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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)

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)

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)

Ever deeper

Scuba diving isn't just about being in the water

The diving had been fantastic, I'd passed my Open Water certificate and was now allowed to pretty much dive anywhere, but I would also be losing the people I had dived with.

Of the four of us that started the course, only three continued, but all four of us had been out together every night since day one along with the boyfriends of two of the girls and often another couple that dived with Sairee Cottage. We'd also just run into people we knew as we went along. It's a small island.

I had my first bucket with them, for the uninitiated, this is usually about a mug full of some spirit (in this case Vodka) tipped into a small bucket and topped up with coke at a ridiculously cheap price. We sat together at a bar's beach party watching fire jugglers toss their flaming sticks 40 feet to each other over everyone's heads. We played pool and beer pong (how was this my first time? What did I do at Uni? ) we drank and we ate, it was great.

And now they were leaving.

One couple were off to another island, another off to Cambodia to Koh Rong where Klau and I visited a few years back. The last member of our group was going home.

This almost arbitrary friendship between people with almost nothing in common takes some getting used to. I've obviously travelled solo a fair amount, but usually I keep to myself, speaking to very few people and only rarely seeing them more than a day or two. No need to get attached. I got friendly with a group at the hostel in Bangkok, most of whom I only spent an evening with, but this was different because we went through a lot together, we were reliant on each other to get through the day and we chose to spend our time together in the evenings. It meant more. And then you share social media accounts and leave, maybe never seeing each other again.

I'm sure that as this trip progresses, I'll meet many more people, some of who I'll stay in touch with forever, but at the beginning of this experience, it feels a little sadder. Before I left, I was a little wary of hostels, thinking I'd always go for a hotel if it was cheap enough, but now I'm thinking hostels are the way to go. There's a much better chance to meet people there than in a hotel room where I tend to keep myself to myself.

I saw most of them again the next day as I started the advanced course and they were waiting for ferries to take them back to the mainland, it was nice, we wished each other safe journeys and went on with our lives. I'm following their Instagram, they seem to be having a fine time...

I continued my course, diving 5 times over 2 days in some of the greatest visibility (being able to see 15 - 20 meters underwater is incredible) and worst visibility (diving at 30 meters but only being able to see for 3 or 4 meters is scary as hell) I had experienced so far. I dived at night, which was incredible and scary all at once and I explored a wreck, probably the highlight of all the dives. Tired, but happy, it was time for me to move on. I said goodbye to Sairee Beach, Sairee Cottage Diving and the people there I had become friends with, but I promised to come back one day this week and share a beer or two.

I actually saw two of them later that same night as I was eating. Like I said before, small Island

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Beer Pong at it's finest

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A blurry picture of drunk people on a beach at night having a time

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As I former fire safety officer, I should have been more wary, less drunk, when around these

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Getting ready for our night dive

Posted by cblanc102 08:49 Archived in Thailand Tagged islands food diving beach drink hostels scuba underwater friendship alcohol solo_travel Comments (2)

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