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john davies
notes from a small vicar
from a parish
in Liverpool, UK

    Friday, July 15, 2005
    Experimental Travel #1 - In a Lunar Landscape

    I spent the morning with The Lonely Planet Guide to Experimental Travel which is a thrill from cover to cover. I didn't read it from cover to cover because that would just be too linear. But I did start with the introduction which tells us that 'Experimental Travel is not about checking off the major sights or following your guidebook to the letter; it's a playful way of travelling, where the journey's methodology is clear but the destination is usually unknown. Experimental Travel renders all destinations equal - be it a burger shack or the Taj Mahal.'

    I then read the Potted History of Experimental Travel which begins with Homer's Odyssey and concludes with the surrealists, situationists and psychogeographers of the twentieth century and their present-day heirs, the likes of Iain Sinclair and Wrights and Sites, familiar to regular readers of this site.

    And then thumbed through some experiments. They all sound wonderful. There's:

    Expedition to K2 - Discover an unknown part of the city by travelling to the grid reference K2 on a map;
    Horse Head Adventure - Test normal standards of social behaviour and etiquette by drawing attention to yourself in an outlandish and potentially absurd manner (eg by walking through town wearing ahorse's head);
    Trip Poker - Four people, four dice throws; the winner determines the destination of the weekend away, others the date, and type of accommodation, and the person who throws the lowest number pays for the weekend.

    And many many more. Then I got out for a fifteen-minute drive to somewhere I've never been before, and spent the afternoon as an Experimental Tourist walking a quirky figure-of-eight around the previously-wracked mining landscape of Wigan Flashes, which nature has reclaimed. Orwell described this urban wilderness as a 'lunar landscape'. Today it's beautiful. Got lost along the Leeds-Liverpool Canal (it's difficult to get lost along a canal but I managed it), and so missed out on a reccy of central Wigan. But with swallows diving overhead, great varieties of wildfowl on the Flashes, and friendly happy people in narrowboats exchanging greetings, it was a good place to be today.