 for the privilege of only barely enjoying this freshly minted national wonder. “The park is just a howling wilderness,” he whines, and goes on to complain generally about the poor cuisine (tinned beef and beer), his gum-snapping Chicagoan companions, and a wealth of other annoyances. You may never love Kipling as much as you will after watching this clip. Or you can read a section of his immensely entertaining takedown here.
What’s the worst trip you’ve ever taken?
It’s not just anyone who can come, but everyone too – and they do. In the previous month, 10,000 tourists had entered Sagarmatha National Park. The trail north from the scary little airstrip at Lukla is chocker with trekkers – at times it’s more like a queue than a walk. Antipodeans trade matey banter; purposeful Germans with trekking poles overtake on the straights; the French, beautifully turned out, shrug indifferently; fat tattooed Brits huff and puff on the inclines. Above us, the air is alive with helicopters ferrying Japanese tourists who have neither the time nor the inclination to walk up the valley. They will spend a night in the Hotel Everest View, gasping into oxygen cylinders. In the morning they will take photos on the terrace, then fly away. Tomorrow they’ll probably be in Bangkok, or the Philippines.”
Even on Everest, time marches on, and Sam Wollaston’s trudging in its Gore-Tex’d footsteps for the Guardian. (Read it in full here.)