Experimental travel

A few years ago I picked up a handsome Lonely Planet book on sale called Experimental Travel, which I finally got around to reading recently*. Written by members of Latourex, a group of slightly daft Dadaist travellers, it contains about 40 travel “experiments” of varying degrees of difficulty – there’s a complete list here. One of the hardest is Horse Head Adventure – there’s an account from someone who travelled around Japan, and even went snowboarding, wearing a horse’s head. As you could imagine, this passed largely without comment. On Saturday I tried one of the simplest experiments, Alternating Travel:

Leave your home on foot. Take the first road on the right, then the next on the left, then the next on the right, then the next on the left, etc. Carry on until something, a no man’s land, a building or a stretch of water, blocks your path and you can go no farther.

As you can see by the map (click for enlargement) I managed to get quite far:

mapI’d never been down many of these roads before, despite living in the area for six years. I quickly discovered that I had to extend the definition of “road” to pedestrian walkways, because there are so many dead-end streets in Wellington, so there are some sudden turns which couldn’t be anticipated by most maps. I also found out that if you’re walking along a road, and suddenly the sidewalks disappear, it means that it’s quite a rich area because no-one is expected to do anything as common as walk to their house.

My walk took me from Highbury to Northland, where the roads are coiled like a large intestine. Even though it was a fine Saturday afternoon, there was hardly anyone on the streets, either walking or driving. After getting as far as the Botanic Gardens I found myself catapulted back through Northland and headed towards the slightly disapproving suburb of Karori. My walk finally ended at the appendix-like end of Donald St, in front of a discreetly ostentatious property with a huge gate and keypad, and a just-visible tennis court. Of course there was no pedestrian access to any nearby streets… people around here don’t walk anywhere.

I recommend this experiment for anyone who feels like some really good non-destination-orientated walking exercise. I’m going to try it again the next time Spring decides to stop fucking with our heads, except turning left to begin with instead of right.

*I have about six unread books on my shelves that glare at me accusingly – I’ve put them on the same shelf so they can sulk together.

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11 Responses to “Experimental travel”

  1. Well there’s synchronicity for you. I’ve giving a lecture on psychogeography this afternoon and that just became a late addition.

    I’m also inflicting From Hell on the kiddies.

    Tell me, what do you carry with you when you go on your perambulations?

  2. I like the biological similes! I may give alternating travel a go, but I suspect I’ll end up in Palmy’s ganglands. Can I cheat if that’s the case? If I try it tomorrow I’m afraid all roads will lead to The Celtic anyhow….
    Actually, is there any point in trying alternating travel if you live in a flat city laid out in a grid?

  3. I didn’t take anything with me except for my wallet and phone. I should’ve taken a camera. I wanted to photograph the rather grand house at the end of Donald St, as well as the utterly pointless Bebe A Bordo sign in the back of a car. Watch drivers plough into you as they try to work out the Spanish.

    I thought all roads led to the Celtic anyway? Or have I just been spending too much time with the editor of Chaff?

    I’m glad you both found this interesting. I’m also going to try Airport Tourism and Expedition to K2.

  4. Well, when I asked you what you carried, it was right after I mentioned From Hell Obligatory sick humour, you know… “Doctor Gull, I presume?”

  5. *sigh* I hope you didn’t subject them to the wretched film version.

  6. Absolutely not!

    (Mind you, I haven’t seen it myself.)

    Scans of pages of Gull leading Nettley around London (legally that’s fair use – academic purposes only, within university bounds), comparison with novelists/poets such as Iain Sinclair and Peter Ackroyd who were working on the same thing, using the same methods, referring to the same churches at the same time. Blather about the Situationists, Moore’s thesis that the Ripper ushered in the twentieth century and so on.

    They applauded.

  7. Possibly the most Alan Moorish chapter of an Alan Moore book, except for the issue of Promethea which unstitches to become a huge double-sided poster.

    Sadly the film version of From Hell didn’t stay true to the comic by having a half-hour segment of psychogeography. It would’ve been a more interesting film if it had.

  8. I thought not… and in many ways, that chapter revealed the whole (ahem) bloody point of the story. The best films that are are London and Robinson in Space , by Patrick Keiler (try Aro St Video or the City Library) which are (oxymoronically) riotously droll documentaries.

  9. For reasons with which I will not bore you, I urgently needed to find this post today. I searched your blog for “walk”, “explore” and “neighbourhood” without success, before eventually finding it with the prosaic “turn left”. But if I had thought for a moment more, I would have been able to say I found it using the word “Dadaist”. That would have been much more awesome.

  10. That’s the trouble with needing to hide bodies quickly.

  11. Rhinocrates Says:

    Friends help you move. Good friends help you move bodies.

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