Monthly Archives: October 2013

The story so far…

My Route

So I have been away just over 2 weeks now and guess a little trip update is needed. To be honest I have n’t actually done all that much. I have been retracing places I have visited before in order to get where I am today, Sucre Bolivia. I will be here for 1 month where I will be studying Spanish which will hopefully help me when I eventually start working in the hostel in Chile later this year.

So I flew into Lima and spent 3 nights there and had some pretty good nights out. I met up with an old friend who helped me celebrate my birthday with me. I then flew to Cusco. The bus would have been 21 hours and for a decent bus company it would have cost about £30. The flight however was 50 minutes and cost £58. A tough decision!

This seemed like a good idea until I landed in Cusco. Cusco sits at 3399m (11.152ft) above sea level. I had never really suffered from the effects of altitude before but had always made sure I had gradually acclimatized. Lima sits at seas level and I was instantly out of breath as soon as I was off the plane. Instead of taking it easy for the next day or two I did lots of walking around the city and hiked up the white Christ statue. This literally nearly killed me and that even it felt like my head was going to explode. This also happened to be my actual Birthday and I ended up in bed by 7.30pm!

This is also when I rediscovered some of the frustrations of travelling solo. I really hoped to do some proper mountain biking here but like most tours they needed a minimum of 3 people. I left my details in the hope of others signing up. Unfortunately no one did and it was time to move on to Puno.

Puno was higher still 3830m (12556ft) and sits on the shore of Lake Titicaca. Lake Titicaca is the highest navigable lake in the world and has a maximum depth of 284m (932ft). Puno itself is a fairly unattractive town and I was only going to use it as an overnight stop to break up the journey to Copacabana in Bolivia. That night I decided to have an Alpaca steak. I have had it before and really enjoyed it. This time though every mouth full made me queasy. I guess this is what you deserve when you eat your favourite animal!

I awoke the next day feeling ill. The combination of the altitude, too much beer, dehydration and possible bad food had given me the backpacker shits. Not ideal when you have a 5 hour bus journey to look forward to. Luckily I survived the journey unscathed and checked into a guest house. 40 Bolivianos (£3.60) for a private room, bargain. It would be here where I would make great friends with the toilet over the next day or two.

Copacabana is another fairly scruffy town, and is prominently here for the Lake Titicaca tourism industry. I was here to visit Isla del Sol, the sun island and because I was on a fairly tight schedule I decided one night on the island was sufficient. My welcome to the island was an extremely tough climb up the 200m Inca stairway. This was a killer with my 25kg of gear,and combined with the altitude and the warm sun I struggled to get to the top.  I spent the day hiking around some of the many paths around the island. There were some truly spectacular views and the Lonely Planet compares it to those of the Greek islands. I have never been to Greece so I can not confirm if the Lonely Planet is lying again! After a few hours hiking I kind of felt I had seen all the island had to offer and one night here was a good shout. That night there was a huge storm and huge hail stones came crashing down onto the tin roof of my bedroom. The next day I had to renegotiate the Inca stairway. Going down should have been easier. How wrong was I. The previous nights storm and turned the dust to mud and made the stone steps a treacherous obstacle. I made it down unscathed and got back on the ferry to Copacabana.

I left for La Paz the same day. I like La Paz and this was my third visit to Bolivia’s administrative capital. Here I had plans to do some mountain biking and to climb Huayna Potosi (6088m) (19974ft). My plans would be ruined yet again. The 3 person minimum struck again for the mountain biking and after reading up on climbing Huayna Potosi I decided it was n’t for me. The 1 foot wide ice ledge with a 1000ft drop either side put me off slightly!

After 5 days of waiting and partying at the infamous Loki hostel it was time to move on to my current location, Sucre. I took the 40 minute flight and it was well worth it as we flew over the city of La Paz and the Andes mountain range giving me a spectacular view of the Earth below. Although, we encountered a fair bit of turbulence and the 30 seater plane was rocked and bumped all over the place as we ventured through the clouds.

So now I am in Sucre, Bolivia’s capital. I really like it here. For Bolivia it is really nice. Lots of colonial buildings and the sun is always shining. It has decent places to eat and drink and the girls are a lot better looking than anywhere else I have seen in the country. I hope to actually get some mountain biking done her too. I start 1 month’s worth of 1 on 1 Spanish lessons tomorrow and if I don’t have a decent grasp of the language at the end then I will give up!

We had a huge storm last night, the thunder actually felt like it shook the whole room. I was pelted by hail most of the night which somehow manged to get through a half inch gap between the window frame and the roof.

 

Advertisements

5 Things That Annoy Me About Dorms

The 5 things that annoy me about dorms.

Dorms are a big part of the whole backpacking experience and I have made some great friends with my fellow roomies in the past. But last night was one of my worst nights in recent experiences. I had just spent 5 nights in one of South America’s biggest party hostels and had actually managed to get a decent amount of sleep. However at my next destination I decided I would stay in a chilled out hostel and recuperate from all the partying I had done.

I arrived at my new hostel and it was set around a tranquil patio area. No loud music, and not a game of beer pong in sight. Brilliant I thought. I decided to get into bed and read for a while at around 10.30. One guy was already a sleep, snoring his head off. Later a couple came to bed. But they decided that they would n’t go to sleep, they insisted on smooching and telling each other how much they loved each other. A while later a group of around 5 came into the room, all went straight to bed. It was now time for me to get my head down. However someone had left their lamp on illuminating the whole room. The snorer was then accompanied by a friend and they seemed to have a snore off. It was time for the ear plugs! Things went from bad to worst when another couple arrived at around midnight. They had just checked in a thought this would be a good time to turn on all the lights and unpack their backpacks. It got worse when they decided they needed a shower before they went to bed. The snore off continued all night and I guess I got about 4 hours sleep in the end. So much for a chilled hostel!

It got me thinking about what else annoys me about dorms.

Here are my top 5 annoying things about dorms.

1) People who come in drunk and turn on all the lights at 3am

I get drunk all the time and have my fair share of late nights, but I do not feel the need to have a conversation at the top of my voice with my fellow revelers. I can also seem to find my bed, get undressed and get into bed with out turning on the lights!

2) Messy room mates.

Most of the time dorm space is squeezed to the maximum. There is little space to put your belongings but I always try to be considerate and utilize my space fairly. One thing that really hacks me off is when people decide to unpack their entire worldly belongings and scatter them across to the whole room. The result of this is a bizarre game of hopscotch every time you enter or leave the room. In my experience it is the girls who are the worst offenders.

3) Not having anywhere to charge your stuff.

Every backpacker has at least 3 electrical items that need constant charging. I am travelling with 2 cameras, a phone, a laptop, a tablet, a razor and a toothbrush. I find it truly frustrating when a dorm has only one electrical socket. This always seems to be monopolized by the person whose bed is nearest to the socket, resulting in some pretty stealthy tactics to win the prized socket. If only there were 2!

4) Couples in dorms.

I know every backpacker is on a tight budget and we are always looking to save a pound or two. But I just can not understand why couples sleep in dorms. If I traveled with a girlfriend I would n’t even consider it. It really hacks me off when couples sleep in the same bunk, smooch and flirt with each other all night. I am sure if I brought a girl back to the dorm they would have something to say about it. The phrase “GET A ROOM” has never been more relevant.

5) Snorers.

I know snoring is treated as a medical condition and the person can not help their nocturnal noises, but its pretty damn annoying to fellow dorm mates. Ear plugs can contain the worst and I always have mine handy just encase. But when you have a group of snorers or one exceptionally loud one it can get a bit too much. Some of the methods I have tried have been shaking their bed or chucking water over them. One of the most effective I have witnessed was a pillow thrown full pelt at the guilty sleeper’s head.

So there are my 5 most annoying things about dorms. What are yours?

A Beer, a Chica and a Hospital

A beer, a chica and a hospital.

Where: Mendoza, Argentina

When: December 2010

How Bad: 5/5

This particular episode of the ‘when things go wrong’ category started with just one innocent beer! Chilaxing in the hammock in the garden of Hostel Lao, soaking up the Mendozan sun, I had been planning a quiet night. Christmas was fast approaching and I had recently started to miss home. I had looked into flying home for Christmas, but these options were not financially viable.

The garden at Hostel Lao

The garden at Hostel Lao

Sunset in Mendoza

Sunset in Mendoza

Mendoza is Argentina’s most famous wine region and most of my days/nights had been spent sampling the local delights. Malbec was the specialty and hostel Lao had free Malbec every night!

But tonight I was going to be strong. I wanted to resist the temptation of that red, fruity tasting beverage and get an early night in.

The gentle swing of my hammock was abruptly halted. “Hey dude, whats happening?” a familiar voice said. “Fancy sharing a beer with me?” To this day I still can not remember the guys name. We had partied the previous night at the hostel and like most people I meet on the road, I just referred to him as mate because I forgot peoples names as soon as the introductions had been done.

My obvious answer to his question was “Sure mate”. What could be the harm in sharing just one beer? As others may know, one beer is never just ONE! It leads to another, and another and another until the time comes when you think ‘lets get smashed’. Our afternoon beer session attracted the attention of others. They wanted to join the fun. By early evening when the free wine appeared we had a nice little drinking posse made up of backpackers from all over the world. The ones I can remember were Jodie & Amy from New Zealand, George & Nicola (doctors from England), my ‘mate’ and a few others.

A plan was hatched, we would go to the Irish bar down the road from the hostel to continue our festivities. Fran who worked in the hostel wanted to join us after his shift finished. The bar was packed, mainly with locals and we had to push our way through to get to the bar. Getting served at the bar was n’t a concept Argentine’s warmed to. As in most foreign countries it was all about table service. So fighting your way to the bar in true English style did n’t go down to well. By this time I was sick of beer, it was time for rum and coke and i’d noticed they served Captain Morgans. My favourite!

Me and the hostel Lao crew. (German, Fran,Me,Maurizio

Me and the hostel Lao crew. (German, Fran,Me,Maurizio

This was the night I introduced Captain Morgans to Fran from the hostel. I did n’t know it at the time but this night would be the start of a truly great friendship between Fran and I. He also developed his infatuation of Captain Morgans and coke on this night. Fran also played another key part in this whole story. He introduced me to a college friend of his, a local Chica called Egle. We hit it off straight away and as a bonus she could speak English, but sadly Egle and her friend were leaving for a club to meet other friends. She invited me to come. I had a dilemma. Stay with my new friends and continue the party, or ditch them and go with Egle into the unknown. I think most guys would choose option 2. And so did I. Like a lot of people I drink harder when I’m nervous and in unfamiliar company. This was the case when we reached the club. I hit the rum and coke hard and it was n’t long before double vision set in. I tried my best to dance it off but this was after all a result of drinking all afternoon. If you have read my other posts in this category you might notice a worrying trend. Alcohol, females and problems!

Finally the end of the night came. I now have a very hazy memory of the following events and had to later rely on Egle’s interpretation of events.

For some reason I did n’t want to take a taxi and suggested we should walk. I can only think I was worried about feeling sick once inside the taxi. So we walked. And from what I know now it was a long walk. Luckily Egle lived near to my hostel so I would n’t be alone for long. We said our goodbyes and swapped details.

Now, the next set of events are truly a mystery to me even now, nearly 3 years on. I must have walked the wrong way towards my hostel. Apparently where the following situation happened was very near to a club with a bad reputation for fighting. The only slight memory I have of it is being punched to the floor, followed by a series of kicks to the head and abdomen. I don’t remember my attackers or their reason. The next vague memory I have was someone picking me up and putting me inside of a car. This happened to be a policeman and he kindly took me to the local hospital. I think I was unconscious at some point. I do remember having stitches sown in at hospital though and I definitely remember having to drop my pants to receive an injection in the ass. I was informed I had a fracture to the nose, a 2 inch gash above my eye and a chipped tooth. Great news!

After I was all patched up, I was taken to the police station to give my recollection of events. One of the police officers could speak a little English and he translated my story to the office clerk writing it all down. My statement was presented to me in Spanish. When I queried it the officer informed me “You are not in your country, you are in Argentina, you sign” I had enough by this time and the pain killers were in full effect. I just wanted my bed.

Arriving back at the hostel caused quite a stir. The police officer escorted me inside and explained to Mike the owner what had happened. He was truly concerned for me and could not do enough to help me. I was due to check out this morning, but in this state I did n’t want to go anywhere. Unfortunately though the hostel was fully booked for the night. My options were to find another hostel, book a bus to my next destination or sleep on the hammock which Mike had kindly offered. None of these appealed to me in my dazed state. Luckily though another option was presented to me. Fran had just arrived to start his shift. He was in total shock at what had happened to me. He insisted I stay with him and his family for as long as was necessary. The next thing I know his Dad his at the hostel to take me to their home. I can not explain the how this kind-full act made me feel. I had never met Fran’s family and I only briefly knew Fran though the couple of weeks I had stayed at the hostel. These kind people were going to take in a complete stranger and treat me like one of their own.

I stayed with my ‘new family’ for nearly a week. They fed me and helped me in more ways than one. Fran would come to the hospital with me to translate for check ups and help with the necessary paperwork I needed for my Travel insurance.

During this time I learnt to value something else from my travels. It was n’t all about seeing and doing cool things, it was all about interacting with local people and discovering how warm and kind they could be. This experience will be one I remember for the rest of my life. For both the bad and for the truly amazingly kind act from Fran and his family. I even made the local paper and a journalist regularly stopped by the hostel to get my personal account.

As a result of this I was able to go home for Christmas. The insurance company were excellent. They covered all my expenses back to the UK. Before I left I experienced one more unbelievable act of kindness from Fran’s family. They invited me to a family Assado (Argentine BBQ) at their home. For anyone luckily enough to experience an Assado, you will know what a treat it actually is. If you like meat then you will be in heaven.

Me and my Argentinian family

Me and my Argentinian family

I spent Christmas at home and returned to Argentina on the 20/01/11 to continue my adventure. I have since been back to visit Fran and the rest of the Hostel Lao crew on numerous occasions. I will be back there again later this year.

A few days after the incident

A few days after the incident