KODAK PAGES 71-80
Auckland, New Zealand. I fly in at the worst time possible – 2.30am. I have hours to wait so settle on the floor and try to sleep. That didn’t really work and after a breakfast coffee, walk the short distance to the domestic terminal for another hour long flight to Palmerston North. I land and get into the terminal to find my kids aren’t even there. Just as I get my bags off the carousel they come flying in the door out of breathe. A few tears later we are on the way to my Mum and Dad’s for breakfast. They are only 12 minutes from the airport. It seems so unreal that I have been gone for 11months.
My first night home and I end up going to a Katchafire concert. This is a well known band in NZ and my daughter has brought tickets for both of us. What the hell, might as well. At the end of the night some people took our taxi and we had to walk home. When I got to bed the next morning I had now been awake for 48 hours. 24 hours in bed saw me right as rain again and 2 nights later I was at another concert. I am either going to drop dead from lack of sleep or my ears will burst from all the noise they are having to endure.
5 days later it is Christmas day. What a year and oh how fast it went. But I haven’t finished yet. My daughter has been thinking that she wants to know what all this backpacking is about and so on Dec 29 we hop in her car and head to Napier for our first night. Being the summer here in NZ the hostel has lots of overseas people to talk with.
The following morning we set off for Tokomaru Bay, north of Gisborne. The weather is great and after a stop in Gisborne for lunch we continue on. Gisborne is a popular town and area for holiday makers, New Zealanders and overseas visitors. Has some beaut beaches and is well known for its surfing. Tokomaru Bay is a small community, but like all the bays along and up in this East Coast area of NZ, it has a long and inviting beach. The hostel we are staying in is ‘Footprints in the Sand’. Sean, who owns the hostel, is a real people person and so much fun. Wicked sense of humour and just a super guy. There are two backpackers here that my daughter and I immediately hit it off with. Mike, from the Netherlands and Sarah, from Germany. Mike and I got talking about our travels and it turned out he had done South America. He had also met ‘Mike on a bike’. This guy I had also met when I did the Galapagos Islands. Small world.
Seeing as it is New Year’s Eve my daughter and I invite Sarah and Mike to come along with us to the local pub to see the New Year in. There is a big crowd of people and a band playing. After midnight rolled about I finish my drink and decide to leave the young ones to it. My daughter was to meet a nice guy who lived locally and Mike, Sarah and my daughter were invited back to his place with his mates to continue the celebrations. They got back about 4 in the morning. Mike and Sarah talked about it the next day. They were absolutely stoked at having been invited and made to feel like they had known everyone there for years. Best way to get to know what NZ families are like. I’m so glad they enjoyed themselves.
While we were up this way my daughter and I went to Tolaga Bay to visit her ancestor’s grave sites. Her family, on her father’s side, comes from this region. Next we also visit a cousin of hers who has always lived in Toko. (Toko so short for Tokomaru Bay and how we refer to it). Most of the bays of the East Coast have wharfs as in the 30s, 40s, and 50s ships called in at all the bays to off load produce and collect the wool. When refrigerated ships came in they also took the meat. Toko and Tolaga Bays still have the old wharfs standing. I find this a beautiful part of New Zealand and so full of history that you can still see.
As my daughter works full-time and doesn’t have very long off work on New Year’s we hit the road again. We call in at an uncle’s place along the way but he is not home. We push on and turn off at Te Araroa to go to the East Cape lighthouse. This is a long drive and on a metal, stone road. Surprising enough there are a lot of people out here. We then go west and come to the region of Bay of Plenty. We have planned to stay at one of the hostels or campgrounds over this way and have not booked ahead. Big mistake! Everything is totally booked out so we have to keep going. Close to 10pm we pull into Opotiki. I know there is a hostel in the main street so we just drive down there until we find it. There is a balcony with people sitting outside so I yell out to see if they have any beds left. Thank god they do and we are told about a car park around the corner where we can leave the car.
Sean, from Borneo, runs the hostel. On inquiring as to whether there might be some place where we can get a feed he says no they are all closed, he then magically appears with some traditional Borneo food. Wow it was good. He explained what was in it, how it’s prepared and cooked. My daughter and I thoroughly enjoyed. We also find out that he is running one of the local antique shops which you can actually see from the hostel. This poor guy runs around between the two like an idiot all day. He didn’t look absolutely exhausted either.
The next day we have a quick look around Opotiki and hit the road. We have hours on the road before getting to our next destination of Ohingaiti. Some of my daughter’s uncles, aunts and cousins are over from Perth. They all originally come from this country area in NZ, as do I. My kids were brought up on a farm here until my separation. Tonight it is drink, eat, talk and be happy as tomorrow we head back home to Levin. Later in the month the whole family, (on my side) were to go to Thames for my grandmothers 90th birthday. Now I can see your mind ticking over – yes there are 5 generations in my family.
After getting pressure from my granddaughter to stay in NZ for my birthday at least I figure I might as well and then will decide on where I might head off to next. I have a load of options of course, but after much thought reckon I have to go to a place I have been so intrigued with since I first saw anything of this place. Where might that be?
So I am packed and ready for the next adventure. Ok, so right now I am going to have a bitch. Where the Hell is Kodak? My granddaughter had lost him. We did a hunt through her room and couldn’t find him. I am leaving NZ in a bad mood because of this. When I first got back she was bathing him every day, sometimes twice, doing his hair, talking with him, carting him about and now he is nowhere to be seen. Yes I’m angry. No I will revise that, – I’m pissed off big time. My daughter is angry with her to. Now it might seem silly to some people, but everyone was getting used to and enjoying getting photos sent back to them showing where Kodak was in the world. I could have at this point, led everyone on, but I’m not that sort of person. I will put some pics of him in until the point where I return to NZ and pick him up again, which I do when I am informed he is found.
Tahiti. Well no. To get to where I want to go I first need to fly here then I can get to….Easter Island.
So up to this point in my travels I had come to the conclusion that Aerolineas Argentinas was the worst airline I had been on. I now revise that opinion and have put Air Tahiti Nui at the top of the list. When the person in front of you reclined their seat you could more or less lean forward and kiss them. There is no leg room and the food was cold. Am not impressed with Qantas either.
Arriving in Papeete was another hitting the wall experience. God it was so hot and the humidity. The airport is totally open and there seemed to be no breeze at all. I am only here for 3 nights and then moving on. The heat and humidity got to me the first day and I just lazed about talking with the others. The next day was no better as it rained hard all day. The humidity is nothing like I experienced before and I am finding it so uncomfortable. Others at the hostel are very lethargic like myself. Next day I decide to do my laundry. All my clothing smells like B.O. After hanging it out I am off walking to the nearest beach. I am only about 150m in a straight line from the beach but there is no access because of family homes so up the road I go. The water is so clear and warm but the beach is stones and pebbles. Not the easiest to walk on. I spent most of the day here before going back. I checked my clothes and to be honest wasn’t surprised to find them wetter than when I hung them out. I have found on the whole that Tahiti is expensive and just plain HOT.
So off to the airport and onto Easter Island. When I get to the airport there are people standing around looking annoyed and not happy. Yep my flight has been cancelled. Well this is not a surprise at all. I am flying with LAN Chile. They have a reputation of poor service, flight cancellations and over booking. It doesn’t take long to figure out the flight has been cancelled as the plane would have been only 1/3rd full. Despite what they are telling us about a mechanical fault everyone comes to the same conclusion. Anyway I get to stay at the Sofitel Beach Resort for a night. Nice resort to.
After getting to the hotel, and having to go nuts at the receptionist before she would let any of us into the computer room, I send the appropriate emails and rebook my accommodation on Easter Island before finally getting to bed at 1.30am. Next thing my phone is ringing. It’s a lady from the USA and its 2.30am. Interesting call but not one I was expecting. Next morning its breakfast and a swim in the pool. Nice. Back to the airport late afternoon for my flight which didn’t leave until 7.45pm. This meant I didn’t get to Easter Island until 5am. I got hostel pick-up and hit the bed and slept till midday.
Easter Island is a fun island. Apart from the Moai statues that fascinate me, it’s like the wild wild west. The local guys ride into town and tie their horses up outside the bar and wonder on in. There are horses by the dozen and dogs. I wondered down to the wharf and was accompanied by 3 dogs the whole time. From here you can follow trails along the sea front and see some Moai up close. After doing this I walk the streets and find the local school and the museum.
After getting back to the main street in stop at a café for a coffee and start talking with an English couple who have come on a chartered Thomas Cook flight especially to see Easter Island. I accept an invite to dinner to see a traditionally island dance and to taste the local food. This was a great way to spend the evening.
Because of the extra night in Tahiti I am flying out tonight so hire a vehicle and set off to see all the different places where the Moai are on the island. Some of them are massive. Once you have been to this island you go away thinking how in gods name did the Rapanui people keep finding their way back here. It’s such a small dot in the ocean and the most isolated island on earth. When you go up the volcano this is really evident as you can literally see the whole island. The island also has many petroglyphs (rock carvings), wood carvings, tapa (barkcloth) crafts, tattooing, dance and music.
You can read more on this website and it also has a ton of other links; http://www.netaxs.com/~trance/rapanui.html
It doesn’t take much to cover the whole island as its only 16kms long and probably not that at its widest point. Now one thing that got me, and I have no idea why I hadn’t seen this before, but all the Moai face inward. I thought they looked out over the sea. There is only one exception. The statues at the site called Ahu Akivi. These are the only ones looking out to sea but I don’t know why. I should read up on that I know.
Anyway I loved being able to actually just go there and to see them for myself. They are mysterious and intriguing to say the least. Tourists are not allowed to get to close or to touch, but get this, the horses can rub up against them if they so wish. Yet another one of those things I don’t find logical. After zipping about the island and talking to myself the whole time and saying ‘drive on the wrong side, drive on the wrong side’ I went up the volcano. This is known as Rano Kau Crater. From here you look down into the old crater, look out to some islands that are pretty much huge rocks, and you look down on the airport and the whole town. You can see about 2/3rds of the island.
After driving most of the island, turning on the windscreen wipers instead of the indicator and grabbing the door handle to change gear about 50 times I go back to Anakena beach for a swim. It’s quite humid here also but not as bad as Tahiti. On the way back to return the vehicle I top it up with gas, return it and pick up my bags and get a taxi to the airport.
I am not flying onto Santiago, on mainland Chile. No, this time LAN has overbooked and I am one of eight who has missed out. The reputation they have is well deserved!!! So off to a hotel for the night. Nice place and not too far from the centre of town. All meals provided and a lovely comfortable bed. I rebook my hostel and send a message through to my airport shuttle service. I am using a shuttle service which my hostel has recommended as it is the best way to go and I will get dropped off at the hostel door.
Next morning I go to the LAN office to hand in a piece of paper and have my credit card credited with $US 300. This is compensation from LAN for the stuff up. I can’t help thinking that each year they must loose thousands as they are always stuffing up. Not my problem anyway. I then go walking down the main street and come across a farmers market. Man are their veges massive. Most of it is grown locally and I am told it is because of the exceptionally fertile soil that came about from the volcano when it erupted. When I was driving about, and especially in the centre of the island, you could see that the soil was very brown in colour. Much of the island is rolling and rocky. Later in the afternoon I set about getting some sun at the nearest bit of beach. On the way back to the hotel I have a dog join me. It’s a 20 minute walk and he sticks by me all the way. When we get to the hotel he stops and looks at me, I look back at him and tell him this is my stop, so he turns around and heads back the way we came. It was like he could read my mind.
I leave Easter Island on a lovely fine day for Santiago. I think the island is really fun and is an open air museum. I would revisit in a heartbeat. It is named in the 7 New Wonders of the World. Frankly I think it rates better than Stonehenge and should be the 8th Wonder of the World.
Santiago at this time of the year is sweltering hot but lucky for me the supermarket is not far away and stocking up with food is first on the list as per usual. There is a good mix of people from all over the world and good mix of ages.
Next morning I am off to ride a cable car so I can look down on the city. From the top of San Cristobal Hill, there are spectacular panoramic views of the city and skyscrapers. I then went into the main plaza which is Plaza de Armas. The square is surrounded by the Palacio de los Gobernadores, the Palacio de la Real Audiencia and the Municipalidad de Santiago. I stayed here for quite some time to do people watching. It’s a bit of a habit of mine to just sit and people watch and I find it relaxing. Santiago is fulled with cultural venues and art museums. Lots to keep you busy for a few days. The Pre-Colombian Art Museum showcases historic artefacts from the rich history of the area. They have artefacts from both Central and South America and includes textiles and ceramics, art and metalwork. There is also an on-site café and museum shop that sells reproductions of pieces displayed here. History buffs will thoroughly enjoy an afternoon here, especially on a Sunday when there is no entrance fee. Parque Intercomunal de la Reina covers an area of more than 110 hectares and is one of the biggest recreation parks in Santiago. I was to spend the next few days just looking at all the historic buildings and going to other places of interest.
One thing that I did miss, as I didn’t know about it, was the Worlds Largest Swimming Pool. Now how I missed this I don’t know but I now have a bet on with my friend Andrew as to who is going to be the first to get there. I’ll win that one!
Ok so I have seen enough of Santiago and I am now moving onto La Serena. I have a short walk to catch the Metro to the bus station and then catch a bus. It’s a 7hour drive to La Serena. North of Santiago it is like a desert and this is the start of the dry belt that runs all the way up into Peru. Evidently it is green south of the city. There isn’t much to see but the odd bit of green where a river (dry I might add) runs toward the Pacific. There is still a surprising amount of vineyards. I don’t get into La Serena till quite late so go to the supermarket and straight to bed. My head is starting to thump.
At the hostel is a young kiwi girl and we hit it off. We are both heading to San Pedro de Atacama and book our bus ticket before having an explore about. The next day we get a group of people together and catch a bus to the other side of the city to a large cross on a hill. It looks out over the city and down over the city’s stadium that hosted some of the games for the World Football Cup when it was held in Chile. You catch a lift up inside it and have a great view but it was so humid that my photos didn’t come out to well because of the haze. After more exploring we work out which bus to catch back to the hostel. Time seems to have gone fast and by 4.40pm Arianne and I are on a bus and heading to San Pedro. We don’t get there until 10am next day. The buses are comfortable and I slept surprising well.
San Pedro de Atacama is high up in the Andes and dry and hot. More backpackers had joined the bus along the way during the night and 6 of us go off together in search of accommodation. No need to book here as it is a major tourist destination with hostels and hotels everywhere. We have two French girls, a guy from the USA, a guy from Brazil and Arianne and I from New Zealand. We get a hostel and then off down the street to organise a tour guide. By afternoon we are walking about in Valle de Luna in amongst the salt valleys and then to Valle de Muerte. Then we go sand boarding. What a hoot. Never done this before and the first try I wasn’t really going anywhere so one of the guys put some wax on the board. Holy cow did I take off. Didn’t take long before I was eating sand and trying to shake it out of all my clothing. Fun though.
We are all up the next morning about 4.30 and into a vehicle and off on a long drive to a region where there are geysers. We are high up and it is cold with snow-capped mountains in every direction. I can now say I have seen the sun come up in the Andes in Chile. We have breakfast sitting in the middle of these geysers and watching them spurt water into the air. Our guide takes for a walkabout as each one goes off at a certain time like clockwork. We then have the opportunity to have a soak in a natural hot pool the size of a swimming pool. On our way back we then call into a place that you can’t even say is a village as there are only about 3 homes. This is a chance to have a coffee and walk in amongst some Lamas. There are natural small lakes up here and ducks that remind me of the little blue duck that I used to see as a kid on the farm dams.
After getting back to San Pedro our guide tells us to all get some rest as he reckons we will be really tired from the altitude. I felt fine and so Arianne and I get bus tickets and organise our bags before we all get picked up to go to Cejar Laguna. This is a salt lake. It is freezing. I hopped in, told the guys to take a photo quick and got out. Even the guys couldn’t stand it any longer than 2 minutes. And like all salt lakes there is no hope of drowning. You could sort of sit in it. Another first for me. Great!
By 8.45pm Arianne and I have said our goodbyes and are on the bus again. Arianne is stopping in Arica, which is on the coast and I am continuing on to La Paz, Bolivia. We don’t pull into Arica until 7am the next morning. I have only an hour to wait and I am on the bus to La Paz. I have breakfast and a conversation with a Chilean that speaks a little English before settling into my seat. The bus doesn’t have tinted windows so I am hoping to get some great photos. I am not disappointed.
The border crossing is fast for buses but I felt for the truck drivers. The line was well over a km long with probably over a 100 trucks waiting. I don’t pull into La Paz until 5pm and have a wicked headache. I put this down to the fact that I have gone from the Andes to sea level and back to 4000mtrs in just under 24 hours. Not the best thing and I hope I don’t have altitude sickness tomorrow.
Oh boy do I have altitude sickness. This is the first time I have had it. The previous year I didn’t get it at all the whole time in South America but I now know what it is all about. Don’t wish it upon anyone. I spent the whole day in bed. This, as you can imagine, annoyed the hell out of me.
It is the last day of March and really warm. I had thought it would be quite cool but I am in shorts and t-shirt like everyone else. Great weather. Anyway the next few days sees me shopping and visiting plazas, restaurants, and whatever else interests me that I didn’t get to see the last time I was here. It’s hard to describe but this place holds a grip on my heart and I would love to live here for a year at some stage. The English couple that I had dinner with when on Easter Island had also been here twice and planned on coming back again. They were like me. Loved the place but can’t quite put your finger on what it is that captures the heart.
This time around I can also book my flight out online. This was not possible last time but it is great to see Bolivia has caught up with online booking. It is 3rd world but there is no lack of internet cafes and people with cell phones. At the hostel is a young Australian guy who has gotten some work teaching English each morning for 2 weeks. He is in quite the panic until I put his mind to rest. He didn’t really know and what to expect. If you find yourself wanting to do the same thing then go for it. It is easy because if you have not done it before they will give you an advanced class and all teaching materials are provided.
On my day to fly out I am going to Bogota, Colombia. I am catching up with Manu and Fabi whom I meet in Cartagena the year before. I promised I would come and visit them and I keep my promises. It is a lot cooler in Bogota. Manu and I have been keeping in touch through email and it is a relief when he walks into the hostel at 4pm. He is such a nice guy. We promptly head into the main street of the city. Bogota is clean and has over 7 million residents. It is spread out over a large area to. There is a lot happening at night and a parade of some sort happening not far from my hostel so Manu and I spent so time watching this. There are lots of students in this area where I am because of a university. There are even film crews on the roof on the other side of the street from my hostel. The hostel itself. Well… let’s just say I have found the hardest beds on my travels. Ouch, but the rest of it is fine and the people running it are very nice.
I was going to be staying with my friends but they are both without work and have had to move in with Fabi’s parents. Manu turns up the next day with Fabi’s dads car and we go to their place to pick up Fabi, her dad and her daughter Julie. We are off to the south and into the farming area. I sure do appreciate having friends here. There is a lake, Embalse Del Muna. Unfortunately it is where all the city sewage goes and then further on there is a huge waterfall which it goes pounding over and you end up getting this black disgusting smelly mist spray all over you. Its disappointing that it is like this. It is 30 kms out from the city. The falls are 132 metres high and covered in cloud so I have no photos but can still hear the noise.
We then worked our way down the valley. There are little villages along the way and we stopped at one point to have these traditional pancake like things. I can remember what they are called but they are YUM. I haven’t tasted anything that I can compare them to and must say that I am looking forward to having them again. After driving on further we then stop for traditional Colombian lunch. I love their food. It is mouth-watering. Different to anything else and just plain tasty.
We end the day by going to a farm where you can pick your own strawberries. After returning to the family home I pulled out gifts for my friends. They are now all sporting kiwi t-shirts and Maori greenstone necklaces. I thank you my friends.
A new day and let’s see what that holds. Manu, Fabi and Julie come and meet me at the hostel and we are first going to go on the Trans Mileno buses. The bus system is good and the buses fairly new. Most people in Colombia cannot afford a car of course. We go way out on side of the city and then come back and go to the end of the line in the other direction north. Bogota is very spread out and not like most cities in the sense that not all the main companies are all in one area. I was to learn the next day just how much this was so as that night checking on my credit card two payments had been taken off for my last flight so Manu and I went to find the Taca office. It was miles from the centre of the city. We did find it though.
One afternoon Manu and I went up town and had a cartoon sketch done of ourselves. He also managed to lock the keys in the car. I couldn’t stop laughing. Something that is a must when in Bogota is a trip up in the cable car to Monserrate up on the hill that overlooks the city. Poor Fabi is scared of heights but I must give her full marks coming up the cable car even though she was scared witless and couldn’t talk. It’s a grand view down on the city and has some small souvenir shops and beautiful gardens. We stayed here for some time. It is a relaxing and peaceful place even with lots of tourist about. On returning to the bottom we go into the city for a feed of empanadas for dinner. I now have a taste for them to.
The following day I spent in the city with my friends. We went to the Emerald Trade Exchange. OMG There are just hundreds of emeralds in these glass counters. I resist the temptation to buy. We then went to the Gold Museum. The whole history of gold is in here going back to the first discovery of it and artefacts going back to when they were first come across. Some of the little figurines are so tiny. Don’t miss a visit to this museum if you go to Bogota. Also another tip here. If you fly into Bogota and don’t have any Colombian Pesos when you come out from baggage collection you will see the money exchange counters. Don’t change your money here. Go outside and turn left. Go into the main terminal and up the stairs, go left and along there you will find ATMs. Use your travel card and get some money out. This way you get the proper exchange rate. If you change it at the money exchange your rate will be 2 to 1 when the real rate is about 190 to 1. Oh yea and they don’t blink an eye at ripping you off.
The best cafes to have coffee in Colombia are Juan Valdez. Best coffee in the world. I have spent many a peso here. My last day in Bogota is wet. It’s a little cooler and just hosing down. I take a last look in the city and catch a taxi to the airport in the afternoon. Manu and Fabi have not turned up but I soon understand why. Bogota is flooding. Too much rain in such a few short hours. My taxi driver speaks good English and is getting anxious that we might not get to the airport. An hour and a quarter later we do get there. It should have taken 20 minutes. I figured the rain is the reason for my friends not making it to see me off. At the check in I am asked to see my yellow fever certificate. First time I have been asked for it. I always carry it with my passport. All travellers should keep this in mind.
I am now flying off to Belize but have an overnight stop in San Jose, Costa Rica. I am flying with my favourite airline of Central and South America, TACA. After arriving there and getting a taxi to my hostel I set off with a young couple from England that are at the hostel and we find the nearest plaza to sit and a supermarket to get some cold bottled water. Dinner at a restaurant then back at the hostel I watched a bit of TV before going to bed. Can’t remember the last time I watched TV.
The hostel guy on duty comes and wakes me at 5am. I fly onto Belize City at 7am. Belize is hot and humid. I get a taxi to the wharf where all the boats leave to take tourists to the offshore islands. I am heading back to Caye Caulker. After dumping the bags I only have to walk 50 metres before running into my friend Paul. He is totally taken aback at seeing me again. He hadn’t been checking his emails. So I spent the afternoon chatting with him and telling him all my travel stories. I am staying at a different hostel this time and they have sea kayaks. So the next day I have a go at this. Another something that I have not done before. I go to the other part of the island and Paul and spend the day together. The area that I went the year before which had been cleared for a new hotel was exactly the same. Nothing had changed at all. Everything is on Belize time here.
I rowed across to the other part of the island every day. Got another private trip to snorkel the reef, caught up with Steve and spent a very amusing night with Murray and 2 English girls. Murray is so totally hilarious. I think he must be the biggest guy on the island in size and humour. He has a heart of gold. While I am here I get a haircut and swim, swim, swim. Paul has a day spent in bed. He got sick and then drank too much water. I learnt from him that if you get sick don’t over load yourself with water. Everyone says keep drinking and keep hydrated. This is not actually correct. Just drink what you normally would. After following his doctor’s advice and not drinking much for a day he was right as rain the next morning.
After 6 days here Paul and I catch the boat onto Ambergris Caye. This time we are dropped further off north at a different jetty. Evidently there was a big dispute months back about which boat taxis could use what jetty and things changed. Paul has taken this opportunity to go with me again and catch up with his friends on the island. We hire a golf buggy and do the rounds of his friends. I am only staying the night and catching the boat in the morning and heading all the way to one of my favourite places in Mexico.
And so to another day on the road. I wave goodbye to Paul at 7am as I first head to Corozal, then taxi over the border and into Chetumal, Mexico. As I have done this before I get comfortable in the café opposite the bus station and a guy from Norway pulls out a pack of cards so 5 of us sat there for 2 hours having cold drinks and playing cards. I must get myself a pack of cards for those ‘waiting for the bus’ times. Late afternoon and I roll into Tulum, catch a collective to the hotel and find that so many things have changed. Duncan is waylaid in Canada and won’t get down until after I leave. Mark and Sharon are in the USA. James didn’t return after he left last year to go on safari in Africa, but he is further up the coast, Jesus has left and moved to Playa de Carmen and a lot of the staff have changed. I am hoping like hell my little Mayan lady is the one cooking my breakfast in the morning as she is the best cook.
Budgie is still about and turns up for his usual beer after work. I get an invitation to have takeaways at his place tonight and so that’s what I did. He ran me back to the hotel around 10pm and I was asleep as soon as my head hit the pillow. I am up and off the next morning to the beach, but first my breakfast. My favourite cook wasn’t there! Ahhh. Spent the whole day at the beach and snorkelled the reef twice. That night I hit the Corona. Haven’t had a beer in ages so it didn’t take much and I was tipsy.
The next day is the same and that night I am sitting in the bar with Budgie and who walks in? Jesus. He is clean shaven, long hair and put on some weight. Wow did he look so different. I promptly leave and we head to Playa de Carmen. And you can guess how the next night goes at the El Crucero hotel. Yep its Budgies birthday and Kiwi, Jamie and another couple from South Africa, that now work and live in Tulum, turn up. I have no idea what time I went to bed but one thing that I will always remember is that I was paranoid half the night. Why? Well I went off to the toilet and when I got back Budgie is saying that I am the luckiest person in the world. Well yeah I think I’m really lucky but he is like ‘no you are uncannily lucky’. I would have just got out of sight of the bar and out of the rafters a snake dropped bang smack fair and square onto my chair. Had I been sitting there it would have been smack on my head. I’m damned sure I would have had a heart attack. So for the rest of the night I was looking up all the time to make sure there were no snakes about to drop down from the ceiling. It still gives me the shivers.
Mark and Sharon arrive back late in the afternoon a few days later. It is great to have a catch up with them. Of course that meant another late night on the booze. Just like last time I was here I am drinking myself silly. A friendly couple from Australia end up at our table and we had a hilarious night laughing. This guy was so amusing. This hotel attracts this sort of people like no other place I know. Again I don’t want to leave, but 3 days later I am leaving. I am browner and fitter from all the swimming and off to Cancun for the night before a flight the next morning to Monterrey, Mexico. I am going to stay with Omar, Rogelio and Tere.
Rogelio picked me up from the airport. So great to see my friends again. Omar is there to but is picking up some business men from the USA and we are meeting in the city later for dinner with them. Monterrey is hot and in the middle of a desert. Well that how it looked from the sky. It is a very modern city and has a lot of tourists. Rogelio and Omar live in the same house but Tere lives with her mum. It wasn’t until we went into the city for dinner that I caught up with her. Omar’s business men joined us for dinner and then we went night clubbing. What a crazy night.
The next afternoon Rogelio and Omar take me out of the city and into the hills. We drive for over an hour but stopping here and there. It was like giant rock and cliff mountains with the valley that we drove up. The formations where nothing like I have seen before. We went to some stalagmite caves and then drove even further into the hills and came across what I called the fake hydro dam. Massive and you could walk through it and there was just more of the same on the other side. Nothingness but rock mountains as far as the eye could see.
The next day the temperature is 39 degrees. Today we again head into the hills and hours later come out into this lush green valley and a small village. I have no sense of direction any more. And the heat. It is so muggy and the air conditioning in the car is working overtime.
We are in the car the next day and go to some waterfalls and lake. Eat Mexican food and day and laugh about all the crazy happenings when we meet up in London. We drove all over the place and did a wide birth around the back of Monterrey in the country. When we got back into the city we then went up this hill that gives you a 360 degree view. From here I could see a huge cemetery and asked if they could take me there one day during the week. That night we go to a show that in NZ we would call an AMP show. There is a huge amusement park and then all the stock animals and displays. Tonight was a late one.
On getting up the next morning we hear that swine flu has broken out in Mexico. Everyone is looking at me because I was coughing. I had caught a bit of a cough in Belize. My friends want to rush me straight to the doctor but give up. I know I don’t have the swine flu. Rogelio has brought himself a house and wants to do some decorating before he moves in so I spent nearly all day trying to get him to go to the paint shop. Didn’t happen. These guys run on Mexican time. It’s no panic and whenever.
On the agenda today is the centre of the city. This is a man-made channel which you don’t see until you are right on top of it. You can take a boat ride from one end to the other. We meet up with Tere and her friend from Guadalajara to have dinner then walk the channel. It’s 2 or 3 kms long and is all light up with a ton of lights at night. There are so many shops and businesses closed because of the swine flu and Omar has been told not to come into work.