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We were on a break!


View Central America 2021 on cblanc102's travel map.

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)

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.

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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!

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£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!

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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!

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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)

Water - fools


View Central America 2021 on cblanc102's travel map.

Just so you know, I've been writing this (or not) for three days, so when I talk about yesterday, I'm actually talking about Saturday 26th June. I have been a mixture of tired, travelling and lazy. Apologies

So yesterday was the craziest of days yet.

I had decided to hike to a series of waterfalls with one of the women from my hostel, Anita and we were ready to set off at about 9:30. A couple also staying at the hostel offered us a lift to the start as it was a long way past the bus stop to the waterfalls. Unfortunately we accepted.

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Some cute little Panamanian girls we met that just live in these stone houses with no windows

The couple are born again Christians. I have no idea to which particular denomination they belong (I suspect none), but their beliefs also include:

The Earth is flat
The moon, sun, stars are all made up, put there by Christ as a test or something, I don't know why he's being an arse about it.
So no moon landing or any other space stuff.
The outline of a bird that can be seen from above in some mountain range is what's left over from an actual 150 mile long bird from the past
Basically, all conspiracies that you have heard of are real and anything that randomly resembles anything else is actually that.

This was ok I guess when you could walk away, but when we were stuck in a car with them, there was no escaping the idiocy. When we stopped to take a look at an interesting rock face, we were told that all rocks, apart from volcanic rocks, are the leftover muscles of giants - The Devils Tower in Wyoming is the ankle of a giant. The Giant's Causeway? More giants. It's interesting that the only rock that isn't giants is the one that you see formed in front of you... Although how they explain tectonic plate shifts I don't know, probably more giants.

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No rock, remains of a giant, or some other insane ramblings

We eventually escaped and started our walk, but this nonsense went on all week, with them trying to convert new arrivals and trying to convince me that lunar eclipses and horizons aren't real. They failed in all of it.

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The first waterfall, where we escaped

Anyway, back to the walk. After losing Mr and Mrs Munchhausen at the first waterfall we continued up through the rain forest climbing up and over rocks, up ropes and across rivers, there were three more waterfalls, all more impressive than the last, they were truly beautiful and well worth the effort, although as you could guess by now if you've been reading my blogs, it's usually around this point where it starts raining hard and this was no different.

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Waterfall no 2

The walk to the waterfalls had been mostly uphill, so getting back was a little easier, although it was a lot slippier and we both fell a few times. We were absolutely soaked though as we left with a good couple of hours walk along the road ahead of us. Anita suggested that we ask a guy who had walked in front of us if we could get a ride into town, she's Polish, apparently it's a thing. Before we had a chance though, he offered us a ride! We just had to wait for the other two people he'd offered a free ride to!

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Waterfall 3, the weather is getting worse!

What a gent! His name was Frank, a Cuban who had moved to Panama a decade ago and apparently just gave people rides? On the way to town, he surprised us again by pulling into a coffee house and buying us all coffee! It doesn't get much better than this!

Or so we thought until he invited us all to his house for dinner! It was incredible and crazy.. We'd met the guy an hour before and here we were contemplating going to his house for dinner. We were fairly sure this would be some kind of Murder House, but I was bored of cooking my own pasta every night, so I accepted. After a quick stop to buy a huge piece of meat, and another to let us change our wet clothes, we arrived at Franks house and just WOW. It was huge! After we were shown around the place and his two enormous gardens we chatted and drank, got to know each other and finally ate what tasted a lot like perfect beef and hopefully not the remains of the people invited there before.

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The final waterfall from the front and back! Aren't you lucky!!

It was a fantastic night. One that I can only imagine happening while travelling and even then very rarely. You'd rarely even hear of someone giving strangers a lift in the rain, let alone buying them coffee or inviting them into their home! But six people from five different countries with varying levels of English and Spanish spent the evening laughing and singing and dancing like we'd all known each other for years. I'll never forget it.

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First getting to know each other in the coffee house

Finally, today is day 40 of this trip. on day 40 of the last attempt, I arrived back in Gravesend beaten by the stupid virus, so every day from today is officially the longest I have travelled for. I very much doubt I'll be out here for a full 6 months, it just seems too long and the price of flights back to Costa Rica from Peru are about the same as a flight back to the UK, so I suspect I'll return to the UK from there, travel conditions permitting, so I think I'm around a third of the way through the trip, but who knows at this point!! If the last week has shown me anything, it's that anything can happen.

Posted by cblanc102 04:48 Archived in Panama Tagged landscapes waterfalls mountains bridges buildings people parties trees night food rain rainforest hiking travel drink hostels jungle holiday panama weather beauty friendship coffee central_america problems solo_travel 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)

Wet Hot American Summer

Settling into a routine of sorts

I've been trying to get these out every other day, it seemed to work, until I hit a day so devastating in it's blandness that I have absolutely nothing to say about it.

It was the rain. The bloody RAIN.

Look, I know it's a rain forest blah blah blah, but this was rain like I've never seen for the whole day. It didn't let up at all. I hear that it's been raining in the UK and I don't know how as I just assumed all the rain in the whole World had just dropped on me. In 2016 I drove from Orlando International to our house in some pretty mental rain, but this was worse and lasted for 14 hours. I had to put my earphones in so I could hear the TV on my laptop the rain was so loud!

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So yeah, nothing going on that day.

Other than that, I seem to have hit a stride. Wake up, usually in some small amount of pain from my back. Move around a bit until that feels OK, go grab a pastry and coffee or breakfast then find something to do for the day.

Wednesday I went to find some sloths. There are a few 'Sloth Trails' around here. Essentially someone owns a stretch of jungle with sloths inside and has fenced it off so you have to pay to go in and spend hours searching for small, tree coloured mammals that cling to branches and don't move. It was hard going at first, I hadn't paid extra for a guide as it was pretty much the same price as 3 days accommodation, or 30 beers. I figured I could find them on my own. I was wrong.

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Sloth are stupidly hard to spot!

I was having a pretty fine time though, just wandering around a very serene jungle only a few hundred meters away from town, checking out all the birds and frogs, of which there were many and far easier to find. It was at this point I started a kind of animal spotting barter system.

I had found a bush filled with hummingbirds. It was pretty great, I've never seen a real hummingbird before and they are amazing. They fly past you like the air is vibrating around you. It's an experience. I then walked past a group with a guide and told them what I had found, they then told me where a sloth was. I then told the next group where that sloth was to be told where another was and so on.

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On the way back to the house, my Mum essentially butt dialed my sister and I so we all caught up, which was very nice. I hadn't realised how much I was missing talking back home.

I stopped off at a Soda place for a cheap but bloody nice dinner and that was pretty much me done for the day.

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less than £3 for chicken, rice and beans, a coffee and fruit juice (tamarind) can't be bad!

Yesterday started very similarly, but I did a tour up to the volcano in the afternoon.

Now, Costa Rican's have a motto, 'Pura Vida', which translates literally to pure life, but in reality is more of a feeling, a way of life, but also the reason that no one is ever on time, you just have to roll with it. Pura Vida was likely the reason that my tour was an hour late picking me up, but also why it was so good. Everyone I've met here is great.

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Volcano views

We started with a long hike up the volcano as our guide Eric gave us loads of information about the big eruption of 1968 and the wildlife that now lives around there. We walked a big loop around the area and down through a rainforest where we saw pretty much nothing until we stopped for coffee and saw this little guy:

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Finally we took a trip down to one of the many hot springs in the area where I was able to give my back a nice deserved soak while drinking loads of local rum. The whole tour was fantastic, really worth the 30 or so quid.

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There are loads of hot springs here attached to hotels, some costing up to $80!! There's also a natural little hot spring river. This was somewhere in the middle

Returning back to the house, I made some dinner and was invited to join my hosts for some drinks. And drink we did. All night. It was a great night but I'm feeling it this morning, luckily though, the weather is beautiful today, which makes it better as I think we're going off on another hike!

Posted by cblanc102 14:48 Archived in Costa Rica Tagged animals birds food jungle costa_rica friendship south_america central_america latin_america solo_travel Comments (0)

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