Working for a travel company I frequently come across places I never knew existed with some pretty amazing and often hilarious names. I thought I’d compile my top ten places and how to get there, if, like me, you plan to one day do a comedy place name world tour!
10. Haha Island, Japan.
A tiny dot of land located over 1000km south of the main islands of Japan with little over 400 inhabitants. Haha actually means ‘mother’ in Japanese.
Getting there: Well. If you take your starting point in Japan’s capital, Tokyo, from there you need to reach the Ogasawara Islands. You take a ferry, which departs approximately once every 6 days dependant on typhoons and takes around about 25.5 hours to reach your next stop, Chichijima. Accommodation on board consists of communal futon sleeping, you better hope it isn’t a rocky ride or I can only imagine you all end up in a pile of humans and futons being rolled from one side of the cabin to the next. From Chichijima it’s just a 2 hour ferry, which departs daily, to Haha Jima. Simple huh!
9. Cape Disappointment, WA.
We have a giant map on the wall at work, which if you sit at a specific desk means you are sat right next to Cape Disappointment all day. Located on a peninsula headland, with a famous lighthouse (see above), right in the south-west of Washington state where it borders Oregon.
Getting there: Why bother? Doesn’t sound worth the effort! If you’re sure though, starting in Washington’s capital, Seattle, it’s a scenic 3 hour drive south-west to the Cape Disappointment State Park, and the thrilling sounding Cape Disappointment Trail….
8. Medicine Hat, Alberta, Canada.
Medicine Hat, whose tagline, “the gas city” makes it sound very exciting indeed! The name derives from the Blackfoot Indian word for the headdress worn by the tribe’s witch doctor, or Medicine Man.
Getting There: If we take the State of Alberta’s capital as our starting point, it is a rather uninspiring 5 hour drive south-east through open dusty plains, once described to me by a local as, “so vast and boring, you can see your dog running away for three days.”
7. Hankey, Eastern Cape, South Africa.
One of three towns which make up the Gamtoos Valley, and named after Brit, William Hankey, treasurer of the London Missionary Society back in the 1820s. Potentially only amusing to people who call tissue, hankies, or to anyone who has every watched South Park…
Getting There: Starting from Cape Town, Capital of the Western Cape, do a short hop by plane to the city of Port Elizabeth and hire a car for the hour’s drive due west to Hankey. Alternatively, make a trip out of it and drive the famous Garden Route from Cape Town to Hankey. In one go it takes almost 9 hours, but the attractive seaside towns of Knysna, George and Wilderness make great stopping points, and dropping by the adventure capital of Plettenburg Bay would allow you time to do Bloukran’s bridge bungee, one of the biggest in the world….if you’re not well in the head.
6. Varginha, Brazil.
The Roswell of Brazil, famed for a 1996 UFO sighting as well as sounding like someone slowly enunciating the word ‘vagina’.
Getting There: Starting in Rio de Janeiro, not because it’s the capital (as we all know that’s not true!) but as the most likely point of arrival in to the country, it is a simple 5.5 hour drive north-west to Varginha.
5. Humpty Doo, Northern Territory, Australia.
No-one knows the true origin of the name of this small town located some 20 miles south of Darwin in Australia’s tropical top end. One theory suggests it derives from a colloquial word to describe “doing everything wrong and upside down”.
Getting There: Well, as I said, only 20 miles south of Northern Territory’s capital, Darwin, you could drive there in 30 minutes. To shake it up a bit, why not cycle? Google Maps say you can do it in 2 hours 5 minutes.
4. Batman, Turkey.
Back story of my discovery of this city is probably not all that amusing and only serves to prove I am a little bit sad. So, all cities which have airports large enough for scheduled flights have a three letter identification code which enables you to search on flight systems more effectively (LHR for example, for Heathrow, JFK for John F Kennedy Int.) To find a code you can type in the city name in to the flight systems, and to decode a city, you can do the same by typing the code. Yeah, fun. Whilst bored one day, I was sat decoding amusing three letter words, as you do, POO (Pocos de Calda, Brazil), FUK (Fukuoka, Japan), COK (Kochi, India) etc. etc. Exhausting this game, I tried to decode BAL (so I could have a flight from COK to BAL you see…) and what pops up, “BAL – Batman, Turkey.” A prominent Silk Route outpost in the 11th-12th centuries, the city has been inhabited since at least 500BC….2500 years later and its major claim to fame was when its mayor tried to sue Hollywood for the use of the name Batman in ‘Batman Begins.’
Getting There: Well, as you can immediately know from my fascinating story above, Batman, has its own airport, meaning if you wanted, you could take the simple 2 hour flight from Istanbul (once again, not because it’s the capital…!). Or, for a mere £23, you can get a gruelling 20 hour bus ride diagonally across Turkey to the far south west corner of Turkish Kurdistan, close to the country’s border with Iraq.
3. Gondar, Ethiopia (pleasingly just down the road from Shire!)
Referred to as the ‘Camelot of Africa’ due to the large number of royal castles, Gondar is located in northern Ethiopia. It is also the only one on this list I have near definite plans to visit this year. A secret LotR fanatic, I continually refer to it as Gondor and secretly hope to encounter Viggo Mortensen there (who you will all know as the king of Gondor…).
Getting There: From Addis Ababa you can fly to Gondar in a little over an hour. A bus will cost you 2 days, and 6 months of chiropractic treatment.
2. Intercourse, PN.
Hopefully twinned with Concepcion, Paraguay. What makes this name even more satisfying is that it’s slap bang in the middle of Amish country. Also famous for quilting…which I’m sure the majority of visitors are there for.
Getting There: Intercourse is an hour’s drive from the closest airport in Harrisburg, which, as many of you won’t know, is the State capital of Pennsylvania.
1. Truth or Consequences, NM.
My personal favourite, although, judging by the photos, this small New Mexican town, with a population of 6000 odd, potentially one of the less interesting. Affectionately referred to a T or C by locals, it is just down the road from Elephant Butte National Park, which is also pretty amusing. I have been disappointed to learn this town wasn’t Christened such by a religious zealot wanting to constantly remind the townsfolk that lying was ungodly…rather it changed its name from Hot Springs in 1950 in response to the host of a NBC radio show, “Truth or Consequences” announcing that the first episode would be televised from whichever place changed its name first…Oh America.
Getting There: Albuquerque, state capital, is a couple of hours drive from T or C, why not make a trip out of it and continue another 3 hours east across New Mexico and drop in to Roswell and see if you spot a YU-FOH?
PS. I take no credit for any of these photos, I stole each and every one (let me know if you took the photo and it’s not ok and I’ll steal another one from somewhere else…)