So after one last night with the boys, I woke up on our day of departure feeling a little worse for wear. I was determined to get an early start however so I had my last good shower for a while then set off to pick up our home for the next couple of months. After a fair bit of research we went with a Spaceships campervan. Already regretting the choice since the pick up location was a good half hour away from the city, I was livid to find out on arrival that our camper had had a major engine failure and they would be getting a replacement in but it wouldn’t be there till the evening. However, the company said they would refund the day, buy me taxis to and from the city, pay for lunch and chuck in their chairs and tables for free. Pacified, I left and returned later with Hattie and all of our stuff once we had said an emotional goodbye to our beautiful flat.
There she stood, our noble steed, the Toyota Estima, codenamed Cyberpunk. Having been acquainted with our new home we set off feeling rather chuffed with the features it came with. Tons of storage, cooking facilities, dvd player and a proper fridge. It drove well and as soon as we were out of the city the sense of freedom was overwhelming.
An hour or so later we arrived at Bells Beach for sunset and watched the kangaroos munching away for a whole before heading to Torquay where we’d be staying the night.
Unfortunately on the Great Ocean Road there are no free campsites so we found a lay by on a back Road a few miles from the town. We clearly hadn’t thought it through properly since the sun had set and the main light in our cabin was broken which resulted in us cooking dinner and making the bed for the first time in the dark. Not ideal to say the least. It made matters worse when were accosted by a giant, very venomous-looking spider which as hard as I tried to ward off with the torch, kept chasing me around.
Finally we jumped into bed and looked up the spider and it turns out it is attracted to light because that’s where its prey is found. Bear Grylls indeed.
Those of you who are connected to me outside the blog will be aware already, but I did not pass away travelling through the Andes in Peru. Despite the drivers best attempts I lived to tell the tale but unfortunately the story telling stopped there. Writing regularly is hard enough as it is when trying to find the balance between experiencing the world and telling others about it, but for myself the loss of one of the most inspiring people in my life was a little too much to bare. Just after arriving in Cusco and booking my trek to Machu Pichu I received the phone call telling me Nan had passed away quite suddenly. Since then I haven’t written a word and I regret that utterly as it’s the opposite of what she would have wanted. However, I’m back in the position where I can write again freely and will be making amends.
So where have I been and where am I now? I guess the shortened version would begin on the Salkantay trek where I was trying to combine the hardest climb I’ve ever attempted with the need to grieve. Fortunately the people on the trek with me were a huge help and we pulled each other through the difficult times and came out on top, rewarded with one of the most spectacular views in the world.
From there I travelled East to the Amazon Jungle where I was surrounded by wildlife, sunsets on the river, tarantula hunts at night and some superb, authentic Peruvian food.
Next up I travelled south to Lake Puno at the border to Bolivia. I took a day trip out on the lake to witness one of the oldest colonies in the Andes who settled on the lake and made rafts and have lived there ever since. Although tourism has had a dire impact on the authenticity of the tribe, it was interesting how different their way of life is compared to our own.
A long bus trip later I found myself at the Salar D’Uyuni. This epic four day trip via the volcanic landscape of the Andes reaches its climax at the legendary salt plains where all perception of distance is blown apart.
Soon after I arrived in Mendoza where I fell in love with the Malbec. I took a bicycle out to the wineries and thoroughly enjoyed some of the finest wine produced in South America.
Finally I took a bus through the mountains to my point of departure in Santiago. By this point I pretty much sat around and did nothing but look forward to Australia and finally meeting up with Hattie in New Zealand. South America will always be one of my favourite places in the world, particularly Brazil, but I still felt like I barely scraped the surface. Who knows? I’ll probably be back again for a longer stay.
I flew in to New Zealand and met Hattie at the gate. Not much needs to be said about the reunion; it was amazing to finally be back together. We shipped over to Waiheke Island where we enjoyed a few days relaxation before the flight to Australia…
That’s another story in itself.
The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog.
Here’s an excerpt:
A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 2,800 times in 2014. If it were a cable car, it would take about 47 trips to carry that many people.
Click here to see the complete report.
Yesterday I began a 21 hour bus journey from Lima to Cusco. I’d taken long term coaches before and although I’d heard about how brutal this famous route is, I decided against taking a knockout pill that I’d been given by the Aussie girls in Brazil. What a disastrous decision! The twists and bends are complete unforgiving and once you finally manage to get to sleep, the driver decides to kick it up a gear and see what g-force he can get you retching at. Thank god the majority of the mountainous sections were at night as well otherwise I’m pretty sure I’d have soiled myself with the constant danger of hurtling of the tiny cliff-edged road.
I had found in Brazil that coaches dragged on a bit due to the insistence of companies to take breaks every two hours. This eventually led to every coach journey being at least an hour late. I was worried that the same might be true in Peru but it turns out I couldn’t have been more wrong. Peruvian coach companies don’t take breaks at all in fact. A few meals are provided as well as a selection of drinks and snacks to purchase. Obviously this means that there’s no need to step outside the coach for 21 hours, you’ve got everything you need right in your seat! Call me old fashioned but I’m pretty sure that’s how conditions like Deep Vein Thrombosis come about.
In addition to this, the waiter in charge of meals and the shop sits right at the back of the bus and is also in charge of DVDs. Unfortunately there’s no speaker at the back of the bus so he insists on putting the volume on maximum, temporarily deafening anyone in the near vicinity of what I can only assume is the “Treble Master 3000”. The woeful Spanish dubbing didn’t help. Imagine Stephen Hawking changing his language settings to Spanish and then narrating Apocalypto. It was truly awful.
Anyway, rant over. There has been a silver lining to the whole experience. I woke up this morning as we drove through the mountains with the sunrise hitting each crest and river in turn, each bend bringing a different perspective on the landscape. Having had the sunset over the barren landscape surrounding Lima I can’t believe how much the land has changed in a few hours. The lush greens and rolling streams certainly made the hardships of coach travel a lot easier. Once again I’m heading deeper into a country that I’m sure I’m going to be coming back to at some point.
So after a long period without writing (or publishing anyway) I can now continue from a brand new point. The last time I wrote I was just leaving LA. Since then I’ve spent time in Costa Rica, Brazil and Argentina. The world cup took its toll on my time to write but it was absolutely worth it and some day I’ll catch up and tell the story. For now, the next part or my journey began in Peru.
Waking up this morning I realised I had so much admin to do that I was in danger of not achieving anything substantial during my time in Lima. My debit card had been skimmed in Rio and the asshole had stolen all my money. I had just started the long process of getting it back. I had also not made any plans for the west coast of South America past landing in Lima and departing from Santiago a few weeks later. However by four o’clock I had worked out my route for the next two weeks and begun proceedings with the bank so I set out for my first taste of Peruvian culture: a ruin dating back to 500AD, and only ten blocks away from my hostel.
The structure is absolutely incredible. That something can last so long and only be discovered a few decades ago is remarkable. Learning about the discoveries the archaeologists had made over the last 30 years concerning the Lima people was also fascinating. Scattered around the ancient temple are various cemeteries and tombs, some of which contained children sacrificed to the gods during times of despair. It’s a haunting thought that hundreds of years ago there were human sacrifices being made in the very spot I was standing.
It is estimated that the structure would have taken two hundred years to build by an entire community. Considering that the Lima people were conquered by a culture from the Andes in 700AD this indicates that the Lima culture would have had a very short time to enjoy the product of their hard work.
After leaving, I wanted to go see a much more modern wonder, the famous lightshow at the water park a short taxi ride away. Unfortunately a football match at the national stadium caused appalling traffic and we were forced to head back to the hostel.
For the rest of the night we sat around the table with a fantastic guitarist and I played the cajon for the first time which is basically a box with a hole in it. It’s simple but incredibly effective at recreating the sounds of a bass drum and a snare. As a result you can improvise away, playing along to anything that needs a beat. It was the sort of night that I hadn’t had in a long time with all the partying and drinking that comes with the world cup and I was grateful for it. The other outcome of the night was my decision to take up something whilst I’m away. Glen the guitarist, travels with his guitar, a clarinet, a mouth harp and a didgeridoo. If he can accomplish that then surely it’s possible for me to lug around a Cajon. I can’t wait to get my hands on one.
Decided there are more important things than visiting this place again. Very little to do after seeing stuff before. An excellent comedy night, some good American food and a top session of karaoke were the highlights before flying out to Costa Rica!
Today I woke up bright and early to check out of my hostel and head to the bicycle rental store around the corner. Today I’d remain on the tourist trail and cycle through the peaceful bliss of the park and then proceed to cross the Golden Gate Bridge. This is a famous cycle route although with the cold I expected not to see too many people on my route. I could not have been more wrong…
Somehow I had managed to organise my peaceful cycle ride on the same day as College Street Party which coincided with a 10 km race that basically mimicked the cycle route I was taking. The race had long since finished but the party continued despite the protests of the police, who were closing things down block by block only for parties to spring up in areas they previously shut down. In all honesty I was so so tempted to sack off the whole cycling thing and try to crash a party somewhere but I hadn’t seen enough of San Francisco yet and I had too much to do. I settled for enjoying the entertainment as a spectator. And what a spectacle it was:
I was completely dumb founded. Whenever I’ve met Americans in the past they’ve been complete lightweights and I’m pretty sure that stereotype is still true. However I’d always assumed the frat parties you see in the movies are completely over hyped and not remotely close to the real deal. However, now I’ve seen it for myself I can confirm, as much as I hate to admit it, College kids now how to party. That photo of the house with the enormous crowd outside belonged to the some of the college band members and they were in full force blasting out anthems. People clambered on roofs, hung out of windows and chilled on fire escapes. As the day went on, the amount of clothing utilised diminished and when I came across an entire fraternity (male) whose dress code was naked I decided it was time to move on.
Although my first photo was photo bombed by a stray Ironman I did eventually get to a point whereby I could take some photos of the magnificent beach. Unfortunately, in doing so I had inadvertently put myself on the track recommended for elite cyclists and the only way back was through the masses of students now heading to the beach. And so the workout began.
I haven’t been cycling in a very long time and I haven’t done anything resembling exercise since my ankle injury a couple of months ago. In all honesty, it was hell. I repeatedly had to walk the bike when the hills got too steep and my legs burned the entire time. Looking back on it now though it was absolutely worth it. The views from the top of that Hill were sensational.
I then proceeded to cross what must be the windiest cycle path in the States. On the bridge itself the gusts are so strong that a man had perched himself for lunch at a particularly bad section to watch and laugh as countless cyclists tumbled off their bikes and struggled to get up again. Fortunately I escaped this hilarious fate by a whisker and made it to the end unscathed.
Unfortunately I had spent too long in the park so I wasn’t able to visit the Giant Redwoods to the north and instead had to return to the bay area on the ferry.
It was an incredible day in an amazing city. Apart from making me feel like I wish I could afford to do a second degree in the States, I also found the city that would be my choice to live if I moved there. Back to Los Angeles!