Wednesday, October 27, 2010

San Pedro da Atacama (Chile)

27 October 2010
Woke up this morning, and luckily, feeling a lot better. The medecine is definately working! I decided not too do any excursions in the morning, as I was not sure how I would feel when I woke up. Made it an admin day and caught up with all of my blogging, facebook pictures etc. Had a very nice steak at one of the restaurants in the main road, delicious! You can already feel the difference betweem Bolivia and Chile!

28 October 2010
Getting very excited about Stephanie joining up with me one of these days (not that I was not before, but now it just seems like more of a reality). Doing 2 excursions for the day, and I must admit, they are the weirdest times that I have come across. Morning one is pick up at 4:30 am till lunch time and then afternoon is from 16:00 to 20:00 - very weird. So I had to wake up at 3:30 am to be ready for the sunrise, as we were going to the Geysers del Tatio (best viewed at sunrise). It was pretty similiar to Bolvia´s, but since I had my stomach incident at that stage, decided that I wamted to do this again (and the fact that we did not have a very good guide before). Our guide on this trek was tour was very good and first one that could speak proper Eglish (although all of the other tours I have been on before atvertise it).Great sight seeing the boiling water come out of the ground and then also all of the smoke up in the air (coming out of the ground). It is a continous process that just keeps on repeating itself, water boils, then spoils over, cools down and then starts boiling again...... I also managed to do my swim in the hotsprings, which I could also not do at Bolivia´s side (and the water was a lot colder than it looked). The trip was also very nice in that I sat on the bus netx to this old American guy, Bill, who was very chatty and introduced me to his wife and their travel friends. Just before lucnh time, we visited this old little town and then some cactusses that grow out in the desert. At the cactus area, there was this very nice hill that you could climb and then you had this amazing view of the mountains and also the canyons (with the lava marks). Bill (out of the blue) made this remark that really stuck to me. When I returend from climbing the hill (I was the only one out of our tour group that got to the top), I tolded him that I climbed to the top and he said "that is great, as you only had one chance to do it"........ Similiar to other advnetures that lie waiting ahead of a little cycle trip..... Very nice FB messaging between Stephanie and myself over lunch.

Afternoon was off o the Moon Valley, and yes, it does actually look like the moon. It is made up of very cool formations that look brown, but it is actually made up of salt (the brown colour is due to the dust). But when it rains, the dust washes away and it looks white, like the moon.........It ows its different stratifications and salt formations to naturual environmental factors. The tour started off at Death Valley and we learnt about the 3 tehories of why it is called Death Valley (nothing that grows or lives there). Then off to the Moon Valley. Part of this trip was also that we saw the Great Dune Path (as you climb to see the sunset) and the Amphi Theatre (opposite side of the Great Dune Path).  And there was the Three Maries, which are formations that are the result of the intense erosion process. As the sun goes down, all the mountains get this red colour for a few moments.

Went to the same restaurant in the evining as the night before, to order another fillet. Only problem was that when i was finished, i was still hungry and had a salad, loaded with oninions (not good for the stomach, whcih was still very sensative and recovering). Cannot remember when last I was so bloated and windy...... Very excited about meeting up with Stephanie now, cannot wait. In all, it is a great experience travelling alone as well, as it forces you to reach out to people (and out of my comfort zoen in Cayman). Chile is a great place and SO much more advanced than Bolvia (similair for me to South Africa).

29 October 2010
Stomahc still feeling a blit bloated, but main thing now is to get to Rio.Took a mini bus from San Pdero to Calama, from where I would fly to Santiago and then off to Ri (plance stopped over in Sau Paulo as well). Learnt again that it is a very small world, as while I was walking around in the Santiago airport, I bumped in the German guy that I met on the bus from Copacabana to La Paz, Thomas, and this time, I got his contatc details (I was quite annoyed with myself that I did not get his details the previous time).  So off to Rio and I arrived at around 1 am the Saturday morning.

Potosi and Salar de Uyuni

22 October 2010
Made it in Potosi with my belongins! This mining town used to be the largest town in the Americas back in the 16 and1700's due to the silwer that was discovered there by the Spanish. Today they mainly mine tin and -------. I did the mine tour in the morning, which includes getting gear to wear in the mines (hard hat, overall, boots and light) and also a quick tour at the local shops where the miners buy their coca leavs and dinamite (yes, they sell it on the street!). The conditions inside the mine leave a lot to be desired for and hopefully it is a bit better back home for our miners there! The tunnels are very small (I bumped my head a few times - thank you hard hat - and I had to bend down a few times to walk and get past), and there are these consistent fumes and gasses that hang around in the air. So not sure how the miners manage it, but after 30-40 minutes inside the mine, that was it for me! The mine tour is certianly not for people who dislike small places! The miners work really very hard and you can see it is very physical work that they have to do. Funny thing is that they also built/carved out small little rest rooms inside the mines to they can rest and smoke and drink beer (yes, crazy!). There is also a small little devil like statue at the entrance of the mine, which is for good luck and the miners bring the statue coco leaves and sigarettes. I was very glad to see the light again at the end of our tour.

In the afternoon, I did the city tour, which was acually quite painful, as my guide could bearly speak English and he would say¨"yes" to any question I aksed, and I could see he did not have a clue about the question that I had asked him. The only real highlight of the city tour was the one meseum, where they still have various paintings from the old days, which are stunning (and I am not even a big art fan) and then also old mahcines that were used to produce coins (due to all of the silver that Potosi produced back in the dasy). Also met my firts Carribean traveller from Trinidad on the tour. Off to Uyuni ("Uni") on the bus tomorrow.

23 October 2010
My bus to Uni was only leaving at lunch time, so i had some time to do some admin work (including updating my blog and also booking accomodation in Chile). I also realised that nto being able to speak Spanish can e tricky as well, as I got my Nike shoes repaired after the bicycle trip, but it almost made me miss my buss, as I was waiting for these 2 clowns to fix it, after I thought I had specifically asked them to have it fixed by 11! Then onto the bus to the town of Uni. I realised again that in Bolvia, specifically on the local busses, that they dont aply the rule of one ticket for one person, as various people were sitting on each other¨s laps or in the pathway (which was very annoying). I also did not realise that a hen made it onto the bus with a local lady that was sitting behind me - I did not hear a thing as the hen "behaved" itself. Realised again how careful you have to be with our belongins, as a french guy"s bag got stolen while we were at a stop for drinks and to strech our legs (mental note for Rio and BA). It was a 6 hour bus ride to Uni, and I was very glad when we got there. I met, Nate (an American) and we went out for dinner that evening to a awesome restaurant, that is owned by a guy from Boston, and is part of a hotel. Had an amazing pizza and also my first desert for the trip!

24 October 2010
Had a very nice breakfast at my hotel (bets thus far in the trip) at Hotel Tambo Aymara (met up with Nate again as he was also staying there). Went down to Kantuka Tours to get ready for our 3 day/2 night trip to Salar de Uyuni and also got my exit stamp at immigration. While I was wiaiting for the tour to begin, met a very nice Auzzie couple (we discussed the Pablo Escabar tou in Medellin in Columbia - which was very interesting for me, as I just finished reading his brothers book called "The Accountant") and we had a good few laughs. I also wondered down one of the steets to take some pics of Uni, and then bumped into Pieter and Nadia van Heerden (small world) - they were also going on the Salat trip and heading to San Pedro - same trip as mine, but just with a different company. Tour started and off we went in our 4x4 to the salt flats. The salt flats are all actually a lake, but the salt moves to the survice and becomes very hard (so you can drive on it, although in specific areas). Our group had 7 people and 1 driver (who could not speak a word English and was actually very frustating). There was 3 Isrealis, 1 Kiwi (18 years old), American (who was also our guide as he could lucklily speak Spanish) and then an old man from the UK (60 years old). You can aslo take the coolest pictures on the salk flats, as there is no "perspective" from a camaras point of view, so if your creative, wha-la........ It really is something amazing to see these salt flats and is something I am not used to. Had lunch at the salt hotel (yes, hotel made from salt blocks except the walls outside), and then headed to this "island" in the middle of the salt flats with its huge cacti, Isle Incahuasi. Arrived in Sun Juan in the afternoon, and stayed at a hostel that can house 3-4 groups, but becasue we were the nly group there, all of us got our own room! Isrealis taught us some card games in the evening and then off to bed. An amazing day with stunning scenery!

25 October 2010
Slept very comfortably, which was nice, as we were heading towards our firts full day of the trip. Our driver was late with our departure, as he waited till everyone was finished with packing, before he decided to fill the 4x4 with gas (only in Bolivia). Our morning part took us to a semi active volcano, Ollague Volcano, which all the cars stop at to take some pictures. Later in the morning and up just after lunch time, we stooped at 3 beuatiflull lagoons with 3 different kinds of flamingos. very surreal, there is nothing for kms on end, and then wha, lagoons with flamingos with this great back drop of the mountains........ One of the funny moments for me was that at one of the lagoons, the Isrealis (2 guys and 1 girl) asked the rest of our group if we could move away and go a bit further, as they wanted to take some nude pics! At our lunch stop, I met up with Nadia and Pieter again. In the afternoon, some sections felt like we were riding on the moon, just flat lanscape with rocks. We stopped at some very cool rock formations with various shapes and sizes. Our day ended when we entereted the nature park Eduardo Avaroa Fauna National Reserve and our last stop of the day was at Lagina Colorada, which basically means "red lagoon". The lagoon is as it names implies, red, cuased by algie. Slept at this hostel style place again in the park, but Dan (old British guy) and myself were not impressed with the room that was allocated to our group. It only had 6 beds (they wanted two of us to share a bed) and the room between the beds were so narow that I could not even fit my backpack inbetween them! So we arranged that we get another room so we could split the group and Dan paid for the extra room (75 Bolivianos, which is just over 10USD, and in the bigger sceam of things, nothing and worth the extra space that we were given). At night, I brouhg myself my last beer in Bolivia (tomorrow I was heading off to Chile). Hostel were we slept was actually terrible, there was 3 other groups with us, and the toilets were terrible (smell was unbearable).

26 October 2010
Last day in Bolivia, and to be honest, I was glad. Not that I dont like the place, but it just gets to you after a while the poorness and how far behind they are in certain things. So I am glad to be heading towards Chile today, whcih is very modern and completely different to Bolvia. We woke up at 4 am to be on the rode at 4:30 am in order to see the geysers with sunrise, but that plan went haywire when the driver only woke up at 4:50 (we were all standing ready to go at 4:30) and the 4 x 4 broke down. At least the driver managed to fix it, and we arrived at the shooting geysers (still in the Nature Reserve). Truely a very nice sight. My only problem was that I was developing stomach problems and I was in need of a toilet badly. So off we went to the hot springs with safe bathing temperatures, which was 20 minutes from the geysers, and as we were driving along, I was analysing eveyr posisble rock to see if I could potencially do my "business" there. We arrived at the hot springs and I made a rin for it to the toilets! We also had breakfast at the hotsprings, and this is where I could feel my stomach really going bad. Dan and myself then got onto another 4x4 to make our way to the border for San Pedro. On our way, we also stopped at Laguna Verde, which means "Green Lake" and again, literaaly green. We waited at the border for about hour and 30 minutes for the other people from the other tours to arrive at the border post (there is only 2 busses that take you from the border to San Pedro).  At this stage I could also feel that I was getting a bad fever, and combined with my stomach problem, was not putting me in avery good position. I wanted to go to the bathroom at the border post, but in true Bolivian standard, there was none, so I just had to deal with it. The ride took about 1 hour from the border to get to San Pedro, at which stage we stopped to at immigration. This turned out to be a pain as well, as we had to wiat an hour becasue they were looking through all of the busses and bags of the people (our bus was last to arrive). So when I eventually made it to the hostel, I just want straight to the toilet and then off to my bed to get some much needed sleep. I woke up and felt very waek, but decided that I just had to get out of bed and do something. Took some pills for my stomach, but was looking for soemthing for the fever. Luckily Pieter saw my FB post, and the evening they stopped by at my hostel to give me some much needed medication (thanks guys!!). In all, Salar was a great trip and I would just go to Bolivia to see it again, it is amazing and there are some breathtaking views and scenary!!!! (even thoug the drivers are actually supposed to be your guides as well, but in reality, they are just drivers!).

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Mountain biking "the world's most dangerous road" - WMDR

21 October 2010
Rob and mysef are mountain biking the " WMDR - it starts at 4700m to 1100m and it is about 64km long! Very excited, alhough a little nervous as well, as I have seen the pictures of the road...... We both went with Gravity, which is expensive (USD105 per person), but on a trip like this I am not  going to compromise on safety to save a few dollars. The decison seemd to be the right one, as they were very proffesional and our guide was very helpful (he also helped us arranged a taxi back to La Paz). The bikes and our gear was all in very good condition.

All the riders met at the cafe, at which stage we devided into 3 different groups - each one with its own guide/instructor. It was a short littel bus ride from la Paz to the top of the mountain, were we would start off on a section of paved road (for aboput 20 km or so) and then off on the WMDR (which is all a dirt road). Our group was first to get all our bikes etc, so we started first. Halfway through our ride on the paved road, i started raining badly, whcih had all of the other groups half their paved road section and drive straight to the WMDR. So we were soaked when we got to that section! I was very jeoulous when all of the busses drove past us on the rode and here we were cycling in the rain. There was also this section called "Heartbreak Hill" which was pretty tough on a bike with front and back suspension (mental note for my Africa buike trip, only front suspension - you work a lot harder on paved roads with the dual suspension). I started off to quick on the hill, as I felt pretty good at that stage, ala Lance Armstrong, and then just completely burned out due to the altitude that caught up with me badly! But at least we all made it to the top of Heartbreak Hill soaked from the rain (the gear that they gave us to waer was not waterproof, so everything was wet).

We got to the start of the WMDR gravel road, and after a very good briefing, we start riding... All I can say about the ride was that although called the WMDR, it can easily also be called the most scenic! Stunning landscape while you are desending to the bottom (I still dont know how the locals could drive that road - there is a new paved road that recently opended so most of the people are using this instead of the WMDR - for obviouis reasons). I cant recall when I last gripped handle bars so tightly at some of the sections. It is literaslly onw wrong move and you are dead, as the drop off the cliffs are just straight down! The nice thing was also that as you desend further and futher, the weather starts getting warmer and warmer, which jelped a lot with the cold clothes and making us warm again (I was really hating it at one stageb because I was so cold and almost decided that I would go and sit on the bus). In all, it is a stunning road but there are some sections that are very narrow, and I was relying very heavily on my brakes! It is certainly one of the more adventorous things that I have done in my life and something that I will not easily forgot!

Rob and myself had to catch a taxi back instead of going with the group bus, as they were only getting into La Paz at around 8 or so, and I had to be at the bus terminal at 7:30 to go to Potosi.  The tax ride was amost as scary as the bike ride, as our taxi driver looked a bit "weird". At least we could also see the enw road, as this was the way that he was riding, which I was very glad, becasue if he had to go up the WMDR I would haev volunteerd to drive! At least we made it safely in La Paz with the taxi and his pretty cool choice of music, which was in the line of Guns N Roses etc. The terminal was a bit hairy, as this was the first time in my travels that I did not meet anyone that I was travellign with and that could speak Spanish, so I had to sort it out all by myself. After a few hichups and with the help of a Frensh couple, I was on the right bus (hoping my back pack was as well!). The rest of the bus was full of locals, so I was the only English speaking person on the bus. Had an intersting time with the toilet breaks, because when the bus stopped, I was not sure if it was to pick up people or an actual break to go to the toilet etc. So this ensured that my bus ride to Potosi was "intersting" and during the trip I had to think very hard not about going to the bathroom! At least at 3 am in the morning, we had our long stop, and the only thing was that I asked the  lady next to me "Banos" and poitning outisde, and when she said "Si", I made a run for it! Not very comfortable riding in a bus with people that dont understand English and you being unablke to ask anyone when the bus wil stop....

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Back in La Paz

20 October 2010
Flew back to La Paz in the morning without any hassle (cute little airplane that takes about 15 people). Spending the day at Hotel Samaria, which is stunning. It is going to be an admin day, getting all my dirty laundry done, busy Skyping and doing all of te blogging thing.

Very glad to hear that the Worlds Most Dangerous Road (WMDR) is open again, so that is on for tomorrow - the locals coco farmers had a road block on this road for over a week now, and it has thus been impossible to get any trafiic pass on it. I believe the President of Bolivia has now gone to see them, and all is resolved (and tourist very happy that want to do the WMDR).

Rob is flying back this afternoon from Rura, so we will gop and head for a few beers and a good steak the "the Steakhouse" in the evening - I was there before on my first night, they do a great steak!

Had a great chat with Stephanie, so nice hearing her and being able to speak normally on the phone (previously we have had some very bad connections when we were talking).

21 October 2010

Pampas (in Rurrenabaque)

17 October to 19 October 2010
3 days and 2 nigths in the Pampas (you can either choose to go to the Pampas, where more wildlife can be seem, or to the Jungle, with less wildlife, but more getting a feel for how it felt to be in the Amazon). I was originally the only person booked on the trip, but due to some last minute bookings, we ended up being 6 people on the trip. And it actually worked out so well. There was a couple from Holland, and 3 Aussies (2 ladies and 1 guy) and then myself. Everyone got along really well with each other, but for me it was really easy to click with the Aussies. Both Sabrina and Beth were very nice and both have "weird" but very nice personalities (and sense of humour). Rob was the Aussie guy and we just immediatly hit it off and got along. He shares the same sense of adventure as I do, we have the same humour, and in all he is just a really good bloke (hopefully our paths will cross again). He is only 25 now, but has done 40 trips to Antartica and also been to the North Pole!

We took a 3 hour drive by 4x4 to get to the lodge. The lodge was very nice and staff very friendly (and our guide was very knowledgable). Spent 1st day in boat and went for a 3 hour boat ride, where we saw a number of Kayman (similiar to crocodiles, just smaller), birds, pink dolphin and some monkeys. The second day we chnanged our plan sighly, and instead on going on the Tuesday to see monkeys in the boat, we did that on Monday. Unfortunately it ended up being a 6 hour boat ride in one trip, which was too long and you could sense everyone in the boat had enough (except the guide).The afternoon was nicer, as we then went to do some piranha fishing - after all big talk from Rob and myself I thik the whole group in total caught 3 piranhas - it always seems to be that we are feeding them more than fishing them, as they just bite away on your bite like nothing. Then Tuesday morning we walked and looked for anaconda´s, but did not find anything - I was quite upset, but at least I have seen them in Venezuela. And then we did the drive back to Rura for Sabrina and Beth to catch their flight back home. In general, the wildlife was very nice to see, but the trips too long (too much of a good thing becomes boring). I was quite annoyed with the food, as you really got the idea that they were cutting back on it, which I could not understand, as we paid double the price for this tour operator compared to the others. I also learnt some interesting new games that you can play if you are completely bored (thanks Sabrina!). In the end, I had a great time, but for me it was more because of the people that went along (I have been very lucky that I could go on the Peru´s side of the Amazon before and we also did soemthing similiar in Venezuel).

A quick best off from those 3 trips
Best lodge and food - Peru
Best guides - Peru
Most wildlife - Venezuela
Most Kayman - Bolivia
Most mosquitos - Bolivia (wholly smoke, there was a lot - I had very littel bites, but Beth counted 101 on her back alone!)

Nice pizza and some cold beers and rums at the Mosquito Bar in Rura with Dutch couple, Rob and then 3 new girls that were traveling, one from Germany, New Zeland and Norway. Rob and myself had probbaly the worst pool games either of us ever had, and luckliy we called it quits at a good time in the evening (the rest had left), otherwise it would have been a long morning!

Saturday, October 16, 2010

First few days in Bolivia

12 October 2010
We (Kieron, Paul and myself) had a day trip to the Valley of the Moon and then to Chacaltaya (used to be the highest ski resort in the world - 5830 m above sea level), which both are located just outside La Paz (also included a very good view point from the top of La Paz). The Valley of the Moom was an interesting place, made up of strange natural formed shapes made almost of what seemed to me like mud. Then went off to the ex highest ski resort in the world (not a ski resort any more becasue of the climate change - there is no more snow there). We drove up to the base of the resort, which was at 5200m, and then had to climb the rest to the top. I did better than I thought I would, just becasue my body has had very little time to adapt to the altiture (but I did end up with a small head ache by the end of the day). Met a very nice Auzzie dad and his daughter traveling with us, with gave me some very good advice on Copacabana, and then a Swiss lady that was travelling by herself. Also managed to talk to Stephanie on Skype, but after a very long struggle with the internet, passwords, phone numbers etc... Also had a very good dinner at the Adventure Brew Hostel, very good value for 30 Bolivianos and said goodbey to Paul and Kieron, who were moving on. Met the last part of the evening nice British couple that have me some good advice on Argentina (Mendoza bike tours) and then also changed my plan for Copacabana to stay from 1 night to 2.

13 Otober 2010
Caught the bus from La Paz to Copacabana ("Copa") - town at the edge of Lake Titicata. We had a fanstastic view of La Paz as we drove towards the upper part of the city (the city is almost like a soup bowl), but  could not get a good photo becasue I was sitting on the right side of the bus (mental note for my return trip). There was also a small boat ride across the river on the way, where we had to get off the bus and onto ferries to cross the river, the bus got it own ferry (would have been nice to sit in the bus). Realised again how many peopele from the UK travel around the world. They just seem to be everywhere! Copa is a small little town, so it is very quick to walk throuhg it. Also managed to do some good shopping around for accomodation, and eventually getting a killer place right on the lake with a stunning view, for only 80 Bolivianos  per night (including breakfast). Booked my Isla del Sol trip for tomorrow as well as my bus ticket back to La Paz on Friday. Bought a very nice littel small bottle of Johnny Walker Red for consumption later the evening (makes about 4 glasses of whiskey with water). It is also nice to see Lake Titicata again, as my previous trip here was at Puno, Peru`s side, where I picked up a terrible stomach bug and I missed most of the trip there. So it was to see it without ay side effects..... Bus ride made me realise how much I miss Stephanie and it would be so nice if she could travel with (most of the people travelling are normally with another partner, and there are LOTS of couples traveling). Brought a beanie and some gifts later in the day. And for dinner, met a very fasinating Spanish "mountain" lady, Eider Elizegi, who has been travelling and climbing mountains for 4 months now (and still not finished). She is also a writer, and enjoys writing and planning to release a book next year based on her travels (see her blog  - which means wander/drifter of the mountain in Spanish).

14 October 2010
Woke up with a small head ache, whcih I was not sure if it was from the altitude or the small bottle of Johnny Walker and some red wine that I had - all the people always just blame it on altitude if they feel sick :) The Ilsa del Sol trip was fantastic, one of the highlights thus far, not just becasue of the island, but met an awesome couple, SA girl Janine and her Aussie boyfriend, Nick. I had asked Janine (not knowing before hand if she was from SA) if this was the right ferry to the Ilsa del Sol, and when she answered "yes", we just immediatley hit it off. So nice to speak to a South African! The ferry took 2 hours to complete, and I don´t thnk one of us stopped talking for that whole trip (they were going to stay on the island for a night). Both of them are wine makers in lived in the Cape before heading off on their long trip through South America. The Island was very nice to walk around, with some stunning scenary from high above (legend has it that this is where the Inca´s originated from - or something to that degree). Little annoying was all the locals that were asking for¨"toll fees" as we walked fron the North point to the South point. When we got to the third "toll gate", most of the people passing though lost it and some swear words in various languagges were being used. When we completed the walk, there was still some time before my ferry left, so the 3 of us had a fantastic beer at one of the small shops on the island with an amazing view of the lake - a beer just really hits the spot after a long walk! They are still going to go to Argentina, so hopefully I will catch up with them there again. Really a very cool couple. Took the ferry back and spent nigth eating pizza at one of the restaurants, which was better than I was expecting.

15 October 2010
My bus was leaving at 13:30, so I basically had the morning left to "kill". Luckily, Eider had told me about these 2 cool places to go and see in Copa, both of the sites sitting on cliffs on either side of the town (both with stunning views of Copa). Firts climbed to this little church with various crosses at the top of the left hand side of town. There was two ways up, and I took the more difficult route up first, and then the easier one down. Met a very pleasant Colombian guy on top (he also took the difficult route up and we were the only people up there, as it was still very early in the morning). He taght me some Spanish words (which I will need to revisit as I can´t remember much of them) - very pleasant guy full of energy. He taught himself some English, just by reading up and writing down words (so it can be done Andre!). The other side of the cliffs was a very nice Inca structure, again with a very nice view of the city and there I met a very friendly Czech couple (I had aksed the lady to take a pciture of me at the Inca structure, and then we started talking). They were also going to take the bus back to La Paz at lunch time. Bus ride back was very pleasant, as I met these two Ducth students, whom I got along with very well and then also a German guy that was traveling on bus from Cusco with bus to La Paz (he had a problem with exchanging money so the Ducth guys gave hime money for the ferry across and I gave him 1 Bolivianos to use the toilet at the ferry). Really nice guy that has travelled quite a bit and got some good advice on Everest (he has been to the base camp before). Slept at the Adventure Brew Hostel, same hostel as I stayed in my arrival in La Paz.

16 October 2010
Traveled to Rurrenabaque today (locals call it "Rura"), which is the base camp for trip to the Amazon in Bolivia. I have a trip booked to the Pampas for 3 days and 2 nights. Looking forwards to the trip, as I did the Amazon in Peru¨s side, so would like to see how this matches up againts it (you better be right on this one Rosie!). Met a very nice and friednly Ducth guy, Fokka (yes, that is his name and yes, it does sound like an Afrikaans swear word), who is almos fluent in Spanish, so it helps a lot. Rura is also small town, similair to Coba, but probably smaller. It is very quick to walk around town and see everything in a few hours. So therefore I am usign today as my "chill" day and catching up on all my internetting (including this blog) - the speed of the internet has been terrible throughout Bolivia, but here, so close to the Amazon, has been the best that I have found - weird..... Also met up wth Nadia and Pieter van Heerden, as they flew down a little later than I did (funny place to see soemone from the Cayman Islands). We are meeting up tonigth for a few beers and then off to the Amazon tomorrow......Sweeeetttttt This is also th start of the trip that I am doing though the tour company. I also had a very cool Facebook chat with Stephanie just over lunch time, nice to be able to "chat" instead of sending messages and getting it a few hours later, feels almost like talking........ (which is probably why it is called facebook chat - duh).

Friday, October 15, 2010

Arriving in Bolivia, La Paz.

Arrived in La Paz on 11 Nov 2010. The visa story was still worrying me a bit, as I was initally under the impression that you could get a visa at point of entry, but then talking to Vern a few days before made me doubtful. But luckily the Delta website, as usual, was right and I could get one at point of entry. The visa itself was a story, as I had to pay it in Bolivianos, and not USD, which was stupid. So I had to leave all of my bags, including p├ássport, at the imigration official, and then walk through the whole airport (including customs and the arival area) to change some USD to Bolivianos. When I got it, and walked back to the immigration official to pay for the visa (where all of my bags and passport was),  an American was paying for his visa, in USD!!! But no, for some weird reason, I had to pay mine in Bolivianos. Crazy......

La Paz is the higest city in the world (3900 above sea level). Luckily, my body adapted pretty quickly from the altitude, and I did not feel any effect of it (coming from zero to 3900 above is not to bad in one day) the first day (or not yet). Met a Britisg guy, Kieron, and becasue our rooms only opened at 2pm (we arrived at 7 am in the morning on the same flight), we decided to go do some sight seeing in La Paz (leaving our luggauge behind in the front at reception where all of the people walk past - standard way they do it here apperantly, but I did not like that at all - prefer having my lugguage locked away). La Paz reminded me a lot aout Lima, and there are no major attractions here, except the odd plaza/s. It is still however a pleasant city which is surrounded by mounatins (2 million people live here). A lot of the houses are also built on a hill, which is for the working class people of La Paz.

After a few hickups with the tours that I wanted to arange, I managed to sort it out (the first week I was alone doing my own thing in Bolivia and then after that I am using this tour company). Also met up with Kieron´s friend from Peru, Ozzie guy, Paul, and we had a great steak that night in La Paz at the "The Steakhouse". The food in Boliva is very cheap, so you can go to a tourist restaurant and still get a bargain for food and drinks.

Leaving Cayman, bye bye......

Weird feeling, I thought I would be a lot more sad than what I eventually was when I left. I thought that once I boarded the plane and it took off, I would be very sad and even possibly have a tear or two. But I did not, and I know that it does not have to do with the fact that I wanted to get off the island, but rather that there was still SO much things going through my mind ie did I pack everything, did I have the visa story sorted for Bolivia (which stressed me out more that I thought it would) and saying goodbey to so many good people (I hate goodbeys) where it got to the point that I justed wanted to leave (in a good way). So no, it has not sunk in that I left the island, but more a feling that at this stage that I am on holiday and will be returning back to the island.

Friday night was brilliant, I had some drinks at TikiBar with all of my good friends from the island. The management also gave us a cabana for free, so it added a bit to the occasion. It was a good way to say goodbey. Stephanie and myself stayed around till 12ish (I had show Stef and Rupesh how to drink the man´s tequial before that) and went back home, which I was glad for, becasue then I could have a good Saturday. Adriaan, in true fashion, was stilling playing Bok van Blerk "Afrikaner Hart" and "Kaplyn" at 6 in the, I am going to miss those late nights/mornings at his house!

Saturday was good, spend the morning whatching Currie Cup last round matches (well done Province) and the afternoon at the rugby club with myself and "Coach" Bunce taking over the coaching duties for the Amatotsi´s SA 7´s team (I was SO close to playing). Unfortunately the results did not go our way, but I have to say, the refereeing was shocking, and very biased towards us (as usual). Then also thanks to Shaun, I had to do the traditional thing at the club, and that is when somebody leaves at the club, he has to down the dreaded yard (which has about 3 beers, some cider and rum in it). I was dreading it, but very glad that I did do it in the end. The funniest moment came when one of the ladies rugby players said ater my first down "I could have done better than that!". Nice! And thank you to Grizz for the really nice speech he made just before it. It meant a lot to me.

I did not have a good sleep on Sunday night, as I was starting to think about the packing, visa etc. I was awake from about 4 am just thinking aout various things. I basically spend the whole morning packing, which I felt very bad for Stephanie, becasue I could not spend any real time with her. There was just too many things for me to do. The last church service at Sunrise was also fantastic, and Pastor Ryan had called me and another coulple to the front to thank us, wish us well on our journey and also pray for us. I also opend up the present bible that Terry and Tiff gave to me as a leaving gift, and all I can say was wow, it was such a nice gesture and also the words that they wrote in it means a lot to me. Then it was off to the airport with Stephanie and having our last drink and then saying goodbey (big hug and kisses). I think what helped me a lot and not making me get too emotional, which I normaly am, was the fact that I know I am seeing her in 3 weeks in Rio. The only time I had a tears in y eyes and the occasion got to me, was in church, when we were singing a song, and then I realised, this is it..... But it was a very brief moment. And then off to Miami, where I actually had one of my better days at imigration. It must have been the quickest I have been through there!

Last note on the island for me was that Peter Pan had to leave Never Nver Land and grow up, go back to reality (just like the movie Hook, only now it was the other way around). I will miss you a lot island and actually as I am writing this I am getting very emotional.....What a ride!!! But like I said on my facebook blog, "thanks for all of the memories, but now it is time to make some new ones............" The adventure starts............8 months off, hold on boys and girls, lets go!

Friday, October 8, 2010

Last week on the island coming to an end

Last week on this wonderful island I called home for 5 years. It has not really hit reality to me that I will be leaving forever, but since last night and this morning, it has. Main reason has to be that most of the personal admin has been sorted out now, finally!! All goods have been packed and taking to Cayman Airways to be send over to SA (all 525 pounds of it - or about 220kg!!!). Can't "wait" to get the bill for that one..... I was going through my mind how I could gather so many things, but 5 years is a long time and I think all my books that I have gathered as well as paintings on trips etc have a bit part to do with it.

Celebrations wise was fantastic. Friday morning was very special at work for me. The SF department arranged a surprise party and presented me with some wonderful paintings and I stunning card. Thanks guys! Spend Friday nigth at Casanova's with the managers and partners of SF, and I think it is fair to say that it was an fantastic evening, with lots of red wine flowing, and everyone celebrating that the financial year came to an end (I think we hit our revenue target) and with all of the changes in the department, Andy and Rupseh moving down to HFA, Josephine going to Advisory and me off to SA. Great music and later on we had to get the harp dude to stop playing that damn harp and let DJ Ruby Tuesday take over the music festivities and me thinking that I am a rock star and lip singing every song (and  yes, I still love Eye of the Tiger and sorry to the rest of Casanova;s that had to listen to our music). It ended up being a very long night and all I will end with is, James, did you make your flight mate? :)

Saturday was a looooong morning, as I was a little hungover from the red wine (I think I had about two bottles the night before - that is what happens if the waiters juts top it up the whole time). Had a fantastic vleis potjie SA style at Public Beach the afternoon with some very good friends. Must admit, if it was not my party, I would have either skipped it or arrived very late. So 2 pm rocked up the afternoon and the drinks started again. Thanks to Ruaan and Oom Louis for the two great potjie, I certainly learnt a thing or two about potjie and will definitely be getting myself a pot when I am back in South Africa. So nice to catch up with people that I have not seen for a long time.

Tonight, Friday night, is some farewell drinks at Tiki Bar at 7 Mile Beach. Everything is arranged so now the peeps just have to show up.......

Weather has been pretty terrible this last week, lost of raining and pretty cloudy generally, but saying that, at least it gives me an excuse to stay in and just "chill out" and watch some movies and make some bookings ahead of the trip. Last weekend on the island.......