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Literal highs and lows

The Andes are a pain in the arsies


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So it must have been longer than I thought since my last blog post as I was talking about day 48 then and I've now passed 50.


The journey so far

Banos continued to be a great time as I travelled into the Amazon jungle, another tick off the old bucket list, although I hope to go even deeper into there when I visit Peru in a few weeks. The trip was great, although it started off a bit ropey as we went down a river in a boat cut out of a log that had no real business being on the water. As always, like an idiot, I had my wallet on me, so was more worried than I needed to be about falling in as we hit rocks, got stuck in the middle of the river and generally bobbed and swayed like the uncontrolled log we were.

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We were lucky not to drown! Luck and the fact the water was about 2 foot deep

Miraculously, we managed to stay afloat and dryish and proceeded an hour further into the jungle to visit the Huaorani tribe in their village. It was pretty touristy, with native dances and demonstrations. We drank some drink, I have no idea what it was, but was told by my guide that before the coronavirus it was made with spit rather than water. Chalk on up to the virus!

We then hiked up through the jungle to a waterfall. After some much tougher hikes, this was a breeze! I'm pretty pleased with my generally improving fitness! At the top everybody jumped into the pool at the bottom of the waterfall. I say everyone, it was everyone apart from the guides and me! It was raining and the water was bloody cold! I did the swimming in the waterfall pool thing in Costa Rica, where it was 35 degrees. I'll give this a miss cheers!

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All good things must come to an end though and the next day was my day to travel to Guayaquil. It was a 5.5 hour journey, but I've had worse. Or so I thought! Pretty much the entire journey apart from the last hour was just slaloming down through the Andes mountains. It was terrible. I couldn't read a book, watch a movie or anything because as soon as I looked away from the road I felt sick. I'm usually fine, but this was really hard. I tried to sleep a bit and I could listen to music or a podcast, but I had to keep my eyes on the road the whole time. Fortunately the Ecuadorian landscape is stunning! But it was small consolation to me as the journey went on for 7 hours straight.

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Guayaquil Cemetery is pretty bloody incredible!

Guayaquil is going to be a bit of a rest for me, I don't have anything much planned. Today was spent walking around, getting to know the place, with a stop at a square filled with meter long iguanas! It was crazy seeing them all just walking around the park. They didn't care about the people there at all, and the park was filled with them. I hadn't realised how many there actually were until I narrowly avoided being hit by a stream of lizard piss and looked up to see the trees filled with them too! There must have been a hundred there!

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Iguanas and turtles and Koi oh my!

Tomorrow is for the football (It's coming home!) and then Monday will likely just be getting ready for the Galapagos, so I may be away a few days, but I thought as I've passed day 50, in fact now day 52, I'd update with some stats:

I have travelled a total of 8,277 miles, through 4 countries if you include the 2 hours I was in Spain on day 1.

I have stayed at 15 hostels, hotels and apartments in 14 different towns and cities so far. The shortest time I stayed in a room was one night (The hostel in La Fortuna filled with kids). The longest I stayed in a place was a week, in Boquete, where I could have stayed even longer.

I have travelled a conservative 64 hours so far by plane, boat, car and oh so many buses. That doesn't include any time waiting for buses or sat in airports etc. I have walked 240 miles so far. Up and down mountains, through rivers, jungle, rainforests, beaches and mangrove swamps. I don't know how much weight I've lost as I can't find any scales, but I'm using a hole in my belt that's never been used before.

I've seen countless new animals, but highlights are Howler Monkeys, Sloths, Hummingbirds and Tapirs!

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And this lazy bastard

I have lost or broken very little thankfully. I had a towel stolen on day 3 or so, lost a sock a few weeks in, so tossed the other one, cracked the back of my phone, but that can be fixed and the strap broke on my small bag, so I replaced it with a small rucksack.

I broke a fingernail in half, got dirt stuck up my thumbnail after a slip that hurt a lot more than you'd imagine and of course did something to my back 20 mins before leaving that seriously affected my first few weeks of travel. I've also been bitten by mosquitoes about a million times.

I'm having a fine time, and it's getting better. I missing everyone very much though.

Right, I'm gonna go, some hippy looking guy is doing something weird with a flower covered stick in the hostel and I want to see what's going on!

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I can't get enough of hiking through jungles

Posted by cblanc102 05:40 Archived in Ecuador Tagged waterfalls skylines people animals birds planes rainforest wildlife hiking beach travel bus hostels jungle costa_rica aeroplane bugs beauty flights ferry coffee south_america central_america ecuador solo solo_travel coronavirus Comments (0)

This is more like it


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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


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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)

Time to smell the coffee

sunny 30 °C
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I seem to have found myself at yet another turning point after making yet another stupid mistake.

I'm definitely finding this trip harder than last year's Thailand attempt. Whether this is down to the weather not being as great, or everything costing more or if there is actually less to do here I don't really know, but everything here feels like it takes more effort.


My route so far

Now I find myself in Panama, a perfectly nice country similar in many ways so far to Costa Rica, with another four weeks remaining here and thinking that half that would have been enough. I had to book a flight out before I entered the country and I booked 5 weeks, mostly because that was the cheapest option, but I sat here for hours last night trying to work out where to go next, with little success. Where interested me? Where could I get to easy enough? Where was affordable? I couldn't find anywhere and have ended up booking an extra 3 nights at this hostel, which is fine, it's nice here and there's still some stuff I would like to do, but it's really just about my not knowing where to go next.

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Apparently a very poisonous caterpillar. I always wonder where all the caterpillars went from when we were kids? There were loads then!

At this point my options are to head up to the Caribbean islands in the North, down to the Pacific beaches or West to the Panama City area. As I fly out of Panama City, it seems natural to do that last so I'm guessing I'll head either North or South. I'll just book a few days so if I don't like the place I can leave, if it's great I can always stay longer.

Boquete (pronounced Bo-ket-ay) is a nice little town with lots of ex-pats around, Panama's only volcano a few miles away and lots of jungle around. My hostel is great, pretty cheap and there's still some hikes around I'd like to do, so staying another three nights worked out fine.

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Coffee beans, not yet ripe, those are red

Today I went on a tour of a local coffee plantation. After a fairly hefty walk up there It was great! very interesting, the hosts really friendly and funnily enough, loads of free coffee to drink and take back with me. I even got to try the Geisha coffee, which everyone goes crazy for around here. A kilo once sold for $1000+ on auction, but they were selling it for $30 a pound, so I don't know who was paying that. It's nice, tastes like someone mixed tea and coffee together with some fruit juice.

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They sort the beans out by hand, four tonnes a year of them!

I was shown the whole growing and picking process, although it was out of season, so there was nothing to be grown or picked, but I then got to roast my own beans to my taste which I then ground to take with me! Along the way being told lots of facts about coffee such as how it's mostly cut with other products and the smell from any coffee sold without a valve in the bag (so most coffee) has likely been added chemically and is mostly the cause of acid reflux.

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Beetles eat coffee beans, ducks eat beetles! This I did not know.

Then another worker came along, and showed me different ways of making coffee. Happily, I've mostly been doing it right. It was very interesting and far less poncey than you'd imagine lol. Overall it was a great day and the owner even gave me a lift back to my hostel, which was pretty nice of her.

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All the coffee types and ways of pouring. The Geisha coffee is in the front in the odd looking jug

Tomorrow I'm going to some ex-pat thing with the owners of the hostel and then hopefully I'll hike most of the weekend, maybe today I'll figure out where to go next!

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My coffee, which I roasted, ground and even glued the packet! Sealed in a packet with a valve to let the carbon dioxide out, but no oxygen in. Very important it turns out.

Posted by cblanc102 19:53 Archived in Panama Tagged mountains trees animals rainforest hiking jungle panama coffee journey south_america central_america latin_america solo_travel Comments (0)

Jungle Diary - The ups and downs of going up and down

I'm like a cross between Tarzan and Indiana Jones


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So a few days ago I travelled to Dos Brazos in Corcovado National Park. My first time in what they call Primary Rainforest instead of the apparently tame stuff I've been in so far.

The wifi there was spotty at best, but you know, I was in the jungle. I did however, keep a little diary. Here it is:

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Day 1 - arrival
I don't feel very comfortable here. I'm the only guest here and the only person wearing clothes half the time. The hike up was harsh! Five mins by road, then another five up a pathway then you have to wade through a river before a final 20 min hike uphill.

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The bed seems nice, but it's all very open and I don't have any warm clothes. In theory, I could go back to the office and get stuff from my bag. Harsh hike again though if i do that!

At this point it feels like 3 nights may have been a night too long… Alternatively Blanc, just roll with it, chill out and relax a bit. Read a book!

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Two guys turned up late afternoon, Chris and Frank from Poland. Turns out they're father and son, which i never would have guessed. I think they've booked a room, so I'm still on my own where I'm sleeping

Chris is a good guy, we have a drink together, pretty fun evening, but still raining, it has been now for 6 hours.

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Day 2
The rain stopped about 7am, apparently the worst rain for two years! They’re saying it destroyed a bridge between here and Puerto Jimenez where I’m returning to, maybe I can't get out of here?

I went out for a hike, it was extraordinary, really beautiful, but very hard going in places and bloody hot! I saw a few animals including a family of jumping monkeys and the biggest butterfly I have ever seen in my life.

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Finished a whole book in under a day, I haven't done that in ages. Amazing how productive I can be when there’s no wi-fi

Made my dinner, only for a swarm of flying termites to show up and get in absolutely everything. I had to boil the water 3 times because they managed to get in there.

I would be happy to leave tomorrow, all the things that make this place great get old very quick, being in the middle of nowhere, shit power, shit wi-fi, nature everywhere, good for a day, maybe two, but three??

Went out at night with everyone looking in the jungle for snakes and spiders. Actually quite creepy, saw loads of spiders, no snakes. We found a hand sized wolf spider in the French couple’s room. The Polish lad moved it to the pond. He likes bugs apparently

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Day 3
Walked down to my bag to get the drone. Water was higher than before, but not too bad. Walk was a pain again though.

Flew the drone a bit before it started to rain hard. Ron got my hopes up by saying I may have to leave early if the rain continued because of crossing the river. Rain stopped though, I've never been so saddened by rain stopping.

Chris and Frank left, two Swiss girls arrived, tonight I'm mostly bored and looking forward to getting off tomorrow. I spent a little lime looking for stars. Anyone who knows me knows how badly I want to see the Milky Way, but it has eluded me again this trip so far, with the night skies being clouded over all the time. It's a long trip though, fingers crossed

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Day 4
It’s been a funny few days and in some ways I’m sad to be leaving, but in more ways I’m not lol. It really has been an experience, but I guess I’m too used to the trappings of modern life, even the cut down ones that I have while travelling. Would I do it again? Surprisingly, yes, in a heartbeat, it was amazing, seeing all the animals, living in the middle of it. It's the experience of a lifetime. Although I would likely just do two nights, that’s more than enough!

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Posted by cblanc102 20:31 Archived in Costa Rica Tagged animals monkeys rainforest jungle costa_rica bugs south_america central_america latin_america spiders solo_travel Comments (2)

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