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Tuesday, 09 October 2007

Location: Valencia, Venezuela

So the time has come for the last installment of my little jaunt, which im sure is a lot sadder for me than for you lot who have had to pretend to be interested, but we have had such a great last few weeks that i cant really be that upset. We didn´t manage to organise a boat to Panama as the timings were really dodgy, as there were only a few boats a month doing the trip and the sailor wasn´t too enthusiastic about whether we´d be able to make it back. soo we went back to the beautiful playa blanca which wasn´t that much of a hardship really and spent a few wonderfully relaxing days just enjoying the scenery. Then we had to make the decision whether to waste a day extending our visas or just to go straight to Venzuela. We opted to go straight to venny which we had beeen warned against by many a traveller for being expensive, dirty, a hard travel and generally not worth the bother. But we had nearly 3 weeks left so thought we´d try. We finished our last 28 our bus journey and found oursleves in a little beach resort called Choroní which wsa so much better than we had imagined. It´s a little cove beach with great waves and hardly anyone there in the week (rammed full at the weekends tho) and a quaint little town where we spent most evenings on the harbour sitting on the coastal wall, watching the world go by. It was perfect, and we found venezuelans while speaking incredibly quicky to be really helpful and friendly so we were feeling pretty pleased with oursleves really.
We then called Char´s mum in a city called Valencia not far from where we were and she very kindly said we could come visit her so we left the beach to go inland. We got to her penthouse and by god its amazing, so beautiful with great views and just the most lovely couple ever, they are so generous and spent the next few days showing us round the city and jane took us out to where she has set up charities and we spent a day visiting the kids in orphanages and soup kitchens involving ourselves with the handouts and cuddles. It was great to see the two extremes of the life here where the rich are oh so very rich and the poor really have nothing. It has been th most interesting place we have been to for political reasons, as Chavez is really changing the way things work. The wierdest thing is that there´s 2 exchange rates, the official at 2150 to the dolar and the working one which is 5600, which makes a massive difference. Luckily we had been told about this before we came so we got out all the dollars we thought we would need so we could change them here for nearly triple the actual rate which has made the stay really quite cheap for us.
Jane then took us out of her boat for the day and took us out to the islands, which are just so beautiful, exactly what you´d expect from the carribean coast...white sand, palm trees, bright blue clear water, just perfect. So we spent a few days by ourselves there then jane and dane came back to take us out for another day trip, which was just as spectacular. We´ve had such a gerat time in Venny I´m so so glad we came, Im gutted we didn´t have more time and im even more gutted that its time to leave and get back to reality, which neither of us feel in the romest bit ready for but I guess this day had to come at some point. but its been bloody marvelous, so at least we´ve got the memories, oh woe is me!!!!!!!!
So alls left to say is woooohoooooi´ll be seeing all of you very very soon, Love you very very mcuh and in one more sleep ill bein blighty!! argh!!!! xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

Saturday, 15 September 2007

Location: Cartagena, Colombia

Wowsers, the last one was 5th of August, so whoops andhere goes!!
So we left Peru pretty sharpish, we had been there about 3 and a half months and we were keen to get on to other countries, so we did 2 back to back 24hour bus journeys to get us up to Ecuador, to get us to the beaches. This plan failed slightly, as it was really cloudy and not beach weather when we finally made it, but no matter!! It was lovely to be in the tiny beach towns again, out of the cities and into the life of the surfer hippy type!! Much more relaxed!! So we hung about the beaches for a week or so seeing if hte weather improved, but it didn`t and when you`re in a tiny tiny place meant for beach life when you`re not gong to the beach, well theres not much to occupy yourself with. That and a delightful bout of food poisining convinced us to go up to the capital Quito and see the sights there. It is another really beautiful old colonial style architectural city, big but not huge, really really classy and full of great bars and restaurants. We had thai food for the first time this trip and there was even proper cheese at the tapas restaurant. So we hung about the city, and then went to the hotsprings slightly north which were great. They had about 6 pools of varying temperatures, and we just chilled all dy in the natural springs, great day out. The the epic...the first museum in 10 months. It was the equator museum and has the best reputation, so we thought we should.Basically the official line and museum is incorrect, so the museum is just rubbish! The backstreet one is about 200m away and you can do crazy tricks where you balance eggs on nails, you lose all reststance at the ecuator so you cant hold your arms up when someone tries to pull them down, water turns one way then the other and then straight down when youre on the equator line, crazy madness!! It was really really interesting, we loved it.
So Ecuador was a whistle stop tour but we had our flights and friends from home in Colombia so off we went. We spent the first while in Cartagena, which is one of the most beautiful cities I have ever been to, the buildings are stunning and the old town is really small with tiny street and beautiful houses, realy lovely. We then made our way to Tyrona National park which is just jungle and coastlines, so we walked in for a couple of hours to get to a deserted beach and stayed in hammocks for 4 nights, in paradise. It was absolutely perfect, clear blue waters, no one there, it was smashing! And then back for a bit of comfort, then off to Playa Blanca, which is on the other side of Cartagena, for much of the same really!! Its just stunning out here, and if it werent for the storms which come by every so often it would be perfect.
So as you see not much to report, its all been incredible though. Colombia is just nothing like you`d expect itto be from the news. I guess we`re out of the problem areas up here on the coast, but its just brilliant. There`s very few of us idiots ruining the place, and there are loads of Colombians travelling around as well, which is coolio, so not quite the backpacker vibe but its great.
So we have very little time left, not actually sure how long, cant face looking, but we will be spending a bit more time here in Colombia then off to Venezuela to go stay with a friend from home`s parents, which should be amazing. But I think for the time being we`ll either go back to the beach or try and organise a sailing boat to take us to some islands which are on the way to Panama which are apparatnly incredible. It would be a long shot but you can sail all the way to Panama (about 5 days) or if you`re lucky with timings, you can go half way and then pick up another sailing boat to take you back a few days later. We shall see!!! not entirely sure why I think I`d like it seeing as I`ve never been that inclined to sail and get scared of the sea when you can`t see the bottom, but all an adventure I guess!!!
Anwyas, sorry for not writing sooner, no real excuse at all!!!
Love you all millions as always xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

Sunday, 05 August 2007

Location: Machu Picchu, Peru

Hey all,
I’m just waiting for the photos to upload of Machu Picchu so thought id write a quickie while I wait. The trail was a 4 day, 3 night malarkey, and it was absolutely amazing. The 1st day was pretty easy going, about 6 hours of walking but with not much up or down it was easy even for the likes of me. The scenery was incredible, walking through the Andes with snow capped mountains on either side, the sun was shining, all was good in the world. We stopped for lunch and had some incredible food, the best Lomo Saltado (stir fried steak in red wine sauce) that we’ve had so far, had a siesta then set off for the last 2 hours of the day, a bit uphill but nothing to complain about. We camped in an amazing setting, could see no one else, just the mountains, and settled in for the night. We got up at the crack of dawn the next day and set off for our day of hell…2 mountains in one day. The first was 1km uphill then about 1/2km downhill, and then 1/2 km up and 1/2 km down. All in all 16kms of walking. Sounds easy but trust me it wasn’t. It wasn’t as hard as I was expecting actually, and the scenery at the top made it worth all the lung and leg aches to get there. We took it at our own pace, and made it up Dead Woman’s Pass (the highest peak at 4215m) without any tears, which was a miracle!! We then settled at an incredible campsite at 3600m and had some tasty tasty food again, ready to set off for another day. The 3rd day was again pretty easy walking, saw some ruins, made our way though the Andes to get to our next camp. There were 15 of us in our group, but it didn’t really feel like it was that many, b/c we all took it at our own pace, so we were split up most of the day, and the Andes are pretty big, so you can lose yourself really easily. The 4th day was Machu, so we got up at half 3 am, had some breaky and then made it to the checkpoint before it opened so we could be the first group though. We almost ran it to the sun gate (an Inca ruin) where you can watch the sun rising over Machu, took some snaps, and then headed off again when it got a bit busy to another ruin where we fully watched then sun hit Machu. It was incredible. We were all shattered, having scrambled our way up there for 2 hours at that time in the morning, but it was definitely worth it. We then headed into the site, and had a tour for 2 hours or so then had some free time, where Andy promptly fell asleep, twice, and we just sat and took it all in. Pretty intense 4 days but I absolutely loved it. Having been in Cusco for sooooo long, and every single person we’ve met having gone to machu and saying it’s brilliant, we got a bit blasé about it, just another thing that everyone does, but really, it’s incredible. Neither the pictures or my chat give it justice, especially when you`ve walked for 4 days to get there. The 22 porters that took our stuff were just exceptional, while we were all wheezing our way up the hills, they would literally run past us, all of them with 30kgs on their backs, most without backpacks, just tied onto their backs with ropes or material, they were machines! They have a race every year, and one of our porters won it last year, and did the whole trail which takes us 4 days…in 3 ¾ hours. Makes you feel preeeeeetty unfit!!!
But the photos are now done, take a look at our cheeeeesy pics is you have a sec, if not I’m sure to bore you all with them when I get back!!
Righto, love to all as always, muchos besos xxxxxxxxxxxx

Sunday, 29 July 2007

Location: Cusco, still, Peru

Sorry it’s been so long, but we have been really busy, which is a real shock to the system! We have now finished our volunteering stint, which has absolutely flown by, and are now off to Machu Picchu after the weekend is out which should be brilliant. We left our family on Friday, which was a bit sad, only bc of the kids...the parents just werent that welcoming or friendly - they would rather sit in their own bedroom and watch tv in the evenings than have dins with us (i say dinner, but for them it was dinner, for us it ws a dry bread roll mmmmm nice!!!). Im not sure if their behaviour was just bc they were a bit odd, or bc they were very religious, but i guess they were just not used to having other people in their house, and Im pretty sure they didnt like it!!! But the kids were lovely, really strangley they didn't have any firends over, ever, and the littlest one only ever went out the house for the school run,so they were a bit, well, different, but really lovely nonetheless. Its just a different food culture as well, I think we saw a vegetable maybe twice in the 2 months, They just dont eat them at all. The meals were 3/4 rice, potatoes or chips and then a bit of (horrible) meat, and that was it, day in day out. Quite hard to get used to, but thats just how it is here, they is no education for balanced diets, they are not encouraged to eat healthily, and they are basically malurished. The whole family had to go to hospital while we were there at different times for different ailments, and the baby was on antibitics for weeks on end. It was a bit difficult to grasp, but it really wasn't our place to try and step in about the importance of vitamins or eating well, so we just took a step back. I would have liked to be more welcomed into the family home to get more of an experience, but we had our own space and the kids were just lovely, and having our own front door meant that when we just couldnt face another night of Uno and Memory, we could hide away, so it wasn't all bad at all.
The volunteering was excellent, I really loved working with the tiny kiddies in the morning, there were a fair few tears when I had to say goodbye, they were just so adorable. In the afternoons I didn't manage to work in the orphanage as in true Peruvian style, the organiser just didn't organise, or get back to me, or even notice my barrage of emails I doubt, so I decided to sack in waiting for her, and I found another charity in Cusco which works with street kids in the afternoons, as a school with art classes/ homework classes/ reading classes/ all sorts really. I would teach art for the first 2 hours, or help with homework, then I was an English teacher for 9-10 year olds for the next 2 hours. Really really hard work, as the kids were not exactly exemplary in their behaviour, but when they were good, I loved it! My first day was petrifying, not least b/c I haven’t taught before, let alone in another language, let alone without books, pens, pencils, blackboards, curriculum, textbooks, you name it we didn’t have it. So I went to the market where Andy worked and bought me a whiteboard and supplies for the kids, as much for my sanity as for theirs, as trying to keep their attention for 2 hours without any visual aids or anything for them to do was somewhat tiring! I ended up actually enjoying the teaching part, but hated having to discipline the kids, I am TERRIBLE at it!! I’m just a sucker for their cute smiles and cuddles, but unfortunately they are old hands at this and know exactly what to do to get out of trouble. But overall I enjoyed it, just realized that it’s a very different culture out here. The Latin way is just not to say please and thank you which I found really hard, especially with the owner of the school, who didn’t once say thanks for our effort or time, and would demand things of you. I don’t know, it was just hard not to be appreciated after you put so much time and energy into the kids, its not why I did it, to be thanked by the owner, but it would have helped to counteract the difficulties. But anyway, that’s all done with now, and off to Macchu on Tues, then hotfooting it up to Ecuador for the sun, the beaches, for a good chill out. We are there for only 3 weeks, our friends have a cabana on the beach front so we will stay with them I think, and then fly to Cartagena in Columbia to meet a friend of Andy’s from back home and Claire who we traveled with before. Should be most excellent. Feels very weird to be ending our time in Cusco, feels almost like home now, but we are both getting itchy feet so are really ready to get back on the road again. Anyway, this has been a insanely quick runthrough of our two months, but Ill be sure to be better in the future, when were not putitng in 12 hour days and flaking out at the end of it.
As always I love you all vrey much and am misisn gyou more and more,
lots of love xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

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From Claire & Nats
Womps & Mr C
How goes the B.A. House? Tis a marvelous day here and all the office are out at lunch (the crown) so as you can see Nats & I are working hard. This week so far: Nats being harassed for date with Adam. We are now 'special' customers in Soho Pizza place - have own table and everything! Got hammered most nights so unfortunately can't remember much else - sure it was most exciting though - if we can remember any more will let you know. Love you both xx
Response: ummmm, who`s Adam?? Not a new person you say? Or is my memory just shite!!! is there any gossip yet that i must know about? love you both millions n millions xxxxxxxx
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