So when I left Perth in April 2013 I had intended to try and blog every week or so of my travels…1 week / 6 months, same thing pretty much right?
Since my last blog I have; studied Spanish in Guatemala, returned to Mexico for mas cerveza, island hopped in the Caribbean, been stranded in Cuba, made a snap decision to return to the UK, vaccinated salmon in Scotland for a couple of weeks, flew back to central America, spent a month in a hire car in Costa Rica, lazed on the beach in panama, returned to the uk again, lived in a shit hole apartment in London while working in Hyde park and now I’m cleaning chalets at a ski resort in France! The vast majority of that was unplanned…I had originally intended to still be in Latin America for most of this year, but as many of you know I am quite a retarded young gent and tend to change plans fairly regularly. It’s been too long since I last did this so I guess I’ll just go over a few of the highlights of the travels.
Guatemala was probably my second favourite country of the trip after the U.S, beautiful scenery, friendly people, great food and some amazing experiences. Entered the country overland from Mexico city on an overnight bus to the border and then transferred to a ‘chicken bus’ in Guatemala…not a wise choice. Chicken buses are the kind of thing you see in movies but don’t believe actually exist, it does not seem physically possible to fit that many people inside one vehicle. My two most memorable chicken bus journeys were probably returning from lake Atitlan when the bus was so full that a Mayan farmer lady was actually sitting on my shoulder. At the start of this trip I never expected to have a Guatemalan anus resting against my ear, but deep down I’d always secretly hoped it would happen. Second most memorable/shit chicken bus experience would be after an overnight hike to tajamulco the highest point in Central America.
We’d woken up at 4am to get the 5 o’clock bus to the base of the mountain, climbed for around 8 hours to base camp, set up camp before it pissed down with rain, ate soggy pasta in the tent and attempted to sleep crammed together with 6 other smelly hikers before waking up at 2 am to start the ascent to the peak for sunrise which was amazing apart from the clouds rolling over and losing feeling in the tips of my fingers from the freezing wind. We then packed up camp and descended just in time to hop on a chicken bus…that was rammed completely full. After a fairly gruelling 24 hours running on very little sleep and exhausted from lugging a massive backpack up a frickin mountain, the last thing any of us felt like doing was standing up on a bus breathing in each others b.o with elbows in your back and knees in your nut sack for 5 hours. The only good thing about the bus being that packed is that you don’t have to put in any effort to remain upright as there is no room for you to move so you couldn’t actually fall over even if you tried. I think I may have actually napped upright at points during this journey.
When we eventually left Quetzaltenango (Xela) where we’d been studying, we set off around Guatemala for a while. The waterfalls at semuc champay and ruins at Tikal were both amazing and it felt great to get away from the pollution in xela and back to traveling instead of staying in the same spot. Enjoyed my time in xela, but when you start walking everyday to Wal-Mart for something to do then you know it’s time to move on. One of the most challenging/ridiculous things we’ve done on this trip was the 5-day hike to the lost city of el mirrador in the jungle of northern Guatemala. It’s hard to get across exactly how fucking horrible and uncomfortable it was, but I’ll give it a go! We knew it was going to be a challenge and not like other hikes we’d done before but never really thought it would be quite so intense. 5 days through dense jungle wading through swamps full of mosquitos and knee high mud for 8-10 hours a day only to get to a campsite without running water and a meal of a spoonful of refried beans and a mouthful of scrambled egg.
We are most definitely not afraid to rough it, but were slightly shat off after paying a pretty decent amount for a trek and seeing all the food that was in baskets strapped to the mule, but being fed like prisoners after huge hikes everyday. Were even more pissed off after finally making it out of the jungle to discover that the guy we booked the tour through hadn’t arranged to pick us up and there was no bus out of the nearest village so we would have to stay another night at the edge of the jungle at our own expense. Complete douchebag.
I have never seen so many mosquitos as I saw in el mirador, it was like a cloud of death rising in front of you and surrounding you to have a blood-fuelled orgy on your flesh. The two French girls that we were hiking with didn’t stand a chance, they were covered from head to toe in thousands of bites. We were lucky and had a small amount of deet mossie repellent that kept them at bay slightly…apart from my face. They seemed to enjoy the taste of my face and my head, I guess they mistook my cone shaped cranium for a delicious raspberry cornetto.
The French girls were an absolute mess, looked like pin cushions and on top of that they both took skate shoes hiking and struggled for the whole 5 days with munted ankles…but apart from that we all had a great time! The ruins were pretty cool and felt very Indiana jonesish seeing pyramids overgrown by jungle, probably would have done it slightly different if did it again though. From Guatemala we went to the beautiful caye caulker island in Belize where we stayed at a lady’s house that she’d converted to a cat sanctuary. Was a great few days lazing on the beach drinking rum and eating coconuts…also got to assist holding a cat still while the owner of the sanctuary used my Swiss army knife to remove a catheter from a sick cat’s penis. Wasn’t expecting that. Don’t worry I cleaned the knife before making a sandwich.
It was then back into Mexico to travel around the Yucatan for a few weeks so Kelly could go on a alcohol fuelled rampage in Cancun with her mates. I went and hung out on Holbox Island for a few days while Kelly drank several litres of gin and I’m assuming got arrested for public indecency, but I think all the details are slightly fuzzy for her from that period. Loved Mexico again and definitely want to spend some more time there in the future but as I said earlier I’m a lazy shit and can’t really be bothered digging through my shrivelled little brain to write more about it at the moment, maybe in the future I will…I’m sure you’ll all be thrilled to hear about it right? right!?
From Cancun it was then off to the land of rum and cigars, Cuba! Cuba was an awesome place, at times frustrating and challenging but still a cool place. Got ripped off frequently, harassed constantly and then finally fucked over severely by cubana air who cancelled our return flight and offered no refund/alternate flight/help of any kind. What we did next neither of us had anticipated at the start of the trip…we flew back to the uk. After 48 hours stranded in Havana airport sleeping on the floor and eating stale cheese sandwiches we were fed up of waiting for another flight to Mexico or central America to appear on the flight board and had the choice of Canada or back to Europe. At the time we were willing to fly anywhere as long as it got us the fuck out of Havana so settled on a flight to Frankfurt and then on to London as we both have family in the UK.
It was a weird feeling landing in London, felt very surreal flying to Europe when that had never been part of the plan at any stage, but it all worked out ok in the end. I luckily managed to get a couple of weeks work back at my old job vaccinating salmon in Scotland and Kelly was very generously given free tickets and two weeks in a resort in lanzarote by my cousin due to personal circumstances. So yeah I went and worked and Kelly had a holiday from our holiday. yep. Was great getting to see my family in Manchester again and meeting Kelly’s family in Swindon too so even though it was unplanned I don’t regret leaving central America…also it didn’t really matter as we flew back a few weeks later. Flew into san José in Costa Rica and met up with Kelly’s parents who rented a car and then spent three weeks driving around Costa Rica. Amazing country! Friendly people, great food….and toucans!
The highlights of the Costa Rica road trip for me would have to be randomly witnessing turtles hatching and then protecting them from vultures while they ran to the sea. Pretty amazing experience seeing them struggle across the sand to the ocean for the first time.
Climbing mt chirripo the second highest point in Central America was also pretty amazing. Thought I was going to pass out or spew at points near the summit as hadn’t been at high elevation for quite a while but glad we made it to the top as the sunrise was probably the best of my life. The snickers and beer I had afterwards was pretty swell too.
We dropped the car off in san José and continued on into panama for a few weeks and introduced Kelly’s parents to the joys of backpacking in hostels! Panama was amazing as well, the islands were the closest thing to paradise I’ve ever seen, crystal clear water and deserted beaches. From panama it was back to the UK! Decided to spend Christmas in the uk with Kelly’s family, another unplanned trip back to Europe but another good decision I believe…unlike my decision on Christmas night to get completely shit faced in front of Kelly’s family and open bottles of beer with my teeth, scull rum and then pass out in the living room. Fun times and I made a fantastic impression on my girlfriend’s family. Bueno!
We managed to get temporary jobs at winter wonderland Christmas fair in Hyde Park selling shit coffee for extortionate prices. Pay was pretty poo but ate my weight in paninis and brownie slices to make up for it. Before we left panama we found a place to rent in Wembley on gumtree that seemed reasonable enough. The Internet can sometimes lie. We arrived in Wembley and noticed that our house looked slightly different from every other one in the street…our house looked a gigantic pile of bum. Things got worse inside as we discovered that the Sri Lankan family we were renting a room off all lived in the living room together…all four of them in one room. There were three rooms being rented in the house; the one next to ours rented by a Turkish guy, another rented by a creepy weird South African dude and his deaf Irish cousin and ours…the smelly gem of the house.
Our room was like a mould farm, I don’t think it had ever been cleaned and the last tenant had clearly been a smoker as shown by the ciggie burns in the disgusting stinky carpet. Our bed appeared to be the main source of odour in the room and a place of pilgrimage for mould throughout the greater London area. Things got weirder as we discovered that renting a ‘fully furnished room ideal for travellers’ didn’t include sheets a blanket or kitchen utensils. Our landlady very kindly lent us a blanket that appeared to be made from the corpse of a yeti with the world’s itchiest hair and also gave us a spoon, knife and fork each. Spent a couple of nights ‘sleeping’ on the bed before making it to a camping store to buy an inflatable mattress and borrowing some bedding from Kelly’s nan and some other cooking crap so we could stop eating cereal from old ready meal containers.
Our time in London wasn’t exactly glamorous but at least we broke even on rent with the money from working in Hyde Park and I got to catch up with three feral drunken mates visiting from Australia and Switzerland. Had a couple of rather large night’s out in London with them where I discovered that weighing 40 kilos less than I used to means I can’t quite drink like my younger days. Passed out twice and spent a good half an hour telling a homeless guy how cool he was and sharing a Cuban cigar with him. Took me about a week to recover from the hangover. During the three days hanging out with my mates Kelly received a phone call offering us a job in France as chalet hosts…goodbye Wembley!!!
So that’s been the last 6 months or so, I’m now coming to the end of the job in France but that’s a boring tale for another times my friends!