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Can'tcun

I know, it doesn't really work and looks a lot like a swear word.

35 °C
View Central America 2021 on cblanc102's travel map.

Just a little update...

It was going so well, or as well as can be expected.

Firstly, Mum is ok, thanks for all the best wishes and love, it was amazing. She's still in hospital and getting better far too slowly for everyone (including her), but she is slowly on the mend. She'll be inside a while.

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Some amazing looking hotels here

So I arrived in Mexico last Saturday and treated it like a bit of a holiday. Cancun is great, lots of beaches, lots of stuff to do, (very) hot weather and I found a fantastic AirBnB here with a hot tub on the roof. Bliss.

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Enjoying said rooftop hottub

I spent the first half of the week chilling out and visiting attractions. I went to a water park, drove a speedboat out to the coral reef and snorkeled, did the wheel, aquarium, that sort of stuff. It was all going well. Also, the wifi here is much better, allowing me to video chat with Mum and family and friends. All I had to do was sit here, drink iced coffee and wait until I leave next week.

And then of course everything went to shit.

The UK Government is making Mexico a red country from Sunday, so I need to leave. I'm not even sure if what I'm doing is right, but it's what I'm doing. I'll have a week saved of 'amber' and then add an extra four days in America before I fly home. The problem comes if they decide that because I have been in Mexico in the past 10 days and it'll be red by then so it counts as red, then I'm screwed.

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The lizards here are funny looking too

I've tried Citizens Advice, The British Embassy, online, even Simon Calder and no one can tell me definitively if what I'm doing is right. In my mind I will not have been in a 'red' country for more than 10 days so that's fine. If the customs people disagree though, it's worth nothing. It's all just so confusing and I only have myself to blame for it all, travelling right now is bonkers as I'm sure many others have also found out. It's worth pointing out though, that by the time I get back to England, I will have not been in a red country for 12 days and will have had 2 covid tests in the five days previous. What more do they want??

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The only upside is that I've chosen to spend my four days in Orlando, where I can do Disney for a couple of days! I love me some Disney and even visiting there in the middle of a hot pandemic summer with packed out parks is better than no Disney at all. Hopefully it will make the four flight, 28 hour plus journey worth while!

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I've never stayed at a hotel with a pig in it before!

I wrote that last night... Then came to bed to discover my flight to Orlando had been cancelled. It was no big issue really, I had another flight booked within 20 mins, but it was still stress. Just like today when I tried to book a car and a couple of tickets to Disney only to discover my bank card has been blocked for the fifth time in as many weeks and I'll have to wait until the morning to unblock it. Seriously Nationwide, could you be any more incompetent? I'll be shutting that account down in a week. Finally, I realised I had forgotten to book my US Visa (ESTA), but again, it was done in under half an hour. Phew.

Still, it's a fair representation of this entire trip. At least it's given me something to write about

Posted by cblanc102 04:51 Archived in Mexico Tagged animals boats lizards flying beach travel bus hostels holiday aeroplane disney flights theme_parks vaccination united_states Comments (0)

We were on a break!


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So it's been just under a week since I last posted a blog, a long time for me, but, it's not just laziness...

Since I last posted, I've travelled from The Galapagos to Guayaquil, from there to Cuenca, then back to Guayaquil on an amazingly beautiful bus ride through the clouds until I eventually caught a flight to Lima, Peru and finally now to Cusco Peru. That's a lot of travelling! In fact I've now travelled over 10,000 miles this trip!!

I've also been planning. I pretty much have the entire rest of the trip planned out to a degree now, ending on September 7th when I land at Gatwick. That will be about 4 months, which is enough. As I said before, 6 months was too long for me.

I've also had problems with my bloody laptop, which has taken to turning itself off (sort of) indiscriminately. At any point, sometimes before I've even had a chance to log in on the computer, the screen will go blank. It could go black, or white or now, sometimes blue. I have no idea, but it's a massive pain in the arse .I have found though that the power needs to be in all the time, or else it goes straight to the blank screen, and if I have a video running in the background, even YouTube, it tends not to do it. Although I have to reboot many times tonight just while writing this (and watching Ted Lasso)

An update for this, it looks like I need a replacement battery. They're not expensive, but I doubt I'll be able to sort it until I get home, I'll have to soldier on..

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Amazing views as you enter into the clouds

My week was pretty much this:

Flew back to Guayaquil, stayed there for one day, left my water bottle in a cab (that's twice now I've lost the same bottle at £20 a pop)
Got a four hour bus to Cuenca, which was very nice and the hotel was great, so I stayed for four days instead of two.
Got a Covid test. Passed
Took the bus back to Guayaquil where I took a flight to Cusco Peru, via Lima and an 8 hour layover.

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They had a working fountain in Cuenca! Most others I've seen have been turned off during the pandemic

Cusco (or Cuzco, it seems interchangeable) Is a lovely town in the Peruvian Andes, it's the Gateway to Machu Picchu, which is where I'm heading Wednesday, or at least starting my four day tour. Its surrounded by mountains, filled with lovely colonial buildings and some Aztec ruins, is pretty cheap and has great food. Although I did see this sign today outside a restaurant!

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I always enjoy humanizing my food before I eat it

Of course, I din't eat guinea pig! Of course not! No, I ate alpaca! and it was lovely, and the alpaca burger, amazing chips, strange barley drink and an incredible passion fruit cheesecake came to less than £6, including tip! Although it was a bit off after seeing the people parading their alpacas for photos on the square. Sorry buddy, but you taste great!

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Bloody lovely dinner!

I had given myself two days space to acclimatize to the altitude, but I needn't have bothered, I feel fine, so maybe tomorrow or Weds I'll take a tour somewhere, maybe the rainbow mountains.

Until then I've not much to add, although I have some thoughts..

It's cold now! It's 20 odd degrees here during the day, but down to as much as minus two at night. I don't have the clothes for this.

I haven't seen any pubs, in fact, I didn't see any in Cuenca Ecuador either. Perhaps it's not much of a thing in South America? I saw a couple in Quito

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What is the point of cash machines issuing expensive notes if no one wants to take them? This has been a thing across my entire trip! Ive spent the last couple of months trying to use $20 notes and now the machines in Peru give out 200 Sol notes, about the equivalent of £40. No one wants them!! I could take out smaller amounts each time, but I get charged for using the bloody machine.

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I am constantly pounced upon by people after money here. You can't walk 15 steps without someone offering you something. It's mostly fine and they're only trying to make a living, but some won't take no for an answer. There are many people here selling identical art from identical folders that they claim is original (it's not). I explained to one guy that I can't buy anything because then I'd have to drag it across two continents, but he wouldn't have it, then saw me again later and followed me around for ages again. There are people selling tours, selfie sticks, fruit, sweets, photos with alpacas all in one square. It's relentless. I'm very lucky to have my life, lucky to be here, I shouldn't moan, but it's a pain...

They REALLY like to dress their dogs up here. All the dogs look like Dodger from Oliver & Co, some even have little toys tied around their necks. It pretty funny

Right, I'll try to update this more this week and ahead, I have lots of plans to see lots of things in Peru, so I should have stuff to talk about!

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Posted by cblanc102 12:29 Archived in Peru Tagged mountains art animals sky night food flying hiking travel bus drink panama weather aeroplane beauty flights alcohol south_america galapagos central_america latin_america ecuador solo_travel Comments (0)

Just when you thought it was safe to go back into the water

This post is sponsored by Kevin and Lisa!*


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Yes, I've been waiting forever to use a Jaws (2) tagline for my blog....

So while I made a big deal about 'Doing the Galapagos on the cheap', there were some things I really wanted to do or see.

Firstly, I wanted to see several animals. Sea lions, marine iguanas, giant tortoises and Darwin's finches. I would also have loved to have gone scuba diving, having passed my advance PADI course last year. It was very expensive though. Very fortunately, I have some lovely friends who gave me some money for Christmas / Birthday last year (Thank you so much Kevin and Lisa!! XX) that I was able to use to do just that. Go diving in the Galapagos!

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These plants are like tiny Chinese lanterns, amazing!

I had looked around and decided that I wanted to go to a place called Kicker Rock. It was the place where they said there was the best chance to see hammerhead sharks. I needed no more convincing! I found a place that I liked the look of, went and spoke to them, checked out their equipment (VERY important! All Scuba companies are not the same!) and booked my spot for the next day, which would consist of two dives and an afternoon at a beach in the NW of the Island.

I arrived the next morning, very excited and raring to go. I met my dive partners. An older German guy who works as a photographer and was also once a German Navy Seal!! and a young Israeli guy, fresh out of national service and now travelling the world. We went over our diving plan, signals etc and got our equipment. After a quick dip to check it all out, the boat sped off to Kicker Rock and we were ready to go!

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A pretty happy Chris!

I've only ever dived in Thailand, across eight or nine sites off the island of Koh Tao, but apart from the advance dives (a 30 meter dive with almost zero visibility, a night dive and a shipwreck dive) they were all fairly similar. Teaming with life, great visibility. How did these dives compare? There seemed to be a lot less variety of life, but what they had was amazing!

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You know that thing where you're 20 meters under the surface of the ocean and you look around to see ten hammerhead sharks swim by? No? Well I do now! I have no photos (I'll get some from the pro photographer!) but I took videos with my fake GoPro and made a video, so here's the link!

https://youtu.be/A3V39iV_k58

It was amazing! I saw about 12 or 13 hammerheads in all, 2 black tip sharks, loads and loads of turtles and a sea lion. It was two of the best dives I've done. It really ignited my love of diving too. I love being underwater and I hope to dive again somewhere this trip!

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Oh yeah! There were loads of dolphins too!

The next day I went on a highlands tour. It was arranged by the ladies who owned the house I was staying at. Basically it's a tour run by all the taxi drivers on the island, usually about four hours long and costing around $50 - $60.

At this point, I should mention the taxis on San Cristobal. At least 50% of the vehicles on the road were taxis, these big pick up trucks that drive around honking at anyone walking on the road. It's a marvel that the island survived the pandemic as far as tourism money is concerned as so much of the island's economy rests on it. At one point the island was pretty much running on a barter system. Thankfully Ecuador has a really successful vaccination program running right now!

So my driver came and picked me up and we headed to our three destinations: A lagoon in a volcano, a giant tortoise sanctuary and a beach on the North of the island. We headed first to the volcano, only for the weather to turn suddenly and the visibility was so bad we decided to come back later. Off to the sanctuary!

There's no animal I identify more with the Galapagos than the giant tortoise. I could go on about this for a while, but the differences between these gentle giants across the islands were one of the things that helped nudge Darwin to his Theory of Evolution (which I read again on the flight to the Galapagos! lol). I couldn't wait to see them.

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I can't help it. I see these and have the Baby Elephant song in my head. Wrong animal, I know! I can't help it! Now you have the Baby elephant song in your head too. No? Don't know the song? Google it, I'll wait. Now you have it in your head. Forever

The sanctuary has two parts. An area where you walk around in the hope you'll see some tortoises and a breeding centre filled with tiny baby giants (is that a triple oxymoron?). Often I've been to these places where you walk around for ages trying to spot anything at all, but not here. The tortoises were everywhere!

Only a few of them were big enough for a saddle, but riding the big ones was.... I'm joking!! Don't try to ride the giant tortoises!!

They'll likely bite you I think. I doubt that'll feel great.

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He'll bite you. He'll mess you up

After an hour or so of watching these ancient animals, some well over a hundred years old, we went down to the beach. Not much to see here really. Very nice beach, but no better than the beaches back where I was staying and far more crowded than some along the island, but a nice walk nonetheless. Time to head back to the volcano.

Oh the bloody volcano. Still no visibility, I went anyway. Got wet, saw little, got bloody muddy, walked back down. I'm sure it's lovely when you can see it. Great, thanks.

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Great

I'd now seen and done everything I needed to see and do. Had it been 'on the cheap'? Well. Considering you need to fly to Ecuador to get where I started, then pay for a £170 flight to get to the island, then another £90 because you're not Ecuadorian, then another £70 Galapagos tax to help the ecology, maybe it can't be done on the cheap. Add to that the £150 I did in tours and you're already at £500 odd.

But when I was there, I mostly cooked my own food, did a lot of hiking and things that were free, I had an amazing time, swam with sea lions, dived with sharks and hand fed giant tortoises. I almost saw a volcano lagoon.

I think it was well worth the price.

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  • This post was of course, not sponsored by anyone, although Kev and Lisa helped pay for the diving! If any of you are interested in using your

hard earned money to pay for me to live out my dreams, it's more than welcome! I've never tried lobster! Chuck me £20 and I'll do that! Another £20 and I'll zip line! I could try any number of things, we could make a game of it, although there's likely a limit, I'll not have sex with anything weird or wear an 'I love Dartford'* T-shirt for cash. there's not enough money in the world for that.

Or I guess you could just spend that money on doing something fun for yourself! But probably giving it to me is a better idea

  • Also, one of my posts here has hit 1000 views! Far more friends than I have on Facebook, Twitter or anywhere really, so maybe I should cut out all the local references for readers who have no idea what I'm going on about. Or it's my responsibility to help hundreds of people around the world realise what a hole Dartford is and help them avoid it.

Posted by cblanc102 05:18 Archived in Ecuador Tagged mountains lakes beaches animals birds boats turtles islands water padi diving wildlife hiking travel hostels island dolphins scuba sharks underwater beauty trails galapagos solo solo_travel hammerheads Comments (0)

Doing the Galapagos Islands on the Cheap

Another Sisyphean task

sunny 26 °C
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The main reason I had come to Guayaquil was as a stop on the way to the Galapagos Islands. To come all this way and not visit them seemed insane to me, but I have limited money and everyone was telling me how expensive the place is. But as ever, I persisted.

I had found a nice cheap flight for £170 and a room in someone's house for £7 a night. Great start! All this came crashing down around me at the airport.

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That way lies Asia

The process to visit the Galapagos is a bit convoluted. I first went to the counter, to be told I had to do the check in on one of the online machines. This was annoying, as it wouldn't let me do the online check in the night before, so why now? Once this was done, I then had to go get my back checked for banned items. You aren't allowed any non processed food stuffs as they're worried about damaging the eco system. Fair enough. Coffee was allowed though, so I was good. I then had to go pay for some travel card thing, which was another $20 and I was good to go.

But when I went to drop of my rucksack at the counter, I was told that I had bought an 'Ecuadorian flight ticket' and I would have to pay another $130!! I was pretty steamed at this point and if my plane ticket had been refundable I'd have likely cut off my nose to spite my face and told them to stick it up their arses. Fortunately after a couple of conversations with friends and family, saner heads prevailed and I paid up and got on the plane. I didn't buy a coffee in the airport. That will show them!

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They really love Paul Bettany here! - Only one person I know will get that joke

So 185 years, 9 months and 27 days after Charles Darwin arrived in The Beagle, I arrived on a jet plane that landed about a mile from where he did. Darwin thought the island a deserted and isolated place when he initially arrived and my first impressions were pretty similar, but I soon changed my mind (as did he) as I started to explore the island.

For starters, as has been the way in most places I've been this trip, everyone is really nice. The family who own the house where I'm staying are lovely and despite little English being spoken and my continually crap Spanish, we seem to be communicating fine. The room was great, pretty basic, like most of the island, and terrible wifi, but you know, it's a small island in the Pacific Ocean 500 miles away from anywhere, it's a bit of a miracle they have wifi and phone service at all really! The phone service isn't really that bad either, I'm using it right now to uploads the pics on here because the wifi isn't cutting it.

Anyway, after dumping my stuff, I soon took a walk down to the beach to see if I could see any wildlife around. I was in for a bit of a shock.

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Loads of animals everywhere!

The wildlife here is everywhere and I've only seen 5% of it. From the multitudes of birds, big and small, to the lizards everywhere, you can't walk 100 meters without spotting something, but when I got to the water and visited the closest beach to where I'm staying, I found it filled with sea lions, scores of them! Now you hear people talking about how the animals here don't view humans as predators so don't care about you, but their absolute ambivalence towards you is amazing really. They really could care less about you unless you go near their babies or they want to play with you.

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I'm like Attenborough

And there are very few rules as to being around them. You're told to keep 6 feet away and not to touch them, that's about it and not always possible as they'll come right up to you whenever they please. You're supposed to walk away, but no one does, the result is some lovely close up pics of hundreds of (mostly sleeping) sea lions as I went from beach to beach. I also saw loads of marine iguanas, another of the animals I really wanted to see. All I need do now is pay a taxi to take me to the top of the island to where the giant tortoises live and I'll have seen the three land animals on my tick list!

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Ahhh

The price of things isn't too bad for the most part either, considering everything that's being sold has been shipped over 500 miles to get here. I've found the food is pretty reasonable, especially if you go to one of the many little restaurants that are just really extensions of people's houses, but I had a huge burrito at a restaurant in town for just eight dollars, so that wasn't too bad. I did see a normal sized bottle of Jack Daniels in a supermarket for $80 though!!!

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It was a big old burrito!

I'm mostly just walking / hiking around. This morning I woke up and went swimming in the ocean with the sea lions. I'd call it a once in a lifetime experience if I didn't expect to wake up and do it again tomorrow! It really was amazing sharing the water with them as they checked me out, swimming around me and then showing off some leaping out the water. I've taken some video, so hopefully I can do something with that.

Over the next few days I want to do a couple of scuba dives and also take a tour up to the volcano and down to the tortoises, other than that I just want to discover as much of the island as I can and maybe try out the three for $10 mohitos I saw at the beach!

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Posted by cblanc102 14:23 Archived in Ecuador Tagged landscapes beaches animals birds planes boats islands water diving flying hiking beach travel volcano drink hostels island scuba plane beauty flights trails coffee journey south_america galapagos ecuador solo problems solo_travel Comments (1)

Literal highs and lows

The Andes are a pain in the arsies


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So it must have been longer than I thought since my last blog post as I was talking about day 48 then and I've now passed 50.


The journey so far

Banos continued to be a great time as I travelled into the Amazon jungle, another tick off the old bucket list, although I hope to go even deeper into there when I visit Peru in a few weeks. The trip was great, although it started off a bit ropey as we went down a river in a boat cut out of a log that had no real business being on the water. As always, like an idiot, I had my wallet on me, so was more worried than I needed to be about falling in as we hit rocks, got stuck in the middle of the river and generally bobbed and swayed like the uncontrolled log we were.

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We were lucky not to drown! Luck and the fact the water was about 2 foot deep

Miraculously, we managed to stay afloat and dryish and proceeded an hour further into the jungle to visit the Huaorani tribe in their village. It was pretty touristy, with native dances and demonstrations. We drank some drink, I have no idea what it was, but was told by my guide that before the coronavirus it was made with spit rather than water. Chalk on up to the virus!

We then hiked up through the jungle to a waterfall. After some much tougher hikes, this was a breeze! I'm pretty pleased with my generally improving fitness! At the top everybody jumped into the pool at the bottom of the waterfall. I say everyone, it was everyone apart from the guides and me! It was raining and the water was bloody cold! I did the swimming in the waterfall pool thing in Costa Rica, where it was 35 degrees. I'll give this a miss cheers!

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All good things must come to an end though and the next day was my day to travel to Guayaquil. It was a 5.5 hour journey, but I've had worse. Or so I thought! Pretty much the entire journey apart from the last hour was just slaloming down through the Andes mountains. It was terrible. I couldn't read a book, watch a movie or anything because as soon as I looked away from the road I felt sick. I'm usually fine, but this was really hard. I tried to sleep a bit and I could listen to music or a podcast, but I had to keep my eyes on the road the whole time. Fortunately the Ecuadorian landscape is stunning! But it was small consolation to me as the journey went on for 7 hours straight.

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Guayaquil Cemetery is pretty bloody incredible!

Guayaquil is going to be a bit of a rest for me, I don't have anything much planned. Today was spent walking around, getting to know the place, with a stop at a square filled with meter long iguanas! It was crazy seeing them all just walking around the park. They didn't care about the people there at all, and the park was filled with them. I hadn't realised how many there actually were until I narrowly avoided being hit by a stream of lizard piss and looked up to see the trees filled with them too! There must have been a hundred there!

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Iguanas and turtles and Koi oh my!

Tomorrow is for the football (It's coming home!) and then Monday will likely just be getting ready for the Galapagos, so I may be away a few days, but I thought as I've passed day 50, in fact now day 52, I'd update with some stats:

I have travelled a total of 8,277 miles, through 4 countries if you include the 2 hours I was in Spain on day 1.

I have stayed at 15 hostels, hotels and apartments in 14 different towns and cities so far. The shortest time I stayed in a room was one night (The hostel in La Fortuna filled with kids). The longest I stayed in a place was a week, in Boquete, where I could have stayed even longer.

I have travelled a conservative 64 hours so far by plane, boat, car and oh so many buses. That doesn't include any time waiting for buses or sat in airports etc. I have walked 240 miles so far. Up and down mountains, through rivers, jungle, rainforests, beaches and mangrove swamps. I don't know how much weight I've lost as I can't find any scales, but I'm using a hole in my belt that's never been used before.

I've seen countless new animals, but highlights are Howler Monkeys, Sloths, Hummingbirds and Tapirs!

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And this lazy bastard

I have lost or broken very little thankfully. I had a towel stolen on day 3 or so, lost a sock a few weeks in, so tossed the other one, cracked the back of my phone, but that can be fixed and the strap broke on my small bag, so I replaced it with a small rucksack.

I broke a fingernail in half, got dirt stuck up my thumbnail after a slip that hurt a lot more than you'd imagine and of course did something to my back 20 mins before leaving that seriously affected my first few weeks of travel. I've also been bitten by mosquitoes about a million times.

I'm having a fine time, and it's getting better. I missing everyone very much though.

Right, I'm gonna go, some hippy looking guy is doing something weird with a flower covered stick in the hostel and I want to see what's going on!

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I can't get enough of hiking through jungles

Posted by cblanc102 05:40 Archived in Ecuador Tagged waterfalls skylines people animals birds planes rainforest wildlife hiking beach travel bus hostels jungle costa_rica aeroplane bugs beauty flights ferry coffee south_america central_america ecuador solo solo_travel coronavirus Comments (0)

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