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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)

Another dramatic turn


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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)

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)

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)

Terror in the Skies!

Well... mild worry


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I arrived at my hostel in Quito tonight at 10pm, some 3 hours after I was supposed to have arrived. How did this happen? Well let me tell you.

Most other parts of the travel were fine. I left Colon this morning, grabbed a bus to Panama city where I got the Metro train as close to the airport as I could, for some reason, neither of Panama City's two metro lines actually stop at the airport! I had to get the train, then jump in a minibus for a dollar to the airport.

The airport was great, only really two things of note. Firstly, the vaccinations worked a charm. Instead of paying out for a PCR test now twice, I have only had to show my vaccination details, saving me at least £100 - £150. Great.

Secondly, Panama City is the only airport I've been to where they don't sell cigarettes in the duty free! These weren't for me, I don't smoke (more on that in 10 days), but I was looking to see how much they were for friends. Nope, none at all that I could find. I looked online and apparently they don't sell them there!

Anyway, on to the flight, nice little 90 min trip. All was good until at about 300 ft the pilot decides that it's not safe to land. This is now the third time this has happened to me in three years! First in Istanbul where the pilot pulled up ten feet from the ground and then in 'Sarf'end a couple of years back where we had to loop round as he arrived at the landing strip too fast.

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Beautiful Ecuador

This time was pretty scary though. Ecuador is stunning from above, low clouds over volcanoes and mountains, deep cracks in the ground where earthquakes have pulled the country apart. It looks amazing, but when you want to land on a runway 3000 meters up in the mountains, it can get a bit hairy!

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Out the window photography

We flew around for about 30 mins after that, when the pilot told us that we were being diverted to Guayaquil, a town some 250 miles SE. This much to the annoyance of the old boy sat 2 seats away from me. We landed there fine, refueled, waited for some news or idea if we'd be staying there the night or going back. After a while apparently the wind died down and we flew back, landing in the dark with no issues at all.

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I don't know what part of my body is in this cack handed shot!

It wasn't the scariest flight I've ever been on, I'll give that to the Istanbul flight, but it was up there! Any safe landing is a good one, but three near missed in three years I could do without!

Oh P.S! Quito is bloody cold!! Back to jeans tomorrow!

Posted by cblanc102 04:35 Archived in Ecuador Tagged landscapes mountains night flying travel hostels panama aeroplane plane beauty flights journey ecuador vaccination solo_travel covid coronovirus Comments (2)

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