top of page

The Indiana Jones World Adventure Tour

Before our whip lesson in Utah, at Arches National Park, David Clockodile—the short, stocky man who'd been running The Indiana Jones World Adventure Tour since 1992—handed each of us a plastic fedora.

We took the first of a million group photos, and instead of, “Cheese,” we shouted, “That belongs in a museum!” The other tour group members didn’t seem embarrassed. I heard high-pitched, exuberant laughs from almost all of them.

I’d expected a cowboy or a lion tamer, but the person leading the whip lesson was a curvy woman in a leather corset named Vanessa who kept calling me NaughtyBoy.

I practiced cracking my whip because that was the assigned activity—and because I was a little terrified of Vanessa--but I could’ve spent the day just wandering around and looking at the rocks and dirt and bushes that were nothing like the rocks and dirt and bushes at home in Connecticut. Everything here was red. It was another planet.

I’d booked The Indiana Jones World Adventure Tour after my friends told me about their vacation plans. One was headed to Nicaragua for an eight-day naked game of capture-the-flag spread over 1,000 acres of rainforest. And the other was spending a week in Dubai teaching retirees to base-jump. They were always having these big experiences.

They asked me if it was a Portland, Maine year or a Quebec City year. They couldn’t remember. And I hadn’t realized that I’d formed a pattern. They weren’t mocking me, but I still felt lame.

“Neither,” I said. “I don’t know where yet, but definitely not those places.”

They gave me looks that said, Sure-Okay-Buddy.

When I got home, I canceled my trip to Quebec City, and I started looking for something less boring and predictable. Instead of my usual pre-bedtime low-fat yogurt, I splurged on regular-fat Greek. Their comments had really gotten to me.

After the whip lesson in Utah, we flew to the Kualoa Nature Reserve in Hawaii—where the beginning of Raiders was filmed. David Clockodile paid a dozen locals to shirtlessly chase us while holding fake spears and blow-darts. And when our tour group’s Japanese father/son duo requested a rope swing, David called people on his phone until someone showed up and installed one for us.

The water was clear, and the jungle looked like a postcard, but I kept apologizing to the out-of-work Hawaiians who were pretending to be Amazonian tribesmen.

“It’s okay, man. Just have fun,” they said, pointing to the other tour group members having chicken fights in the water. The Japanese father/son duo was evenly matched against the cutely chubby father/son duo, but the older lesbians were absolutely destroying the hipster couple.

When I’d told my friends about the trip I’d booked, they said it took guts to visit all these places on a guided tour and that I was bound to have some big stories to tell—like the time one of them got 7th place in the Antarctica Blindfolded Half Marathon or when the other got chlamydia in Florida.

But so far, this trip wasn’t feeling very BigStory. It felt like sitting on Santa’s lap at the mall. Even the beautiful things were presented on a clean, plastic plate—the exact opposite of Indiana Jones who figured everything out as he went.

On the plane ride to Sri Lanka, I learned a few phrases of Sinhala, but everyone we interacted with between the airport and The Royal Palace of Kandy spoke perfect English.

Next to The Palace was The Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic. For our tour, David Clockodile dressed up as Indy’s assistant, Short Round—with a canvas shirt and a vintage Yankees hat—but thankfully he didn’t do the Chinese accent.

The Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic was a giant white stone building with a million windows. The inside was much smaller than I thought it would be. It was all gold statues and red cloth and ancient elephant tusks. It was easy to forget that I was just some guy from Connecticut—but only for a second. As the cutely chubby dad clutched his hand over his cutely chubby son’s heart, he loudly whisper-clenched, “Kali Ma!” He was doing his best impression of Mola Ram from The Temple of Doom. It didn’t seem to matter to him that people were quietly praying around them.

After dinner, we had free time to travel the palace grounds, and the other tour group members spent their time touching the glass that protected the relic and rubbing the shiny spots on bronze statues where too many people had already rubbed. I decided to go into Kandy, the city that we’d passed on our way in. Sure, I’d seen a KFC there, but there was probably other/local interesting stuff too.

A palace security guard must have felt I was getting too close to the main entrance, and he stopped me from leaving. He said the city was dangerous for me. I reflexively handed him my passport which confused him. I was mortified at being lightly scolded by a stranger.

The next afternoon, in Venice, David rented Chris-Craft mahogany boats that were either genuinely from the 1930s or convincing reproductions.

David said, “Hold on, we’re missing someone.” And he pretended to do another head count.

Some guy popped out from behind a trash can, and I eventually recognized him as Kevork Malkyan—the actor who fought, and then helped, Indy in The Last Crusade.

He was all gray now, probably in his early seventies, but he wore the double-breasted suit and fez from the movie. Take away the suit, hat, and context, and I wouldn’t have recognized him. At a Stop & Shop, he would have just been another older person struggling with the self-checkout.

What a treasure, though. I was almost embarrassingly star-struck, even though he let it slip that he’d been working at a Whole Foods outside of London for the past six years.

He started a lot of stories with “Me and Harrison.” The older lesbians wanted him to do the speech about protecting the grail, and he tried side-stepping it a few times until David handed him a €100.

After dinner, I told the swarthy front desk lady that I wanted to get a drink away from the touristy spots. I asked her where she would go if she wanted a glass of wine on her night off. I actually said “vino,” which I regretted.

She said the name of a place. Then she slowed down and said it again. And finally she wrote it down for me.

I decided that if I kept my mouth shut, maybe I’d be able to pass for a local. I was kind of miscellaneously olive-skinned, and I had a prominent nose. Instead of butchering Italian, which would instantly give me away, I would point to the menu while pretending to be a deaf, yet otherwise average, local. Maybe for my second drink, I’d hold up my glass and wink. Maybe an Italian woman from across the bar would raise one of her eyebrows and give me a “come hither” finger wiggle.

But inside was nothing but American tourists.

The bartender asked me where I was staying and what part of America I was from, and I politely answered him.

On the way home, the Uber driver said that he brought people from that bar to my hotel probably nine or ten times per night.

He said, “It’s a secret bar,” and he laughed at the idea.

About 30% of the vacation was on airplanes, and on the way to Tunisia, David sidled up to me.

“Are you happy?” he said. His eyes were pleading with me.

“Of course,” I said. I really didn’t want David to feel bad.

“Would you tell me if there was something that you wanted? Something that might enrich your soul?”

“I would,” I said, lying in the way I always lied to avoid both conflict and awkward conversations. I’ve told waitresses that I actually changed my mind and didn’t want the ranch dressing they’d forgotten after all.

“Your hopes being realized is everything to me.”

I hated that he’d felt the need to say this to me. I wasn’t crazy about the cheesiness of the activities, but everywhere we went was so beautiful. I was enjoying myself. I really was. I’d just imagined it differently. In my mind, Indiana Jones was the epitome of adventure, and so I’d searched Indiana Jones Vacation. It had made perfect sense on paper.

I always hated when people told me to relax or to loosen up, and this conversation with David Clockodile felt like that.

We landed in Tunis, the capital of Tunisia. And I didn’t know what I was expecting, but I was surprised to see a busy city that was both completely foreign to me but also familiar in weird ways. There was street after street of impossibly tiny concrete storefronts with old employees socializing in chairs out front. I got the sense that these stores could’ve been here, unchanged, for a thousand years. But, there were also bros marching around, holding their loud phones in front of their chins.

Our Indy Adventure of the day was riding camels into the desert toward a dig site about two hours south of the city.

Our camel guide had us stop the camels at a small shack where a man was selling drinks and snacks.

He had iced tea and unsalted pretzels.

“No alcohol in Tunisia,” the guide said. “Prohibit.”

The guy selling iced tea for 25 dinar, who was on his cell phone the whole time, turned out to be the camel guide’s brother on his day off from his actual job in Tunis, and 25 dinar for an iced tea turned out to be nine dollars.

I hated feeling like I was just a blinking dollar sign.

The camel didn’t follow my orders, and he tried to bite my shins, but I felt like eventually I started to anticipate his movements. Ahead of us was bright, impossibly open land that had the sparseness of the Utah desert from earlier–but without its redness.

After a couple of miles, David had us stop at a clearing that was apparently the exact spot where they’d filmed the market scene for “Alexandretta.”

He had us dig in the dirt in order for us to be able to photograph ourselves digging.

Our guide passed out small sheets of fabric and taught us to roll and fold it in the correct way for a traditional head covering.

The cutely chubby son asked if this was the way that it was usually worn in Tunisia.

And the guide said that he had no idea.

While the hipster couple—who I’d initially suspected was only on the tour to make fun of it—dug into the ground, I noticed, for the first time, the hipster guy’s leg tattoo of Indiana Jones stylized as a zombie that said, “Fortune and Gory.”

The hipster guy dug up a pair of round glasses that looked like the same ones the sadistic Nazi who melted in Raiders wore. David swore they weren’t planted there.

Back in Tunis, we were all pretty exhausted. But after dinner at the hotel, I thought I would get outside and wander a bit. I didn’t need to find a completely hole-in-the-wall place. I just didn’t want to have a Bottomless Pepsi at the hotel Applebee’s with the rest of the group. I wanted to be happy and satisfied with that, but my eyes kept looking outward.

I hadn’t expected to feel this way.

I walked down Rue Bab Souika until I felt like I was approaching an outskirt. I went into a little first-story cafe whose door was beneath a white stucco wall that looked like all of the other white stucco walls. The fact that it didn’t stand out is what appealed to me. Inside, it looked like every family-run pizza place that served square-cut pizza. There were dark red floors, checkered tablecloths, and hairy older men.

I made the international sign for drinking toward the only employee, and I gave him some winking and shoulder shrugs that were supposed to convey—Hey, I know there’s a black market liquor trade in this country, and I would like to participate. You can tell I’m cool by the cool way I shimmy my shoulders.

The waiter brought me a glass of water. And for what it’s worth, I felt really brave sitting there—alone in a city, around people I couldn’t communicate with.

I felt like my itch was being scratched.

A tall woman walked in. She had dark, wavy hair and green eyes, and she was a knockout—the kind of stunning beauty you’d hope to meet while pretending to be deaf in Italy.

She said something to the waiter that sounded like “Snapple,” and I was excited to find out what this meant. It would be my first Arabic word that I learned purely through context.

The waiter brought the woman a glass bottle of Snapple. She looked at the fact on the underside of the cap.

I said, “Wait. Do you know English?”

“A little,” she said. “You are from England?”

“United States.”

“California or Texas?”

“California,” I said. Why not?

The waiter came over to refill my water glass, and I said, “Snapple min fadlak.” He seemed to appreciate me attempting to say please. And I gave the woman a look that was supposed to convey—What are the chances that we both like Snapple?

I read my fact out loud. “Possums can swim but it makes them terribly self-conscious.”

She introduced herself as Genevieve, but she said it like Djun-vee-ev.

And I was feeling pretty good. I was making polite conversation with a gorgeous woman in a restaurant that nobody had pointed me to. And I hadn’t had a Snapple in years.

Genevieve asked me to smoke a cigarette with her outside.

I had only smoked about 2½ cigarettes and those were in college when I’d gone to a party where everyone knew obscure music and I’d had to quickly become more edgy.

Outside with Genevieve, I did the best I could with holding/inhaling the cigarette.

The city was so dark and flat. I could never open my eyes here and wonder if I was still in Connecticut. “It really is a beautiful neighborhood,” I said.

“It’s good that you say nice things about a street like this.” She gestured toward the road dismissively.

A small, boxy car slowed down and stopped next to us. It was one of those car brands that we don’t have in America.

A short, stocky guy with dark sunglasses and a balaklava covering his face popped out of the backseat, and he grabbed Genevieve from behind—one arm around her waist and the other around her neck, and he pulled her back toward the car.

I didn’t know what to do with my cigarette. Now more than ever.

But there was no one else around to intervene, and my body lunged forward as the stocky guy backed toward the car with her, and I grabbed her by one of her wrists.

He pulled and I pulled, and Genevieve elbowed and twisted.

The man said, without the trace of an accent, “Let her go. You don’t have what it takes to endure this rich experience.”

Then, somehow, the three of us were in the backseat, racing quickly down the road.

The stocky man, whose voice and movements made it clear that he was definitely David Clockodile, leaned over Genevieve to punch me in the face.

And then he leaned over Genevieve again to punch me in the face again. My eyes welled up, and I could feel blood pour from my nose and down my mouth. The person in the passenger seat in front of me—whoever he was—kept sliding his seat forward and slamming it back which didn’t really do anything, but it was one more thing to think about.

“What the hell, David!?” I said, wiping blood from my nose.

“I’m not David,” David said. “And don’t even think about mustering courage from deep within yourself.”

I almost couldn’t tell if he was messing with me or if he thought I was actually buying this act.

I tried to block more punches, and I threw one of my own—just to get him to stop. I hit him in his forehead with as much force as I could, while crammed in the backseat. I’d never punched anyone before, and it was pathetic that my first fight was a staged/pity one against David Clockodile.

Genevieve gave an elbow to his gut, and he let out a big Ooof.

The car slammed to a stop, and we pulled ourselves outside.

I yelled, “David!” again, but the car took off, and it was just the two of us again, on the side of some street.

“What was that?” Genevieve said. And I gave her an Oh-C’mon look because she had to be in on it too, but then the look on her face made me really question how sure I was. The Snapple confidence in her eyes was gone, and she looked terrified and confused. She was really rattled by David, and she wanted an answer.

So, I told her about David Clockodile and the tour, and when I was done, she said, “This is a bad joke that your friend did.”

I told her that she was right.

Her apartment was somehow/conveniently across the street, and she wanted me to come up so that I could clean my nose.

I was maybe 70/30 on believing she was just an innocent person who got caught up in David Clockodile’s nonsense. I wanted to believe that at least my interaction with her was real. But this was all just a little too neat—though I couldn’t imagine she was a good enough actress to look as truly panicked and desperate as she had.

She took some kind of pastry out of her refrigerator and put it in the microwave.

She hit 90 instead of 1:30, and I didn’t know you could do that.

Her apartment was bright and a little cluttered. The walls were blue and yellow. Her chairs were all mismatched, but they still fit perfectly with the little tile-topped table. This was a person’s apartment in a foreign city, and I’d been invited inside.

I had twisted up toilet paper in my nostrils, but I felt like I was getting signals from her. Our legs touched. We shared a fork. She changed out my nose paper.

Eventually, it was the first time I’d ever not used a condom.

I had to rush back to my hotel in the morning because the van that David rented to take us to the airport was leaving right at 7:00.

Genevieve said that she didn’t have a phone number or an email address.

Outside the hotel, all of the other tour group members were waiting.

David winked at me. “Rough night?” he said, which would’ve been an insane reaction if he didn’t already know exactly how my shirt had gotten so bloody. The other tour group members all had looks of genuine concern on their faces, and I was a little moved by it. We were a tour group after all. I hadn’t made any effort to befriend them, but they were still concerned about me.

“I’m fine. I’m fine,” I said.

David had a decent bruise on his forehead, which made me proud.

In the van, David wouldn’t budge. I grilled him and grilled him, but he kept playing dumb about the whole night. I didn’t care about all of the details. I just wanted to know if she was in on it—If she had been pretending for my benefit. Was I just another tourist?

I kept asking if she was a hired actress, and he denied it with his hand over his heart, but then, at one point, David slipped and used the word, “prostitute” and that, unfortunately, felt like confession enough.

We were headed to our last stop—the ancient city of Petra—and we all got our cameras ready.


Banzelman Guret is a writer from Connecticut whose work has appeared most recently in New Delta Review, Chicago Quarterly Review, South Carolina Review, and the 2023 edition of the Pushcart Prize anthology.


bottom of page