Where I have been...

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Hong Kong

The trip to Hong Kong was not as smooth as I would have liked!! I had to catch a flight from Cochin to Mumbai, which was alright apart from the fact that I had caught a cold the day before and my sinuses were very blocked. This meant that I was in absolute agony when we started to prepare for landing until we actually landed - not nice. It felt like my head was going to explode! But I made it and caught the bus to the international airport. It was 1.30am and the flight that I was confirmed on wasn't leaving until 4.55am. There was an earlier flight leaving at 2.55 which was direct (my flight was going through Bangkok). So I went up to the desk to see if I was able to get on the earlier flight. When I had last spoken to Cathay Pacific and Qantas I was actually waitlisted for the earlier flight, but on speaking to them now I found out that they had cancelled my waitlist! I got them to put me back on the waitlist and explained to them that I would much rather go direct and as I didn't think my head could cope with 2 more landings. At 2am as the desks were closing for the earlier flight, they took pity on me and gave me the last available seat - yeah!! So I had to rush through immigration and customs and jump on the plane. Unfortunately there was no window seat for me this time and I was in fact squashed between 2 men in the middle seats, but I was just glad to be on the flight. I think the men were not that happy as when we began to prepare for landing and the plane started to head towards land - again my sinuses played up and this time I had tears rolling down my checks because of the pain and they looked very worried - what to do with a woman in tears!!! Anyway, I recovered on landing and was now in Hong Kong. I made my way to my hostel in the Kowloon area. I was absolutely exhausted but made myself stay awake and went for a wander around the area until it was time for bed.

The next morning I though I would check my emails and while I was at it, check the status of my next flights. Guess what I found this time....They had cancelled them all - again!!! I was amazed, especially after I had specifically told the lady in Mumbai that I would never ever ever want my flights to be cancelled again. So I called up Qantas who said they couldn't do anything. Then it was onto Cathay Pacific who told me that my flights had been cancelled because I hadn't turned up for my flight to Hong Kong. I informed them that I was in fact calling from Hong Kong, and unless I had grown wings then I had more then likely taken their flight there! This obviously stumped them for a moment, but then they found out that the people in Mumbai hadn't registered me on the earlier flight (even though I had gone through my problems with them and they appeared to understand - once again I seemed to have misinterpreted that whole nodding thing they do!!) and therefore I was now recorded as a no-show and my flights were now cancelled - permanently!! But they could create a new booking for me for the sum of $300. Hmmmmm. I pointed out that on all the occasions that they had cancelled my flights it had been their fault and not mine and I should not have to pay. Plus don't they feel at all responsible for leaving a female, travelling by herself in foreign countries, where she doesn't speak the language with no way of leaving! This did the trick and they created the new booking (no fee charged - yet!) and they even got me a seat on the flight to Japan which they had been saying for the last 2 weeks was in fact full and I would not be able to get a seat! Anyway, I didn't trust the lady on the phone, so I made my way to the Cathay Pacific offices and got the lady there to check on her screen and print off the booking, just to doubly confirm it all, and I made her promise that they would never cancel the flights either!

So after all that was sorted out I felt it was now time to see some of Hong Kong. I have to say that it was so different to India and it was nice to be back in the modern world again where everything worked, on time - even to the second!! The transport system is amazing and cheap (maybe something London transport should learn from!!). The place is spotless, perhaps due to the massive fines if you drop any litter or spit, you can't even eat or drink on the metro or in any of the paved areas around it!! I spent the week seeing various sights and visiting the many markets and shopping centres. This place is basically built on shops, its nearly the only thing you can do here!! Unfortunately the whole week I was here, it was very cloudy and therefore I didn't get to do some of the highly recommend sights like going up to the Peak which apparently gives the best view of Hong Kong. Maybe next time! I did visit a little place called Stanley which is on the south of Hong Kong Island. There they have a nice market and beach - all in all very pleasant. They also have this fantastic light show every night. If you go to Kowloon and get a nice spot on the avenue of stars (which is by the harbour) at 8pm, you can watch the sky-scrapers on Hong Kong Island all light up to the music being played. I think all cities should do this!! It was absolutely brilliant!

I have enjoyed my week in Hong Kong, taking life easy and not worrying about whether I will actually get to places - because I will - on time too!! They also have a ridiculous amount of European/American shops here so it is just like being at home, but with the Asian influence as well. Definitely a place I would like to come back to.

But onwards and upwards, and therefore Taiwan tomorrow...hopefully!

Saturday, April 5, 2008


Well I am still travelling, although now I am on my last leg :-( I had just spent a month at home in the UK, recuperating and celebrating my birthday and my Mum's. Then it was time to leave again - this time to India.

I was spending my first two weeks in India on a tour with Imaginative Travel. To be honest, I was exhausted from the last 2 years of travel and trying to organise everything myself and just felt for once to have someone do it for me!! And, I had heard of lots of stories of how it was hard to move around India as the transport system isn't the most reliable!! This also had the advantage of the fact that I would be staying in hotels and not hostels which I was really looking forward to!

So I arrived in Delhi at around 8am. I made my way to the hotel using a pre-paid taxi from the airport. You would think that by showing the guys the exact address and them nodding profusely would mean they know where it was... Well I soon learned that this is not the case - at all!! And has since become apart of my travels around the country. Nine times out of 10 the taxi/tuk-tuk/rickshaw drivers do not know where they are going, despite them saying they do. Basically they just want to get your money - nice!! So we eventually arrived in the area of where the hotel was supposed to be and then spent the next half hour driving up every single road to find the place. The driver stopped several times and got out of the taxi, leaving me there with loads of locals starring at the blond girl!! (Again something else I was going to have to get used to!). You would think that I should be used to this starring by now after going through it in South America, but there, the people were just curious. Here they are just purvey men!!! In India many men believe that European women are easy, and its not hard to find out why. Just turn on the TV and you will see the Indian women dressed head to toe, but the 'white women' are barely dressed at all.

Eventually the driver found my hotel, something I was beginning to think we would never
achieve!! I dragged myself to the front desk to check-in, only to be met with - 'your friend is already here'. I tried to explain that I was travelling alone and that I had 'no friends' in India (yet!). I obviously was not understood and to be honest I really couldn't understand the guy either!! He kept pointing to a sheet where my name appeared as well as another ladies. I tried to explain that being part of a tour meant that I would be sharing a room with another individual, but that person was not yet known to me! But he was adamant that she was my long lost friend and that we should be immediately reunited!! So I was dragged upstairs with one of the porters who repeatedly knocked on one of the bedroom doors. It being only 9am (and as it turned out the occupant had only arrived at 3am), the response was not positive. We had woken up the poor soul who was trying to sleep. I tried to explain that this could be done later if I was staying in this room then I could wait. But actually we were not staying in that room at all, we were sharing the room opposite, they just wanted the 'friends' to be together! Anyway, I eventually settled in the other room and tried to catch a few zzzzz myself, but with no luck- as I was now assigned the tour contact by the hotel!!! The tour leader had yet to show up, therefore the hotel decided that if anyone else on the tour had any questions then they would send them up to me - joy!! So within an hour I was disturbed 3 times by people asking me questions which to be honest, I really didn't know the answer to!! In the end I gave up on the idea of ever going to sleep and decided to find some food and water!!

Later on I met my 'friend' who turned out to be Monika, a Mexican living in Canada. I apologised for waking her this morning, luckily that didn't damper our friendship as we were going to be sharing a room for the next 2 weeks. We then decided that we couldn't hang around in the hotel all day, and since it was our only time in Delhi we would grab a taxi and do a tour. 3 of us, (Myself, Monika and Laura from Belgium) jumped into a taxi. Obviously first making sure he understood where we wanted to go and what time we had to be back - he nodded!!! We then spent the next 4 hours pretty much in traffic!! We had told the taxi driver that we needed to be back at the hotel by 3pm, but it was clear that that was never going to happen, especially when he said 'return at 5pm'. So after a little arguing, we headed back only to arrive an hour later for the meeting and only seeing 2 sights out of 6 - not a good start!! Luckily we had a nice tour leader - Nari, who had another meeting with the three of us after everyone else's!

The next day we were to head to Agra to see the Taj Mahal. This is a 3 hour train journey, which should be relatively painless - not for us though!!! The journey started on time, but we soon discovered that it was going to take a bit longer than 3 hours. In fact it took us 9 hours!! We ended up sitting in one place for the best part of 6 hours because of engineering works (I now have no sympathy for anyone in the UK who's train is delayed by a few minutes). It was 35 degrees Celsius outside and we had no air con, fans - nothing! Luckily we had snacks and water as Nari had told us to take extra just in case - sensible man! We did eventually arrive in Agra and were immediately whisked to the Taj Mahal where we got to spend an hour wandering around (a lot less time that what we were supposed to). At least we got to see it, as at one point it didn't look possible. We then went to the hotel, had dinner and then went to bed. Unfortunately we didn't see anything else in Agra :-(

The next day we were introduced to our bus. Oh happy times!! Luckily for the next 11 days we were no longer relying on public transport, instead we had a nice air-con bus to drive us around on the rest of our tour - yeah!!

We were driven around the state of Rajastan to various locations to see Temples, Forts, Palaces which were all very impressive, but I won't bore you with the details. Although I do have to say that I am now completely Templed out!! On some parts of the tour we stayed at Heritage Homes, which were old Forts made into hotels - and oh they were beautiful. It was so cool staying in a fort on top of a hill. Although I do have to mention that in India, they have not looked after their heritage very well. Most of the buildings we saw were in ruins, or crumbling. It was such a shame that they hadn't bothered to look after their history :-( I also have to mention the cows. They are everywhere. They walk in front of traffic, they even try and attack you if you are not careful. One of the girls on the tour got head-butted in the stomach by one!! Luckily it wasn't that hard, but I found it hilarious!!! The problem with these cows is that they are left to defend for themselves once flung out onto the streets. This also means feeding themselves. Unfortunately you see a lot of them eating the plastic bags and cardboard which they inevitable die from :-(

We also went on a camel safari which was amusing. I am not fond of camels and to be honest after riding one in Broome, Australia, I wasn't too keen to get on another one. This time I was prepared. I managed to get on the camel and for it to get up without headbutting anyone!! We were all riding male camels. The reason for this is obvious. You can't mix male and female camels as the males will just try to mate with them. I had already told everyone about this (information I had obtained from my last camel ride), and so we were all prepared. So half way through the ride (luckily it was only for 2 hours, 15 mins was enough for me though), we passed another camel....guess what, it was a female. Well the next 5 minutes proved to be the most exiting on the ride!! My camel got very excited and tried to run after it. Luckily my camels owner was in control and we managed to continue, but Richard's camel was not so well trained and his just went for the female. The owner had very little control, Richard looked terrified, and we all continued walking away from them!!! Eventually the owner manged to drag the camels apart and continue on with the trip!! That evening we were to be camping in tents, but to be honest it was all rather luxurious as we had proper beds, toilets and washing facilities.

A couple of days later four of us decided that we wanted to ride a proper horse. There is a local horse to this region who's ears point inwards called the Marwaris. It looks rather odd, but I have to say the horses were brilliant to ride and it was far more enjoyable than riding the camels! Unfortunately for our last two destinations we had to give up the air-con bus and take up local transport. Our first was on a local bus. These are interesting as they have the normal seats as you would expect but they have transformed the overhead storage area into cubicles which only one person can lie-down in (no sitting permitted as the space is too small). So while most of the bus is sitting for the journey, these guys got to spend the entire journey lying down - not bad! At one point while I was listening to music I suddenly noticed liquid was dripping down on me and my neighbour. She jumped up and I squished myself as close to the window as possible. We managed to get Nari to ask the guy above us whether his water had toppled over, apparently not. I personally thought that he had wet himself, but there wasn't anything we could do about it, so I got my duck tape out and taped up all the cracks!! The joys of public transport in India!!

Our tour was to end in Mumbai (Bombay), but on the day we arrived it was Holi Day. This is a festival in India (something about celebrating the beginning of spring??) where for one day only it is legal to do drugs and drink (At least that is what Nari told us). Anyway, this resulted in him telling us that we would have to spend our last day of the tour locked up in the hotel as it would be far too dangerous for women to go out, even in groups as the men were off their heads and would harm foreign women - great!! Well we lasted literally an hour before we got bored and decided that we would hire out the hotel car and drive round the city for a tour. Well we saw no 'crazy' men and everything appeared to be fine and we had a nice day driving around the city seeing the sights (secretly we were actually disappointed! We wanted to see these 'crazy' men, we had sort of envisaged them as the zombies out of 28 days!). The next day our tour finished and I was now on my own. I decided to go to Goa, Anjuna Beach to be exact (the place where the British girl got murdered for those of you who it rings a bell!). I flew down there, and I have to mention in case anyone from Bombay airport might be reading this - could you please resurface the runway! We bumped our way down it and I thought that instead of taking-off we would hit a pothole and crash before we had even taken off!!

Anyway, I had an enjoyable week there, doing nothing much apart from taking it easy and enjoying the fact that I didn't have to pack my backpack everyday! Although the Monsoons have decided to come 3 months early just for me!! My room ended up have a few holes in the roof -11 to be precise. 2 of these were over my bed which is why one night I woke up as I had wet feet!! I managed to move the bed so that no water was going on it and then had an arrangement of buckets and cut up plastic bottles to catch all the water!! As a result of all this water there were a number of power cuts each day. One such power cut happened in the middle of the night when the rain was coming down in buckets. I got out of bed to rearrange my water collection devises. To do this I put my new head torch on my head. I have to say I am very proud of this purchase as it only took me 2 years of travel to finally buy one and it would come in very useful, particularly for situations like this when I needed both my hands. Well that was until a sodding great big moth decided it wanted to 'come to the light'!!! I then spent the next 10 minutes waving my arms frantically around trying to stop the moth from head-butting me and flying into my mouth, while avoiding tripping up over the buckets and bottles of water!! I ended up having to rip the light off my head and strategically placing it so that I could whack the moth with my flip-flop! I succeeded!

I do have to mention as well that apparently loads of people come to Goa from all over the world for their beach holidays - I just have to ask Why? Seriously there are a million better beaches in other parts of the world - certainly in Europe. The beaches are so polluted, it is disgusting. Usually I love swimming, but I would never ever ever go swimming in the sea in India. The amount of pollution floating in the water was disgusting. Also the beach was covered in black stuff - I presume oil. There was rubbish everywhere. Plus to top it off, the Indian men come here especially to leer over the scantly clad western women and take pictures of them with their mobiles!!

I then flew down to Kochi in South India. This flight I found rather amusing, because unlike most airlines, Indigo airline hadn't bothered to provide life jackets in the event of a crash!! Instead you were instructed to rip your seat out and use that instead. To be honest they were just being realists, as I have been told many a time that if you do, in the unlikely event crash into water, then the plane is not likely to survive anyway! So really what is the point of providing life jackets seemed to be their philosophy!

In Kochi I went on a tour of the backwaters which are absolutely lovely and thankfully not as polluted as the rest of India, although there are still plastic bags and bottles floating around :-( I enjoyed the South far more than the North. One of the reasons for this is that I wasn't hassled as much and it was far more chilled out there.

Well I will now be moving on to Hong Kong, thats if I have a seat on my flight!! I called up the airline a week before I was supposed to leave India to find out that in fact Cathay Pacific had cancelled all my flights with them. They, for some reason, expected me to make it to Japan by myself, despite me booking and paying for my flights some 10 months ago!!! Well I then spent the next 4 days calling Cathay and Qantas (who I had booked the RTW ticket with) to try and sort out the problem. They refused to talk to each other so I had to act as the middle man and spoke to each of them about 4 times each day! Neither would take responsibility or apologise for the inconvenience so I am a little annoyed!! I have managed to get on a flight to Hong Kong (or as far as I know, I will find out later!), but I still don't have a flight to Japan, hopefully that will come through sometime this week! Wish me luck....

Wednesday, February 6, 2008


Ok, so first post of the New Year, and what better way to start then with an amazing country like Egypt!

I arrived in Cairo at 1.30am, not the best time, but the flight was running late - what a surprise!! I was taken to my hotel and had to wake up the girl I would be sharing with for the next week -Stacey from Australia. I only had 4 hours sleep before I had to be up for our introductory talk and then we all went straight off to the Egyptian Museum. There were 9 of us in the group in total - only 2 of us were Brits, the rest were Aussies! It turns out that the Brits don't tend to go to Egypt much anymore and that role has instead been taken over by the Australians who come in droves. This meant that wherever you went the locals would shout at you 'Australian, Australian?'. In the end it was best to just say 'Yes', as otherwise they then said, 'New Zealand, South Africa, American, Russian', before they said British! God knows why they are so desperate to know where you come from???

Anyway, for our first day we had an amazing Egyptologist called Nancy take us around and show us the Museum. There are so many awesome artefacts in there (most are not labeled so it is advisable you have a guide!). Apparently if you spent 1 minute looking at everything in the museum it would take you 3 years before you saw everything!! Unfortunately we didn't have the time for this so we just saw the treasures that came out of Tutankhamun Tomb as well as lots of Mummies, which to be honest were not that nice to look at!! They also had mummified animals which were a bit odd. They had things like cats, monkeys, dogs etc.

After the museum it was time to venture to the Pyramids. They were amazing, but it was really odd how close they were to Cairo City, literally a stone throw. In fact there are some people who have built there houses on top of the tombs next door to the pyramids. A lot of these people have dug below their houses and found the ancient treasures and instead of telling the government they just sell what they find on the black market. So apparently there is lots of stuff down there which we just don't know about and the locals are not about to reveal all!! We went inside one of the pyramids which was pretty interesting, but not quite what I was expecting (I think I have been watching too many movies!!). It was very plain inside, no decoration on the walls. In fact, to me, it just looked like the inside of an old barn but made out of stone, i.e. with the slanting roof! We then went to see the Sphynx which was very impressive, although again was right next door to where people were living - it kind of took away the atmosphere a little!

In the evening we had to catch the night train to Aswan. I am so glad I was with a tour this time as I would so have never got on the right train otherwise. The anouncements were in Arabic (and that was when they actually decided to announce a train!), otherwise everyone else seemed to know which one was theirs!! A train turned up at the time ours was supposed to leave but apparently it wasn't ours. Ours came over an hour late!! But our guides were in the know and got us into the right carraige (again, would never have managed this by myself as the numbers are written differently here!). Surprise surprise I did not sleep, but then again I have never managed to sleep on trains that well, but this one was rediculous. We spent the whole time stopping and starting and pretty much going an avereage speed of 5mph! It turned out later that there were engineering works going on the track (the only track to Aswan). Why they couldn't do the works once the train had passed, god only knows!! But we did get a lot of interest on the train. Being blonde I had a lot of guys starring (it is very unusal for women to travel in this country). I was wearing an eye mask (in a vague attempt to sleep) and at one point I felt a little uncomfortable so I removed my mask to find out why, and guess what there was an Egyptian man standing over me starring!!! He quickly walked off once he found I was actually awake!! I was definitely not going to sleep after that!

We arrived in Aswan the next afternoon - 3 hours late (we were supposed to be arriving in the morning). We then went for a walk around the market, where we were made to feel very self concious. All the stalls are run by men, there are no local women around, just tourists, so we got harrassed a lot. Everyone wanted to know where we were from, and why we wouldn't buy from their shop!!! After a while we got exhausted by all of this and went back to the hotel. In the evening, we caught a little boat to the Nubin island where we had dinner. On the way to the house we were to eat at we went to the local school and had a look around. Not very different from what we have at home, just a little more basic. We had a lovely dinner with traditional Nubin food, and the locals told us about their lives. We then made it back across the Nile to our hotel in the dark with no lights whatsoever. At one point we ran out of petrol but luckily they had some stored away!!

The next morning we had to get up rediculously early - 2.45am!! We had to join the huge convoy to Abu Simbel. Apparently it is too dangerous for the tourists to travel alone, although I have to say I really couldn't see the point of it myself! We started near the front of the convoy but ended up near the back. Our bus driver was soooo slow that every bus passed us and we were left to drive alone anyway - hmmmm! Anyway, we arrived safe and sound at 7.30am. We had another Egyptologist as our guide (he was not that good). He talked to us for about 10 minutes about the 2 temples that we were about to see and then left us to it!! They were very impressive temples built by King Ramese II, one for himself and the other for his favourite wife (the 9th one he married out of 40 odd - this guy had over 150 children!). Anyway, these temples used to be about 60 below where they are now, but were moved as otherwise they would be underwater. This was because the High Dam was constructed to control the floods of the Nile, this created Lake Nassar. The temples are very impressive, especially inside, there are loads of decorations on the walls (just like the movies), but they do look a bit silly as they have obviously been plonked up there, but there wasn't much else they could do about that!

We then left Abu Simbel within the safety of the convoy, although exactly the same thing happened on the way home, although I am not too sorry our driver wasn't the fastest as to be honest the way they drives is pretty scary. Drivers in Egypt tend to drive in the middle of the road, they ignore the white lines (especially in Cairo where a 3 lane motorway turns into 5 lanes!) and the general rule of thumb is that the driver just worries about what is happening in front of them. It is not their concern how the people behind or to the side of them are driving. It seems to work pretty well, although there are quite a few car crashes!!

We arrived back in Aswan and were taken to our home for the next 4 days - the cruise ship called Simbad. To be honest it was a lot better than I was expecting and we had pretty nice rooms. I was sharing with Stacey again which would have been fine except for the fact she had become ill. I really did not want to catch whatever she had as I was going to go diving and if I was sick I would not be able to dive (the main reason I had come to Egypt!).

In the afternoon we boarded a smaller boat called a Feluccia and had a little sail around the Nile, passing a few of the islands, it was all very peaceful :-) In the evening, after dinner on the boat (which was very nice) we had some entertainment provided for us. The first performer was a guy who spun around on the same spot for 10 minutes or so (it was very impressive), and when he stopped he didn't fall over which we were all expecting him to do. He was followed by the belly dancer who had to be the worst belly dancer on the planet! The fact that she didn't know how to belly dance didn't help. But this did not stop a memeber of the band (the drummer) who was playing her dancing music from ogling her for her entire performance. It was far more entertaining watching him than her. Twice his mouth dropped open and the rest of the time it just looked like he was having an orgasim!! The more he enjoyed it, the faster he played! The only explanation that we could come up with (because to be honest she was not that attractive) is that women in Egypt cover themselves from head-to-toe and she was showing quite a bit of flesh, and this man had never seen anything like it before!! (nor had we to be honest and we hoped we never would again!!).

The next day we got a lie-in, so we were up at 7.30am! Before the boat set sail, Stacey, Mostafa (our guide) and I popped into town to the pharmacy. Stacey needed medication and she wanted me to accommpany her. On the way back I bumped into 2 others from our group - Sheridan and Cheryl. We had all decided the night before that we were in serious need of alcohol (especially if we were to go by the entertainment provided!). But the alcohol on the boat was expensive so we thought we would buy in town. A few problems arose from this. First it was the weekend so the only off-licence in the whole town was closed - typical. Second this is a Muslim country and therefore they don't drink so even finding a pub was impossible!! So, we gave up looking, but on the way back to the boat, Sheridan, Cheryl and I popped into a candy shop to buy a soft drink. The owner came up to me and said 'Beer'. I said 'no', as we already knew that the only beer they sold was non-alcoholic. But he then said 'alcohol, alcohol'. We were suddenly very interested and had a look around the shop but could see nothing. He then took us into the back of his shop and opened up one of those drink fridges, removed a few cans of soft-drinks to reveal loads of cans of beer stacked behind - awesome!! We filled up a couple bags of beer and bought a bottle of gin, all cunningly disgused in a black bag which was then covered with a white bag. The shop keeper was very nervous, and we later found out that he had a policeman posted next to his shop, which we discovered as we walked out, talking excitedly about our find!! On the way back to the boat we passed some of the others from our boat so we shared with them our discovery and they all made their way to his shop! Don't you just love the black market!!

At 4pm we finally set sail down the Nile. We were all sitting on the sun-deck at the time sipping our illegal alcohol and all had to make a quick retreat downstairs as once we were moving the wind was so strong that it was far too cold to stay up there! In the evening we stopped at the Temple of Sobek. We had to cross 3 other cruise boats to get to land. This wasn't so good, as all the other boats were way more impressive than ours inside. But then these people had probably paid a ton more money! This temple was very impressive and they had 3 mummified crocodiles there!

We then boarded out boat and set sail again. After dinner we had a fancy dress party (we had to dress like the locals). My effort consisted of putting my black pashmina around my head!! We played some games and the best one was for the boys where they had a potatoe tied by a string around their waste so it was hanging between their legs. They then had to try and hit another potatoe which was on the ground with it. The first to the finish line was the winner. It was absolutely histerical to watch!! Its a lot harder to play than it looks!!

The next morning we left our boat at Edfu to see the Temple of Horus. It was also very impressive, but we only god half an hour to go around it as we had to board our boat as quickly as possible to start the race to the barge. We needed to get there early so that we would be one of the first through as the next morning we were supposed to be doing a hot air balloon ride in Luxor. It turns out our boat was pretty similar to the bus we had going to Abu Simbal. Despite leaving in good time, all the other cruise boats overtook us - typical! So we ended up 18th in the queue out of 23! This would mean that we would be lucky to reach Luxor by midday the following day and therefore miss our hot air balloon flight (only 12 out of the 50 or so people on board were doing it). Our Captain managed to find out that their sister ship was near the front of the queue and was willing to swap places with us as they didn't need to be in Luxor early. So we made a run for it, past all the other ships to get in front. The other boats were not happy and they showed this by beeping their very loud horns!! We were promptly approached by a couple of guards in a speed boat shouting at us - a lot!! They did not like this new arrangement and as it turned out nor did the boat just behind the sister ship. There was lots of shouting and we were told to turn around. But our Captain just ignored them and kept sailing towards the barge. In the end we just got in the way so they had to let us through!! We found it hilarious, but the guards were very very angry! All of this for 12 people who wanted to go in a hot air balloon - brilliant!! It was a good thing we got through when we did because it took us over 3 hours to get through the barge and then we still had to sail to Luxor. We made it that evening which was great.

But then Stacey decided that she was in fact very very ill and couldn't last another second without seeing a doctor. From her symptoms I thought she just had the flu, but she kept saying she had never been this sick before! So our guide found a doctor who was willing to come on board late at night and have a look at her. He told her she just had a cold, so she insulted him and told him he was wrong, that he wasn't doing his job properly and that she wanted to see another doctor (preferably an Australian one!!??!!). Good move!! He promptly left and she continued to moan at me about how ill she was. Myself and this other lady Lee had spent most of the boat trip running around after her, trying to make her comfortable as she thought she was dying (she was just driving all of us around the bend!).

The next morning we had to get up really early to go on the hot air balloon. Stacey decided she was too sick to do this (the stupid girl had taken laxatives so couldn't move more than 2 meters from a toilet anyway!). The rest of us made our way to the balloons and lifted off. It was absolutely amazing. The views over Luxor with the sun rising were stunning. Plus being able to see all the temples and tombs from the sky was awesome. A truely magical experience. Once we landed we were taken to our next activity - donkey riding to the Valley of the Kings. This was hilarious. We all had to get on these little donkey, which we were reassured would be able to carry us. On my one I could touch my feet underneath him!! We had to bump along on these poor donkeys back for 45 minutes, along the main road, with the cars driving around us, on animals none of us could control - just brilliant!! We reached the Valley of the Kings in one peace and were met by our new Egyptologist for the day. He took us around 3 tombs in the Valley - Kind Rameses IV, IX and I. These tombs were just amazing. The decoration inside were stunning, and it was just beautiful to see that the colours were still on the walls.

We then rode in a carriage pulled by a horse to the massive complex of Karnak. This was a temple that was built but never completed. So you can actually see how they built these temples and carved them, incredibly interesting. We spent several hours with our guide going around the temple, before we headed back to the hotel. Stacey, who had not joined us at all today had now decided that she was too ill to continue on with her tour and would be cutting it short and flying back to Cairo the following morning and waiting there for her flight home (all this for a cold!!). Our group actually consisted of 2 groups put together. I was in the group that would be catching the night train back to Cairo that evening, while the other group would be continuing on to the Red Sea for a couple of days (this is what Stacey was supposed to do).

So that evening we caught the train, and despite the train going really fast i.e. not stopping and starting like the one on the way down, we arrived 2 hours late! On arrival at the hotel we were met by a rather chirpy Stacey who now looked far from being ill!! That day we went shopping at one of the markets in Cairo and then we returned to the hotel for a final farewell drinks. Stacey had made a miraculous recovery (it turned out she wasn't dying after all!!) and was able to join in all the fun, although by this point we had all had enough of her attention seeking!!

The next day I caught my flight to Sharm El Sheikh and from there I got my transfer to Dahab, 90Km from Sharm. Here I was to spent the next 4 days by the Red Sea diving. I had an awesome time and went on the best dives I have ever done. One of the dives called the canyon we dived straight down for 30m into this canyon, it was so beautiful down there. On another dive we dived down another hole before appearing at 25m beside the reef which apparently went down for well over 100m. It was amazing swimming with absolutely nothing below you or nothing to the left of you except water! I saw lots of clown fish, puffer fish, banner fish and butterfly fish to name a few. My last dive was a night dive and it was very very dark down there. At one point we all had to turn off our torches, and as we kicked around the plankton all lite up around it, it was amazing. I have to say I found this dive very hard as I had my torch in one hand, my camera in the other, I then I had to deflate my BCD somehow and equalise. Surprisingly enough I had huge problems equalising and ended up in quite a bit of pain, but luckily I survived!! After the night dive we were all glad to be back in dry clothes as it was pretty cold coming out of the water when it is dark and windy!

My last day in Dahab I decided to do some shopping down the only street in the town. As I was the only blonde lady walking around all the shop sellers got to recognise me and ended up harrassing me loads - it became very annoying. It was really weird because in Dahab I never ever say an Egyptian woman. The town seemed to be inhabited by only men - I wonder what they did with them!! One guy managed to coax me into his shop and all I wanted was a a toy camel and a magnet. I managed to bargan a good price for the camel but the magnet he wasn't giving in so easily. But then he said that he would give me the two for the price I wanted if I let him hug me ????!!! I said NO, so he then said that if I let him take a photo of me then that would do instead. Again I said NO, I was not into giving him a cheap thrill!! In the end I threated to walk out without buying anything so he let me buy it at the price I wanted, but then tried to give me a hug anyway so I quickly legged it. Some of those guys are so creepy!!

It was then the end of my trip and I headed back home to the UK. I had a great time in Egypt, despite the weird and creepy men. The country is filled with so many amazing treasures and I would highly recommend it as a place to visit (although do in a tour group as it would be far too difficult doing it by yourself!).

Friday, November 23, 2007


To catch my flight to Brazil, I had to get up at 3.30am - I was not impressed and nor was the guy on duty at reception as he was having a nice snooze before I disturbed him!! I made it to the airport, check-in, boarded the plane and off we went. All was pretty uneventful. I arrived at Rio De Janeiro where I was to be collected by my friend Keila who I had met in Santiago when I first came to South America. I waited and waited for her, not quite sure where she was. After an hour I figured something wasn´t quite right so I went to the information desk to ask where the phones were so I could call her. The lady very kindly lent me her mobile instead. It turned out the Keila was not in fact not going to be collecting me but instead was at her beach house in a tiny place called Jacone. She decided to go the night before. So she told me how to get there and off I went. First I had to catch a bus from the airport to Niteroi bus station (about an hour away). It turns out that buses in Brazil are not made for backpackers!! They have turnstiles you have to go though to get on the bus and me and all my baggage did not fit through. The poor bus driver had to help me lift it all over the barrier!! So I made it to the bus station and then wandered around trying to find the bus to Jacone. I could not see it and tried to ask at the information desk for help. They did not speak English. But luckily for me a Brazilian lady heard me asking for help and came over to offer her services as she spoke English - yeah!! So with her assistance I found the right bus and off I was on the second part of the journey. After another hour I eventually arrived in this tiny place and by then it had decided to start raining. I have no wet water gear so me and everything I owned just got wet!! My next mission was to find Keila´s house. She had forgotten to give me her house number so I tried calling her. The number she gave me did not work. Eventually an old lady felt sorry for me and let me use her phone (she dialled the number as she figured out what was wrong!). I managed to get hold of Keila, she then came to pick me up and we went back to her house. That night we all just chilled out and drank beer. We couldn´t go anywhere as it was raining a lot! The next day we again stayed in the house because of the rain. In the afternoon we then drove back to Rio as everyone had to go to work the next day (except for me of course!!).

The next couple of days I tried to tour Rio but it just rained and rained and rained. Eventually I got bored of this, so I caught a bus to a town in the hills called Petropolis. It was where the Portuguese royal family used to go on holiday - so there you go!! It was a very pretty place so I stayed for a couple of days and saw the sights - which were all indoors unlike Rio. I then returned to Rio and caught a plane to Sao Paulo where I was met by a friend of my Mum´s - Anneke Chatwin. I stayed with her for a week and pretty much took it easy. It was still raining quite a bit so we couldn´t do too much. But there was a swimming pool so I took advantage of that and I walked Anneke´s dog Mia a lot as she was soooo cute. I also met up with my friend Lucianna who I had lived with in Manly. I wasn´t too keen to do much in Sao Paulo as everyone I met kept telling me really nasty horror stories of what had happened to them. Pretty much everyone had been robbed or assaulted in some way. Therefore I felt the best thing was to stay in the safety of Anneke´s flat and surrounding area as it was all fenced off and no one nasty could get in. I had a really great, relaxing time and Anneke was a fabulous hostess.

I then returned to Rio where I decided that I would stay in a hostel in Ipanema as it was near the beach and it wasn´t hard to get around. My friend Keila lived in Niteroi and it always took me an hour to get into Rio! I met some lovely people in my dorm - Claire and Jules from South Africa, Hannah and Christine from Australia and Rachel from the UK. On my first day I went up to see the huge Christ on the hill with Claire and Jules, but unfortunately the weather was terrible and we were all of 2 meters from him and could not see him at all because of the clouds - my photos are great!!!! On the way down we saw some tiny monkeys so we fed them bananas. That evening we all went to the Artisan market in Copacabana and we all ended up buying Havaianas!! The next day the weather had cleared up a bit so I went to the beach. In the evening we went to Sugar Loaf Mountain to watch the sunset over Rio. We were really lucky with the weather as the clouds and rain managed to stay away :-) It was absolutely beautiful up there.

The following day we decided to try again to see the Christ on the hill. This time we were much luckier. The weather stayed good and we got some great photos of the Christ and of Rio. At around 6pm Claire decided that she wanted to go swimming so we all went along. I have to say it was absolutely freezing. It doesn´t help that the sun was setting and therefore you couldn´t warm up when you came out of the water!! But it did wake you up!!

Nearly everyone left the next day apart from me and Rachel. I decided to stay in Rio for the rest of my time in Brazil. There are a few reasons for this. First I am slightly fed up of buses and things always going wrong and I really don´t have the energy to travel around. Second, the stories I have heard of what has happened to people while they have been in Brazil is unbelievable. Every day when we would return to the hostel we would hear of another person who had been mugged or had something stolen. I have to say this is the only country that I felt very unsafe in. And I don´t know any Portuguese and I would much rather improve my Spanish!! So because of all this I have decided to leave Brazil early and fly to Spain and spend more time there.

So in my last days in Rio I was just sorting things out for my departure. I met up with my friend Keila again and collected the bags I had left at her house. The amount of luggage I have now is unbelievable - I think the people at check-in are going to have a heart attack when they see what I have!! So I have just been pottering around, going to the beach, drinking Caipirinhas and avoiding being mugged!!

I can´t believe I am now leaving South America, I have been here since July and I have had a wonderful time. I have met some fantastic people and had some great experiences and some bad ones, but that is all part of travelling :-) So now it is onto Spain....

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Chile - again!

I went to Santa Cruz airport to catch my flight to Santiago. I went to the check-in desk and thought I would pass by with no problems - not quite!! I handed the guy my paper ticket and he nearly had a heart attack!! He had never seen anything so big in his life and the date on the ticket was different to the date that day (I had changed the flights). He took this straight to his manager and they spent the next 20 minutes trying to figure out what to do. After a while I enquired what the problem was and they said that they were trying to figure out if they needed to charge me a fee for changing the date of my ticket. I told him this was not necessary as I was allowed to change my flights as much as I liked and did not have to pay a fee - he did not believe me!! But surprise surprise after a few phone calls it turned out I was right! So to compensate me standing at check-in for what felt like ages they upgraded me!!!!! Now this sounds a lot nicer than it actually is. The plane I was flying in is a small plane and business class in fact has the same seats as economy but has an extra 2 inches leg room instead. But hey, who am I to complain - so now I have flown business class - although it really isn´t that impressive!!

We had a stop off on the way to Santiago, which was also in Chile. Because it we were now in a new country we were all required to get off here and go through immigration. But before we were allowed to get off the flight they had to sterilise the aircraft - all very technical stuff!! A guy boarded the plane with..... bug spray!!! He then walked through the aircraft spraying it randomly - sometimes at people!! After we had completed this process we were finally allowed off the aircraft, went through immigration and then we were all back on the plane again and off we went to Santiago. I got to Santiago fine, and went to my hostel via about 5 other hostels in the city as I was on a bus which drops people off along the way so I got a good tour of the city!

I had a nice time in Santiago - for a start the weather was amazing - it certainly beats it when I was there 3 months earlier and it just rained and rained and rained. I also felt a lot safer than when I first was here. After travelling around all the other South American countries, Santiago comes across as a piece of cake, so I spent the few days I was here just chilling out!! Although for a country that has a better reputation than the other countries, they do keep their shampoo and chocolate locked away!! It is really strange. You wander around the supermarket and the only things that you have to buy separately because they are locked in cupboards is the shampoo and chocolate (not the alcohol which is by far more expensive!). So I think these must be very important goods to the Chilean people and they clearly get shoplifted a lot - very strange indeed!!

While I was in Chile I did a day trip to Valparaiso which is on the coast. It was a lovely place, but practically deserted. I discovered later that it was in fact a holiday (these South Americans seem to have holidays all the time!!). I wandered around and then went back to Santiago.

It was then time for me to leave Chile for good and catch my flight to Brazil...

Friday, October 26, 2007


You can´t make this stuff up!!! Well I thought (at least I was hoping) that in Bolivia I would have fewer problems, but no!! (Sorry people, but this is a long, long blog!)


Arrive in Copacabana from Puno, go on a tour of the Isle del Sol. Then catch a bus to La Paz, stay a couple of days, sort a few things out, before catching the night bus to Uyuni. Do a 3 day tour of the Salt Plains etc. Then catch a bus to Potosi, then onto Sucre, stay a couple of days to rest and then catch a bus to Santa Cruz in time for my flight to Santiago.

Sounds easy doesn´t it - well it wasn´t!!


Obviously you know that getting to Copacabana wasn´t easy, but once there I found a nice hotel to put my feet up and relax in. They had hammocks which was great so I spent my first afternoon, lying in one of these reading my book - wonderful, although later I discovered I had acquired a little sunburn - the price to pay for relaxing too much!! The next day I caught the boat to Isle del Sol. The boat had two motors and a good thing to. Only one was working at any one time and on a few occasions they both decided to stop. We got there though so that was ok. I walked around the Island, saw some more Inca ruins, and had a very nice time.

The next day I hoped on a bus to La Paz (the tourist bus). Everyone on board was a backpacker so at least I didn´t feel bad about taking my Ipod out of my bag and having everyone on the bus staring at me!! We arrived in La Paz (2 hours late, but that's expected in this country!) and I got a taxi to my hostel. The hostel was really nice and the staff all spoke English (makes a change) so I was able to find out what there was to do and also the best way to get my errands done. So I decided that I would in fact try and send home all that shopping I had done in Cusco. My bag is very heavy and I didn´t fancy dragging it around with me. So I made my way to the post office and found out that if I did send the stuff home it would not arrive until January and would cost me GBP50. Well that wasn´t any good, I will be back in December so there was no point in doing that. So unfortunately I am still carrying all that shopping! I also got to find out how much more desperate people are here. In Peru, I thought it was pretty bad. The shoe shine boys kept asking to shine my trainers, but in Bolivia, they keep asking to shine my shoes when I am wearing flip flops!! I mean seriously, my feet aren´t that dirty!! The other thing I noticed here is that a lot of the women are wearing eye patches over their left eye. Seriously on my first day in La Paz I saw something like 10 women like this. What is going on here???

Anyway, I left La Paz on the night bus to Uyuni which is in the very south of Bolivia. Surprisingly enough we arrived early despite the tire blowing and we having to spend an hour by the roadside while the driver and his mate fixed it (this obviously happens a lot). I did not get any sleep on this trip (and I don´t think anyone else did either), most of the journey was on a very very bumpy dirt track (They don´t seem to have very many sealed roads in this country!).

So on arriving in Uyuni, (again women with eye patches!) I picked a tour company that I thought would be nice for me to do the 3 day tour around the area. They specifically said that they had an English speaking guide (there are very few, if any guiding these tours), and that on the first night we would be staying at the Salt hotel and there would be hot water - excellent! So at 11am I jumped in the range rover and off we went. On this tour there were 6 tourists (3 french boys who spoke no English, an Australian couple and me), and the driver and cook - so 8 in total.

We quickly discovered that the guide did not in fact speak any English whatsoever! Problem number 1. This meant for the entire tour we had no idea what was going on. We never knew what we were stopping for, plus as we couldn´t communicate with the guide we never found out any history about the area! Despite that the first day went ok. The scenery was amazing, the Salt Plains was huge, it just seemed to go on forever. It was also nice to drive on as it was flat. But the minute we hit the dirt track, we quickly discovered our car had limited suspension - yeah!! Also the dust seemed to come in to the car despite every door and window being shut (I don´t think my lungs have recovered yet!!). Well near the end of the day our car broke down (the first time). The fuel filter (I think that is what it was called) had blocked up because of all the dust. At least this is what the Australian guy thought was the problem. The driver managed to unblock it and off we went. As we were driving along I noticed that we were leaving all the other tour groups behind and thought this was very unusual. I was right. We rocked up to where we were spending our first night and guess what, it was not the Salt Hotel as we were told, but in fact someone´s home in a tiny village called San Juan in the middle of the desert. We complained, but there was little we could do as we were stuck there and the driver was not going anywhere. So the 6 of us went for a walk around the village, which turned out to be tiny, we did manage to find a building which had beer written on the outside so we took our chances and knocked on the door. A man answered and we managed to find out that he would serve us some alcohol - yeah!! So we drowned ourselves in beer and wine - everything seemed a lot better after that!!

That night was freezing, and then the next morning when I had my shower I discovered there was no hot water at all, just very very very cold water!! They must have piped it up from the Antarctic!! Anyway, we set off for our second day, only to stop after only one hour as the exhaust had fallen off!! (Second breakdown) So the driver jumped out and tied the exhaust to the roof and we carried on. Then a few hours after that the fuel filter blocked again so he had to clean that out (Third breakdown). We then set off again. The scenery as usual was stunning and we got to see flamingos which were awesome. We arrived at our home for the second night, which again turned out to be in the middle of nowhere, but this time with no alcohol! As we were in the middle of the desert it was absolutely freezing, but hey nothing like the present to start getting used to the condition it will be in the UK when I get back!!

The next morning they had issues starting the car (it was 5am when we left, so not too early!), but we managed to set off. As it was very cold, frost had formed on the windows so the driver drove along with his door open and his head peering out of it so he could see where he was going (why he didn´t just wind down the window I don´t know) - anyway we all felt very safe (although I was surprised to discover that our headlights actually worked, so that was a bonus!). So after 2 hours driving, guess what the car´s muzzler fell off! (Fourth breakdown). Our driver, having somehow missed it falling off (god knows how as its huge and the noise the car was now making was ridiculous!), so he dropped us all off and then drove off back the way we came to find it. He (thank God) did return 20 minutes later with the offending item tied, along with the exhaust, to the roof. We then set off again. This time we were heading to the Chile/Bolivian boarder as we were dropping off the 3 French boys who were heading on into Chile. They seemed very relieved to be finally getting off the car and away from all the problems (lucky them!!).

So now we had to drive 8 hours back to Uyuni. The driver had decided to pick up a Bolivian girl (to earn a bit extra money on the side) so we got the enjoy her company for 6 hours (as well as her constant farting, which I have to say were very smelly, and I couldn´t open the window as otherwise a ton of dust would come in). We eventually dropped her off and then continued to Uyuni, but guess what, we were not on the road long before the tire blew (Fifth breakdown). So the driver changed the tire and tied the old one onto the roof along with the rest of the car parts that seem to be dropping off left, right and centre!! We managed to arrive back in Uyuni with no further problems. The Australian couple were very pissed off with the whole trip and so decided to complain. I told them I didn´t think it would be worth it as from past experience the South American´s don´t refund money and it all gets nasty. Guess what.... It got nasty. The secretary of the company managed to recruit about 5 of her friends into the argument to back her up, at one point she went to the police (they obviously thought the situation ridiculous as they never turned up!). So in the end we walked away with nothing. I found it all quite funny as they tried to blame us for everything that went wrong and as the French boys weren´t there to defend themselves they said that it was their fault why everything was dusty - yeah right!!

So the next day I caught the bus to Potosi as there isn´t much to be done in Uyuni and I wanted to get out of town. As I was now in a bit of a rush I only spent the night in Potosi and then caught the 7am bus to Sucre the following morning. This journey was supposed to be the easiest journey I was to take in Bolivia. It was supposed to be 3 hours and therefore I was hoping I could get settled into Sucre by 10.30am and have some breakfast. No such luck!! During the journey, we stopped an awful lot, which I found strange for such a short trip. Then when I thought we were finally getting into Sucre we pulled up behind another coach. People started getting off with their things. I thought surely this can´t be the bus terminal as we are in the middle of a road! I got off the bus with my stuff and took a look down the road to see a mass of cars filling the road ahead of us. My first thought was ´Oh my God, there has been a huge car crash´, but on a closer look, it turned out they were just blocking the road. Due to my lack of Spanish I could not understand what people were saying and therefore did not know what the problem was and how I was supposed to get to Sucre. I spoke to the driver and found out that we were at least 10km away from Sucre and that the walk was mostly uphill (God I wish I had sent home my stuff now!!). He then turned the bus around and said that he was heading back to Potosi and not bothering to go any further to Sucre. I was therefore left stranded in the middle of the road (by the way, I was the only backpacker there, everyone else was Bolivian) to fend for myself. A couple men drove up and said they would drive me to Sucre (for more than it had cost me to come from Potosi), I had little choice so I said yes. There was a Bolivian girl who also had a few bags as well who decided to come as well. Now I know what all the books say - don´t get into a car that isn´t clearly labelled a taxi and don´t get in taxis with other people as it might be a scam! Well I did think this through but I had very little choice as I had no idea where I was or how I was otherwise going to get to Sucre, let alone why the road was blocked! I was thinking there was some kind or huge protest and that if I ever got into Sucre I would discover a hellish scene!

So off we went. It turned out that we had to go the very back route, along a dirt track which was covered in huge stones and clearly only for 4wd, not a taxi! So after 15 mins driving the driver stopped and asked us to get out (the bottom of his car was getting scratch a lot). Again, I did think this does not sound good. Being told to get out of someone´s car, in the middle of nowhere, leave your backpack in the car while he drives on ahead. But I had little choice. He continued to drive while me and the girl walked behind. I did think that this might be a scam between the both of them, but the look on her face clearly stated that she wasn´t happy either! He soon disappeared, which I was not happy about and I thought, right this is truly it. I am now stuck in the middle of nowhere with nothing - great!! After 15 minutes walking we turned a corner and surprisingly enough he was there waiting for us - few!! We jumped back in the car and continued driving. 3 minutes later, we stopped and had to get out again. This went on for over an hour as he struggled to get his car over all the rocks (I bet now he regretted trying to make a bit of dosh on the side out of tourists because of the road block!!). It also turned out that he actually didn´t know the way so whenever we saw a local we had to stop and ask for direction. So after 2 hours of this we eventually made it to the outskirts of Sucre - much to my relief. We drove along the road and then he stopped behind a tanker which was clearly blocking the road. He said we had to get out and walk now as he could go no further due to the roads being blocked. He pointed in the general direction of the centre of Sucre and then drove off - great!!

As I have discovered in South America, places of significance tend to be situated at the top of hills and mountains. Well Sucre is no different to them, the centre just so happened to be at the top of the hill, and a steep one at that!! I tried to see if I could catch a taxi, but it appeared that no traffic was running at all on the roads today???? So I put on my backpack (why oh why did I have to do shopping in Cusco!!), I figure I was carrying about 35kg and set off. The Bolivian girl came with me but she decided to carry her bags in stages. She only had 2 so I didn´t see why she couldn´t carry one in each hand. After a few minutes I got a little annoyed with her running back and forth so I just picked up her bag (I was now carrying 4 to her 1) and set off. Her bag was a lot lighter than any of mine!! Eventually she was met by a friend so I gave her the bag and continued by myself - uphill for half an hour!! It was hard work, it was hot and sunny and I had very little water left. I practically crawled into the first hostel I found. It was overpriced, but I didn´t care as all I wanted to do was stop and lie down!! The room was decent and it had a TV with cable - yeah I made it!! I was so happy to finally be somewhere safe, especially considering at one point I thought I had been had and would never find my way back into civilisation again!!

Although, at least now I can say that I have been to a part of Bolivia that no other backpacker or tourist has ever been to. As we were driving along in the middle of nowhere, the few locals we met all stared at me as they clearly don´t come across tourists very often!!

So I asked at the hostel why there was all the blockades and they lady told me it was a holiday and that no one would work today (so I guess to make sure that no one can, then they just block the roads!!). After I recovered I asked the lady where I could find some food and water. Her response was that that would not be possible today as everything was shut - great I was now going to die of dehydration!! Well I decided to try my luck and after walking around for an hour I eventually found someone who was selling water - yeah liquid! After another half hour I found someone selling a KitKat - yeah some food!! Well that was going to have to do me for the rest of the day as everything was shut. I really didn´t mind, I was just glad to be safe and sound :-)

The following day was completely different. Sucre was a different city altogether. There were cars driving around the roads, shops and restaurants were open and everything seemed to be right again!! I spent the next couple of days chilling out in Sucre, not doing an awful lot - mostly because I felt that if I got in another bus I would never come out the other side alive!! But I still had the issue of how I was going to get to Santa Cruz in time for my flight to Santiago, Chile. As far as I was aware there was only one option and that was a night bus which was 15 hours. Now usually I don´t have a problem with buses or night ones at that. But after recent events and the fact that not one of my trips in Bolivia has gone smoothly I really did not fancy taking another bus let alone at night. But thanks to the Australian couple on the tour who mentioned that I could indeed fly from Sucre to Santa Cruz and the flight was only 25 minutes - excellent!! So I found the AeroSur office and enquired about flights. It turns out it is 3 times the price of the bus ticket but to be honest at this point in time I really didn´t care as I really really really didn´t want to get on another bus in Bolivia again!

So I made my way to the airport, everything for once went smoothly. I checked in, completely expecting to pay excess on my baggage as the lady I had bought the ticket from had said I would need to . My bag was 5kg over but nothing was said, so I got away with that - yeah!! Because it was such a short flight they gave us our food before we boarded the plane!! Anyway, I got on the plane and off we went. It was a pretty rocky take-off. We kind of took off but then hit the ground again before we finally got up into the air. Due to air pressure (at least that was what the pilot said (he was the first pilot I have flown with in South America that I could actually understand when he spoke English!)) we had a lot of bumping around before we finally settled down. So pretty much as soon as we had hit our maximum height, it was time to land again (this has to be the shortest commercial flight in history!). I didn't even get time to eat the minute processed ham and cheese sandwich they had given me :-( So we landed in Santa Cruz, my bag was there and off I went to the hotel. For once everything worked out well. Although I felt like I had arrived right in the middle of an Australian summer. When I left Sucre it was 25 degrees Celsius. Santa Cruz is 38! I seriously thought I was going to melt, its like being back in Broome!! But it is very very nice to be in hot weather again, and I had better make the most of it before I head back to the UK. The other noticeable difference is that Sucre is something like 4000 meters above sea level where Santa Cruz is only about 400m. I have to say I am really appreciating it as it doesn't feel like I am gasping for air anymore, plus for once I didn't wake up in the middle of the night because I had stopped breathing (this is common after you have spent some time at high altitude, and believe me it is not nice!).

Tomorrow I fly to Santiago, Chile. I am really looking forward to getting back down to sea level - mostly for the reasons stated above! Bolivia has been very interesting. It is an absolutely stunning country, the scenery is breathtaking, but it is a very very hard country to travel around which is to be expected I guess! I only have 3 days in Santiago before I fly to Brasil which I am looking forward to - more sun :-)

Wednesday, October 10, 2007


Well I arrived in Lima, Peru at 11.15pm (on-time), what I was not expecting was to leave the airport at 12.45am! It took 1 hour and a half to get through immigration and customs. For some apparent reason the airport decided it was a good idea to have 4 flights all arriving at the same time (in the middle of the night), and this for an airport that gets about 6 flights a day anyway! Therefore, the amount of people they had to get through was unbelievable. You had queues to join queues!!! It took so long to get officially stamped into the country that my bag had already been taken off the travellator to make space for the next plane load!! I found the whole situation very bizarre, but apparently it happens every night!! To top it off, once you have got your bag you have to queue for customs - as expected. But because of the sheer volume of people they have this really odd machine. Basically once you get to the front of the queue you give the person your customs card and then you have to personally press a button on this machine in front of you. If it goes green you can pass through without having your bags x-rayed and you´re out of there. If it goes red, then you have to join another queue and go through the x-ray machine. It is basically chance and whether you are lucky enough to avoid standing around for another 30 mins. Guess which colour I got.....red!!!! So I went off to join another queue and surprisingly enough I had nothing suspect in my bag, so eventually I was allowed out of the airport. I found my taxi and we made our way to the hostel. The taxi driver was obviously on some suicide mission as we got to the hostel in half the time and I had to close my eyes for most of the ride because it was so terrifying!!

Lima is not the most exciting city on the planet (although it does beat Santiago), but I managed to occupy myself for 3 days. It also turned out that Emma and Marc were also in Lima (honestly I am not stalking them, although I think they are getting worried!), so I met up with them one night and we had a few Pisco Sours (the national drink, and a very strong one at that!) and a lovely meal in the city centre.

I then had to catch my flight to Cusco, which again was pretty odd. I had checked-in online the day before so that I could reserve my seat, so when I got to the airport I just had to show them the boarding pass I had printed off and hand them my bag. I then went through immigration, again only showing my boarding pass. I then got on the plane, showing only my boarding pass. When I got off the other end, I did not have to show anybody anything and just picked up my bag and walked out of the airport. During that whole time, no one asked to see any identification whatsoever. How on earth did they know that I was the person who had the reservation and that I had taken the right bag!!! All very suspect if you ask me!!!

Anyway, I had arranged with the hostel that I had booked my room with for an airport pick-up. So the guy was there when I came out of the airport, but we had to wait around for another 30 minutes as he was picking up 2 other people. Then he left the 3 of us for 25 minutes, during which time we were wondering if he had just abandoned us and whether we should just get another taxi. Eventually he turned up, in what was his mates car. We then drove the 10 minutes to the hostel. But it turned out that they didn´t know where it was and drove straight past it. We then had to guide them back to it (we had only just arrived in the city!!). So eventually we got into the hostel and we began the checking-in process, filling in forms etc. So once that was done he took us to our room, which as it turned out was to be all together. This was not right. I had booked a single room and the couple had booked a double, so we weren´t all that keen to be sharing. I tried to explained the problem to the guy, using my limited Spanish. He then gave the dorm room to the couple and then half an hour later told me that they had no other rooms for me. I could not believe this. I had made the reservation 2 weeks ago on http://www.hostelworld.com/ and confirmed with the manager 3 times as I had heard of situations like this and didn´t fancy going through it myself!! Well the manager was apparently out all day and I was left with this idiot who spoke no English (I have to say that my Spanish is improving as now when I argue I can do it in mostly Spanish, although I do tend to repeat the same words a lot (I have limited vocab!)).

Anyway, they couldn´t accommodate me and they guy didn´t know why there was no room, so I was then transfered to another hostel, which I had to wait another half a hour for them to come and pick me up. 10 hours later I finally got a call from someone at the original hostel I was supposed to be staying at who explained that the people who were supposed to vacate my room that day, did not and therefore I was not able to move in. I guess when you make a reservation, pay a deposit and confirm three times, then it isn´t set in stone!!! Anyway, they would now come and pick me up at 10am the following morning and I would be able to have my room - great!! Anyway, to cut a longer story short, I eventually got my room, but with countless other problems, including my new room dispensing smoke from the plug socket with a very strong burning smell!!

Apart from all the accommodation problems, Cusco turned out to be quite a nice little town. It´s safe to walk around, which makes a change, and there is lots of shopping to do!! Anyway, before I could shop to my hearts desire I had to make a trip to Aguas Caliente which is the town next door to Machu Picchu (the whole reason I am here!). So I got up very early one morning and caught the train to Aguas Caliente (its a 4 hour plus journey). I arrived safe and sound and joined up with my tour group. Our guide took us to Machu Picchu and gave us a tour for a couple of hours. I have to say that Machu Picchu is absolutely amazing. Completely worth every penny spent! It is unbelievable that the Incas built this place on top of a mountain. The only problem with the place is that it is incredibly touristy, but then what do you expect from Peru´s most famous attraction. After the tour I stayed for a couple more hours, walking around and trying to get pictures of the llamas just wandering around the ruins. I then made my way back to Aguas Caliente where I was spending the night. I have to say that this place has to be one of the worst places in Peru. It is purely built to accommodate tourists who want to see Machu Picchu, and therefore, is completely overpriced and filled up with tons of bars/pizzerias blaring horrible music. Luckily I was there for only the night before I caught the train back to Cusco.

Back in Cusco, I managed to track down Emma and Marc again! They had just arrived in Cusco and were leaving the next day to do the Inca Trail (they had sensibly booked it ages in advance!). So we spent the day wandering around the artisan markets buying stuff that we didn´t really need, but it was all so cheap! So even though I have already sent home 5kg and thrown out another 2kg, I have now gained another 10kg with all the stuff I bought. As I only have 2 months before I am home I am going to try and carry it around with me, but I´m not sure how long that will last! My backpack now looks utterly ridiculous! It has all the stuff I can´t fit inside tied to the outside and therefore looks absolutely huge!

Anyway, I then had to leave Emma and Marc for the last time (they are probably relieved as I have stalked them around most of South America!). I won´t be seeing them again on this trip as they are spending longer in Peru and are not going to Brazil. So I wish them good luck on the rest of their adventures.

I then caught a bus to Puno which is by Lake Titicaca, which apparently is the highest navigable lake in the world! The lack of oxygen in the air is a definite sign that it is high up anyway!! I took a day tour out onto the lake. Our first stop was this tribe which had built its home out on the lake using the reeds. It is absolutely amazing what they have created just using the reeds. All the islands are made out of the reeds, so are their houses, seats, boats and pretty much anything you can think of. They apparently moved out onto the lake several centuries ago to get away from the Incas who were causing a few problems for them. Anyway, we got to spend some time on one of these reed islands as well as sail around on one of the reed boats which was cool. We then got back on our motor boat and sailed the the main island (for Peru) Isla Taquili . Here we spent some time with the locals and they showed us some of their weaving, music and dancing. They even dragged some of us up there to participate, but luckily I was not picked! We then climbed to the top of the island and got a beautiful view of the lake. We then made our way back to the boat and back to Puno.

The next day I was to leave Peru. I got up really early in the morning to catch a bus that had been booked for me in Cusco, by the people I had had problems with the accommodation (I really should have know better!). So surprise surprise when I got to the desk I found out that a reservation had never been made and there were no seats left on the bus. They managed to find me a seat with another bus company who´s bus was leaving an hour later (so much for getting up early!). I then found out that I had in fact paid 4 times the price of the bus so I was not too happy! So I got on the bus to find out that I had got the equivalent of the jump seat in a plane. It was a fold out chair that was squashed between the toilet and a proper seat, so I was in the aisle, squashed and unhappy with the fact I was to be sitting like this for the next 4 hours! It turned out that they also didn´t have any seats left so they created this one for me!! Anyway, I made it to Bolivia in one piece. I have to say that I am relieved to be leaving Peru after all the problems I had there. It was a beautiful country with lots to see, but I just got so exhausted with all the complications - hopefully Bolivia will be trouble free....