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Another dramatic turn


View Central America 2021 on cblanc102's travel map.

I had another post that I was writing, I doubt I'll publish it now. Everything has changed.

I'll give you a quick catch up and I'll fill this post with a load of lovely photos hopefully.

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Like this

So i arrived in Cusco, which is very bloody cold and the two hostels I've stayed in have also been bloody cold. No one in South America seems to have either double glazing or heating. Not one place I've stayed in anyway. I was really just in Cusco for two trips. One to the Rainbow Mountains and one to Machu Picchu.

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And I took a walk up to see the Cristo Blanco statue

The Rainbow Mountains tour went well. It was very cold and i don't have the clothing for it, but i bought a woolly hat and gloves for £6 so was alright. It was a LOT of walking, about 12km uphill and back, but as you can see, the views were worth it.

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The next day i was due to go on a four day Machu Picchu trip and i was to have a briefing at 6, but no one turned up. There had been a mix up on their end and they went to the wrong hotel. This also meant that i didn't know where properly to meet the next day and they missed me again, even though i was ten meters across the street. They didn't think to ask who i was... Strike one

I was eventually picked up and driven to my first activity, a bike ride down the mountain, from 4500m to 1500m above sea level, i was really looking forward to it. But my driver couldn't find my guide. We drove for two hours going up and down the same windy mountain road until we eventually found him much further down than where he was supposed to be.. Strike two

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Once we found him, he decked me out in my gear, pads, helmet etc and I learned that not only wouldn't i be joining a group (I was the only person on the tour), but i would also be riding alone, they would follow me on the car. The two bikes were both for me, one as a back up. Ok

I rode down the hill, adrenaline pumping, thinking it a tad crazy and scary, but loving it anyway. About five or ten mins into the ride however, the front wheel started shaking violently and I just about managed to not fall off the cliff and stop the bike before I lost the wheel completely. My car caught up few seconds later and they had a look at the bike and decided they couldn't fix it. Back up bike it is then, right?

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Ummm... No. The back up bike had a flat tire and they didn't have any bike tools. I was pretty furious. My guide said we would drive five minutes to the next town and try to find a pump there, but when we arrived, of course there wasn't one. At this point, my guide asked what i wanted to do, as even if we fixed the bike now, it could be too late to do the ride and get to the white water rafting in time.

I asked him why he thought I would want to get in a boat with them when they couldn't even provide two working bikes for a ride? I said I wanted a full refund and then head back to Cusco. He said he would speak to his boss. After a while he returned, he couldn't get through to anyone, no phone signal. Of course there wasn't, we were in the middle of nowhere. By this time i had calmed down some and just decided to continue. I was still pretty annoyed though.

And then nothing mattered anymore.

My phone got a signal and I started getting emails etc, so I tried to call Mum again. Is tried before a few times, but she wasn't in. There was still no answer. It was about 7pm in the UK, she'd be home for sure normally. I called my sister to see if she knew anything and she told me Mum was in hospital and it was very bad, but she was stable and OK

Well that's the end of my trip. Nothing matters after that and then only thing i could think of was how i could get home. We arrived at the house in the middle of the jungle where I was staying that night and they opened the car door to find a 48 year old Englishman in tears. I was pretty broken. There's a point that you get where you're not really thinking properly and you can't work out what you need to do and what happens next. Especially when you're alone, when there's no one to calm you down, to help. My brain wasn't working. I was lost.

It's now a few days later and I've realised how stupid it was for me to be traveling around red countries. Not because if the risk of covid, but just how impossible it is for me to get home in any good time. It's irresponsible really and I don't think i will be traveling again until the stupid traffic light travel system is gone. Normally, there's pretty much nowhere in the world that you can't get back from in 48 hours. Now? I have no chance.

So i was in the middle of nowhere, trying to figure out what to do next. I went on the rafting trip, but didn't enjoy it, how could I? All I could think of was Mum. I decided then that i would get back as soon as possible. Nothing else mattered. But there was nothing I could do at night in the middle of the Andean forest.

The next day Ricardo (my guide) asked what i wanted to do. I knew i couldn't get a flight before Saturday, but that was the day that we were supposed to reach Machu Picchu, so I was going to cancel the tour. Instead though, Ricardo managed to move everything around so that i could reach Machu Picchu, get back to Cusco and be ready for my flight Saturday. He was a champ really. Everything before was forgiven from the day before lol.

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We then had to hike 20km to get to Machu Picchu, it was crazy, but it was worth it, it's an amazing feat and stunning to see. I'm glad I got to do it before I left. I think i would really regretted it.

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So It's now Friday evening, I have a flight tomorrow from Cusco to Cancun, but I then have to wait in Mexico for ten days as I'm not allowed to have been in a red country in that long without quarantining in that crazy expensive hotel when I get back. They'd rather If I've caught anything, I spread it around before coming home on August 10th.

And that's where I am. I have 11 days left of this trip and I don't regret it for a second. Nothing else matters. I haven't really talked about it on here, or to anyone, Mum included, but I had some pretty dark times in the past year stuck in quarantine. Mum got me through it. She gave me somewhere to live, sure, but without having her there with me I don't know what I would have done. She has spent all of my life giving my family everything. I owe her this and a thousand times more than this. It's the least I can do.

She doesn't want me coming home, but I don't care. She's got no internet access in hospital and no one will tell her I'm on my way. Hopefully it'll be a nice surprise. My sister Mandy is currently dealing with this on her own. She's a trooper and has been fantastic, but I should be there too. That's my job. All my friends have been fantastic too. Messages all the time, offers of help, daily love and encouragement. I'm really blessed.

Mum's soldiering on, she's by no means out of the woods and they tell me that the next 48 hours are critical, but I have faith in her, always.

But this isn't then end of the blog, not at all. For a start I still have 10 days to fill in Mexico, I plan to visit Chichen Itza and a load of other Mayan ruins. But also, I'll be back out again in the New Year hopefully. Finishing off the South East Asia trip that stupid covid ruined last year.

Posted by cblanc102 04:17 Archived in Peru Tagged mountains people temples flying hiking travel hostels machu_picchu aeroplane beauty friendship flights journey south_america latin_america quarantine problems solo_travel coronavirus Comments (0)

Literal highs and lows

The Andes are a pain in the arsies


View Central America 2021 on cblanc102's travel map.

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)

Lockdown Blues

This feels strangely familiar, just wetter

I have no photos! I have done nothing now for 2 days!!

I was expecting to be in Boquete tonight, a small town in the Panamanian highlands on the edge of another volcano, instead I'm spending another night in this windowless room in a mediocre hostel on the edge of a mediocre city. That may be a bit harsh, maybe.

This turn of events started last night when I was told at 5 pm that the city goes into lockdown today. For one day. Apparently they have a load of little rules about travel that affect different people, such as men and women being allowed to travel on different days and foreigners being allowed to travel at certain times depending on the last number of their passport. Stuff like that, all confusing! But most importantly, no one is allowed to travel on a Sunday.

Quite how this stops the spread of Covid is beyond me, I figure people just travel on other days, but they seem to be doing pretty well with numbers, so who am I to argue? I just wish someone had told me when I booked this hostel to leave on a Sunday, or when I booked the next place actually for a Sunday!

To be fair to both hostels, they dealt with it pretty well, were both very accommodating, letting me stay an extra day here and moving my time in Boquete back a day, so no harm there. As far as I know though, I'm here in this hostel completely on my own, the manager gave me a key to the kitchen and her number for emergencies yesterday. All pretty easy.

The unexpected consequences came today.

After spending all day just watching movies and reading, I decided to go out to eat. I'd been to the Supermarket yesterday, but only bought enough food for one day as I expected then to be off this morning. I had enough for a bowl of noodles, but that was about it. Looking on Tripadvisor, there seemed to be a good few restaurants up on the main highway about half a mile away, so I thought I'd try there. As I arrived where the restaurants were supposed to be, I noticed that no only were they nowhere to be found, but all the other businesses were closed, however I spotted a McDonald's along the road some, so headed there. Unfortunately I was told when I entered that they were only open for deliveries!

Determined to find anything at this point, I checked Google Maps for an open Supermarket and headed towards the same place I shopped yesterday. About a mile or so away from my hostel, it was at this point that it started raining. Of course it did.

It was a bloody great storm, that's still going on now two hours later. It had some crazy thunder and lightening to go with it as well. I headed for the supermarket, getting shelter from overhanging roofs where I could and made my way there slowly, getting pretty wet along the way. When I finally arrived, it was of course, shut. It was supposed to close at 9 pm, some two hours later, but I guess everything is closed today as I saw nothing open at all on my 5 km journey. I made my way back, now with no shelter at all, just pretty much getting soaked.

My dinner tonight was spaghetti. No meat, no veggies, but a sauce, which is better than nothing. I also emancipated two slices of bread from the kitchen, but today has been pretty pasta heavy, I've had just that and about 10 cups of coffee today. The cat here fared better than me, I saw him with a lizard in his mouth earlier, at least he had some meat.

Tomorrow, Panama returns to normal. I don't know if this was a one off thing or weekly, although I'll likely be in another part of the country next week so they may have their own rules. At least now I've learned that these rules exist and I can work around them. It's all part of the journey I guess!

Posted by cblanc102 12:52 Archived in Panama Tagged people food travel hostels panama journey south_america central_america latin_america quarantine problems solo_travel coronavirus Comments (0)

Two weeks down


View Central America 2021 on cblanc102's travel map.

*Before I start the blog* I've been trying to include more photos to the blog this trip, but this post isn't really about my travels over the past few days as I just travelled back from La Fortuna to San Jose in preparation for my latest trip down here to the Pacific Coast and much more jungle. I will include some pics though that I've taken over the past three days and will intersperse them into the text, of which they will have little to no connection. Enjoy

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Pictures like this random picture of a bale of turtles doing nothing

Now on to the main post..

As I write this, it's 8pm and I'm in a hostel outside of a town called Quepos, on the Pacific Coast and about 4km from Manuel Antonio National Park, one of the country's best apparently. It's pitch black out and the noise from the light rain isn't coming close to drowning out the sounds of nature surrounding me. Even more than La Fortuna, this is how I thought Costa Rica would be!

The hostel is so far pretty great, bar the shit wifi outside my room on the veranda, but maybe it's better at reception. Within 30 mins of arriving, juice in one hand, book in the other, I was thinking about extending my stay here another week. I know it's early to be saying that, but the place has a pool (good for my back!), at least three amazing looking beaches, a massive jungle behind me and it's in the 30s every day. Perfect. The room is lovely too, no windows, just a mesh letting in all the noise and light from outside. I can't see me sleeping past 6am tomorrow but the room is lovely and cool which is good when it's 27c outside at night

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The sunsets are lovely too!

The past few days were pretty dull as I spent a good seven hours of that travelling (three hours from La Fortuna to San Jose and four hours down to here) and 36 hours in San Jose which is really shaping up to be the world's dullest capital city. The highlight of my day was going to a tiny zoo in the middle of the city and checking out animals that are mostly found here in the wild. The highlight was feeding some monkeys after noticing one stretching through bars to reach a seed pod. There were loads of pods around me and no one in the park to stop me. I am a zoo rebel. I did see some nice butterflies and a dragonfly, but these were just flying around.

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Monkeys are a lot more amiable when you feed the little shits

I spent an interesting evening chatting to a group of travellers. It's always great to hear what others are doing, helpful too, especially nowadays. One of the travellers though was, I shall put this delicately, an odd duck. An 18/19 year old lad from England that seems to have been all over the place, but apparently has spent the last six months discovering hallucinogenics and plans to travel to the Amazon Rainforest of Columbia to volunteer with some kind of spiritual guru and help him cultivate some kind of powder, which is in no way a drug, but is made from coca leaves, the same as cocaine. All legal though, I promise

I don't know how much truth there is in all that, but if you see a piece about a missing skinny blonde English kid on the news in a month or two, he's buried in Columbia.

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Stopped off at a roadside cafe today for some nondescript meat on a skewer. It was pretty likely chicken, but tasted great for a quid!

It's now two weeks since I left my life to come do this nonsense. It will be two weeks since my back gave out on me at the worst opportunity and is just starting to get better. Some days I've just wanted to turn around and come home. other days have been highlights of my life. I've added countries to the travel list and taken others away. I've walked 50 miles, through airports, jungles, rain forests and up and down volcanoes. I've seen sloths, frogs, toucans and more hummingbirds than I care to mention. It's been a crazy fortnight.

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My first ever view of the Pacific Ocean

I don't think I'm going to Honduras now, from what I hear it's not the safest place for solo travellers, so I think I may go South to Panama by bus, then fly to Ecuador, do a week in the Galapagos then head down to Peru. But I have no timeframe for any of it, even for when I'm leaving Costa Rica, I have a two month visa here, but may leave for Panama next week.. I'm able to travel pretty freely round here because of the vaccinations (thanks Dil!) but there's all sorts of talk about which countries will be made red in a couple of weeks here. I'm not really worried though, that's a ways off and I can always travel back to the UK via a green country

Hopefully this next week sill see more wildlife, both in the jungle and ocean, more hikes, more resting and more reading. Who know's where I'll be in 2 weeks? I honestly have no clue.

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Posted by cblanc102 04:41 Archived in Costa Rica Tagged animals birds hostels costa_rica south_america central_america latin_america solo_travel coronavirus Comments (0)

Trapped in Paradise

The walls are starting to close in

Hi all. Time for a catch-up on my travel plans. This isn't the blog entry I was going to write, about my travel to Khao Sok and my experiences here, that'll hopefully come later today or tomorrow, but this is whats's happening to me now.

I wrote the first few paragraphs of this 3 days ago, then it got worse.

It's 36 degrees outside as I sit in the shade drinking a strawberry shake in paradise. There are certainly worse places to be trapped.

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Not a bad view

But I'm not trapped, not yet. I still have options, though these seem to change daily and this travelling adventure that I took on 3 weeks ago is becoming harder and harder to complete.

Rewind back 3 weeks to my original plan. I was to travel to Bangkok, stay there for a few days, then make my way down to the island of Koh Tao to learn to dive then travel down to Khao Sok to experience the rain forest for a few days before leaving Thailand. Check, check and check.

I was then going to fly to Vietnam, travel north through the country for a month, then into Laos, then sail down the Mekong back into Northern Thailand possibly visiting Myanmar time permitting. But now Vietnam has closed it's borders to pretty much everyone, Malaysia has done the same, and now Indonesia. It looks like I'm heading North.

Myanmar (formerly Burma) is still allowing tourists in, although not if you've been to certain countries in the last 14 days (I haven't) and Laos will also let me in. As it stands today.

You can't blame anyone, A lot of these countries have little in the way of Coronavirus cases, Myanmar claim they've had none. And they want to keep it that way. I think my best bet it to get a train back to Bangkok and go visit the Myanmar Embassy, from there I can travel across the Bridge over the River Kwai and make my way overland. Hopefully.

Another update: I wrote that last bit last night, and since then, both Myanmar and Laos have closed. At this point all I can do is get to Bangkok, extend my visa for a further 30 days and review my options or hope that a country opens. At this point I've looked at going anywhere from Nepal to Malawi.

I don't want to have to come home. I know it's a real possibility at this point and an understandable act, but it still feels like giving up. I could go back to the UK, 'wait for it to all blow over' and try again, but while I have enough money to last at least another 6 months out here, that money would get sucked up in no time back home, and that's besides losing loads of it to flights.

It's times like these that the whole 'solo' bit becomes a pain. If I had someone here with me, they could help plan, make decisions, but then I guess they could also decide that they want to return, so I guess that's a bonus of being alone.

It's strange being here and there still being so little about the virus being talked about. Sure, when I meet people the subject always comes up much the same as Brexit did when I travelled solo around Greece a couple of years back. It's still something that's happening elsewhere for us. But my Mum is self isolating, my Sister is self isolating as she's come down with something. My friends are working from home or the office is closed. I am very aware how real it is back home. It's all that's on the news, social media, Youtube.

All I can do is try to move forward.

Posted by cblanc102 07:34 Archived in Thailand Tagged travel thailand vietnam visa koh khao sok tao coronavirus Comments (2)

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