Tuesday, 17 May 2011

Last night I dreamt of San Pedro

Last night I dreamt of San Pedro
                             It all seems like yesterday, not far away
Hola chica´s
Indeed and it doesnt seem that far away. Indeed and it was only over the border in Chile. Nice little town it is too but the locals have little or no english so there was a lot of blank staring done when trying to order food and buy things in shops. Luckily I have very expressive eyebrows and a common ground can always be found. Its only a few small streets but the restaurants were a lot nicer than what we had up to that point. There wasnt much too do bar wander around for a bit. The second night we went star gazing which was really good and a bit of a trip highlight which was unexpected. It was a Canadian dude doing the talk which was great to be able to understand him. Theres a shit load more stars in the southern hemisphere so theres actually a lot to look at. He had a laser pointer to point out what he was talking about which was helpful. There is actally a star called Beetlejuice which I was well impressed with. They had a load of telescopes set up so we got to see them more close up. The highlight was seeing saturn in the telescope. I know you see loads of pictures and stuff of it but seeing it in the telescope is really cool. The guide was really enthusiatic as well and it was easy to see why. I´d consider taking it up only theres feck all stars at home. They are building the worlds biggest telesope in Chile right now because it is so high up and so dry its the best conditions for viewing so it´ll be interesting to see what they might discover in future.
The next day we had a short trek over to Argentina, just 10 odd hours on the bus is all. No biggie. I started the day by getting sick at the first toilet stop. Its the first time in years I got sick sober and it wasnt pleasant. I had to get oxegen too because of the altitude so all in all a pretty unpleasant day and throw into the mix a border crossing. The joys of travel!  In fairness it was a really cool drive across the antiplano, the scenery literally change every 20 minutes, we even say another salt plain but this one was smaller. We had to hide all our food going over the border because apparently terrorists in this part of the world use ham sandwiches as their weapon of choice, they´ll mustard bomb you the first chance they get. We eventually arrived in Salta which seemed like a really nice city with a great big square and all. I took a wander to get me bearings but headed home when the lads went for food as even the thought of eating was making me gag.
The next day we had a totally free day so I decided to have a bit of a wander around the town. There was loads of shops and what not but I was more interested in finding a pub that would be showing the champions league game on that night between Real and Barca. I didnt find it. Still feeling a bit quesy I decided to retire to a cafe and finish The girl with the Dragon Tattoo that I had been reading on the truck and do some people watching. The book was pretty good, turns out the dragon tatto had no significance - I think? Anywho I got word later on about where the match might be on so headed off in me flippy floppys to find the Irish bar a few blocks away. Note to self, never walk anywhere in flip flops, Bastarding things nearly tore the feet off me. I did eventually find the Irish bar, which was closed, but luckily on a street which had nothing but bars. None were showing the match but I decided I deserved a beer for me troubles and so retired to a fine establishment for a libation or two. Eventually got to see the match so I was happy out. Got to see some vintage cars in the city centre doing the Bull run type race I think. Some cool corvettes and porsche's.We went for a meal that night in a typical Argentinian restaurant which served slabs of steak and no locals darkened the door till after 10pm which seems the done thing in them parts. We headed back to the bar street for a few drinks after.
We headed off the next day to Salta rafting for a bit of fun adventure activities. Report to follow.
To infinity, and beyond....

Thursday, 5 May 2011

La Paz times

Hola chico´s

I´m currently corresponding with you from the highest city in the world called Potosi on Bolivia. Go on look it up if you dont believe me. Its 4200 metres up and the altitude here is pretty bad though I m a bit more used to it after being at this general altitude for so long.

The last email finished off in lake Titicaca and let me tell you I felt like a right titicaca after asking around for Lola for the guts of 3 hours. Turns out she worked in a bar called Copacabana not in the actual town. An easy mistake which I´m sure has been made numerous times. Barry Manilow - what a w@nker! Anyway I met some Irish girls on the bus to La Paz and it was nice to be able to talk at normal speed again. My spanglesh is pretty awful. We arranged to meet up for dinner and we were joined by 3 lads from Cork and a nutter from Cavan. We ended up playing some drinking game whilst waiting 2 hours for our steak to arrive. A very sensible and quite conversational evening was had . I only think we are barred because someone dropped their napkin on the floor...

Anyways, moving on as they say, La Paz is a much nicer city than Cusco. The entrance to it is the most impressive of any city I´ve been to. Its basically in this huge hole so its fairly stunning when you get your first full glimpse of the place on the road in. I´d recomend it for that alone. Luckily there is more. The taxis here are a hoot. They dont know any street in the city and just take off in any dirction. Even with the language barrier I´ve made so many taxi friends - "You´re going downtown even though I want to go uptown, O you are a kidder, muchos gracias"

Theres riots here everyday in the main square and the miners let off sticks of dinamite for kicks which make quite the bang. My army shorts selection for an evening stroll was quite the topical fashion choice. Still I got to shoot 5 infidels before anyone copped so fun times. It is a nice city in fairness, lots of squares and mad markets like the witches market. Theres a lunar valley above the city which is supposed to be way cool but I didnt get a chance to see that. Like evey other city I´ve been to its buit on a hill so every walk is a struggle but thats the proce you pay in these parts.

My second day here I met up with the Dragoman tour crowd and its a nice bunch again. 14 in total and a big range of ages but the majority have English as their first language which I must admit was a major relief. Theres 4 Irish people in total as well which is new to me. I´ve always been the sole "token" Irish person so I guess now I´ll have to share the limelight   We just had a minor briefing the first evening and I booked my trip to death road for the next day. It would be me and 3 others from the tour.

We set off at 8 the next morning and headed high up in the hills to do death road. It was fairly cold and windy out but after a briefing from our guide we hit the tarmac road on our way to death road. It was grand and the only main scare was seeing the remains of a van over a cliff. We had to cross a checkpoint because death road happens to be in Bolivia´s second biggest coca plantation - niice. We got to death road at about 11 and started the decent which took about 3 hours. Its real shit when you get on it as in the 40k´s of road there is about 5 barriers on all the bad turns so its pretty much up to you. We would stop every 20 minutes or so and the guide would tell us about the bad turns ahead and how and where people died on the next stretch which fairly focuses the mind let me tell you. After about 7 stints out of 10 I felt confident on the bike and decided to move up front with the big boys and I lasted only that stint. They were flying it and after a high speed scare in a hairpin turn I decided I was up a level too far and went back to the pack.

Ironically enough I thought the stories the guide was telling us on the last few stints was just to keep us wary and vigilent of the road but on literally the last turn of the cycle in the village where we were stopping one of the lads in our group came of his bike and broke his arm. I wouldnt mind but he literally bombed it down death road and then a puddle in a village undone him. Very unlucky but just shows you dont even realise the speed you are doing until someone comes off the bike.

After he was carted off to hospital we went to this animal santuary for lunch and after seeing the amount of bites and the general crustiness of the volunteers I decided to avoid the monkeys and happy I was too. Then we got the final treat of the day in that we had to drive back up death road to get back to La Paz. In the dark. In the rain.In a full van. Going uphill. Luckily we had a game of movie tennis in which my movie buffness(?) came to the fore. I think they were more impressed with my movie knowledge than my bike skills - some achievement.

Anyways thats all for now. I´m in a town called Uyni where the salt plains are. It was amazing. Update will follow.

My name is U-L-T-A-N


Exit through the gift shop

Hola Chico´s

I´m now on my second day in Bolivia in La Paz.

I left Cusco at 10pm on Friday night on an overnight bus to a place called Puno. I decided to plump for the upgraded non kidnap package trip which I think was worth it. The bus was really nice and had big reclining cushy chairs but I didnt get much sleep as the road was so winding and steep that I kept on waking up with night horrors feeelong like I fell alseep on a waltzer. I´m glad it was dark becuase I dont think the view out the uper deck of a bus down the sheer rockface would have eased my mind any. I was talking to a few Irish lads who said theor bus up from the South of Bolivia was stopped by the locals on board because the driver was too drunk. Apparently a little drunkiness is to be expected but this guy had crossed the line. And now I am very happy I will not be travelling by bus any more.

Anyway we arrived ahead of schedule at 4am and so I had some time to kill before I departed for my floating Islands trip at 5.30am. Now thats my idea of a holiday! Its brutal cold here on the mornings till 10am and not having a breakfast did not help. We went to the floating islands and we were told we may or may not be invited in by the locls to see their gaffs and to talk with them so it was all very ¨Ooo I wonder will we get to meet any of these reclusive types¨ kinda thing. We neednt have worried cause about 10 boats pulled up and I didnt see one have to move on from an unwelcomed island. They gave us the brief lowdown on how they made the island yada yada and then we were invited to theor house before being swiftly guided outside to where they had all there rugs/pillow cases/arts n crafts things for a very un modest amount as well may I add. Maybe its the old romantic in me but it just spoiled the whole experience when you are shepparded over to buy their wares after a few mintes. It doesnt feel so authentic or something. As it turns out I heard from other people afterwards that they dont even live on the islands. They just turn up for the tourists and head back to the mainland - La vita รจ bella

After that we headed further out in the bay to visit a second Island called Tequille island which had its own tribe of people as well but who lived in normal gaffs it was just their way of living and customs that made them different. The women apparently come on to the men and they have these wolly pom poms with different colours - one for good mood, one for bad, and they wear them around accordingly. Sounds like an ingenius system really. The boys/men wear hats in certain ways to show their age/marital status and importance. The guide was showing how you´d wear the cap back to front first and then to the side and then certain folds. It was like watching the evolution of cap wearing. I wonder weather the rappers have a similiar system. Note to self - contact snoop doggy dogg when I get home. The have a system on the island which is really equitable. Each family takes turns in hosting a tour and providing the lunch so no one family is favoured over another. This seemed a lot more genuine than the floating village crowd. As it happened it was the best damn dinner I had in Peru - fried trout with chips and rice, I´d highly recomend it peoples.

Update on death road will follow. Stay tuned. Same bat station, same bat channel

Adios Amigos


Sunday, 17 April 2011

Notes on a sandal

Hola Chico´s
This is my last day in Cusco and I just have some musings to share before I leave.
Number 1 is the altitude. It. Is. Killer! I feel like an old man every time I go for a walk I need a sit down. Am I getting to old for this shit? If you ever do head this way make sure and have some meds sorted for it. Or maybe its just me.
Number 2 Peruvians look very asian to me. Some of them dont even look a generation removed and it must explain their fondness for rice, plain rice that is, with all their dishes which I cant say I´m mad keen on. The hostel I am in has an Irish breakfast on the menu and say what you want about the drinking habits of the Irish when abroad I think if this is the only contribution we make to Peruvian Society then all the better for it I say. Nothing wrong with a hearty meal in the morning.
Paper napkins. What is the deal here. You get one single square of napking along with your knofe and fork and spoon. You might as well not offer anything at all. Its insulting really. Unless there was some catastrophic accident down the napkin factory for which the cointry is still recovering then I regret this outburst. Otherwise sort it out peoples. 
Shoe shining seems to be big business here. I dont know whether I havent noticed it in other countries I´ve been but in every square in every town there are at least a few people offering to shine shoes and even my dilapidated runners. I shouldve let the lad have a go cause I dont know what he could do with them.
Facebook is officially the default website to logon to now. I noticed it before on holidays but this year is ridiculous in the hostel. No one seems to check emails or news websites or anything anymore but facebook. For those who dont have it resistance is futile, come to the darkside!
I'm kind of reminded of christmas with all the wooly jumpers/zip top fleeces all the back packers wear here. It looks like topman had a sale of those nerdy christmas jumpers that they do for christmas except the design is all llamas instead of christmas trees. Same difference from a distance if you ask me.

Photocopying seems to be big business in South America for some reason. Theres a photocopias shop on nearly every street. Dont they just use work  photocopiers like I do? I´ve said too much....

Hairdressers; they get their haircut at all times of evening night. I seen a girlgetting herhaircut at 9.30 in the pm. When does she do her ironing I ask? Middle of the night? Wouldnt surprise me, nothing would surpise me... WILLIAM!

Thursday, 14 April 2011

Putting the purr in Peru

Hola Chico's

Greetings from Peru. Its very high up here, 3500m, and I was sick as a dog the first few days but I'm over all that now you'll be delighted to hear. I'm just back from doing the Inca Trail yesterday and it was amazing but I was completely knackered after it. It was a 4 day multi sport option trip I did and it really was all go.

The first day we got collected at 8 and headed high up for the mountains so we could bike it down from the top. It was really misty and wet at the beginning and at a few points all I could see was the yellow line on the road to guide me and going down those windy mountain roads at a nice little speed is pretty scary but I managed not to go over the egde so its all good. Death road should be a piece of piss now! The more we got down the mountain the warmer it got plus the worse the roads got so we went from being drenched on good roads to getting sun burnt on these really bummpy dirt roads but it was great fun. The group I was in consisted of 22 and 20 of them were from Israeil. I was the cat amoung the Jewish pigeons! Listening to them talk Hebrew sounds like a flem contest but they were grand. A bit clicky to say the least but I got on well with the other non Israeili girl on the trip. When we finished the bikes we went to our "hostel" and played a few games of footy for the evening which was nice. Somene told me the histel was 5 star and I believe them cause I could see 3 of them through the hole in my bedroom ceiling wha?

The next day we started the trek on the Inca trail and old dumbass here had to bring pretty much all his stuff in the big rucksack while everyone else had their slick little backpacks containing just the right amount and weight. 6 friccin hours I had to lug that thing around on the Inca trail. Me shoulders felt like rock at the end of it. Luckily I was able to get rid of it cause one of the guides had to go vote in the elections in town. Did you know every single person in Peru has to vote or else you face a fine which apparently is fairly hefty by local standards. Thats one way of keeping democracy alive and well. We had a 3 hour trek in the afternoon but this was on much more level dirt roads and as half the group went on ahead in the van it was much quicker moving so it wasn't too bad. Fairly knackered again by the time we finished so just had food and went to bed. The food isnt great here. Its mostly watery soup as a starter and the main is always plain rice, chips and some sliver of meat to go with. I got a steak the other night and it was basically the same slice you'd get for packaged beef slice in aldi! Bring on Argentina

The third day we had the option to go zip lining in the valley which I went for straight away. The instructer was this big thick German headed guy who was hilarious giving the instructions. He was only a few phrases away from say ze papers are not in order!The zip lining was cool but the only drawback was you had to hike up the mountain with all the harnesses on which were restrictive to say the least. The major thing I've noticed here on all the activitys is the complete lack of health and safety. They tell you how to do something and its up to you to use your common sense to not fall off the cliff or whatever. Theres no one pouring water on the floor of supermacs over here making a claim.

The main course arrived yesterday. The town at the base of Machu Piccu, Aguas Calientes, is far and away the nicest town in Peru. Its got nice hotels and restaurants and all mod cons. I'd forgot what that was after all the rest of the crappy towns I seen. We set off at 4 am to trek up the mountain and I have to say it was brutal. It was cold, raining and the steps were just killer. They are rocks laid down so there is no uniform size and the longest stretch of steps not broken up by windy road up is the last bit and it nearly broke me. In summary, take the bus. But in fairness it was all worth while to see Machu Piccu. I cant remember what age I was in primary school when I first seen it in a history lesson but it was a real thrill to see it up close after all those years. To think of the hardship they must have went through to make it was unbelievable. There wouldnt be a household without a major book publishing contract to tell their stories. In fairness its actually a really nice town and once it warmed up around 10 it was gorgeous with the weather and the views were stunning. The Inca's might have been engineering experts and what not but they like an ould view out the kitchen window too after a hard days slog. It started to get busy so I left just after lunch - stupid lamo tourists and their stupid comfortable buses. At least my feet had honest, pride giving blisters and superior moral aches and pains, that'll show them.

Anyways back in Cusco now and have to organise a trip onto LA Paz via Copacabana on Lake Ticitaca. I'll call in and see how Lola is getting on in the showgirl business.

Hasta Luego


Tuesday, 5 April 2011

Greetings, salutations and peace to the nations

Hello there

This is my blog, Ive never seen a blog so I presume its like this. I will be updating this over the next few weeks charting my progress around South America so if youre interested/bored/etc please have a look and hopefully enjoy. The previous Holiday posts are included below to give you an idea

As always I value your complaints and negative feedback so please forward all related correspondance to whogivesafuck@idont.com

This is your intrepid correspondent


Africa - Livingstone I presume

Muli shani

Greetings from Livingstone in Zambia peoples. I've been here at the falls the last 2 days and I'm just gathering up me bags and baggage to head off to the airport later. Cramming too much stuff into a bag - it must be my favorite part of any holiday. Lisa I promise not to kill your bag after I lost half of it last year!

We got to see a load of animals on the cruise in Chobe National Park. There was a ton of elephants and hippo's and they are very relaxed with the boats around them as we could pull right up to them for photo's and they barely bothered to acknowledge us. There was a lot of birds and that kind of stuff that pleased the Germans on Board no end - whats with them and their stamp collections and fascination with the generally dull stuff on holiday.

We headed for the border to Zambia on Tuesday morning and we had a fairly smooth crossing considering all things as it only took us about 90 to cross by ferry whereas another tour group we met told us they were waiting 3 hours to cross when we arrived. Its a beautiful system they have here at the border crossings. Theres a clear hierarchy system that goes something like whites in jeeps, blacks in cars, tour company trucks followed by the lowest of the low truck drivers. Theres this big made argument everytime the ferry comes in which is every 5 minutes and all the truckers do be giving out stink about all the smaller cars/trucks getting ahead of them. All the cops there are just looking off into the distance daydreaming about how they will spend their "compensation" from the white folk for skipping in. At least one truck barges on each ferry and then we go through the process all over again.

For some odd reason Irish passport holders dont have to pay the $50 fee at the border which was nice, I think we are the only country outside of africa that applies to so apparently those missionary's did some good. We got a tour of Victoria Falls pretty much as soon as we landed in Livingstone which was just after lunch. It is amazing to see up close. Apparently its 10.5 million cubic litres per second falling in and we got a right drenching walikng around. Theres this permanent rainbow in the valley from all the spray and at certain points its a full circle if you squint your eyes. The town of Livingstone is your typical busy african town. Its one big long street of shops and markets and its nice to walk around in. We went back yesterday to the falls to watch one of the lads do the bungy off the bridge by the falls and I was glad I had done the skydive cause I nearly had a heart attack looking at it.

So thats all from me for now. Hope you enjoyed the emails and maybe you might be wandering these parts some day yourself and we can compare notes. This is your intrepid african correspondent Ultan Dillon signing off.

peace, love and sunscreen

Ultan alikuwaafrica