Ok so Im starting to bore people with the same old stories, Kazakhstan this and Mongolia that. Me thinks its time to update our portfolio of random travel craziness and fortunately my old travel amigo agrees.
So next winter RD and myself are hoping to do the Rickshaw Run and of course we would welcome some badcolonies company along the way.
All those interested can check out the website: www.rickshawrun.com
The Rally registration opens on Monday 18th Jan.
Hurray. No blood paracytes from Malawi!
Well I survived and had one amazing last stint of traveling in Tanzania before heading home. We got our plane to Dar which by the way was falling to pieces and smelt incredibly bad, I thought the buses were bad but at least they were ventilated! What they failed to tell us about the flight was that it flew from Malawi to Dar but via Niarobi. Now if your a little unclear about the geography it basically levels down to this. Instead of flying two hours East to Dar, we had to fly 3 and a half hours North to Niarobi and then 3 hours south East to Dar after an hour on the runway.
But basically we were starting to expect this by now. Oh and we had a 2 hour wait/scrum/maul to get our visas at the airport!
So needless to say we were a little late to Zanzibar so instead of heading down to the coast and getting a boat we took a plane and by plane I mean a VW Beetle with wings! But we survived and had a really chilled out time on the island which is possibly one of the most beautiful places in the world, although is full of tourists of which Americans are in the vast majority. Not saying thats a bad thing, but it ain't good! It did mean that everything was ridiculously expensive and it had lost a little of its African charm, but like I say very chilled and very beautiful so I wasn't complaining!
After which we headed back to old Blighty and were met by the smiling faces...no wait the sour faces of EVERYONE! Turns out we in the west are a miserable bunch. Oh and the joys of airport security hit home nice and hard. I love how theres such scrutiny of people and luggage leaving London but hardly any on the way in. Obviously there is a rule that planes can only be hi-jacked on the way out of a city!
Anyway it was amazing getting back to seeing all my friends and family again, and was even better getting home for the first home game of the season and going back to St.James Park!
But since being back I have been getting a little bored. Not really interested in TV after getting by so easily without it. However I did start watching Ewan McGregor and Charlie Booreman's the Long way down, as A) I really liked the long way round and B) just in case you happen to see a 6ft ginger guy walking around in the background of their filming!
I did find it funny with all the training they go through to avoid danger in Africa, when basically that sort of thing so very unlikely to happen and completely unavoidable if it does!
It did get me right in the mood for another road trip though. As I basically have come to the conclusion that if you are going to travel and we're no talking about holidays (vacation) here then the road trip is the only way to go. Buses are boring and planes are too. But we had so much fun on the rally I began thinking about another trip. I even began asking my friends what sort of vehicle would be best (the consensus was a big bus by the way)
But as if by fate, an email arrives from my good old american travelers about something new (we sort of new) A road trip.
Perfect timing, my feet were just getting itchy
P.S. Interesting to note the rally people won entrepreneur of the year by msn. Oh and Jack Osbourne has been everywhere ruining the rally, but at least we can say we all did it when it was still cool.
Apologies for the lack of posts but I'm truely a lazy person after all of this travelling.
Basically, after 24 hours in Perth airport which is one of the most souless places on the planet I jumped onto the plane set for Jo Burg. Have to say I was ever so slightly nervous as we landed in a city I had heard so much about. It seemed everyone I spoke to had some sort of horror story for me just to boost the old confidence, and it seemed apt that we would land in fog so the whole city looked ridiculasly eerie as we approached the airport.
Anyway after arriving and having saying hello to Bob Geldoff (one of the biggest people behind african aid and organiser of live 8 etc) I met my dad and we heading out to the Kruger National park. This was pretty uneventful although my dad did managed to get pulled over for speeding IN the park itself which I thought was quite a feat.
After seeing all the big animals and getting shouted at by a guide for leaving the car (for about a second) we headed towards Namibia. On our way we were passing little towns which looked very sinister in the dark, as most of Africa does and had not found anywhere to stay. After we had consinded ourselves to driving through the night we managed to stumble across a knackered old sign which advertised a bed and breakfast and exploring 3 miles down a dirt track found the weirdest place I have stayed in my life.
Looking around it appeared as though there was nobody there and through the living room window we could see the heads of every african animal you could think of on the walls. We would later find that the owner was the most stereotypical south african you could hope to meet, sporting the camoflage gear and even the stupid mustache and racist outlook on life and had shot them all. That night we slept wondering which one of us would be the newest addition to the wall.
After being caught for speeding and running a red light the next day and managing to talk our way out of it we headed for the border. Unfortunately or foolishly as it should be, we used our remaining money to buy fuel before heading the 130 km from the nearest town to the border. Of course there was a fee to bring a car across, of course. The border guard looked seriously worried and even took us to the next town to see if we could change some cash. Then after about an hour of trying to find a solution my dad came across the money in his wallet. I began to worry about my travelling companion. The border guard would later confide in me that if my dad could lose 100 Rand he had too much money, with 100 rand being less than $20, how little he really knew!!
We visited fish river canyon which was impressive but was down roads those who have been on the rally would appreciate. We headed further north to the Dune fields of Namibia and went quad biking on them which was amazing fun. Not sure the conservationists would agree.
From there we headed to Victoria falls which were again impressive but I feel I might be becoming battle hardened to all these sights as I could only feel that they werent as impressive as Iguazu in Argentina.
A more impressive feat was being catted up by one of the very few gay african guys in the place, not pleasant.
We then had to ditch our hire car and take on the thrill and danger that is public transport. We got off to a good start as the bus we were travelling on took an hour for the mechanic to get started, that was followed by the driver asking if anyone would like to lead the prayer before we set off. Turned out we needed it as it was an interesting trip though involving dodging lorries that had crashed off the road, crusing around corners at around 85mph and of course the standard potholes! We passed one lorry which was full of maize and had about 6 guys unloading it, yet they still had time to stop work and come over to our window and ask for money as we drove past. We met a really interesting guy from the american peace corps who explained we were on one of the safer buses as one company had been shut down after 6 fatal crashes in one month!
We then arrived in Malawi which is my favourite African country now without a doubt. Stunningly beautiful and whilst you still get hasselled by some locals most are so friendly and generous despite having so little themselves. We decided to slow our travels as we were travelling so much but not seeing alot or meeting many people and Malawi was the first place I feel we have really seen in depth. I was a little concerned about a blood paracite you can catch swimming in lake Malawi which can cause organ failure amoungst several other unappealing conditions I wont go into, but it was a hot day and it was way to appealing to worry about death so I got right in.
So the plan of action involves a flight to Tanzania and on to Zanibar island for a week or two and from there who knows.
Apologies for the lack of pictures but as most places here only have electricity generated by solar panels you can see what I'm up against asking whether anyone has internet access.
Hope your all well
P.S. To the ironsides, enjoy Kazakhstan, its just about to get interesting!
Was also gutted to find out that I missed meeting Ewan McGregor and Charlie Boorman by a day as they are doing the long way down from John O'Groates in Scotland to Cape Town. Would have been nice to talk about the travels but it was not to be.
Well guys sorry for the lack of posts recently, but life has seemed to slow down after south america. Doms recent tale has inspired me to at least update you thus far.
As far as I remember I left you in southern Argentina where I had hiked up to Torres del payne in Chile and was heading for Bolivia.
Well after some humorous border crossings including passing the Chilian border 3 times in one day, I finally arrived in Bolivia. It was very different from the european styling of Argentina and reminded me alot of Kazakhstan and after hearing so many stories of tourists being mugged there after seeing the place it was a little easier to understand why. I mean at least Brazilians have the beach these guys just have rocks. An interesting fact about Bolivia is that they actually have a navy despite being landlocked, it consists of a fenced off area of Lake Titicaca and there was sightings of uniformed men in a swan paddle boat.
Anyway I met up with some fellow british folk on the final bus journey to the border and continued on with them for a tour of the Solar de Uyuni. This included a 5 day jeep tour around Bolivia to finish at the salt flat itself. But let me tell you, 5 days in a cramped Land Crusier listening to crazy Bolivian folk music isnt as great as it sounds but fortunately my brain over time is good at making dyer situations seem humerous and the salt flats more than made up for the God aweful food. Had a nice surprise waiting for me when I returned to semi-civilisation when I found an email from Quantas telling me that they had changed my flights and had effectively given me 1 day to get from the middle of Bolivia to Santiago in Chile. This coupled with their call-centre being "down" did cause me a little panic for a day or so but finally got it sorted.
From Chile I flew out to New Zealand and was greeted by a Kiwi border guard at 4 in the morning asking me whether I had been to Kazahkstan because of the Borat movie, after seeing the visa in my passport. I said yes. New Zealand was astonishingly beautiful but after spending more time in South America then I had planned, I only had 3 weeks to explore.So to make the best use of my time I hired a campervan and toured around seeing lots of sheep and spectacular scenery. Although one Kiwi didnt like me badmouthing the Franz Joseph and Fox glaciers as crap compared to the Moreno, it appeared that suddenly I had become a glacier expert of the course of 4 weeks. I enjoyed my time touring around, sleeping on beaches, by fjords and the like but it did hurt my wallet and so when I flew out to Australia, work became the order of the day.
So far Sydney has been really enjoyable although very expensive and the weather does get bad here which they dont tell you about on their cheesey visit australia commericals! But even working isnt so bad here,I mean there are worse commutes then passing the Opera House and Harbour bridge at sunset every evening. Although I think the 4 month break has probably affected my opinion on work somewhat.
So its work for the next few weeks then i'm planning a diving trip (well not personally planning in the logistical sense)to the great barrier reef and then its off to Africa, which I just cant wait for. Think this really could be the jewel in the crown of my trip. Little worried about flying into Jo'burg after speaking to a South African resident about some of the stories she has heard but apart from that its all good. Think I'll just try and blend in,shouldnt be too hard I've heard there are plently of 6 foot tall, very white, ginger haired africans about.
So probably until Africa, thats all.
P.S I've already got several travellers interested in the Pan Am, now all we have to do is organise the thing.
The last time I wrote I mentioned that Brazil was my favourite country on the travels so far, well we may have a new leader and I have a feeling this wont be the last time I update the list. Argentina has been amazing! The country basically has everything, great food, amazing cities, majestic landscapes, beautiful girls and everything is ridiculously cheap. We were told before we arrived of $5 steak well those guys were way off the mark as we found quality $3 steak. Gotta love a little economic recession. Well enough humping of the proverbial Argentinean leg and more of what IÂ´ve actually been up to.
We crossed the border from Brazil and were greeted by the amazing IguaÃ§u falls which was a pretty good introduction to the place it has to be said. I was a little apprehensive about our first overland border crossing with Russian borders still relatively fresh in my memory but stampy stampy occurs alot faster in south america for some reason (take note for the Pan Am) and after 5 minutes we breezed through with the shocked looks and dropped jaws still plastered on our faces.
From the falls we took a bus which was the most luxurious method of transport I have ever taken, (not entirely sure whether that says more about me or not) but you can trust me it was impressive, think first class airline service and your about there, with fully reclinable seats, big steak meal and of course champagne whilst you watch your God awful movie. Anyway we arrive in Buenos Aires (B.A) which had be built up be pretty much every traveller I had met claiming it to be THE city in south america, some claim considering the company it keeps, but they weren't far off and I think had it not been for Carnival in Rio it may have a contender. One highlight has to be during a Boca Juniors game where at half time they showed highlights of Maradona, (not the best thing for an english football fan to see) but they continued to chant his name constantly for 30 minutes into the game. He still is a God for these people you see his face and virtually everything out here. After chilling out, eating ourselves silly and watching the Argentinean girls go by we headed down to Patagonia. Felt a little weird buying winter clothes in BA in 30 degree weather, but it was definitely worth it.
Visited the San Moreno Glacier which was stunning. Its the most active glacier in the world (or so we were told) and breaks at least once every half hour and is cracking almost constantly which sounds like gunfire or when they use explosives to clear snow in the mountains. Anyway I was impressed. From there we crossed over another border into Chile where we went to the Torres Del Payne national park to camp for a few days.
This is where I realised how ridiculously unfit I was but it was fun non the less, especially the way we camp, full on pasta meals, ipod playing the background and of course in Chile, a nice bottle of wine. Since then I have been heading back up north with my eyes on Bolivia and the salt flats in the south east which are supposed to be spectacular. Unfortunately that has meant IÂ´ve spent less time in some really nice towns and cities like Barriloche and Mendoza than I would have liked but its all in the name of progress (or maybe photos) Im currently near the border and should be there tomorrow but needed a little rest after two 19 hour bus rides back to back just 2 days after a 30 hour one.
So thats it, if I survive Bolivia there maybe another story to tell, but until then.
P.S. I had the most frightening incident of my whole trip in south america so far which should give you some indication of the place. I had, my haircut. At least the haircut lady found my miming and spanglish hilarious.
Waiting for wind
ItÂ´s been a while since my last entry, but surprisingly not a great deal has happened out here since. I worked my way up the coast from Rio to Salvador which was clearly in a carnival hangover as very little was happening in that town, other than the usual harrassment from the locals. Could not stand still there without someone coming up and asking for something or trying to sell you something. Was twice mistaken as an American and proceeded to get a drunken, spit infested lecture about foreign policy,how America has managed to piss Brazil off IÂ´ll never understand. Moved further up the coast and found again more sleepy little towns, which for the people who I have met travelling so far seems to be fantastic, they seem content sitting on who could not have looked more Arian, has was called Christoph and could well have been a bond villan the way he talked, and when he mentioned about taking guns with him for protection on the best kitesurfing beaches that happened to find themselves in bad areas I became truely suspicious. So after a few days of drinking the southern Atlantic I became a kitesurfer which was really cool, definately helped that the water was as warm as in a bath and so inviting in 35 degree weather, definately beats the sub-zero North Sea thats for sure.
Surfing or at least attempting to on Ilha Grande
After all the curfuffel I headed up to another little village for a rest, hard work all this travelling lark. This oneÂ´s name was Jericacoacoa but being that Brazilian Portugese is one of the non-sensical languages of the world I was constantly being corrected on my pronounciation so ended up just calling it jerrikaka or Jerry which went down well with the locals. It was a really cool place, only 4 sandy streets wedged between a beautiful beach and a huge dune where we sandboarded, it is truely like sandpaper when you fall. To get there I had to take a troop carrier type vehicle as the place is only accessible by 4x4s. We arrived in the dead of night and it kind of felt like some sort of covert mission being run through swamps and across the beach under the cover of darkness, kind of like the army IÂ´m guessing except without the danger and mass murder vibe. This place was good but it was rainy season which apparently meant something in that part of the country.
After a quick nap there, I headed back to Rio and striaght to an island in the south called Ilha Grande, which was amazing if not a little touristy, always a bad sign when theres more english speaking people on the island than locals. Its basically a tropical island covered in rainforest, so explored there a little, going to the 3rd most beautiful beach in the world, although I couldnt see it, the scummy beaches of whitley bay in Newcastle take some beating.
This is one of the best hostels, club in the basement like ye olde times, and yes the horse was riden
After all that I arrived back here in Rio, where I left you with my last message. Just seems I cant stay away from the place. Had a really strange yet familiar feeling coming back to the place, like returning home or something. Not sure if thats a sign to buy my own coconut stand and settle down here with my own shack or just because its such a beautiful city and one of the few places so far on my trip that always has something exciting happening. Think if I were to come here again it would be for the build up to Carnival and not the winding down.
Can't beat a bit of Rio
Was thinking as the emails from the Mongol Rally came in, how we spent 4 weeks out there and had so many amazing stories to tell and how IÂ´ve spent the same amount of time out here and not nearly as much has happened. Still surfing and sleeping on a tropical beach in Brazil sure beats doing nothing at home.
Oh and we were right in that the rally is the trump card when talking to other travellers, doesnt really matter how long they stayed in Asia most are impressed by it, and it certainly entertains the masses.
Well carnival has come to a close, it was one hell of a period of partying followed by more partying and lots of crazy brazilians. Ended up going to the Sambrodrome even though I wasnt that bothered about the whole event, I figured it would be like being the designated driver at a party with all the dancers going crazy and us just sitting there watching. But went down with a few spanish guys and haggled for a dirt cheap ticket and it was actually a decent night, for most of us. The area the dome is in was well, lets say not as glamourous as the parades that pass through it. There were 3 muggings in our group, one girl had a bag cut open, and my australian friend got well and truely done over. Bought a ticket for one of the best areas in the dome and thought heÂ´d done really well until heÂ´d got to the gate and the badge was missing. He then stepped away from the entrance to look for it and the VIP pass disappeared too, some genius pickpocketing at work me thinks.
Fortunately I stayed away from the unlucky ones and managed to make it through the night unscathed, not that I had anything on my worth robbing anyway. The next day we went on the complimentary boat trip from the hostel which was fantastic! Free alcohol and food for 6 hours around the beaches of Rio and you have the makings for a good time.
Unfortunately now the tight family that was our hostel over the last few weeks is splitting apart and most people are heading on their way. IÂ´m one of the few that still remain. Was a little bored due to that fact today, so decided to go to the beach, but walking seemed a little dull so we hang-glided in. Was pretty cool, went to the top of the mountain in the national park then had to run and jump off a cliff face, which was the hardest thing to do. Once we were up though it was amazing, so quiet and the views were amazing!
So tomorrow Iâ€™m heading north to Salvador, the next stop on my jaunt up this country which is fast becoming one of my favourite. I hope Salvador can live up to my experiences in Rio which were just simply amazing, mostly due to a good crowd of people I would love to see again! It seems the phrase my brother told me before I left is fast becoming true in that traveling is more about the people than the places.
Anyway there will be more to come.
Hope your all well at home
Well after the massive build up the carnival has begun in Rio with the major handing over the key to the city to a crazy guy that likes to drink alot! So to see in the festivities we headed to Santa Teressa where there was the first bloco which is basically a street parade followed by crazy african drummer people and lots and lots of alcohol. After wandering through this place which was right next to one of RioÂ´s favellas we headed down to Lapa which is like a local place where they have huge clubs but everyone stays outside to party as its cooler and a hell of a lot cheaper. Finished off at 5 in the morning by going down to the Copacabana beach with my new Scandinavian friend for a beer to watch the sunrise. Pretty good day. Then this morning there have been many many blocos starting in lapa at 9, basically so people could keep partying through the night. But I decided to lay low and sleep most of the day then had my first brazilian portugese lesson with one of the girls that runs the hostel this evening which was pretty good and heading off to samba tonight but a little later once it cools off and the party really begins.
The choices we have these days are endless one hapless politican or another, die in a car crash or of some tropical disease? Well quite frankly I'm very much considering the former option as having been innoculated for everything from hepititus to yellow fever the subject of malaria risen its very ugly head!!
It would seem that the options are endless when it comes to malaria drugs too and non of them appeal quite frankly, you pay a ridiculas amount for the most modern drugs which still promise likely side-effects of headaches and nausia, whilst the older cheaper drugs include enhanced sun-burn which for those of you who know me could prove slightly problematic, hair loss and hallucinations!
What makes this decision even more delightful is that the Brazilian government (not really the science leaders of the world) have claimed that malaria tablets are no longer necessary as all their minions of hell have become immune to our fantastic drugs.
So what it really comes down to is whether I'm scared of a little, tiny insect with wings and a giant sucker on its face...
Well I am, diarrhoea it is.