KODAK PAGES 1-10
WHERE THE HELL IS KODAK
Okay first up who the hell is Kodak.
When I decided back in 2007 that I wanted to travel the world and just before leaving New Zealand in January 2008 my granddaughter came out with her troll doll and gave him to me saying that Kodak wanted to travel the world with me. I had given him to her for Christmas in 2007 and she is the one who named him. Don’t ask me where the name came from but I actually think its unique and many of my friends ask me where he is and having to say that Kodak got left in NZ in March 2009 has not impressed them at all. He has stood on beer bottles and been to the Galapagos Islands and had his moment of glory up on the big screen one night on the ship. Everywhere I went for a year, he went.
We started off in Argentina in January 2008 arriving in Buenos Aires from a 12hr flight from Auckland. Why did I start here? Well for one I had to start somewhere and as I hate the cold and figured I would follow the summer up to the northern hemisphere. Buenos Aires to me was rather dirty and smelly and the pollution gave me a sore throat within 24hrs of getting there. I stayed for just over a week in the city that they call the Paris of the south. Yea right!! NOT. If you didn’t line up to get money from the ATM by 9am then you where generally out of luck for the day. The machines would run out of cash by 11am and the line by this time was way off around the corner. My travellers’ cheques came in handy.
I decided that getting out of BA was a good idea and a small place like La Cumbre was just what I needed. I had been in BA for over a week now so had seen what I had wanted to. The overnight bus to Cordoba was pure luxury. Wide leather seat, a hot dinner and all the alcohol you could drink. Movies included and then breakfast the next morning before we got into Cordoba. I had a 4hr wait for my connecting bus so put my head in my phase book and tried to get a handle on a few more Spanish words. Hasn’t worked to well as I can still only speak enough words to get by.
So this next leg of the trip is going okay, usual thing, everyone is looking at the only tourist on the coach until it stops in the middle of nowhere and these two things hop on board. Now I call them ‘things’ as I am not sure what to refer to them as. Transsexuals, persons who have a sex change, I don’t know. Both where over 6ft tall and both had had a boob job done. Now this was very obvious from the very skimpy tops they had on but then one of them spook. Hell that made everyone in the bus look even more. Oh yes, one is sitting right next to me and they reck of alcohol but when the one sitting by me spook well it had the deepest voice I have ever heard. Now my son has a deep voice but I’m sitting there thinking he had it all over me son with this voice, then I’m thinking what’s happened. I thought before they had boob operations and started the sex change procedure that the drugs softened their voices. Now maybe I got it wrong and you guessed it, the other one replied and his/her voice was deep also. One little girl sitting in front of me is hanging over the back of the seat just staring at these two in amazement and several others on the bus are trying not to laugh. But before too long they go to sleep. Now normally I would not look, stare or otherwise but curiosity is killing me so I’m sitting there trying to get a better look at this one’s boobs. Now I definitely come to the conclusion that its had a boob job done, so I then figure that they must be now off drugs which is why the voice is so deep and the other thing I notice is they still have dark facial hair coming through their make-up which you can imagine how thick that was. It turns out that in 20months of travelling this is one of the most memorable bus rides of my life.
There have been other laughable bus moments but this was number one and I can still remember it like it was yesterday. The whole time I was dying to take a photo but didn’t dare. I also had to laugh in December 2008 when I returned for Christmas to NZ. On telling everyone about this my granddaughter pipes up and asks ‘What did Kodak do?’. Lucky for him he was in the bag out of sight. I had all these crazy thoughts running through me head on what might had happened had he been sitting in my lap which I have done on occasion and found it to be great way to get conversations going. In the following weeks and months I will be adding to my page and tell of my travels from Argentina, round the world and back to South America and yes back around the world again. Keep reading………
- Hi I’m KODAK!
La Cumbre is a nice small town more or less bang smack in the middle of Argentina. After our memorable bus ride Kodak and I settle into a nice hostel that has a pool. On my arrival at this HI Hostel the owner tells me that I am the first New Zealander to ever stay here and he has owned the hostel 18yrs. Yep I’m famous in La Cumbre! and I got treated like the queen for the whole of my stay. After dropping off my backpack I promptly go for a walk to the local supermarket. I have tattoos on my arms, one of which is a silver fern and the words ALL BLACKS. For those of you who don’t know the All Blacks are the New Zealand National Rugby team and in 2011 the Rugby World Cup is to be held in New Zealand. This tattoo has proved to be useful at times like when I went to a restaurant in Buenos Aires. The waiter loved the All Blacks and the service was fantastic all night. At this hostel was a young gentleman from Rosario and he rattled off a heap off All Black names and from then on he stuck to me every chance he got to find out whatever he didn’t know about them. Everyone else just looked at us like we were crazy as we spent hours talking about rugby and rugby players.
I had intended to do sky-diving while I was here but for two days in a row I was told it was too windy. At the hostel is a gentleman from Germany who is going horse riding in the Sierras and another guy from Canada who wants to go to. This is also another reason I had headed to La Cumbre. We get picked up and head off for our horse ride. The vehicle is about 20yrs old and falling to pieces but gets us to our start point which is up one of the roughest dirt roads I have ever been on. I was brought up on a hill country farm in New Zealand but this road beat all of them. Our horses are saddled up for us and we get on and off we go. Well the guide has given me the laziest bitch horse you could ever find. I spent the whole 2hrs kicking the shit out of this nag and trying to get it to gallop was near impossible. Getting up into the Sierras was great and the view was something else. It’s all flat for as far as the eye could see.
Two days later I’m lying in bed in agony. Was it from the horse ride? NO, I have caught my first virus on my world wide trip. Great. Christian, the hostel owner, calls the doctor. It doesn’t cost me anything and I was given some damn good medication. I don’t know what it was but it worked. Meanwhile all this time Kodak doesn’t get to see the light of day. Another two days there and I decide to leave and head to Iguassu Falls. The rest of Argentina will have to wait for another year or two. As I’m leaving the hostel a young guy is arriving and tells me that in his hostel in Mendoza 15 people come down with the same virus I had. We assume it’s the same as the symptoms are the same. As I’m getting on the bus I’m hoping that the rest of those left in the hostel don’t come down with what I had. I haven’t to date caught anything like it again and don’t ever want to.
The bus back to Cordoba is uneventful unlike the trip there and this time I get to see more of the countryside as I don’t have other things to distract me. There are some beautiful lakes north of Cordoba and many Argentineans spend their holidays up this way including La Cumbre. In fact on walking around the town I was to see many million dollar homes. The very centre of the town doesn’t give any indication to what is just out of sight. It’s an amazing little town and I’m glad I went there. Did Kodak enjoy it? I think so – well he never moaned so I take that as a yes. Being way out here and travelling by bus gives you the chance to see just what is what.
Argentina is 3rd world. Many people don’t believe me but on asking why their vehicles are so old, why children are in very old worn clothes and why lots of people don’t have footwear I was filled in on how when the President of Argentina stole nearly all the money from the country way back in 2002, the world bank wouldn’t loan them any money as they already owed so much. In order to keep the country afloat the in-coming President froze everyone’s bank saving accounts and used this to keep the country going. In Buenos Aires there is a shortage of coins and the infrastructure of the city has all but collapsed. In all my time in BA I only saw 4 new cars. Don’t get me wrong, there are still people with money but they are heavily outnumbered by those who don’t. Argentina is worth visiting and like all the countries of South America the services in place to cater to tourist are great and work well.
I have no complaints bar one. I won’t ever fly their national airline again! Sad but true and I don’t see the point in not being truthful. Besides just because I didn’t like something doesn’t mean everyone else will feel the same. Get out there and experience it for yourself.
Kodak and I had a good trip from Cordoba to Iguassu Falls. The plains of Argentina in the very middle of the country just go on forever. Thousands of acres and sparsely grazed with cattle. Argentina steaks are something else though. How did they get so good at raising cattle? Don’t know, haven’t found the answer to that one yet but they do it well. Iguassu Falls is a hot humid town surrounded by bush with one of the biggest attractions in the world. Iguassu falls are huge and Kodak and I did them over two days because of the heat. The second day I went for some reason the butterflies were attracted to my suntan lotion. People from all over the world now have photos of my arms with butterflies on them. Of course I only managed to get 2 for myself.
At my hostel I met three neat ladies. One American and two Welsh girls. Well these two welsh girls where my amusement for my stay here. One evening they proceed to tell Amy and me about the two others staying in their dorm room. The male is sleeping above Charlie and the female is sleeping in the bunk below Jo. In the wee hours of the morning the male decides he wants sex and gets down and starts getting what he wants from his girl. After 20minutes or so it’s all over and everyone goes back to sleep. Then some time later he wakes and decides he must have it again. After finishing this time he climbs back into his own bed and everyone gets back to sleep. Of course we are all in fits of laughter with the way that they are telling this story. But what really got me was why they put up with it. Me, I would get my camera out and take a photo and threaten to put it on YouTube. What’s wrong with people? Get a room for two. Hostels do have them you know! Lucky for me no one has done this in my dorm room because if they do they are in for a shock. I personally think it’s disgusting to be doing it in a room where other people are sleeping. That’s not what I pay for, a sex show in the middle of the night. This is not the worse ‘sex in dorm story’ I have come across. This one is mild compared to one other I heard.
Back to Iguassu. In this little town is the only true Foreign Exchange that I have come across anywhere in the world. I’m one of these people that loves looking at money. This exchange has a huge counter that goes in a L shape. Underneath a thick glass top is currency from every country. They have both coins and notes. It was not hard to spend an hour here which is what Amy and I did, just looking. It’s fascinating to me. I now have for myself currency from about 19 countries. People are always asking to see it when I get talking about it. In 2008 when in Spain doing a volunteer week teaching English I was to met Jose. He is the man who organises the distribution to all points of the globe of the plastic like paper that many countries get their money printed on. Now you can imagine how I picked his brain when I found that out. Hey everyone has something that they like and interests them, mine happens to be money. Healthy interest – some would say no. Kodak liked Iguassu and spent one hot afternoon watching people swim in the pool and standing on beer bottles. He loved the fact that he had become a talking point and that people liked to take his photo.
After a week here I decide it’s time to jump the border and go to Brazil. Our first stop is directly over the border in Foz Iguassu and to get there you just catch a bus from Puerto Iguassu. (The town that services Iguassu Falls in actually called Puerto Iguassu) It’s only a 5minute bus ride and then another 5 once you get through immigration. Easy as. Brazil, yes I’m now in Brazil. Foz Iguassu is almost a city I think. It is a large place and when crossing the border I see signs that Malaria is about so take precautions. By now I am already taking me anti-malaria pills as there were signs at Iguassu Falls. It’s hot humid and at times really uncomfortable. I keep thinking that if I had invested in water bottling factories shares years ago today I would be making a killing. In all of South and Central America you can’t drink the water and it is so hot in some places that I end up drinking 6-8litres a day. Somebody’s getting rich out of this! Travelling makes you grow up. It gives you the time to appreciate what you have and time to think about the most stupid things sometimes. I wish everyone could travel the world and would so love to take my kids to every place I have been. No matter Kodak is getting to see it all.
Our next hostel which is an HI HOSTEL has a swimming pool which is great as the temperature is way up there. This is where I was to have my first encounter with a horny Brazilian trying to get into my pants. Didn’t take me long to catch the words ‘cama’ and ‘sexo’. Needless to say I ran a mile. Trying to convince the guy that I was married (which I’m not) wasn’t easy and the language barrier was making things even harder as the one-sided conversation went on but those two words coming out of his mouth left no doubt as to what he wanted but the thing that really got me was after all this he turns around and says in perfect English ‘well you’re not married in Brazil are you’. Bloody cheek!
Kodak and I headed to Itaipu Dam the next day. Yes there is a hydro-electric power station which borders Brazil and Paraguay. Until the 3 gorges were built it was the biggest in the world. We get to see a video first then hop on a bus and head about 1km up the road. The video has some astounding statistics like the fact that once the base to the dam had been done there were over 40.000 men working 24/7 for three months to get the rest of it finished. That’s a lot of people to keep organised all the time. But to come around the corner and actually see it takes your breath away. Holly cow, it’s so huge. The spillways are so massive and there are 3 of them. Oh what a sight to see. I brought some postcards that show the water coming down all the spillways and hitting the bottom then the water shooting up into the air to a height which has to be well over 70mtrs high. I still remember it like it was yesterday. I must say that to date it is the most impressive of modern day wonders that I have seen. If you get up this way don’t miss it out. Alot of people do as they don’t even know it’s there.
A special thanks to Jess from London whom I went with. She could talk Spanish fluently and obviously being on the border of Argentina the Brazilians here could understand Spanish so get to and from Itaipu was easy. I was so meet a really cool Canadian guy from Kelowna at this hostel just I had done in Buenos Aires. Darren invited me to stay with him in Kelowna if I was to pass through. That invitation was taken up months later. I spent one night outside watching 3 Brazilian guys getting these 2 Japanese girls drunk playing a drinking game. Of course the Japanese girls got toasted as they didn’t know the game and always stuffed up. But to their credit they were up early the next morning and looked good. One of the Brazilian guys went and brought a heap of steaks and a few of us where invited to his bbq. Now everyone goes on how the Argentinean steaks are the best in the world but I must say that the Brazilians can do just as well as them. Another day included doing the Brazilian side of Iguassu Falls. It’s not nearly as good from the Brazil side as you can’t go right down to the bottom, swim or go for a boat trip, but they do have the dam which makes up for it.
While at the hostel in Foz Iguassu I also met a young Australian girl who was tripping about in Brazil and here next port of call was to be Florianopolis. As I was heading in the same direction we decided to travel together to here. Our bus ride overnight was uncomfortable and long. As with everywhere else in the world there is no smoking on buses but that, it would seem, did not apply to the bus driver. He would happily drive along smoking and in the meantime all the smoke was going through the air-conditioning and everyone of the passengers had to just put up with it. Then for no reason at all we would stop in the middle of nowhere for 10-15 minutes and then off we would go again. Of course everytime the bus stopped myself and several others would automatically wake up. I think in the end i got 3hrs sleep. Florianopolis couldn’t come soon enough.
After arriving at the main bus station it was a walk of about 50mtrs to the local bus station and with the help of a local who spoke some English we worked out what bus to get and how to get our tickets. That was when the realisation of the next problem came upon us. The buses in Brazil have a turn-style in them and they are narrow!! There is no way at all you can get through them with your backpack on so off they come and you throw them over then get yourself through. By this time the bus is moving and keeping your balance becomes your priority so as not to look like an idiot sitting on your butt in a crowded local Brazilian bus and do you think that any of the young fit men will give you a hand. NO WAY!! I’m sure they revel in the delight at watching foreigners look like dicks. I was ever so glad that we only had one bus change along the way. Meanwhile I’m thinking ‘shit I have Rio to go yet’!
Our destination spot called Barra de Lagoa is beautiful. Right on the sea with a lovely white sand beach and in a small town where most of the locals say hello as you walk past them. You can learn to surf here and there where loads of Auzzies in the hostel that where there for that specific reason. At night on the beach hostellers and locals would get together and light a bonfire and talk and laugh.
Up the hill behind where my hostel was is a hill with an old lighthouse so one morning I decide to go for a wander up there. On the way you get to meet some of the local cattle that are grazing this hill. Well they’re not courteous either. Oh no its get out of the way or I will chase you. Having been raised on a farm I knew the best thing to do was step out of their way and keep still. I had to laugh though at the number of people I saw being chased in the following days as around the hill was a very nice and popular swimming hole. Anyway I get myself to the top of the hill and have a great view of the beach, town and surrounding area. I just sat for awhile contemplating my luck and privilege at being able to visit this place and all the other spots I am to see on my travels. Kodak got to see this view to as I had him with me. I am also glad that no one else is up there while I carry on a conversation with a troll-doll. You could imagine how people would have interpreted that. A damn fool crazy foreigner comes to mind. So after a good ½ hr up here it’s time for breakfast so off we go. There is brush and grasses growing all over this hill so on my way down when this huge ugly motherf….r of a lizard shot out from under the brush and all but ran over my feet you can get a good idea of how I nearly sh.. myself then let off a string of bad language simply because of the immense fright I had. This lizard was a good 3ft long and reminded me of a komodo dragon. (I have only seen them on TV.) The old heart is doing fifty to the ton and the bottom of the hill looks a good place to be again. Think I’d rather be chased by a cow.
So anyway without having to worry about backpacks Kylie and I decide to head to another little settlement in the south of the island for a day trip. Next time I head to Florianopolis I will spend more time there but I had decided before leaving NZ that I wanted to be in Rio de Janiero for my birthday and that was only a few days away now. After checking out bus fares and flights we decide to fly onto Rio as it’s only a few dollars more. A Norwegian guy, Denny, Kylie and I then head into Lagoa to book a flight. All the little towns are just so nice on this island. Finding the travel office and getting all booked and paid for goes without any trouble and we are supposedly on a direct flight from here to Rio. I say supposedly because……….
The next morning Kylie and I are up at 5am and head off to the airport. We have no problems here getting our boarding passes and getting on the plane. Our tickets say Florianopolis to Rio de Janiero. So you can imagine at the look on our faces when not 10minutes into the flight the captain comes on and says in English ‘we will be arriving in Sao Paulo in 1hour’. We just looked at each other and the words that came out of my mouth went something like ‘oh f… we got on the wrong plane and how the hell did that happen’. Ok what is going to be our plan of action when we get to Sao Paulo? Both of us decide we’ll deal with that when we get there. Then when we are only 10minutes out from Sao Paulo the captain comes on again and announces that connecting flights to Rio need to go to such and such gate. The relieved looks we gave each other.
Off the plane and start heading to our gate only to find this isn’t quite as easy as we thought it was going to be. Lucky for us a Brazilian gentleman could see the confusion on our faces and helps us out. He spoke great English and as it turned out he worked for an oil company in Sydney Australia for 4 years. When we got to the next gate where we had to actually board the plane they had shut the doors and weren’t going to let us on. What, why? Well they had decided, despite showing our boarding passes, that everyone was on the plane that was going to Rio. The gentleman that was helping us out was talking as fast as he could and in rather a loud voice and when the crowd of us grew to about 12 they finally decided that maybe they had better let us on. So to finally being in Rio.
Catching a bus from the airport is no trouble as they are right out the terminal. If you tell them where you are staying they will drop you off as close to your accommodation as they can. I get to my hotel and find myself all alone. There is no one else staying here. I then come across the most cramped toilets I have ever seen. The showers weren’t much better. I promptly decide I am only staying here for the one night and head off in search of an internet cafe and book into a hostel. On returning to the hotel after a meal I get a phone call from my mum. Happy Birthday. I’ll take it even though it’s not my birthday until tomorrow. My phone says I can only make emergency calls. Just one of the many annoyances I was to come across on my travels.
Next morning I get up and head off to my hostel. Newton’s Rooftop is nice and when getting booked in Newton notices my birth date in my passport. Everyone in the lounge proceeds to sing happy birthday to me. I also book a trip up to the Christ Redeemer Statue for the afternoon.
After dropping off my bag I then head to the beach of Copacabana. It’s wide and long with beautiful white sand. I notice though that it is really steep. It drops off quick and in the following days I was to learn that lots of people drown here each year. I see a few of the young girls in their g-string bikinis but then come across a sight that no-one should have to endure. It’s a lady of about 75yrs old and she has obviously lost a lot of weight as there are folds of wrinkles everywhere. The worst thing though is she is in a g-string bikini. God give me a towel to cover this woman up. Thankfully Kodak is not there to see this. I can still see this in my mind’s eye as if it was yesterday. Yuck,yuck, yuck. I’m still cringing. On a more positive note there are some fascinating and huge sandcastles to look at. People spend hours making these elaborate sandcastles of all sorts of things. They charge you a few Real (currency of Brazil) to take a photo of them.
Anyway to my afternoon visit to the statue. I get picked up at the hostel by a van with people from all over the world and off we go. The view is amazing and the statue is huge. I take all the photos of the view and then turn to the statue to keep clicking away. After my first photo the camera stuffs up. It won’t work. Ok so is there someone up there trying to tell me something like curb your bad language? This, of course, just sets me off swearing at the camera. And no, it’s not my batteries. I’m thinking am I being punished in some way. All I’m wanting to do is see the world and let everyone know about things I have learnt and make it easier for others in the long run. You know, I will learn all the hard lessons and everyone can benefit from that. Well I then decide that it could be a lot worse, I could be lost. But come on it is my birthday!! All in all it was great to go there and that is what I had set myself for my birthday and who needs photos of the statue anyway. Damned annoyances.
That night I set off with a young Canadian guy to a local restaurant he has found where the food is ok and so is the price. The owner speaks English which is an added bonus. The hostel is good and that night there where many conversations with Italians, Australians, Canadians and others. Why I had booked into a hotel I don’t know as I like hostels better. You meet so many people from other countries and they are a beehive of information. And some hostels can be so much fun. The next morning I am woken up by the noise of people talking down in the street. What the heck is going on? I get up and look out the window to see Mum, Dad and the kids with their chilly bins and deck chairs heading to the beach. The street is full of people heading to the beach! It’s like a stampede. They aren’t mucking about either. It’s like the sun is going down in 1hr so let’s go. I’ve never seen anything like it. The things people do aye. I just chuckle to myself.
After breakfast I decide that spending the day on the beach is just what the doctor ordered and so that’s exactly what I did. I love beaches and the sun. What a way to spend the day. The following day is Sugar Loaf Mountain. I set off to see if I can work out the public bus system and manage to get myself to Sugar Loaf. I get my tickets for the cable car and in no time I’m at the top of Sugar Loaf. WOW! The view from up here is amazing to. Even though it’s not as high up as the Christ Redeemer it gives you a different views altogether. Down in the harbour you can see oil rig things pumping away. (They look like the ones on land in Texas) I didn’t even know that they had those in the harbour there. Little things like this fascinate me. After spending close to an hour here just looking out at it all and watching ships and aeroplanes come and go I stop in at the cafe and have a coffee before returning and catching the bus back to Copacabana.
A stroll along the beach to Ipanema is my next mission. (God please hide the old g-string lady.) Ipanema is pretty much the same as Copacabana and where the 2 beaches meet is the best place to swim. It doesn’t drop off as steeply but you have to fight for a spot to swim. Every man and his dog is here. On my way back I see this huge stage being erected. When I ask what this is all about I find out there is a free concert on the beach the following night by one of Brazil’s up and coming pop stars. Ok so that gives me something for tomorrow night.
The next day I spend shopping and watching the crazy traffic for awhile. Brazilians don’t move out of the way for emergency vehicles and most streets that are 3 lanes get turned into 4. The whole time I’m wandering around Copacabana there is this horrible smell. The pollution is thick to, but this other smell gets to you and I couldn’t help wondering what the hell is it? Well I was to find out the hard way again. As it happens they hang their chickens for a week, you know just to let them rot a bit in the heat, then they cook them up. How did I find out? Yep you guessed, I ordered chicken and the smell, OH MY GOD! When I pushed it away and told the waiter there was no way in hell I was going to eat that he ask – ‘do you not think 1 week was long enough to leave it hanging’? Jesus 1 hr is too long in the Rio heat. Vomit material I tell you! This is when I decide that Rio is famous for just being Rio.
On the way into the city from the airport there is just slum after slum. It’s not quite what I thought it was going to be and the chicken just didn’t help with these thoughts. Ok so the free concert has got to be good. Bit of fun I’m hoping. Two Canadian girls and I walk on down to the beach with a local lady that has joined us and is chatting away. Most Brazilians don’t give you the time of day if you can’t speak Portuguese but if they can speak English they love nothing more than to chat with you. This lady is the one to tell us that lots of people drown here. We get to the beach and there has to be a million people here. You couldn’t move and to get through the crowd you had to push. I’m sure I got touched in places I didn’t know I had. The pick-pockets had a field day and we just all ended up a sweating heap and exhausted. There are people kissing away like crazy and evidently this is a crazy. If you see someone you like you just go up and kiss them then move on. Weird! The Canadian girls dare me to do it to. Usually I would take up any dare without a second thought but not this time. The people that had gotten there early had the best spot next to the beach and when they got to hot they’d go for a swim. In the mean time we tried for ½ an hour to push through to the beach but got nowhere and we couldn’t hear the music from the noise of people talking so we called it a night and went home. It was worth the experience though.
After a few more days and tours I had seen what I wanted to so Kodak and I decided to move on. We can’t say that we were unhappy about leaving. Rio is Rio and just take it how you find it. Next time I visit Brazil I want to do the coast from Rio right up to Fortaleza. The morning of my flight I head down to the main highway which goes right along the beach and wait for the bus to pick me up that runs every ½ hr to the airport. Well it’s supposed to only this morning no bus came so after waiting for an hour I catch a taxi. The taxi driver goes like a bat out of hell. I shut my eyes several times and pray I get to the airport. When we get near to the airport he asks what terminal. Oh no there are two terminals and I have no idea which one I leave from. Just as I’m about to panic I look up and here is a big sign with all the airlines and terminals they leave from.
So I get there and find myself standing inside the terminal and do you think for the life of me I can work out where to go. After 15minutes of walking around and all the signs in Portuguese and none at all in English and no airline signs I finally spot in English ‘tourist information’. I get to the counter and ask the young girl where to go. Her reply ‘no speak English’, so I ask the guy that’s there. Same answer. That was it. I totally lost my cool and proceed to swear. You crazy f….s, what is the point of having tourist information in English and no bastard here who speaks it. Yep and I didn’t stop there either. By this time a gentleman who could speak English had heard all this and came over to help me. He himself had not been through Rio airport before and couldn’t find where to go. He was an absolute god-send. It’s just a matter of walking in corridors in the right direction and you will get there. It’s just finding the right corridor in the first place which as it happens wasn’t sign-posted in Portuguese either and this is why the gentleman couldn’t find his way. (I do hope this is changed by now.)
I go through the usual stuff, passport, weigh bag, boarding pass…. security. Wait a minute! I get pulled out at security like I have at every airport so far. This big butch woman then proceeds to do the pat down which I dispute was a pat down. No, it was more like a grop of my private parts. God I all but smashed her in the face. Now I’m not a violent person but like most people in some situations you vent your anger and say, ‘man I wanted to hit them’ well I really wanted to smack this bitch. She groped my breasts and crutch!! I decided she had to be some desperate lesbian who got off doing this as she knew it was going to be the only way she could get away with doing what she was doing. Man am I ever so happy to get on the plane. This time when the captain comes on and says we will be landing in Sao Paulo airport I am not surprised. When I booked my tickets the agent had told me that even though my ticket says direct flight all flights go through Sao Paulo. All flights!! I don’t like Brazil’s airports now and yes I got extra attention at the security check at SP. So where the hell is Kodak off to next…………..
Lima, Peru. This is the first place I was to arrive in the dark. Being new at travelling overseas and not speaking much Spanish I don’t like the idea of arriving in the dark but after getting my bag there is this wonderful sign with my name on it. Yes I had booked a hostel that does airport pick up. Brilliant idea. The first thing the guy does when I get into his vehicle is lock all the doors. Ok. I look at him and he explains that at the lights young hoodlums will try to open the doors and either drag people out or get their bags. Doesn’t do much for your confidence. The ride goes without any trouble however and I’m glad to get in a good night’s sleep.
I only spend the 2 nights in Lima which is what I had intended to do anyway as reports from other hostellers hadn’t painted it as a place you really want to stay for long. After our stay here at a very nice hostel Kodak and I are on a bus heading to Nazca to see the Nazca lines. Oh my god! What is sitting next to me on the bus? Some French dick that obviously hasn’t had a shower for a week. Now I had been told that the French don’t know what a shower is for and this one was proving that correct. How much B.O. can a person have? Talk about inconsiderate. This is the only person I have come across that smelt high and I wouldn’t wish it upon my worst enemy. I had 2hrs sitting next to this before he hopped off. I’m not into sniffing petrol but at the point it seemed an ideal alternative. God give me strength. If the whole trip is going to be like this I am going to so stressed by the time I get to LA that home might be looking so inviting…. I tell you you soon start having to look on the bright side, like let’s face it this guy is never going to get a girlfriend unless she comes from a slum and smells worse than him.( Eighteen months later down the track I am now able to just shrug these things off and go about my merry way.)
From Lima to Nazca is desert. Dry as a bone and irrigation is used so the people can grow their veges. Nazca is a small town with friendly folk and no shortage of restaurants and little shops. I met a lovely English couple from Brighton and they agree to send me photos of the lines as my camera is still not working. A backpacker who has just been in Bolivia tells me it is best to buy a new one there as it is so cheap.
Next morning the English couple and I head to the airstrip for our fly over the nazca lines. When you get up here you realise that on your way into Nazca town you actually go through the middle of the Nazca plain. There are literally hundreds of lines. Most fascinating to see the animal shapes which are all done just by lining up rocks but how they got them so precise from the ground – or did they do it from the ground? It leaves you with more questions than answers like a lot of these ancient sites. It also cost us a bit of money. Not too bad but you can just go to the airport and make a deal with a pilot and get it for half the price. You don’t have to book with your hostel/hotel but they with insist that you need to. YOU DONT HAVE TO!
Next we went on to an ancient cemetery and pyramid site on the next plain south. Adam had somehow found out about this place which was still in the process of being excavated. This place ended up being more fascinating than the lines. Why? Well the wind blows here at over 40kmph constantly 24/7 and the wind is going north directly to the Anzac plain. In less than a minute we have to turn our backs to the wind and start spitting out dust. Its unpleasant, but what really gets to your head and doesn’t make sense is that the Nazca plain and this plain are only separated by a dried up river bed which has water after the snow melts in the spring but the sand doesn’t get to the Nazca plain. You can see the Nazca plain from where we were standing but the sand doesn’t get there. When I told the guide this didn’t make sense and then asked where the sand and dust goes he replied that not even the scientists and archaeologists and other people have been able to explain it. It is just one of those unexplained phenomena. I love this fascinating and challenging world we live in. Next our guide takes us to see an aquaduct. This one is huge and has 3 channels coming from up in the Andes to this huge ancient water tank for want of a better word. The channels that come down to it are the original built by the ancients thousands of years ago all the way from up in the Andes and they are all underground. The Peruvians have never had to repair them. Just another totally fascinating thing. All in all it was a great day but I still have these questions in my mind.
Anyway Kodak and I have seen what we wanted here and next stop is tobe Arequipa. The following night we head to the bus station to take the overnight bus to Arequipa. All around Nazca are huge sand mountains. You can catch a day tour to go sand boarding if you wish. The next problem I run into is at the bus station. The bus driver insists we all hop on the bus. Everyone refuses. Why? Well they haven’t loaded our bags on and we aint moving until they do. Man did he start getting angry but we all stood our ground and in the end they finally loaded them. They weren’t happy about it at all. I sit on the side of the bus that the bags are loaded if I can as you just never quite know what these people might do and whether your bag is going to get off loaded somewhere by mistake or on purpose. Every time the bus stopped nearly everyone who wasn’t getting off at that point would come to the windows just to make sure their bags weren’t getting taken off when they shouldn’t have been. Another annoyance.
So I reach Arequipa about 6am. The buses are comfortable enough and I got a reasonable amount of sleep and have climbed in altitude all night but feel ok. I get to my hostel by taxi and meet up with Amy again. We had planned this and it was great to see her again. She had come from northern Argentina with a story of her own about her bus ride. Her bus ran out of gas in the middle of nowhere not far over the border in Peru and had a 2hr wait before they got help. You have to expect anything in these countries but I thought running out of gas wouldn’t have been one of them. How wrong was I?
Arequipa is at 2,380mtrs above sea level and is surrounded by 3 volcanoes. It wasn’t actually cold when I was there as it has a very dry climate. Bit of a surprise considering where you are. The city is full of very old and elaborate buildings and Amy and I headed for the town centre and one of the main museums and plaza for the afternoon. Very friendly people to. That night we spent time playing pool with other hostellers, something I hadn’t done in a long time. Next day we hop on the bus and head to Puno. We are jumping up in altitude again hoping to avoid getting to sick with altitude sickness. How some people can go from Lima at sea-level straight up to Cusco I don’t know. Most people that have done this don’t recommend it as they end up in bed for 2-3 days.
By the time we got to Puno 8hrs later I knew what they were talking about. I was feeling it big time! The thumping head was nearly unbearable as we are now on the shores of Lake Titicaca at 4000mtrs. It had been raining overnight and the dirt streets where just mud, it smelt, and everywhere you see men urinating in the street. Our taxi driver didn’t quite know where our hostel was but Amy had a map so we had a walk of about 150mtrs. It seemed like 20kms. We get to the hostel and I asked for my bed, hopped in, promptly drank my cup of coca tea that the owner rushed to me and slept through till the next morning.(This is the only day of altitude sickness I was to have until a year later).
I was still feeling a bit out of sorts the next morning and only the slightest headache as Amy I set off on a bus tour all the way to Cusco. The tour was good. Way up here in the Andes everything sort of surprises you. The altiplano, as it is called, is huge a plain of thousands of acres. Sheer rocks give way to vast plains, little lakes with blue ducks, and crops of corn, potatoes, maize, yams and fruit trees. But what I think surprised me the most was the rice paddies. Acre upon acre of rice fields. This just sort of seemed wrong in my mind. I thought it would have been to cold up here to grow rice and I certainly wasn’t expected the sight I saw. It surprised Amy to. And the other thing that you don’t expect to see is eucalyptus trees. It’s like being in Australia. There are thousands of these trees and pine trees of a variety that I haven’t seen before but very similar to those we see everywhere in NZ. Even rush-bushes and your normal white clover that most countries have. It’s so different to being on the coast but then I knew it was going to be. I think because we all get to see on TV things like Lake Titicaca and Cusco etc and not the rest of Peru that when you see it for real it’s a surprise as this normal stuff doesn’t get shown. It’s great to discover these things for yourself. (You know what I mean).
Cusco is a busy place of course with a mass of tourists visiting every year. I am feeling ok by the time we get here in the early evening and after dropping our bags off Amy and I go for a walk. We went the wrong way and had to come all the way back to our starting point and try again. Great fun. I say great fun as it is. You usually end up seeing things most people don’t simply because it will be in an area that tourists don’t go as its not marked on maps. Amy I and I spend 4 days in Cusco before splitting. She is booked to do the Inca trail and my ambition is to do the backpackers train to Machu Picchu.
In the days before this we went on a bus tour for a day which took us all the way up to Urubamba. Lunch was provided in the most wonderful setting with guinea pig and lama on the menu. I tried both as I figured I probably wouldn’t have the chance to again. Nice actually. Guinea pig = chicken, lama = mutton, that pretty much sums it up. The next surprising thing to come across was the Temple of the Sun. You stand up there and admire the view down the valley then put your head around the corner and nearly get it blown off. Pull your head back in and no wind. The wind whistles past at around 30kmph. Amazing and so totally unexpected. It blows past the Temple of the Sun rock, which is huge, day in day out. Yet another unexplained phenomenon. Then after leaving the valley we zigzag our way up this hill and come out on an enormous plateau. It has to close to 20,000 acres of more. There’s cattle, sheep, potatoes, carrots, beans, fruit trees and more. There are small lakes and villages with the most exquisite churches to see. Sadly we are told to take all the photos we can as it is not likely we will see it like this again as it is ear-marked for the new Cusco International Airport. That’s progress for you and of course not unique to Peru.
On another day in Cusco Amy and I go shopping. I brought several items for family back home and so to the Postal Office we went. On the way there this young girl of only about 8 yrs old starts following us. When Amy asks her what she wants she replies ‘nothing’. One hour later she is still following us. I tell Amy that I have no desire to become a parent ago and so she asks this girl ‘what do you want’. The reply is the same then low and behold not 1 minute later we have 2 girls following us. After another half hour again we ask what they want and it turns out they are after money. We had pretty much picked that’s what they were after but as we knew there were a million eyes on us we didn’t give them any. Even though you so want to give them some you know you will end up like the piped-piper as there’s a heap of eyes watching to see if you are going to give in. Just another reality of Peru and in Cusco they tend to be right in your face all the time trying to sell you their products. I must admit to buying a lot of leather goods as they are so neat.
So Amy and visit all the usual tourists things in Cusco then in the afternoon we head off so I can get my tickets for the train to Machu Picchu. Finding the ticket office isn’t easy either and then when we finally found it I had to wait for an hour to get it. But I have my ticket and let’s get to bed as I’m getting up and 5am. Machu Picchu here I come.
Amy has gotten up an hour earlier than me to hit the Inca trail and I head for the train ride to Aguas Clientas which takes 3 hrs but the scenery on the ride is beautiful. With so much to look at and take in it doesn’t seem all that long. Just out of Cusco are switch-backs, something I haven’t encountered before. Ingenious way to get up a hill. From Aguas Clientas you then catch the bus to Machu Picchu. This itself takes a ½ hr of zigzagging your way up a massive hill. On arriving at the car park the first thing I spot is a Totara tree. These trees are native to New Zealand. It’s like I haven’t even left NZ. Everywhere I go there is something to pop up and remind me of home that I don’t have the chance to miss it, and going by the size of this tree it has to be around 70yrs old.
I get my ticket then walk up a little further then just before the gate where they rip of one half of your ticket is this little office. It’s not sign posted with anything special, just an office, but this is where you can get the stamp put in your passport. And that’s exactly what I did. The first thing I head for is the entrance to Hauana Picchu. This is the huge rock you can see in the background in post cards. The sign at the bottom says to give yourself 1-1 ½ hrs to climb it and the same amount of time to get down, and if you are scared of heights it is probably a good idea not to do it. I sign the book and head off. You need to put your passport number in the book so take it with you. Holy hell it is hard slog and especially as you are at altitude and this rock is practically straight up and down. All the people coming down give you great encouragement telling you it’s not much further. Yea right! It feels like forever. I managed to burn past a 21yr old English guy who just looked at me asking ‘how can you do that’. Determination was my answer. If you aren’t scared of heights and are reasonably fit then go for it. It took me 50 minutes to get to the top and oh how indescribable it is up there. One side of this huge rock, as I call it, drops straight down for 2,200mtrs. (I asked) I kept thinking and wondering how many men lost their lives to build this? One slip and you are history, and seeing as it is damp and foggy up here I can see it happening so many times. There are no safety rails around Hauana Picchu so you don’t tend to move about fast. I feel like I have been in the clouds.
After an English girl offered to take my photo up here with Machu Picchu in the background (she hasn’t sent it by email) I then wander around and then just sit in awe of this place but wishing that somehow magically I could see it as it was in their day. That must have been something and then my usual questions sneak into my mind as to why. Why would you put an ancient village way the hell up here and in the complete middle of nowhere? Stunning setting but that’s about it. So far from anywhere and way up in the Andes, it really is a place of wonder. Maybe that’s what inspired them to build here. I can imagine at the spirituality of these people and their thinking that they are now living with and amongst their gods. Who knows, perhaps one day I will return. Machu Picchu itself looks flat and is to a certain degree but does slope slightly uphill and walking around it can take it out of you. On two sides it drops off also, so again if you are scared of heights keep away from the edge, it’s still a long way to the bottom.
All in all I spent 5hrs here which is not hard to do then I caught the second to last bus back down the hill and spent an hour in Aguas Clientas to do some souvenir shopping before getting back on the train and heading back to Cusco. I sat with an English girl and opposite us was a couple from the USA. He was a native Peruvian and his wife was from the USA where they lived. I asked why he was here and it turned out he had never been to Machu Picchu and his two daughters where now 14 and 12 years of age and he had wanted for years for them to see his homeland and now the girls were at an age where they could appreciate and remember he had brought the family to see all of Peru. His girls that where sitting behind them were absolutely loving their trip. Most of the trip back was spent talking with this couple. Very enjoyable conversation and interesting to hear his story of growing up on the outskirts of Lima.
The following day I am on a bus again heading back to Puno. The first half of this journey is so bumpy and great fun trying to go to the toilet in the bus but then the road lets up and is smoother for the last half. In Puno I head back to the hostel Amy and I stayed in on our way to Cusco. The dirt has gone now as there has been no more rain which is good as it doesnt smell this time around.