I first made this recipe for a bunch of friends on a little island called Ilhabela in Brazil, but made it again more than once during our travels. It combines fresh and long-life ingredients that you tend to be able to find just about anywhere. I used the small but punchy array of spices that I've been carrying with me everywhere while travelling – ground cumin, ground coriander, and hot paprika – to give it a bit of a kick, but as with most things Mexican inspired, it's the lime and coriander that really makes it!
Only a couple of short weeks after Burning Man, Elliot and I embarked on a nine-day whitewater rafting trip in Grand Canyon. Yep, another nine days in the desert! Similar to Burning Man, the greatest thing about spending all that time off the grid doing something remarkable was being surrounded by happiness. Everyone on the trip was the kind of person who is most at home in the midst of nature, and when you extend that experience to a full nine days – or, for those who did the full canyon, fifteen – a sense of real calm and contentment underlies everything you do. Even when you’re squatting in front of everyone or fighting through underbrush to poo in a bucket.
It really was impressive to see how everyone on the trip just accepted the unpleasant realities of camping in a national park. Even those who had rarely or never (!) been camping handled it as if it were perfectly natural. But I think the most striking thing for me was the unfaltering team attitude of everyone involved. We all pulled our weight and together we would get camp set up within about 15 minutes. It was a satisfying feeling seeing everything just come together like that.
Floating through layers and layers of prehistoric rock older than dinosaurs, it felt almost as if we were travelling through time. As one of the guides, Zander, put it, 'We’re so lucky to be alive at the perfect time in this 2-billion year period to see all this.' It felt truly wondrous to be in the middle of slice upon slice of history, seeing how the rock had been laid down and where it had been eroded, identifying faults and discontinuities, and trying to get our heads around the enormous scale of time and space that they occupied.
Two of the guides were also musicians, and brought along their guitar, banjo, and mandolin. On three separate nights we were treated to a selection of original musical numbers. Some were based on experiences in the canyon – ‘Snap Canyon’, the tale of a mythical place where river guides go when the frustration gets too much, was a crowd favourite – while others were composed purely of ridiculousness, such as the delightfully incestuous ‘I’m my own grandpa’. But my favourite was the deeply moving cover of ‘Foxhole’ by Curtis McMurtry – well worth a listen.
Yet on day 4, after three days of absolute wonderment and wholehearted enjoyment, misery descended. It started when a waterfall hike ended with the need to walk through waist-deep water while still wearing hiking boots. (We’d been told to leave our river sandals behind, as they would only slow the hike down. This turned out not to be true; we spent more time trying to drain our boots than we would have spent changing!). I tried to put the squelching out of my mind, but without much success.
My mood was set, and as the night wore on the feeling remained but the focus changed. I felt boring and useless as I participated passively in conversations without making any meaningful contribution. I woke in the night (thanks to a full moon that just wouldn’t quit) missing Salty cat like crazy, and by morning I missed my family and friends (almost) as badly. More than anything, I wanted the consistency of home. My own space, arranged just how I like it. When the camera ran out of battery, small as that may seem, it tipped me over into feeling like I just couldn’t deal.
Being isolated made me feel further away from everyone than ever. Why this intense homesickness didn’t happen at Burning Man I couldn’t say. That too was nine days away from the world. I guess it’s that Burning Man was all about extroversion and constant stimulation, whereas being alone with nothing but the stars and the sound of the river encourages introspection.
Fortunately, the feeling didn't last. There have been a few times now when I've struggled a bit with missing home, but so far I've bounced back each time! Everyone who's travelled long term seems to agree that three months is the nadir, and it gets easier from there. We're now at three and a half, and I think we're getting into a bit of a rhythm. The only thing that's made me cry recently is the relentlessly uphill hike in Colca Canyon... but that's another story.
For more photos of Grand Canyon click here.
For a video of Grand Canyon click here.
For photos of Zion National Park click here.
For photos of Las Vegas click here.
For photos of San Francisco and Sonoma click here.
Black bean, rice and corn burrito bowl with fresh tomato, avocado and lime
What did you think of this recipe? I'd love to hear from you!
Leslee Young 21 Nov 2018Enjoyed your style of writing.... and photos were inspiring!
Recipe sounds pretty special too!!