A Travellerspoint blog

Santa Marta

sunny 40 °C

Well here we are stuck in the middle of a traffic jam in Barranquilla, Colombia caused by what appears to be a flash flood. The chorus of car,van,bus and truck horns coupled with what I’m sure is a donkey ee-haw is hilarious. What I have found odd about this part of Colombia is the mad dash of commuters who feel the need to race everywhere and blast there horns when it is clear they really don’t have anywhere to go. At the moment our bus driver will not budge an inch to allow another car into our traffic jam even though we have not moved more than twenty meters in the last hour. It must go against his Colombian manliness to give in. Two hours later……….P1050914

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We’re finally back on the road and moving at breakneck speed to make our destination. Manuel is doing his best imitation of Montoya and only using the road rules as a general guide but nothing to be really adhered to. Double lines are an opportunity for him to test his skills against oncoming traffic with a bit of daring since most of his passing manoeuvres seem to be on hills going around blind corners.
We have just spent a couple of days right up on the coast in a town called Santa Marta. From there we went to the Tayrona National Park for some fishing and snorkelling. P1020055

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I managed to disgrace the team again by not only getting sick in the boat but continuing to throw my heart up while snorkelling. It was a nice day, the boys caught some fish and we ate it at a little hut while swinging in hammocks. P1020088

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The boat skipper was a great bloke and took us to heaps of snorkelling places and a few cliff jumping sites. P1020106

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We have made it back in to Cartagena and are once again holed up in the Chilli house. It’s got a nice atmosphere in the place but unfortunately not much else. We have our own room and ensuite but no aircon. The staff are really friendly but its the kind of place that Patti and I feel like house parents. Not normally our kind of place but it looked great on the net. Heading back to Bogota tomorrow and then down through the coffee district for a few days trekking and then down to Quito, Equador. Andiamo P1020092.jpg[P1020077.jpg

Posted by mike1967 12:21 Archived in Colombia Comments (0)

Bogota, Colombia

semi-overcast 16 °C

We have finally made into South America and probably to the most challenging part of our tour. We don’t speak the language and it seems already that the barriers will be a little tougher than what we are used to. The accommodations are a little rougher but then the adventure value is higher. We have decided to place ourselves with most independent travellers and seek the places where there is a little more excitement. Arriving in Bogota, Colombia we didn’t really know what to expect although having already travelled through some third world countries we had a fair idea. True to form there was the usual noise and chaos at the airport and then the taxi ride from hell dodging everything from horse and carts to trucks, motorbikes and anything else that moves. It seems we hardly blink an eye now and I think I actually caught a few winks. We decided to stay in Colombia’s La Candaleria didtrict. ]P1010950

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Once known for a hotbed of violence and corruption the area has been kind of gentrified with most of the cities art galleries, parliament and universities in or close to this area. There are stacks of hostels and restaurants around the area and it seems like a police officer or two on every corner. Because of all the students there is a lot of art both on and off the streets giving the place a real edgy feel although it is the oldest part of the city dating back to the 1500’s. We have had our own rooms for a few days in Alegria’s hostel. Nice place but a front door hinge that just doesn’t squeak when opened it yells and screams with protest every time someone even looks at it. Patti and I must have been woken a dozen times by this door that seemed to have a foovoozela attached to it. Of couse once again the boys got the better end of the deal and slept like babies. Apart from that it was a great place, met some really cool travellers and got some great tips. Its like swings and roundabouts in hostels, sometimes not as comfortable as a hotel but meeting people in a kitchen or around the fire watching a rugby game can help make travelling sometimes not so much as a drag. The boys hired a few bikes and we toured the city with our trusty guide Manuel ( probably not his real name). he took us everywhere around the city through some pretty hair raising traffic( taxi’s were against us this time) and we managed to get a good look around. 4P1010976.jpgThe boys seemed to like a lot of the graffiti art work which is all about politics and freedom. A lot of Banksy inspired stuff so I’m told.
We managed to see most of Bogota’s attractions, a few galleries and made it to Monseratte via a funicular ride up and a cable car down. 1P1010971.jpgP1010977

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Bogota seems to go on forever and although the city was interesting I was glad to board the plane to Cartagena. Andiamo

Posted by mike1967 19:20 Archived in Colombia Comments (0)

Getting to Colombia

semi-overcast 15 °C

The glamorous life of travelling to exotic locations and appearing to lead a problem free life where all photos feature happy smiling faces where we all look like responsible world citizens can be in some parts appearances only. I thought I would reflect on the time so far travelling as a family with two still growing and maturing teenage boys who for the most part have remained true to their generation. I would love to say that they have matured into self reliant young ambassadors of our great nation and have finally left behind the need to pull funny faces at the most inappropriate times or feel the need to share all of their bodily functions with the rest of us, but somehow I feel with three months to go things aren’t going to change. Despite the family conferences and emergency meetings about letting one go in the camper and worse not owning up to it, the threats of expulsion, economic sanctions or facebook removal have all been in vain. They still laugh at farts, they still won’t own up to it and the only way to seemingly win is to fight fire with fire, much to Patti’s disgust. Don’t get me wrong, they do have some redeeming character traits but they are slow to reveal themselves and only if we beg. I couldn’t count the amount of groin shots those boys have taken from each other but it’s not uncommon to walk into the room to find one of them nursing “his boys” and the other laughing his head off. I think they have only had one serious dust-up while we have been away and that was early in the trip when we were still getting used to travelling. Patti and I were out and thankfully they sorted it out themselves. I think it was over a bed. Both were laughing so it was more a tension breaker.
There are days when we can all take our turn at being homesick or just plain snarly and unco-operative. Thankfully those days are fairly rare and that kind of behaviour is largely ignored anyway. Brenton had the shits for eight hours while we were on a boat going to El Nido before he finally forgave us just to find out none of us had a clue. Apparently someone didn’t get him a sandwich. He said he wasted all that crankiness for nothing. Matt and Pat usually have their tantrums over food. Both share high metabolism and when the sugar is low, that’s normally when the fight starts. I usually reserve mine for when nobody does what he or she is told, which is a daily occurrence. I know they are winding me up but they don’t understand the pressure of being the captain, it’s lonely at the top. Thankfully we are carrying digital cameras, I don’t know how many times I’ve made them “take that stupid look off their faces so I can take a decent photo” There have been a lot of re-takes.

The logistics of travelling this long with only a backpack has some challenges but mostly it’s been fairly easy. We get new clothes when we are sick of the old ones or somebody is sick of seeing you in them. All the things you think you will need can be easily bought in any country so the need to take twelve months supply of anything is unnecessary. If we hadn’t been travelling to countries with extreme weather you could easily get away with a backpack not much bigger than a shopping bag. It can be a pain living out of a bag and always kind of looking different to the locals but that’s what its all about. Having a computer with us has been fantastic for organising flights and everything else in our lives. This kind of trip wouldn’t be impossible without one but the convenience can’t be measured. Still having a lifeline to home through e-mail and skype has definitely made this trip easier for us and family. The last time Patti and I travelled like this the phone calls were monthly and the flexibility of plans just wasn’t there. Being able to check our banking online will hopefully stop us running out of money in a Las Vegas Casino like last time. If you gave it all up and just led the vagabond life things may be a little more exciting but turning up somewhere and having no idea where you’re going to sleep is not fun anymore.
Language barriers have been easy to deal with, mostly anything with a serious side such as banking, airlines or hotels and hostels have trained staff who can speak English. All the other stuff like food and drink is an adventure. Sometimes we get what we think we ordered, other times it’s a lucky dip. Don’t think we’ve had sheep’s testicles yet but to be honest if I learnt later that I had, I wouldn’t be surprised. We’ve been lucky enough to sample some great food and some horrible food but all in all, we’re still alive. At the moment we are in Colombia where English is not widely spoken and Spanish is the language. Thankfully the people are friendly so with a bit of pointing and patience we can generally get by. The everyday needs that we have are the same as anyone else so finding a supermarket or catching a bus or train are fairly mundane normal easy things to do. If you can manage a ride on the Beijing subway everything else seems a piece of cake.
We are back to harder travelling now where we have to be a bit more vigilant about where we go. Unfortunately the best travel experience also brings more risk and currently we are in Bogota, Colombia. We are staying in the La Candaleria district, which is old and a bit gritty with a really dodgy reputation, but this is where the experience is. It’s got the best places to eat and anything to see is here. It’s completely safe walking around during the day and getting around by taxi at night so that’s what we do. No heroics, just common sense. Often these places we visit are not the prettiest and can be a bit confronting but we feel we are really travelling and not just tourist getting the best bits or a watered down version of a country. We have been extremely lucky to see some amazingly beautiful places and most places on our list usually fall into that category but we want to see the warts and all getting to and from these places. That’s the best part of having time to travel and not having to rush. Andiamo.

Posted by mike1967 16:20 Archived in Colombia Comments (0)

South Beach, Miami

Tattoos to Transvestites and everything in between.

sunny 37 °C

One of the nicest things about having lots of time to travel is that your first impressions of a place can be replaced over time as you slip into the vibe and get used to the people and the pace of life. My first impression of South Beach, Miami was one of slight dread as the street scene was pretty seedy. It is obvious that South Beach is a party town and with that comes all the flotsam of life such as the usual drugs, alcohol and prostitution. P1050793.jpg The USA has always been a place that for me represents such massive differences in wealth and class, but normally they are clearly segregated. In most cities there are definite lines between a nice part of town and the ghettos and a traveller could quite easily pass through the USA without seeing any real rough neighbourhoods, however this is where South Beach seems to be different. P1050824

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The lines seem to blur and although luxury cars and beautiful people with super yachts and ridiculously big houses seem to be everywhere there also is the very poor that seem to be all a part of this crazy place. The restaurants and bars pump out house music from 11am and feature anything from dancing barmaids on bars to full drag queen shows ( Pricilla Style) up and down the footpath. The bars only seem to be outnumbered by the tattoo parlours. P1050794

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If you want ink, South Beach is the place for you. Although we had no trouble wandering the restaurant strip the place definitely has a dangerous edge. Being offered anything on the street is fairly common for the boys now and believe it or not they reckon the dealers are always polite…. Nice guys? The architecture is what South Beach is known for and for a couple of old antiques like Pat and I it was really well worth seeing. The style is Art Deco with a lot of curves and steel, marble and neon. P1050823

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The buildings are mostly preserved and are the restaurants,hotels and bars . After a while we settled into the swing of things and moved through the neighbourhood a little more and started to find the little places that can make a stay nice. We just about had a standing order with Tony the Italian for pizza and Pasta. I felt like a local when he started shaking my hand when I’d enter the shop. Although we kind of got used to the place we wanted out of there, it was like Surfers Paradise on steroids. We hired a car for the next leg and headed four hours up the coast to Cocoa Beach.
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We were desperate to have some space and some home cooked food. We rented a unit right on the beach and headed straight for the first supermarket we could find. First night massive steaks and veg. Cocoa Beach was more what we were used to, a bit like a coastal town at home. We spent the week beachcombing and doing a bit of surfing and eating really well.
The last port of call for us was Ft. Lauderdale. It is a nice spot to spend another few days on the beach and ogle at the super yachts. Although there seems to be as much affluence here as in Miami, the lines are less blurred. The drug dealers wear suits. We were lucky to get a great deal in a nice hotel right on the beach with a great view. P1050854

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Finally we are ready to move on and a flight to Colombia is next on the agenda. Our time in the US was ok but really lacked the stimulation that we had been used to up to that point. We are all really excited about South America and everything it has to offer. Andiamo

Posted by mike1967 17:58 Archived in USA Comments (1)

New York, New York

sunny 30 °C

Well we wanted the big city experience so the biggest and the best of them is considered New York. P1050736

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A bit of luxury was also on hand as we had twelve days booked at the Marriot Times Square. It was as usual just one room so not a lot of privacy but the bed and pillows were very nice. Originally we had a month booked in an apartment in Brooklyn but cancelled so we could be a bit closer to Manhattan and closer to my fellow competitors and team mates for the world Police and Fire games.P1050573

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I managed to get a jersey for the dodgeball team, a sport that required absolutely no training, fitness or real knowledge of the game. Unfortunately all of my other team-mates had the same assumption and we were hammered a few times by the win at all costs American teams even if it meant cheating. We managed to have a great time, won a few games and stirred up the locals. Both Brenton and Matt even managed to get a run on one of the other Aussie teams who were short players until the Americans put in a protest. P1050575

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The city is what we expected, just a mass of traffic, noise, people, and lights.P1050692

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All pretty exciting but can wear you down with the constant stimulation. The park is one of the saving Grace of this city. Central park has to be one of the greatest city parks in the world.P1050700

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Smack bang in the middle of all the mahem is this massive space where it seems that all New Yorkers come to run or play baseball or like us have a picnic and a water fight. I managed a torturous run around the park but was very unspectacular with my times.

We managed a few tourist sites while we were in the city and managed to do a bit of shopping. The view from the Empire State building is spectacular. It just demonstrates how big this city is and how small our little city of Brissy is. P1050656

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I couldn't go to New York without seeing the World Trade Centre site. It was still a building site when we visited but we could see the new building going up and we payed a visit to the fire station that was destroyed in the attack on the trade towers. Heaps more seen and done but all just big city stuff so not very interesting. Counting down to Colombia. Andiamo

Posted by mike1967 07:17 Archived in USA Comments (0)

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