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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)

Back on track

See what I did there? Man, I'm hilarious

So after 3 days back in Bangkok, with very little to do but sit around all day whilst venturing out each evening looking for food, I was looking forward to moving on Northward to Chiang Mai. I had somewhat of a credo before I left the UK, at least an Idea of what I wanted to do and sitting around doing nothing all day was not part of the plan. It's beautiful here and the weather is lovely, if a bit hot (41C here today, a bit of rain would be welcome at this point), but whatever your view, a lockdown is still a lockdown.

I had researched the various ways to get from Bangkok to Chiang Mai and the sleeper train seemed like the best way. Way longer than a flight, but much easier and I wouldn't have to pay for a hotel for a night. I'd been on a sleeper train before, from Goa to Mumbai, which was fine (and much better than the hellish sleeper bus from Mumbai to Goa!!) so I was happy to go that way.

I stopped off outside the station at a 7/11 to get supplies (which turned out to be a good idea as the food on the train was very expensive!) and boarded the train. It was really nice, the seats were big and comfy with a light and a plug socket just beside me. There was room in my area for three other travellers, but they weren't used, the train was pretty empty. I was happy to be travelling properly again. The train started and I gazed out the window watching the country go past for a short time before it got dark. There wasn't really anything of note, apart from a building that looked a lot like the Gherkin! Apparently it's called the Pearl.

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The train journey was long and pretty uneventful, almost all of it taking place after dark and very few passengers on the train, but it was comfortable, I got a few hours sleep and it got me to where I wanted to go. Good tip though, book a bottom bunk bed, there are lights above the top bunks that never turn off, I don't know how they slept (if they did).

The most annoying this was that I somehow managed to lose another pair of glasses! I know I do this all the time, but I have no idea how this happened. I was using them before I went to sleep, woke up, the guy got rid of my sheets and turned my bed into seats again. Shortly after, I realised the glasses were gone and went over the whole area. Nothing. Then the porter who had taken the sheets went through all the sheets for the whole carriage to find them and found nothing.

It's so annoying, not only do I have to pay out for a new pair, but have to find a place that sells them, which isn't easy, I bought this pair from a weird little mart in the middle of nowhere. They only cost a fiver, but that's almost two days rent at the hotel I'm staying at, I'm trying to keep costs down!

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I arrived in Chiang Mai around 7am and got a taxi of sorts to my hotel. The taxis are called Songthaew, which apparently means red car and they're essentially a red pick up truck with benches on the back and a roof on top. They're the cheapest way to get around here. My hotel is very nice, with quite a lot of travellers here considering how quiet it is everywhere. Unfortunately, I was wearing my Captain America shield T-Shirt, which grabbed the attention of the world's most annoying American, who now whenever I do downstairs for food or a drinks, will grab me and tell me how the virus was created by the deep state, or how Trump saved the world by defeating Clinton who would have started a nuclear war. You know the type I'm talking about. Believes in secret cabals running everything, every bad thing that happens has been caused by some seedy dark organisation. He may be right, what do I know? I don't need to hear about it 5 times a day though, which is why I went out to eat in the evening rather than stay at the hotel.

Everything was closed.

in Bangkok each evening, loads of food stalls would open up and shops were still serving food, here almost everything was closed. I walked around for ages trying to find something, eventually heading up to the night market in the hope that something would be open there, but almost everything was closed, the market, the street food area, even the Hard Rock cafe! I eventually found a Burger King and ate there. It turns out all restaurants are closed apart from take aways, so most places have just stayed closed. It was pretty depressing. I had hoped that moving away from Bangkok would mean less restrictions, but this felt like the opposite.

I did however get propositioned by a prostitute while on the phone to my Mum, so not all business is closed here!

After my call home to cheer myself up and a quick beer back at the hotel avoiding the annoying American as much as possible I went to bed early, hoping that there would be temples open in the morning for me to visit.

And boy were there!!

Chiang Mai has over 300 temples and today I saw a good few of them! The Old City is a square area about 1.5 km each side surrounded by a moat that's about 200 meters from my hotel. I decided to start there and looked sup some of the temples on Google Maps giving myself some sort of plan, but by the time I'd reached the 1st temple on my plan, I'd already visited two others that were just on the way. They are everywhere! Mostly Buddhist, all beautiful and interesting, some with fairly creepy wax monks sitting in halls that you think are real at first, but lots of actual living monks around all happy to talk and lots of places with shade to sit and let the day go by. It really lifted my spirits, as did the delicious iced latte I bought from a stall at the side of the road.

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I've no idea how long I can carry this journey on, I may have to leave here on the 26th or even earlier unless Vietnam or somewhere else close opens. everything changes daily and sometimes it feels like the walls are closing in, but I'll carry on as best as I can, I haven't given up yet and I'm determined to make the most of it while I can!

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This is my new motto, being beautiful isn't enough :)

Posted by cblanc102 00:31 Archived in Thailand Tagged temples train thailand vietnam chiang mai visa asia journey solo_travel Comments (1)

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