Having staved off the dangers of College Station, we headed for our fifth state of the trip – Louisiana – where we would navigate the treacherous swamps and gators to find the mecca that is New Orleans.
Louisiana was previously a Spanish and French owned territory (when I say previously, I mean a good couple of hundred years ago before anyone had dreamed of great modern day technologies such as the Nokia 3310). It is a land famous for its creole, Cajun and funny talking buggers that are just like the blokes we see on that Discovery Channel show Swamp People.
We’d had a good Thursday evening in College Station and our trusty GPS lady, purring in her South African accent to cure any homesickness, led us astray in Houston. We radioed to base to confirm that we had a problem and like any good tourist, pulled out a map, tossed it on the backseat, klapped the GPS aunty and like a hungover bugger walking out of Sunday School we were once again on the right path.
Once crossing the Louisiana State border, we were pretty much on a 3 hour long drive to New Orleans over a bridge that kept us safe from them gators. I used to think the Gariep Dam was impressive, but this place had plenty lakes and rivers, making Louisiana wetter than a submarine’s number plate.
We arrived in the dark on Friday and checked into our hostel which was an interesting place to say that least. Purds and I are jocks of the bushveld, which is not your stereotypical hostel going folk. It felt like I was in a circus at times and I think I felt as different as my fellow backpackers would have at high school. Nonetheless, we found a quite spot in the corner, plugged into some wifi for some research and satisfied the aching thirst we had developed from a long day at the wheel.
New Orleans, or Nawlins as it’s pronounced, is renowned for Bourbon Street in the French Quarter, so naturally we head there. It is pretty touristy, but well worth it. Picture Long Street in Cape Town, but multiply it by about 1000. It is like one massive festival, where liquor is freely consumed in a closed off street and there is no shortage of bars. Add in the fact that Semisonic’s iconic 1998 hit ‘Closing Time’ has never been played along that street and you have yourself a 24/7 party.
Bourbon Street is vibrant and colourful with people from all walks of life frequenting the place. There is quite a stench too which could be as a result of the humidity, the swampness, or the copious amount of cats the guys were shooting on the pavement. There also a few guys preaching in the street, ironically with a strip joint two doors down with an illuminated sign saying ‘Sinners Welcome’. This place is not normal.
They say you need to check yourself before you wreck yourself. Too late she cried, its 5am, taking to check for cracks behind the eyelids.
Just like any good movie, I will now make reference to the title of this article – it was a rather early rise to get back on the horse. No rest for the wicked I guess.
We were in the Men’s Dorm of the hostel and had colonised the far corner consisting of three bunkbeds. We had spread our equipment across all three beds, growled, snarled and made sure to not come across as friendly to any of the circus folk acting as digsies. This ensured that South African’s had an enhanced reputation as being scary and rude, which meant we could sleep (in small doses) in peace.
That said we did have one rather interesting roomie next door. He never left the backpackers the entire weekend, opting simply to sleep like a bear in winter, watch TV and drink milk from a 5 litre (about 2 gallons for American follower/s) bottle. He also seemed to walk around in only a thong, actually it was more like a T-Piece that was thin enough that it could have been used as dental floss for one of our friends back in Tombstone Arizona. Old mate also had some lightning bolts tatted onto his face, which actually accompanied his several metal studs and rings quite nicely. He only ever spoke to us the day we were packing up and proceeded to tell us that South Africa is his second least favourite country after America and that we had nuclear submarines that we were denying to the rest of the world. Another serial killer missed and another one dodged…I hope.
Anyway, back to the music.
We strapped on the takkies, swim trunks and wifebeaters (tank tops for the Yanks and ‘Vests’ for all my ballie readers) – which as several of you have pointed out on social media, seems to be our only form of clothing. Where’s Wally tours the whole blaadie planet wearing the same kit and no one seems to mind, but post two pics wearing similar kit on Instagram and you get riddled. I would also like to point out that the humidity was upward of 80% and the temperature was 35 degrees (95 for the Yanks) so this necessitated the aforementioned attire.
The Garden District, French Quarter, Mississippi River and some spooky cemeteries were on the list of touristy things to do for the day. The one cemetery we visited has featured in many films as well as several of those popular Vampire series that teenage girls watch such as True Blood. The French Quarter was pretty damn cool too with a unique architecture very different to that of Parys on the Vaal River. As the name suggests it is a historic are with a lot of culture and little to no damage from the infamous Hurricane Katrina.
We took some snaps to keep our Gram Game strong and settled into a Sports Bar to catch some College Football and miss the hideous thundershower outside.
That evening we cruised to Frenchmen Street which was really awesome. Our local Intel revealed that this was the place to be, far better than Bourbon Street with far less tourists (self?). Frenchmen Street was just bar upon bar of live music gigs and so we headed the advice of Slim Shady and lost ourselves in the music. Once again, we returned home around the same time that the first batch of cows would be sent to the shed for milking.
At this stage I must add that it is the NFL opening weekend so there is quite a buzz around the place with the local team, the New Orleans Saints, taking on the Oakland Raiders at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome a few blocks up the road. The Raiders supporters are here in abundance and apart from being really passionate, they are a pretty scary bunch too. Some may say they straight up gangsta, which they are, however they were also pretty vibey and we got quite stuck in with a few of them in passing.
Sunday we checked into a spot called Walk-On’s which is a Sports Bar near the Superdome that is owned by Saints quarterback Drew Brees. The game was an absolute humdinger (albeit an 11h00 kickoff) which saw the Raiders clinch it at the death with a pair of two-point conversions. Heartbreak for the home team, but with a large contingent of vocal travelling fans, it helped us climb atop the old horse again.
That evening we continued onto Bourbon Street again, doing the usual of shooting the lights out and ending the evening feeling like a sheep in Australia – shagged.
Our drive back to Texas was among the more harrowing in my life. My tail was between my legs and I was riddled with demons. With coffee and fast food as a constant companion, we seemed to make it alive back to the Lone Star State.
We spent an evening in Dallas with three South Africans – Keith Engelbrecht, Brett Taylor and Hennie Viljoen. They were all friends of Paul Mills’ who have been involved in rugby here for some time. Like all the Saffas we have come across, it was great to meet up with them and we had a mooi time together.
The following day we headed for a bit of home comfort at Paul’s place in Canyon. Once again we stocked up on Biltong, Boerie and Steak, also getting our first dosage of vegetables in weeks which helped stave off the impending scurvy.
Now its off to Aspen in Colorado, a town in the Rocky Mountains made famous by its skiing. There I will strap on the boots to play in the Aspen Ruggerfest alongside Grant Prior who is a fellow Upper boy from St Andrew’s College.
Louisiana and Texas, thanks for coming. Keep the change.
Part 0 – California here we come
Part 1 – Cookhouse, Cathcart, California
Part 2 – Dust, Snakes and the Wild West
Part 3 – The Excess of Texas
Part 4 – An Austin in Austin
Part 5 – Shoot first, ask questions later