Monday, 30 June 2008

.........Do not pass go do not collect $200

A lot of people tell me that travel is a great way to get to know yourself better and after Friday nights encounter I certainly learned a couple of important thing about myself. 1) I can be very very annoying when I want to and 2)I am a relatively stubborn person.

It was approximately 11:15 in the evening when everyone was kicked out of a lovely little pub on the main island of Bocas del Toro, Panama. On mass the crowd was moving up the street to hit the next bar and spirits were high. A lot of people were hiding there beers and when asked by a new friend, Robert, if we too should hide our beers, I with great conviction said ¨pssshht Why?...nothing´s going to happen¨. It was less than 40 seconds later that a small police man tapped three of us on the shoulder and ¨dragged un into the police station we had unwittingly walked directly in front of.
Noting that we were the only ones being taken to the station and the only ones with beers I put 2 and 2 together and started looking for an out. As he lead us from the front, into the station, I hid my beer under the nearest car (mistake number 1). Having not looked up, I didn´t notice that there were 5 policemen on the balcony above me. THey chouted from the balcony to their comrad and the beer was eventually found by the now slightly annoyed policeman. ¨Sit down!¨ was the only command we received.

We sat down and I put on the all too familiar ¨I´m sorry, puppy dog face¨. About 15 minutes went by and nothnig was said to us. Eventually I got a bit tired of the whole thing and started, in broken spanish, to ask some questions. I thought they were quite reasonable and pretty importnat. Are we under arrest?, what have we done?, how long will we be here?, can I have an interpreter? was the basic jist. I got no answer.
¨If I am not under arrest, can I go?¨ answer. If I walk out that gate, what happens?¨
¨How long will I be here?¨
¨Until 0630 tomorrow when the chief arrives¨

Excellent I now had some idea of the preicament I was in. ¨In that case I would like to speak to my embassy¨
¨You can speak to embassy tomorrow¨
He started spinning his handcuffs around his finger and started doing the physical threat of pretending to get up... he was 5´6¨ not very convincing and frankly he was just amusing me.
¨No I would like to speak to them now...or at least have an interpreter¨...I was starting to get mad and foolishly raised my voice (mistake number 2)
The man behind the desk, who had been ignoring us previosuly stood up, walked around to us and handcuffed me to the hand rail in the waiting room. Now for those not familiar with jail house situations I have one very important tip for you. Before doing anything, before arguing or demanding your rights, go to the toilet.

The hand cuff thngn had worked for them for now, I was being quiet.
¨Can we go to the toilet?¨ the other two asked.
¨Yes!¨They were lead away and allowed to relieve themselves.
¨Um...can I go to the toilet?¨
¨No, piss your pants¨!
¨I´m not pissing my pants!¨
¨Can I go to the toilet?
¨Ok, I´m just going tyo piss here then¨I said pointing at the corner of the waiting room.
¨NO!¨He unbuckled his baton
¨Well I´m not going to piss my pants so I guess I have too¨
He span the baton.
My hands headed south and I started undoing my fly¨
¨No!¨ he said again this time faking that he was going to run at me.

It was at this stage that a new player entered the game. From no where a bottle was hurled from a sell and in the thickest and coolest Carribean accent I have ever heard came the cry. ¨Piss in da bot-tal man, go on, piss in da bot-tal¨.
The guard shook his head.
i reached down and retireved the bottle and the guard again threatend me with his baton.
¨I´m either pissing here on in this bottle.¨
¨Piss in da bot-tal man,¨e aint gonna hit-choo piss in da bot-tal¨
¨Will you hit me if I piss in this bottle, will you?¨
¨Can I use this bottle¨
¨Ok I´m going to use this bottle¨.

As expected, I was not tonked with a baton for whizzing in the bottle...but I can tell you one thing, taking a leak in the police waiting room in front of 5 guys when when one hand ischained is cuffed to the wall is both difficult and a little demeaning. Having been at the pub for a few hours prior to this incarceration I was accutely aware of a new potential problem that was rising.....the bottle was only 600ml.

As the bottle rapidly filled and the stream did not slow I realsied I was in serious trouble. I would have to break mid piss. Filling the bottle to the top I cut the stream and was left to hold the rest for another time.
¨Um, I´ve filled the bottle...can I go to the toilet now?¨
No answer and worst of all no more bottles...Well I thought that was worst of all things were mounting. ¨Drink it!¨ he said pointing his baton at the bottle¨
¨Drink it¨
¨I am NOT drinking my own piss¨
¨Drink it!
Fortunately for me I was much larger than constable Espinosa and by no means scared of him, baton or not., and worst of all I think he new it.
He gave up this approach and then let me sit back down (still needing the lav).

Looking at Robert, I saw the potential for this situation to get really bad. Whilst the other lad had become completely beige an un-noticeable figure in this roomand sat in his own boring zen state ,Robert was taking everything in and it was getting to him, he was starting to crack. This was bad! Not only was it bad for him but it would be really boring for me to sit with someone who didn´t think this situation was a little bit funny. I did the only thing I could think of at the time

Bom, ba, bom, bom bom bom bom-bom-bom bom ba bom bom bombombom
Old pirates, yes, they rob i;
Sold I to the merchant ships,
Minutes after they took i
From the bottomless pit.
But my hand was made strong
By the and of the almighty.
We forward in this generation

Wont you help to sing
These songs of freedom? -
cause all I ever have:
Redemption songs;

I was busting out Redemption song by Bob Marley in a Panamanian prison...and before too long it was a duet. Two gringos called Rob, sitting in a Panmanian singing Marley we both started to laugh. The next half an hour passed quite quickly and included a haunting version of Buffalo soldier but it all went sideways when I decided that I wanted a photo of me in jail. I took out my camera, vaguely aimed it at myself (making sure to get my cuffs in shot) and snapped a picy.

Even without my head in it, I love this photo

¨No, no no. No photos. Give me the camera¨
¨um no¨
¨You will give me the camera!¨
¨ I won´t¨

With one hand chained to a wall, I knew this argument was going to end very quickly. Two hands against one tyhere was no way I could stop him taking the camera....or could I?¨ Using both his hands little Napoleon gripped my hand and tried to take the camera...he couldn´t. I certainly do not claim to have an iron grip, in fact if anything it is a bit girly, but this idiot couldn´t get the camera out of my hand. After 2 minutes he gave up and went to speak to the captain. The captain then demanded the camera and when I said no he simply gave up...somethnig I´m still a little confused about.

Napoleon walked back to hius seat in a huff and I went back to being chained to the wall. Whilst playing with my handcuffs I accidently tightened them (I think were up to mistake 3 now aren´t we?). The cuffs were getting uncomfortable but I lay down on the bench with my hand raised above my head (it would stay that way for another eight hours). Zing! As I lay back the steel of the cuffs slid against the metal making a horrible metal on metal sound ¨ooh, that´s annoying¨ I thought. This is when it started. Angry about my toilet situation, the tight cuffs and the threats I transformed into the worlds largest 6 year old. Zing Clang, zing clang, zing clang. Moving the cuffs at speed The sound of metal on metal sliding was horrid and the clang of the cuffs hitting the steal poles that connected the rail to the wall really blended well to make a very loud and irritating sound.
They ignored me....well for the first 10 minutes anyway. Then one pretended that it was nice and you could dance to it. OH thankyou for the hint, you are right. It is irritating when I do this rhythmically but if I do it without rhythm it will be much more irritating. Zing clang, zing clang, zing clang. This was fun!
Half and hour later one of them cracked and came over with the keys. Sweet I´m getting out I thought.....ah nope. He simply undid the other end and connected it to a shorter section.
¨Um excuse me, this section has no end I can take the cuff of the rail¨
He came back and tighted it to one of the poles which fixed the rail to the wall. Now I only had about 5 inches of steal to make a noise with. Dang, this is going to be hard, I thought. Fortunately I was wrong. This piece of metal had ridges in it so when I pulled on the hand cuffs, they didn´t move until it built up enough force and then it crashed into the metal really, really loudly. Think of a factory that stamps things out of metal and you will have a good approximation of the sound. Awesome!
This was really annoying them.
Knowing that I would at least give them a bad night as well I decided I would try and keep this up for some time. Counting the clangs was a good way to keep the mind on the job...I chose one thousand as the number to count to and once I reached this number I started again. So how long can this little ¨Ever Ready Bunny¨ maintain a really annoying sound. Well from my estimates I started at apporximately 11:30 and gave up around 0530. My favourite part was when they had to leave their own office to answer the phone.

Getting a solid hour sleep I was eventually taken to the hospital at 0730 to be checked for signs of abuse. They do this by taking your blood pressure and heart rate (????). The real benefit of this trip was I got to take the second half od the piss I started 8 hours earlier. Man o man, was I happy to finish that task!

With a missing judge somewhere floating around town and a police officer sent to find him, it was 2pm before we taken for a hearing. Unsurpringly we were let off with no fine or other punishment. It was deemed that 13.5 hours in jail was a just sentence for having an open beer. Reviewing the documents relating to our case i noted that not one of our names had been written correctly, when I queried this, the judge said it didn´t matter anyway as we werer going free. It truly is a great system they have here!

Returning to my hostel I was keen to see my jail house shots, unffortunately in the struggle it seems that Napoleon broke the screen of my camera and worst of all I had aimed poorly and chopped off half my head in the pic. Dang! Oh well, you win some you loose some.

I guess the most important thing about situations such ias these is to learn something. So what did I learn.

Well for one thing I need to learn the words to redemption song. There is probably also something in there about keeping my mouth shut...but I´m not really sure that is wholly practical.

Old pirates, yes, they rob i;
Sold I to the merchant ships,
Minutes after they took i
From the bottomless pit.
But my hand was made strong
By the and of the almighty.
We forward in this generation
Wont you help to sing
These songs of freedom? -
cause all I ever have:
Redemption songs;
Redemption songs.

Emancipate yourselves from mental slavery;
None but ourselves can free our minds.
Have no fear for atomic energy,
cause none of them can stop the time.
How long shall they kill our prophets,
While we stand aside and look? ooh!
Some say its just a part of it:
Weve got to fulfil de book.

Wont you help to sing
These songs of freedom? -
cause all I ever have:
Redemption songs;
Redemption songs;
Redemption songs.
/guitar break/
Emancipate yourselves from mental slavery;
None but ourselves can free our mind.
Wo! have no fear for atomic energy,
cause none of them-a can-a stop-a the time.
How long shall they kill our prophets,
While we stand aside and look?
Yes, some say its just a part of it:
Weve got to fulfil de book.
Wont you help to sing
Dese songs of freedom? -
cause all I ever had:
Redemption songs -
All I ever had:
Redemption songs:
These songs of freedom,
Songs of freedom.

Tuesday, 3 June 2008


With rain steadily falling in Medellin I soon realised it was time to move north. Perhaps even as far as Cartagena (the carribean coast was calling). Assessing my options the owner of the hostel kindly provided some advice. ¨Mompos is about half way between here and Cartagena, it is a bit of a pain to get to but well worth the effort¨. Sold! This sounded like just the recommendation I needed. That evening I boarded a bus a taxi and a boat (all at different times of course) and went to Mompos. On my way I flicked through my lonely planet and noticed one small note, my Welsh friend Richie had written next to the section on Mompos ¨boring as F··k¨.

So how was it? Well, here are the highlights.
1)I saw a toad.
2)I had an ice cream..and not one of those ones from a specialy store. Just a regular old ice cream.

If you have a lonley Planet guide to South America, I highly recommend you get out a pen and scribe Richie´s words next to the section on Mompos. Man that place was boring!

Saturday, 17 May 2008

The difference between men and, women and geeks

As I dunked, what was probably the only spoon available in the village, into my large bowl of porridge I readied my taste buds for a taste sensation. Having walked, now 4 days through the Peruvian wilderness I was starting to really enjoy some of the slants on regular cooking and having stopped in a quaint little village, I really expected something special of this meal.

Lifting the hot silky broth to my lips the spoon quivered and then steadied and as it hit my lips. Gruel!...Actually that term is not entirely accurate. Gruel would be the the high class brand name of the meal I was attempting to eat. I`m pretty sure my would have had a similar font on the outside packaging but would have had a name like, Gruei or Cruel. Or perhaps simply ¨Clag¨. I'm pretty sure the primary school glue children so loved to eat from the age of 5, probably had 1 major fact in common with my meal, namely 97% of the total volume of both was flour and water.

I added enough sugar to make mud taste like honey, unfortunately this made sweet glue, in fact,it reminded me of the sugar soap used to clean walls before you repaint them. With the whole town (8 people) watching, I smiled rolled my eyes into the back of my head and tried to think of a better time...a better place.In the remembering, I took myself back to a place where food was a thing of myth...and that meant my own fantasy land.

(insert stereotypical camera affect for "memory scene" here)

Slowly wending our ways through the pampas in Bolivia, John and I decided to tackle one of the big questions in life. ¨Which endangered animal would be the most delicious¨*. After some 10 minutes of talking, all the girls on the boat were thoroughly disgusted whilst John and I were watering at the mouths. The two pommy lasses I had spent a week or so with went from friends to enemies and John´s girlfriend, almost disowned him. It was this point that we decided that some sensitivity was required, so we changed the question to ¨which animal,that you have seen whilst in the Pampas, would be the best to eat¨**...More fury. Replaying the thought of delectable Bolivian morsels in my mind, with the aim of conning my stomach into eating glue soup, I suddenly and unexpectedly identified one of the key differences between men and women. The ¨which animal is best to eat game¨ is generally not one approved of by the fairer sex.

Thinking back on the incident I wondered how the girls would have felt about my meal the previous night. Having discussed at length which animal would be most delicious it was quite apt that only a week or two later I would get the opportunity to eat one of my childhood pets. As a happy young 10, or so, year old I owned at last two guinnea pigs...5 1/2 at one stage (if you include the time when the mother gave birth to a large brood and the father half ate one).

Wandering into the same "glue soup village" the night before I was offered the opportunity to snack on one of my child hood friends and I took the opportunity eagerly. With the little critter boiled peeled rubbed down with local spices and deep fried in a pan I was convinced the KFC (Kentucky Fried Cuy***) would be a delectable morsel.. and in some ways I was right. The herbs were the perfect combination making a veritable party in mouth... the down fall was the Guinea pig itself. Whilst most of us would consider the little guys rather chubby, you note, after one has been gutted in front of you, that most of there weight is organs and little meat is left after the removal of these....none the less the smell of the meat cooking was intoxicating.

Having been give the GP, I looked at it for some time trying to asses how one was to eat such a meal. With the same 8 eager faces watching me, one of the ladies soon realised that I was a little confused without a knife and fork and thus produced a carving knife and the one fork of the village. Happily deciding to get a taste of this new culinary sensation I ran my knife across the flesh and noted something very peculiar...nothing. The flesh was completely unscathed.If the Peruvian army was ever to go to war, I would recommend the cover there vehicles and men with guinnea pig meat. I attempted to cut the animal a half a dozen more times and still I was unable to even scratch the surface. Eventually, frustration and animal instinct overcame my manners and I grabbed the GP with my hands and bit it. The immediate taste was quite deletable although removing my teeth I noted that they too had done little damage. I altered tactics and peeled off the vulcanised hide of the little critter. After all this work I hoped the meat would taste new and different, perhaps as fantastic as the sea turtle I ate in Northern Queensland....Nope! After all this hard work the meat tasted like, you guessed it, chicken.

I did, eventually, work out a method to consume the little guy but as I took my last mouthful of meat the guide turned to me and said "you do know you have to eat everything¨. I looked at the large A5 sheet of guinea pig skin. I considered asking if i could take it home to make a guinea pig skin rug or perhaps use it to craft the rubber for a spear gun or slingshot, but I knew I wasn't getting out of this one. After every mouthful I consumed one of my potatoes to stall the rubber band consumption. After 15 or so minutes one of the locals noticed how quickly I was eating the potatoes and thus assumed i must be enjoying them. He wandered over and asked in Quechuan (not even Spanish) if I would like some more. Having no idea what he said I politely smiled and said, unwittingly, "yes". Before I could choke down another slice of a substance which would have been more at home in a Goodyear factory, 12 more potatoes appeared. The challenge was now dizzying. To cut a long story short I managed to con one of the locals to share my potatoes and the guinea pig....well, I eventually choked it down...but I shan't say that it was with pleasure nor without any concern. Having consumed such a substance I wondered what the... um ..long term effects on the digestive system would be.

I shuddered a little at the memory and snapped back to reality. The bowl was now half empty and whilst the thought of delectable nedangered spcies had helped me somewhat, the memory of the last nights meal was more powerful and reminded that I could not be beaten. I slurped down the last of the glue and as I placed by spoon in the bowl the guide turned and a said "Next we have cooked you corn, potatos and carrots, you want more yes?". With a gut full of glue the concept was revolting...of course not wanting to offend I said "yes".

He spun around instantly and brought a bowl to me. To my distress it suddenly became evident that we had crossed our wires. What he meant to say was "you have potatoes, corns and carrots coming would you lie some more glue?". ...I was beaten. Finally the stomach had to take control and manners had to be thrown aside "I'm NOT eating any more". I passed the meal on and entered a trance like state to prepare my body for the incoming mass of boiled vegetables.

With the meal done, the mule loaded, I ,as usual, wandered off on my team and sucked up the surroundings. Walking through some of the most spectacular scenery I have ever seen I soon found myself assessing the environment, the fold lines, the faults, the fluvial processes....oh my god, I was applying the knowledge gained from my Geology and Geography degrees. I tried to shake off the feeling of being a nerd but then realised that in my down time I was also reading the lord of the rings trilogy. So having spent all day looking at old ruins (which is to say archaeological sites...oh I have a studied archaeology as well)and doing geomorphological, fluvial and geological assessments of the region I spent my time out reading fantasy novels. When the idea hit me, I sighed... and adjusted my prescription glasses (NERD!). I started to wonder if Frodo Baggins had the same issues on his mighty journey to Mordor but doubted that his meeting with the elves ever forced him to eat fried rodent(Geek!). I suddenly found myself alone in the wilderness with my own nerdy thoughts festering in my over sized head.

It was then I came to this realisation. Whilst the Hill Billy Jim-esque beard, the wanting to eat all animals in site with BBQ sauce and my general lack of hygene made me very unwomanly, I could hardly put myself in the category of "man" given my all too dorky ways.

*The correct answer as we soon decided was the Panda. An here are the major reasons.
1) It is quite big and thus not too fiddly to eat.
2) Have you seen it`s enormous and thus undoubtedly all too succulent rump that it only uses for sitting. If that isn´t as tender as Argentinian Prime grain fed steak I don´t know what is.
3) They only eat bamboo shoots...and you can´t tell me you don´t enjoy that little crunch every time you eat Chinese food.
4)It would almost certainly be prepared by the Chinese thus providing a multitude of options. Panda in a black bean sauce, Mongolian Panda and my favorite Peking Panada.

** At the time I think I had a convincing argument for Capybara spare ribs being the best possible meal, but given later developments I`m not sure I can back this up.

***Spanish for Guinea pig.

Friday, 2 May 2008

Too much to say with too little time to write...

Looking back at my last post it would seem that almost 1 month has shot by and now the problem of recounting everything becomes quite the issue….so I´ll try in reverse order.

Meeting a couple of the lads (Gareth and Rick) from Lima, in La Paz we boarded a bus and headed for the salt flats with all the supplies necessary, namely fireworks, booze (most importantly tequila) and children´s figurines. As we would later find things like a torch may have been a good option but just didn´t seem all that important when holding 2 packets of Saturn sky rockets, a cone head and a box of Tongan Festivals, touted to shoot 25 flaming balls (¨warning: light and get away¨ were the only instructions to be found on the pack) into the night. AWESOME!!!!

Having boarded the car for the 4 day expedition, we instantly found our driver and the cook to be somewhat morose, despite the offer of coca leaves and banana cake, which they of course took without even a hint of a smile.

The all too expansive salt flats were truly amazing if not only for the chance to do tequila slammers using a 1m high pyramid of salt. We thought the driver may have laughed…he didn´t!

The rest of the trip, despite the staff, was a load of fun. Hiking a vertical distance of 2km up to 5600m (my new record) was quite a highlight especially given my last batch of altitude sickness at 5300m. Having spoken to a few doctors on a subsequent trip it would seem that me having ataxia and being sick for 4 days meant I was in a pretty bad place on that trip… This was made only too clear when one of the docs stated. ¨Did you have clear cerebral fluid coming out your nose, that would have been the next sign….(sigh) isn´t naivety a blessing.

Before the Salt flats I took a 3 day river trip down the river Benni (the least impressively named river in the world by my estimations) with 2 English lasses (Jo and Jen), I met in La Paz. The most notable part of this trip, although it was fun, was the 42 sand fly bites I found on the right side of my right ankle after only half a day of travel. It would seem the rest of me was totally unappetising aside from the 16cm2 region. Jo on the other hand was less lucky sporting a solid 160 something bites.

From the River cruise we jumped on another boat. We grabbed the first cheap, not so cheap that it was our own personal ¨little Israel¨ (come to South American to understand this phenomenon, I even know a few Israelis who are scared of the hoard) vessel and cruised the Pampas for 3 solid days. From 3 minutes into the trip we had seen an alligator and a pink dolphin…which to be fair aren´t that pink.

Well the little tykes may not be pink but they are quite playful and have a bit of a thing for fingers and toes. Swimming initially I was shocked to find out how rough they were…that was until I realised that that was the dolphins teeth and yes that sudden rapid increase in pressure was a bite, ¨you little bugger!¨. They then bit my hand and head butted my feet…well when I say ¨head butted my feet¨ it is probably fairer to say that I kicked it in the head…. Not on purpose mind you, I was treading water in a murky lake and couldn´t see them, well that´s my story anyway. Of course it was not the kick that made me feel the worse, it was more the eye gouge that gave me the guilts…I think I may be going to hell for that accidental little manoeuvre. Anywho enough about the pampas…not because it wasn´t great, but I´m yet to get to a bit of a favourite…and some of you may guess what that is.

Midgets! That´s right midgets! Touted as a true cultural experience in La Paz I went to some South American , WWE style, wrestling, and there was a midget. From all accounts so popular are the midgets in this cultural extravaganza that they include1in each match. In the previous weeks match I was told that the midget was actually picked up and used as a weapon, we weren´t quite that lucky but the act was still hilarious. One wrestler came out dressed as a giant cat man and as his side kick the little fella came out dressed as a little mouse. I´m not sure my video will do it justice but I´ll attempt to upload one in the next few days.

So what next, well I did fail to mention the cooperative silver mi e we visited in Potosi and my all too fast run through of Sucre. Unfortunately due to the many accounts (an talk of more little people) Columbia is calling. So I shoot to La Paz tonight for some shopping (I still need to find me Ma´ some bling) and then on to Cuzco for a jaunt around Machu Pichu. Given my disco photos on the salt plains it´s possible I may have to dress up for that one as well….hmm if only I was more mature.

Monday, 7 April 2008

After a 3 hour trip involving two buses and a taxi (at the princely sumo of S$15 or approximately US$5) I have finally left Peru and hit Copacabana and the southern end of Lake Titikaka (also spelled titicaca or titqaqa depending on how you feel on the day). Having experience the town for approximately 30minutes I have this much to say. CHEAP!

Me being me, after checking into the room and hurling the most pungent bag of washing at the lovely Bolivian Hostel owner, I went looking for food…..well, cheap food. As it turns out, due to the town´s vicinity to the lake, trout is cheap. How cheap? Well having stuffed my face full of chips rice salad and a large trout ala Diablo I was forced to part with Bs$25 or a little less than US$4. This may seem a little on the pricey side but this did include a beer which cost a little over US$1 itself so I decided I wasn`t being completely ripped off.

Me thinks this town may need a little investigation.

Prior to Copacabana, my last stop was Puno, which to be honest deserves little more than a footnote. In my opinion the most notable thing that happened in the town was that I bought a whole cheese for $2. Sure I visited the floating islands etc but they really weren´t too much chop, so I`ll move on.

Arequipa, the stop before last, on the other hand was a pretty cool city. With go karting and paintball just around the corner I dived into the action after 15 minutes of arrival and found myself well occupied for 2 weeks. I shan`t say things started well in Arequipa but I did have fun. At the end of the first day my paintball team mate had already shot me 3 times in the bum and by the end of the first week I had become paralysed by altitude sickness at a height of 5335m, vomited on a tent and thrown a bike 2 foot into the air during some downing hill mountain biking… damned if I don`t love the place. Whilst I am disappointed to leave it would seem that Bolivia opens the door to some slightly more reckless pursuits. To hell with public liability, Bolivia sets itself up to be a place of fun and stupidity and I truly look forward to watching some midget wrestling!

Monday, 25 February 2008

A short one to try and get back into writing (sorry)

There’s nothing quite like running of the side of a 250m high mountain to make you think about your own life. Having landed in Peru approximately 1 week ago with Owen, a lad from Red Deer, Canada, who I met in B.A. it was only 1 day before we decided to taker the leap and sign up for a week long Paragliding course. The concept of the course was explained to us briefly by a man somewhat resembling a Peruvian Mr. Miyagi* from Karate kid. From the first day we would be flying solo off small dunes and we would slowly move up to bigger, longer flights, progressing to the level of student pilot, allowing us to fly anywhere in the world under radio instruction.

Despite having this explained to us, each day has started exactly the same. We drive to the site, Owen reminds me that he is scared of heights during the journey and upon arrival he looks over the cliff or down the mountain, turns his head and says ¨have I told you I hate you, Rob¨. I explain that he really should have realized what he was getting himself into and I get the same reply ¨I don’t care…..I really hate you¨.

Bobbing up and down in the air being tossed around by thermals causes me very little stress, in fact it is actually quite relaxing floating so high and watching the world pass by below you, the take offs on the other hand are a little more scary. Running off a cliff takes a little bit of blind faith and determination. The first thing you are told is, ¨if I say keep running¨, keep running, if you don’t, the glider will deflate and you will drop a fair a few meters before it re-inflates…you won’t get injured in these places but it will be a little scary. A little scary?
I personally would consider it terrifying, and thus as a result run like hell with only one eye open. …It seems like the only logical thing to do.
Outside of paragliding there is little else to say about Peru. Everything we have done and seen has been paragliding related and all the people we have met; bar those at the hostel are paragliders (who by the way are absolutely lovely people). To be honest I am amazed at how nice the Peruvians are. One of the guys wants to start and export company with me, wants to show me how the property market works in Peru and also assist in the purchasing of a Kombi van to drive around South America. This fact is causing me a certain amount of guilt. Part of me can’t believe how nice he is, the other half is dubious of his intentions….but to be fair all Peruvians I have met are super helpful. One Peruvian girl after a short chat, learnt that I wanted to eat Cuy (Guinea Pig). Taking this on bored she has so far written two monumental emails explaining about all the food in Peru, where I can get it and how much I should pay. I’m going to be a fat, fat lad!

Plans for Colombia are coming along nicely with the assistance of the paragliding lads. It seems we may have a place to stay and as I said help to purchase a vehicle from the wanted ads. I’m guessing we will leave Peru some time early next month so that we can hit donkey festival in late March. From all stories we can rent our own donkey and dress it up for the parade. I can hardly wait!

* Direct quote from our instructor - When there is no wind, there is no paragliding....only para-waiting.

Monday, 31 December 2007

A bunch of stuff that should have been written ages ago.

As the end of the year rapidly approaches I am starting to feel a little guilty about failing to update my blog a little more here is an attempt at a wrap up.

Last day of BJJ
As I wandered into the academy, the knowledge that I was turning up to BJJ for the last time was starting to weigh heavily...that is until Allan (the instructor) announced that the days training would give way to a game which he called (which is to say made up on the spot) American/Brazillian jiu jitsu ball. Of course, no one in Brazil has any idea how American football works, so this slight deviation from standard rules, was a slight deviation from the ¨standard, completely incorrect rules¨.

....The end result?

A hilarious yet ruthless game involving throwing/wrestling the closest person to you (ball or no ball) mixed with some hilarious set plays and a little bit of ball throwing...genius! To be honest I don´t think I have laughed so hard in some time nor been so sore the next day.

In an attempt to maintain some level of fitness I decided to try and do some BJJ in Buenos Aires. Unfortunately due to a fall down some stairs in Brazil 4 weeks earlier (no I wasn´t drinking) I have after one session grown an enormous (about half the size of a billiard ball) cycsty thing on my hip. After AR$400 at the hospital seeing multiple specialists it seems I have to rest and it will go after trying for two days to rest, it seems that my lump will be doing a world tour. Rest indeed? pffft!

Buenos Aires in an excellent city full of great architecture, parks and a bit of a crazy night life. It takes a little while to get into the 2am kick off for all night life but once you get into it, you find yourself somewhat stuck. The problem is this, you start at 2am you therefore finish at about 6am at the earliest and thus you are unable to check out before the assigned 11am checkout time, so you stay another day. The next day starts mid afternoon as a rule you have a few beers and BAM! you do the same thing you did the day before. Don´t get me wrong, it´s a fun life with great food and great wine at an all too impressive low low price....but it starts to tear your soul apart after a while. A quick look at the 65 year old frenchman, who I have been told has been traveling for 20 years was the final straw. At 65 (i`m guessing his age)he gets up every morning and starts slowly on a few beers 11am. From here he moves onto wine and he doesn´t leave the desk until about 2am. It takes the guy 4 rests to get up a small flight of stairs (4-5 minute rests each time) and it is believed that most of his injuries have been caused by the seizures he has at night, which tend to make him fall out of bed. it´s out and off to Bariloche (the gateway to Patagonia)for me to learn some spanish and as luck may have it do some more BJJ. This few weeks should be full of glacier walks, tango lessons (I apologise in advance to any girl I have to dance with), spanish classes and some good healthy living. As a mixed blessing, the only hostel I could get intro is the worlds most boring and thus should be very condusive to study (in the same way the brussel sprouts are condusive to good health) so, it´s clean livin´ for a few weeks...or so I think.....

Photos to come!