A Travellerspoint blog

Entries about boats

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.

20210802_102141.jpg
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.

20210801_142038.jpg
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.

20210802_131914.jpg
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??

20210803_175827.jpg

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!

20210806_111643.jpg
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)

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

This post is sponsored by Kevin and Lisa!*


View Central America 2021 on cblanc102's travel map.

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!

20210717_140039.jpg
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!

20210716_084250.jpg
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!

scuba.jpg

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!

20210716_120756.jpg
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.

20210718_105048.jpg
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.

20210718_103308.jpg
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.

20210718_120959.jpg
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.

20210718_113804.jpg

  • 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
View Central America 2021 on cblanc102's travel map.

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.

20210714_155540.jpg
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!

20210714_153534.jpg
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.

20210714_101054.jpg
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.

20210713_161456.jpg
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!

20210713_144303.jpg
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!!!

20210713_181108.jpg
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!

20210713_160419.jpg20210713_172331.jpg20210713_161516.jpg

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)

This is more like it


View Central America 2021 on cblanc102's travel map.

So I'm 48 days into this trip and finally it's starting to feel like it's working right.

Ecuador has been consistently great, I know I'm only 5 days in, but usually that's long enough for me to mess things up in some way! I've got the next 3 weeks planned and starting to get an idea about the next couple after that, but things are a lot easier to plan when you're not having to rush them. Importantly as well, things are a lot cheaper here which has opened up the whole trip for me.

20210705_121827.jpg
Volcanoes everywhere you look here

For instance. In Costa Rica, on average I paid around £8 per night for a room in a hostel, and around £12 for my own room. In Quito it was £3.50 for my own room and I'm currently paying £4 for a whole apartment in Banos!

20210706_234016.jpg
£4 a night, free coffee too!

In La Fortuna, Costa Rica, white water rafting cost over £70, today I paid just £20. I'm going on a tour on Friday that's around the same price but lasts 13 hours!

P1010359.JPG

The food here is cheap too, there's loads of street food at $1 all over the place, but last night I splashed out and had a massive burger and chips for £3. There's also a really cheap enormous supermarket next door for anything I need.

20210705_190620.jpg
It was huge!

I was never short of money here, but I put things off in Costa Rica and Panama because of how expensive they were, hoping they'd be cheaper here or knowing they are cheaper in Asia when I get back there. I had wondered before when I was feeling a bit down here what was different during the last trip and it's finally hit me, I did what I liked.

I didn't worry about money or anything really. Bangkok was super cheap, I did my PADI on Koh Tao, slept in a floating village and trekked through jungle at Kao Sok. And I stayed in hotels all the time because they cost next to nothing. Ecuador actually feels like that and it's made it far easier to pay out on the big things like the Galapagos when the smaller things don't cost an arm and a leg.

20210706_191809.jpg
Is this a thing in the UK?? A KFC 'pizza' with chicken breasts as a base? There's your heart attack right there!

Which brings me to Banos (pronounced ban-yos), a small town in Central Ecuador in the shadow of a volcano (like everywhere here) that seems far more touristy than it would be just because of it's adventure sports and proximity to the Amazon Rainforest. At first sight, the place looks a bit of a dump, with nearly all buildings either hostels, restaurants, souvenir shops or places selling adventure tours. I should also give a special shout out to barber shops and online gaming places of which there seems to be far too many of. But it has a charm to it, the people are great, there's a waterfall about every 100 meters and if you're looking up rather than down or ahead the place is stunningly beautiful.

It's also surrounded by thermal baths, which use the hot water from the volcano nearby. The one I went to tonight had three pools at increasing temperatures, going from 'warm' to 'bastard hot!' I lasted about 2 mins in the latter. I may try a different one tomorrow morning as I'm sure to be achy after the white water rafting I did today!

20210706_190824.jpg
They light the waterfall at night next to the baths. Very nice

To say I had an amazing day is an understatement. A six hour trip, including about 90 mins of actual rafting time and a really nice lunch after all for £20 was fantastic. I can't believe I've never done it before and am looking forward to doing it again in Peru next month. It's just pure fun! For anyone who's been to Orlando, it's like being on the Popeye ride, but it lasts over an hour and you're working constantly to not fall out the boat.

P1010317.JPG
AND IT HASN'T RAINED IN 5 DAYS!!!

I ended my day after the rafting and baths by taking a walk around the town to make my 30 miles walked this week as I almost didn't make it after barricading myself in my hotel room for two days in Colon, Panama and then spending a day travelling to Ecuador to escape. I made it though, and after 7 weeks, I've now walked 217 miles! pretty good I think!

P1010253.JPG

And on that note, I'm going to bed. I have an easy day tomorrow doing little and waiting for the England match at 2pm (here). As always Come on England!

I shall be back in a few days with hopefully some amazing pics!

Posted by cblanc102 04:58 Archived in Ecuador Tagged waterfalls mountains night boats food rainforest hiking travel volcano thailand drink hostels jungle weather costa_rica beauty coffee journey south_america central_america latin_america ecuador solo solo_travel Comments (0)

Jungle Love

Surely it should rain in the rainforest??


View Discovering South East Asia on cblanc102's travel map.

This is a post I meant to write a week ago, but with everything going on I just didn't get around to it, but Bangkok is pretty much closed down now and I'm heading up to Chiang Mai at 6pm and the kind girl running the hostel today said that it was fine for me to sit up on the roof deck until I have to leave. So I have some time.

So two weeks ago I was staying in a bamboo hut, nursing my sunburnt back and dreading my journey to Khao Sok. Don't get me wrong, I was very much looking forward to being there, I felt I'd spent too much time on the island, but I just wasn't looking forward to the travel. Carrying my pack with a burnt back was not going to be fun!

It was actually worse than I'd expected.

The pack carrying part was ok. My backpack is bloody marvelous, with lots of ways to carry it, and as I'd thrown some bits away was now both a tad lighter and a lot easier to pack. It was the journey itself that was annoying. The journey out had been fine, well organised with easy follow-able instructions about how to do each part of the journey. Not so this time, as I stood around wondering where the hell I was supposed to be and what boat I was supposed to take. As it turned out, there was only one boat, but who knew?? I eventually saw someone with a similar sticker to me. We were all given stickers and luggage tags with our final destination written on, so it was fairly easy to find someone with the same sticker and hope to hell they knew what they were doing!

I knew the journey was going to take 8 or so hours, but thought that it would be two hours by boat and the rest by minibus, but it was actually two boat trips of two hours, a good 90 mins wait in between and the rest by minibus. Both boat rides were pretty horrendous, very bumpy with people being sick and falling over you as they attempted to traverse the isles. The minibus was then hot and stuffy, with a random change in the middle and I couldn't sit back and rest as my back was covered in blisters...

However. The scenery on the minibus ride went from being lovely to breathtaking. Generally as you travel outside the cities in Thailand it looks great. Palm trees and the like everywhere, interesting little shrines in the unlikeliest of places, wildlife, people going about their days with interesting looking cargo. But when I was about half an hour away from my hotel, the landscape changed into huge limestone cliffs everywhere surrounded by jungle. It was incredible. Even the dirty bus station I arrived at looked amazing because of the scenery. I got a cab to my hotel.

In 2013 I did my first proper solo trip, to Nepal. It was pretty cheap I thought at the time. A 10 day guided tour of the country including 3 days hiking in the Himalayas, 3 days full board at another place, then three days in Mumbai, India all for under £1000. I had been in a very nice hotel in a town called Pokhara, then up into the mountains and was heading south to Chitwan National Park in the Jungle. I had been driven there by a guy who obviously didn't know where the hotel was at the other end. We drove to a couple of places, before ending up at the most beautiful place I'd ever seen. Surely this couldn't be my hotel on the amount I'd paid? But of course it

That was how I felt when I arrived at Nung House in Khao Sok. The place was stunning, surrounded by trees in the shadow of giant limestone cliffs with a beautiful garden and lovely little cottages around the border. This place had cost me £6 a night for my own room! I was then told that someone was still in my room so they were bumping me up to deluxe for a couple of nights, even better! Over the next week or so I actually stayed in three different rooms there, the least of which was great. Also the staff there couldn't have been nicer or more helpful. I was very lucky to have found the place. Well, not lucky I guess. I do a lot of work on finding the right places!

DSC01398.jpg

The village itself is just really one long road with a load of hotels and restaurants along it or shooting off it, but it had everything I needed, including a little shop about 30 meters away that sold most bits and did fruit smoothies. This is where I discovered passion fruits. Where have you been all my life? (Answer: I have actively avoided all but the most basic of fruits for most of my life)

After a few days of relaxing, I booked a tour out to Cheow Lan Lake. This is a man made reservoir built a little over 30 years ago that has a dam used to power most of Southern Thailand, but also used as a tourist destination. Again nestled in the middle of hundreds of towering limestone cliffs, I was to stay in a floating bungalow, explore caves, go hiking, kayaking, swimming and go on river safaris which ended up being mostly pointless. It turns out as you noisily charge your boat around a lake, most of the wildlife sods off. The same is true for the jungle where all we saw was a few glimpses of monkeys and loads of wild boar droppings (not really droppings, they were pretty big!).

DSC01408.jpg

We arrived at the lake and had to have a Coronavirus check. This was a first for me and I was worried as they were checking temperatures at a time when it was 38 degrees outside. One of the girls with us was on the cusp and had to sit in the shade and cool down some before she tried again and passed. All through, we took a boat out for about 90 mins to our floating bungalows.

The bamboo hut I stayed in at Koh Tao was pretty basic, just a bed, mosquito net, bedside table, plug socket and large gecko, but this 'bungalow' made that place seem like the Ritz. It was literally just a mattress of the floor and mattress is a very generous term for what was essentially a hard rubber mat covered in a sheet. But I was only there for one night, so didn't really care. Also, it turned out there were no mosquitoes on this lake, so no need for a net. I have no idea why they stayed away, but good news.

We were told that we had 2 hours to do what we like and most of us went swimming, with loads of the group wearing life jackets like diapers to float, it was pretty funny to see. After our swim we went for the aforementioned hike into the jungle, about 2km each way, the first kilometer being uphill all the way followed by a fairly treacherous climb up sharp rocks. There were a fair few cuts and bruises along the way. But the view at the top was incredible.

DSC01421.jpgDSC01423.jpgDSC01430.jpg

We then returned the way we came, back down the jagged rocks, it's a wonder that no one was really hurt, but it was fun overall. Also, I randomly weighed myself before the lake trip and then a week later and I had lost 3 kilos in a week, so it must have been good exercise!

That night I decided to wake up at 4am to see the Milky Way, which has always been on my bucket list. I could barely sleep on the stupidly hard mat, so it seemed like a plan, but when I woke up at 4am there was nothing. I don't know why, we were in the middle of nowhere, there was practically no light and according to my application that tells you these things I was looking in the right direction at the right time. Oh well, there's always Chiang Mai...

DSC01447.jpgDSC01445.jpg

I slept for about an hour on the bamboo floor out front of my hut, just as comfortable (so not really at all) and waited for the sunrise, which was pretty special, before going on a boat safari that was not and then touring a cave, which was also pretty dull apart from seeing a few massive spiders and a load of bats, but all the time surrounded by this spectacular scenery.

DSC01468.jpgDSC01472.jpgDSC01475.jpgDSC01485.jpg

I returned to Khao Sok, looking to leave the next day, but ended up staying another 4 nights as I was unable to book onward travel. This was all pretty tense and I wrote about it here: https://cblanc102.travellerspoint.com/13/ I finally left for what turned out to be a 15 hour journey by minibus and train. It was a pretty good journey as they go, with food and drink given to us throughout the day and the station I arrived at was only 15 mins walk from my hostel. Bonus!

Posted by cblanc102 21:15 Archived in Thailand Tagged landscapes mountains trees animals night boats travel thailand lake hostels island holiday khao sok lan solo_travel cheow Comments (0)

(Entries 1 - 5 of 5) Page [1]