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"Tourists are those who bring their homes with them wherever they go, and apply them to whatever they see... Travelers leave home at home, bringing only themselves and a desire to see and hear and feel and take in and grow and learn."

Diary Entries

Monday, 31 March 2008

Location: Calgary, Canada

European Escapades

So it’s not so much taxes but as taxing… I finished work yesterday, and now I’ve got 2 weeks to basically get myself together and ready to go. Still have a bunch of “homework” for the new job but that’s why i have 2 wks and not 2 days before i head out. The guys at work got a chocolate cake and a card with a bunch of people’s messages. It was nice to read everyone’s well wishes. The cake was very yummy and we soon polished off about 3/4 of it, no small feat for 5 people really. I’ll miss the guys there, even on a crappy day you were laughing.

Two weeks from now I will be on a flight to London, England. Heathrow Airport to be a bit more exact. It’s only one of hte busiest airports in the world no big deal. I’ll spend 4 days in London on my own, then I start the new job.

The new job is working for Budget Expeditions. I’ll be leadding tours all around Western & Eastern Europe. I’ll be in London for 1 week, Amsterdam for 3 days, Paris for 4 days and then I do a training trip going through France, Monaco, Italy, Switzerland, Austria, Czech Republic, Germany, Netherlands and Belgium. Once training is done we could be sent anywhere really!

Should be quite the adventure, and should have many stories to tell so stay tuned!

Saturday, 24 March 2007

Location: Toronto, Canada

ONTARIAIRIAIRIOOOOOOO!

Well I'm back in Canada now, in Toronto though. Having a bit of recovering time as i seem to have caught Midori's cold (booooo!). It's not bad, but it's nice ot be able to sleep without a fan on and without wondering if anything is crawling on you!

We had an interesting flight back. We left San Jose late and that meant that our 1hr layover was gonna be tight. We were scheduled to board our next plane at 9pm... were were in the air landing at 9pm. Eventually we got off but because its the states we had to claim and recheck our bags then go through customs and then security and get to our gate. I'm not even sure how we did it. Our flight was scheduled to leave at 9:45pm (after they held it 15min). I got held up at security and bitched out by the lady for no reason so i just stood there and let her feel me up until she'd had her fun and let us leave. We ended up running the length of the airport and our bags and me with no shoes on, just in time to be let on the plane. WHEW!

I didn't get up to much in San Jose. Mainly because i spent 1/2 of the time there I had in the police station. Nothing major but I got robbed int eh downtown in the middle of the day. So ya they got my wallet and my camera and all of my memory cards. I was super upset about losing my pictures. I didn't really care about the rest, just i lost all of my pictures from Costa Rica, which makes me sad. I will have to get a new camera which sucks and hopefully the insurance will cover it but ya the pictures is what is the worst.

I've been back a couple days but am just trying to rest and shake the cold, eat properly and get some good sleep. The boys have been busy but i've gotten to see them a bit. Tomorrow we're going out for dinner so that will be nice, my first homemade meal in 7weeks! I'm excited!

That's all for now, until next time i flee the country!

Gillian

Thursday, 22 March 2007

Location: Toronto, Canada

OH CANADA!

Ola Amigos & Amigas!

I'm back in Canada now and wanted to say hi and fill you guys in on the last few days. Me & Midori made it home... just. I was pretty sure we were gonna miss the flight but some line cutting and shoeless running through an airport to our gate got us there just before they closed the doors. So lucky. I had no desire to be stuck in North Carolina at midnight for who knows how long!

The biggest and worst news some of you already know about. On Tuesday while a few of us were out wandering trying to find somewhere to get JC's video burnt someone stole my camera and wallet. There wasn't a lot of money and they didn't get my passport or credit cards, but I was pretty sad about my pictures. Even the camera gone didnt bother me, if they want it they're gonna get it, but it was the pictures that have me kinda down. I had burnt off them in Granada but i now have nothing after that. (Unfortunately that means no more rapelling videos either!)

So if any of you guys have pics that you're gonna put up online or have the chance and can mail me a cd with pics I would really really really appreciate it. I'll put my mailing address at the end of my email.

I hope you are having fun on the remainder of your travels and those of you who've made it home got to have that first meal you've been dreaming of. Hope the luggage shows soon too Malcom.

Gillian

Saturday, 17 March 2007

Location: La Fortuna, Costa Rica

COSTA RICA PURA VIDA!!!

Just thought Id send off a shorter email this time. Today i have a pretty full day here its 9:30 and im tired. I woke up way too early because of big 18 wheelers driving by the hotel. Nice... not. Then i got up early anyways to go rapelling. We went down 4 waterfalls (and one dried up one). The biggest was 165ft. It was sunny as anything and the water was cool but not too cold. We definitly got drenched tho!

This afternoon I went on a horseback ride out to La Catarata waterfalls. They are in a steep canyon walls and everything around is pretty green. We rode in for about an horu then hiked down a heap of steps and went swimming in the coldest water! It was like swimming in the lakes of Canada in early June. Not so warm. The waterfall was pretty tho.

Last night I went on a hike to see Arenal Volcanoe. It erupts frequently and if it does really go off you have about 10 min to evacuate. The cars all have to park facing the street in case! We couldnt get very close (of course) but we were able to see some spider monkeys on the walk in. Unfortunately there were too many clouds so you couldnt see any lava coming down from the top (which i guess you can normally). Tonight its cloudy too so i cant see any either.

We were kinda lucky and got to see it erupt with a plume of smoke and ash on our way here. We were on the ferry across Lake Arenal when it went. Pretty impressive. Definitly gave me a bit of a shake up when we were hiking because the volcano growled at us. Yipes.

Thats about it. Tomorrow Im supposed to go WW rafting in the morning then have nothing planned for the afternoon. Day after Im into San Jose and then on Wednesday I fly to Toronto!

Gillian

Thursday, 15 March 2007

Location: Monteverde, Costa Rica

COSTA RICA MY NEW PARADISE!!!

Well I've made it to my last country and am in Costa Rica. A nice change after the nasty same old food of Nicaragua... I wasn't sure how many more rice and beans and fried chicken i could eat!

The last few days in Nicaragua we spent on the island of Ometepe. It's on a lake that is big and looks like ocean. We took the ferry across and had to be pulled inby ropes cuz it it so shallow. It took use forevere to get in. Our hotel was a rat palace but since no one from Intrepid had booked us on our guide had about 15 min when we got there to find us something in Moyopalgpa the ferry town. We used the hotel for tours which was a big mistake. The first afternoon we were there we went to a hot springs that were cold and dirty looking so i didn't swim. The second stop was to a hotel for a drink (even tho we just ate lunch) and then we went to Charco Verde, a nature reserve. They said we'd only have 1/2 hr and the shortest trail is 1hr but we decided to not go to the beach to watch sunset and go on the trails instead. I did one that went all uphioll to a look out and you could see both volcanoes that make up the island. After we went to the beach at charco verde and watched the sunet.

The next day we went on another tour with then to see this waterfall. The hike was brutal 2hrs uphill only uncovered in the sun. FInally we got there and they were nice but not much water. It took us another 2hrs to get back down and at least there was a great meal waiting for us! That day pissed me off tho and i ended up fighting to not have to pay full price because after we were supposed to go see petroglyphs and swim at the beach but instead we got dumped at the beach for 10 min which turned into 45min while the driver went and got the other 1/2 of our tourgroup, who then spent an hour having drinks at the bar. We only did 1/3 of our tour. Hence the battle over money.

That night was Midori's birthday so we had a little party with cake, drinks and a pinata.

The next day we spent 12hrs travelling into Costa Rica. The border was forever and lots lines. We didn't hacve breakfast or lunch (yet again) and took about 6 vehicle: tugboat, taxi, bus, border, bus then another bus then a cab. Whew. At least our hotel here is nice.

Monteverde is a beautiful place and reminds me of Thredbo (Australia) a bit resorty like Banff mighta been 20 yrs ago. We went to a butterfly farm yesterday and on a night hike where i got to see tarantulas and sleeping birds and coatimundi (kinda like racoons) and lots of bugs. It was great. Today i am going zip lining and hiking in the cloud rainforest so that should be good.

That's all for now, Next stop is La Fortuna where we're trying to go white water rafting and maybe see Arenal volcano with it's lava.

Gillian

Friday, 09 March 2007

Location: Granada, Nicaragua

INTREPID CENTRAL AMERICA SUCKS ASS!

Ok so i'm not in honduras. We had a change of plans (what a surpirse seeing as intrepid is now up there with Air Canada for me).

I am now in Granada, and will be for 2 more nights, then to Ometempe for 2 nights then Monteverde for 3 then La Fortuna for 3, then San Jose. I think that's right. I'll still be in Toronto March 21st at 11.30pm.

Here's the story.

So we went up the volnacoe in antigua and that was when i talked to everyone last.

The next day we got into Copan after almost a whole's day worht of driving. No really it started at 4am. We crossed the border (and didn' get a stamp!) and into honduras. We spend the afternoon out at Copan Ruins which were neat, but it was rainy and cloudy kinda like it was in antigua. We were leaving the next day to go to Utlia. I think i already explained the whole Intrepid screwing up and booking us on utlia (the next crappy island over beside the roatan). So ya that was a welcome surpirise after they had already changed our start form Cancun to Playa del Carmen. Not too happy people.

So the next day we drove all day (we're talking all day) to La Ceiba to catch the ferry to Utlia. Didn't happen. Seems it's been raining there for 5 days and the roads were mud slides and they haven't been running the ferries. La Ceiba has nothing there, but we stayed overnight and in the morning realized it wasn't going to stop raining and the ferries won't run so the decision was made to go to Comayagua (the next place).

So ya, next day... up early and to the bus station only to discover the bus doesn' leave until 12.30pm. Nice surprise, why no one tells and figures this out ahead of time i'm not sure... still raining but walked down to the ocean to see huge waves and lotsa garbage. That was a 5 hr bus ride then a nice second bus into Comayagua. Anyways, we drove to Comayagua. The best part was that we had breakfast in La Ceiba at about 8am and didn't get to eat again until like 7pm in Comayagua! Fun Fun. Comayagua was ok but we got in too late to do or see anything.

Next day, So up early once again to drive anoter whole day... yippee... at this point we're starting to get really mad. We started at 6am and then took a nice bus and caught another at 9 then caught a overpakced with 13 people van for an hour... arriving in granada at about 6.30pm. oh the best part was that yesterday we didn't get breaky or lunch. That mad me a wonderful person to e around with a great headace... good thing i had m&ms and water. Yay sugar levels!

So ya, not happy... but i gets better, once again the 4 girls are made to share a room that is smelly and stifling hot. We were about to kill someone at dinner so today has been a day of rest. The biggest problem i seem to be having is sleeping. We keep getting up at 6am and then getting some rest then another early morning... I keep getting like 4hrs of sleep, it's been that way since we left antigua. It sucks, midori has gravol so maybe i can take one of them and sleep dunno.

That's abotu all there is in the way of what i've done. I've spent 4 days on a bus, not slept and eatne like shit. Can you tell I'm impressed. The best part is the sharing of rooms, cuz we had already done it before and the guys didn't have to this time AND supposidly intrepid had booked the rooms ahead so they shoulda known. Our guide is still doing ok with what he can but the groups has been fighting about where to go since the no raotan or utila and about having to pay for upgrades to buses because otherwise we have to take 6 buses and if we miss a connection are screwed. I feel bad for him because he was given no training and not even an itinerary from the company. He has never been to most of the countries we are going to ever. He spends all his time finding better hotels for the next group and info about day trips for us, but it sucks if we only have 1 day somewhere because we can't find the trips quick enough usually. The best is that he then has to give all his findings to the next guide after him. It's just so wrong. And to think we paid for a training run... not what i signed up for.

Basically it comes down to VERY POOR ORGANIZATION from intrepid. The repsonse our guide got from his boss "JAMES" about roatan vs. utila was to buy us all a beer... gee thanks $0.75 worth of something... Ya screw you intrepid i hate you. You were good in asia but over here you shoulda left it alone. Everyone here now has a loathing for the mysterious "James"

So ya today is rest and try to relax. I'm really disappointd that we got to see 3 days worht of driving on honduras and that's all. But now we're in nicaragua . My $2 bangkok watch broke back in belize and i got a new casio one for $20 at the border here. So now i know what time it is again. Just need to adjust the strap.

tomorrow i think we are going to go on a volcanoe reserve climb and go out to the island on a boat trip. I hope it's good and i can get some sleep tonight because it makes me feel like shit to be sleepy all the time and annoyed at the tour.

Gillian

Friday, 02 March 2007

Location: Panajachel, Guatemala

DROPPING LIKE FLIES!!!

Well the others im travelling with are dropping like flies. One has hurt her knee hiking. Another twisted her ankle caving and a few have been sick. I{m trying to stay healthy, don't want any of those for me thanks!!!

Since i wrote last we went to the hole of the earth. Or so i like to call it. A little nothing place called Rio Dulce. They hype it up tonnes here and i'm still not sure why we went. There seems to be one thing to do there and it's go to another town, which isn{t really that exciting itself. And our hotel was a trash heap. We had dirty sheets, no towels at first, the lost our booking so didn't have enough rooms so all us girls ended up in one room sharing. Not to mention that ordering food there, once i got hair for breakfast and twice they lost my order and another times the tried to charge more for something. Oh did i meantion that EVERYONE has a gun. Seriously a construction guy came to measure their deck and had one tucked into his pants. SO scarey. The banks have giant guards with rifles and barbed wire everywhere. Kinda glad to get out.

Next stop was Chichicastenango. Aka Chi Chi or marketown! I love markets, so bought lots and haggled over prices forever so fun! One of the girls we were with fainted, not so fun. Like i said people dropping like flies.

Last place where i am now is Panajachel. It's a nice little town with markets and 3 volcanoes across a giant super deep lake. I went for a hike today (where someone twisted their knee) and got some amazing views. Then this afternoon toook a boat over to another town to see this really wierd religious idol. It's just a wooden statue but they believe it can heal them or make people fall in love with you. Kinda wierd. They keep it in a shack and it's got a wood mask and wears ties and smokes cigarettes. Totally wierd. Oh and it likes offerings of rum! Evert year they trade houses. God of rock and roll i guess.

Tomorrow i am back to antigua and am gonna try to go climb a volcano that still has flowing lava. Should be good just try not to burn myself!

Till next time!

Gillian


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