The Emerald world, such a rare gem-Columbia…oh yes and a little event of the Olympic hockey Finals

So here I am in Bogota the capital of Columbia. Somewhere I’ve never really wanted to go, somewhere my parents are hating me going, and the one place that everyone’s eyebrows are raised when you say you are visiting. But as my flight landed for transfer in Columbia and I didn’t fancy another 14 hour flight transfer wait, why not stay in the capital and explore country number five.

The Olympic Women’s hockey final has been played and I want to watch it delayed on iPlayer so I don’t even turn my phone on in case of messages from home or an update.

I vaguely remember a message or a blog saying I must queue for a taxi and make sure it’s an official one, so I see an official taxi booth and don’t need to queue as there’s only one person in front. Book myself in, and about £20 later have a man quite happily carrying my very heavy suitcase (minus that bloody 5kg i am carrying) to his taxi van and off we go. The view out of the windows already looks much more South American, more traditional and somewhere I think I’ll enjoy. A lovely thirty minute drive through the busy streets, through mainly built up areas and we arrive at the B and B (hidden behind iron gates??), ring the doorbell and out comes one of the owners.

Wow what an absolute treat for the eyes inside is. As you walk in to the main hall there is an open fireplace with old looking wooden seats around it, wooden staircases Dynasty like going up round to the top floor ,and there is my bedroom and all its splendour with a solid wooden door, apparently triple glazing to keep the road noise out, beautiful decoration, and an amazing bathroom. It’s even got a massage shower, you know the ones where you don’t have to have the water from the shower-head, you can press a button and it comes out of jet streams that are going for three different places on your back. I mean that is a great way to finish the holiday.

DSCF4358

The owners don’t just check you in like many a place, they sit down and have a chat as we have a bottle of wine, ask me what my plans are.  As I have no idea they discussed the options and tell me about a buddy system where a local student comes and spends the day with you giving you a tour by foot or by bike to do whatever you choose. The lovely owners are Rick who is American and his wife Beatrix who is Columbian. They have redecorated the B and B from scratch, down to every last detail.Such a lovely family feel, attention to detail and friendly atmosphere.

IMG_1769

DSCF4359

A another person staying at the B&B pops back, a lovely Chinese man, and he sits and chats to us as well. He’s had a buddy for three days and absolutely raves about them. So decision made, buddy tomorrow. He also suggested the Salt Cathedral and Montserrate, so ideas at least.

So after a lovely hour chatting and planning, I head up to my room to unpack and watch the hockey gold medal match between Team GB and the favourites I have to admit the Netherlands. And as I’m sure you know by now we bloody rocked the shoot out and are Olympic Champions, we are just awesome particularly goalkeeper Maddie Hinch who didn’t put a foot wrong. Do I wish I was there? No, as fab as it would be, Columbia is already a bonus, and with lots to see I am excited for the next few day.

74400395-england-hockey-sport-large_trans++PjDZOdMgceQ0ik-fUDgEdn5kBUHVUPIOFeoJr9sPfNk

Breakfast is cooked fresh for you and served down in front of the lovely fire place, fresh orange juice, cup of tea and pancakes how amazing is that. Best breakfast so far, best accommodation by far, and best hostel by a million miles.

My buddy for the day is Johnny, and off first to La Candelaria (the colonial centre) we head. A fab way to see the city, there’s a pedestrian/bikes only route right down the centre of town. We pass the hotel-penthouse that Guns and Roses trashed about 10 years ago, so badly that it only reopened last year because they refused to pay for the damage.

DSCF4285

The Gold museum where you can more than 55,000 pieces of gold and other materials from pre-Hispanic cultures. Fascinating videos showing how they made the Gold into the intricate little shapes. Using moulds from beeswax and then pouring in clay to create a mould that the Gold is then poured into. Each piece unique as the mould can only ever be used once.

Circling around a bit more through downtown to the oldest part of town were the first building is now two coffee shops, the best coffee shops in the area apparently. Through the narrowest road in town, very Diagon Alley esk.

DSCF4314

I went into the Museo Botero, dedicated to all things Chubby, by Fernando Botero. The art really is weird, paintings of chubby people and animals. Reminds me of cabbage patch kids.

There are lots of street traders about, so I get a lovely Christmas Gift for my brother, Star Wars themed. Love it, and I also get a Colombian coloured bracelet to add to my collection. And it’s only at this point that I realised that there is more yellow on the Colombian flag that red and blue. That is because of the Gold that was found here so they put it in the flag all those years ago. Pointless fact, maybe useful for pub quiz!

Off to stop for lunch at a quaint little cafe with three floors of seating. Johnny recommends me a local dish, it has everything you need for a balanced diet, beans, avocado, banana, shredded beef, fit for about a table of four but despite the weird mix of foods very enjoyable even if a tad on the large side.

IMG_1778

More street entertainers have set up as we head back, so it is very much like Covent Garden. You have the silver or gold sprayed statues that stay absolutely still, you have jugglers and various bands playing music. And then, racing Guinea Pigs. I mean, what on earth is that. So I stop as you do, and there is a load of overturned Tupperware boxes with holes cut and numbers written on the top and the game the public bet on a Tupperware box and a Guinea Pig is picked from the group, placed down and off it walks to its chosen pot. How random.

DSCF4320

We return the bikes and get a car instead and drive to Monserrate, Bogota’s proud symbol and at 3150m, a great view of the city.

There’s a church at the top, a major mecca for Pilgrims, also some food outlets, a restaurant and a small market area for souvenirs. There is 1500 step walk, however it is renowned for knife muggings particularly on week days, and I think it was closed today anyway. But best not to be in danger just for a trek hey!

The view is pretty amazing though, so worth the £5 return trip on the funicular.

On route back we pass hundreds of cyclists, young and old dressed up in old clothes from maybe the 1940s. We had seen them earlier in town as well, and it’s nice to see them again, they must have been cycling for about five hours. Great to see all ages involved in an event, happy, chatty, just an amazing bustling feel around them all. The bikes range from modern racers to old style, baskets on the front, unicycles, tandems, just every type you can imagine.

DSCF4337

After the wonders of Monserrate we head to the local flea market. Not sure I have ever been to a flea market to be honest, so it was quite interesting although I have bought enough ‘tat’ already this holiday and nothing grabs my attention particularly.

We walk around discussing Columbia in general, I ask about the stray dogs and he tells me the story about how the government didn’t like it so poisoned about 400 of them so that’s why there’s not many around at the minute. The streets are named Calles if they run perpendicular to the hills and Carerras if they run from North to South. We try the local ice-cream as it is apparently supposed to be lovely in South America, it’s no Rossi’s of Southend, but it was very nice. Its 2640m above sea level, the third highest capital city after La Paz and Quito. All fascinating.

Final part of the day is to drive up La Calera to watch sunset over the city. I do like a sunset and this was pretty good, although slightly marred by the clouds on the horizon. As you drive up there are hundreds of people parked up in various cafes overlooking the city, and I think we’re going to miss the sunset as I keep passing, passing, passing.  At 6pm the national anthem comes on, this is a daily occurrence all over the country. How very patriotic. But we finally find the stop he wants, the Beer Wagon, we head in and get a table outside our lovely open fire with half a view of the city.  He orders me a local drink-Canelazo, which costs a fortune I find out at the end, but was very nice. So the sun sets, such a wonderful day I have had with my Colombian buddy.

 

Now you don’t pay for the buddy but have to ‘tip’ what you think the day is worth. You get an envelope to leave money in, all secretly. I have no idea if I was too mean or over generous, but i was happy and paid what I thought was fair? Great programme though.

I check out the top things to do in Bogota when back at the B and B & B and decide on the Salt Cathedral, The Lake of Gold and if possible the restaurant Andres Carne de Res. The B & B owners Beatrix and Rick had offered a taxi driver when I needed one so I asked them if I could book him to take me to one or two of these locations, and within half an hour Beatrix has organised that I can actually do all three while I’m out, which leaves me time to peruse Bogota on my third and final day.

So here we are, day two, another amazing breakfast, local cake and sauce. Bless the taxi driver, doesn’t speak a word of English, but between my Google translate and his Google translate will get by during the day I’m sure.

We go back up the Le Calera hill, and today being a Sunday everyone seems to be out on their bikes. There are literally hundreds of people, good and bad abilities, young and old, cycling up on this apparently 10 km trip, it’s so great to see and no cars are honking their horns telling the bikes to get out the way. All the traffic just waits as the bikes have priority. I love this. And at the top of the hill where at the route finishes, there are bike stalls, cafes and hundreds of people milling around drinking, eating and socialising, what a great event. And apparently this is every Sunday.

 

So about two hours of driving later, slowed down by the cyclists, we get to do what we think it is the Lake Guatavita (lake of gold), however we find out that this is the nearest town and it is another 40 minutes’ drive to the entrance. There are some other people who have made the same mistake, some Brazilians who got off the bus there because they didn’t understand the Spanish driver, being Brazilian, and they ask if they can get a taxi, why not I say. Do my good deed for the day.

You have to walk around with a guide, she starts off saying she’ll translate to English for me after each speech, but then she gets bored and says she’ll do it at the end instead. I am the only English speaker here! So I try and muddle through picking up words here and there looking at what she’s pointing at, all very interesting. The weather is pretty rubbish, raining on and off so out comes the poncho again. Been a real godsend this holiday. I believe its even hot in the UK, how rude.

We passed a ceremonial house, look at plants with special powers/meanings, others that have been replanted, patterns on the paved floor and then we eventually get to the wonderful view that is the Lake of Gold. She talks about the greed of explorers who wanted the gold and how they have ‘broken’ the lake by their attempts to get to it. It is no longer a full circular glacial? lake but whether the story is true who knows. There are many stories about its history including how the gold ship in the gold museum was found in the lake as it was an offering by the Muiscas. Well worth a visit if you like views, although if you’re rushed for time not sure it’s high up on my list. But an enjoyable and informative trip none the less.

DSCF4364

IMG_1892

Before I leave in the taxi I stop to have sweetcorn cooked on a traditional barbecue/fire. Probably the nicest sweetcorn I’ve tasted, love the street food. Off to the Salt Cathedral.

OMG, not sure if its the roads, the driving or I am actually not well but the drive is not good. I fell sick, need the window open to make me feel better, and then try and sleep for a bit.

Now this is something I would put on your list to visit if you are in Columbia and Bogota, it’s only about 50km from Bogota in Zipaquira. You go 180 metres underground, where 250,000 tonnes of salt have been mined and the chambers have now carved out. You walk through 14 chapels, representing the Stations of the Cross, Jesus last journey. The culmination being the amazing, awe inspiring mammoth cross, lit from the base up, like heaven itself.

There’s a light show, I didn’t think much of, a miner’s tour where you can be a miner for an hour, this was fun albeit all in Spanish. Pick axing away, walking in pitch black. If you manage to ‘mine’ anything you can take it home with you.

DSCF4407

There’s a 3D movie on how the chambers came about, fascinating for adult and children as its part in cartoon form, and then stalls where you can buy souvenirs, emeralds and photos if you’ve posed earlier in the tour.

So onto part three of day two. Andres Carne de Res. How do I describe it? I’m not sure I can do it justice. The town is like a Christmas light display but for summer. And as you walk in it is like something out of a Tim Burton movie. Alice in Wonderland meets Willy Wonka. Madness. The menu is pretty expensive, but the food was great. I do look a tad weird as a lone diner here, but who cares. Not sure I’d come back, maybe if I was in a couple, but pleased to have been to see it.

What a busy two days. So pleased I’ve been here for a few days to experience all these wonders.

So my final day, and I decide to go on a walking tour to see the Graffiti of the city. At breakfast there is a lovely Dutch couple who are doing the tour in the morning, I’m going to relax first then head out. They are really exploring Columbia and seeing much more than just Bogota. I’ve never heard of the laces they mention, but how great to meet fellow travellers once more.

Today I am being brave, no guide or taxi driver. Just a map and directions. Well that was a mistake. I got so very lost! Wandering the streets of Bogota all on my own, probably not the best idea.  There are a lot of guards, police and their dogs all around the streets, so I felt safe, and asked police and security along the way to show me on the map where I was, and about two hours later, in the rain, arrived at my destination. All part of the adventure.

IMG_1909

The tour starts in parque de Los Periodistas, which if it was a sunny day I may sit in and admire, but I’m early and its pissing down so I head into a small little pizza place to get warm and dry but it really was quite lovely. Funny how random places end up being a real treat.

The Graffiti tour is amazing, a must do. We start with the political paintings where if you look closely you see pineapples that are actually grenades, (because they ruin the soil but are profitable), war flies, cocktails with guns painted in as the cocktail sticks. Paintings showing the oppression of rich on the poor. We learn about the gorilla rebels being killed for cash and locals being kidnapped and dressed like gorilla rebels so the soldiers can get this cash easily. 10,000 missing people over 10 years!

DSCF4427DSCF4430DSCF4428

Some of the artists go all over the world and are apparently famous in the art world. DJ Lu, aPC sting fish. They have their own tag/signature on their art work and no one ‘tags’ over them as they respect each other too much. We walk down the road a bit and move on to the more picturesque and happy pictures. Awesome pictures, animals, people, patterns. There are recycled green statues above the streets. 3D masks painted and stuck around the city. It makes you see Graffiti in a different light I must say.

 

My last purchase is a scrap book from a shop where they bind books n the old fashioned way still. I create a scrap book for all my travels so this is a cool place to buy one to use. It has that old fashioned book shop smell and is a pretty organised, although looking untidy workplace of books, paper and machines.

IMG_1907

Well, thats it. Pretty much all over, a month of awesomeness that I am not sure can ever be beaten. I finish my holiday with a cup of Chai in a café overlooking a parque, although if you can tell me what name is on my cup you are a better person than me!

IMG_1904

Remember the first cup I had, when I got my hot and cold muddled up in El Dorado Airport, Bogota!? Well what a way to finish, Monserrate in the distance, the locals milling around, the sun has even started shining for a short time.

Thank you Columbia for being a hidden gem of a place. England here we come, I am ready to go home as amazing as this has all been, and to see my beloved doggie zaccy….walkies!!

Advertisements
Standard

To fly back to Rio or not?? And don’t cry for me Argentina! 

Back in Buenos Aires but for more than a flight transfer this time. I’ve checked all my WhatsApp messages and my lovely hockey girls have updated me with the victorious Team GB hockey. Fabulous that they are in the final how exciting. For me though I think the exciting and hectic time of the last few weeks has caught up with me, feel rubbish and have a cold that I seem to be fighting. Anyhow I have a day and a half in Buenos Aires and off to the hostel I go. I had checked with my Argentinian friend that it was in a nice area and she had said San Telmo is lovely so I should enjoy it. It’s the older part of town with cobbled streets and crumbling decorative facades all around. So into my taxi I get speaking my pigeon Spanish and off we head. Panfilo (from my Iguaźu trip) had warned me that it doesn’t feel like South America but in fact more like Europe. And he is quite right. High rise modern buildings adorn the streets around, not like the understated buildings I’m used to seeing on my travels.

img_2002
(From wikipedia)

So half hour later I arrive at my hostel ‘The Art Factory. Named so, because its covered with art throughout the rooms, eve the kitchen and bathrooms apparently. Sounds interesting and colourful hey. The hostel looks a bit dingy out front, but it is late and maybe it’s just the oldy worldly nature of the area making the streets look darker, and you have to buzz to get in, so at least it’s safe.

art factory.jpg

It’s 10pm so no chance of exploring the area tonight even if I did feel in good form. Two flights of stairs with my ridiculously heavy suitcase (or is it my stupidly weak arm strength?) and it’s a welcoming reception. Boards and posters with activities for every day, maps to show you around the town and a fridge with drinks for purchase, artistic characteristics already around the reception and waiting area. So far so good. I check in, I don’t have enough cash and it’s a 10% charge for a card which is ridiculous, but they let me pay for one night now and get the rest in cash tomorrow which is very nice. I notice the signs of types of rooms and realise this is a real dorm style hostel. More for backpackers than the solo tourist suitcase traveller. Rooms of 6 with shared bathroom available! Hey ho.


I get to my room which is on the corner of the stairs to the bar, restaurant and kitchen. Think it may be a noisy stay? Rooms nice enough though, art on the walls, double bed, airy and a bathroom all to myself although not entirely clean. I immediately notice there’s no TV? How odd when I’ve not actually watched one for most of the trip and don’t need it at all! There’s a kitchen just down the corridor with a gas hob, whistle kettle and good old cupboards and fridge with labelled food. Last time I saw this kind of kitchen was on my travels down under where I stayed in hostels. There’s colourful art down the corridors, so it is quite unique.

34095812

34095667

Well what a bloody awful nights sleep. I’ve never actually worn ear plugs but I have a set in my suitcase just in case, and guess what, I had to get them out to try and stop the noise from keeping me awake. People talking and walking around, doors banging nothing particularly malicious just a poorly insulated room. So my cold has hit big time, and feeling miserable!

I prefer to have days and activities or at least ideas planned. However for the rest of this trip I have no idea what to do at all which makes me less excited about the last few days. So having woken up I suddenly decide maybe I could fly back to Rio and watch the hockey final?? What an experience it would be? So I e-mail Flight Centre and ask if it can be done, look up flights that are about £300 so maybe it can and as I have nothing planned in Columbia what would I miss out on? not a lot. The issue I have is time as although it’s 9am here it’s 3pm in the UK and I don’t want to use my phone to call at £2 per minute so waiting for e mails will be the  issue with a time restraint.

Whilst waiting I head up to breakfast excited that is included, but that’s where the excitement died! Stale bread, cornflakes, weak squash, a variety of tea but no English breakfast (not that unsurprising) and a common room to eat in. It is however a very colourful common room, art on the walls, and there are a few others about so a bit of company of sorts, and you can order scrambled eggs so I do get something more tasty. Not sure why I’m moaning, at least I’m being fed!

05

Fuelled up and ready for who knows….I head off out armed with a map of the city and the one plan that I will join the afternoon walking tour by the free walking tours company at 3pm. I pass lots of locals milling around, one with a pack of dogs it seems. past little cafe’s, supermarkets, shops, garages and bakeries. A very bustling morning in Buenos Aires.



I get lost, although find a lovely portrait of Eva Peron on the side of a tall building (which I later find out is the Social Development Building) then find my way to the riverside which to be honest may as well be London South Bank it looks so European.


I mean it’s lovely, relaxing and bustling and I head onto the navy boat on the river to learn about the Argentinian navy (although mot of the notes were in Spanish so i am really just looking at pictures and artefacts), and their dogs, but it just isn’t as exciting as being in other South American cities.

I’m also constantly wondering if I will be heading to Rio tomorrow and need to find wifi to check my e mails. I stop at a cafe who had wifi for a drink and find out it’s going to be £900 at least and that’s if the airline will let me swap destinations, not guaranteed!! Oh the decisions!! I eventually decide it’s just too much, although a gold medal hockey match to create history would be amazing, I just can’t warrant it. I have spent loads already, need money for possible fertility treatment and do wonder what my reasons are for going back? Is it the glory and jealousy I’d get from people thinking it’s amazing I’d changed my plans? Is it to try and get on TV again? Is it to see history? Probably a bit of all three!

I continue my walk around Buenos Aires, pass a school that has hardly any open space for the kids to run around in, get lost in the criss crossing maze of San Telmo’s streets (but there are worse places to get lost in to be fair, its very safe here) before finding my way to the walking tour meet point. I say criss crossing as it’s very much like Milton Keynes. The roads are like a grid and forms a checkerboard look on a map. 

That’s a school behind those bars!


A lovely local guide introduces himself, there’s about 20 in the English speaking group. A bunch of young travellers who have obviously met at their hostel, some Americans talking very loud, some couples and then me!

Off we walk down the Avenue de Mayo starting in a small park at the Plaza del Congresso, by the congress building. Walking down past the monuments, particularly discussing the Monumento a los dos Congresos with its triumphant Republic figures sculptured on top.

The pigeons, making it feel like Trafalgar square, were brought over here to help make it feel European. Nutters!! Who wants pigeons if they have a choice??


The young American girl is so bloody annoying even after five minutes. With her purple hair, stand out sunglasses and loud voice she certainly likes to be centre of attention. She screams when pigeons fly in front of her, when asked to wait at traffic lights she tells everyone she’s been hit by a car before so knows what it’s like. Some bouncy castles are in a play area and she starts telling everyone how she wants to go on them, ‘I love bouncy castles!’ Oh dear god. Shut up already!! (Miserable old English girl alert)


Can you guess which one she is?

This square has a few random grassy areas where dog owners walk their dogs for some greenery to sniff and scent. There are several statues with various historical stories that we are talked through. There are some homeless people sleeping in the shade, some locals out walking, the mismatch of light coloured buildings overlooking the square from the streets at the sides. It just doesn’t feel South American?


As we talk about the history of Buenos Aires and come across the topic of Evita I realise I’m wearing a Madonna t shirt. Completely by chance as I can’t be that choosy over clothes this late on in the trip, makes me look like some superfan!

A lovely American lady started talking to me as we walk around, she saw my Rio jumper so used it as a talking point. She’s a soccer coach and over here for a last minute two week break. Off to Cusco next so we discuss our travels, teaching and general life. I love meeting new people!

The tour takes us down the Avenue de Mayo. The variety of building styles is so fascinating, how some are Italian inspired, others French, and we get to look in a traditional and famous cafe, Cafe Tortoni, with its full length double doors, round wooden tables, huge floor expanse and Art Nouveau mirrored walls to give the oldy worldly feeling.

We stop at a fake Iguazu Falls water feature, funny when you’ve been already. If you haven’t it may be cool, I had to have a selfie anyhow just for the fun.


As we head across the main road through the city, Avenue 9 de Julio, we pass the opposite side of the building I saw whilst lost, with the Ava Peron mural, and we learn her sad story. She was the second wife of the president Juan Peron, and served as the First Lady until her death in 1952. She was also called Evita (the movie I’m sure most of you have seen) which is the Spanish language diminutive. The side we are seeing is the serious political face. It faces the North where the divide of the town sees the moneyed classes and the other side is the happy face facing south to the working classes, her preferred Barrios (neighbourhoods).


Our guide tells us that Argentina has the most public holidays in the world because of all the independence days it’s had, 19 public holidays in total. That there are 14 million people in the city. And that it the 1990’s $1=1AP so it was party time. Everybody was happy, rich and spending until 2001 when it all collapsed and the country has struggled to recover. It’s now $1=15AP, how mad is that.


The homeless are often those who lost everything in the financial collapse. Very sad.

We finish our walk at the Plaza del Mayo at the ‘Pink House’ where Eva Peron gave her last speech from the balcony and that famous scene in the Evita the movie. I must say it has heightened my interest in that movie which as yet I haven’t seen, and intrigued me on the history of Argentina.


A lovely afternoon learning about the history of the city. Well worth doing. Alison (my US friend) and I then head off to find a restaurant for some dinner although really a bit too early for it in South America being only 5pm. As much as I’d like to see a tango show, neither of us has much energy, my cold is taking hold unfortunately and it’s really something to do with a friend not solo?

So we head back to the riverside I was at earlier, find a nice restaurant and order some steak. It’s fit for a family!! Three pieces! Lovely though and a lovely evening too. It even has an apparently Scottish Dessert which I try for the sheer hell of it. My Scottish friends back home have since commented that it is of course, pure fabrication. Nice dessert though.

The nighttime view along the river is quite lovely, especially with a full moon reflecting onto the water. Would be very romantic, and I did just sit an admire it for a while.

We say our goodbyes whilst hailing taxis. She is off to do a day trip on horseback tomorrow, I am off to Colombia, not the Olympics, although it is constantly on my mind.

Will tonight’s sleep be any better?

Well I didn’t need my ear plugs, so it’s either quieter, I’m knackered or I’ve got used to it? I have a an hour before taxi pick up to get some wine. I’m keen to take some home after the insightful wine tasting in Peru telling me Argentinian wine is the best and Malbec particularly. So I get 5 bottles and pack in my already heavy suitcase, and make it back just in time for the shuttle bus. At the airport I pick the wrong bloody check in desk. The man is an arse. My case is as usual over their weight of one piece at 23 Kg, but its passed through three flights so far without issue . He tells me I have to pay, gives me a ticket and sends me away. No discussions or help just matter of fact. At the payment desk it’s £50. Sod off am I paying that for a few Kg of wine. So I refuse, well plead poverty, which isn’t untrue. I head over for some help and burst into tears. The tiredness has definitely got me. The helpers were great, the man who checked me in, Laureno, not. He was rude to the staff, rude to me. Told me it was my problem and not his and i will probably miss my flight now. Anyhow I eventually had to trek over to the other terminal, collect my case, take out 5Kg, carry it as hand luggage and check the suitcase back in. What a complete waste of time. The hassle lost me an hour and a half but saved me £50 and I got on the plane in time. Result I say!


I even had time for a photo of me in my GB hockey top and GB flag to post as a good luck to the TeamGB girls in the final. Still a little unsure if I’ve made the correct decision not to go but what’s done is done.

Thank you Argentina for an insightful 36 hours, not my favourite destination in South America by far but interesting none the less. Country number 5 beckons on a 6 hour flight.

Standard

Namaste Kathmandu, reminiscing, krypton factor toilet moves and greeting my fat dog!!

So I’m completely alone in Kathmandu for the first time. No roomy to chat to or meet with! I wander around for my last afternoon, off shopping to get the last few items. I buy a blue and purple yak rug for my campervan, I get a cd of the monks chanting to music that will remind me of Nepal and then stop for lunch on a roof top restaurant just so I can watch the hustle and bustle below. Now as I have said it’s not my favourite place due to the noise etc but it is unique, and it has been great to experience it. Even the wiring of tv and electricity cables is a mele of madness, hanging in hug bundles, no seemingly order to them but all works well enough! I enjoy my last afternoon and head back to the hotel to pack and chill for the evening.
Wake up at 6am nothing new there! Try and dose then bloody realise I haven’t checked in on line!!! Damn it. Go to website and no window seats for long plane ride left, do get extra leg room though so bonus. Wide awake now so go down for brekkie. Try the hotel special. Not that impressive to be honest! Sausages cut like cheese string advert, fried potatoes a bit raw, nice eggs though! Realise this morning after just five weeks that milk tea is actually a cup or pot of hot milk with a tea bag in. I’d thought it was so weak due to milk going in first. What a plonker!! Lucky I don’t mind milky tea. Nothing beats the chai tea from the orphanage though. There’s a stray cat wandering around so I feed it the delightful sausage, happy catty! Feeling a bit lethargic and end up sleeping for two hours. Body must be shutting down after hectic five weeks. So decide no monkey temple which is what I had planned to do today, but one last stroll through the noisy, dusty, narrow streets of kathmandus thamel region. I will find my way there and back today without a rickshaw!
Buy a couple of tops, trying to be more girlie. Well I do need to find a bloody man!! Now I know the ex hubby has a new girlie I’m kind of jealous I haven’t. Not that when I saw the picture of them as a couple it bothered me, in fact surprisingly quite pleased and intrigued!
Whilst wandering the narrow streets I pass some men playing a game on the steps of a shop, chalked markings and some pebbles. The simple life, love it.
So after wandering the streets, in the non prostitute way, a few wrong turns it’s time to head back to hotel. I only bloody manage it! After 4 days of walking getting lost I now know my way around, stupidly proud of myself!! Did get begged for money from a local boy mind, he’s chatting to me saying hello, I ask why aren’t you at school he tells me it’s Mother’s Day here. Well after a bit more chitter chatter he then gets onto his task of saying he needs money, he can’t eat. To be honest didn’t look dirty enough to be that hard up but I gave him my bottle of water and 5 rupees which is nothing but better than nothing! Little scally.
Sit in the courtyard chilling, eating my last meal and it had to be momos just because, and finish another book, the one roomy started on the trek and got bored!! Eat, pray, love. I’ve seen the movie so knew what to expect, is a slow read though. I sit and reminisce the last five and a half weeks, what an awesome time I have had. And although I am ready to go home I would not change the travelling for all the money in the world, an absolutely amazing time that I will never forget. So after the memories it’s time to pack.
I managed to get a late check out, they call it half a day but it’s actually a whole 3 1/2 hours for the brain price of half a day! Still worth it though to relax in the room.
Hotels website very misleading. Says complimentary airport transfers but when I asked for my free taxi ride to the airport they say it means pick up, they never drop off. I do argue and say I’ve stayed here twice and neither time did I get a hotel pick up, but it doesn’t work so lucky I’d saved enough cash for emergencies!
I end up sharing a cab with German man so it is cheaper at least! Half way there though he realises he left his laptop back at hotel. In no rush so we head back. I quite like the traffic madness. There are no traffic lights just police men with their white gloves at major junctions. And I’m sure there’s more bikes than cars on the roads? Just a mele of noise.
German man starts to talk more on second effort at airport. He hates Kathmandu, too aggressive and dirty. He told me that money is smuggled out of the capital to Las Vegas, Europe, anywhere they can. Smuggled on flights cargo holds and then the rich people head out and spend it on casinos or lavish trips, instead of helping their home city and pumping cash back into the country! Interesting to hear. He learnt this from a friend in the mountains he’s stayed with for three weeks.
When we arrive at airport he pays most of the fare seeing as we did it twice! A man with a trolley tries to help German man but he shoos him away after some effort and wheels the trolley himself! He has to stay outside to smoke so I say farewell and head inside. It’s fairly small and simple enough check in, although in front of me is a family who clearly have too much luggage, so they no have to unpack, pack, move items around and it takes forever so I change lines. Then there’s a woman who has no print out of her boarding or booking so they have to search by name and that takes forever so I move again! Finally a quick queue. Small and simple airport. One shop, I get a coke and snack (should of stocked up in Kathmandu really, much cheaper!) was going to sit on internet but no wifi working so just read, chill, and wait. Nearly find myself using a squat toilet for one last time but fortunately if you checked the cubicles there was actually a choice of western too, how novel! Flights half hour late but otherwise all fine. I have the biggest grin on my face, so looking forward to going home. Have had an epic time but am tired and in need of some home comforts!!
Have a window seat on first flight, small plane, get dinner, watch the rest of the movie the Queen, the Mary poppins movie and then it’s time to change planes. Now the check in for plane two was bloody ridiculous! Had to queue three times (if you bothered to queue rather than wait that is) for probably half hour before finally being let on the plane. One staff member checking tickets for 400 people, stupid!! Have a lovely leg room seat, just harder to sleep without window to lean against. Get about three hours sleep, watch another movie, chat to Aussies next to me which was nice, they are touring the UK. So I land at Heathrow, hooray. Baggage claim all good, there is a tube strike today so it will be a slow journey across London. I’ve picked a route I think will work though. I get a cuppa and then wait for limited Heathrow express. Lots of people trying to get across the capital, fortunately one kiwi girl has brought her tube map so we can all check our routes. It’s easy to start with, get to terminal four then get on jubilee line but when I have to get off at hammersmith it becomes hard. I wait 15 mins for a tube and then it’s packed when it arrives. I can’t squeeze on with my huge suitcase! Not waiting another 20 minutes to not get on the train again, getting a bit annoyed now!! So I ask train man for help and he says circle line is working so try that. I head over to the other station and lo and behold I get on within ten minutes, straight around to Liverpool street, doesn’t go to tower hill which I wanted but I can at least get home. I need the toilet and at Liverpool street you have to pay. It’s ok, luxury comes at a cost! Not easy as a single traveller as I have my suitcase and backpack to squeeze into a cubicle. It’s like a krypton factor task! So I head for the train, it’s a more expensive route from Liverpool street but my parents will pick me up at station near them. That was less stressy than I’d thought and quicker!
As I arrive at the platform I see my mum in the car park and as I get off the train I see my dad and dog! Yay, however my dog is sooooo fat, can’t believe it, he’s just got a square body. So pleased to see him and parents though. Neither say I look skinny or tanned, blow rude! I’m sure I am both??
So back in sunny England. After some food, a cuppa and a chat I head home to a clean house thanks to the lodger, my cats pleased to see me and some home comforts. I still can’t believe how fat my dog bloody well is, I’m embarrassed! So straight out for a long walk this afternoon, get him moving again. Everyone I meet on the walk is in shock at the state of him!! Chilled out evening, get washing on, watch crap tv which I haven’t missed to be honest. One day off tomorrow then work hopefully Friday to start earning some money again, home sweet home though!

20140602-140529.jpg

20140602-140536.jpg

20140602-140541.jpg

20140602-140618.jpg

20140602-140633.jpg

20140602-140653.jpg

20140602-140705.jpg

20140602-140712.jpg

20140602-140724.jpg

Standard

The final frontier, dirty stop outs, showers, breast massages and drunken chats!

Another great sleep, oxygen is underrated in day to day life! Roomy seems ok this morning after her sickness last night, bless her, let’s hope she is ok on the walk. Someone else however was ill in the night and there’s blood sick in the sink, what a delight. Still cleaner than at the base camp tea house, and is has a light and a flush still working in the morning. At brekkie I find out that Mexican and mini miyagi didn’t come home last night. They went out drinking during dinner but the tea house locks it’s doors at 9.30pm. They tried to get in at 2am and couldn’t so slept at a shop owners place until 6am when they came back home. Poor mr miyagi who was going spare all night wondering where his son was! Oh to be young and in the party mood! Mexican pulled a Danish girl but wasn’t interested, he said she hadn’t washed for 8 days so that was gross. Erm hello who are you calling gross?? So of course we took the mick out of him for hours!
I seem to have lost my trouser legs! When I stripped to shorts yesterday i have left the bottom halves on the mountain somewhere! Oops. Last day of trekking, hooray. This should be a two day hike but because we couldn’t fly on the first day this is where we make the day back up. So off we go, shorts and t shirt as it’s very warm being so low down. I can’t remember the route up here but others remember there is lots of uphill for us as we had lots of downhill on the first day. Oh joy. First part is good, roomy is struggling so I stay with her at the back and have a chat about jobs, travels and just life. I don’t think I had asked her all trek what her job was. She is an airport controller ground staff dude, (can’t remember the actual name). As usual we meet a stray dog who follows us for ages, he even starts to come across one of the long bridges, very brave. My dog at home won’t even go over grates or drains. But the poor doggie freezes about a third of the way in, and good old gragma and his puts his own fears aside and encourages the pooch across the bridge and they conquer it together. Gragma says it gave him something to think about other than the fall to your death below! We pass the last view of Everest. Sad to say goodbye after two weeks of the views. I will really miss sagmartha!
Our first stop is at our tea house from the first night. So much has happened since we were last here. This is where we met the doctors climbing Everest, and I got my bubbles out for the first time. It seems like such a long time ago. Roomy still feeling rough and is just about coping. Gragmas tooth ache has disappeared with coming down the mountain. Mr bean is dripping with sweat it’s gross (I know he can’t help it), he has an army like outfit today which is green and just shows the sweat!
Second part of the walk is not too bad, down and up hill sections, still loving the colourful horizon and butterflies etc. Lunch is at the stop that we would have been staying at, lovely view, quite busy though with people on their way up and down. We have passed lots of people on day one of their trek, looking all fresh faced, out of breath and clean! I have continued my namaste tradition so far and am again on about 95% response rate. Sad keeping count I know!
I have momos for lunch and order vegetable ones but get meat. Didn’t want meat on the mountain but never mind, taste quite nice. We sit and chill for a long lunch, nice surroundings, sunny, life is good.
The afternoon drags. I walk at back with ex pat, gragma and roomy. She is really struggling with tiredness having hardly eaten for 24 hours. I find out that mr miyagi is actually a doctor/consultant even though he told everyone he was involved in finance. Why would you lie for two weeks? Ex pat found out at the hospital they visited when he said to them he was a doctor. All in shock at this bizarre lie. Also just realised that hagrid has harboured an annoyance (to put it politely) with mr miyagi all trek. I had picked up on the odd comment but didn’t quite get the whole picture. Others have told me today and I had heard some sarcastic comments from hagrid on the walk this morning. Maybe because I walk at the back I don’t see so much or I’m just not paying attention?
Passang had told us the walk would take about two hours after lunch, at the two hour mark he says it’s about an hour left. Very annoying when we are so tired of walking and you set your sights on finishing times and it changes. All having a good old moan this afternoon, and Passang still hasn’t said two words to me since being ill! We stop for a well needed drink by a little shop. There are three little girls that live there and they are having their feet washed. Looks like its a treat to be washed but the youngest screams when being scrubbed. Bless her. We continue up some very steep sections, I really don’t remember going downhill so much on day one but it’s bloody hard. My legs are pretty knackered. After a mere 6 hours of walking today (and three and a half after lunch!) we get to the gate that marks the start and finish of the trek! Roomy makes it but looks spent! Hooray, hooray, hooray!!!!
The tea house though is another half hour walk through the town as it’s beside the airport.
We traipse through at a very slow rate, passing lots of shops, pubs, tea houses, restaurants, kids playing in the streets, stray dogs sunbathing. We lose half the group into a pub we think, but the rest of us continue to the tea house and toast our triumphs with a glass of wine. Pleased to be at the final hurdle, relaxing and cheerful. The tea house has flags and signed t shirts all over the walls and ceilings. It’s nice to have a read of them. Lots of kiwis and Australians have been here. The rooms, well what can I say, en suite!!! What a luxury! Cold showers, toilet roll and flushing toilets, as well as a sink with running water. We don’t bother with the shower, there really are no clean clothes left to put on so it is a pointless task, well maybe not for sweaty mr bean who stinks but for less sweaty people like us girls!!
I sit outside and watch the last sunset over the mountains. Very relaxing out there, looking over the runway. The guides head off to see family and friends. Mi-ma lives in a house just down from the runway, I see him playing with his daughter outside. Ne-ma goes off to, I think his parents, and Passang visits his aunt. So it’s just us Trekkers at the tea house for the afternoon. There’s a really annoying American dude in here. Loud, a bit weird and just annoying to listen to in general. Quite funny though, his room mate has gone into town and taken the key with him so he is locked out. Shame!
The missing group members return, some a bit worse for wear!! Kiwi lass is rather drunk, they’ve been at the Irish pub and she only had a couple of drinks but clearly can’t handle them.
We have a celebration evening, the porters come for food and to be given their tips from us. We all put in about $80 for the porters and assistant guides to share. There are 8 porters and 3 assistant guides and with 14 people putting in a total of around $1300, that’s a pretty good tip for these poor boys who don’t get paid much. Their little faces were so happy when they got the money, so appreciative and came and shook all of our hands. I ordered yak steak for my dinner, just because one should try the local delicacy. Well it was burnt to a crisp so i can’t tell you what I thought of it as couldn’t taste it!!! Never mind, you live and learn. We ordered red wine to drink this evening, old mr miyagi has taken over the choosing of the wine, rather than hagrid or indie, not sure why but as long as it’s nice. Kiwi lass is getting more drunk, and starts playing the guitar again but it’s out of tune so she tries to tune it. Oops, she breaks a string so it looks like no guitar playing. However Passang manages to source another string so kiwi heads out the room to tune it once more. Maybe interesting whilst drunk!! She appears about an hour later with a tuned guitar, and manages to play well whilst drunk!
The dirty stop outs from last night can’t take the pace and aren’t drinking tonight, both on soft drinks. I’m pretty sure I could drink night after night at mini miyagis age, what a Larry lightweight! We had a lovely final night but most are still knackered after the walking so it’s not a late one. I’ve had about three quarters of a bottle of wine so did need to drink some water half way through the night so I’m not too drunk, just merry!
Last wake up call, I’m going to miss this! ‘Good morning, washing water please’. I was sound asleep again, still loving the oxygenated air! We leave any unwanted clothes and toiletries for the porters to share out. I leave some t shirts and jumpers, gragma has brought loads of Adidas clothing to give them. Wish I had more to leave. We didn’t have time for breakfast and shot off at 6am to get to the airport, it’s only a quick walk down the alley to the check in. It was all a bit rushed, bags were opened and checked, hand luggage weighed, then told to go through security. Didn’t even get to say goodbye to the guides. Passang travels back to Kathmandu with us but the others live here. The women had the longest bloody line at security, men through in a minute. We had to queue for about eight minutes as the security were looking through bags, body searching and then asking loads of questions. Security lady even opened my lip balm tin to check it was lip balm and made ex pat empty her tampons from her pocket. However never checked our camera bags? Clearly the men look less suspicious than us women!!
Finally through to departures and we are flight three so shouldn’t need to wait too long. I had a cup of tea whilst waiting and an alpen bar for breakfast! First flights land and out go flight two, then four, then five. What about bloody one and more importantly three? Passang was on flight four so he’s gone already, let’s hope we aren’t stuck here if flights suddenly get cancelled!
It’s ok flight three gets called next to a big cheer from us. Poor flight one though! I wondered who would get in the front seats this time, pom and gragma did on the way out so would only be fair for others to get to see the view of take off and landing on the way back? Nope, Pom rushes to the front and gets front view again. Very selfish but am I surprised? At least gragma sat near the back. Ex pat got the other seat. Less bumpy journey this time and thankfully I didn’t feel sick. Lovely views of the Himalayas as we fly away. Touch down nicely and herded onto a bus that takes us to baggage reclaim. We have no idea what time we can get our rooms at the hotel as it’s only 8.30am, but fortunately do find Passang at the baggage reclaim and head off to the bus and to the hotel. You forget about the dirty, dusty, noisy streets. I miss the mountains already. Random cows in the road again, horns blaring as we sit in traffic. Everyone so angry and in a rush. We get to the hotel an unsurprisingly the rooms aren’t available so we all go to buffet breakfast which costs a whole £6! We eat like we haven’t for a month! Western breakfast what a treat. Pancakes, bread, croissants, orange juice, normal (well cats piss) tea. Lovely. Rooms still not ready after brekkie so some of us head to the pool to sunbathe. We do look a sight in our trekking clothes and trekking bags taking over the joint! We don’t swim though as we don’t have our gear and quite frankly we are filthy! As others guests start to come around the pool we start to go inside and wait, free wifi and all that and then oh yes the rooms are ready! Roomy lets me shower first, age before beauty I know!!
Oh yes, what an awesome experience. A hot, powerful, luxurious shower! I spend probably an hour in the shower. I have to shave, wash and condition my hair, wash more than once to get the dirt off my legs for a start!! It feels good to be clean!! Roomy was sorting her suitcase out in that hour and still hadn’t finished!
Roomy and I head into town to visit the huge Sherpa store. We get a taxi from the hotel but they misunderstood us and took us to the Sherpa mall. No idea where we are so just walk to the shops we know. I drag roomy into several trip companies, up seedy stairwells, down alleyways, all in the name of getting me to white water raft and paraglide in my few days before I go home. It looks possible though, I can head off to white water raft on Saturday, then afterwards continue the coach journey to pokhara stay over night, then paraglide the next day, stay another night then fly back to Kathmandu. Can’t spend another whole day on one of those coaches. They are so uncomfortable and it’s a 7 hour journey! And all of this for about £160 what a treat!
We get a rickshaw back to the hotel just because we can!! And then head in to see what others are up to and hear about their awesome massage, so off I head to get a massage. It is the funniest thing ever. The first half she bends me into all kind of weird positions, I feel like I’m going through the karma-sutra book! Then she offers me a bottom massage. I say yes why not! Then I have to ask her to repeat herself as I’m in shock at the next question, ‘do I want a breast or tummy massage?’. Really, a breast massage???? What kind of massage place is this!! Hilarious. I decline!
I feel quite battered, bruised and slightly abused after the hour and a half massage, and I’m covered in weird smelling oil, but I’m sure it did me good?? Now it’s time for my eyebrows to be threaded. Now what a treat that was as well. Into another building that has no electricity so she’s doing it in partial darkness only helped by light through the windows. She kneels on me to get close to my eyebrows. I do feel like a giant next to this petite Nepalese lady, probably only about 4ft 8. After some painful plucking and asking me to check, I can’t really tell, it is dark after all I think it’s all over. I say yes it’s great (get me out of here!!) she then notices something she wants to change more than once! I finally leave not sure I’m relaxed or more beautiful but still. (Back in the Uk I realise my eyebrows are very uneven!)
Back at the hotel the group are all sat down discussing the trip. Hagrid is not happy with the finer details of his tour. He’s tried to work out why it costs so much when we now know the cost of accommodation and mountain passes etc. He also didn’t get picked up from the airport when he arrived so isn’t best pleased about that either. It is bloody expensive. Tour cost is £1500 without flight or food so it’s cost me about £270 for the 21 day tour! Maybe they should put us up in a less expensive hotel before and after the trek, because to be honest anything is luxurious after trekking and it might reduce the price! I find out ex pat accepted the breast massage, in her words ‘it’s the most action I’ve had in weeks!!’. Love it.
We discussed at various points, getting tour t shirts. I love a tour shirt myself but don’t think I discuss it with the right people. Ex pat is not a t shirt girl, and roomy just nods along. Mr miyagi would of helped me organise it but seemingly we have run out of time!!
We head off for our final meal out as a group. Passang is with us and we go to a nice restaurant down the road. I order the special that is from BBQ Wednesday! More because the man behind the BBQ looks bored stiff and I want to give him some work. Passang and indie headed off to get souvenir rum in bottles shaped like a Nepalese knife and are gone for about forty minutes?? The meal is supposed to be a goodbye to Passang as well as all of us but he hardly sits at the table as he’s off chatting to friends constantly. Bit rude? But then maybe we shouldn’t have put him on the end of the table with mr bean and mr miyagi beside him. Should of been with all the other men in the middle so he felt more sociable? Or maybe he’s just not that fussed to spend time with us Trekkers?
The starters come out and I am suddenly adorned with my Wednesday BBQ meal that turns out to be a starter!! Oh great. About 6 bits of BBQ meat for my meal. Luckily loads of people have large meals that they can’t finish so I clean their plates for them and get more of a meal than a starter!!
On the red wine again and kiwi is drunk once more! She pulls the funniest faces when drunk, looks so serious you laugh. Hagrid has a steak but sends it back. I’m sure this is about the fourth or fifth meal this trek he has returned. His steak is just a plate of gristle, so fair enough that he wants a piece of actual meat to eat!!
They have these lovely cosy looking seats at the side of the restaurant so kiwi and I head over for a lie down. I could sleep in there, like a cocoon! We are a bit like Billy no mates mind, no one joins us so we head back to be sociable and well it’s desert time too!!
There’s a band playing at the restaurant which is pretty cool. Although we are the only people here to listen to it. Hagrid does a little presentation for the constantly AWOL Passang. He brought over a necklace from New Zealand and presents it too him. We then say our goodbyes and head back to the hotel for drinks! The oldies (well not all oldies) head to bed but 8 of us stay up in the bar and socialise. We have tequilas due to Mexicans influence, cocktails because they look nice and generally have a fun evening! Ex pat with some Dutch courage asks mini miyagi why his dad lied about his job. His response “he’s just a bit weird about it!!” Mexican opens his heart and tells us that his girlfriend died in a car crash last year, and that’s why he’s come on this trek to try and help him clear his head. He then pays for all the drinks, apparently that’s what they do in Mexico and we are not to argue it. Must be a fortune with 8 people drinking shots and cocktails!! Bless him, such a lovely man and not voldermort like at all! As the bar closes I am knackered and head to bed as do a few others even though there’s a continuation party in hagrids room. However when I get to my room I decided its stupid to go to bed, I’m only here once so have a cup of tea to sober up and head to the after party, although I’m on water now. Party ended up in ex pats room and the late night party animals were ex pat, roomy, Mexican, mini miyagi, Pom and Swiss! So hard core!
Mexican spills his heart out some more, said he didn’t love the girlfriend who dies and feels guilty about it. Poor boys head is a bit of a mess! Swiss and Pom head off at 1.30am in true weasley twin style, following each other, the rest of us last until 2am before ex pat kicks us out! What a fun night with my new friends!!
In the morning we get up at 8.30 to say goodbye to kiwi and indie. Pom left early doors. It’s sad to say goodbye. The group is dispersing! After a huge hangover breakfast it’s time for more sleep, so much so we check out late!! What an awesome experience these last three weeks have been, namaste.

20140516-222503.jpg

20140516-222509.jpg

20140516-222514.jpg

20140516-222522.jpg

Standard

More volunteering, off to Asia!!

Having had to pay £100 for my excess baggage last time I volunteered I was sure I wasn’t doing that this time! Lots of items people have donated, books, t-shirts, games, toiletries all for the orphans and village children to fit in my case, I could fill it practically with just that but mustn’t forget my trekking gear!! It took me 6 efforts firstly to get the damn suit case closed and then to get it to the correct weight. Now I’m supposedly quite intelligent but there’s me trying to read the weight of my case on the scales by lying on the flour, torch in hand! My lodger then says just weigh yourself then weigh yourself holding the case. Genius hey!! Can’t believe I haven’t done that before! Had to leave a few bits behind, cuddly toys, sanitary items, some of my clothing but also my sleeping bag! It was only on the optional list so Let’s hope the blankets are warm enough!
Bed time, 12.30, knackered and try to finish off my book so I don’t take a nearly finished book with me. It’s no use my eyes are too tired.
In the morning I can at least chill a bit as it’s a Sunday although have an emergency visit to vets to fit in as cats ill, but they’re not open until 10.30. Head out for dog walk call vets and get told no appointments but can sit and wait for an emergency. Joy!
We get seen after an hour wait so could of been worse, all sorted!
So load car, dog stuff and travel items as dog staying at parents and off to get a lift with dads taxi I go. He drives me to tube station, cheaper and quicker all round than driving around the M25. Tubes not too busy and the one place I had stairs a nice man carried my case for me. Very helpful on the tube!! A fellow traveller had a panic attack on top of escalators, scared to go on with her case, caused a bit if a commotion bless! Takes just an hour and a half and I’m there. Fingers crossed I weighed my baggage correctly!!
Ethiad very helpful, no issue with case although as ideal I get a big sticker saying heavy!!
Two hours until flight so refreshments time, I toy with getting an alcoholic beverage to chill with at the airport but am so tired I opt for the boring cup of tea, served in a cafetiere no less! I can hear my old hockey mates calling me boing already!! Booked a widow seat so I can chill and not be disturbed. Nice man sat next to me, makes a change from the fat or posh ladies I usually get. We both take shoes off straight away, read the free newspaper then entertainment magazine and settle down like a couple although not talking, so yes maybe like a married couple!!
Movie selection awesome, box office such as 12 years a slave and gravity. Haven’t seen 12 years so that’s on straight away. Cry my eyes out!
Food good enough although that poor husband of mine gets his vegetarian food early then no drink until normal food served. Time for sleep!!
Real mix of people on the plane, a few look like backpackers, families, Arabs.
Stop off is in Abu Dhabi, I manage to nick no maybe aquite is a better word, loads of eye masks for kids games and toothbrushes and socks for them also!
So first stop is Abu dhabi. Saw some amazing buildings as we flew over. Small but nice, toilets adjoining the prayer room. Bit of a random set up. Lush toilets though. Will enjoy the last luxuries for 6 weeks!
Have two hours to kill but can’t find enough space to sleep so read and chill. Happily sitting there when a woman asks If the seat next to me is free although my bag is on it, I move it no worries. Not content at that she then asks me to move as well so her and her friend can sit together! The annoying thing was they never actually both sat down, left their coats there so no one else sat down for about 20 mins then one of them came back then they left!
There are some very odd coloured tanned people at Abu Dhabi. Maybe because I’ve come from winter in he UK but some just looked weird!
Head to gate and start to panic, security check, no I’m not carrying illegals but have my drinks with me. Better be allowed liquids bought in an airport I get very thirsty on the plane.
Phew either you’re allowed or they weren’t looking properly, either way I’m happy.
A few Trekkers to be seen now with walking boots on. Sweltering like me In winter clothing!
It’s a mini plane to Kathmandu. Only 6 seats wide and 25 back?
A French dude is sat in my window seat. He says sorry his group told him to sit there!! Mmmhhhh. Same movies to choose from so I watch the delivery man, bit crap but hey it’s entertained me, then sleep. Only managed 4 hours in total I think.
No eye masks to acquire this time but keep my headphones. Such a chav!
I’m feeling sick from the heat in the plane. Yuck. Off into well kind of fresh air I suppose but quite warm and dusty. In to airport and visa time. Tried doing it online but no one allowed me. The bloody queue was a hour long. And I’ve booked for 36 days costing me $50 more than being here for 30 days or less. Doh!
Head to baggage reclaim, it’s taken so long the left luggage is in a pile in the middle of the room!
Outside I go looking for my name being held aloft. Exciting to be greeted. Oh, nope no one there for me. How disappointing. Third time I’ve been waiting and no one showed on my travels. Fortunately they are all friendly here and someone knows my company and calls him, 10 mins late. Is that like Peruvian time I wonder?
Whilst waiting I people watch, some trendy young lads swagger past, a young girl in heeled shows too big for her and make up rather cakes on. Peruvian time it is 25 mins later the host and his wife pick me up. Nice people, chat a bit. It’s exam time here so apparently I can’t go into the school to teach. Bit disappointed. Still all volunteering. We stop for the mrs to go shopping and she’s ages, I’m so tired I fall asleep. I did tell myself it’s a tad dangerous to fall asleep in a strange country in a strangers car by my eyes were so heavy. I awake and am in tact anyway!
Off to their house, where I stay for one night, traffic is awful. Dusty roads, motorbikes dodging in and out, crazy buses again just like Peru. And monkeys walking the streets.
At the house I’m greeted by another volunteer and the families three kids. The volunteer is Australian, young lad on a gap year of sorts. Kids all speak English. Wifi here! Yay. Last chance for a while I assume.
My room is large, bathroom to my self I think so all good. I show the host lady the bits I brought over for the kids. Let’s just say I’ve seen more gratitude for an off cup of milk! Bit disappointing to be honest.
They cook us dinner, and we head up. The grandfather in the house starts first and eats with his hands. Now it’s all traditional I know that but I just couldn’t get my head around it. Looks like starving children desperate to eat their first meal? They allow us to use cutlery so thankfully the two of us do our western thing! The boys have a fight at the table shouting and punching, they drink out of he communal bottle of water. Odd odd odd!
I offer to wash up but she declines.
Head off for a shower and just as I’m about to jump, well step into wet side (not an actual shower) of bathroom the lights go out! I thought it was just the timer so dress again and go outside, no a power cut. Lucky I wasn’t in the shower already!
Sorted after 10 minutes and try again. The shower hose is broken so it’s not a shower it’s a waterfall. Hot though so that’s a bonus! 9.30 bedtime as up at 6am to have a 6 hour drive to orphanage!

Standard

31 hour commute cusco to essex

First challenge, was my suitcase within baggage allowance! Yes, bang on. Although that meant I did indeed leave nearly 40kg of stuff for the orphans! The problem with booking connecting flights through an agency is timings don’t always match up! So after flight one I had 8 hours at an airport to kill. Was planning on checking baggage in them sightseeing in Lima. You walk out of arrivals to a gaggle of Peruvians……
Taxi taxi Madame! I is official, look, see!!! Gggrrrrrr!! Anyway over to check in, noooooo inertia not open for 4 hours! Can’t cart luggage into Lima so airport for the day it is! Off for some lunch but more harassment trying to sit in a cafe, every man and his friend try to convince you what you should be doing! Well I sit down and start people watching to amuse myself!
There’s a lady stuck on carpet mat they have at escalators, heavy box falling off noone helps, just walk around her, then there’s a woman pushing trolley in platforms and leopard print leggings….really! Backpackers with everything but the kitchen sink hanging from rucksack, looking rather unclean from the travelling. Newbies being caught out by taxi harassers en route out of airport. Going to be costly. Business class do have a snobbishness walk about them, no queuing and knowing they’ll have a bed! Lucky them!
Peruvian pair of ladies, one with the biggest muffin top her jeans are buckling under the weight and her mate in bright pink leggings and tight top, see through too. No idea where they’re going, walk last four times!
Sat between a gay British man and an Adolph hitler look a like, now that’s a mix!! A British man asks if we’re waiting for Madrid flight then his Peruvian wife turns up, huge age gap!! Internet wife maybe? The man then asks if there’s many people in the queue, there is no queue it’s not bloody open! Then as soon as a few bodies appear at check in area about 15 go and queue. The flights in 4 hours what is the bloody rush!!!
Random ‘cool dudes’ walking past in sunglasses, it’s not sunny outside let alone inside sados!
Gay man trotted off to business class, didn’t gauge that!! After 4 1/2 hours of waiting check in opened yay! Which also meant I could go for a wee. Daren’t leave my luggage before. After heading through passport control I looked for the phone shop to return hired phone. Nowhere. Start panicking. I have this bloody phone what do I do. No information desk so finally find an English speaking security guy who sorts it. They pick it up from my gate. Phew! Loving the toilets with seats, toilet roll and a flush. Luxury!!
See the odd couple again at passport control, he’s called into immigration office.
I’m looking forward to my movie time on the plane. As I get on I’m right at the back, next to a man. He then asks to move. Wow, I offended quickly! The planes half empty so he heads in a free row. Fair enough. Just settled in and the disappointment hits. No tv on chair in front, no movies to choose from. Gutted! Shitty airbus! Then work out why man moved, he can sleep on the row of 4 chairs and get comfy. Missed a trick there! But I have 2 seats to myself. Have a fat Peruvian child behind me, can tell I’m tired as I’m ready to shout at the annoying child for her constant banging the chair. Weird couple get on plane so clearly immigration freed him!
Load of crappy documentaries on generic tv! So crap. Food good though, metal cutlery! Although the dried milk in the tea looks all lumpy, interesting!
Flight pretty good in the end, got some sleep.
Second connecting flight was a half hour walk. So time passed quickly. Again the plane wasn’t full so space next to me, although a very arrogant looking Spanish woman with her guggi bag plonks it down in the spare seat, cheeky cow. I fall asleep and wake up to find her spread out even more, using the table as well.
Weird couple on this plane too, just keep seeing them. It’s just an odd set up I can’t but look at them!
My fear of flying I had for a few years seems to be cured after about 13 flights this year, however the landing at London was a bit hairy, must be the fog!
Waiting at baggage claim I pop to the loo, not only are they posh looking and clean but Christmas songs playing. Made me smile! ‘Driving home for Christmas yeah’. Very apt!
I now have the joy of travelling across the capital to get picked up. Love the tube. Forgot it was rush hour! Firstly there’s people having an argument down one end, then a drunk rasta man mumbling. I hop off at hammersmith to change tubes, didn’t realise you have to trek across the busy road in the rain! Mistake! Head back on tube. Drunks at tower hill, and that’s the older generation! Christmas jumpers around. Great fun. An hour and a half later I get to my pick up and there’s my mum and pooch greeting me, what an excellent greeting!!
Shame the roads were an issue and it takes nearly 2 hours to do a 30 min drive. Some of that’s due yo my mums snail like driving but most due to the national car park!
31 hours later I’m home!!

Standard