Life after Katrina
Trip Start Feb 22, 2005
47Trip End Feb 11, 2006
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New Orleans which as everyone nkow was pretty well wiped out last year by Katrina. I'd always had NO as one of the key places I wanted to see in the states before the hurricane happened, but afterwards I wasn't sure whether it would be worth going anymore and anybody I spoke to couldn't really say what it was going to be like when I got there but I figured, what have I got to lose? So, long story short I got to NO last monday after a long and frustrating greyhoung bus ride involving late buses, buses that filled up and staff that couldn't tell you anything about what was going on but I got there in the end and ended up having one of the more unique and interesting experiences of my travels. For starters I was staying in a hostel that had been flooded and extensively damaged by the floods, so it was still a workzone and as the days went by there'd be an extra couple of lights working or a new toilet functioning. The hostel was quite unique in that respect though for the area, this part of town which isn't too far from downtown would have been about 6 feet or more underwater in some parts judging by the water marks on the buildings. Walking through the streets, few of the houses appear to be occupied and you never have to walk far to find houses beyond repair. To add to that there are piles of debris scattered along all the streets still waiting to be collected, along with abandoned cars. Also there are still very few businesses operating outside of the downtown area which makes it a pretty depressing sight in many ways.
On the up side though there is still a very definite optimistic vibe amongst the people that I felt. At the hostel there were several locals who had been displaced and were in the process of getting themselves sorted again, but there weren't real complaints everyone just seemed determined that the city would get back on its feet. While the downtown scene is certainly nothing like it used to be there is still plenty of fun times to be had, especially once the sun goes down and the music starts flowing along Bourbon St. There is live music all along the strip, all free, although admittedly most of the bands were just your average cover band but I was still able to see a few great blues bands and got to have a drink and a chat with a few of the musos as well as other locals. You certainly don't seem to have to look to far to meet a few new friends, I was really impressed with the friendliness of the people, whether you were catching a bus, grabbing a quick feed at a restaurant or having a drink at the pub, people just talk to you simple as that. It was refreshing change from the usual pattern, in that I've always been meeting people at the hostels and generally jsut been hanging out with them, but they're all just other travellers so you don't get really experience the local culture, but in New Orleans it was cool to be able to actually meet quite a few of the locals and I even came to have a few regular bar buddies who I saw night after night, including a fella who used to play drums for Fats Domino.
So to sum it all up New Orleans was an amazing experience, one just to witness the aftermath of such a devastating event and two to experience the world famous party culture of downtown New Orleans. Certainly, outside of the downtown area is quite a depressing sight to as even 5 months after the event much of the city almost looks like a third world country. Downtown, too spirit is certainly according to the locals a shadow of what it was pre Katrina but it is still an awesome place which seems to have a very devoted and loyal core of residents.