Wednesday, June 27, 2007
Lots of travellers end their journey with the treat of a stay at a luxury hotel. I had no such plans, but Thursday Jordi and I are off to Calafate, where the famous Moreno Glacier (lots of facts and figures here) ends in spectacular style. We shall be staying in spectacular style, at the four star Posadas Los Alamos. It will be the plushest hotel I have stayed in on this trip. Ok, ever. I am really looking forward to a big, non-saggy bed, with thick light duvet and hot showers at any time of day in the warm on-suit bathroom. So forgive me if you don't hear from me until I'm home on Thursday.
Friday, June 22, 2007
So after a bit of an internet sesh I needed a wee and made a trip to the toilet. There were two urinals in a corner, as explained above, and a man using one, so I decided to wait. But the man said "pase, pase", I'm not sure how to translate that*, but you get the idea. So I go in and decide, no, really, I cannot fit into that space, even skinny old me, so I tell him I'll wait. He finishes, goes to wash his hands and repeats "pase, pase" so I pase and start the serious business of peeing. He talks to me a bit, I don't really catch what he says, but I figure he's cursing the people who are thinking of the Siamese twins, so I nod and laugh in agreement. The guy comes back to the other urinal and starts unzipping himself. This is when I figure something is up. I was right, there's not enough room, he might as well use my urinal. He's looking over, I swear it. Not really that phased I finish and do my myself up. He goes for my groin. This is when I start saying "no". I wash my hands. He apologises, and explains that he likes to... and here he made a very explicit gesture with his hand and his mouth, now if he'd just said that from the start...
In other news my flight is a week Tuesday. I really don't want to leave Buenos Aires :'( My current fantasy is that I will find a company in the UK who will pay me half what I was getting in London but will let me work from here.
*Update: Jodi says that "pase" translates to "come in", I replied that you wouldn't say that in English, it would sound a bit weird, but then I suppose maybe it sounds weird in Spanish too, and warning bells should have been ringing from the start :)
UPDATE: Fail blog has a fine example of urinal architecture.
Wednesday, June 13, 2007
The next day I went down for breakfast at about the same time to find the same scene, Tom drank a couple of beers while I was eating my breakfast. This is when I first started to suspect that there might be a problem. Things continued in this vein for a week until one day he came to our room saying that he had to leave as there were no spare beds, I went down to reception as I hadn't booked a bed in advance either. The receptionists gave me a bed on condition that I didn't tell Tom. Apparently Tom was being subtly chucked out of the hostel for breaking some stuff and attempting to punch someone, I'd only ever seen him as a peaceful drunk. After he'd gone I felt a bit guilty that I didn't try to offer him any help. But not that guilty, he returned to the bar one evening and I remembered how awkward things could get.
Skip ahead to yesterday evening, I and four friends were eating at a restaurant a couple of blocks from our hostel when Tom walks in. Slowly. He comes over to our table and attempts a conversation but we couldn't really make out what he wanted to say apart from "should I leave?" and "should I eat here?" We weren't really sure of the answers to these questions. Eventually he sat by himself at another table and the waiter came over to apologise, I told him not to worry, we knew him. During our meal Tom repeatedly tried to engage in conversation, in vein, once apologising, for what we weren't sure. After a while he started to pace a couple of times and the waiter came over and told me that he needed to go to the loo but couldn't make it on his own, the toilets being down a spiral staircase. I got up to help him, but as I got up I could see that I was too late and sat down again. Tom got up leaving his books and jacket and left the restaurant. The waiter wanted us to pay for his bottle of wine. We refused.
This morning I went to find Tom to tell him where his stuff was and offer him help. He didn't take me up on the help, though I'm not sure what I could do. He told me that it's happened a couple of times, he's been half way through a book and lost it. I wondered if he really thought the book had caused him to lose his temper. It took two people to explain to me that he meant he'd lost the book and not lost his temper.
So that's my (attempted) good dead for the day, now where are some kittens I can kill?
In other news Jordi is famous after appearing on TV at a competition to see who can do the most convincing rolly-polly. She appears at 1:25 here.
Tuesday, June 12, 2007
Saturday, June 09, 2007
HOW'S IT GOING GABY?
I'm not Gaby, I'm Jamie.
I HAVE THIS NUMBER AS GABY'S
(In English) Stop shouting, Gaby is not here!
Hello Skinny-Girl! How are you? I need a favour...
(Flaco/Flaca is a nickname for a skinny boy/girl)
I am not Skinny-Girl, I am Skinny-Boy.
Sorry, you know what? I would like to communicate with gabriela, you don't know her?
Is she pretty?
You don't know the number? I am a girl? I don't know...
HOW'S IT GOING GABY?
HOW ARE YOU GABY? I REALLY LIKE YOU A LOT!!
(The term "te quiero" is quite difficult to translate, it kinda means "I love you", but it's quite loose and means different things when you say it to a friend, a family member or a (potential) boyfriend/girlfriend, "Te quiero pero no te amo", "I love you but I don't love you" is famous.)
Thanks, but I am not Gaby
SO WHO ARE YOU?
I am Jamie.
Thursday, May 31, 2007
Saturday, May 26, 2007
Last night as I was walking home I witnessed a tramp having a wank in a large, glass fronted, very well lit ATM cubical.
Sunday, May 20, 2007
I read Memoirs Of A Geisha the other night. What a confusing book, on the cover it says it's a novel, and then before it starts it has a note from the translator saying how it was dictated to him by the Geisha herself, and then at the end, in the acknowledgments it says it's a complete work of fiction. Anyway, I'm sure it's all very clever, but I really don't want my book to seem like it's been written by an amateur. At the age of six she was told she was a clever girl for saying that her dad's head looked like an egg. She seems to have taken this to heart and has made sure she uses at least six clever metaphors (ok, allegories, whatever) per page.
Sunday, May 13, 2007
(Correction) Of course Swiss follow the type of their language. Germans are nice, I like them. French are strange. Always. Italians have that food complex.
Don't be a knobber. No one likes knobbers. No one cares how many countries you've been to, or how long you've been travelling. And you're just going to get knocked out of the water by that quiet guy in the corner who's just waiting for you to ask the tired and tested traveller questions that everyone else got bored with years ago. And no, two weeks is not long enough to "do" India.
Don't get complacent. After a week in Rio, several of which were spent on the beach (taking, as advised, the absolute minimum), I was feeling pretty relaxed, but that's just when they strike! I left Tatiane on the beach to go and get my book. While at the hostel I decided to pick up my mp3 player and some water too. Little did I know that a crime wave was about to hit Rio! I returned to the beach. It took me a while to notice that something was missing. Tatiane was still there, as was the sarong that she was lying on. But my nearly empty bottle of suncream! Where was it? Gone! The swine! I bought some more and kept a careful eye on that, and my mp3 player.
Don't (necessarily) trust the locals. Arriving at my latest port of call, I asked the guy sitting next to me about getting the ferry to my next port of call, Ilha Grande. He told me I would have to get another bus for about 4 hours and then change again. I wondered how the hell the Lying Planet could have got it so wrong. It hadn't, he had confused islands.
Buy stuff. Most of my regrets of this trip arise from not buying things. From the freakiest winking Jesus pictures in Ipiales (if you go there, please buy me one) and the second armadillo that was all of £5 to the stolen pair of classic Ray Bans, the only sunglasses I have ever liked, I wish I'd bought them all.
If the weather seems consistently bad try getting up earlier. It may be really beautiful, intensely sunny beach weather in the mornings and then always get cloudy around 1pm, just as you're getting up. (See Rio)
Don't show me your photo milliseconds after you've taken it. I know what it looks like, I can still see it, right in front of me. And I don't care how good your camera is on paper or what genius artistic skill you might have, that 3" LCD screen really can't add anything to the incredible panorama before me.
Wednesday, May 09, 2007
Monday, May 07, 2007
Brazilian men are so unsubtle at staring at women. I end up watching the men watching the women, it's so entertaining. Mind you, there is, ahem, a lot to look at :)
Friday, May 04, 2007
Avoid taxis. The trouble is, sometimes you don't know where you are, and you don't know where you're going. You're vulnerable, and want a nice safe warm taxi. But taking a taxi will make it worse, you won't learn anything by taking a taxi. Apart from maybe the wisdom of my words. And they will rip you off, sometimes blatantly, sometimes subtly. In Cholula Christian and I asked about the bar district and were advised to take a taxi. The taxi went around the houses and the fare seemed fair (sorry). Our taxi back only needed to drive about four blocks. Really, we could have walked thanks. If we'd only known the direction. And so it was that I arrived in Rio and headed for the bus stop, despite the Lying Planet's dire warnings about how dodgy the area was. And did I get mugged? No, I got onto the waiting bus, followed the journey on my map, learnt the layout of the city and saved myself about $15 in the process.*
An observation rather than a tip, hotels and hostels always have pros and cons. Even the cheapo shit ones have good points (usually the price) and even the expensive hotels have bad points (usually the price). For example, I may be staying at one of the plushest places I've stayed at so far. I have a six bed dorm to myself, an on-suite bathroom and, get this, an on-suite kitchen! And by Brazilian standards it's cheap. But the trouble is, there's no one here. So I am hanging out at the more expensive and crappy, but popular, place down the road and sleeping and eating my breakfasts here in solitary luxury.
Caipirinhas are strong! I went to my first Brazilian party last night. It was much like other parties in other parts of the world, except that as the night wore on more and more of the men started to take their T-shirts off in order to exhibit their breast like pecs to the women. The funny thing was though that it ended up being extremely gay as the women thinned out and the guys began hanging round in groups admiring and preening each other. Anyway, I only had about four caipirinhas and I think I am still drunk. 12 hours later.
The Swiss are nice. I think they are my second favourite nationality after the Germans. And it seems really easy to dislike your own countrymen, but maybe that's just because I am British ;)
* Although of course there was the time with Maddy when our bus skirted the outskirts, we got off way too late, got another bus back into town and still had to get a taxi to where we were going. We could have saved money by just taking a taxi in the first place.
Thursday, May 03, 2007
Friday, April 27, 2007
So in Oaxaca I posted three things, two large envelopes at 300g each and a wooden armadillo for my dad, which I packed in a box, wrote his name address on and took to the post office. The only trouble I had was with the cost, a total of about £30, over double the total cost of the presents I was sending (the usual ratio), and since they only had small value stamps I had to cover half of each parcel and letter with stamps and my saliva. Now we get to Puebla, a couple of hours away from Oaxaca, I have two boxes to send. It was difficult enough packing them, it made me realise how helpful everyone had been in Oaxaca. So I get to the post office and the guy tells me the boxes need to be wrapped in manila and tied up with string. WTF? So I go across the road to the papelaria for the third time and ask the moody old woman who wouldn't give me any boxes, and ignored me so much the second time that I nearly walked out without paying for the two sheets of paper, but she tells me that I need to get the post office to check them before wrapping them, I try to explain that they just sent me over, but she wouldn't have it so I return to the post office, they send me straight out again, I guess because I practically packed the parcels in front of them and they didn't see any hint of drugs or arms. So the moody old woman wraps my parcels and asks me to address them. After I've addressed the first one she tells me that I need to put my return address on it. Now I haven't left enough space and I can't really see the point, it's not like I have an address in Mexico, and if they can't find one address in Steyning how are they going to find mine? So I tell her that the address is my address. She huffs and puffs. Eventually she finishes both packages and I return to the post office. The guy is finally satisfied and weighs up the two parcels at 400g and 800g, which for some reason only costs £10, less than the presents cost!
So if you do get something from me, be very grateful, and if you don't then it's either been eaten up by customs, or I just lost the will to live before I finished posting it.
Wednesday, April 25, 2007
"Is that a cockroach, or is there an elephant stuck to the ceiling?"
"Jamie that man just full-on groped my arse."
Of course I went looking for said man, to show him how western democratic justice works, but unfortunately he'd managed to escape me after I wondered slowly in the wrong direction, shaking with fear at the thought of finding him.
If you've been checking my photos recently you may have noticed that a strange Machu Picchu-like structure has cropped up in the middle on Mexico City. Well actually no it hasn't, I just uploaded Diego's photos from the Inca Trail. So that's that mystery solved, now we just have to work out how they got all those stones up there and so perfectly shaped without the use of wheels, metal tools or animals.
A blast from the past of a different jungle trip came in the following form from a fellow Lost City trekker:
i find myself in a weird mood in this current circumstances, kind of summering up my trip and looking back at things in a nostalgic manner; from meeting up with jamie kitson i can say i learnt this short, yet very true line that i found myself thinking about over and over again - "if it`s worth doing, than it`s worth doing well".
It's odd what you leave people with, I don't even remember saying it to him, mostly I asked him what the army was like and tried to keep off the subject of politics. He's Israeli.
Something I meant to mention about Colombia and all of America in general is this road system. The block system. It might be logical and easy to navigate, but it isn't half boring! Colombia though, decided that it wasn't boring enough and numbered the roads. Calling the north-south roads "Races" for some reason. But then Bogota decided that this was too boring and decided to renumber a whole sector meaning that lots of buildings now have two addresses on them, one crossed out in red.
UPDATE - So the phrase "if it's worth doing, it's worth doing well" was being applied to drinking, most of the guys were drinking warm rum with warm coke, and I couldn't stand it, I went out and bought a giant bag of ice and a giant bag of limes. If it's worth drinking, it's worth drinking well. And I hope I didn't cause any offence with the Israeli comment, I've liked every Israeli I've ever met.
Sunday, April 22, 2007
So the good news is that after eating the whole bread basket and my so-so cannelloni I have decided that I have finally got my hunger back after a bit of a nasty illness. My previous worse ever illness was in Laos, when I awoke at 3am with a sudden onset of Explosive Bowel Syndrome and fell unconscious against the wash bowl (see Mum, I've learnt that one!) on my first visit to the loo. But it got better after that, and only lasted about 12 hours. Statistically this last bout was 2-4 times worse. By Thursday night I was visiting the toilet frequently and after exiting the toilet to wash my hands on one such venture I suddenly felt very weak and giddy and awoke to find myself unconscious on the floor of the shower room. I then had to sit down half way up the short flight of stairs and then collapsed again once in our room, and had to crawl into bed. Maddy asked me why I didn't wake her, I'd thought about asking her to pass the bin in case I was sick, but what else could she have done.
So today it was Maddy's turn, she started feeling a bit bad after her spaghetti bolognese (yes Adam, with meat). I only realised how bad she looked today after I'd marched her to the bus stop and we were already on our bus to Taxco. I said that we could stay in Cuernavaca, but stoic as ever she said she'd see how she felt after she'd eaten. She ate, and ate a little more at my prodding, about half a slice of toast in all, and then was sick all over her feet once we left the restaurant. we could make out little pieces of spaghetti. I knew it, not just boring but poisoned too! Maybe they heard me. Anyway, we came right back to Cuernavaca.
Wednesday, April 18, 2007
Maddy and I arrived at Mazunte on the Oaxaca coast last night, we checked in to our room over looking the beach while it was dark and were rewarded with a beautiful, paradyllic some might say, view when we awoke this morning.
No, we didn't feel any hint of the earthquake.
Monday, April 09, 2007
When Maddy arrived she said three things, that I am thin (I've always been thin!), that I am brown (I've never been brown!) and that everyone at home thinks that I am having so much fun that I will never come home, well fear not, I am actually quite looking forward to it, but not quite enough to move my flight :)
Another thing that Maddy said was "I fancy cooking tonight." I was flabbergasted, well, surprised. I've been loving the food here, it's so good and so different. The food's been good everywhere really, but here it's really different from European food, goat stew for breakfast with tortillas and limes, sheep cooked in cactus leaves in a hole in the ground with tortillas and limes for lunch and then... actually we've mostly been having a very large late lunch and not much else. With tortillas and limes. In the UK I've often thought what a genius combination beer and limes is, but it's just a default really, everything comes with limes, and chili, and you can get your beer with chili too, it's just way too salty for me. Anyway, the point is I found myself wracking my brains trying to remember how Johanna did her blue cheese sauce this evening, after Maddy's spag-bol (though Adam always swears you can't call it spag-bol if there's no meat in it) last night. I can't usually be bothered to cook in hostels, it's too frustrating and you usually don't really save much money. And so it was. Our bill came to 200 pesos when two can eat well on 150 pesos, though as Maddy pointed out, that doesn't include chocolate, which after the steak was the second most expensive item on the receipt. Honestly, we come to the land of chocolate and she buys Cadbury's!
Again, you might like to have a look at Maddy's photos so that you can get a load of my ugly mug/beautiful face.
Talking of photos, this was recently brought to my attention :)
Monday, April 02, 2007
I think I am beginning to understand how parents feel, well I don't think "understand" is the right word, as I have all these irrational fears, starting with a very anxious two and a half hour wait at the airport (I knew her plane had been delayed) and continuing when she didn't eat any dinner, little breakfast and then left virtually all her lunch (very unusual for a Kitson/Johnstone/Bowers) so I was very relieved when she ate all her dinner and said she might have a 3rd pancake for breakfast and reported solid pooing afterwards. I managed to allow her to make her own mistake of not putting on enough sun cream despite the clouds (Sarah, I did advise her, but she insisted she'd be ok. She has very pink, slightly painful arms today).
Her pictures are here.
Saturday, March 31, 2007
Jamie, I know you are going to get cross with me but please write as I am getting a bit concerned having not heard from you for several days.
Worried of Steyning
I told her I was going to the beach, but I guess maybe I didn't explain that you have to get on the bus for an hour and then walk for three hours to get there so it's not really worth it for just an afternoon. In fact I stayed there two nights rather than the one I had been planning, and no, I didn't find a satellite. Or a dish.
So I am sorry if I haven't been replying to your emails (hello Johanna, Jordi, Martin, Rob, etc), but after the six days in the jungle I had about an hour on the internet and then I went to the beach.
Paradyllic may not be a word, but if it was I think it would sum up Tayrona National Park perfectly. I'm not sure what else I can say about it, the jungle reaches the sand, coconut trees abound, the coast is the Caribbean so the sea is warm and blue and swarming with pretty little fishes, I went snorkeling properly for the first time in my life. And because it's so difficult to get to it isn't even that touristy.
Having said how difficult it is to be down here, and even more so in the park, I managed to find a way, I read the last quarter or so of Catch-22. An amazing book. Read it!
Entering the park was an interesting experience. I was with a friend who will remain anonymous (for reasons which will become clear). Beforehand we went to buy some supplies, including a bottle of rum and some Pepsi. Unknown to us alcohol is not allowed into the park, despite the fact that you can buy it once you're there. So we didn't go to any lengths to hide our bottle of rum, and I think that's what might have made up the policeman's mind to search us, after standing by for a few minutes while we waited for a non-existent bus. Walking into his office it slowly dawned on me what was going on, and I wondered, slightly panicked, if said friend had his weed and cocaine on him. The policeman began by asking us if we had any cannabis, my friend rather longwindedly explained that he'd given up smoking 2 months ago. The policeman chose my friend's bag first, it occurred to me afterwards that I should have put my bag forward first, but my mind is not so quick in these situations. I was standing, watching, my arms crossed, interested to see what would appear from the bag. My friend strolled nonchalantly around the office, occasionally peering out, probably watching for some interesting species of bird (he's a birdwatcher, and that's why he's remaining anonymous). Eventually a bag of weed appeared from the bag, followed shortly by a pipe and some cocaine. This is where I began to relax, it wasn't a game of chance any more, Schrödinger's cat was dead. The policeman asked if there was any more, my friend replied in the negative. The policeman went on to find another bag of weed. No, it wasn't planted. Then the policeman turned to my bag. He wasn't interested in my Valium, but did have a quick sniff of my powdered milk, I didn't make any jokes about being English. What happened next is a bit of a mystery, along with the policeman there was a park ranger in attendance, who for some reason seemed to wield more power than the policeman, and they both started to ask us if we still wanted to enter the park. I thought that I must be misunderstanding the simple sentence, then pictured the police waiting for us as we exited the park. But no, they confiscated the stuff (insisting that we come back for the rum, despite my protestations that they keep it), made my friend sign a statement, the point of which seems to be that he won't do the same thing again, and we were free to go, they didn't even want a bribe. Another funny thing, throughout our ordeal the policeman was sweating, more and more, towards the end it was dripping off his face, as if it were he that had just been found with several illicit substances in Colombia.
btw, I found out how you distinguish between a policeman and an army man, quite simple and obvious really, policemen wear plain green uniforms while army men wear camouflage.
The last thing that my friend said to me as I left the park was some advice on getting the bus from Santa Marta to Cartagena: "If someone comes out to meet you and tells you that the bus is leaving now, don't take it, it will do the four hour journey in six and won't be direct. Get a bus from a reputable firm such as Expresso Brazilia." Now, I heard what he said. I listened. I understood. But the guy swore it would only be four hours, and that it was direct. We reached the half way point in two hours, and I was thinking, phew, this will be ok. How wrong I was. After another few minutes the bus stopped and the conductor got out to have a fist fight with a man with some large boxes. I guess he just didn't like the size of them. The police came and decided that the size wasn't so bad. We continued. We stopped. The conductor explained that the bus couldn't continue for another hour, but there was one across the street that we wouldn't have to pay for that was leaving immediately. We crossed the street. We didn't have to pay. It left immediately. Turned a couple of corners and stopped. For an hour. Several Expresso Brazilia buses passed is. We got going. This bus did 0-60 in... no it didn't even do 60 kph. We got stopped by the police. Twice. Several more Expresso Brazilia buses passed us. Total travel time: about six hours.
I do like travelling alone, but occasionally I do wish for some female company, of the more-than-just-friends variety. Cartagena is a beautiful beautiful city. One of the most romantic cities I think I have visited. I ate dinner the first night I was there in this beautiful square, surrounded by colonial buildings, the Caribbean night air so warm, alone, but not unhappy :)
Another point of view of our trip to Villa De Leyva, including some pictures of me! is here.
Wednesday, March 28, 2007
A friend of mine in Valparaiso declared that he was depressed one day, and continued "what kind of fucking bastard gets depressed while he's spending a few months on the coast of Chile?" I felt a bit down after getting back today, I had that feeling like when you get back from holiday and think, oh, so this is real life. I know that's ridiculous, but anyway, after having a shower and stepping out the door into the warmth and sun to go to our local drug dealer/brothel for a milk shake (this guy does everything!:) I realised how difficult it is to stay down for even a minute here.
I had a couple of enquiries about subscribing to this blog (no really). You have to use a 3rd party rss to email service. I chose one arbitrarily and have added a link to the left.
Thursday, March 22, 2007
Of course a satellite would be of no use, I meant a dish.
Saturday, March 17, 2007
Every year, around January time, the time of the summer holidays in Argentina, an exodus occurs. From Buenos Aires hordes of hippy Porteños stream from their homelands further north, for... actually I don't know what for, but that's what they do. It's probably a spiritual thing, man. Of course the further north you come, away from their natural habitat, the thinner their numbers become. At Humauaca, one of the northern most towns in Argentina, you could have given a blind man a bullet and he could not have failed to kill at least three, and maim several others. Heading up through Bolivia there were still a disappointing amount, the streets of Copacabana were lined with them and their hand made wares and Dan was attacked mercilessly by one in a bar in Cochabamba, and was forced to part with a far wad of his money for two worthless (and very badly colour coordinated) bracelets after some merciless flirting. By the time I met Dan again in Ecuador we thought we had lost them, but in an Italian restaurant in Cuenca a three piece turned up, in suspiciously short trousers, our Porteño radars started pinging, and sure enough, they were from Beunos Aires.
Porteños can be spotted easily enough by their Inca/Israeli/Porteño trousers (notice I use the American "pants" in the video) which are baggy, striped and always too short, at least one in a group will always have a guitar, usually in an Inca case, if it's out of the case it is usually playing Redemption Song, a couple in the group will usually be juggling, badly and most of the group will have at least one dread lock, often with some sort of thread and bead attachment.
Anyway, the point is that I tracked down some of these hippy Porteños as shockingly far north as Colombia, see my videos, Porteño Hunter, Part I and Part II. Their call is very quiet, perhaps to avoid attracting predators, so you'll have to turn your sound right up.
I spoke too soon about the insurance, they are saying that I am under insured. The truth is that their suppliers are ripping them off, and I have not hesitated in telling them so. You could actually buy all the equipment for £200 less than I insured it for, money that would be the insurance company's saving.
I am off today to the holiday home of some Colombians that I met in Valparaiso so again, don't worry if I'm late in responding to emails, I haven't been captured by guerrillas. Maybe.
Thursday, March 15, 2007
You know you're on a good bus when both of the reading lights work, the trouble is, when the air conditioning works on buses in South America they tend to set it to -10° and so I woke up at 2:30am hungry for warmth. I went to the toilet, the back of the bus (near the engine) was lovely and warm but I decided I could not spend the rest of the journey in the loo. I discovered that I could sleep if I put my blanket (why oh why do they put the air conditioning on so low and give you a blanket?) over my face and head. I guess it's all the fault of my short hair. The other problem with my journey last night was that we arrived on time. At 5am. I took another taxi around various hostels and hotels until I eventually decided to walk. Bogota can't be that dangerous, I didn't get mugged or even threatened.
Bogota seems to be a really nice place, it reminds me of some of the good bits of London, but maybe that's just the weather, yep, it's grey, cool and wet.
So the first thing I did, once I'd slept for a total of about 12 hours (what is wrong with me?), was to visit the local travel agent to find out about flights. My initial plan was to see if I could get a cheap ticket to take me from Bogota to Mexico to Cuba to Guatemala to Brazil. Ok, Brazil's a big place, I'm talking Sao Paulo or Rio de Genaro. So first off, a one way to Mexico from Bogota is $600, but a return is $700. Ok, whatever. To fly between Cuba and Guatemala I have to go via Panama for some reason. I realise that I haven't really got time to "do" Cuba anyway, so we leave that out. To fly between Guatemala and Brazil I have to fly via Miami (WTF?!) I then ask about international flights from Cartagena, which is on the north coast of Colombia, which would not only be more convenient to me as it would mean I could just go one way through Colombia, but is also closer to Mexico. There aren't any international flights from Cartagena, but it turns out it is the cheapest option. And here is that cheapest option: Cartagena to Bogota to Mexico City, my first destination, then a month later Mexico City to Santiago (Chile!) to Sao Paulo, my second destination. Now I'm sure there's some logic to this somewhere along the line, but I certainly can't see it.
Wednesday, March 14, 2007
So anyway, I eat, feel a bit better, come to this internet cafe, and then hear "You're beautiful..." and throw up! Thanks, NAAAAWT!
(No, I didn't really... omg, they've just put on the Celine Deon one that goes to that film where Leonardo DiCaprio dies, thank fuck!)
(OMG it's the panpipes version, with added sea effects.)
(OK, we now have a live Sting cover band, in Spanish.)
Monday, March 12, 2007
It had all started so well too, I managed to pay a visit to this church built on a bridge against a rock face where somebody had seen the virgin years before so that the same rock face is now the alter of the church.
The further north I have come the more friendly people have become, Colombia being the friendliest yet, in fact a but too friendly, I was a bit worried I might get molested on the bus last night. And I ended up sharing my banana sized and shaped snickers type goo with half the people on the bus, I couldn't have finished it on my own.
I think I said before that the border crossings are getting a little ridiculous, the Ecuador-Colombia crossing was stranger than ever, the buses drop you off and pick you up in no man's land, so you have to walk back into the country you've come from to get your passport stamped and then into the country you're going to to get your passport stamped again and then walk back into no man's land to get on another bus in to you destination country. It would be so easy to miss it all just by accident. Most boarder crossings are the dodgiest places known to mankind, not this one, it was actually quite pleasant, I stopped for a lunch of a sausage that was warmed rather than cooked and some potatoes which were the highlight of the meal.
And another thing, in most countries so far it's been worryingly difficult to tell the difference between the police and the army. Here I don't know the difference between the police, the army and the militia, men in uniform all look the same to me ;) I was going to say how nice it is to be back in a hot country, it feels like I am on holiday again, but there's just been some bloody loud thunder out there atm, hope it's not shells. I was going to walk to the bus station too.
Saturday, March 10, 2007
I've been posting some presents and stuff home recently, the post around South America is good, but it's bloody expensive, usually more than the presents themselves, today I spent $40 on postage!
In other news I got this from my insurance company: "I am pleased to confirm that your claim has been accepted." Well fuck me! So for all your camera insurance needs I recommend Photoguard.
Wednesday, March 07, 2007
- Britain is remarkably safe considering its size and the disparities in wealth.
- Avoid large groups of young lads after the pubs shut down (11 pm), as violence is worryingly commonplace in town centres across Britain.
- Drugs of every description are widely available...
- Britain is not without racial problems... but in general tolerance prevails.
- Shopping is the most popular recreational activity in the country.
- On Brighton: "Fat Boy Slim hails from these mean streets..."
- In Manchester apparently "Paradise Factory is a cutting edge club..." Right.
Monday, March 05, 2007
The first bus conductor I had this morning (I've spent 8 hours on three buses today) was a little crazy, really. After talking to him a bit about being able to get off in Sibambe where the train ends up (I couldn't) I asked him about how long it would take. He held up two fingers, "12?" I said, he held up four fingers "4 hours?" I said, he held up one finder, "1pm?" I said, he finally replied, "No, 11." We got to Alausi, through which the train passes, at 11:30.
So I managed to get the train, it was a little bit of a let down, I think I've been spoiled for sheer hills, valleys and clouds recently and there were no derailments or decapitations :( I found out why no one had heard of Sibambe, where I originally tried to get the bus to, it consists of the shell of an old station and the shell of an old church. Saw asparagus in the wild, it was 3-4m, really. Though I think it's a slightly different variety to the one in Mum's garden as at the bottom of these there were cactus looking leaves.
I am not used to small countries, I am now in Baños, a placed called "Toilets", over half way across the country in about three days. Interestingly you can see smoke from the volcano on google maps.
Saturday, March 03, 2007
Hopefully going on a train ride tomorrow through fantastic scenery, apparently you can ride on top (check the date :)
I think I did leave some things in Cusco in my rush to leave. My "North Face" (non) rain proof jacket, and I seem to be down a couple of pairs of pants and a T-shirt too. Oh well, I have too many clothes with me anyway.
Wednesday, February 28, 2007
So I sold my soul, or morals, or rather bought someone else's, or at least mine deserted me when I went to the shops and saw how pricey cameras are here, no wonder the markets can charge so much.
Apparently the Peruvian government is trying to make Peru more punctual. It seems ok to me. Compared to other South American nations.
Tuesday, February 27, 2007
Day 1: We got the bus up to the top of a hill in the pouring rain and had lunch in a wooden shack in the middle of high jungle which had a giant corrugated iron bus shelter by it. We left the bikes about a meter outside the shelter. The rain stopped. We cycled for mile upon glorious mile of downhill track past sheer hills and jungle and fjords. The bikes slowly broke, the guides always taking the worst ones, by the end of the ride one guide had no chain and was scooting along, the other's saddle was at a painful looking angle. Got extremely muddy. Rained on and off.
Day 2: Trekked one of the Inca trails, again through jungle and along sheer hillsides, this time just wide enough for perhaps two people. My fear of heights and I got firmly reacquainted. Made friends with a pig at lunch.
Day 3: Seemed a bit pointless, but maybe that's just because it was mostly raining, we walked along a road before lunch and then a railway line after lunch, but we got to eat lots of things along the way. And see Machu Picchu (from below) for the first time.
Day 4: Got up at 4:30am and started the final accent to Machu Picchu. I think having been at altitude for so long has made me a bit fitter, Machu Picchu is relatively low, and quite a few of the others were having difficulty climbing the steps up. Machu Picchu itself are some recent ruins in good condition in an amazing setting. There's a vote on atm for the 8th wonder, they're pushing for Machu Picchu, but I'm not sure. While on the train/bus back to Cusco a fellow Machu Picchuer suggested I fly to Lima, rather than taking the 20 hour bus ride, as you can get tickets for under $60, not a lot more than the bus. Dropped my washing and asked for it by 12 the next day.
Day 5: Had a leisurely breakfast and got to the airport to enquire about tickets at about 10, to be told that the last cheap ticket was at midday, meaning I'd have to check my luggage in at 11. Rushed back to the hostel to see if my washing was ready. It wasn't, but I could go down the road to pick it up wet. Got back in the same taxi, went down the road, jumped out to search for my clothes, once I had found them and got back into the taxi the driver advised me not to leave my bags in taxis in Cusco as drivers often just drive off with them, but luckily he didn't like doing that. Made it to the airport at 11:00, hoping I had remembered to pack everything in my haste and checked in with a carrier bag full of wet washing as my hand luggage.
The first thing that I did in Lima was to check out the markets for cameras. It actually depressed me seeing all these blatantly stolen cameras, I think I was secretly hoping that I might see mine. I'm going to have to buy one from a shop (I'm probably going to buy a compact until the insurance comes through, finger's crossed), I cannot stomach buying a stolen camera. Bloody morals.
Hopefully some of the guys that were on the trek with me will take pity and donate a couple of pictures so that you don't have to just imagine me clinging to rocks along the way :)
Something I heard recently: "It's not that I don't believe in God, I do, it's just that I don't respect him."
Friday, February 23, 2007
Dan, seriously, what's happened to you? Don't tell me all that time we spent in internet cafes together was purely for my benefit.
Wednesday, February 21, 2007
It's a real shame I haven't got a camera, the hostel I am staying at is beautiful with amazing views.
I happened to mention a song Dan had claimed was the best mash up he'd ever heard, Enya vs Prodigy, to one of the bar staff who promptly downloaded it. I can see what Dan means, they are well matched, but really Dan, it's terrible! My favourites are still A Stroke of Genius and I Wish I Was A Cannonball, both by Freelance Hellraiser - The Strokes vs Christina Aguilera and The Breeders vs Skee-Lo respectively.
Arequipa is at a mere 2380m, while there I felt fit and healthy again, I could walk up flights of stairs, and even run! Cusco is at 3500m, and again, a short walk up a hill has me breathless.
Tuesday, February 20, 2007
Thursday, February 15, 2007
Mum, there's good news and bad news. The good news is that I made it through Bolivia without mishap, you can breath a sigh of relief. The bad news is that I am closer to Colombia :)
I've put up the lightning pictures and video. The pictures all looked the same unfortunately and the video is virtually all black, so you just have Dan's commentary and a few flashes of lightning.
I had A Moment on the island. Dan and I were filming/photographing the approaching lightning a top a hill, at 4025m, on an island in the middle of Lake Titicaca, Bolivia in the encroaching dark, thinking "What kind of life is this?"
But where are all my Valentine's emails?!
I'll put up the lightning pictures and Dan's video as soon as we rejoin ADSL land. Hopefully tomorrow in Puno, Peru.
Sunday, February 11, 2007
I've uploaded some videos, the most interesting, me being an idiot, has a nice shot of La Paz at the end. Unfortunately though you can't make out the way that the houses go all the way up the sides of the hills.
I really hate rushing, it's now Tuesday 13th Feb, and we're in Copacabana. We have to spend a day in Peru to renew our Bolivian visas before Thursday, and then maybe head back into Bolivia to a carnival in Oruro for the weekend, giving us about a day to "do" Copacabana and the islands in lake Titicaca.
Saturday, February 10, 2007
Friday, February 09, 2007
I managed to change my flight today. I will be back in your green and pleasant land on 4th July. Changing my flight cost £50. The phone call cost £20. Apparently a teacher makes about £3 a day.
Me mate Dan has some interesting photos up of our time together. Look out for our mate Dave.
My brother writes a funny blog. Yes Sam, I am jealous.
Tuesday, February 06, 2007
I was beginning to think that Santa Cruzians hated foreigners, without exception, when, Goddess of irony strong as ever, we went for a cuppa half an hour before our bus left and encountered an extremely friendly waitress, who sat and chewed the cud with us. Yes Alanis, it certainly is like ra-ain on your wedding day.
Anyway, Cochabamba is nice and dry and hot, all of my clothes are out airing on the washing line as I type, and apparently the night life here is all within the centre. Things are looking up. Just hope no one's run off with my pants.
I wrote this yesterday. Ms Morissette is having the last laugh. My dreams were invaded by thunder and lightning during the night. I swear it was right above us. In my dreams there was no gap between the flashes of lightning and the cracks of thunder. It is now tipping it down. It's still not humid though, thank God. And no one took my pants.
Saturday, February 03, 2007
But I've been loving Bolivia so far. It's really surprised me, one of my favourite phrases of the moment is "I just wasn't expecting this from Bolivia." And it's not just the flamingos. No one prepared me for the food. I had been warned that it was going to be boring, and my first meal in Bolivia, after asking for a steak sandwich (lomito, a speciality around these parts) and then a hamburger, I was informed that there was only one thing on the menu which used four of the most boring ingredients known to mankind: roast chicken, chips, rice and pasta (I kid ye not). Topped off with a chili sauce which WAS NOT HOT. But since then I have been amazed by the culinary delights of these parts, though at the moment we are frequenting a place reminiscent of Disney World.
Being a stickler for credit I have to thank Maddy for the title of this post, though aptly she thought the song went "Santa Cruz you're not that fine."
Tuesday, January 30, 2007
Recent highlights include: watching a group of friends sing Manu Chau's Me Gusta Tu at a Bolivian karaoke bar, watching a very drunk Dave fall through the screen at said karaoke bar*, spending the afternoon lazing with Melanie watching Sucre from a hilltop**, getting soaked to the skin running through the pouring night rain and lightning of Santa Cruz with the same Melanie.
* Afterwards the owner of the bar wanted $500 for a broken guitar, Dave, being a musician, and drunk, demanded to see the "probably just scratched" guitar. The "scratch" was actually a break at the neck.
** Unfortunately this meant we got to the bus stop 15 mins before all the buses left for Santa Cruz and had to travel on separate buses. This made the forced stop behind a landslide at 3:30am quite sweet, after walking a not insignificant distance in either direction I discovered her bus was directly behind mine. The journey was only supposed to be 13-17 hours, it ended up at 24.
Wednesday, January 24, 2007
I don't know what springs to your mind when you think of Bolivia, but for me it is certainly not flamingos, but they are here, in their thousands. The four day tour was spectacular, check the photos, just getting up at 5am and into a landcruiser was pretty cool. Yes Mum, we all felt the altitude (we were at 4500 - 5000m most of the time) at various points and to various degrees. I had spent a week at 3000m, and for the first two days was fine, but on the third day had a headache, which turned into a general feeling of ill-being.
So I am now in Potosi (4050m), about to do a tour of a working mine, and since I haven't been able to find a bed for the night, and me mate Dave is there I am going to try to head for Sucre tonight.
Monday, January 15, 2007
"Chris, you are brain-dead when it comes to this stuff!"
So since mentioning the rainy season in my last post it has been raining about 50% of the time. Mostly during the night luckily, but I got caught out last night and am now wearing plastic bags for socks.
The road to Iruya is 56km of dirt track. There isn't one bus a day, there's a convoy of five buses that all leave together. Safety in numbers I think. There were no problems on the way there but on the way back we had 4 punctures between the five buses and had to stop several times to help other stranded vehicles. I suppose it's the rain.
Humahuaca is a black hole. There's nothing here but you can't leave, and when you do leave you come straight back. Not that I mind, we had a really nice lunch at the hostel yesterday, I was trying to work out why the locals were laughing at me, at first I thought it was because I was eating the chili sauce so easily, but after a while the hostel owner showed me how to peel my broad beans(!)
Ok, that was all so long ago, I am now in Tupiza, Bolivia. The internet still sucks. I will be out of radio contact as I am going on a four day trip to the salt flats/deserts/pans/whatever, so don't worry too much if I don't email, I don't think they supply internet on the jeep.
Also this blog has moved to http://blog.kitten-x.com, I thought it might be easier to remember. Over and out.