|Posted by Leticia Hughes on September 9, 2010 at 5:06 AM||comments ()|
I have to start this blog with the most pressing issue of the day - why is it that every time we book into a hotel or hostel we always get a room near the couple that insist on having really loud sex?? I mean honestly, we all know that it really isn’t that necessary to scream and make so much noise that the entire hotel can hear you!! A little grunting and groaning I can deal with, but I swear this afternoon this chick sounded like she was in pain!! I actually had to stop what I was doing and actually listen to determine if she was for real… Well as they say, if you can’t beat ‘em – join ‘em!!!
Marc and I are back in the land of green curry, pad Thai, hot weather, massage (with or without happy ending), retail therapy galore and amazing thunderstorms. Coming back to Bangkok feels so familiar now it almost feels like a crazy Asian version of home. I laugh because I remember the first time we came here Marc and I were such naive travelers we were intimidated by all that Bangkok has of offer. These days, three years on, we eat the street food without stressing about food poisoning, we have perfected how to ignore touts and I feel like giving all the hookers and lady boys a high five (I think it is brilliant that they exploit all the rich, fat Western men!!). I fell in love with Thailand when we first came here and four visits later I still find this place fascinating and fun to visit.
Now while on the sex theme, I would like to discuss the “female rat”. She is defined as the women who flirts inappropriately with your husband in front of you and would quite happily move in on your territory without even giving the wedding band a second glance. Now unfortunately we encountered one of these “female rats” while wwoofing and she took great delight in making herself known to my husband. Now Marc, bless his cotton socks, was completely oblivious to her subtle advances until I pointed them out. Now I must confess that in the end I did not handle the situation well as Marc bore the brunt of my frustration at her behaviour. I trust him with my life, so what I should have done was just taken the bitch outside and dealt to her!!! OK that was never gunna happen, but I think I have learned a valuable lesson… just because a rat wants to move in on your territory, it doesn’t mean they are going to make any ground what so ever!! However we all know that sometimes we need to trust our instincts and kick some rat arse where required (jezz I talk a good game).
The other observation I had while wwoofing is that so many people have a really appalling work ethic, especially the “Gen Y” (20 something’s) who think the world owes them a cushy job with a six figure salary and perks to boot. Our lovely hosts Wei and Robin had some massive orders to fill while we were on the blueberry farm and rather than pitching in when needed, all the other wwoofers chose to do their 5 hours per day and not a second more. While a few of them cooked the odd night, they had no idea how to pick up a broom, clean the toilet or do anything really. Generally the lazy little sods forgot that they were not in a hotel. I had to bite my tongue so hard as my natural instinct was to “manage” the situation. It does not matter what I do for work, I always give it 110% as I get a real kick out of doing something well and it frustrates me so much when I encounter people who have a non existent work ethic. I guess this is why I will continue to work for myself, as I don’t think I have the patience or tenacity to manage people anymore. I’m too likely to get fired for telling people what I really think.
So apart from the stinky rats, Gen Y slobs and very sad goodbyes, I really enjoyed our time in England!! Picking the blueberries has certainly planted a seed in regards to how I’d like to eventually live. I would describe our time there as wholesome and very fulfilling. After a day of picking and working the land, there is nothing quite like walking home across the lush, green fields while the afternoon sun streams down through the clouds – it sure beats the hell out of rush hour traffic and sitting at a computer all day.
Meeting our little nephew Harvey was also a lovely experience as it was so great to see both him and sister Clare healthy and well. And no it does not make me want kids (refer previous blog). In fact it reinforces to me that our decision is the right one for us.
So this is it… we have less than a week until we are home. Well it has been a blast and I suspect the enormity of what we have seen and achieved won’t seem reality until we have time to truly reflect and relive our adventures through our photographs and various pieces of travel paraphernalia. While this potentially is the last big trip we’ll do in terms of timeframes, we both feel that our traveling days have only just begun.
See you soon NZ!!!
|Posted by Leticia Hughes on August 23, 2010 at 12:07 PM||comments ()|
Isn’t it funny how the simple things in life can often be the most enjoyable?? This morning I woke up to the sound of sheep baaing in the paddocks surrounding the 16th century farmhouse we are staying in while blueberry picking in a small town call Lustleigh. The birds were chirping and the sun was peaking through the clouds creating a mystical view from our window, which has a glorious outlook of lush green forest and fields. We had breakfast with nine others (not dissimilar to the Walton’s) and we ventured out to the tranquil fields to pick blueberries for the morning.
Now you may ask why the hell are you and Marc picking blueberries in England…?? Well we decided that rather than sit around with our fingers up our backsides and wait for Marc’s sisters baby to be born on 31st August, we’d go wwoofing (world wide opportunities on organic farms). It is a fabulous way to keep busy, meet people and our labour pays for our accommodation and food. The UK is so damn expensive that we decided to be proactive towards decreasing the impact on our hemorrhaging savings!!!
So life on the farm is truly wonderful. Our hosts Wei and Robin make you feel so at home and meeting other like-minded travelers always makes for interesting dinner conversation. Wei’s cooking is amazing and I keep telling myself I must start running round the farm hills to burn through some calories as I don’t want to fall victim to the dreaded Heathrow injection!!!
Now I would like to write about a rather controversial subject as it has been bugging me… As you can imagine Marc’s whanau is very focused on the arrival of their new addition and I have to say I need to vent a little about the whole “baby” thing as it seems to be the main topic of conversation these days with everyone I know…
Why is it that so many people just assume that when you are “30 something” you get married and then inevitably have the babies?? Believe it or not, there are actually people in this world who have made a conscious and VERY educated choice to not have children and contrary to belief, they will not change their minds or become maternal over night. I guess where I am heading with this is that the general population should stop assuming that everyone wants to or can have kids. We are not missing out and we are not selfish – we have simply chosen a different destiny.
The other thing I find increasingly frustrating is that when you don’t have children, those parents with young ones figure that you know nothing about raising children and the challenges they face. In fact you can feel quite ostracised from friends and family until they realise you are not completely inept with children and that there is more to their lives than babies. In saying this, there are some people who have acquired a very healthy balance and still make time for themselves and friends, which I imagine takes a very conscious effort as raising a family is a full time job for the rest of your lives.
When I talk to parents I always hear how wonderful their children are (and I don’t doubt that having your own is incredibly fulfilling) and more than often they just glaze over the hard stuff. Do they avoid the nitty gritty of child rearing because they think I won’t understand, am not interested, can add no value or do they just want to appear in control?? Oh and before I forget, yes your child is the most brightest, most intelligent, and most cutest I have ever seen…
The other thing I would like to point out is that just because we don’t want kids, it doesn’t mean we don’t like kids!! Most children are awesome fun (apart from those that are screaming and out of control in public!!) and there are other things I want to do with my life that actually revolve around kids such as Project K (youth development) or working in Nepal to help kids learn English. By not having my own off spring, I will actually have more time to help those that are disadvantaged or not really wanted in the first place.
So in summary, stop asking people when they are having kids – you never know what their circumstances are and chances are no matter what you say, they won’t change their minds or regret their decision latter in life. Those with children also need to stop calling those without “selfish” – just remember that the world is over populated and by personally not breeding we are actually helping Mother Nature survive the onslaught of a species out of control.
Phew that was pretty heavy but I am glad to write about something I am really passionate about. I am a very strong, independent woman who has made her choice and I ain’t changing my mind any time this century. Hmmmm maybe karma will have the last laugh and I’ll come back as a rabbit in the next life!!!!
On a lighter note – back to the simple life… All this wholesome farm living has also inspired me even more to try and live a fully self-sustainable life once we are back to New Zealand. That means going back to your hippy roots and growing veges, raising your own livestock and thinking of innovative ways to create and harness your own energy sources. Jezz I really am starting to sound like Barbara Good!!!! And as for all these cups of tea I keep consuming, I am worried I am turning decidely British!!!
We have another two weeks of blueberry picking / consumption and I am positive that it will continue to be a gratifying experience. We have booked our flights and are due to arrive back in Kiwi land on 13th September – something I am so looking forward to. Marc sounds like he has a job lined up in Auckland starting early October so we’ll be straight back to the big smoke. I also have some potential work lined up so it looks like I’ll be putting my Dive Masters course off until the summer once I have topped up the savings again.
I will leave you with this thought for the day – the Kiwi winter has similar temperatures to the UK winter – where would you rather be living….??
Until next time!!
|Posted by Leticia Hughes on July 21, 2010 at 2:47 AM||comments ()|
I cannot believe that nearly three months has passed since my last blog!! Every time I felt twinges of inspiration to write, I was either glued to my deck chair in the sun, submerged in seawater or just too “busy” to document anything!! My little, very old laptop also decided to die on its second tour of duty and this has definitely hindered my communication. So now that I am armed with a new Mac, I have decided to use my migraine-induced downtime constructively.
I guess I should start with one of the most significant events since my last blog… yes Marc and I got married. Now being a “no frills” kind of gal, getting married on the beach in the Bahamas was absolute bliss. The day was all about Marc and I making a commitment to each other for the rest of our lives and we did not get caught up in flowers, cakes, guest seating and table decorations!!! It was lovely to focus on what was really important and make it a truly memorable experience. And no surprises, marriage has not changed our relationship, it has simply solidified what we already knew was a good thing. We started out as we mean to continue with lots of fun, adventure and exploration.
I must add however that after getting married myself, I think I will now make a more compassionate wedding photographer. I understand that as a bride you go to a lot of trouble getting plucked, waxed, polished and preened to look good on the big day. I just had to focus on getting ready and I now appreciate how a bride might also get a little stressed worrying about all the detail such as invitations and catering!! I promise from this day forward I will not to be condescending towards stressed out brides while taking their photos!!
Now since I last wrote I have been on two cruises, one in the Caribbean and one in the Mediterranean (yes two, don’t hate me). Now while I am usually the first to take the piss out of over zealous yanks, I have to say they appear completely introverted when compared to a boat full of Italians!! Lets just say they need to install volume, modesty and etiquette controls in a vast majority of Italians who decide to take a vacation on a cruise ship. For example, why do the Italian men insist on wearing white or aqua speedos?? I am scarred for life, as I really don’t enjoy looking that closely at Italian packages in what I consider to be undies. Competitive swimmers and the male Mt Maunganui surf life saving team are the only specimens who are eligible to wear speedos in my world!!! The Italian women are not much better as they insist on strutting around the pool in heels and tiny bikinis. Now while the 20 something Italian female can pull this off, I really think the 50 something female should stick to a one piece and flats!!! In summary, the Italians were surprisingly loud and obnoxious which at least made for interesting dinner conversation with other English-speaking guests. I must also add that I loved being a Kiwi on a cruise shipfull of Italians when the All Whites drew with Italy in the Soccer World Cup!!!! I nearly got the NZ flag and did victory laps of the ship!!!
Despite the antics of other passengers, cruising the Mediterranean and Caribbean is a wonderful way to visit some awe-inspiring destinations. The Caribbean was all about palm trees and crystal-clear blue water. While the yanks shopped for diamonds and tanzanites, we hit the Caribbean waters with a vengeance and went scuba diving and free diving in exotic locations like Bonnaire and Aruba.
During our Mediterranean voyage we got to visit Spain, Italy and Malta. The history, architecture and food were just fantastic in all the places we visited, however towards the end of our second cruise I was struggling to distinguish one city from another. I am definitely a small island kind of gal where I can enjoy outdoor activities such as diving and hiking!!!
After the Caribbean and a quick jaunt to Florida Keyes, we headed for Cozumel, Mexico where the azure water is not dissimilar in temperature or visibility to that of a swimming pool. We were lucky enough to venture out to the “Devil’s Throat” dive site where we swam through a series of deep underwater caves and tunnels. At the end of the dive you swim into complete darkness and emerge into a big blue hole that simply takes your breath away. Combined with a little narcosis, lets just say I was absolutely buzzing!! During our surface interval we were also lucky enough to swim with a large pod of dolphins. Despite my dolphin like calls they did not stick round for long.
Our last dive in Cozumel was a night divewhere we saw king crabs, eels and celps that pulsated iridescent lights in the darkness of the water. When we eventually made it back to land where we so invigorated with diving, that we headed to our dive instructors new bar where we downed three (only three) margaritas to celebrate. Now Mazza and I are fairly seasoned drinkers, so you can imagine our surprise when we were absolutely shit faced on three (yes only three) margaritas. We literally stumbled out of the bar and proceeded to roll down the road like typical drunken tourists. When we finally decided that stumbling was not an effective way to get home, we hailed a taxi using our fins as hands and managed to get back to the Beach House where we were staying. Lets just say I had to go to sleep with my feet on the floor to stop the room spinning!! Mazza on the other hand decided that it was a good idea to blow chunks in the bathroom sink… why not the bloody toilet I have no idea.
After the good life in Mexico we made our way to England where we spent a week with the family and also got to spend aweekend with my vivacious friend Susan in London. Despite my whinging about the London crowds at the Queens Birthday celebration, Marc and Susan dragged me to Buckingham Palace where we were fortunate enough to see Prince Will’s, Camilla and Charles. While I am not really that fussed about the royals, it was still pretty cool to see them up close and personal.
After a day of sight seeing in London, we happened across over 300 NAKED cyclists. Now normally this would not be a problem, but Susan and I were both completely disturbed, as we concluded that we have never seen so many small willies!!!!! Was it shrinkage due to the cold and exercise?? Susan and I giggled like school girls as they road past and I could not help but stare at one lads “Prince Albert”. The worst thing was he caught me staring and thought this was rather amusing. Doh - I am a married woman!!! At this point I’d had enough “Royals” for one day. That night we headed to the pub to watch the English fans watching the football. Much to our amusement the Poms drew with USA… I swear some of the more dedicated English fans were heading home to jump off their roofs and the conclusion of the match!!! Classic.
Now previously I have been known to pay out on the Kiwi’s and Ozzie’s that have flocked to England to live, but after spending some time here, I now understand why they do. While the weather can be less than desirable, the countryside and cities can be so charming with quaint houses, manicured gardens and cobbled streets. The living is generally similar to home (they have marmite!) except that the UK comes with the added bonus that Europe is on your doorstep – nothing quite like a weekend in Paris darling. In saying all of this, I would not trade my home in paradise, as New Zealand simply is the best place in the world to live in my books!!
Originally our travel plans were going to include a trip to India, however we decided to trade curry and monsoon for diving in the Red Sea since we were in the neighbourhood. Our first stop was Istanbul where I gorged myself on kebabs, baklava and Turkish delight. I loved the happy vibe of Turkey and hope to go back to explore outside of Istanbul one day. After Turkey we flew to Sharm El Shiekh and I could not believe my eyes… Egypt is one of the most desolate places I have ever seen, as there isnothing but sand and desert for miles and miles. Sharm El Shiekh is literally where the desert meets the sea. My initial impression of the diving town is that is has grown too quickly and is now bulging at the seams with resorts and tourists. Like most others, we signed up for scuba diving and hit the water.
I had BIG expectations of the Red Sea as everyone says this is THE place to dive… While I enjoyed the diving here I think that it was nowhere near as spectacular as Cozumel, Sipidan Island and Bonnaire!!! Must like Muchu Picchu, it as been “talked up” far too much and as a result I was a little disappointed. Don’t get me wrong, the reefs were still beautiful, but this is not a place we will come back to.
One of the most amusing things about Egypt was the over zealous attention from the men… They could sell ice to Eskimos and one conned us into his shop with the usual “where you from” line and one cup of tea later, we were the proud owners of a new oil burner and oil. Just what you need when you are back-packing!?! Now ladies, if you wanna feel like gods gift to men – go to Egypt. The Arabs will pour on the charm no matter how ugly and old you are and they even offer Western blokes camels as a trade for their wives. Marc thankfully turned down the five camels.
So where are we now?!? Back in gold ole England!!! We have decided to stick around until Marc’s sis has her baby, which is due by the end of August. Once our niece or nephew makes an appearance, we will start making our way home via Thailand (oh how I am hanging out for authentic Thai food and Thai shopping!!).
We have seen and experienced so much over the last seven months and we are now officially suffering from traveler’s fatigue!!! We are traveled out and ready to come home which is a wonderful feeling. I look back at our photos with such fond memories and I cannot help but feel so fortunate and fulfilled.
When we get home and adjust back to “normal life”, we can see ourselves settling in Auckland for a while. The last 4 years has been very travel focused and it will be nice to take our feet off the accelerator for a while and enjoy all that NZ has to offer. In saying this, the world is a very big place and we have so much more we want to see!!!
One thing is for certain, we look forward to seeing you all very soon : )))
Until next time.
|Posted by Leticia Hughes on April 29, 2010 at 9:02 PM||comments ()|
Now I consider myself a fairly adventurous, outgoing lass, however when it comes to the Amazon Jungle and everything that lives in it, I am the world’s worst princess. It really is my worst nightmare!!! When we booked into Sani Lodge campsite within the Ecuadorian Amazon Jungle, I honestly thought it would be a great way to “feel the fear and do it anyway” and finally get over my phobia of bloody big bugs and spiders. You know face it head on and all that crap. Oh my how I was wrong.
Upon arriving at the campsite I think my exact words to Mazza were “are you having a f**kin laugh – take me to the lodge, there is no way I am camping!!!” After a full-blown “princess moment including tears”, Mazza (bless his cotton socks) coaxed me into the campsite. The tents were basic and pitched underneath a wooden and thatched roof structure. Much to my delight, the bathrooms were miles away – OK 20m down a wooden path. My next comment to Mazza “I am not going to pee, pooh or shower for 5 days – there is no way I going down there”. I have this horrendous fear of huge spiders under the toilet and in the shower. Yes it is pathetic, I know!!!
So after sulking in the tent for a bit, Mazza convinced me to brave the ravenous mosquitoes and we caught the canoe over to the main lodge where I promptly ordered a red wine. I nearly got the whole bottle as I sat contemplating our return in the dark to the ominous campsite. After dinner, we made our way to the canoe dock, Leticia of course scanning for creepy crawlies and flinching at every bug and web. At this point I would have glady taken the bloody hallucinogenic from Bolivia to relax!!! When we got back to the campsite I nearly hit the roof as the huge bugs and spiders the size of my hand scurried under our feet as we gingerly proceeded up the walkway to our tent. After a perimeter check by Mazza, I dived into the tent and prepared for my first night of sleeping in the jungle.
Anyone who knows the bush will know that it is of no surprise that the jungle literally comes to life at night. The noise is completely surreal – the squawking birds, croaking frogs, chirping crickets, noisy monkeys, squirming snakes, splashing cayman and I swear the growling of a big cat. With the jungle orchestra performing at it’s best, you can imagine how well I slept. So in the morning, not only was I a princess shit scared, but I was now tired too!!! Poor Mazza was also exhausted as I had kept him awake with my grabbing of his body parts every time I heard a freaky noise throughout the night.
But it got better. On day 3 after showing promising signs of adjusting to the jungle, Mazza and I got food poisoning. So at 3:30am in the morning, I asked Mazza to walk the gauntlet to the bathroom with me to start the cleansing process. I was pleased for the rain as it meant local resident “Theresa the Tarantula” was hiding in her tree. After the first cleanse, the water ran out in the bathroom so this meant I had to “off load toxins” on the jungle floor. At first this worried me, but I got so sick in the end I didn’t care what was in the firing line. Mazza thought it was hilarious when the “Stinky Turkey” bird started to call out to me as I did a hurl that resembled its call. Stupid bird. The next morning after I was astounded to find that most of my “cleansing material” was being devoured up by butterflies, toads, frogs, ants and beetles. Jezz nothing goes to waste in the jungle!!!
So did I “feel the fear and do it anyway”? Yes. Did I enjoy the jungle? It was OK. Do I now need further therapy? Yes!!! I now have a full appreciation for those people who do have a genuine fear. It is so real and it just sucks. My advise to those seeking a cure, take small steps rather than trying to run before you can walk. Maybe I should have got to love centipedes and spiders in NZ before venturing into the Amazon Jungle. One thing I can confirm is that Mazza has passed the “pre-martial test” with flying colours : ))
Now I will end this blog on a positive note… prior to our jungle experience, Mazza and I were in paradise – the Galapagos Islands. This place was just incredible with its volcanic islands, immense wildlife and amazing scenery both above and below the water. We sailed on a 60ft cat for 7 nights, free dived, hiked, explored, scuba dived and my favourite, swam with sharks, turtles, manta rays and sea lions. It is by far our best experience in South America and it is most certainly a place we will venture back to. I feel my time there has also allowed me to reflect on what I really want out of life and there will be some changes when I get home. I am a free spirit who no longer wants to be trapped in an office tapping away on a computer. Lets just say, the ocean and my photography is calling…
Tomorrow we are heading to Fort Lauderdale in the USA, so it marks the end of our South American journey. The travel through this part of the world has been so challenging with the language, food, transport and planning however, at the same time it has been so incredibly rewarding. Our upcoming Caribbean cruise will be our holiday from travel before we start the next stage, which includes Central / North America, UK, Europe and India.
And of course we get married in less than a week… My very special man and I will make a life long promise to each other on Wednesday. He has been the most amazing person to travel with and I am so privileged to have met someone who I can grow old with and continue to live life to the max with. A quote I love is “you don’t marry the person you can live with, but you marry the person you cannot live with out’. A new chapter is starting in our lives and I have to say, I cannot wait to see what our future holds : ))
I look forward to partying with you all when we return to NZ to celebrate our union and of course our return home. Trust me, it will be a good one!!!
Sending you lots of love,
PS: Just between you and me, the food poisoing has been a great "diet" for the wedding dress!!!
|Posted by Leticia Hughes on April 8, 2010 at 10:16 PM||comments ()|
It’s 7:50pm and still over 30 degrees in Guayaquil, Ecuador, which means I have given up hope of sleeping anytime soon and as a result, I have just indulged in a swim and am now sitting in my bikini and sarong feeling rather inspired about writing a blog about our experiences in Peru.
Now there is only thing wrong with this nearly perfect picture… It’s hard to believe, but I am actually drinking white wine from a cardboard box!!! Now I am undeniably a wine (and coffee) snob, however due to budget constraints, I have downgraded to vino blanco in a box. Actually between you and I, it tastes a hell of a lot better than the marque-vue and chardon I used to skull with Sony and Bek in the “puss-cort” in the early 90’s!!! Jezz it’s amazing what you will stoop to when the options are limited…
For the last two weeks Marc and I have been in Cusco, Peru and today there was certainly a sigh of relief from both of us as we boarded our flight bound for Ecuador. Lets just say the charm of the adobe (mud) houses, cobbled streets, mega tourists and touts started to wear a tad thin. As my mumma-sun so eloquently wrote yesterday in an email, “Cusco is a wrap and we ain’t going back”!!!
While the Lares Trek and Macchu Picchu was a great experience, it just simply did not have the “MEGA WOW” factor I was looking for. Don’t get me wrong, the Inca ruins are incredible works of architecture in an amazing setting, however they just did not compare to our wonderful experiences in the Himalayas or Cambodia’s Angkor Wat. Maybe I should focus more on each location rather than making comparisons…
What has become very evident after Cusco is that familiarity breed’s boredom. If we forget to add variety and fun in our lives, we end up in the inevitable “rut” – even when traveling!!! So the moral of the story, remember to spice it up, no matter where you are or what you are doing and this is exactly what we did when we opted for a white water rafting trip in Cusco.
The rafting was an amazing experience, as it felt so great to get those endorphins pumping while on the water slamming through walls of rapids. Being at altitude for 5 weeks has meant no running or full on exercise due to lack of oxygen and muscle wastage. Lets just say rafting certainly gave us our “fix”!!! I must also confess that the damn hot rafting guides were excellent eye candy for Tecia!!! At last some Sth American men that do not resemble hobbits!!!
Today Marc and I reflected that we are pretty much “over and done” in Sth America. It has been incredibly rewarding travel but we are tired and are very much looking forward to Galapagos, our jungle tour and of course our Caribbean cruise. It will be nice to not have to think about food, accommodation, exploring, flights, buses and trains for 4 weeks!!! Our budget has also been hit hard by the exorbitant Sth American prices, so I either come home early or continue to drink my vino out of a box. I’ll take the box for now.
Miss you all and think of home lots. Keep safe and happy.
PS: Mum I promise we are keeping away from the crazy dogs!!!!
|Posted by Leticia Hughes on March 27, 2010 at 10:15 PM||comments ()|
The small town of Copacabana, which islocated on the Bolivian side of Lake Titicaca, has made it into my “favourite places” list!!! The town itself is basic (just the way we like it), the locals don’t pay you much attention (perfect) and if life got any slower there it would stand still. While in the area we took a very slow boat to Isla del Sol (Island of the Sun) and I didn’t think it was possible, but it is even more laid back than Copacabana and the surrounding landscape of blue lakes, local farms, eucalyptus trees and Inca ruins was just breathtaking. The locals in these areas have it right, as life for them is not about the big house, car and job but pure survival. They have modest accommodation in a spectacular water setting, they live off the land and they trade their produce with each other. So many of us in the Western world are obsessed with money that we forget to step back and appreciate what we have and the endless opportunities that present themselves. Lets just say Copacabana was a great place to reflect and smell the roses.
Despite all the rose smelling, there was one instance in Copacabana that was not so relaxing… While out for a walk one afternoon we decided to take a back road to the beach. We strolled past a local school and started towards some farm land. Part way down the road, we heard the horrendous growl of a very large dog that was not happy to see us. The very unhappy dog turned into a very vicious dog and it raced towards us hackles up and bearing teeth. Nearly cacking my pants I was ready to jump up on top of a narrow wall, Marc on the other hand took no shit from this pooch. He formed a fist, crouched down low and yelled mother f**cker in the loudest voice I have ever heard. The dog stopped dead in it’s tracks and fled up the road with its tail between its legs. I could not believe my eyes as I thought for certain we were dog tucker!!! Despite the man-eaters retreat, I convinced Marc to turn around and walk back the way we came. When we scampered past the school again, the kids were standing up in class and cracking up – they had heard all the commotion and thought it was hilarious that the stupid gringos (tourists) stuck it to the dog!!!
After Copacabana we crossed the boarder by land into Peru. After a visit to Puno and a floating island, which was so surreal, we boarded the bus for Cusco. Now we decided to splurge on first class tickets for this bus trip as it was our last and we wanted it to be memorable, for the right reasons. Unfortunately we ended up with a driver who thought he was on a bloody race track and I was certain we were going to hit something or someone. In summary, the idiot passed other buses on blind corners, he exceeded the speed limit by over 50kph in towns where kids were walking home from school and he had not yet discovered braking on the straight rather than in the corner. What made it worse was we saw a horrific bus accident where a cow, bus and truck had collided. The drivers were for sure dead and many passengers very hurt. I would have thought that seeing this tragedy the driver would have slowed down a little but because these accidents are so common, bus drivers are completely blasé. Needless to say, I was very grateful when we eventually rolled into Cusco and I am even more grateful that we only have flights for the rest of our South American adventure.
Now one of the things that is really bugging me about South America is the religion (if you are a Catholic you may want to miss this paragraph as it may get a little controversial). We have now visited a number of very historical towns and smack bang in the middle of each one is a Catholic church. It makes me furious to think that the Spanish basically invaded South America and forced Catholicism on all native people by threatening and frightening them with stories of hell. Some of the churches are spectacular and it is no wonder the aboriginals were overwhelmed by the grand display of wealth and power. In one town we visited, the Spanish actually built a Catholic church on Inca ruins!!! They had complete disregard for local beliefs and for me the Spanish and Catholicism just doesn’t fit South America. In some of these churches I sit there wondering what South America would have been like had it not been invaded… would it be more like Japan and India where their beliefs and culture are still so strong? However if the Spanish had not invaded South America another first world country would have done the same. It makes me embarrassed to be a Westerner when I think about all the invasions our fore fathers were probably part of and how we forced our beliefs onto people – it makes me even more skeptical about religion. But the Inca’s of South America were not without fault either as they also tried to force their beliefs onto other aboriginals. The common theme here is that from day one, man has been obsessed with money and land – will we ever get it right?
The other thing I have really struggledwith in South America is speaking Spanish. While I have picked up some basics and can generally understand simple conversations that Marc initiates with locals, it breaks my heart that I cannot fully converse with them. I would love to know more about their culture, history and why they do the things they do. But with my feeble Spanish all I can do really is observe and take photos to try and tell the story I am experiencing. I do feel rather inspired now to go and learn Spanish as so many people in this world speak it. I think taking a decent Spanish class for 1 year has been added to my “gotta do before I am 40 list”!!!
So we are now in Cusco – the mega gringos trail but if you wanna see Muchu Picchu this is where you come. We have booked on the Lares trek and all going to plan, Muchu Picchu will re-open on our last day so fingers crossed we get to view this famous Inca site. The Lares Trek has cost us far too much money, so I hope it lives up to my expectations!!!
After Peru we are heading to Galapagos and man oh man I am looking forward to this – 8 nights on a 72ft luxury cat – ding ding baby!!!! We are also visiting the jungle at Coco where we will camp in the Amazon. Yes I am completely insane and I am already having panic attacks about the bloody tarantulas!!!
And of course in just over one month we get married – heck where has the time gone. I have ordered the wedding dress so now all I need to do is show up in Ft Lauderdale and get some “maintenance” done at the local spa!!!
That is all for now. I will of course let you know how the trekking goes. Please let there be no juveniles!!!
PS: Marc and I have eaten the scenery and I have come to the conclusion that llama tastes better than alpacaca!!!
|Posted by Leticia Hughes on March 20, 2010 at 10:15 PM||comments ()|
After spending three days in a Toyota Landcruiser traveling through Salar de Uyuni with four 20 something Irish kids, one 20 something Dutch guy and Mazza, I have come to the conclusion that the 20 something traveler is more interested in “experimentation” rather than “experience”. The typical 20 something traveler basically wants to try every kind of drug available, write themselves off every night in different bars and shag as many foreigners as possible. Now as a 30 something traveler I am more about experience… I will go to bed early so that I can see the sun rise, I am not interested in poisoning my body with drugs and I am not interested in contracting one of the many STD’s available to travelers.
Now the only problem with my theory is that my 30 something partner decided to indulge in some cactus poison with the 20 something kids while on our 4WD tour. If you are wondering what this shit does to your body, cast your mind back to the Young Guns movie where Kiefer, Emilo and Lou down some cactus poison – they basically hallucinate and are completely off their chops. So at the point where Mazza agrees to “try some”, I struggle to understand what part of my 30 something partners brain has stopped functioning. We were at altitude and he was chugging back some foul looking cactus powder in coca cola and he has no idea where it came from or what was in it. Been a typical 30 something female, I had a “moment” and called him a f**kin idiot and told him in no uncertain terms I was looking after him.
I then had the pleasure of watching the kids and my partner sit there grinning like fools for a couple of hours. Lets just say, intelligent conversation went out the window. So while the Salar de Uyuni was a magic experience in terms of seeing some of the most mind blowing scenery, at times I struggled to remain focused on what I was experiencing rather than the people I was traveling with. This is why I avoid organised tours that attract the wrong kind of people. Those who exercise and love the outdoors understand the natural high you feel from climbing a mountain cannot be replicated by taking drugs.
Now the tour was not all bad, there were certainly moments of laughter… hell when you are traveling with four Irish people it is inevitable. After our first night of staying in a salt hotel, we had a relatively early start. Like the conscientious 30 something I set my alarm and was ready for breakfast at the allocated time. No surprises the 20 something’s were all still in bed apart from the Dutch dude. The Bolivian cook brought out a large desert bowl of eggs and placed it in front of me. Now it is not unusual for the women to get served first in Sth America, so naturally I thought the bowl was mine and that Marc and Dutch dude would be served shortly. In the meantime, I scoffed down the eggs with toast and left a few mouthfuls for Mazza to enjoy while he waited for his eggs. While I sat their enjoying my full belly and coffee, still no eggs for the lads, so I did the right thing and went to the kitchen and enquired in broken Spanish where the rest of the eggs were… it turns out I had eaten the eggs that had been prepared for our group of 7!!! Oops dolly ate all the eggs!!! So you can imagine for the next two days, the egg jokes did not stop – rightfully so!!! Just call me “Tecia, Tecia the Egg Eater”.
Now for a little on Bolivia… the people have been remarkably fascinating. At first they seem cold and really not interested in smiling “gringos” (tourists), however once they get to know you or at least become a little more familiar with you, they are all smiles and “Holas”!!! I do however find it increasingly frustrating that they are not in the slightest bit interested in their photo being taken – not even with the bribery of money or purchasing their goods!! So photos of people are turning into a covert operation – today I am on a mission to capture the people of Bolivia!!! We plan to sit obscured in the square and see what we can magic up. The women look so incredible with their dark faces, bowler hats and bright coloured clothes. I will not give up on them yet!!!
At the moment we are in the city of La Paz and it has been a pleasant surprise. I generally find cities painful as they are over crowded, noisy and polluted but La Paz has character!!! While it does contain the usual city traits, the bustling markets and colourful people have made it fascinating.
Tomorrow we are heading to Lake Tititcaca and I am certainly looking forward to tranquility and lots of hiking. No drugs needed : ))
Until next time!!
|Posted by Leticia Hughes on March 11, 2010 at 2:21 PM||comments ()|
Let me paint you a picture… after enduring 31 hours on buses over the last two days we have arrived in a small town called La Quiaca in the very north of Argentina, in fact you cannot get any further North as it borders Bolivia. When we hopped off our bus this afternoon, we were greeted with clay buildings with iron roofs held down by large bricks, dirt roads that turn into dust devils when the wind blows and locals who I think represent the real South America. The people of La Quiaca just appear so authentic with their herds of goats and llamas, dark aboriginal skin and their bright coloured scarves and traditional hats – a far cry from the Chile and Southern Argentina we have seen so far!!
Tonight we are staying at the Frontera Hotel and lets just say it is basic, not quite clean and we are hoping that bed bugs don’t ravage us during the night!! After our long journey to La Quiaca we decided to eat at our hotel rather than venturing into town (there are some areas that do not need exploration and photographing as one is more likely to just have their camera stolen than anything else). After perusing the typical Argentinean menu of meat, cheesy burgers, pasta, cheesy pizza and cheesy sandwiches, Marc and I both ordered pasta and chicken. Now given our locale, we probably should have gone vegetarian. Lets just hope the little chook we just ate was still running round this afternoon and was only put into a pot this evening. I guess we will find out in about 6 hours!!!
Right now there is the meanest thunder and lightening storm outside. The constant lightening and extremely loud thunder claps is certainly adding to the surreal ambience. Marc has just reached for his camera and I am picking he is going for the National Geographic winner. Given that the ceiling in our room looks more like paper mashe, lets hope it does not rain too much.
Since my last installment nearly three weeks ago we have been busy exploring Argentina. We have hiked, had some horrendously long bus rides, watched tango, eaten some seriously good steak, indulged in great wine, caught a ferry to Uruguay and generally had an absolute ball!!! The highlights for sure have been the Argentinean side of Patagonia El Chalten (we can thank the lovely Swiss couple we met Nick and Elvira for suggesting we could not miss El Chalten) and Iguazu Falls. The snow capped mountains, crystal clear lakes and the sheer enormity of Iguazu was just magic. We feel so privileged to have experienced these wonderful places.
Holy crap the storm outside is getting mean. I think I need to go get my camera – back soon!!
OK I am back and it is now morning. No surprises we lost power last night and since it is still dark outside despite being 7am I am going to finish this blog before brekkie. I am pleased to report my stomach is not exploding, bed bugs did not ravage my body and the ceiling did not collapse!!! We can however certainly feel the effects of been at 3500m altitude – serious bottom coughing, dry nose and panting after doing up your shoes are the usual symptoms. It will be good acclimatisation for Peru!!
Now it terms of the last few weeks, I would like to share three random observations as I think you may find them of interest, maybe even slightly amusing. After talking to fellow travelers and getting feedback from a wonderful friend about blog content, I have decided my blog from now on will be more about random (hopefully entertaining) travel observations rather than a blow by blow account of places we visit.
My first observation is that South American women are quite possibly some of the most beautiful women I have ever seen – especially when they are beside a pool wearing the smallest bikini possible. One cannot help but notice their olive skin, long hair, dark mysterious eyes, perfectly formed arse, tiny waist and perky boobs. Now while I am happy for Mazza to indulge in this eye candy, it is not fair because the men are without a doubt no where near as good looking. They are short (like the women) and are somewhat “sleezy”. So I would like to declare, the eye candy stakes are unequivocally bias towards the traveling mans pleasure. I am just don’t do Ricky Martin or Juilo Englais!!!
Now on a more serious note, I have unfortunately noticed that most, if not all Israeli travelers are quite possibly some of the rudest people I have ever encountered!! For example, during a long bus ride with very little air-conditioning, a young Israeli woman decided to take off her smelly shoes and rest her feet on the headrest of the person in front of her. I sat their gob smacked, as I could not believe she could be so inconsiderate. Another story is while in Bariloche we met four lovely American guys who were traveling around Argentina fly-fishing. These guys ate at a local restaurant owned by an Israeli and when they went to pay, the owner would not accept their “dirty money”. I was appalled to say the least. I am trying really hard not to be a bigot, but one cannot help develop an opinion when experiences are constantly negative. When in groups they are completely oblivious to other people and races. Lets just say I am hoping to have a positive experience with them soon.
Now on the lighter side, this one is for the girls… female maintenance as we all know is a must when one wants to sit beside the pool in bikini bottoms without spider legs hanging out all over the place. So while in Buenos Aires, I visited a beauty therapist for some maintenance (those who are not natural blondes will understand that shaving does not cut it). Now maintenance in overseas countries is always interesting and this time was certainly no different as explaining in my non-existent Spanish and sign language what I wanted done was without a doubt hilarious. Once we got it sorted, there were no holds barred with my therapist. Lets just say that the wax was applied and removed in three large strips rather than small patches. Ouch!! To make the whole experience even more interesting, there was a mirror at the end of the therapist bed. Hmmm a bird’s eye view is not what you need to see when getting maintenance!!!
Today all going to plan we walk across the border into Bolivia and catch an eight-hour train to Uyuni. Trains in these parts are notoriously late and somewhat dodgy - fingers crossed we get there in one piece!!
This part of our trip is certainly not for any princesses, it time to take a “harden up pill” and get on with it because the rewards at the end of the journey are so worth it. Bring it on!!!
So on that note, I will sign off. Thank you Argentina for a fabulous time – Bolivia awaits!!!!
|Posted by Leticia Hughes on February 16, 2010 at 9:16 PM||comments ()|
After the surf, sun and vineyards of Vina del Mar, we ventured back to Santiago to prepare for our first big bus journey of 14 hours South to Puerto Montt. Initially I had planned to spend my days in the city constructively brushing up on my non-existent Spanish, however that sounded far too much like work, so we decided to leave the smog behind for a day and arranged a tour to Mount Aconcagua just over the boarder into Argentina.
The day involved a visit to an ancient Inca site and an easy 2 hour hike in the National Park. Mount Aconcagua is the highest mountain in North and South America and we were lucky enough to have the snow-capped peak in full view for most of the circuit.
After the hike, we crossed the boarder back into Chile and enjoyed the spectacular views of Lake Inca, which has been saturated with glacial blue water. Sipping on pisco sours, we took in the surroundings from the deck of the ski resort overlooking the lake and vowed to return one day for a ski holiday (mental note must learn to ski first!).
The next stage of our Chile adventure was the bus trip to Puerto Montt… oh how I love long bus rides (yeah right). Mazza did a great job speaking Spanish to the ticket agent and we were relieved to see that we were headed to the correct destination on the right day. Thinking we were on to it, we also booked seats at the back of the bus on the top deck. There was no way we wanted to be beside a toilet for 14 hours.
The evening we boarded the bus and found our seats, you can imagine our delight when we discovered we were right next to the stinking bloody toilets!! But it got better... at first we thought the bus was only half full but then it stopped at another depot and filled up to the brim and we were the lucky passengers who got small children in seats front and behind. Oh yippee screaming rug rats and a smelly toilet!!! After 14 long hours we made it to Puerto Montt and I was astounded I actually managed to get some sleep. While the toilet did get a little whiffy the children were so well behaved. The gorgeous little Chilean girl behind us, who would have been no more than 18 months old, actually sleep and sat on her mum for 14 hours without hardly making a sound. I could have kissed her cubby little cheeks for not screaming the bus down all night.
In Puerto Montt we decided to get out of the city and headed for a small backpackers called Hostal Mozart on the coast. When we arrived we could not believe our luck… Our room was spotless and the Austrian host Helmet was just delightful. In the morning while eating our breakfast, a pod of dolphins swam past. Yes it is a hard life… Catching the very small local buses to and from Hostal Mozart also gave us a glimpse of the real Chile – the smelly fisherman sitting on his box at the back of the bus, the old boy with this freshly shorn sheep wool stuffed into a sack, the eyes of curious children and the kind smile from the little old lady sitting up the front.
In Puerto Montt we boarded the Navimag ferry, which would take us 2500km South to Puerto Natales. The 4 day journey was a great way to travel as we saw some beautiful landscape and met so many other interesting travelers. While on the ferry we were lucky enough to stop at Puerto Eden where we walked through an isolated village. These people rely on fishing and the Navimag ferry to survive. I so wanted to buy all their goods they had for sale, which ranged from tasty lemon meringue pies to mini seal skin boats. Instead I just took loads of photos and was surprised some of the women and children were happy to oblige in their picture being taken without payment.
The Navimag ferry also took us within 1km of the largest glacier outside of the Artic and Antarctica. The Xio IV Glacier is 5km wide and the blue, compacted ice looked so vibrant against the grey, stormy skies. The ship actually collected a small iceberg and this is what we enjoyed in our drinks while on board.
We were thrilled to finally make it to Puerto Natales, Patagonia!! We wasted no time in organising the camping gear we would need for our trek in the Torres del Paine National Park.
On the afternoon we arrived in the park, the wind was howling 80kph and gusting to well over 100kph. It was also so cold it was actually snowing – yes apparently this far south it actually snows in summer. Thankfully we had brought some warm and wet weather gear. The only downside of this, is that our packs weighed at least 18kg with camping gear and food for 5 days.
Rather than head up the mountain that afternoon in the snow, we opted to make camp. So many tourists were headed up in the mountain in treacherous conditions and we couldn’t understand the attraction of getting blown off the mountain. That night in our extremely small tent, with the wind sounding more like a jet plane, I wondered if we were completely insane?!?! We were about to walk 46km unguided and without help to carry all our gear.
The next day the weather thankfully cleared and despite feeling like crap from lack of sleep and having a cold, I got my butt up the first major part of our trek to the infamous Torres del Paine towers. The walk through forest and rugged rocky landscape was fantastic and the views of lakes and mountains was just breath taking. That day we ascended over 1.2km – ouch!!!
On day 3 we set off for the middle campsite. At first my pack felt OK, but after two hours my shoulders ached, my knees were buckling, my hips cracking and generally I was in pain!!! Torres del PAINe alright!!! After 7 very long hours trudging up and down hills we finally made it to camp. It hurt everywhere and damn the can of beer we purchased for NZ$5 tasted so good. That night we crashed early and thankfully we survived the onslaught of mice in the middle of the night. Some campers ended up with massive holes in their tents where mice had bitten through everything to get to food. One girl woke with a mouse in her hair – nice!!
The next day I felt wonderful after a good nights sleep. We set off with zest in our step feeling stronger and fitter already. We walked for 2 hours and then left our packs at a campsite as we ascended another huge hill, which gave us 360 degree views of the parks mountains, lakes and glaciers.
That afternoon we decided to push on through to the last campsite and after 9 hours of walking we finally made it. Blistered and somewhat broken, we pitched our tent and headed for the bar!!! While this trek was short, it was not easy. I now have so much appreciation for the porters that supported us in the Himalayas.
We have spent the last two days recovering in Puerto Natales – sleeping and showering!!! Today we are catching a bus to Argentina, the home of great steak, huge lakes, Iguazu Falls and the tango!!!
Chile has been an amazing experience and we feel that we have achieved and seen so much in the first month of our South American journey. Patagonia has by far been the highlight for us so far and capturing the beauty of this region has been difficult because the pictures we take simply just don’t do it justice.
Today as I tap away in E-Living, the vegetarian café we discovered, I feel so content and fulfilled.
Bring on Argentina!!!!!!!!
|Posted by Leticia Hughes on January 26, 2010 at 10:09 PM||comments ()|
1 pisco sour, a few beers and some tinto vino, I am picking my first blog of our 2010 adventure should flow pretty well!!!
NB: For those not up with the play, boy wonder Mazza and I are traveling again (we ended up spending all of 2009 working our butts off). This time we have 10 months to explore South / Central America (getting married to the Caribbean), UK, Turkey, Egypt and India. Ding ding!! WIll be a trip of a lifetime - again.
Today was one of those days where I actually needed to pinch myself… The sun is shining and it’s a warm 27’C with a cool sea breeze. Mazza and I are wandering the crowded and somewhat quaint streets of Vina del Mar in Chile and we discover a local Latin band playing in Plaza Vergara. We stop and sit on the grass with the locals and enjoy some of the most captivating and magic live music I have ever heard. The panpipes are fabulous, the guitarists are awesome (not to mention pretty damn cute) and it is at this point that I have a moment of “this is what travel is all about”!!!
We started our Sth American adventure 5 days ago in Santiago where the heat is not dissimilar to the arid heat of Western Australia. On our first evening it does not take us long to sniff out the local street restaurant, which serves very large pitchers of Chilean beer and snacks. We enjoy the cerveza and attempt to order from the Spanish menu – we end up with queso (cheese) covered pizza and a friggin hot dog. Good one gringo (tourist)!!! After devouring our nutrious meal, we stumble back to our hostel and fall into bed exhausted.
We spend the next 2 days exploring Santiago and only discover its enormity after climbing a hill!! With a population of 7 million spanning over 15km2, it makes this condensed city somewhat smoggy – am I in China again?? Despite the air pollution, I am however captivated by the relaxed Chilean atmosphere and the contrast of old versus new in all the buildings. I am also surprised that no one is hassling us to buy things, even in the tourist markets.
After Santiago we head for bohemian Valparaiso. First impressions were not good as we landed in gang land (oops we should have read the lonely planet a little more closely). Thankfully we arrived in the morning and while we were greeted by the smell of urine and vomit, we were thankful that most of the derelicts were still pissed / passed out from their Saturday night antics. I thought I looked understated in my nike shorts, adidas t-shirt and brookes trainers (yeah right) however to the locals, I looked like a walking ATM.
Head down, I hauled my broken arse up some very steep hills that make Dunedin and San Francisco seem flat, to locate the hostel we booked online. Time for another “oh dear” moment – we got this wrong. The hostel we booked can only be described as ferrell, so needless to say we found another place to stay in the historical, safe part of town. Our new hostel turned out to be more of a home stay with a lovely old Chilean couple that made us feel like royalty.
Our only hassle in Valparaiso was when we got locked on the bloody roof of our 4 storey hostel by a couple of locals who obviously thought it was a great joke. Little did they know that they were contending with a tired, hungry, premenstrual and jet lagged Leticia!!! After banging on the window and door for half an hour, we were rescued by a lovely American couple. No not funny. OK just a little funny in hindsight.
I won’t go into too much detail (don’t want to freak mum out!!) but we eventually got the courage to explore Valparaiso. It does not take long to figure out where gringos are not wanted.
My biggest learning’s over the last week…
We are constantly blown away by locals stopping us for a chat… some speak English but most of the time I find myself nodding and saying si (yes) as they rattle off in Spanish!! Hopefully I can partake in more meaningful conversation during our five months in Central and South America!!!
We are now spending the next four nights in Vina del Mar and plan to explore the coast. But for now, it is time for bed – buenas noches!!!
PS: I am now known as Lee – teeee – seeee – ahhhhh. I love having a Spanish name in South America : ))