Wednesday, December 31, 2008
The past few days have been spent in Briz Vegas, hanging out with Julz, Vardy and Adam (i.e. the Stinky Rat brigade), and generally just enjoying this unemployment business!!
I can't believe that it's the end of the year already. And what a year it's been. It seems like a lifetime ago that I left Bangladesh, but it was only just over three months ago. I've been to 14 countries this year, I'd say that's a bit of an achievement. All I can hope for is that 2009 brings just as much fun, excitement and challenges as 2008 has.
Happy New Year everyone!!
Thursday, December 25, 2008
Dad was extremely happy with his annual present of a computer magazine...
Greg got some new books,
And Mum got all sorts of wonderful things...
And then there was the lunch...
And having more than just the usual four around the table (Greg's friend Devin on the far left, and family friend Matt in the middle with his girlfriend Ambre)
Just generally, happy as flamingos in borax (that's the new saying I've made up, obviously inspired by my recent travels - beats 'happy as a pig in mud' don't you think?)
Feliz Navidad everyone!
Wednesday, December 24, 2008
Tuesday, December 23, 2008
So, I'm now back on the Gold Coast, very much enjoying Mum's baking (I can't stop eating!!) and trying not to think about being an unemployed bum!
I'm pretty sure this blog will be a bit quite over the next week or so...in very exciting news, Em (my best mate from Bangladesh) is coming up to visit me from Melbourne for a few days. Yea!! Hopefully after the excitement of Christmas and New Year's some good news on the job front will come along.
In the meantime, here are some pics from Bolivia.
Sunday, December 21, 2008
Step 2: Post the first line (unless the first line reveals the song title) from the first 50 songs that play, no matter how embarrassing.
Step 3: To get credit, be sure to clarify title and artist. :)
Step 4: Looking them up on Google or any other search engine is CHEATING!
Step 5: If you like the game post your own!
I've had a bit of time up my sleeve to prepare this one...
1. When you're walking down the street and a man tries to get your business
2. Suddenly I can't stay in this room
3. Well he shouted out his last word and he stumbled through the yard
4. We passed upon the stairs
5. Remembering the warm summer nights
6. Up so early feel so bright
7. I've been up and down
8. This will be an uncertain time for us
9. Paint no illusion, try to click with what you've got
10. Sara spelled without a "h" was getting bored
11. Can't explain all the feelings that you're making me feel
12. Do you think, everything, everyone is going mental?
13. Aruba, Jamaica, ooh I wanna take ya
14. What a drag it is, the shape I'm in
15. I don't think it's going to happen anymore
16. Baby when I met you there was peace unknown
17. You say yes, I say no
18. Hey girl, is he everything you wanted in a man?
19. Sometimes I feel like I can't move on
20. She came all the way from America
21. The snow can wait, I forgot my mittens
22. Joseph's face was black as night
23. Take a minute girl, come sit down
24. It's funny how, even now
25. Time goes by, so slowly
26. Shotting from the hip
27. High on a hill with the lonely goatherd
28. My girl, my girl don't lie to me
29. Physic spies from China try to steal your mind elation
30. I know I stand in line until you think you have the time to spend an evening with me
31. Sometimes, is never quite enough
32. You're all I have in this teenage twilight
33. Got caught daydreamin' again
34. Johnny wanna be a big star
35. Hello everybody, welcome today to the wonderful world of you
36. Caroline, see Caroline all the boys would say she's mighty fine
37. You sit there in your heartache
38. It's the perfect time of year somewhere far away from here
39. Pop, six, squish, oh oh, Cicero, Lipschitz
40. My last girlfriend didn't like me
41. I want to, I want to be someone else or I'll explode
42. The gold road's sure a long road
43. She spends too much time with herself every night
44. I just want you close, where you can stay forever
45. Here we go again with the beats
46. Tonight you're mine, completely
47. Coming out of my cage and I've been doing just fine
48. We got stars directing our fates
49. Street's like a jungle so call the police
50. Well now, we call this the act of mating
Hmmmm, 30 points to the person who gets the most correct...
Saturday, December 20, 2008
My flight out of Lima is at 1:40am tonight/tomorrow, and then a fabulous 16 hour stopover in LAX, can't wait for that...I'm sure there will be a couple of "I'm bored, entertain me" posts during that time, otherwise, I'll be home on Monday morning. Most of me is excited to be going home, but it's a close second to the part of me that wishes I could keep going!
There's a fantastic mall called Larcomar which is built into the cliffs above the ocean, and again, we found a great place to eat with a fantastic view out to sea. Very pleasant indeed.
This morning, after a very successful (and cheap) shopping trip in Topitop (2 bikinis for the price of 1!) we walked down to Punto Azul, a very very popular restaurant with the locals, to try ceviche - the national dish of Peru. I knew it was fish, but that was all. For some reason, I thought there might be rice involved...I was wrong, oh so wrong. I ordered the 'mixto' and out came a large plate stacked with basically raw fish, squid, prawns and octupus, all covered in a really tangy orange sauce. The cooked sweet potato on the side mellowed out the tang, and it was really tasty...I just wasn't too keen on eating almost whole baby octopie!
Friday, December 19, 2008
We were then led underground to the catacombs, where 20,000 people had been buried over 300 years. When it became too full, they stopped using it, destroyed most of the coffins and then later arranged all the bones into different bins and formations. There are mostly femurs and skulls left, as these bones are the toughest and take the longest to decompose.
The ceilings were very low, and winding tunnels, stairways leading off in different direction all contributed to a creepy atmosphere, which escalated when the mass going on in the cathedral above suddenly broke into a hymn.
We'd noticed a lot of police, and "SUAT" personnel (that's the Peruvian equivalent of SWAT, but the acronym is Servicio de Urgencia, Asistencia y Traslado rather than Special Weapons and Tactics) hanging around everywhere.
We'd asked Jose if there was anything in particular happening today that had brought them all out, but he merely said, "no, it's just because Lima is a very dangerous city." Dangerous enough to have APVs sitting on street corners in the main plaza???
Wednesday, December 17, 2008
Cecila, one of the Danish girls I've run into in various places on my travels in Argentina and Bolivia had mentioned to me yesterday morning that there were roadblocks in place between Uyuni and La Paz, due to big protests. Surely they wouldn't carry on through the night though, we both agreed.
Ha! We got to our bus company just before 8pm to be told that the roadblocks were still in place, and that the bus wouldn't be going to La Paz. We could be dropped in either Ororo (or something like that), which was 3 hours from La Paz, or another place that was 11 hours away. We obviously chose Ororo. After receiving a very small refund, we got on what was the worst bus ride in living history. The roads, for six hours, were all dirt and extremely bumpy and noisy. I was trying to play solitaire on my ipod and the screen kept changing perspectives, as if I was turning the whole thing 180 degrees.
Poor Yenni had been sick during the day, and the bus ride did her no favours, so when we finally made it to Ororo at 2:15am, her and Cecila made the decision to stay the night there. Luckily, there were a few Bolivians on the bus who offered to organise a mini bus for the rest of us, to take us to La Paz. For 30 bolivianas ($7.50) we made the three hour trip, thankfully on tarred roads the whole way.
The Loki hostel is absolutely awesome, I've only left once today as I've been trying and trying to change my ticket to fly to Lima instead of back to Buenos Aires, a massive saving in price and time. But so far, no luck. I'm waiting for another hour to go back to the LAN office to get them to do what the travel agent here couldn't...hopefully it works out!!
Tuesday, December 16, 2008
Our intrepid driver, Xavier and cook Sylvia joined us in a 20 year old Landcruiser (though if Top Gear has taught us anything, it's that these cars are indestructible!) and off we went. Absolutely breathtaking scenery. First red jagged rocks (and a lot of mud), then onto some incredible mountains. What was most amazing was how quickly the scenery could change completely - from rolling hills that looked like they were draped in velvet, to jagged snow capped peaks. It was only 2 hours in that we got a puncture in the tyre, but Xavier had obviously fixed this problem more than a few times before, and we were back on the road before we knew it.
When I say 'road', I mean dirt roads. A lot of it was very hard going, very bouncy and poor Judy suffers from motion sickness so it wasn't always fun for her. The altitude got to us all - at the highest, we were at 5,000 metres. The second day, I was an absolute mess. We'd reached a thermal spring and after a welcome hot bath (there were no showers for the first 3 days!) I started feeling quite woozy and tired. I think I got into bed at 6pm that night and slept the whole night, awaking fresh and ready to go.
There was just too much to describe - wildlife included many many llamas, flamingoes, crazy rabbit things called vizcachas, that moved like wallabies and looked like Confucious, small foxes called zorrandinos, and camely/deer type things called vicuñas. Then more different scenery - the multi coloured lagoons, often covered in white borax, full of bright pink flamingoes, more mountains, and a few volcanoes. At some point, we had to stop because of a clutch fluid leak, but again, Xavier sorted us out in no time.
On the last evening we reached the Salar de Uyuni, the world's largest salt flats at 12,000 square kilometres. White as far as the eye can see, which looked like ice. Our accommodation was a salt hotel, that is the floor was covered in chunks of salt, the chairs, tables and beds, all made of salt...and most welcomed, a hot shower!! It was on this night that we learnt we'd been travelling with a celebrity. Roberto is a Mexican cross between Steve Irwin and David Attenborough! He's a biologist but has made a few tv series on different animals and natural things. He showed us one of his DVDs and it was so cool! We are now all proud owners of our own copies, unfortunately no subtitles, but most enjoyable!
On our last morning we went to one of the 'islands' in the flats, which was covered in ancient cacti (the oldest being 1200 years old). It was a bizarre sight, looking past massive cacti into a sea of white salt. After breakfast, the fun began. As the salt flats are indeed flat, there is a lot of fun to be had with photography and perspective. We were all close to crying with laughter at some of the results, Xavier being an extremely enthusiastic stager and photographer. Our trip ended with a visit to the train cemetary in Uyuni, lots of old rusted out carriages surrounded by blue skies, golden sand and plenty of rubbish.
It was quite sad when it all came to an end in Uyuni, an absolute ghost town, but popular with tourists heading for the salt flats. Judy left me this morning at 3am to head to San Pedro in Chile, which was sad. It was great travelling with her, and Neil and Roberto as well. I've glossed over this experience, there are many many photos for those at home to sit (suffer?) through when I get back, but I'm so glad that I took the opportunity to do it.
I've decided to take a chance and travel up to La Paz to get a flight back to Buenos Aires, to save spending (at least) 3 days on busses. Hopefully this chance will pay off. Not to worry though, I can always head for Lima and pick up my connecting flight there, but hopefully it won't come to that. I'm travelling overnight tonight with a couple of Swedish guys, an Englishman, and the two Danish girls I've run into on a couple of other bus trips...a good group for sure.
Fingers crossed I can sort it all out in time, and my credit card works fine. I discovered this morning that someone in Brazil had emptied my savings account, I don't know where my card was cloned but the money is gone until I get home and file a complaint. Grrrrrrr!! Oh well, if that's the worst thing that has happened to me, then I'm not too annoyed.
Wednesday, December 10, 2008
The scenery was stunning. It transformed from lush and green, to suddenly spartan with giant cacti spotted all over the mountains, like an army at the ready. And then there were the mountains themselves. Many many years ago the area was flooded with water, which changed the colour of the rock to red. As the water receeded and then stagnated, different shades of reds and oranges were left behind. Really incredible stuff.
The town of Humahuaca (hoo-ma-wah-ka) is very small, and not a lot going on. Our first impression wasn't pleasant as it was muy dificil to get a cab. People kept jumping in front of us and cabs just drove straight past. We thought they mustn't like gringos that much. But the people at the hostel are lovely, even though we could barely understand each other.
We went for a stroll about town, posing with some cacti (HUGE! And these things only grow 2cm a year, so they're probably older than the incas!)
It didn't take much for Judy to convince me to come with her to Bolivia for a few days, to explore the salt plains there. So we head up to the border first thing in the morning, then a couple of hours on to Tupiza, which we've heard is a really nice area. Can't wait!
Tuesday, December 9, 2008
Sometimes, among the six or seven tangos he sang a night, one or two would come up that the oldest of his listeners could identify, though not without effort, like ¨Mucked up with Yeast¨or ¨I got Gut Rot from your Manger¨. That´s from page 31 of ¨The Tango Singer¨by Tomas Eloy Martinez. Now even if that is a completely made up song title (it´s a fiction novel), the book was published in 2004, putting it a good 3 years ahead of Aara at least.
But how awesome a title is that: I got Gut Rot from your Manger...
Anyway, normally taps are coloured blue or red, or have a C or H on them. Well today, in my hostel in Salta, I noticed the taps had a F and a C, for frio and caliente, cold and hot respectively. This was a revelation for me. How odd that a foreign language speaking country would label their taps in their native language!
My taps in Bangers weren´t labelled T for thanda (cold) or G for ghorom (hot) - even they conformed to the standard blue and red colouring system. Now I couldn´t help but wonder, how many other countries have I been to that label their taps with different letters to what I´m used to??
Judy, my lovely new Dutch friend, and I jumped on our bus (half an hour late) and spent the 3 hours to Salta trying to sleep but not succeeding. The hostel here also has a pool, and that´s where we spent the remainder of the afternoon. It must have been around 8pm when we decided to head to the supermarket to cook something for dinner. Even though dinner is actually included in the hostel price, they weren´t serving until 10:30! It was the perfect time of day, still sunlight but a lovely cool breeze blowing through the town. We came to a lovely park where there were lots of people, balloons, and market stalls. Very pleasant to stroll through. By the time we finished enjoying ourselves and cooking and eating our yummy spinach pasta, we weren´t that far ahead of the others eating dinner!
Today, we walked further into the city centre, and were amazed and somewhat bemused at the pale blue and pale pink churches we saw. Beautiful, but a bit kitchsy as well. We stopped in the main square for a coffee (my first real cortado since I went to Spain - fantastico!) and on a whim decided we should go to Cafayate, thinking it would only be an hour by bus max. We headed to the bus station, only to discover that it was actually a 3 hour 45 minute trip, and since the bus didn´t leave till 1pm it just wasn´t going to be possible. So we headed to the cable car/gondola that goes up a ´mountain´and it was a lovely view of the big mountains bordering Salta city and the city itself, which is much widely spread than I had originally thought. It was also lovely and cool and shady up there, the perfect place to take some rest for a while.
We´ve booked tickets to Humauaca tomorrow morning at 7am...it´s going to be tough to get up (considering the bottle of wine that we´ve got cooling in the fridge) but hopefully we´ll see some more interesting natural sights there - getting a bit over cities and towns. And condors - must see condors!!
Sunday, December 7, 2008
The next step was a quick visit to the doctor. Yep. In a little room, the girls filed in first, presented our toes and fingers for examination, our armpits, (we assumed for any sort of obvious fungus) and then our hair for lice. And paid another two pesos for the privilege. The doctor didn´t seem to mind Chris´s gigantic scabby knee or John´s peeling shoulders. Then we had to present our reciept to the lifeguard and shower before we could actually get in the damn pool!!
But much fun ensued, and it was a very enjoyable way to while away the hours. Tonight, an asado (traditional BBQ...can´t get enough of that Argentinian beef!) and then dancing. But a nap will be much needed after last night´s revelries and an early morning trip to the bus station to change my ticket.
Saturday, December 6, 2008
A couple of hours flew past and as the mozzies started attacking we headed back to the hostel to make empañadas. Our teachers were two lovely Argentinians girls, who had already prepared the majority of the ingredients (the old line "and here´s one I prepared earlier" didn´t quite translate) so all we had to do was roll the dough into little balls, roll them flat, and then stuff and fold them into little pasties. The most fun I´ve had in a kitchen for a very long time!
Friday, December 5, 2008
Turn the sound up!
This is just a quick view of the Devil´s Throat and surrounding falls, there are plenty more which I have in other photos and videos...but this was the one that took my breath away (and hurt my eyes to look at!)
More photos are up here
Wednesday, December 3, 2008
- Meeting new people from all over the world
- Hearing accents and languages from all over the world
- Free breakfast
- Cheap drinks
- Hot water
- Learning of places that are worthwhile visiting and otherwise
- Book exchanges
Things I don't like about hostels:
- Girls who take too long in the bathroom and leave the floor soaking wet
- People who have to leave early in the morning and leave it till then to pack their bags
- Top bunks
- People who spend far too long on the internet when there are only three or four computers
Tuesday, December 2, 2008
It was then into a big speedboat down the river for a few minutes before our first waterfall sighting...it was pretty piddly. But then, my goodnes, they just exploded out of nowhere. And our kind, caring boat pilot, (after providing us with a waterproof bag for our things) took us underneath the falls for a proper soaking. It was exhilirating, even if we couldn´t see a thing.
The rest of the day was spent wandering around the various boardwalks and islands admiring the views from different angles. There were too many falls to count, and stretching as far as the eye could see...well, at least to Brazil!
We stopped for our packed lunch outside a little kiosk, and got really excited when we spotted a Coatis. Now for all those playing at home, a Coatis is very similar to the critter I saw in Peru. Oh, it´s so cute, we thought. Until about four of them started circling our table, and we had to pick our feet up to avoid any contact. And then, one cheeky bugger jumped up on the table, grabbed the half roll I hadn´t eaten and made off with it! Little bastard.
Anyway, we continued on till we reached the ¨devil´s throat¨fall...inconceivable! It was so huge, and loud and played havoc with my eyes...I can´t imagine how much water flows over that thing every minute. Particularly when the water that feeds it looks so calm. How much electricity could be provided by it...30 points to whoever finds out.
Only a little bit sunburnt but still in marvel of the day, I´m awaiting a traditional Argentinian BBQ for dinner...mmmmm, meat....
Monday, December 1, 2008
18:00 - oooh, v. nice bus, big seats. Michael Hutchense gyrating on tele...better than 'wrong number'
18:08 - dude behind me is singing along 2 old school live Madonna clip - sounds like fat soprano choking out an alto part
21:30 - just got shoved awake 4 dinner. On a tray and everything! V. yellow mash potato...not bad.
22:06 - who lets Adam Sandler make movies anymore? Zohan is ZO bad
00:00 - time 2 test out reclining seat...nice...
02:43 - stupid baby crying, who brings babies on 18 hour busses?
09:12 - waiting 4 bus dude 2 give me breakfast. Everyone else has theirs, why not me?
11:30 - made it! And half an hour early as well. Most awesome bus ever, felt more like a plane!
12:01 - hostel is heaven - resort-esque pool, lots of couches, pool bar, 2 for 1 capirihinas, cute boys...miss you!!