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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)

Breathless


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In most new towns when I'm travelling, I like to take a long walk around, try and get my bearings. Google maps is a massive liar and all too soon space and distance tend to blur away if you have no idea where you're going some of the time. I'd been on Lonely Planet and found lots of places of interest in Quito, which I added to Google Maps as places of interest and with that I set off in the general direction of Quito's Old Town district.

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There were two churches where the insides were almost completely gold!

It's pretty cold here compared to where I've been, even though the weather has been a lot better (no rain!), but that's to be expected as Quito stands at 2850m above seal level, that's almost 10,000 feet! My bed here has 4 blankets, it's pretty toasty. However, as I set out yesterday morning the weather was perfect, sunny, temperature in the high teens, ending up around 21 /22 in the afternoon.

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The first church I came to was stunning!

As I walked along though, I soon found myself in trouble. It was very hard to breathe! I have been higher than this before, I climbed to almost 4000m in Nepal, but I guess we did that over three days, rather than just landing there one day. I was definitely feeling it. Headaches and breathlessness, two symptoms of altitude sickness. On top of that I hadn't eaten much as I got in late the night before because of the airplane antics (see last blog) but I carried on regardless.

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The Main Square in Quito's Old District

Quito is a beautiful city, filled with some amazing churches, monuments, parks and surrounded by volcanoes. It's hard to take a crappy photo, but as you'll see I tried! It's very friendly too, pretty cheap and they serve fantastic coffee! It's also extraordinarily hilly! Some of the streets I had to climb were really difficult, it must have been quite the sight for the locals to see me huffing and puffing up the hills. I somehow managed to make it back in time to see England smash the Ukraine though, so all was good, come on you Lions!!! (and thank God for decent WiFi and a VPN)

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Stupidly hilly streets

In the evening I tried to plan my next few weeks. One of the things that I have found to be a lot harder this trip is the decision making process. Everything seemed more straightforward in Thailand, maybe because I had been planning that trip for a year, whereas this trip was very much a last minute thing, but deciding where to go next has really been an issue, as it was last night where my initial plans were scuppered after discovering that one place was miles away from where I actually wanted to visit and the other town was in fact a den of iniquity filled with loggers, oil drillers and apparently tons of crime.

I finally found the website of a married American couple who have taken a year off to honeymoon hiking the Americas. This website has become my new travel Bible and within an hour of reading it, I had booked my next three weeks where I will end up in the Galapagos Islands! A dream come true for me as I've wanted to go there for years. I'm very excited! I've also got a much better idea about how to get into Peru and do Machu Picchu in a great way (more on that another time)

Now if only the Government would sort their minds out about the stupid traffic light thing, I could actually plan all the rest of the trip down to when and how I can go home!

Today I hiked higher than I've ever been, to almost 4700m! I had help with a cable car in the middle, but still walked 4km. 300m uphill to get there, then another 4km up 750m from the top of the cable car. The views were incredible, but like all exercise, it wasn't worth it of course. At least the altitude sickness was less of a bother today.

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A view from the top

I then travelled North on the bus to the 'Middle of the World'. A monument celebrating the equator where you can stand either side of the North / South divide...... Apart from the fact that when GPS was invented, they discovered that the actual line was about 200m away. Good try though!

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North and South. Or Not

The buses here are crazy, just 30p for a 1hr, 30km ride, they fill up with people straight away and overfill way past the limit. Just when you think it's not possible to fit anyone else on the bus, they let a few more on. On top of this there's been a person on every ride asking for money. Usually, they tell a little story and sell something like a snack, I saw one busload of people applaud a guy's story on the bus to Panama City, but on one bus today there were three or four beggars ranging from children to agitated drunks. It wasn't great.

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Some old bloke up a volcano

I'll be braving the buses again tomorrow as I head for Banos where I hope to try my first ever white water rafting!

Again, come on you England! I hope the new place has decent WiFi!!

Posted by cblanc102 05:01 Archived in Ecuador Tagged landscapes mountains churches skylines people hiking travel volcano bus hostels holiday weather beauty coffee journey south_america ecuador quarantine problems Comments (0)

Water - fools


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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)

Jungle Love

Surely it should rain in the rainforest??


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

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

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

It was actually worse than I'd expected.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This Island Earth

travelling sometimes comes at a cost, but is almost always worth it.

I sit here after one of the most relaxing days of my life, covered in mosquito repellent (how much is enough?? How much is too much???) and thinking of an early night so I can get up real early and play with the drone tomorrow.

The journey to Koh Tao was not an easy one, but could have been so much harder. It took around 15 hours hostel to hotel and involved a cab, a bus, a boat and a fair bit of walking with my famously heavy backpack. But was so well organised that I barely had any worries travelling the 300 plus miles needed to get me here. I would definitely recommend Lamprayah buses. They were excellent, cheap too.

I should digress for a second about the backpack, and a video on that should come tomorrow, but there's a story I like to tell about doing the Himalayas where I wrecked my feet and then agreeing to do Snowdon a month later cursing myself all the way, only to feel ridiculous when I saw a group of one legged soldiers storming it down the mountain.

Something similar has happened here. After lugging my pack around for 5 days, lamenting the weight and feeling sorry for myself and the four more months of slogging I have ahead, I saw loads of young girls today, half my size with packs bigger than mine. Time to shut the moaning lol.

That being said, I get excited every time I figure out a way of losing some stuff from the bag... Although I freak out every time I think I've lost something, which is often, as I have the memory of a goldfish.

I've done so little today a blog is barely worth it. I had lunch, looked at the view, slept, had dinner, looked at the view. But what a view. I've been on a tropical island before but this place beats it hands down! And no attacking monkey's (so far). The whole atmosphere here is so relaxed it's a wonder anyone ever leaves, and I think I may have problems there too. I've already been checking out third week options..

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Picture postcard views

Posted by cblanc102 01:01 Archived in Thailand Tagged travel island holiday Comments (0)

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