Travel musings

Cuba – day two

Poor Mitch got detained in the Havana airport as he was bringing in a lot of donated cameras for the local art college, after many hours of flight delays. He got four hours sleep last night. I slept about nine hours! Was woken up by singing, slamming doors, and a lot of birds singing very loudly. The breakfast was okay… it will be the same for many days. Everything has ham in it. I guess they are pretty excited about eating meat again after so many years of not having any (the Special Period, 1991 or so, after the Soviets pulled out and left them high and dry). They were boiling shoe leather and lost a third of their body weight during that time… it was pretty sketchy for the people. So I will be eating Corn Flakes and icky oranges for a week. I experienced the Cuban “no” this morning. I wanted butter with my bread, and couldn’t see any and asked two people if there was butter. They looked confused and then said no. A third person, the manager I think, asked me what I wanted and I told him, and then he took me to the back table where there was piles of butter! Lesson learned. Ask five people and maybe you will get the answer. We had an air conditioned bus this morning which was pretty fancy, which took us downtown to the capitol building. Unfortunately it’s undergoing restoration which means it’s covered in scaffolding. Apparently the city has changed quite a bit in the past few years. The cars …. oh the cars… are...

Cuba – arrival

Got through customs without a hitch… I declared I had narcotics on my form (my back pain meds) and they just took my form and smiled. I was worried about the huge bag of vet supplies I brought in, but nobody seems to care. Met some funny little French Canadians in the lineup to exchange money. Because I flew into Varadero, most of the people getting off the plane were getting on a tourist bus direct to their all inclusive resorts. I had to find myself a taxi, which was easy, but there was nobody around to share the cab ride with, so I ended up spending $100 which was a bit painful. But I still ended up saving over $400 on my flight, and as a bonus got to fly West Jet. The Victoria & Calgary flights were delayed by one and two hours respectively but I didn’t mind… I was in no danger of missing any of my flights as I had long wait times between. The cab ride was pretty cool. I knew there were old cars here… everyone knows that right? But there were more than I was expecting. Some looked like they were in really good condition, and others were in much rougher shape. There were also Russian crap cars (Ladas) and huge ‘50s trucks which had been converted to people movers. Saw a huge truck with about six teenage boys horsing around in the back on the highway. And the horses! Tied to the side of the highway to graze, horses and buggies everywhere. Some horses were in healthy shape; others were ribby...

France

Haley and I arrived in Paris at around noon and found our way to the hotel which is in the 15th arrondissement. The subway system signage is much improved from what I remember back in the early ’90s. Now there are apps to help you get around. It was raining which is unfortunate but hey first world problems right? We were hungry so went looking for food and just a few shops down from the hotel was an authentic looking place. I had linguine with tomatoes and basil. Wow it was amazing! And my French came back magically. I don’t understand how I haven’t really used the language is 25 years and I can actually kind of communicate. Okay so I have to say this. North Americans have this perception of the French which is absolutely false. They think the French are rude and snobby. Perhaps this came from Paris where the locals are swarmed by obnoxious tourists who have no manners. We wandered around the city for about eight hours! The only really touristy thing we did was climb a lot of stairs up to the second platform of the Eiffel Tower. That structure is such an icon it seems surreal to be able to see it from practically anywhere downtown. There’s a gift shop on the second level where I found a petit prince fridge magnet! Had to buy it because of my tattoo. Also we ate crepes and drank wine. Paris is...

Holland to France

Currently in Brussels waiting on the train for some ‘operation’ to be completed. I think they’re switching engines or something. I was just travelling backwards at over 200km per hour. Feel slightly nauseated by travelling backwards but I’ll get over it. Cause I’ll be in Paris soon. Eating a croissant. Forecast calls for rain but I hope it holds off until tomorrow. We’re just staying in Paris for a night and then off to Bordeaux on the train. Haley my niece and I went kayaking yesterday through the canals of Utrecht. It was so beautiful! That was only the second time I ever kayaked so it took a while to get used to it. My ass went numb and my back was a little sketchy but no harm done so far. We brought a small bottle of wine with us and some snacks and had a nice leisurely time of it. Beside the canal on some steps we came across a dude with a banjo singing to some Japanese tourists. He was really good! I think we surmised he was Canadian from the type of music he was playing (singer songwriter type like ray lamontagne) and from what he was saying to the tourists. Haley and I creeped him by sticking around out of sight under the bridge hoping he would sing again but he didn’t. So we’re now in France! I know because I get texts from the Dutch carrier telling me how much it is to call and text. So observations about the Netherlands: everyone is very tall. Everyone is very nice. Bicycles everywhere. Expensive to eat...

The way there

Currently surfing along the jet stream at 37,000 smelling the magnificence of a fellow passenger’s sinister flatulence. My neighbour was forced to tell me at an opportune time that the odorous ness did not in fact belong to him. I will find out whose it is and punish them. It is interfering with my attempts to nap. The gravol was a waste. Four and a half hours to go. I’m not going to make it. Finally left the remnants of Canada behind and are approaching Greenland. My ass is going numb. Watched one movie. May attempt another. Non flatulent neighbour watching the Lego movie. He is a grown man. Stop being a whiny little bitch. What am I most looking forward to, you might ask? I think it’s a toss up between sipping red wine in Bordeaux and meeting my new rellies in England. The Farter is back. We had a brief sojourn over dinner but now they’re back. They must die. Landed safely and was happy to get away from the unpleasantness. Haley and marten were there to meet me which was very sweet of them. Had a fun birthday party with martens friends last night and slept like a log! Maybe my jet lag will be okay this time. Off to go cycling around today!! Fun fun. I like this...

Just so ya know.

So I’ve learned a few things about Europe in the past few days. Car Rental in France Very complicated. Particular when you think you are saving money by getting a fancy new Visa card which offers insurance on rental cars. Except for that clause I heard rumour of that if you waive the rental company’s insurance, you will have a hold put on the vehicle, for the full value of the vehicle. Seriously? I spent hours on the phone trying to confirm or deny this rumour, and nobody could help me. Until the heavens parted and I spoke with a service agent at Auto Europe, she was all over that shit. She said, yup, every one does it, it varies by firm and vehicle, and proceeded to tell me exactly how much each company charged. BAM! So I ended up booking through them also because it was $100 cheaper than the actual company’s website! WTF. SIM cards I may be a nerd but I didn’t quite understand what a SIM card did and that phones can be ‘locked’ to a carrier. Thanks to some friends and Rick Steeves I now fully understand. And will be promptly unlocking my phone (Rogers, you better do this for me)…. and purchasing a SIM card immediatlely upon my arrival in Holland. Roger’s overseas plans are a...

Countdown to Europe begins!

I’m leaving for Europe in about two weeks which seems INSANE. This always happens before I travel… doesn’t seem quite possible, but here I am hemmoraging money so it must be true. I’ve booked nearly everything but am currently waiting for my fancy travel VISA card which has lots of advantages for travel. Why didn’t I get one before? With all my debt I could travel around the world for free on the points. But money is not really my forte. Saving it, that is. Spending it is pretty fun. The trip lasts from August 1-31. My itinerary is extremely silly and ambitious, but I’ve committed to it, so I must go come hell or high water. I’ll be going to Amsterdam, Utrecht, Paris, Bordeaux, Budapest, Fribourg Switzerland, and Colchester UK. More details later. Must...

Caye Caulker part two

Spent the last few days of the trip on beautiful Caye Caulker. I love that place. It’s the typical island paradise, not too touristy ….. But with awesome snorkeling and friendly locals. And a Lebanese restaurant!! The owner who is lebanese, has a creole accent which is pretty funny. So the only activity I took part in was a one day snorkeling/sailing trip with ragamuffin, who I went with before. They’re great. Our captain was nicknamed caveman. And of course there’s the free rum punch and salsa. I saw a beautiful coral “garden” where we saw some nurse sharks resting in a crevice. Then a feeding station with nurse sharks and stingrays. I got to pet a shark belly and a stingray. The. Then a marine reserve where all the fish are huge because they haven’t been fished to death. I saw an unbelievably huge parrot fish, barracuda and finally got to see some turtles!!! One swam right past me. And did I have my goprp camera!? No. Why? Because I was expecting more of the same as before which was nice but not what I ended up seeing. But some nice people who were on the tour said they would send me their photos. We’ll see. And I also hung out with marthe a nice Norwegian girl. I made some great connections on this trip. Now I have an open invitation to Amsterdam and Norway. Sweeet!! So here I am in the Vancouver airport. Sunburnt and with a smile on my face, looking forward to cracking open the coconut rum and listening to some bob marley. As the...

Caracol Mayan sleepover

So I got picked up by a man named gonzo to start my trip to the Mayan temple. I got the VIP treatment as it turns out the head of archaeology for Belize and his entourage are traveling with us. So I got to meet his family and hang out with them. What a nice man. We set up the tents etc then got a Tour with dr. Awe. It was very interesting. The temple at Caracol is the largest structure in Belize! Gotta like that. Then at the top of the temple some Mayan elders climbed to the top and lit some incense. I was surprised the most of the ppl there was drunk Americans. I was expecting some new age types of which I saw only one of. I made friends with some loud Americans from georgia which was weird. They are really so different from the types I normally hang with. As soon as they began discussing god I had to zip my mouth. I stayed up till midnight to celebrate the new day along with two if the.cooler Americans even though I suspect they were all Romney supporters. Blech. We drank a lot of rum. I had to have a little break at the foot of the temple in the pitch black. When I saw two glowing eyes. I am not superstitious. It the rum and the doomsday predictions and the fact I was in the jungle made me a bit nervous. When I went to check out the glowing eyes suddenly they looked at me then these huge wings unfolded and it flew right...

Of caves and temples

Having a better time of it now thankfully. A local Lebanese / creole guy jimmy in town here is my man. He runs a restaurant and tour company and likes to brag about how he won the national grill master competition against some rich douchebags with $10000 grills. I took a day trip to Guatemala to visit Tikal which was incredible. Our tour guide noelle is a Mayan so we got the real deal. Their history is so similar to the first nations back home; how their culture has been repressed and how it is making a quiet come back. There we saw some rich new age types participating in a Mayan fire ceremony. They were all white Europeans dressed in white with flowers in their hair etc and wearing spiral necklaces. I’m worried I’m going to be the only normal one at the caracol sleepover. Oh well it’s going to be an experience. I have to make sure I have lots of tequila. Yesterday was another great day. Went on a spectacular cave tour which was very extensive and quite a rugged experience! We took the difficult routes I think as we were all young and fit. I couldn’t imagine an older person struggling up the dangerous rock formations. There are old skeletons in the cave which have been calcified and are over 1000 years old. After the tour the group met for dinner and a lot of beer. What a great bunch of ppl. Today was a down day for me. I was absolutely exhausted for some reason so just stayed in my room and napped. Feel...

Sketchy

So definitely no paradise here in Belize. Parts of it seem sketchy to me but maybe I’m getting old. Spent on night in Hopkins which I was expecting to be laid back and hippy but instead was shifty and run down. When I asked the crazy lady at the guesthouse why she chose Hopkins to settle down she said it was an after death experience. Hard to argue with that kind of crazy. When others in the village found out I was staying with crazy lady, they all gave this look and told me if I didn’t like it I should try the funky dodo this other guesthouse on the strip. I seriously have no idea what the appeal of Hopkins is. I got out of there as soon as I could. I’m now in st Ignacio which has more tourist infrastructure and lots of outdoor activities. I met a local tour guide who took me to the local ruins at the top of the hill and to see a beautiful river with iguanas in the trees. He knows a lot about the local fauna and was getting me to taste various leaves etc and telling me the healing properties of others. We saw some small parakeets in the trees and a lovely bird I need to look up when I get home. It sure would be nice to have some company right now. Feeling lonely...

Ragamuffin sailing cruise

Just arrived in Placencia back from a three day sailing cruise from Caye Caulker. What an awesome time! Met a wonderful bunch of fellow travelers from Russia, Finland, Ireland, Israel, Cyprus, America, Norway, and Italy. We drank far too much and snorkel led a lot. Those two do not always mix. The first night we stayed on a tiny island about the size of a large back yard. We set up our tents and then got exceedingly drunk on rum punch. Next day we snorkel led a couple times then set up camp on tobacco Caye which has a few local inhabitants and a small ‘resort’. A very cute and naughty puppy made friend with us all and I thought it would be a good idea to bring her into my tent to sleep but she wasn’t feeling like sleeping; more like chewing. So I kicked her out and then she proceeded to turn into the Blair witch dog by clawing at my tent and flinging herself at the door. More snorkeling today which was awesome ( the go pro batteries died the first day grrr) but I did get some footage. Will see how it turns out when I get home! Tomorrow I’m off to Hopkins to use it as a base for the cockscomb sanctuary. Hopefully I will see a jaguar but it’s pretty rate. Now: to meet the gang for a goodbye dinner! What an awesome...