29 September 2013

Oh, the horror

Yesterday I "braved" the local shop, going on a mission comparable to the finest of the hunter gathers - plain biscuits and Gatorade. Little did I know that a horror was awaiting me among the biscuit aisle. 


You'll note the date. It's the end of September. September.


You know what it is already, don't you. You've got the same in the shops near you. You thought it was a local phenomenon, but it isn't.

Christmas. A Christmas selection packs of biscuits. In September.

I'm the first to admit that I'm not a fan of Christmas (sorry to those who've just ruined another keyboard in reading that), but there is something needless in having Christmas (branded) food for sale in September.


27 September 2013

3 months

This is a post a started writing in my head whilst I was still in China, refined when I was in Huaraz and am now, finally, putting pen to paper.

Three months. It's a long time, isn't it?

Three pay cheques. A quarter of a year. 12 Friday nights out.
A long time, no?

Well, no. Actually.

When planning this trip I went from "South America is somewhere I'll get around to visiting one day, but it really isn't high on the list at all" to "wow, I really want to go to South America - there is so much to see/do/experience". See this for the history. 

I thought 3 months would be a good amount of time and I had grand ideas of all the things I could do and that was long before the passport fiasco.

When I, well, we - me and Gil, mostly Gil, OK Gil - came to putting some form of ideas on to paper (based on what I wanted, so I have had some say in all this :)) it became very clear that 3 long months is a very short period of time and no time at all when in South America (and, I suspect, South East Asia, but that is for another day). There is just so much.

Thanks to the passport issue I've had to change my travel plans several times and there still isn't anything fixed as I'm totally under the control of when my new passport arrives, which should be in 6 week from now.
(side note: for those interested, the application is definitely with the Passport Office, they've taken payment for the new one. I can only hope that this is a good sign.) 

So of those 3 long months, those 12 Friday nights, the vast majority of them will now be spent in Peru, giving my about 3 weeks to see something, anything, of the rest of South America, where the Salt Flats in Bolivia are what is want to see most. And that assumes my passport is returned in 6 weeks.

I am already toying with routes for another trip in South America, possibly something starting in Ushuaia and working my way up through Southern Chile and Argentina, doing Patagonia and the W trek (something I simply can do on this trip anymore), moving up towards Mendoza (another place gone) and then north in to Bolivia for the bits I don't get to do now or maybe head over to Buenos Aires via Córdoba.

All just ideas at the moment, but I've being here 4 weeks and I've already got another 3+ month trip for South America kicking around in my head.

3 months is not a long time.

20 September 2013

Learn English to learn Spanish (part 2)

From the teaching material at school...

The verb ser (to be) is irregular, intransitive and auxiliary. It is conjugated from the infinitive ser according to the subject. It can be used for people, animals or things.

I know what an irregular verb is, but I had to look up intransitive and auxiliary in context of verbs.

If you want to learn Spanish, learn English grammar first.

Friday night out

I have had this post kicking around in my drafts folder for months and I'm just going to publish it - it probably reads in a very disjointed fashion, as I've written bits of it over the last 4 months!

Here it is, unedited...

This is a post I started writing weeks ago (day 35 ish, where it's now day 53) and never finished it. As I write this I'm in the back of Daisy bouncing my way towards Bishkek for a final group meal, as almost all of the inhabitants of Daisy leave in Bishkek. I suspect that we'll hit a club after.
Update: we did hit a club after and an utterly awesome time was had.

I have no idea what day of the week it is without looking at my watch and I'm only vaguely aware of the date, but that's mostly because of writing this blog and needing to know when I was where - without that everything would be even more of a blur than it already is.

One of the interesting side effects of not having any dependency to the day of the week is that the concept of a "big" night out at the weekend doesn't apply - we may not being in a suitable place over the weekend or, more importantly, we may have driving the next day - dealing with a hangover whilst bouncing around in the back of a truck isn't something any other us want. As such our "let the hair down" nights are when we know we've got no driving the next day and nothing to get up early for.

This makes for an interesting issue... We are typically looking for a bigger night out in the middle of the working week and as such things are a lot quieter. Take Day 35 (29 May 2013)...

Having had a couple of beers with dinner and then stopping in to meet the other half of the group where they were eating (the group split into 2 for dinner - half going to the belly dancing place we'd gone to the night before, the other half finding a hole-in-the-wall to eat in) for another beer and to watch the locals dance (places which are dinner, dancing, dance shows and then more dancing are normal here - if nothing else it's a way to meet the opposite sex - although they are strangely interesting watching) here it way to clear that some of us weren't quite ready to call it quits at 2300 when things closed and wanted a later night, despite all being shattered from a day-long walking tour of Samarkant in 35+ degC heat. Thankfully our all knowing guide gave us directions to a local club which should be open later.

At this point a pro travelling tip: consider the benefits of carrying a torch in the evening, even if in a city - street lighting doesn't exist everywhere and walking down pothole lined streets in the dark is interesting. More so after a beer.

After walking around for a while in the back streets trying to find the place we were looking for and failing a local we had asked (pro tip: get names of places written down) was kind enough to walk us to the place as the otherwise surprisingly reliable sign language, which will be a blog post on its own at some point, hadn't worked.

It's as well he did, we'd walked past the club earlier and not noticed it - a very low key entrance, no people in the area, no sound leakage.

Having walked in we found that the place was decorated by someone who'd just watched the music video to Club Tropicana and then decided that a waterfall and foamy fountains were a good extra. Oh, and deep, dark, alcoves were a good thing too. "Odd" doesn't being to start describing it. 

We also found that the place was almost empty and thus the problem - when the days of the week have no meaning to you getting a "Friday" night out can be tricky. There simply hasn't been anywhere to go for some lively fun.

I say almost empty... There were three Uzbek guys who'd all recently got back from working in Brighton. It's a small world.
The club was open until about 0030, which was ok with us - there was nothing there worth staying for later.

As I write this I'm in Tashket, Uzbekistan's capital, and it's a Saturday night and we've got no driving tomorrow - we are all hoping to find some nightlife tonight.


We found the nightlife - after walking away from the first place (far too much to get in and the cars parked outside suggested that overlanders who, through necessity, have a different standard of cleanliness to others wouldn't be welcomed).
A short cab ride across the city later and we arrive at a much more suitable place (half knackered Ladas, not blinged-up (nice) cars) and we settled in for the night). 

Unlike the UK clubs I've been to (not many) and worked in (all one of them) tables had to be bought if you wanted a seat - our choices were standing by the bar or dancing. We chose a lot of the latter.

Dancing in walking boots isn't great, but sandals (my only other footwear) may not have got past the goons on the door.
A really good night was had by all; a much needed blowout after weeks of bouncing in Daisy.

Passport update

An update on the passport situation...

My application for a new passport is currently winging its way towards the UK and in about 6 weeks time a new, proper, passport will be waiting for me at the British Embassy in Lima, assuming no issues with the application. 

This is the best result I could hope for (although I won't complain if the passport gets back earlier), as the other options included me returning to the UK for a couple of weeks in order to get a passport! And whilst returning to the UK has some major advantages (I get to see people), it is a strange relief to not have to - it would have cost a lot of time and money, none or which would have been covered by my insurance (I asked). I would have returned if I had to - the cost meant I got something of South America back. And, you know, to see some of you lot. 

The Emergency Travel Document (emergency passport) would only get me home and not allow me to see anything of the rest of South America, so I'm really happy that the passport office agreed to send it to Lima. Thanks, mum. :)
(My parents were helping me no end by talking to the passport office on my behalf, letting me use the time difference to my advantage and helping me work around less than great voice coms. One call from mum and they agreed to send it to the Embassy in Lima, something they were previously not all that keen on. Thanks, mum.)

Until then I'm "stuck" in Peru, which is no bad thing - there is a lot to see and do here.

I'll be heading through the Sacred Valley this weekend, taking in various places on route to Machu Picchu and then more on route back to Cusco. After whichever I've booked myself another week of Spanish classes, as it is beginning to make some form of sense and I want to see what another week of classes can do for me - I've gone from essentially no Spanish to being able to have basic conversations in Spain in 2 weeks! It has been *hard* work.

Once I've finished school I'm heading down to Puno for a few days, taking in all it has to offer; followed by a slow amble back up towards Lima, going overland by bus. The details of which I've not yet worked out, but that is weeks away.

The map looks wrong

As a part of my language classes I have 2 hours of practical lessons each day, the other 2 hours being grammar, which consists of visiting places in Cusco and talking about what is there, having talked on route - all of which is in Spanish.

On Wednesday, for example, we happened to find a book market, so discussed the books and reading as much I actually can, given my still very basic Spanish. On Tuesday we just talked over coffee, as both of us needed a coffee and as we were there, some carrot cake - which whilst good, isn't a patch on my dad's.

Part of Tuesday's conversation was discussing my previous travels, where I tried to explain how big Mongolia is in comparison to Peru. As a part of this I wanted to show my teacher the world map via Google Maps, but the cafe we were in (yes, Jack's) doesn't have WiFi and I'd not got the data cached.

Today I zoomed-out on the map, so as to cache data, and the map just looked wrong. That little blue dot that says "you are here" and a the land around it just looked wrong. And then it hit me...

I'm not in Central Asia any more.

Whilst that is a really obvious thing, but in the context of having looked at the world map for the previous 4 months, looked at where I am, where I've travelled through and where I'm going to, has all been whilst looking at the map landscape of central Asia; for that to "suddenly" change was a small shock to the system.

I've got 3 months to get use to it, before I head over to Southeast Asia and the (welcome?) return of that shape of land.

Reporting theft in Cusco

Update: So it turns out my blog is currently being returned fairly high in the results of those searching for information on how to report a theft (of a passport) in Cusco.  As such, a quick update in an effort to pay forward the help that others gave me…

Hello to the person in Cusco who has just had something, probably their passport and/or phone, stolen and is frantically searching the Internet for information.  A few words, then some useful information….
Don’t panic
There we go.  The most useful thing I can say at the moment and the words which are mostly likely to make you say “what do you mean, don’t panic!  I've just had my passport stolen!” Don’t worry, I've been there and know what it is like.  You are currently a mixture of panicked, scared, angry, and confused – this is normal.  It will be OK.

Right. Something approaching what I hope is useful information for you…
(Caveat: this information is based on what I can remember – things may have changed, my memory may not be as good as I’d like.  Your hostel can probably help with information, if nothing else.)

Don’t panic.  No, wait – I’ve done that bit.

The police station I went to was in Plaza Tupac Amaru, which is just off Av de La Cultura, a short walk from where you buy tickets for Machu Picchu.  You can easily walk here from anywhere central.
If you are looking at Google Maps then the police station is in near the Mega supermarket. It is a large building and easy to find – this should be link to Google Street view show the station: link.
There will probably be a few cop cars & bikes parked outside and there was always a police officer near the door when I was there.

The choice phrase you want it: “me robaron de mi pasaporte” which is roughly “my passport has been stolen” - substitute "pasaporte" with whatever of yours has been stolen.
At this point expect a look from the copper which says “not another gringo who has had their passport stolen” – this is normal.

Given that you are currently stressing, a polite reminder: unless you are fluent in Spanish you are probably going to have some interesting times in explain matters – the tourist police have some English, but it varies. Just keep calm and it’ll be OK.
(As a side note and something I really need to write about – I whole heartily recommend Fair Play as a language school.  It’s a good school, with great teachers and it does good too.  I really struggle with learning languages, but they managed to teach me enough to survive 3 months in South America. If you are looking for a language school you’d do very well by looking here.  Update: I did write something.)

The tourist police are all too familiar with tourists who have had their passport/wallet/phone/bag/etc. stolen and know that you need to report things so that you can get a police report (a denuncia) for your travel insurance.
They are going to ask you about what happened, when you discovered it was gone and the circumstanced of the theft (pickpocket, from my dorm room, etc.).  They may ask you the same questions a few times in a few different ways so as to make sure your story is straight – they aren't trying to trick you, it is just that people do abuse the police to get a denuncia so as to commit insurance fraud.

Once they have your details they need to type-up the report and you need to pay for it. Yes, you’re going to have to pay and this isn’t some form of scam.  The police will direct you to a local bank (Banco de la Nacion, when I was there – it’s a short walk from the plaza, the police had maps when I was there to show you where it was) to pay the small fee (S/7.60 in September 2013 – a few £$€).  In the event the police offer does ask you for cash and more than a few bucks worth, something probably isn’t right.

Expect there to be a long queue at the bank and it take a while to get to the teller to pay.  GET THE RECEIPT!  You must have the receipt as this prove to the police that you have paid and thus they will give you the official, typed, report.

That’s it.  You now have your police report and can deal with your insurance company.

I know how horrible it is to be abroad and have your passport stolen.  It will be OK, it is just going to take some sorting out.

For the British: HM Passport Office has some useful information on their website - the page on an Emergency Travel Document (Emergency Passport) is a good starting point.  It is worth noting that an ETD will only get you home - you can't use it for general travel.  You can transit through other countries on the way home (e.g. fly from Cusco to Lima to Madrid to London), but it is just for transit.  If, like I was, you are travelling around for a while, trying to go to many countries, you have some interesting choices ahead of you, probably involve changing all of your travel plans. Speak with the folks at the Passport Office - the people there helped me a lot, and I've thanked them for it.

Hopefully this was of some use to someone.  Rob, London, June 2014.

And now back to the original post....

Last Saturday I had to report the theft of my passport and phone to the police, if for no other reason than my insurance company requires the theft reported within 24 hours - something I easily did.

I'd been told that there was a tourist police station in Cusco's Plaza de Armas, so I headed there.

After a walk around the square I couldn't see the police station, so started talking with what was very obviously the tourist police - they are easy to spot, they look very different to the other police, especially Traffic - and are very visible in all the normal tourist locations, where in this case their police car was also marked as being tourist police.

At this point I'd had 2 lessons in Spanish, having arrived in Peru with almost nonexistent Spanish - Holla, mi llamo, por favour, etc - where thankfully the tourist police have some English.
Using a combination of my practically non existent Spanish, their English and a few choice phrases I'd got from Gil - where "me robaron de mi pasaporte" was, and still is, the most useful one - I managed to explain that I'd had my passport and phone stolen.

The police's immediate response was "do you need a report?" I'm guessing they get a lot of this. "OK, hop in and we'll go to the station and do it". 

At which point they indicate for me to get in to the back of their police car, something I do. Here starts my first, and I hope only, ride in the back of a (Peruvian) police car.

In hindsight, jumping into the back of a random car in Peru may not be my smartest move (although to be fair, that is how taxis works around here), but I was fairly certain that they were real coppers (unlike the fake "police" who mug you) and that it was ok. I did have second thoughts as we headed away from where I thought the other tourist police station was, but a few minutes later we arrived at Plaza Tupac and a police station. 

On route we'd chatted in a mixture of English, Spanish and sign language (I really need to write something on how effective sign language is) about what had happened, all of which was repeated at the police station. (given that there is a big poster in the police station about how unhappy the police are with false theft reports I suspect he was just checking my story.)

The report itself was written on bank paper, by hand, with me and the coppers signing it at the bottom, and then adding inked fingerprints - odd.

In order to actually get the report I needed to pay for it, but not directly to the police. Oh no. Instead I wandered over to the nearest Banco National, queued for 10 minutes to get in to the bank (yes, in to) and then another 20 minutes of queuing to get to a teller, who knew exactly why I was there the moment I handed over a scrap of paper which looked a lot like a small Rizla with some printing on it.

A few Sol later and I'm wandering back to the police station, receipt for my payment in hand.

By the time I get back the report has been typed-up and looks something more like an official report and not ideas jotted down on paper. Most useful when trying to convince insurance companies to pay out (not that I'm going to be able to claim for much).

Overall the whole process took a couple of hours and was far less painful than I had been expecting. The police were helpful, although were far from surprised that another Gringo had their passport stolen.

I went back to the police station a few days later in vain hope that it may have been found - the police had 8 passports sitting in a desk draw, alas none of which were mine. There is a reason why the police weren't surprised when I said I'd had stuff stolen from me.

15 September 2013

The art of the pickpocket

The bit at the end about how you feel nothing is true - I had absolutely *no* idea that someone was extracting things from my pocket, having first unzipped it.

The art of the pickpocket is impressive, if really annoying to those who fall victim to it.

The art of misdirection

Given my recent adventures, this is an interesting watch.

14 September 2013

Learn English to learn Spanish (and probably most other languages)

I am in Cusco to learn a little Spanish, as I am going to be spending 3 months in Spanish speaking countries and I *need* to have some Spanish in order to survive and to just get more from my time here.

I am using FairPlay as the school, based on a recommendation from Gil. 

I'm 7 lessons in and I'm happy with my choice, even if each lesson makes me feel like I've been hit by a (Spanish speaking) truck. 4 hours of communicating totally in Spanish, doing a mixture of classroom based learning and practical lessons around Cusco. It is intense, immersive and whilst it makes me feel like I know nothing, it is actually working. I think.

It is, however, massively frustrating at times, as what would be a simple question to ask and answer in English becomes 10 minutes of pigeon Spanish and sign language in order to try and understand what my tutor, who doesn't speak English, is trying to teach me.

This is my first attempt at learning a language since I left school, where I spent 5 years attempting to get some French in to my head, with limited success based on my grade and generally poor foreign language skills. Wind forward mumble years and it is time for another go, although with a different language.
(I did 1 year's of French and Spanish at school, but that really didn't work out for me - they are too close to each other for the 13 year old me to not get the too languages confused. The thirtymumble year old me still gets the two mixed at times too.)

One of the things which was clear to me by lessons 2 (when I started to draft this post) is that having a solid understanding of English grammar will make things a lot easier when learning the grammar of another language. I, and I suspect a lot of others, don't ever think about the structure and tenses in our conversations - we just know it, having grown up with it and with varying amounts of formal education on the topic, although I have no recollection of being taught grammar at school. When you start to learn a new language all that is taken away from you, or at least from me. 

One of the things I've struggled withdraw is that in Spanish, as with French, the determinate and indeterminate article changes based on the gender (something I struggled to get my head around in French) and number of the objects (1 or many) and it makes for some (read: lots) head scratching. Mostly it is knowing the gender of the object, as singular vs. plural is easy. 

Gender of objects.... I have a gender. You have a gender. There is a whole spectrum of gender. All of which is assigned to living things, specifically humans. (I'm going to ignore sex vs. gender for other animals.)
Saying that a coconut is masculine (in Spanish, at least) and that a university is feminine makes absolutely no sense what so ever. That water (agua) is masculine in the singular but feminine in the plural (aguas) makes even less sense. If anyone can actually explain why some languages have this I'd love to know.

If I were staying longer at the school to do (more of) the complete course, something I've toyed with, then I'd have to start dealing with past perfect and the such like - but I'm just going to do my 2 weeks at the school and then start exploring Peru and actually trying to use and live off the Spanish I've learned and what I'll continue to learn as I go. 

If I did doing more of the course I'd have to give myself a crash course in English grammar, if only so that when things like past perfect are referenced I know what it is English and so can do something with it in Spanish. As is, I'll probably have to do that when I get home as I'd like to carry on learning Spanish. 

8 September 2013

Odd photography moments

Plaza de Armas on Cusco is a pretty enough plaza, where the Cathedral and Churches are really quite pretty and worthy of a snapshot or three - I'll take a few when I bring my camera around town.

Wandering through the square earlier today and saw a chap shooting the churches using a Hasselblad.
I know photography has an element of "use the light that is there" about it, but I was surprised to see what I suspect is a pro tog (the camera, his assistant) shooting a building which is crying out for nice light in the middle of the day, when the square is full of people.

Not what I'd have picked, but I'm no pro.

Note to self (flags)

The giant rainbow flags flying throughout Cusco doesn't mean what it would elsewhere. :)

It was going to happen at some point

I thought that point was on Wednesday, when I arrived in Cusco. Upon collecting my bag from the airport I noticed that 2 of the padlocks had been cut off.

I checked the bag and contents as best I could at the airport and nothing appeared to be missing and, crucially, nothing had been added - something which is far more scary. 

On speaking to the airline's baggage people at the airport they first tried to claim it was due to the bag getting caught on the conveyors, but the bag (zip) itself isn't damaged in anyway. They then confessed that they've got a bit of a problem with their luggage guys having a bit of a poke around in luggage. Joy.

I checked it again properly when I reached my homestay, pulling everything out of the bag and checking everywhere - nothing taken, nothing added; just my wash bag rummaged through. Odd.

Alas the point was on Friday night, as I headed back to my homestay after my second day at school. I was pick pocketed and my phone and passport are no longer in my possession.
It is almost impressive in the ability of the thief to remove it from me without me noticing anything at all, especially as it was in a zipped hidden pocket (ie not an open, obvious, pocket, like all trousers have).

The phone itself is an annoyance and one that will costs me even more limited coms for a while and a few quid to fix (my insurance doesn't cover my phone, so it's all out of my pocket). The passport is the bigger issue, obviously.

I am currently in Peru, with grand plans for my travels through Peru and down through Bolivia, Argentina and Chile; onwards to South East Asia after that, at the end of November. 

My travel plans, especially those in South America, are all currently up for renegotiation, as my ability to travel is dependent on what the Consulate (Cusco) and Embassy (Lima) can do in terms of an Emergency Travel Document (an emergency passport) and the limitations this puts on me within country (i.e. the ability to take internal flights), along with what options I haven for getting a replacement "real" passport whilst out of the country and the timescale for doing so.

I'll be speaking with the consulate on Monday (they are closed at weekends) and hopefully I'll know more by Monday evening. Replanning of travel can then happen.

Given I'm travelling for about a year, and have already spent over 4 months on the road, something was going to happen at some point - just annoying it is now, although I'm kinda grateful it is now (if it has to happen) as I've got friends in country with more local knowledge than I have and, crucially, language skills. This would be all the more difficult if I was in Laos, for example, where I'll be early next year, I hope.

In summary: Bugger.

6 September 2013

Worthy of a read

This was posted to Facebook by a friend of mine.
Worthy of a read. 

The first day at school

Today was my first day of formal education in a very long time, teaching me a subject (languages) that I was never very good at.
My tutor (it's one-on-one) collected me from me homestay this afternoon and didn't speak a word of English to me in the next 2.5 hours.

My school day is 2 hours of grammar (and vocab) and 2 hours of practical teaching, which is out of the classroom (today was a walk to and around one of Cusco's markets).

My grammar teacher didn't speak a word of English to me and my practical tutor (a different person) spoke very very little to me (a few dozen words, in order to teach me the Spanish).
Did I mention that this is immersive learning? :-o

My head was spinning after 2 hours of grammar & vocab; it was spinning a lot faster at the end of the practical lesson, while was 2 hours of communication in Spanish, a language I started learning today.

I've got confidence that this method of teaching will work, although they next few days are likely to be "interesting".

Wish me luck for tomorrow.

5 September 2013


For the first time in just over 4 months I'm going to be in the same placed for 2 weeks and I have a room to myself for the entire time!

As much as I enjoy travelling, obviously, 4 months of not being anywhere for longer than a few days and rarely having your own space does take its toll; I am really looking forward to spending 2 weeks exploring this area, learning, travelling and yet not moving.

Back to school

Many years after leaving school, a few less years since I graduated and a couple less still since I did my last professional qualification, I head back to school tomorrow. My first formal study in a long time and my first study of language since I finished my GCSEs more than half my lifetime ago.

I'm currently in Cusco to do a 2 week intensive, immersive, Spanish course. It won't make me fluent, but I hope it will give me something useful and something to build on for the next three months.

As something I've arranged via the school I have a home stay, where our host doesn't speak English - everything at home is in Spanish, a language I currently have a few dozen words in.
It made dinner conversation interesting, where thankfully the other two students staying here are weeks ahead of me (and one has just got her A-level in Spanish and is off to study it at Cambridge, so she's quite good) and helped me.

So I'm back to school tomorrow. Wish me luck.

Signs you are tired

The morning after arriving in Lima we (me, Gil and Henry) head up to Huaraz, something we've had planned for a while (I think I was in Xi'an when we arranged it). This gives me my introduction to Peruvian (and South America, in general) coaches, (one of) the main forms of inter-city transport.

Thankfully we had a mid-day departure, which allowed for a little much needed sleep, a repack of bags so as to take little with me and to then battle through Lima's traffic.

There are many different companies who offer different routes and different quality if coaches, where we'd booked a better one (Oltursa) and booked a cama seat (fully reclining, as compared to semi cama which is partly reclining), as Gil knew I'd be tired.

Of the 9.5 hour journey (scheduled to be about 8, but the traffic leaving Lima was terrible) I was asleep for 7.
Not a nap, not a little bit a sleep, but out cold. Gil woke me after 5 hours as she was worried I'd mess-up my already broken body clock, where she had to really shake me to wake me. I just went straight back to sleep and was out cold for another 2 hours.
After we arrived in Huaraz we jumped in a cab to the hotel, dumped our bags and headed out to find dinner. 

Not exactly a traditional Peruvian dinner, but it was quick, easy, tasty and what we needed - pizza. And wine.

I slept for another 7 hours that night. I think my body was telling much something.

Arrival in Lima

I've been in South America for a week now, a week spent with Gil and Henry (her boyfriend), spending the time in Lima, Huaraz and back to Lima.

I arrived in Lima after an all too short period of time in Miami. It was great to see Rick, Dani and the kids again, but a real shame to have such a short period of time with them.
Apologies to my other friends in the USA, the flight routing to Lima just took me that way.

I arrived in Peru having spent 33 hours flying from Beijing (via London and Miami) and with a 14 hour time difference from Mongolia. The stop in London, well - Reading, with a quick trip into London - was fantastic - days longer than I'd expected as I managed to change my flight (I originally had 23 hours in London, which I managed to turn into 4.5 days), but just not long enough.
One of the things I haven really learnt about myself over the last 4 months of travelling, of being away from home, is what is important to me. Whilst I've always know that My People were important to me, it's only when you are away from them for 4 months does its really hit home. Alas you can't live The Dream of travelling the world without leaving home. 

Back to the arrival in Peru....
Having arrived doing a fair impression of a zombie I had to deal with immigration. This was a very simple process and one which should have caused no issues - had I been something other than a zombie there wouldn't have been any issues. 

Immigration Officer: "how long are you in Peru for?"
Me: "er...."
At this point I need to introduce my thought process...
I'm in South America for 3 months and I'm probably visiting 3 countries, although it might be 4. It's about a month per country. Easy.
Me: ".... I oh, about 30-40 days"
Immigration Officer: "ok"
The immigration officer stamps me into the country and gives me 30 days. I wonder off from the desk towards Duty Free when I realised what an idiot I'd been.... I am in South America for 3 months, but most of that time is in Peru; 6-7 weeks in total - far more than 30 days. Bugger.

I go back to the desk. Cue some interesting discussions with the immigration officer about the mistake I've made, how it is my mistake (playing the bumbling, over polite, Englishman helps at times) and is there anything which can be done. 

She then spends a good 10-15 min talking with people about what can be done, as apparently this hasn't happened before.
In the end she takes my passport and adds a 1 to the existing 30, giving me 130 days in country (and updated the computer).
Having been on of the first off the plane I was the last out of immigration and they were about to take my luggage away as uncollected as I got too baggage reclaim.
One quick scan of all my luggage later by Customs and I'm done.

Hello Gil.

After nearly 9 months I'm with my friend Gil, which is a deeply wonderful thing.

We head back to Henry's place (also at the airport, which was a nice surprise) for some food and the beginnings of a damn good catchup.

4 September 2013

What's that sound?

There was a strange sound yesterday, one that I'd not heard in a long time - since leaving London.

It was my phone ringing.

I'm in Peru long enough that having a local SIM makes sense; having mobile comms makes travelling easier.

So for the first time in just over 4 months my phone rang. It was Gil.

3 September 2013

Dear Miami International Airport

Well done.

I know this isn't the usual opening to something about Miami International, an airport famed for how long it takes to get through Immigration, but well done.

20 minutes.

20 minutes is the time it took from getting off the plane to wait for my baggage, having passed through immigration!

Another 20 minutes later and I'm practically waved through Customs with no bother (him "how long are you here for?" me: "a day; I go to Lima tomorrow"; him: "welcome to America. Next.").

Well done, Miami, you've really surprised me.

Dear Dulles... Sort it out! It took 2 hours the last time!

2 September 2013

This isn't Mongolia

Somewhere about an hour south of Huaraz.