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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)

Time to smell the coffee

sunny 30 °C
View Central America 2021 on cblanc102's travel map.

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 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)

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