The Time The Colombian Police Tried to Plant Cocaine on Me

A friend of mine in work has recently returned from a trip to Colombia. We were exchanging stories about that glorious country when I was reminded about a relatively interesting tale. 

Let me take you back a few years ago to Cartagena, the Caribbean coast of Colombia. Cartagena is an absolutely gorgeous part of the world. I would highly recommend all of my readers / listeners to make the journey. I have been in some ropey places on my travels and this ain't one, I still love the ropey places as there is a sick satisfaction of staying somewhere off the beaten path. It makes me feel more like a traveller / wanker when I can talk about staying in a hut with no running water. In reality, I stayed in the hut because I was broke. If I had the opportunity to stay in the five star hotel down the road, I would. I merely told myself that staying in the rat infested brothel is more fun because it is more of an “experience”. 

I told myself that to stop crying myself to sleep. 

Anyway, Cartagena is absolutely beautiful. I recommended it to my parents. It is THAT nice. It is a beautiful colonial town with winding streets, stunning architecture and gorgeous sandy beaches. Naturally, we stayed in a hostel that I am fairly certain doubled up as a brothel. Colombia was towards the end of our trip and money was running low. We could not afford to be picky. I remember cutting my side rather badly on the bed there. To this day, I am unsure what actually cut me. Best not to think about it. 

I had a really great group with me in Cartagena. My initial pals who I began the trip with rejoined us and a big group from the volunteering place also. It was a great few weeks. Many, many late nights. After one particular late night, we spent the next evening nursing beers while sitting on the wall that surrounded the city. It looked over the beach and sea. It was a fairly stunning place to have a few beers. 

We were in a corner of sorts. There were plenty of people around. All having a few beers on the wall. Very pleasant. The wall is huge, by the way. People cycle across and whatnot. In the distance, I saw 4 police officers approach us on their motorbikes. You are allowed drink on the street so there was no issue. Or so we thought there was no issue. 

The police officer asks us to put down our cans and empty our pockets. No one had anything on them that would interest the police. One of my friends, we shall call him “Milk”, leaned over to me and whispered that he had pills. 

“Why the f**k do you have pills?!” 

“No, no, not those kind of pills. They are different types of pills”

“What types of pills?”

“Viagra…”

I just start breaking up laughing. I didn’t even bother asking why he had them. Well, its obvious why he had them. I explained to Milk that they are perfectly legal and not to worry. 

It came around to us to empty our pockets to the police. I had nothing so just showed my pack of cigarettes. Milk, full of shame, opens his palms to show a few little Viagra pills. The police become very suspect. Everyone just starts laughing. Not the police. The police demand to know what they are. 

The Spanish speakers amongst us were laughing too hard to explain the pills. So, I, the hero , with very little Spanish, stood up to the challenge. I can speak some Spanish. I can order some food and ask for directions but explaining a pill that gives you an erection did not come up in my Spanish classes. 

“Come up” 

Zing. 

Anyway, I basically mimic the after effects of what happens after a Viagra. You can imagine. The Police did not share our enjoyment of the situation. They become fairly aggravated. They continued their search but far more stern now. Andy, who was standing beside me, then emptied his pockets to show an empty cigarette packet. 

One Police officer leaned forward to have a look and did something weird with his fingers at the box. Andy, thank god, noticed that he actually placed a small bag of cocaine into the cigarette packet. We all freaked out. 

“Woah! You put that there! He put that there!” 

We pleaded with the main officer. He looked at the officer who placed the bag with disdain. He appeared to be angry that he got caught rather than actually planting it. I was freaking out. I feared the worst. It was going to be their word against ours. And I can imagine the law will favour the Police. 

They clearly just wanted a cheeky bribe. My time in South America was dominated by people trying to get bribes from us. I actually paid very little in my time. Not through the lack of bandits trying. I usually called their bluff. Not because I was brave. But because I was cheap. 

Thankfully the poorly attempted plant was so obvious that the police had to withdraw and left us alone. Once more, I avoided spending the rest of my life in a Colombian prison. 

Brian 1 Colombia Police 0 

I do want to reiterate that Colombia is one of my favourite places ever and the people are incredibly friendly. Just be careful about some minority of dodgy police officers. 

Reykjavik is Weird, but Brilliant. But Really Weird.

As a die hard Brian Tells Stories fan, you obviously read my piece on going into a glacier in Iceland. At the end of that piece, I left you hanging. The tension and the terror. The ending of a blog that has had you waking up in sweats. 

“When will he tell us what happened?!” - I hear you cry. 

Well, I am going to tell you right……now. 

So, we last spoke about having rum at the back of a bus with an American mother / grand mother combination. The journey back was hilarious and so much fun. I can’t remember the last time I went that long without swearing. The two kiwis and I managed to trick the ladies into thinking that we are 3 upstanding lovely gentleman. 

Suckers.

We were recommended a place to eat by the ladies. A Taco Bar. Absolutely perfect. We hopped off the bus, quite tipsy at this point, and headed back to our hostel in the freezing cold Iceland night. We polished off the rest of the rum and headed to downtown Reykjavik. Downtown Reykjavik consists of two streets. It is a lovely little city. What it lacks in size, it makes up in weirdness. 

We were staying in Reykjavik City Hostel which was a 30 minute walk to the hustle and bustle of downtown Reykjavik. It is a very pleasant walk. It is a lovely stroll along the sea with a stunning mountain range in the distance. 

We arrived at the Taco Bar and were greeted by the lovely staff. I wish I could tell you what I ordered but……see rum intake above. However, it was glorious. If you are going to go, we had three different types of Taco. Fantastic. Fish, meat & veg. Glorious food. 

The staff were great fun and they brought us to another bar where they knew the staff. The bar was closed but there was a lock in. Great fun. The lock in consisted of singalongs and drinking games. It was a tremendous amount of fun. What songs did we sing? Oh, I’m glad you asked. 

We opened with an emotional rendition of “You Say It Best” by Ronan Keating, before moving on to “With Or Without You” by U2. I know, a stunningly emotional beginning. It continued in that vein until we finished with “My Heart Will Go On” by Celine Dion. Not to be dramatic, but there were Icelandic tears all over the dance floor. 

I don’t know how to say “OK Lads, you are taking the piss now. Get out” in Icelandic but that is what I sensed the owner of the bar was saying towards the end of the night. Thankfully and oddly for a city of its size, bars stay open very late. We moved on to the next venue, Kiki’s. A gay bar. Gay bars are always a large amount of fun. We danced the night away with our Icelandic friends. 

Now, this is where things got weird. 

The night was coming to a close, so we popped outside for a cigarette and to discuss how sweet our dance moves were. At this point, there are 4 of us. Andy, Mike, THOR (not his actual name but if you have heard or seen Icelandic names…..they are impossible to spell or pronounce) and myself. We were all just chatting away and throwing compliments to each other. 

“Your robot is on point, bro” 

An Icelandic couple join us. Ask us why are we in Iceland before explaining how much they hate Iceland. This seems to be a common theme for Icelandic millennials. They all appear extremely disillusioned and frustrated. They are all incredibly friendly but they do not appear to be that patriotic. You will hear more when you subscribe to my podcast series and listen to the upcoming #ICELANDSPECIAL. 

Anyway, so our robot dance was incredible. I am chatting to the male of the couple that just joined us. I am probably explaining how good at dancing I am. I look over his shoulder and I see his girlfriend kissing THOR.

Uh oh. 

I panic. I don’t want to be apart of some Icelandic war. I, then, begin asking our Icelandic male any question that I can think of to keep him distracted. Unfortunately, THOR and our new friend’s girlfriend were in no mood to slow down. The boyfriend then turns around and sees what is happening. But just shakes his head and rolls his eyes, before resuming conversation with me. 

I am unable to continue the conversation as I am stunned at his reaction. I have to ask. 

“Are you cool with that?” 

“Yeah man. She is my girlfriend, not my property. I respect her more than that”. 

“Right.” 

I am struggling to make conversation as I am quite puzzled as to what is going on. An open relationship, I guess. I start chatting to Mike to explain what was happening. 

Then, over Mike’s shoulder. 

I see the male of the relationship grab Andy’s face and give him a huge kiss. 

What the hell is happening? 

Andy is less enthusiastic than the female who was on the end of THOR’s hammer, but Andy in good spirit, awkwardly laughed it off. 

Weird. 

At this point, I haven’t said anything in about ten minutes and for people who know me, that is a long time. I am very confused. 

We are still outside the gay bar and an American girl B-lines from the crowd straight to Mike.

“I saw you inside, and I have to say. You are so hot”, she says to Mike. 

Wahey! Mike has pulled. Mike and the American begin making small talk. I continue to talk with more Icelandics. Mike asks our American chummette what brings her to Iceland. 

“Oh, my husband works here. But doesn’t really work near Reykjavik. So we are fine.” 

At this moment, Mike and I lock eyes. Mike, like a true gentleman, expressed that hooking up with a married woman is not necessary something that he is comfortable with. Our American got very angry. Quickly followed by sadness. She slumped down outside a doorstep to be consoled by the couple and Thor. 

At this point, I feel like I am actually being Punk’d or something. Our American is very very drunk and wants to drive home. I can imagine driving in Iceland is sketchy enough, but in her state. Not recommended. 

We all recommended that she get a taxi. There was even an offer that we split the fare for her. She was having none of it and would only listen to Mike. Mike was then left in a bizarre scenario where he is trying to get a married woman in a taxi home, while she is trying to drag him to her car. 

Oh, then THOR starts making out with that girlfriend again. 

“Right”. 

Andy and I cross the road, light a cigarette and just stare at what was unfolding. We do not talk. Just stare. 

“Iceland is weird"

“Yup”

It finally all ends. I can’t even remember how. I think I blacked out. Not through alcohol. I was stone sobre at this point. I think I blacked out through awkwardness. 

We all strolled home by the sea, chatting and laughing about the events from the night. It is always so trippy to think about the chain of events for such a memorable evening. None of it would have happened if we were not recommended to go to the Taco bar by the Americans. 

Always make conversation when you travel. Who knows where it will lead you! 

We climbed into bed at 6.30am with no plans but to sleep. Needless to say, we were rather excited about it. 

The following day, we ate some great food, went to a penis museum, met some great people & I got hit on by a 60 year old Icelandic bar owner. 

Another weird series of events. 

Standard Reykyavik. 

But I bloody love you. 

The Time I Went Inside an Icelandic Glacier

I am just back from glorious Iceland. And, I have successfully seen my second Glacier. Glaciers are class. I really recommend trying to see one on your journeys. Ever since seeing the incredible Perito Moreno Glacier in southern Argentina, I have been itching to see more. 

Unfortunately, I live a real life now and am an adult, so opportunities are becoming few and far between. Thankfully, I had some holiday time to kill, two friends and Iceland to assist me scratch this itch. 

Having done plenty of research and chatting to friends who have gone, I was recommended Into The Glacier for all my Glacier needs. They did not disappoint. 

Myself and my two Kiwi comrades were due to fly out of London on Thursday night. We were to land in Reykjavik at 11pm, an hour drive to our hostel and be in bed and well rested in time for our tour at 8.30am. Maybe even sneak in a cheeky beer upon arrival? 

What a perfect plan. 

Unfortunately, our flight got delayed four hours and we did not end up climbing into bed until 5:00am. 

Not delicious. 

I feared what state we would be when we woke up to do a 13 hour tour. Thankfully the combination of exciting and the freezing weather kept us sprightly throughout. It really is a testament to how enjoyable the Into The Glacier experience is that despite having 3 hours sleep, we loved the tour. We did nap at any given opportunity though. Into The Glacier offer many different tours but the one I did was this

First up on the tour was to see a waterfall. When I originally saw the itinerary, I assumed a waterfall would be a filler part of the tour. I was dead wrong. The waterfall was brilliant. The Hraunfossar waterfall was well worth a look. We took many pretty pictures: 

After the waterfall, we hopped on the bus and headed to a local hotel for some grub. We were in a pretty remote part of Iceland at this point, so to see a lovely luxury hotel, was weird. I can’t imagine they get many guests. It was here, that I fell in love. 

"Love can touch us one time. And last for a life time" - Celine Dion 

Love is funny. I wouldn’t have expected to have fallen in love in Iceland, on a tour, mostly comprised of middle aged people. But I did. I ordered a steak sandwich and a beer. Then it happened. My soul mate entered my life. I knew after I pulled my lips away, my life would never be the same.  

Gull. Gull is a f**king fantastic beer. My word. So refreshing. I had several after this moment so it was not necessarily my surroundings that made it so special. I love this beer. I love it so much that I may import some. Or does anyone know anywhere in London where I can get it? I always thought mail order brides were weird. Until now. I now want love shipped to my door. 

After finishing our meal and when I eventually stopped proclaiming my love for Gull, we jumped in ICE 2. ICE 2 was an ex NATO truck. ICE 2 was class. 

ICE 2 took us deeper into remote Iceland and towards the glacier. The journey was incredible. So white. The mountains that surrounded us looked like paintings on a huge white canvas. It was spectacular. I have been fortunate enough to see some fairly incredible things, but this was up there with the best of them. 

We drove through a mini snow storm and arrived at the entrance of the ice tunnel into the glacier. We were warned that it could get as low as -22 around the glacier. Thankfully it only went as low as -8. However I was interested to see how my body would react to such cold. 

But I think I may have told myself that would be interesting to put a positive spin on being absolutely freezing. 

Our guide brought us into the glacier and through the ice tunnels. It was really spectacular. The guides are so knowledgeable, passionate and nice. Our particular guide was lovely enough to answer all my stupid questions, which there were plenty. 

(I podcasted our time in Iceland, so there will be an Icelandic special in the coming weeks). 

We took lots of pictures of the class ice tunnels. 

The ice tunnels are not that cold at all so it is not an uncomfortable tour. While in the glacier, we managed to drink some glacial water. A very niche activity but one that I would highly recommend. The freshest goddamm thing that I may have ever had. We exited the glacier and jumped back in our ICE 2, and drove back towards civilisation. 

On the way back to Reykjavik, we stopped at some hot springs. It was about 7.30pm at this point and very dark (Icelandic winter has sunshine from 10am- 4pm). We couldn’t really see much but it was nice to stand beside something warm. 

I cannot recommend Iceland enough and if you go, you simply have to go with Into The Glacier. They are a new company, supremely nice and incredibly passionate about what they do. Why would you not want them to succeed? It also helps that the tour is one of the best things that I have done also! 

On the drive back to Reykjavik, we cracked open some rum and met two lovely Americans from Wisconsin. A Mother-Daugter combination. Actually, a Mother-GrandMother combination as the Daughter had 2 teenage sons. They were absolute legends. Great fun. I just loved that they sat at the back of a bus with an Irishman and 2 Kiwis, drinking rum. 

Legend. 

We arrived back in Reykjavik. Polished off the rum and then had one of the best/weirdest nights I have ever had. 

Which I shall write about in a few days! 

Always leave them wanting more. 

A Delicious Place to Eat in Bruges & A Delicious Place to Eat In Brussels

Evidently, I went to Belgium recently. After my brief trip to Malaga, I ventured to Belgium with some friends. We spent one evening in Bruges and two evenings in Brussels. Ideally, we would have stayed in Bruges for the entirety of the trip as it is one of the most glorious places on earth, but a friend was flying in from Dublin and it is a pain to go Dublin - Bruges. 

Did you ned that much detail? Probably not. But I am a generous writer. 

I would go into plenty of detail about all the sites we saw in Bruges & Brussels and what fascinating insights that I gained on my travels but alas, we only drank fine Belgian beers and ate a variety of food. 

Yes, we did have mussels in brussels. We opted for a cheap option which was only OK. It was after a day of sampling a wide range of Belgian beer, so we were not particularly fussy. No one felt ill after cheap seafood which I feel is a victory in itself. 

However it is not the cheap mussels we had or the sneaky Dominos pizza that I wish to inform you about. We ate in two absolutely stunning places that you must try if in that part of the world. We shall begin with the Bruges establishment. 

RIBS 'N BEER - BRUGES

The name says it all. The name is enough to make you want to go! The website is here. Now, while Bruges is a magical and romantic wonderland, this restaurant is most certainly one of the main reasons I was eager to return. Perhaps that is a little sad but I am not going to lie to you, reader. In the lead up to our trip, my buddy and I were texting each other with excitement. He was in Paris with the love of his life, and I was strolling up and down the beautiful beaches of Malaga. But yet, the unlimited ribs was on our mind. 

Oh, I didn't mention that it is unlimited ribs, did I? 

"Not so sad now." - I hear you cry. 

This place is epic and I cannot recommend it more. I left feeling very ill and I have no one to blame but myself. I couldn't resist the unlimited option and attempted three helpings. It was too much. 200% go to this place, but make wise decisions. I would recommend getting the spicy ribs and not making any plans for the rest of the evening. We had big plans after the ribs. We were going to hit the town once more of our gang arrived and paint the town red. Dance off the ribs. 

The ribs could not be danced off that evening but they were dam fine. We did roam the streets of Bruges until the early hours sampling more beers where we were certain that we met Randy Jackson. 

We did not see Randy Jackson and we ate too many ribs. 

In a delightful surprise, we managed to wake up without a hangover and hopped on the train to Brussels. Despite smelling poorly and appearing even worse, we managed to blag our way into first class. We arrived into Brussels and managed to find our AirBnb. Our apartment was not in the greatest of locations (it was central, just not in that great of an area) but the apartment was sensational. It was a huge open plan loft. I have a fairly solid record with AirBnb but I think this was the best one. I absolutely loved it. 

Anyway, onto another establishment that you HAVE to eat in. This time, in Brussels. 

PECK 47 - BRUSSELS

YUM YUM YUM. Another absolute winner. Now, it was a raining miserable day in Brussels and our hangover was beginning to kick it AND the Q was huge. We were beginning to lose faith and were so close to opting to eat elsewhere. Thankfully, the staff were lovely which encouraged us to stay. 

It was some of the finest food that I have had. And the wider group agreed. They don't appear to have a website but their Facebook page is here

I had the sausage fest which was glorious but everyone ordered different stuff, all of which received huge praise. Following our great meal, we washed it down with Flat White's, Mimosa's and a couple of Bloody Mary's. 

We were all set for the day. The rest of the day/evening was an exceptional amount of fun. I can't say that Brussels is my favourite place in the world. In fact, it seemed a lot more grim than I remember/thought it would be. Perhaps we were in the wrong area and going to the wrong places. I am pretty sure we ended up in some sort of gay Irish bar. 

But that is for another day. 

Has anyone been to either of the above? Anything to add to the list? Doesn't need to be Belgian specific. Let me know! 

I have obviously neglected to discuss the awful events that took place around the world but I shall leave that to those far more eloquent and insightful than myself to comment. However, It goes without saying that thoughts and prayers go out to those involved. 

Stay safe kids. 

B x

The Importance of Owning a Boat

Many moons ago, I attempted to write a blog for a client, who was a big dog in the private equity game. You may be shocked to know that my knowledge of finance is weak, but the pieces that I was due to write were more about general strategy and information about him as a person. Leadership skills and yada yada yada.

He was a tremendously interesting and successful character. I got to spend a decent amount of time with him. Unfortunately, I was unable to pick up any hot finance tips, but he was all about the "work/life balance". I would have assumed that the head of a private equity house was constantly in the office but alas, not this chap. In fact, he owned a boat in the South of France, and frequented it often. How bad ass is that? 

Very. Very bad ass. 

This aspect of his personality fascinated me, so I wrote a blog for him on it. It was called "The Importance of Owning a Boat" and it was more about the importance of downtime than actually owning a boat. I thought the title would draw you in. 

Anyway, the piece was about how you need to find downtime and not feel guilty about taking them. I find it really tricky to switch off when taking a break or even worse, feeling really guilty throughout the break. For the first time, in a long time. I had an absolutely killer break. I had time off during the summer but it was as I was leaving my last job, which had a complicated ending, compacted with the nerves of starting a new, very different role. I constantly had something on my mind throughout. 

Not this bad boy. It was glorious. I flew out to Malaga on Sunday night. I had to work relatively late on Friday to get some reports done before I go, but then I headed over to a really good friends for a home cooked meal. I travelled South America with this pal so the evening was spent reminiscing and swilling wine. It was glorious. I had one of the most productive Saturday mornings to date following. Bashed out a report, a podcast interview and a blog. 

Great scenes. 

The rest of the day was spent down the pub with a pal who I am meeting on Thursday to go to Belgium with. We just giggled with excitement about our upcoming trip. But beforehand, I had Malaga. 

My flight was 7am from Stansted which takes the guts of an hour to get to from my house. It seemed like a good idea at the time, but I opted to stay up all night. I managed to edit two podcasts and watch a movie while waiting. Productivity. Well, the podcast part. Not the movie bit. I completely conked out on the flight though. So I closed my eyes and I was there. Amazing! I stayed in Malaga City Centre in an AirBnb. A superb choice. 

The next few days just consisted of drinking beer, eating tapas and taking epically long walks along the beach. It was so good for the soul. I would wake up at 11am-12pm, eat breakfast on my balcony and then pop off for a walk along the beach for 2-3 hours listening to podcasts and a variety of Boyz II Men songs. Then come home, do a tad bit of work (once again, on the balcony) while having a few beers before heading out for another walk and some grub. 

I went solo, by the way. 

I have done a fair amount of solo travelling before and it always delivers brilliant results. Sometimes, it forces you to go out and meet new people and others, you just chill out and enjoy your own time. I have been away with girlfriends and big groups, and they are always great trips but there is something magical about just going solo and doing whatever you want. I couldn't recommend it more. 

So, I am currently sitting in Malaga Airport ready to head home. I feel absolutely glorious. I am off back to the madness of London....but only for a few hours as I am off to Belgium with a bunch of friends. 

This Belgium trip shall not be as relaxed. 

Anyway, if you have some free holiday time and no one to go with. Don't just sit at home and waste the time off. Book a cheap flight, find a sweet AirBnb and head off. You will be shocked how much you will enjoy it. 

You may not own your own boat (yet) but there are plenty of places to go. Think of it as research, have a look around different sunny ports to spot somewhere to put your future boat. 

Peace 

B x

Pisco sin Fronteras

I feel like I start every blog with "this is one of the best things I did in South America...", and this intro shall be no different. However, I would argue that my time spent with Pisco Sin Fronteras may be one of the best things that I have ever done. We heard from a few people that PSF was a brilliant and rewarding experience. I was hoping to do something somewhat meaningful while away so working with PSF seemed perfect. I felt doing something good may ease away some of the awful deeds that were done to my soul in the previous months. 

From Huacachina, we headed to Pisco. Pisco is not somewhere I would really recommend to travel to unless going to work with PSF (however, PSF is now defunct so....I guess I would not recommend Pisco). I feel bad not recommending Pisco as it holds such a nice place in my heart. 

On the 5th of August 2007, Pisco was rocked by a 8.0 magnitude earthquake that destroyed 80% of the homes in Pisco, thousands injured and over 500 people lost their lives. A year after the disaster, many NGOs had pulled out but a group of international volunteers and some local pisqueno's founded Pisco Sin Fronteras. PSF builds houses for the community and works hard with community development.

I was not sure what to expect when we arrived at the volunteer house. When we arrived at the guesthouse we were greeted by about six girls who sang some weird PSF related song to us. It was a welcome song. I cannot really remember it because I was so confused as to what was going on. I was fearing that we stumbled across some sort of musical cult. I cannot even remember who the girls were that sang the song. I was so perplexed. I am pretty sure the more the song went on, the closer I backed towards the taxi. Measuring up my get away. Thankfully, everyone was amazing and it was just an odd start. We were met by the volunteer coordinator, Yuliya who had bright pink hair. As we walked around, I saw loads of people sitting around a fire and several girls playing with a hula hoop. I am unsure why I felt the need to point out that I saw people playing with a hula hoop but I did. I could never use a hula hoop. I think a guy will always look weird while using a hula hoop. A relevant string of sentences. The volunteer house was fairly huge. I was up in the penthouse. When we were told that we were in the penthouse, I was quite excited. The PSF was not my idea of a traditional penthouse. Infact, it was sort of a hole however was still nicer than the staff room in the Wild Rover, La Paz. The hole very quickly felt like home. The people who we shared the penthouse with were awesome. I feel like I have so much to say but do not know where to start. 

I shall begin with the day to day activities. Breakfast is served at around 7.30-8.15. Generally, everyone volunteers to do one cooking job and two cleaning jobs a week. So, the breakfast team would serve breakfast. Hmm, I better make this more interesting pretty soon. After breakfast and multiple rock paper scissors competitions to see who cleans up, the morning meeting happens. The morning meeting was maybe the only thing about PSF I did not like. People made announcements and stuff. Usually the announcements were fairly pointless and people moaning about unimportant things. If you made morning announcements moaning about stuff and you thought it was important, maybe it was. In most cases it was not. Right after the meeting, you head off to work.

The first piece of work that I did was with FMB. I am unsure what it stands for. I think it was "Furious Modular Builders" but do not quote me. In FMB, it was our job to build the panels for the modular houses. The walls of the house are wooden panels. Usually, you need to work in FMB before getting the opportunity to get on site and build a house. I found working in FMB first invaluable, just so you can get comfortable with the tools and the panels. The group that I did FMB with was amazing. The team all became very good friends which made going to work tonnes of fun. A good pal of mine who I worked with in FMB, Nick, raised money from friends and family back home to build a house. I was fortunate enough to be asked to be apart of his project. The family that were selected to have the house built for them really needed it. There was a huge family packed into a tiny tiny house. The house could not have been bigger than a standard bedroom size. The site that we built on was just down the road from the place that they were currently residing. The family always cooked us epic meals which was lovely. We would eat them on the site. However, there are hundreds of stray dogs in Pisco and many of them chose our site as a toilet so eating our lunch surrounded by dog shit was not great but you get used to it. 

Time ticked away and I began to fall in love with the place. I just started making new friends and everyday just became so much fun. Such a good group. So many like minded people. We partied hard but worked even harder. We would go out some nights, not get back till 4 or so and drag ourselves to work and do it all again later on in the week. It was so brilliant. It is 200% the highlight of my South American trip, and I had some amazing highs. It got even better mid way through our first week, when many of the long stays left. Long stays did not really talk that much to us, not out of snobbery but because they were going soon and you get so jaded with saying goodbyes that you don't really bother. A similiar thing happens to everyone, as I was coming to the end of my term, I was less eager to talk to all the new people as you couldnt be bothered. Towards the end of my time, i didnt really know that many people, well, I knew them but the people I hung around with, my crew, if you will, were mostly gone. You just dont really invest yourself in getting to know new people that much. It sounds bad but saying goodbye sucks and I said goodbye to a lot of special people during my stay. Like, everyone does really. It is probably more down to feeling comfortable in PSF rather than other people leaving, to be fair.  

When it came to the construction of the house. I had not a breeze what to do but we had people jump on and off the site to assist with any questions. The construction of the house was one of the most tiring and stressful things I have ever done but easily the most rewarding. From levelling the ground, to pouring the concrete, throwing up the walls, putting on the roof, fitting windows and doors, to painting the guy. I got to do it all. From the very beginning to the very end. It was such a bonding experience with the team. By the time the house was finished, the team felt like best friends. For that brief time in a small part of Peru, I suppose we were. The moment where we handed the keys to the family was insane. The family now have a house. Within minutes, the family broke the door which sullied the occasion slightly but we fixed it later. Our project was called "Free House". It was called this because we began encountering problems along the way (as you do) which was almost impossible to fix without better equipment and or building experience. We found ourselves often shrugging and saying "Its a free House....they cannot complain". It was a joke just incase you think we built a family a terrible house....well, sort of a joke. 

You will see that I convinced my team to paint the house green. Come on, Ireland. I cannot remember my argument why the house was green but I did not tell everyone that I just wanted a green house for Ireland until the house was half painted. Half the team were Irish though so it was fair enough....actually more of the team were American but we were hardly going to paint the house in the American flag. A massive eagle would have been brilliant though if not slightly threatening. I would not mess with the family who had a massive eagle painted on their house. I still think about the experience of building a house and no matter what mood I am in, those moments cheer me up. There were times where I wanted to take a blowtorch to the house and rip it piece by piece apart but even those low moments were amazing in hindsight. As I mentioned earlier, the moment where the family received the keys was mind blowing. Sure, there is a section of the floor with a dip and the house is green but it is still a house for a family that had nothing. We all have those moments where we doubt the choices that we made. Would things have been better if I stayed in Ireland and work on my career? I just think about those days working in Pisco and I instantly feel vindicated. It is nice to think that after my South American trip that I left something more than just time spent.

There was plenty more amazing moments in Pisco aside from building the houses. The social aspect of it was brilliant. PSF always organized fun ways to raise funds for different projects or even just broken equipment in the volunteer house. One of the more memorable fund raising events was an auction. Basically, people auctioned off different things. Volunteers auctioned items from hand made bracelets to wallets made from juice cartons. As the night goes on, the auction gets a lot more interesting. I won two auctions. Everyone was doing Movember (you grow a moustache for November in case you live under a rock!) The auction was at the end of November and all the participants were going to dye their moustaches. I paid good money to chose what color they go. I had a few drinks during the auction so paying good money for this seemed like a great idea. Hey, it is for a good cause. That is what I told myself the next day anyway. I, of course, chose the Mo's to go green white and gold. The best thing I bought at the auction and maybe the best thing I have ever bought was to get my closest pal in PSF, Nick, to be my bitch for a week. This meant whatever I said, he did. If you remember, Nick was the dude who raised the money for the house he built. I was determined to make him my bitch as the benefits of having a slave working on the site with me was great. It started rather tamely with me asking Nick to just get me drinks and stuff but it soon escalated. Haha, poor Nick. There was a party one night in the PSF house and I made him get the attention of the party, jump up on a table, put a broom between his legs and go "Weeeeee, I am a witch" and then when everyone looks at him puzzled, he would have to say "sorry....I thought that would be funny." At a morning announcement, surrounded by people making "important" announcements, he had to stand up and say "I went horse riding without a saddle before.....I think I preferred it." Ah, it was so enjoyable to have that much power. Nick was to have his revenge though.

Najeeb rocking the tri-color moustache

Najeeb rocking the tri-color moustache

Nick having to do push ups while waiting for a beer

Nick having to do push ups while waiting for a beer

I also auctioned something of mine off at the auction. My body hair. Well, I auctioned the ability to wax my chest. As I mentioned earlier, I had a few too many drinks so this seemed like a great idea. Everyone got very excited about the whole idea and I raised a good bit of cash from other volunteers and people back home. It probably says a lot about how people see me that everyone was so willing to raise money to see me in such pain. The waxing was to be done at the end of the week that Nick was my bitch because obviously I could just make him do it instead of me. After a week of Nick being my bitch. He was ready for his revenge and boy did he get it. He organized the entire waxing. It was a sick experience. I had to stay upstairs and wait to be called. I entered the room where everyone was standing holding candles and peaceful music was playing. It seemed rather pleasant. As I lay down, my hands were cuffed behind a chair and the lights began flashing with the song from Requiem For A Dream playing loudly.

Strip by the strip, the hair came off. It was so so painful. I have maximum respect for any ladies who do that. Woof, I shall not be doing that again. I will always remember the sadistic look Nick gave me before whipping off his strip of wax. It was terrifying. That someone could be capable of such evil. I was pretty happy with the finished product at the end of it. Nice smooth chest and it looked pretty good. What happened the following few days did not look pretty good. In fact, it looked fairly horrific. I had an allergic reaction to the wax strips and broke out in the most viscous acne on my chest. Unlike anything I have ever seen. It was rather unpleasant. It was a few weeks before I began sunbathing again. Para Los Ninos (for the kids in spanish) everyone told me. I am still unsure if it was worth it. It was so sore and not a single child thanked me. Ungracious bastards. I should have had a statue erected in my hairless honor. A public holiday in my name at the very least but nothing. My dream to have a public holiday in my name will have to continue. 

My time was rapidly coming to an end in PSF. I was the last one remaining in the volunteer house out of all my traveling Irish comrades but just could not bring myself to leave. I said I would fly from Lima to Colombia to be with them for Christmas. If it was not for Christmas, I wonder would I have ever left? I also developed a relationship with a girl while there who over a year later, is now my girlfriend. Madness but we can get to that later. As much as I say that it was different project related things that made me stay in PSF, it was probably just because I liked this girl so much. I will deny it underoath. I will just say someone else wrote this paragraph. The author of this paragraph is a filthy liar and quite possibly a racist. Brian is hilarious. Oh, he speaks some truth. I suppose this paragraph teaches us that just because liars lie, they can sometimes tell the truth when it comes to my comedic skill. A modern day adaptation of "the boy who cried wolf" you could argue. What the hell are we talking about? 

I was offered one final opportunity before I left which I had to take. I made very good friends with a local Piscan, Martin. Martin often came around to our site where we would chat for hours. One day, he described in detail about what it was like when the earthquake struck. It sounded insane and Martin himself sounded so heroic in helping other locals. He was just an awesome dude. His mother was moving back to Pisco but had nowhere to live as their house was destroyed in the earthquake. Joy and Anna (two of my favorite people in PSF, Joy is the other half by the way) raised money to build Martins mother a house. Even that sentence gives me goosebumps. Human kindness can really move you at times. The opportunity to build a house with some of my favorite volunteers for a family member of one of my friends was too big too pass up. Unfortunately, the project suffered several delays and I was unable to finish the project but I was there for the begins of it. The construction of that house was so fun. We must have had hundreds of bizarre in jokes even only after a few days. I count down the days until I return to Pisco to see Martin and the finished house. 

The A team. Child labour CAN be fun!

The A team. Child labour CAN be fun!

Romeo, Brianna and Joy leveling the floor to be.

Romeo, Brianna and Joy leveling the floor to be.

Damien hanging out

Damien hanging out

The little boys seemed way more pro active when Anna was around....coincidental, I am sure

The little boys seemed way more pro active when Anna was around....coincidental, I am sure

It was incredibly sad to say goodbye to everyone when my time came to leave. I began to feel somewhat jaded at the end of my time because I was constantly saying goodbye to people that I became so fond of. I did not think I would be as sad to leave as I was. Usually, when it is time to move on, you are sad to say goodbye by so excited for the next place. My next place was the Carribean coast in Colombia, what was not to look forward to? I just knew that I was leaving something very special and a place that I will remember and cherish for the rest of my life. I said goodbye to everyone. It was particularly sad saying goodbye to Anna and Joy. Would I ever see them again? We planned to but you always make plans to see people again and so rarely can you while traveling. Thankfully Joy came up to Colombia with me and I have spent several evenings in Anna's kitchen eating her baked goods so it ended up OK!

So, just under two months, one and a half houses built, begun the construction of a park, countless hangovers, one waxed upper body, so many new friendships created and thousands of memories formed. It was an amazing experience and I loved every minute of it. Pisco and Piso Sin Fronteras, voy a volver y te quiero.

I Cannot Think Of Anything That Even Resembles a Pun For Huacachina

Ahhhhh, Huacachina. You wonderful, wonderful place. I shall forgive you that I could not think of a pun. The best I could do was "Huaca-China Town" which is so weak, even for my standards. I also did not want people to get confused and think that there is perhaps a China town in Huacachina. Huacachina is an insane place. It is an oasis in the middle of a desert just outside a big city, Ica. Huacachina has a population of 115. That is pretty ker-azy. I assume that may be more now but it is a very short drive to the city, Ica. Now, I know you see these dunes and your mind is blown. These guys were only about half the size of some of the things that you sandboard down. Everyone goes to Huacachina to sandboard. A superb experience. You chill out in the hostel all day, swinging in a hammock before heading off to the dunes at around 4pm for some fun. You sandboard for a few hours before watching the sun go down in the desert which is easily one of the best things that you will see. The boys and I headed up to the dunes one night to chill out and it was amazing. I highly recommend going up there at pitch dark. It is not disimiliar to what I assume another planet is like. Perhaps the aliens got confused and landed here before building Machu Picchu? Who knows? The climb up the dunes is fairly horrible but so worth it. We just sat up there, chatted for a while. We walked enough away that we were out of sight from Huacachina so we were surrounded by the dunes. It was immense.

The drive through the dunes is tonnes of fun. The drive is not unlike a roller coaster ride. There are times the driver will turn off the engine and free fall down a dune. The dunes can stretch to several hundred feet high. Great fun. Sand boarding is quite tricky. I have very basic skateboarding skills so I was slightly better than the others. By basic, I mean very basic. I could turn left. Never went pro but I was never given the opportunity to, so maybe. The first two dunes, you are allowed to stand and go down but the last few, you have to lie down on the board. I did not mind as the final few dunes were absolutely huge. My skateboarding skills did not assist me while flying down the huge dunes. I took quite the tumble while flying down my final dune. 

I would not worry too much as I was trying to show off and raise my hands in victory. I had not taken a single tumble throughout and ironically I wanted to celebrate me maintaining this record while flying down the final dune. A few cuts and bruises but nothing too serious. When I finally jumped up from my spectcular crumble, I of course found a rock that I went past on my desent to blame it on.

One of the best sunsets that you are likely to see

One of the best sunsets that you are likely to see

One of the best sights that you are likely to see

One of the best sights that you are likely to see

Acting Macho at Picchu

Woof, that is an interesting blog title and it is a stretch. It is barely even a pun. Actually, it is a pun. Stop doubting yourself and readers, do not doubt my puns. 

To get the the breathtaking Machu Picchu, you gotta head to Cusco first. Cusco is a really cool town but unlike anywhere else that I have been in Peru. I do not think I have ever been anywhere so small that is so touristy (actually Aguas Calientes is smaller and just as touristy but that is the village at the bottom of Maccu Picchu so it is expected). Tourists around the world flock to Cusco to check out one of the wonders of the world. This was my second time in Cusco but this was an ultimately far more satisfying experience. Previously, I literally hopped off the plane, up to Maccu Pichu and then off again. It was a fairly spectacular experience but to trek to the ruins is a much more fulfilling experience. Shock horror, we arrived in Cusco and checked into The Wild Rover. Completing the hatrick. The Wild Rover in Cusco was maybe the most comfortable of the three. Arequipa was great but the bar was quite small. Cusco WR has a huge big bar and a pretty sweet room to watch movies and whatnot. 

There was plenty of casual drinks but nothing too wild before our trek to Picchu. I took the train first time which is fine but pretty boring in comparison to your other options. I have heard the Inca Trail is pretty amazing but it is so expensive and needs to be booked months in advance. We had no idea when we would be in Cusco so figured we would leave it. The Inca trail, historically is very interesting but it is 4 days long and it is just walking. I would recommend the jungle trail. The Jungle trail is awesome. The Jungle trail consists of downhill biking, wild water rafting, ziplining and of course trekking through pretty breathtaking scenery. We had an awesome group for the trek which is a huge bonus. We started off the trek with downhill biking. I actually felt more safe on The Worlds Most Dangerous Road rather than on this. The bikes were in fairly terrible condition and there were even a few crashes on our way down. Nothing too bad though. Downhill biking is pretty sweet as it involves so little peddling but you can get some fairly insane speed on the way down and on a poor bike, it can get quite hairy. I was just delighted to be cycling without needing to shit myself every few minutes. Life is about the small victories.

Diarrhea free, baby

Diarrhea free, baby

After the adrenaline of the downhill biking, we all had a big feed (always glorious, always plain but always glorious) and were ready for the next activity, White Water Rafting. The Rafting was great fun. The water is relatively calm so you do not need to have any white water experience but there are enough bumps to keep you entertained. The rafting was plenty of fun. We had no one fall over board but quite a few hairy moments. A superb addition to the trek. After the first day, I just felt like I was on a very cool adventure trek let alone a trek that end up at one of the seven wonders of the world. Day 1 was finished. Thoroughly enjoyable. The accommodation was more than decent however after all the adrenaline for the day, I think I would have fallen asleep in a ditch. Day 2 began with a trek by some canyons. The views were absolutely amazing. On the trek, you walk awfully close to the edge but I think on South American treks the key is to not think about crumbling to your death and more about the glorious view. However, at one point I was marveling at the view and nearly lost my footing so.....multitask. Enjoy the view but do not die. A brilliant travel tip. Enjoy....but do not die.  

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While on the trek, we walked by some Coca Leaf Plantations. Our guide told us some pretty fascinating stories about these plantations. An acre of coca trees produced about a ton of coca leaves, which yields about a pound of cocaine. Coca leaves are apparently extremely easy to transport without detection also. Coca Cola wanted to purchase some of these plantations but the Peruvian Government refused on the grounds that Coca is important to the Andean region however by the sounds of it, the government get a nice slice of the cocaine money so it is more beneficial for them to not sell to Coca Cola who would have offered way more than these fields claim to earn (obviously they would not include profits from the cocaine). I loved that portion of the questions. I just had a million questions about the cocaine industry in South America and how the locals feel about it. The general vibe seems to be that they believe that it is wrong but such an easy way to make good money. Coca can be harvested four times a year (most can only be harvested once) and farmers growing coca earn more than double than those who grow coffee. This trek is about 6 hours before being broken up with some lunch. We sampled our first guinea pig. It was quite tasty but there was so little meat on those bad boys. We walked into a room to find a few cute little guinea pigs running around. I was going to pick one up, name him and give him a hilarious back story but I feared that I knew where this was going. This was not a "pet the guinea pigs" part of the trek. You surely do not want to know how they kill these cute little creatures? Surely not. I shall tell you anyway as I am sure you would rather not look at the insides of a guinea pig anyway. So, basically. To kill a guinea pig, just stretch him. That's right. Just grab his neck and torso and try to pull them apart. Then, when you have pulled him as far apart as possible, snap that little critters neck. It was rather unsavory. Gruesome. Perhaps try it out on your guinea pig back home? See if blood squirts out of that little mouth. Blood squirted out one of the little fellas mouths. Thankfully, none hit me. I would not be mentally strong enough to deal with that sort of trauma.

The insides of a guinea pig. Rather colorful, don't you think?

The insides of a guinea pig. Rather colorful, don't you think?

So, that was guinea pig. Maybe order it in a restaurant as you will not have to watch it die first. I think that ,may be why it was not as enjoyable as it should have been but maybe you would prefer to watch it die. Whatever you are into. No judgements. Let us lighten the mood. We also met this happy little character after the MURDERING OF THE GUINEA PIG. He was a very cute little character. The monkey did very quickly begin to hump the teddy which made the experience slightly less cute. If you are into murdering small animals and watch slightly bigger animals hump teddy bears, then this part of the trek will be amazing. Otherwise, we shall move on.

After this potential trauma, we continue the trek towards the hot springs. The hot springs are to rest your aching limbs ahead of the more trying trekking ahead in the following days. Nothing much to report on the springs. They are very enjoyable and really relaxing. You bathe in the shadow of a huge mountain which is quite cool. Now would be an excellent time to show a picture of the hot springs but I did not take any pictures of it. From the hot springs, you trek to Santa Teresa where we stay the night. On route to Santa Teresa, you cross a cable bridge -

Slow and steady wins the race

Slow and steady wins the race

There is always one...

There is always one...

The cable car was slightly enjoyable. It did not look safe at all so I was just glad to make it over to the other side. We eventually arrived at Santa Teresa. Santa Teresa is a very small town. We went for a nice meal in a restaurant before finding a club to drink in. This club night was one of the funnest nights out. I am not sure why but we all had plenty of alcohol so I am sure that is why. My good pal and traveling companion, Cillian had a little too much to drink so I said that I would bring him home. "What a true good pal and all round good guy", I hear you say. Well, hold that judgement for a second. I walked him home to our hostel and he went in to bed. I saved the day. I began to head back to the club. On my way, I found my friends. They were returning. It seemed everyone had called it a night. On our way back to our hostel, we found Cillian wandering the streets. Turns out, that I brought him back to the wrong place. Not only was it the wrong place but it was not a hostel. I seemed to have let him in to a random family home. Lolz. 

Day 3 began very early. The group had a collection of sore heads from the night before. It was time for zip lining through some canyons. This was very cool. I was absolutely terrified before my first one but after the first zip line, you love it but after your third, it gets a bit boring. It is a roller Reacoaster of emotions.

Ready to rock

Ready to rock

Bombs away

Bombs away

Who's next, I wonder?

Who's next, I wonder?

Oh, here comes Emma!

Oh, here comes Emma!

She appears to be stuck...

She appears to be stuck...

She appears to be screaming for help...

She appears to be screaming for help...

Help at hand

Help at hand

That.....that was embarrassing

That.....that was embarrassing

The zip lining was fun enough. Terrifying at the beginning. Awesome after your first one but fairly boring by your fourth and final one. After the zip lining, we hit the road for our final night on the trek at the wonderful @ Aguas Calientes. The trek to Aguas Calientes will be one that I remember for a long time. As I mentioned earlier, we had a superb group. Everyone was just chatting away for the first few hours but we all grew weary of conversation and wanted to spice things up. Then it happened. We saw at the front of the group, our guide and two Australian dudes on our tour. They were playing rock paper scissors. The loser had to carry the bags for 15 minutes. It was ingenius. We soon got all involved with some hideous but exciting results.

The Joy of victory

The Joy of victory

The tension and the terror

The tension and the terror

The defeat

The defeat

It started off so innocently...

It started off so innocently...

But soon escalated...

But soon escalated...

Game had be called off for fear of serious long term back problems...

Game had be called off for fear of serious long term back problems...

We were all quite disappointed when we finally arrived at the end of the trek which is a rarity but the game had us hooked. Each round, a new person wanted to get involved which increased the baggage. Each round it got more tense. The feeling of not having to carry the bags was unmatchable. I highly recommend this game for any future treks.  Time flies and the pain and misery you can inflict on others while you celebrate with joy is an indescribable feeling. You may be thinking, "Hey Golden Brown, is paper scissors rock not a two person game?"

Well, Billy. Not necessary. Basically, you can play it with as many people as possible. If ten people whip out scissors, and two whip out a rock. It is between the ten people who had scissors and it goes on and on like that until there is a loser who must carry an unhealthy amount of bags.

We arrived at Aguas Calientes which is a really cool little town at the foot of Machu Picchu. We did not do much on our night there but grab some food and rest our sore backs from all those bags. We had an early start at 4.30am to climb to Machu Pichu. It was the easiest 4am start that I have ever had. We had some breakfast before being out on the road to finish the trek by 4.30am. The trek is about an hour and a half long which seems quite easy but it is a steep uphill climb. It was quite a challenging trek. By the time I got to the top, I was drenched in sweat. That view is so worth it.

There are few things in life that really outlive the hype surrounding it. This was my second time seeing Machu Picchu and I was still floored by it. I think it is even more impressive after hours of trekking and sweating. You really feel like you have earned the view. 

Our guide gave us a tour around the Inca ruins explaining different things. It was quite difficult to focus on what the guide says for the majority of the time as you are just so overwhelmed by your surroundings. It is so hard to describe the views. During our previous trek in Sucre to cave paintings, our guide was open to the idea that aliens had something to do with the construction of Machu Picchu and general Inca ruins. 

Our guide here was most certainly not up for the alien debate. I suppose if some idiots kept claiming that one of the most amazing things that your ancestors ever created was actually done by aliens, you may not be too impressed aswell. But still.....the truth is out there.

Perhaps the most beautiful thing we saw in Machu Picchu....that dude

Perhaps the most beautiful thing we saw in Machu Picchu....that dude

Once you get up to Machu Picchu, enjoy the ruins and have a wander around but I insist you climb Huayna Picchu. Huayna Picchu is the big chap that overlooks the ruins. Not enough people that I spoke to climbed this mountain. The view you get of the ruins is unreal. I would recommend as soon as you get into Machu Picchu, head to the mountain. It has a restricted access of only 400 people a day and Machu Picchu averages about 2500 a day. That is the great thing about the trek is by the time you get up there, it is almost empty so you have the ruins to yourself and then when it starts filling up, you head to Huayna Picchu. It is a tricky trek but so worth it.

We climbed all the way down to the bottom and rewarded ourselves with a beer. It may have been the finest beer that I have ever had. It can sometimes be difficult to comprehend something amazing you did or have seen but I had no issue. Doing that trek and seeing Machu Picchu was worth every bead of sweat that was sweated whether it be on the trek, on a ridiculous bus traveling for a ridiculous amount of time or even just the insane amount of hours you worked to just board that plane. It was all worth it. 

This is why traveling is so addictive. Those moments when you are staring at something insane with old best friends and new best friends (if only just for a few days!).

Arequipa'in it Real

A donkey with an erection just because...

A donkey with an erection just because...

With a heavy heart and a severely damaged liver, we left Bolivia. We got our bus to the border town, Puno. It was really not that unpleasant compared to previous journeys. I think knowing that this was our final Bolivian bus made it all sweeter. We heard from friends that Peruvian buses are a close second to the angelic buses of Argentina. Delighted. We skipped the floating islands and headed straight to Arequipa. At the border, tired and weak from our Bolivian bus but exited to jump on our glistening Peruvian bus. I handed my passport to the border police and he stared at it for a moment. Suddenly, his face lit up. He looked at me, absolutely delighted. It was as if he just realized that I was a celebrity but alas. Oh no. He merely pointed at my head in the picture and then at my head in person and exclaimed

"Grande!"

before breaking into hysterics. Grande is big in Spanish by the way. I have a big head. A representative of the Peruvian government mocked the size of my head. Usually, I am the first to mock the size of my head but after a Bolivian bus journey, I was not willing to laugh about the size of my head. We jumped on the next bus and away we went.

We arrived in Arequipa insanely early. We found a cheap hostel to check into before moving to The Wild Rover. Unsure why now that I think about it but I am sure there was some rationale to it. Perhaps for a good nights sleep. However, the Rover in Arequipa is extremely tame in comparison to its Bolivian sister. After some fairly intense, constantly on the go traveling in Bolivia, Arequipa was full on holiday mode. We went to the WR which had a pool. There was plenty of relaxing by the pool and chilling out. It was pretty wonderful. There was six of us at this stage, me and two of the girls decided to do the Colca Canyon trek. It was modestly priced and I love treks so it was a no brainer. We were collected from our hostel @ 3.30 to bring us to our starting point was a bit of a rough start. I fell into a pattern of good nights sleep while in Arequipa. With all these treks, they are always going to be great but can be the best thing ever if you get a brilliant group. Unfortunately, our group was not the best. All very nice and pleasant people but without being much older than us, felt much more mature. This most likely says more about us than them. The trek was pretty intense at the time which I really enjoyed. It was a great walk and a superb bonding experience with my original South American traveling companions.

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The trek was a lot of getting up early at stupid o'clock (I am bitter about waking up early). I say "a lot" but it was a 2 night, 3 day trek. So, there was 3 early starts but I am feeling dramatic. The first night, you stay in this really cool, tiny mountain village. The village might have a population of 50 (at the max). It was awesome. We just hung around up there and ate some amazing food that our guides supplied. It was at this dinner that I believe we lost the love and support of our group. I would like to believe we were the lovable retards of the group. Slow minded and constantly giggling at nothing. The giggling found a target though. There was a multilingual Colombian chap who was talking about how he found plurals in the English language really awkward. He was going into more details and used some examples. He said that he always says "Sheeps". That is sheep with an "s". We erupted with laughter. I could not stop laughing. It was one of those moments where you know you should stop but you just cant for whatever reason. Shameful scenes. This chap could speak Spanish, French, Flemmish and English but.....like, he added an "s" to a word that should not have one. What an idiot! In saying that, I am unsure if I can say "sheep" in any other language than English. I say "unsure" to insinuate that I may be able to say "sheep" in another language. I am delaying finishing this paragraph because I am certain that I know the word for sheep in Spanish but I just cannot put my finger on it. Alas, we must move on.

View of the Oasis from the top of the canyon

View of the Oasis from the top of the canyon

I am writing this first in a book before you get this pristine beautiful blog. I am writing it outside and a sprinkler has just turned on and scared the crap out of me. Anyway, lets move on. The second day/eve is easily the highlight of the trek. You trek down to an absolutely beautiful Oasis. Jesus, a nut just fell from a tree and nearly hit me. This park (in Auckland, NZ) is a death trap. Fingers crossed I can survive this. If not at least I'll die doing what I love the most. Talking absolute nonsense. 

Moving on, the Oasis was unreal. We could see an absolute paradise below us which made the steep, steep downhill trek a lot easier. The Oasis was glorious. I sat on a rock overlooking a peaceful stream in the sun, sipping a beautiful beer. It was a glorious moment. Legs aching from the trek but so worth it. The shortest walk was on the final day. A three hour uphill walk, I believe. I was hoping for some sort of sleep in (as always) but alas, another 4am start. The early starts make plenty of sense, it is always to beat the humidity and heat. The final walk was fairly harrowing as it was quite steep uphill.

It was a very rewarding feeling to finish the trek. I really pushed myself and ended up doing it in a brilliant time but have no idea what time it was. I remember the guide being impressed, so you should be impressed also. I arrived at the peak of the canyon to find our Colombian pal having a moment up there. He was crying his eyes out. Hopefully not over our laughter at the "sheeps" incident. Maybe he was so proud to climb to the top first but then he saw a sheep and realised he will always be a failure when it comes to plurals, no matter how many canyons he climbs. I was too tired and enjoying the fresh orange juice that I purchased to see if he was OK. So, I just sat there, looking over the canyon drinking my juice with a Colombian man weeping in the background. It was just how I imagined it would be. We got the bus back to Arequipa where we spent a few more days hanging out by the pool. Arequipa is a really beautiful colonial town with some really nice and affordable restaurants. We had organized some voluntary work in Pisco for a few weeks time so we enjoyed splashing some cash while in Arequipa. By splashing out, I mean one or two tips to MacDonalds. We were not having lobster or anything. Guinea pig was surprisingly expensive in Arequipa for whatever reason. I could not really understand why as Guinea pigs were in abundance and do not contain much meat. Highly recommend Arequipa and the Wild Rover there. So much tamer than the others but enough happens to keep you entertained. The pool is really nice also. There is also a superb Mexican restaurant directly opposite the Wild Rover so make sure to check that out if in the area. Oh, we also went to see "Juanita" who is an Incan Ice Maiden. Sounds exotic! Juanita was a child who was going to be killed as an offering to the Incan gods in roughly 1450 but whatever happened, she died before the offering and was preserved in Ice. She is still preserved there and it was pretty crazy to see how well preserved her body is. I found the tour epically boring but from my previous blogs, we have established that I am borderline retarded. However, when we started learning about Juanita, it got very interesting. I cannot really remember how much the tour was but I think I would recommend it. I think they just padded a pretty boring tour around Juanita but Juanita herself is very impressive.

Rurrenabaque to the Future

We returned to La Paz from Uyuni and to The Rover to book our next excursion which was to the Amazon basin. It has always been an absolute dream of mine to go to the amazon. So, needless to say, I was so excited. Omar and I left a few pals behind and decided to set sail through the amazon. I say "sail", there was no sailing involved. We were on a small sail boat going through the amazon. It was a great experience. My brief taste of life back in the Rover seemed to have immediately affected my sanity. Stupidity and ridiculousness became acceptable for the general public. We decided to grow moustaches for the event. It was inspired by Dave Collins, Jungle Detective. Who is Dave Collins, I hear you ask? Well, I was almost named David my parents told me. One night, we sat around and wondered what Dave Collins would be doing. How would life be different? Turns out life would have been very different. I would have had a moustache and been a jungle detective. What is a jungle detective? I would solve jungle crimes, obviously.

Dave Collins, Jungle Detective.

Dave Collins, Jungle Detective.

I understand that this was a puzzling move. I still look back and wonder what on earth is going on. It was myself, Omar and two other couples. Older and more mature. They did not find it particularly funny that we had moustaches. Truth be told, I am not even sure I find it funny but it seemed like it would have been funny. The other people on the tour must have thought we were two good friends with moustaches which I suppose we were. Did they think we were moustachio-ed lovers? Maybe. We insisted on telling the others that it was a joke which I think worried them more that this is what we considered a hilarious joke. Anyway, the boat journey was three days, two nights. It was a very enjoyable, but slightly boring. It would have been muh better if we had a better group. The couples were very coupley and sticking to themselves. However, maybe they were wary of the moustached comedians. I remember thinking it was relatively lucky that no one on the tour had a moustache.

Sailing towards the amazon

Sailing towards the amazon

We did two very cool treks while on the tour. One during the day and one trek at night. The jungle is pretty much exactly how you imagine it to be. So much color and so many exotic sounds. We did not get to see many wild or wonderful creatures but it was an enjoyable experience nonetheless. Cleverly, I did not think it bring trekking trousers. You would get eaten alive by insects so you need to cover up all that wonderful golden brown skin. Unfortunately, I only had skinny jeans. Trekking in skinny jeans is a fairly moronic idea, especially in baking heat. The moustaches and skinny jeans. A questionable duo we were. The night trek was maybe better than the day one despite not really being able to see that much. The lack of vision was made up by the amazing sounds that surround you. I was pretty terrified that I would get attacked by some sort of amazonian night monster but thankfully I survived. There were some very hairy moments. Well, there was none but I kept imagining all the different creatures that were hunting me. We camped on the edge of a forest on a beach which was very pleasant. We sat around the fire a night and ate some pretty fantastic food. I cannot remember what it was but it was awesome. I am sure it was just rice and meat. All the trips and treks that you go on in South America, the food is always fairly amazing which is a lovely bonus!

Waterfall in the jungle

Waterfall in the jungle

That night on the beach, there was a huge tropical storm. It was an insane storm. Buckets of rain, thunder, lightening and huge gusts of wind. I was amazed that the tent could withstand mother natures abuse. I kept picturing myself sprinting through the jungle to catch the tent but thankfully the tent survived the beating. We packed everything up and headed to Rurrenbaque, the final destination. We were in high spirits and excited to see the next place. As much as we enjoyed the boat trip, three days on a boat can be pretty boring. We pulled up in Rurrenabaque and it looked amazing. It most likely looked more amazing than it is in reality because we had not seen much civilisationfor a few days. The weather was stunning and it was a cool little town. We checked into a relatively decent hostel, more of a hotel than a hostel but was quite nicely priced. We booked ourselves onto the pampas tour. The pampas is a name for the Amazon savannas. This was an amazing activity and easily one of the best. All the boxes were ticked. The tour was brilliantly interesting, loads of animals, loads of activities and our group was awesome. A really great laugh. It is a 3 day, 2 night tour. 

She was big...

She was big...

On day one, you leave Rurrenabaque early in the morning and drive for a few hours before arriving at the river where our boat for the next three days was waiting. A small, comfortable dug out canoe. The rest of the day was just cruising the river, seeing all sorts of birds, turtles, monkeys and crocodiles. At the beginning, we were taking so many pictures of all the animals as you were not sure how many we would see. Turns out, the whole river is packed with wildlife, so you will get to see so many creatures living side by side.

We arrived in our eco lodge where we would be spending the next two nights. The eco lodge was basic but very cool. We did not do much on our first night but relax and hang out. We went to a random field to watch the sunset which was rather pleasant. The second day is where all the action happens. We started off the morning with some anaconda hunting. This was so enjoyable but terrifying. I am not painting myself as the brave gladiator that you have grown to know and love but alas... We hopped off the boat in a huge field with very long grass. The guide gives you a pair of boots and instructs you to stomp through the grass. The guide told us that when we spot a snake, to let him know. I think anyone in the vicinity of Bolivia will hear me if I saw one of these bad boys. We were going through the long grass, trying really hard to be brave. It was a mixed feeling. You are searching for an anaconda and naturally when searching for something you want to find it but terrified of what an anaconda can do to someone. I kept thinking that this must be safe.

Not for the first time, I felt like J'Lo while anaconda hunting...

Not for the first time, I felt like J'Lo while anaconda hunting...

This is a tourist attraction! Must be safe. However, I quickly reminded myself that the Worlds Most Dangerous Road is also a tourist attraction in Bolivia. We found a few snakes. They were not as big or scary as Jennifer Lopez's "Anaconda" would lead us to believe. J'Lo was nowhere to be seen either. I acted like I was dissapointed that I did not stumble across a snake myself but secretly relieved. After some Anaconda hunting, it was time to go swimming with some dolphins. The boat pulled up in a section where the dolphins like to play. They were pink which was weird. Again, dissapointed what technology has taught me. They were nothing like Echo the dolphin video game.

Do you remember this bad boy?

Do you remember this bad boy?

The lake was surrounded by crocodiles which was fairly unnerving. However, we were told that they are afraid of dolphins so left us alone as we swam with the dolphins.....I just googled why they are afraid of dolphins and there seems to be no mention or evidence to them being afraid. That is slightly worrying. Thankfully, they stayed away anyway. Swimming with the dolphins was not as much "swimming with the dolphins" as it was desperately trying to swim towards them before they swim elsewhere. I will tell everyone that I did swim with them. Even though I am admitting the truth here. I shall deny this blog exists. After desperately attempting to swim with the dolphins, it was time for some fishing. We went fishing for some piranha. We had to throw our Piranha back after we caught it but I hear many tours save their catch for dinner that night. We put our back for conservation purposes. I am saving the rainforest, one step at a time. 

There were plenty of piranhas to catch but it took a while to actually get them into the boat. However I was fishing, I impaled my poor fish. Hooks kept going straight into the eye. Sorry fellas. Get well soon. At least we did not eat you but no doubt you were eaten by the next group. Our tour group got oddly competitive while fishing. Despite none of us really knowing what to do, we all claimed to "finally have worked it out" before proving we did not have a clue and struggled to catch another one for quite some time. We returned to our eco lodge where we hung around in hammocks and chilled out for a few hours. We eventually headed to another field to watch another sunset. This was a lot more enjoyable as there was a bar and a football pitch. I was determined to show off all my silky skills but the terrain and my attire had other ideas.

I bought really lame cream trekking pants having learned my lesson regarding to skinny jeans. These pants were of a poor quality and as I stretched to kick a ball, there was quite the rip. As I took my eye off the ball to check the rip, I lost my footing on the less than stable ground before hitting the deck. My Bolivian football career was over as quickly as it began. That night we went back to the eco lodge for some grub. I forgot to mention that there was a swing rope from a high tree into a river which was surrounded by gators and crocs. Perhaps there were some dolphins around to protect us. We had our final meal with the group and decided to celebrate with some alcohol. After a few drinks, the drinking games got broken out and everyone ended up very drunk. Omar drove a boat in the amazon to pick up more booze. An offo in the jungle. How about that? The final day was just cruising the river and heading back to Rurrenabaque. What an amazing few days. Could not recommend the pampas tour more. We booked a flight to La Paz from Rurrenabaque. We were advised to fly this journey as at least one bus every 2 weeks goes over the edge. We spent a few more days in Rurrenabaque to work on the tan. There is a very cool bar called "Oscars", which has an amazing view of the town. It is a tad expensive but you get really nice drinks/food by the pool with a beautiful view. Why not splash some cash? We arrived back in La Paz and spent a few days there before heading to Arequipa in Peru...

Uyuni and the Salt Flats

We arrived in Uyuni at around 2am. We had planned our trip relatively perfectly and were very fortunate with our buses. One night in Potosi and then off in the evening to Uyuni. We found a hostel who gave us a decent deal for a few hours before jumping out of bed at 7am to try and book a tour. Our tour was unfortunately in Spanish so I fear we missed out on some interesting facts. We did have a guy in our car who could translate but he seemed to grow tired of having to translate. I shall just post photos of Uyuni as it is really just a visual feast full of bizarre natural beauty that you will not see anywhere else...

First stop, a train cemetery. This seemed pretty random but was cool to see.

First stop, a train cemetery. This seemed pretty random but was cool to see.

but easily the weirdest thing in Uyuni was when we stumbled upon the Bolivian army fighting dinosaurs!

Mining and Dynamiting in Potosi

DYNO-MITE

DYNO-MITE

When drawing up the original route for South America. It is safe to safe to say Potosi was not on the list. It is actually safe to say that I never heard of Potosi before even arriving in Bolivia. Going to Potosi came from a recommendation from a friend on our travels but he raved about it. There is not a whole lot to do in Potosi but what there is to do is completely worth it. We went to Potosi to go down into the mines. Great great fun. Easily one of the highlights of the year in South America. I was not sure what to expect but it was amazing. I was not sure what to expect but it was insanely fun.

We stayed in "Casa de Huespedes" and booked the tour to the mines from the hostel with the owner. GO HERE AND BOOK IT THROUGH HIM! The dude is an absolute legend and a hero. The build up is great. I unfortunately cannot remember the guides name but I think it was Diego. We shall refer to him as Diego. Before going down the mines, Diego brought us to the miners market. One of the very few markets in the world where you can purchase dynamite. As you do.

Our hostel owner and guide smoking some dynamite with me

Our hostel owner and guide smoking some dynamite with me

You buy the miners some gifts for basically climbing around their mines while they are trying to work. The gifts are basically dynamite and coca leaves. Coca leaves help with the altitude. We went with two other girls and a guy. We were all suited and booted, ready to go down the mine. When the other 3 saw the entrance, they pussied out. It was not a particularly cheap tour either. Such losers. What a waste of money. No doubt their Facebook was loaded with pictures of them in their mining gear. It worked out far better for us as we basically got a private tour. It is hard to explain the tour but it involved lots of climbing in and out of holes. Some were waaaaaay small. I would not recommend it if you don't like tight spaces. You love several devils penis's on your way around the mines. There were loads of devil statues with huge penis's which we had to rub for good luck. 
As you do.

A Devil

A Devil

....and his penis

....and his penis

Being under ground, closer to the devil than god. We pray to the devil to look after us. Each devil has a fairly well in dowd member considering their size which we rubbed. Sounds fairly gay for what I would have assumed quite a manly profession. Now, that I am writing this. I cannot help but wonder was this the guide taking the piss out of us by telling us we need to rub the devils cock... 

Perhaps the highlight of the mining experience was playing with dynamite. In a brilliantly Bolivian end to a tour, the guests are allowed blow up a section of the mine. I'll honest, my bowls wanted to make a move south when holding the stick of dynamite. We had a few shots of 98% alcohol before the explosion to calm nerves. Nerves were not calmed. I was just a bit drunk and nervous. We lit the stick, place it down and ran for our lives (singing the mission impossible soundtrack). 

KABLAMO

I was not unlike a giddy school girl after the explosion. I could not wipe the smile off my face like a mental case. Thankfully, I have managed to control my urges to play with dynamite since then. I could not recommend doing the mine tour more and make sure to book it through Casa de Huespedes. Several other tour companies take you to the tourist mine. The tourist mine is basically a straight line while with this particular tour, you climb around. I think we were 8 levels down at one stage. 3 thumbs up. I think I got food poisoning while in Potosi but nothing new there in Bolivia. From Potosi, we hopped on a bus to Uyuni for the much anticipated salt flats...

Sucre for my tea...

The view from a Trek we did just outside Sucre

The view from a Trek we did just outside Sucre

Sugar for my tea.....yes, very weak. The puns seem to only be getting weaker. Perhaps I should ditch these puns. 

Anyway, Sucre. Ah, Sucre. You are a delicious place. It is much lower than La Paz so altitude was no longer a problem. We could happily walk for ten minutes without needing an oxygen pack. Sucre is a beautiful mix of cultures. It is a beautiful colonial city with the crazy Bolivian twist.

Colonial Sucre

Colonial Sucre

La Paz is the official capital of Bolivia but Sucre is constitutional capital of Bolivia. Let us pretend we know what that means. Sucre was originally the capital of Bolivia but it was changed to La Paz. I assume it is because La Paz has some very high points so you could keep tabs on any invaders. I would not invade La Paz. Far too inconvenient. Sucre is a lot nicer and cleaner than La Paz. It has a much nicer vibe to it. We stayed in "Hostal Wasi Masi" which was a fantastic and cheap hostel. Sucre generally had great weather but we had some rainy days which was cured with watching some football and monopoly. Monopoly makes you hate your friends. My god, when you land on someones hotel, I am fueled with unbridled rage. We did not do too much while in Sucre but eat some fantastic food. There are plenty of fantastic restaurants in Sucre as well as a brilliant fruit market which was down the road from Hostal Wasi Masi. Unfortunately that is as much detail as I can supply. 

However, the watermelon that I purchased while there was loaded with ants. The ants seemed relatively understanding when I asked them to vacate. I am still sure that I ate loads of them but..... Bolivia. One of the highlights of Sucre was the dinosaur park. That is right. A dinosaur park. You could even say....a....JURASSIC PARK of sorts.

There were life size dinosaurs there which is just....fabulous. Unsure if you have worked it out yet but I love dinosaurs. We all know that a T-Rex is a big chap but to see a life size plastic one up close, re-affirmed my belief that things you hear are very big....often, are very big. There were dinosaur tracks also which was awesome. Now, I must admit something to you sports fans. While looking through the telescope, it took me a good 15 minutes to notice them. Everyone was talking about how amazing it was. How breathtaking. I agreed, maybe even offered some original insight about what I claimed to have seen but it was a lie. A temporary lie but a lie nonetheless. I don't know why I even did it. The fear of rejection, exclusion or loneliness? Unsure. I eventually found it and was indeed very impressed. To this day, I wonder would I have ever come clean if I never saw it.

Easily the highlight of my time in Sucre was the trek to the cave paintings. It can be booked through a tour agency called "Joyride". It was an absolutely amazing day trek. You trek through some beautiful mountain ranges before arriving at the caves. The caves have paintings in them from roughly over 2500 years old. Just think about that for a moment. That is really old, like. I was genuinely blown away when I first saw them. Pretty incredible site. Amazing.

It was such a superb hike that ended with a bang of the cave paintings. The bus journey was of course very dodgy. There was a sign warning drivers to be careful. It had a picture of a bus crash with splatters of red around the bus which appeared to be blood. Very graphic. Slightly unnecessary. It was time to depart Sucre. We were feeling slightly more healthy after using Sucre to recover from La Paz. It was time to get another horrible bus. Next stop, Potosi.

Are you taking the (La) Paz?

La Paz Skyline

La Paz Skyline

The title is supposed to be "Are you taking the piss?" in case that was not clear. Puns are so difficult to do in South America but we shall try....

If you recall from previous blogs, we were heading from Salta (Argentina) to La Paz (Bolivia). Of course you remember this. On our final day in Salta, we took a train through the Andes. By the time we got home from the train journey, some grub and some packing it was about midnight. We had a bus to catch at 5am. We heard some horror stories about Bolivian buses but we thought it would be relatively plain sailing as we booked our bus direct from Salta to La Paz so we we would stay on our sexy Argentinian bus all the way to La Paz. The perfect plan but alas Bolivia was to have the last laugh. Our beautiful and angelic Argentinian bus got to the Argentina-Bolivian border to the city of Villazon. Turns out, Bolivian roads are too bad for a Argentinian buses to go on. Argentinian bus companies refuse to go any further than Villazon. We had an hour or two before our bus from Villazon to La Paz so we figured we would kill some time by getting some food. We found a modest place opposite the bus shelter and got some chicken and rice. The classic South American dish. I wolfed mine down before looking at Omar reluctantly picking at his food. His chicken was cut open to reveal a bright pink inside. I looked down at the remains of my chicken and feared the worst. Welcome to Bolivia. Thankfully, I was OK. Well, I do not know if I was OK as I was constantly on the toilet in Bolivia but that is a common theme for most who travel through Bolivia. After a short two hour delay, it was time to get on our bus. The minute that I sat down on the bus, I instantly missed Argentinian buses and apologies for every moment I took for granted while on them. We were down the back of the bus, sandwiched between a Bolivian family. We appeared to be the only non - Bolivians on the bus. I am almost certain that we went for the cheapest option so perhaps something slightly more expensive might have been better but at the same time, everyone seems distraught getting off any bus in Bolivia. There was five seats along the back of the bus. The bus company must have miscounted seats and made Omar, myself and the five person Bolivian family along the back. I am sure it was perfectly innocent mathematical error.....


The guy beside Omar was wearing a plastic jacket. Omar ended up having marks on his arm from the friction rubbing up against him for 18 hours...the journey was supposed to be 9 hours. This particular journey shall stick with me for a long time. 18 hours traveling through mental (albeit beautiful) terrain. Huge drops on one side and at times the bus feels like it is dangling over the edge. It most likely is but that sort of thought was banned while on this journey. When we finally arrived in La Paz, it was freezing. I felt like I had been beaten up. I was fairly traumatized from the journey. 18 hours of being squashed against a window, bumping up and down, too terrified to look out the window. I have never been in a fight in my life but I can imagine feeling considerably better after a fight. Maybe I would have made some damage on my opponent in a fight but this bus journey was very one sided. Anyway, enough about the bus. All I shall say is it was horrific and I want...and deserve your sympathy. We decided to walk from the bus station to the hostel we were going to work in, The Wild Rover.

The conversation was dominated by the awfulness of the bus journey and trying to hold back the tears. The altitude hit us immediately. After Cordoba, running every day and not smoking, I would like to think that I was in fairly good shape but fitness shall not help you in the worlds highest capital. We would stop every 2 or 3 blocks to catch our breath. It does not help that La Paz is so up and down with rolling hills. Wherever I wanted to go no matter where in La Paz, I seemed to always needed to go uphill.

The staff who we contacted in The Wild Rover said that we should just call in and they can see if their is any work available (Loki was around the corner but from the Rovers reputation, we were dying to work there). We were confirmed to work in the Rover for a month. Great stuff. We were shown to our room at 9.30am where we found an Australian lines of cocaine off a dressing table. So began, the absolute insanity of The Wild Rover. Do not be fooled, The Rover has a strict no drugs policy and will kick your ass out if caught in possession!

Staff Meeting

Staff Meeting

My time in the Rover was a truly surreal experience but one that I cherish. I sometimes struggled to appreciate the fun I was having there because I was constantly dying of a hangover. I often wonder will my body ever forgive me for the things I did to it. Every night was the greatest party that I have ever been to. Dress up parties, hour of power (shot of beer every minute for an hour), killer pool, Karaoke and plenty more themed nights. I remember taking the night off partying because the hostel was dead only to return after dinner to witness several girls dancing topless on the bar. 

That escalated rather quickly. As a member of the bar staff, you pretty much lose touch with reality. I most certainly did anyway. Dressing up like a woman, smurf or a cow became normal and crucial for my ability to socialize! I developed an alter ego while there, Super Cow.

Super Cow w/ a Fan

Super Cow w/ a Fan

The legend of Super Cow began when being ordered to dress up on a quiet night. There is no real theme on a Saturday night. Its sort of a club night. A DJ comes in, people dress nice and we all pretend to be normal human beings (normality is so rare in the Rover). Anyway, I fancied sprucing things up this night and managed to find a cow outfit. Amazing. It was in poor condition and missing the back zip. I threw on a cape to cover my hairy back thus turning your average cow into a "super" cow. I wore sunglasses because I was cool and a leopardskin bandana for some reason.....perhaps that is further evidence of me being cool. Anyone who knows me, knows that I love a good pun. Super Cow became a walking pun. 
 

  • Super Cow got everyone moo-ving
  • Super Cow hates being treated with udder disrespect
  • Super Cow believes that life is not black and white
  • Super Cow is ledge and DAIRY
Standard night

Standard night

Oh, speaking of puns. I was once boo-ed out of the bar. There was a club we went to called, Traffic. The Rover would empty out on certain nights and everyone would go to Traffic. At the end of each night, a staff will get a mic and tell everyone their taxis outside and to get out of the bar. The usual MC was busy so now was my chance. I told everyone that they should hurry to Traffic because it was JAMMED......like, a traffic jam. Traffic is good but the dance floor only has three lights. Red, Green and Orange. Actually, I used to say two lights before someone asked about orange....then I paused and was then booed out of the bar.

200% stay in the Rover if in La Paz. Amazing parties, amazing fun and the beds are actually insanely comfortable. Apart from ruining my body and those around us, there is plenty of other fun to get up to while in La Paz. Every Sunday, there is Cholita wrestling. I was not sure what to expect but at actually turned out to be one of the highlights of South America. The Rover organizes tours there. It was Bolivian WWE but so so bad. Hilariously so. I reckon watching poorly synchronized wrestling moves is a million times more enjoyable than the pro's. Cholita wrestling heavily consists of old women fighting. You are allowed/encouraged to throw peanuts at the fighters. Seeing one of my friends hit an old lady in the face with a fist full of peanuts was a surreal moment. I would recommend the wrestling even if you hate wrestling. Go, even to just throw peanuts at the elderly.

Not quite the Rock and Triple H...

Not quite the Rock and Triple H...

This particular fight consisted of a guy just smashing this girl around for about 10 minutes with no fightback. We kept assuming it was going to be a David v Goliath esque fight but alas, the girl just got destroyed.

This particular fight consisted of a guy just smashing this girl around for about 10 minutes with no fightback. We kept assuming it was going to be a David v Goliath esque fight but alas, the girl just got destroyed.

They have some very funny/sketchy/inappropriate characters. There was a guy dressed in all pink who seemed to be very unpopular with the fans (everyone booing). It seemed that the only reason the crowd disliked him was because he was gay which was a bit odd. We began to cheer for our pink friend but quickly stopped, as it seemed to be irritating those around us. There was also a tag team duo who dressed as skeletons who after defeating their opponents began dancing. Then the opponents got up and began dancing with them. So odd.

The evening then ended with some sort of wolf character running through the crowd throwing chairs. Wonderfully weird Bolivia. I think the most infamous tourist attraction in La Paz is cycling the Worlds Most Dangerous Road. When I first heard about the road, I needed to do it. You get a free t-shirt also. While traveling, I realized that I will pretty much do anything for a free t-shirt (which we shall touch on later). The cycle itself is not that bad.  I was expecting a lot worse but it was still very enjoyable. It is all downhill so you barely need to cycle. It is absolutely brilliant. You begin in snowy mountains and finish in a boiling jungle. The road is obviously quite dangerous but once you do not act like an idiot, you will have nothing to worry about. A Japanese girl died on the road a few weeks before we cycled because she was taking a photo and kept backing off to get a picture but just backed off the edge. Pretty lame way to die on the worlds most dangerous road. Ideally, you would want to go out in a blaze of glory, attempting a dangerous stunt before flipping over the edge. Lesson learned though. Taking the perfect picture may kill you. Someone should have told her that the tours often take pictures anyway.

Start in the snow...

Start in the snow...

....finish in the jungle

....finish in the jungle

My cycle of the Worlds Most Dangerous Road was somewhat tainted. As I mentioned earlier, I often spent a lot of time on the toilet and I had the worst case of diarrhea that I have ever had during my cycle. I constantly needed to pull over and run to the bushes. I was given something to stop it but the Bolivian food was too strong for any medicine. I was considering ramming my bicycle seat up there or use my helmet as a nappy. At least I made my mark on Death road.....well, several marks. I ended up missing a good post death road night out as I had absolutely no energy after a day of adrenaline and then shitting out said adrenaline.

While in La Paz, you can also sample the continents spiciest curry at "The Star Of India". I remember thinking that South America's spiciest curry could not be that spicy considering how everything else taste so bloody bland. If you succeed in the challenge to eat an entire curry, you get a free t-shirt stating that you survived. How could I not? Side effects are violent diarrhea but a free shirt is worth that. 

I always fancied myself as someone who could handle their spices but this was unbelievably intense. My face felt like it was on fire. I could not deal with it. I failed pretty miserably. I lined up my excuses why I failed. 
 

  1. I ate too much of the spicy sample (they give you a sample to try to double check if you want to do it)
  2. Bus booked to Sucre the next day so violent diarrhea would be fairly traumatic

These are my excuses but in reality - 

  1. I am just not man enough

Everyday that I saw that "I survived South America's spiciest curry" shirt, I died a little inside then look at my crotch and think of what might have been.

South America's spiciest curry

South America's spiciest curry

I also attended a football game while in La Paz. A World Cup qualifier between Bolivia and Colombia. I wish I went to more games while in South America as the two that I went to were amazing. We sat in the Bolivian end, singing along "Bo- bo- bo- liv- liv- liv- AAAAAAAH". Our singing failed to inspire the Bolivian boys as we watched their first home defeat in over 50 years. Bolivia are a fairly awful football team but have such a good home record because of the altitude. It is so difficult to run around in that altitude while many of the Bolivians will be adjusted to the altitude. The football was played at a far slower pace. It was nice to see they found it tough as I did.

BO - BO - BO ...

BO - BO - BO ...

For those of you who are planning to travel to La Paz, there is a lovely area called "Cuatro esquinas" or "Four Corners" which is full of really nice restaurants. I would recommend paying that extra bit of cash (it is still so cheap) for nicer restaurants in Bolivia as the locals ability to cook meat is a bit sketchy. I truly loved La Paz but it was time to leave as our livers and self respect were suffering. We began to indulge ourselves in some fun tourist activities. We headed off from La Paz and onto Sucre...

Working in Cordoba and Passing the Salta

Myself and Omar decided to dabble in some hostel work in Cordoba, Argentina. We were waiting for our friend to arrive so we needed to balance the books and it would be good to improve our Spanish. We worked in a very cool hostel, “Aldea Hostel”. It was run by an argentinian guy, Lucas and a dutch girl, Brenda. They were so nice. I was feeling pretty nervous before starting as I feared that I would be rendered pretty useless because my Spanish was not great. Brenda reassured us that it did not matter and we were there to deal most with the gringo guests. We found this work from a website called Helpex.net. Highly recommend this website!

Aldea hostel was a superb hostel. It was very comfortable and homely but still had a party vibe. From staying in previous party hostels, this did not compare for the social aspect but it was still very nice and they tried! A French dude, Romain (who we all embarrassingly called Omar for a while for some reason) would get a good atmosphere at night and would organise nights out to different clubs. It was a very fun experience to work in a hostel. Something I always wanted to do but it did get pretty monotonous. It was a money saving exercise and it did just that. We did not party that much in Cordoba so maybe we would have enjoyed it more if we went out clubbing and stuff. If you did the morning shift (the best shift) you would basically have a two hour breakfast and then make some beds. The shift ends at one so you have the rest of the day. I often christened the end of the day with a beer on the balcony while sunbathing. It was a lovely existence. We had some brilliant weather while in Cordoba despite it being winter and everyone saying how cold it was. We would be sunbathing while Argentineans would walk around in scarves. It was odd. It was around 20-25 degrees. The annoying thing about the morning shift is obviously the early start at 8am which is often when you would return from a night out in Argentina. The other shift is from 7pm -12. This was slightly more annoying. You had to make a few beds and get some beer. Actually, in saying that, a lot of my night shifts involved me just watching the Copa America which was in Argentina at the time. The whole experience was very fun and I really enjoyed it but I could not help feel that I was wasting my time.

I showed my support for Argentina by wearing a comical hat

I showed my support for Argentina by wearing a comical hat

We worked with a good group in the Hostel. Ivan, a Venezuelan born Colombian was probably the pick of the bunch. Such a lovely chap. For about a week, we were sure that he had no English until he described to Omar that he “had to stop playing football and think about his priorities”. Superb footballer. We met some interesting characters who stayed there. Omar had a pretty odd experience. Three policemen checked in one night and slept in a private room with three beds.

I found this waterfall on my first go. Screw you, Iguazu

I found this waterfall on my first go. Screw you, Iguazu

Omar had to make the beds the next day when they checked out and two of the beds were not slept in and he found condoms in the bin. OMG! I wonder were they policemen staying in a hostel for the night to escape the wives and have fun or were they just normal guys dressed as policemen for some roleplaying?! Who knows. It was sad saying goodbye to everyone at the hostel. It is an odd feeling saying goodbye to someone that you will most likely never see again. I feel to awkward to acknowledge that we will never see eachother again so I will try and shoehorn something in about seeing them again. I tried my hand at being a hairdresser in Cordoba. It did not go well. I lost my concentration for one moment and ended up shaving a nice landing strip into the back of his head. It was an upsetting but later, hilarious moment. I learnt a lot about myself travelling. I learnt that I am not a hairdresser and should also not be trusted with electrical items.

Omar, me and Ivan

Omar, me and Ivan

From Cordoba, we headed up to Salta for a few days before entering Bolivia and beginning work in the infamous party hostel, The Wild Rover. I would have loved to stay in Salta for longer and see the surrounding areas. Salta is a very picturesque place. The city of Salta is in a valley surrounded by the rolling mountains of the Andes. We took a cable car up a mountain and got an incredible view of the city. Funnily enough, an old school friend of Omar was staying in Salta at the same time so we met up with him and had a good night. A friend who we met in Cordoba was also staying in the same hostel. It is so funny when you bump into the same people along the way. I suppose you can either only north or south, everyone hitting the same cities. You get to point where you keep bumping into the same people that you feel like you should just strike up a conversation for the sheer reason that you keep seeing them everywhere. 

The view from the cable car

The view from the cable car

After our month or work in Cordoba and having work organised in The Wild Rover we decided to splash out and take “El Tren a las Nubes” or the Train to the Clouds. This is “THE’ thing to in Salta but was quite expensive. I think it was about 100e which may not seem that expensive but that is more than a weeks accommodation. It is a train through the Andes. The scenery is incredible. I absolutely loved it but it was such a long day. The train departed at 7am and did not arrive back until 11pm. It was brilliant to see but such a long day. The train stops at two markets, one at a very high bridge where you can buy all your tourist alpaca gear and get a picture taken with a lama. Here are some snaps of our train journey –

When we arrived back to the hostel from the train, we were very tired and hungry bears. We cooked a small dinner and packed our stuff as we were heading to the Bolivian border the following morning. We did not get to bed until about half 12 and had to head off to the border at 5am. It was rather unpleasant. The bus to the border was your standard beautiful Argentinean bus however as soon as we reached the border, you could really tell that we were in a different country as we entered Bolivia.

Wining and Biking

Apologies. No pictures of us in Mendoza! The cover picture is not even mine. It is pretty though!

After an incredible 56 hours on a bus, we arrived in Mendoza from El Calafate. Despite desperately needing sleep and a shower, Omar and I went exploring around the city. Mendoza is a very cool city. It is on the Chilean border and is famous for the wine district. 70% of Argentina’s wine is produced in this region. We decided to go for a bicycle tour around the vineyards. It was a great laugh. It is really a must do when in this region. We cycled through the vineyards sampling different wine. I do not have a breeze about what we were drinking. It was wine, I know that. Everyone else on our tour had studied wine. Yeah, total party crew. 

The hostel we stayed in was awesome. It was called Mendoza International. An original and well thought out name. It was big enough for you to have your own space but small enough for it to be easy to socialise. We met some cool people there. An American kid, Patrick was a highlight. Patrick looked about 15 and straight out of Avenged Sevenfold. He had lived in Ireland for a summer and travelled the country more than I have. I must really travel the homeland. It is pretty shocking that I have been to most cities in Argentina than Ireland. Well, I have been to loads of cities in Ireland to play gigs but do not know anything in them. I know where we played and where we slept….or do I even remember that? Patrick was nice but he certainly enjoyed to talk. When talking about places he has been in Ireland, he would put on the local dialect. For example, when we said “Donegal” he would say it in a Donegal accent. “Cork” in a Cark accent, boi. It was really difficult to keep a straight face at times. We also met two South Africans who really warmed my cold heart. It was so lovely to chat to them. South Africans seem to rarely travel (so they said anyway) and they were so proud of themselves to travel around the world. Not in the smug way but in the way that they were so happy that they did it. They knew exactly how many cities they have been to and exactly how long they have been away. They were so eager to talk to us and exchange stories. They were great. It was so nice to hear them talk about their travels as they spoke about it with such enthusiasm and excitement. We also met, Todd who was a nice fella but I couldn’t shake the feeling he was a murderous psychopath. If he did not hear you properly, he wouldn’t say, “What?”, “Sorry?” or “Pardon?”. He would say, “Whats up?” but really really quickly. It is difficult to explain but it was mental. He was lovely though, gave us his contact details if we were ever in the states and made a big deal saying goodbye to us. What a gent. During a conversation with him, I just found the “Whats up?” thing so funny so I was roaring laughing and had to pretend I was laughing at me playing pool. He must have thought I was so retarded laughing as I am potting balls. The retard and the serial killer. I smell a sitcom!

The main thing to do in Mendoza is the vineyards. It was organised through our hostel and away we went. The first glass of wine was at around 11am. It is an odd feeling letting your breakfast digest with a glass of wine. The others in our group seemed really nice. As I explained earlier, most of them had taken classes in wine and stuff. It was a bit odd. We went to three vineyards, cycling to each. It was fun to cycle around (especially after a few glasses of wine). A lot of people that I met have complain about the poor scenery throughout the bike rides but I thought it was really nice. The Andes to the left and going by different vineyards. Was not too shabby. Slightly more scenic than my cycle through Blanchardstown. I would have preferred the tour to be slightly later in the day as I spent the majority of the day trying to sobre up and fighting the urge to go out and party. Not much of a party scene at 3.30pm. We spent the night having a few drinks with some people we met there. That is easily the best part of travelling, seeing the different places are amazing but it is all about the people you meet. We sat up till the early hours just having a good laugh and exchanging stories and tips. Mendoza is a lovely place and I would highly recommend it. It is very pleasant. It is apparently amazing during the summer. It gets to 40 degrees and there is a great party vibe. Mendoza felt a bit rushed because we spent time recovering from a 56 hour bus journey and organising ourselves for working in Cordoba. I say “preparing” but it involved sending an email or two and worrying about our lack of Spanish. There was not a whole lot for us to do in Mendoza on our budget (very tight after the glory of Patagonia). We did not have the money to go to the Andes but we did the wine tour and spent one day just walking around for hours. Mendoza was not really rushed. That was a silly point.

Whaling and Glaciering

From Uruguay, we headed back to Buenos Aires (8 hour bus) for a few hours before heading south on a 24 hour bus journey to do some whale watching. South America is so big. Going less than half the country on a good bus with good roads and it still takes 24 hours. Puerto Madryn was our first port of call for some whale watching. This was such a spectacular experience. Really really memorable. We got picked up from our hostel and headed to this really picture-esque beach where we watched the whales come so close to the shore. Like, you could swim out to them. It was incredible. The air smelt so good. It felt so pure or something.

Look at that sunrise. Man, it was such a nice moment. That thing in the water is a whale

Look at that sunrise. Man, it was such a nice moment. That thing in the water is a whale

Then we headed to another place where we jumped on a boat. Once again, spectacular. They come so close to the boat. It was brilliant. I nearly had a heart attack when they swam under the boat but to see them dive so close to you (and stick their tale) in the air was amazing. God, I loved it. We then went to visit sea lions. Sea lions suck but we knew this anyway. Puerto Madryn was a beautiful little town. Just for fishing and tourists going whale watching. When were leaving the national park after a long long day, I could not wipe the smile off my face.

The whale watching was one of those moments. I cannot really explain how I felt afterwards but it was one of those moments that you will remember for the rest of your life and tell your grandkids about. Brilliant. An incredible moment when you realise just how memorable a moment is, when in the actual moment. I said moment a lot there.

Almost 100% of seals are unemployed in Argentina. Lazy.

Almost 100% of seals are unemployed in Argentina. Lazy.

So, from Puerto Madryn, another 24 hour journey further south to El Calafete. This may sound like hard work but Argentinian buses make long journeys so much less painful. Comfy seats, free food and often movies in english.

The highlight of my trip so far has been Botofogo beach in Rio (just spectacular scenery), Villa Florida beach in Paraguay (spectacular isolated beach where we sat and chat for hours) and now El Calafete glacier.

Rosario, Che's Gaff and False Celebrity

We left Buenos Aires when our lease on our apartment ran out. The gang went our different ways. The girls headed up towards Bolivia while me and Omar started to work our way slowly south before heading to Patagonia. 

Directly after Buenos Aires, Omar was in Puerto Iguazu with Leah and I headed solo to Santa Fe. 

Santa Fe seems like it would be a really beautiful town during the summer. We were in the middle of winter. Tourists often take boat trips around the lake but we could not do it as it was lashing rain. We really did very little in Santa Fe. We were bored and wanted something to do so we booked a tour around a beer brewery. Unsure why. None of us had much interest in it. We booked it for the next day but while at dinner that night, we decided we would just head off to Rosario and skip it. We went to an all you can eat Fish restaurant while there. It was callled “El Quincho de Chiquito “. Amazing food. It seemed to be owned by a local boxer as there is a lot of boxing pictures around the place. Oh, actually. I recall there being a statue of a boxer outside it. It was class food. The place opens at about 8ish and we arrived early and could see the delivery of fresh fish at around 7.30. It was lovely. We ate too much and felt quite ill. Omar had spaghetti for breakfast also. That was crazy. 

On the bus back from the fish restaurant to our hostel, we decided to have a sneaky cigarette while we wait for the bus. Typically, the bus showed up as soon as we lit up. Unwilling to throw away the cigarette, I stubbed it on the soul of my foot and placed it behind me ear. Simple stuff. We took our place at the back of the bus as we are bad asses. We detected a funny smell. After ignoring it for a while, I got a burning sensation on my ear. The cigarette was still lit. How embarrassing. Just think about it, this gringo gets on a bus with smoke bellowing from his cigarette behind his ear. Oops. 

After a relatively pointless trip to Santa Fe we headed to Rosario. Rosario is well known for adventure activities. The plan was to skydive for my birthday. We walked up and down the lake in Rosario. It is a really beautiful city. We went to where Che Guevra was born. Unsure what I was expecting but a plaque outside an office saying “Che Wuz Ere 55” was not it. It is in the lonely planet as one of the things to see and is literally just a plaque. We strolled past it a few times saying, “Surely there is more to it than this….”. There wasn’t. This was it.

The home of Che. Not exactly what we were expecting

The home of Che. Not exactly what we were expecting

Nothing to see here. Rosario is a very cool city. Me and Omar just pottered around for the day and really enjoyed it.

We met some interesting characters in our hostel. A guy from New Zealand and a girl from Colombia. They were both absolutely mental but in different ways. Mr. NZ was an interesting character. He was a sheep sheerer.

I made a few hilarious Alan Shearer related jokes that went down terribly. He was explaining how much money is in sheep sheering. Not just in the industry but competition-wise. There are tournaments which are big big money. Quick and cleanest sheer. Madness. He was telling me about sheering magazines. I wonder are there sexy centrefolds in the centre or posters of your favourite sheerers. The colombian girl seemed lovely at first and then had some vodka and started to explain how she was going to murder her boyfriend. We tried not to ask too many questions but she was eager to explain. I was more interested in learning more about sheep sheering. 

As I mentioned before, we were intending to skydive for my birthday. I always wanted to do it and Rosario seemed like the place to do it. It is easily the most terrified I have ever been as I was waiting for our bus to collect us. I was beginning to dread it and actually felt a bit ill. I decided to do what any man would do while nervous. Go for a walk and blast Tiesto through the headphones. I was ready. I was ready to kick some ass. 5 minutes till pick up. So bloody ready, baby. Bring it on. 3 minutes till pick up. Phone call. Skydive cancelled. So ready…. oh…

Massive pain in the ass. They said that their driver was sick. Such bullshit. He hardly got sick on the way to pick us up. Very annoying. We had our ticket booked back to Buenos Aires that night so we could not reschedule. Pain. We went for a walk around Rosario once more to cheer us up. We found a really brilliant monument in Rosario. We hung around there for a few hours. If in Rosario, check out “Rosario Flag Monument”. Well worth a wander. 

We made some friends during our time there. Tonnes of ladeeeeeeez. Oh yeah. They were all about 12 but y’know. Beggars can’t be choosers. They all seemed to think that I was some sort of celebrity. I, of course, did not deny the rumour and even signed some autographs. God, I am such a dickhead.

I shall return to Rosario in my old age and use my celebrity profile to take a wife. Until then…..

Boca Juniors, Steak and Rose

I was determined to pick up some spanish along the way. How would I ever marry Shakira without speaking her native language? Yes. There are many other problems with this plan but spanish is a start. When Mags would depart us, me and Omar would have to negotiate our way through South America with no spanish. This would have proven so difficult. We enrolled in a class back in Dublin but it seemed to be just a class for old people to order food on holidays or to pass the time. I did have moments in that class where I actually had to bite my lip to stop myself from laughing. 3 moments in particular;

1) After class ends, Omar stands up to a class of 60 year olds and goes “Class drinks?!”

2) Billy. Oh billy. Billy was about 70 years old and enjoyed a good nap in class. One day, he turned to me and Omar and out of nowhere goes, “Lads, I have no idea what is going on”

3) The best for last. The love of my life. She was about a thousand years old. In one of the early classes, we went around introducing ourselves in spanish. “My name is blah blah blah.”. It comes to this angel and she says “My name is Rose” (in spanish obviously). The teacher looks puzzled and checks her list of names. No Rose on the list. The teacher asks what her name was. “Monica”. Did she adopt a spanish name or something? My god, I think a tear fell from my eye as I was trying to contain myself.

So yeah, those spanish classes while thoroughly entertaining did not achieve much. On arrival to Buenos Aires, we attempted spanish classes once more. It was with a company called “Ibero”. I would recommend it. Going to school in Buenos Aires everyday and to return to an apartment was a brilliant experience. I think I enjoyed pretending to be a normal person. Me and Omar did it for the first week and Leah joined us for the final two. I felt I learnt a lot and got a good grip of the basics. In fairness to us, we were very disciplined. We always did our homework and often studied. God, we are such nerds. The only problem with the class was the teacher only spoke spanish which at times was very beneficial but to explain grammer, you do need someone to discuss it in layman’s terms. We had a teacher who could speak english one day to fill in for our regular teacher. It was so much better. When he found out that we were Irish, he was delighted and explained his undying love for Enya. An argentinian man, no older than 30, loves Enya. Odd.

                                              Colourful streets of La Boca

                                              Colourful streets of La Boca

La Boca and Boca Juniors was maybe the highlight of my Buenos Aires experience. We went on a bus tour around Buenos Aires and hopped off in La Boca. La Boca is a slum in Buenos Aires and is apparently very dangerous but they have an area for tourists. It was such a cool place. Big bright buildings and tango in the streets. Me and Omar were fortunate enough to get tickets for their (and legendary Striker, Martin Palermo’s last ever game) final home game of the season.

This was our second attempt at going to a Boca game. The first was a disaster. Omar’s Dad has a pal who works in association with Boca Juniors and got us tickets for a game. Absolutely brilliant news. All we had to do was ring him on the morning of the game and organise the pick up of the tickets. Easy as pie! I never understood that, is pie easy? We went out the night before the game. We arrived home at some mental time in the morning (as is the argentinian way). We set our alarms for 12.00pm so we can call our contact. Alarm goes off and we head down to a payphone to call him. It went a little something like this;

Omar – “hello alejandro. This is Omar. You asked us to call about tickets.”

Alejandro – “Eh, yeah. I have the tickets but it is half time.”

Omar – “Half time? I thought it kicked off at 4?”

Alejandro – “It did.”

Omar looks at me with horror and asks me for the time. It is quarter to five. Absolute disaster. God, I still cringe when thinking about it. After minutes of apologising. We hung up. Most embarrassed boys ever.

We were still determined to see a Boca game and obviously we severed any chance of getting a ticket of that guy. God, we are such a pair of dopes. Why did we not check the time?! How did we not notice it was the evening?! We organised our tickets through a hostel, Millhouse. Good hostel. Would recommend people to stay in it. It is a party hostel and mostly full of horny dudes but can be fun. We paid (I think) 250 peso for a ticket which we found out later only costs 40 peso.

Annoying. After q’ing for ages, we were finally inside the legendary “La Bombonera”. A dream come true. I have always read different things about Boca and the infamous atmosphere but to be amongst it was incredible. We were behind the goals at one end. At first when we entered the ground with other hostellers, our seats (well, place to stand) was not great. Me and Omar left the group and got amongst the Boca fans. Oh, as I mentioned we left with people from the hostel.

We did not really chat to that many on the night but got chatting to Harry. Harry was from england. Harry explained to us that he is not really into “culture”. He explained that before he left England, he did not check the currency exchange rate and subsequently paid about 160e for a journey that should be about 20e. Shocking stuff. He barely seemed to care or was not even slightly embarrassed. I wonder at what point the driver realised that he could take this guy’s money. This guy also asked a question that followed us around the entire South America trip when with guys. “So, where are the best girls?” or “What are the girls in (specific place) like?”. I never knew how to answer these questions. “Yeah, there are girls in this area of the world.” Confusing. We met people who were travelling to a specific part of the world just for the women.

Anyway, the match. Boca were playing Tigres (I think). It seemed to be a relatively pointless mid table battle. Boca did not have a great season but you would never tell the match did not matter. The atmosphere was unbelievable. I have never felt or heard anything like that. For the entire 90 minutes, the crowd sang and danced. We joined in. It ended 1-1 which was the only downside. Boca took the lead and the place went absolutely mental. I was pretty nervous after the first goal went in. Fans always rush to the front, so you receive quite the shove. If Boca thrashed Tigres by 5 or 6, I definitely would have died. After the celebrations calmed down, we survived. In the final few minutes at 1-1, Boca threw everything at the goal. Part of me was dying for an epic last minute winner but at the same time, I was worried how mental the crowd would go! Of course, we wanted that last minute winner from Palermo. There was a huge ceremony for Martin Palermo after the game which was brilliant to see.

                                                      San Martin banner

                                                      San Martin banner

A video of his best moments was played and he gave a speech. He wore a cape for some reason. It was not even a Boca flag draped around him. It was a red cape. Grown men around us were shedding tears. Brilliant scenes. You have to love that football is so much more than a game here. You see “Maradona is God” graffiti everywhere! On the way home, I could not stop smiling. Seeing Boca play was something I have always wanted to do.

It shall definitely be a moment that I shall remember forever. One of the highlights of my trip so far. I still have my Martin Palermo jersey with me now. Great day. I came home and fell asleep smiling. (A running theme of the trip!) One of those things that you always wanted to see/do and it was as good, if not better than expected. If even in the vicinity of Buenos Aires, go see Boca!

                                                        Gracias Palermo!

                                                        Gracias Palermo!

The waiter than comes out of the restaurant and calls us to give back our 2 peso. How embarrassing. Omar said it was for him but he insisted we keep it. Of course, when we returned to a different branch of the same restaurant (to avoid this waiter) we had the same waiter. Brilliant. We made sure to leave a tip this time. What a dickhead move though. It did work as he left a tip this time. However, I stole about 15 lollipops to even out the score. Take that, struggling waiter. San Telmo market is a great spot. Loads of really cool stalls selling loads of different crap. So many excellent presents for people, well potentially. Unfortunately I can’t really be carrying presents for everyone for months and months. We met two interesting american guys who were selling spicey sauce at a stall. They have made a good bit of money from it and hope to open their own kitchen soon. Ambitious folks. If you are there and see them, help out! The sauce is lovely.

We attempted several times to go see a Planetarium. I think there were three attempts. We would arrive at different times and different days but whenever we showed up, it was closed. Pretty annoying as I was hoping to see a Planetarium. Fuck you, Planetarium.

                                                          And I mean it!

                                                          And I mean it!

So the time came to depart Buenos Aires for the final time. As I mentioned before, me and Omar renewed or Visa in Uruguay before heading back. We were heading down south to Patagonia before starting work in Cordoba (back up North) so it was the last we would see Buenos Aires for quite some time. I was pretty delighted to get on the move again but I loved my time in BA. It is an absolutely incredible city and it was a brilliant experience to live in an apartment there. I am sure I will return one day!

Buenos Aires, Bam Margera and Blood

We were in Buenos Aires for almost 2 months so it will take some time to get through this but I believe in us. We can do this, reader. 

Boy oh boy. I was excited to see Buenos Aires. The vibe and atmosphere in the city is unreal. You have so much fun just walking around for the day. We spent so many hours just trawling through the streets. I will most certainly return one day. I shall start at the start. The beginning seems like a good place to begin. My first impression of Buenos Aires was, “Woof! It is cold. I am cold.” We were not in the baking heat that we grew accustomed to. We arrived a few days before Omar arrived so just hung around our hostel. The girls took this time to beautify themselves for the incoming male. I received no such attention when I was incoming. 

The hostel we stayed in was pretty cool. It was in Belgrano which is a very posh end of Buenos Aires. The hostel was basically owned by a pair of rich kids who turned a big house into a big hostel. It was mostly filled with their mates which was a bit annoying as they treated it quite poorly. Nobody cleaned up after themselves. Countless times we had to clean someone elses dishes to use them. This always really annoys me. You do not want to know the murderous things that go through my mind while cleaning dried rice off a pot. The hostel was easily the cheapest in BA so it was not too bad. We went to a house party hosted by one of the hostel owners. His house was absolutely amazing. It was a very fun party. They tried to rip us off on the purchasing of beer. We were not pleased about it and decided that we shall not be partaking in the drinking at the party. I would like to think that the host allowed us to drink for free (details are hazy) but we ended up drinking alot of their alcohol. Too much of their alcohol. 2/3’s of the group made quite the fools of ourselves at the party. Oh dear. I then became too embarrassed to engage with the people in the hostel again. Well, it was a combination of embarrassment and not being bothered. I feel the guys just wanted the girls and I was a drunken obstacle. They played their game very well. I was out of the way quite early. 

I ate a lot of bread in Buenos Aires. Like, loads. Full french baguettes.

Jesus, what an interesting fact. Omar arrived soon after that party and we became a 4 piece. We found an apartment and moved in for the month. Leah arrived shortly after and we all packed into the small apartment.

Me ruining the family picture. I still look the best. That bunch of mingers. have not used the word minger for quite some time. It felt good. I am going to call someone a minger tonight at some point.

Me ruining the family picture. I still look the best. That bunch of mingers. have not used the word minger for quite some time. It felt good. I am going to call someone a minger tonight at some point.

Having the apartment was brilliant and it was really fun negotiating life around Buenos Aires (going to school, using the subway, grocery shopping..) I find the most simple of things enjoyable in a different country. I am a well cultured man who is very deep. So, typically, one of my favorite things to do in BA was go out and get drunk with my 4 Irish friends. Buenos Aires has a pretty epic nightlife. Argentinians are mental though. In Ireland, I am stumbling home at 2.30am. In Argentina, you are only arriving to the club. You start drinking at around 12. It is madness. To be fair, Argentinians do not seem to drink as much though. I have quite a few tales to share with you from our time in Buenos Aires.

Myself, Omar and Leah often had class during the week so midweek partying was not often (plus we money was an issue. Always an issue) so partying was left to the weekends. We would often meet people who are constantly partying but a month in Buenos Aires is very different to a year in South America. Wow, captain obvious. I did find that difficult at times though. Thinking when you meet someone just on a brief holiday and being “Hmmm, I may not be partying enough.”. This thought process would often dissappear after glancing at the bank account followed by a glance at the calender. Perhaps one of our most infamous tales from South America occurred in a place known as “CLUB AMERICA”. 

This is a very well known gay club. We were unaware that it was a gay club at the time. So, me and Omar felt pretty awkward at the beginning. Classic case of straight guys surrounded by gay guys. “Watch your ass. They all want to have sex with us, bro.” 

It is no wonder the gays have so much sex. There is so little flirting or game playing. Just grabbing. I acted disgusted but I was totally a little flattered. 

Omar – I think this is a gay club

Brian – Why would you say that?

Omar – The sign says “South America’s biggest gay club”

This was our first clue that we may be in a gay club. When we entered and saw hundreds of scantily clad men dancing with each other, we became certain of our location. 

Now, it came down to this key moment. Do you cut your losses and try somewhere else? Or make the most of the evening? We decided to party like it is Gay 1999. 

80 peso in which is 13 euro roughly. This is very expensive by any standards. HOWEVER MY FRIENDS. Not only were there enough gays to shake a stick at inside but there was a free bar. With the amount of alcohol consumed, 13 euro for the night was a bargain. I never want access to a free bar again. 

We were easily the drunkest people ever. I fell into the same trap every time. In some guys ass. No, I jest. I would order two drinks at the bar and then be like, “Jesus, holding two drinks is a pain.”. So, I would down one drink. Realise that I have a free hand and then buy another one. This process was repeated throughout the night. 

Omar had quite a harrowing experience while there. Basically, Emma went MIA in the club so the remaining members of our crew had a meeting. We decided to split up, look for emma and return to this spot in 15 minutes. We all agreed. After we broke the huddle, I just walked out of the club and went home. Unsure where everyone else went. I doubt they know either. Omars quest to find Emma got very dark. He wrote an entry in my DREAM DIARY so I shall transcribe it in his words. 

“It was mental. So at this point, Emma is missing and has been missing for a good 6 hours. So on a search for Emma, I find myself patroling this area which the website describes as “a dark corner”. It was more like a dark cave. I’m looking around for her and a few guys are grabbing at me, no shame, but I don’t mind and keep looking. I look to my right, wow, that couple are really going at it. I look to my left. Oh shit. That couple are having sex. I look in any direction. Oh my god, everyone is riding! Oh what…that girl is getting spitroasted…..oh what…that girl is a transexual. OH HOLY WHAT?! There is a queue of guys waiting to do her next….oh wow…”

Oh lol. We all arrived safe and sound. No one is quite sure how. Myself and Leah’s cameras also got “stolen”. I say “stolen” because I was so drunk that I am sure I just asked someone to take a picture and just walked off. Some of the pictures on that were legendary. 

There was this hugely obese man (with his top off, naturally) dancing around the place. I thought for the LOL that I would dance with him. So, I stroll up and throw him my best moves (most likely the dice) and he looks at me with disgust. REJECTED!! Rejected by someone who I tried to dance with for comedic effect! Confidence grew back after the first pinch of my bottom on my stroll back. Messy, messy night but so much fun. 

We had another fairly epic night out in a club whose name I cannot remember. However, it was so bloody plush. So fancy. Far too out of our budget. Now, the girls can get guys to buy them drinks and stuff but me and Omar gotta fend for ourselves. Everyone was drinking champagne in this place. A can of Quilmes was 25 peso (Just under a fiver!) Too expensive for the budget we were on. Unfortunately the club was in the middle of nowhere so we couldnt just ditch it and head to the next place. A girl came up to me (mid bust-a-move) and said “Jackass!”. I was very confused. Surely my dance style did not warrant abuse from strangers. After threatening to kill her family, she explained herself. She was under the impression I was Bam Margera.

                                               Yeah, I do not see it either

                                               Yeah, I do not see it either

I explained that my entourage were very drunk. He laughed and made me a drink. Great stuff. This (unfortunately) was not the only time the Bam Margera card was played. A fine night. It was a club clearly for the wealthy youths in Buenos Aires. The Bam Margera card lured its ugly head again later on that week. We went to a club with a school chum of us, Leon. We drank with the girls in the apartment and got to the roxy in seperate taxis. The girls did not arrive. Turns out there are two Roxy’s. We were quite drunk and just assumed the girls had a change of heart and went somewhere else. This doesn’t make sense in retrospect but alcohol is a funny thing. I was in the mood for mischief. And mischief occurred. I get like this sometimes. I just want to have a mess and entertain myself. These nights usually end up in pulling a lady which is a pretty terrible representation of myself or the ladies that I go for. Full of alcohol and full of confidence I was ready to attack. FUN FACT:- “Full of Alcohol, Full of Confidence” was an emily song that we were writing before we broke up. 

So, the Bam Margera card was played. Basically, we just walked around asking for free drink claiming that we are from Jackass. It worked aswell, well I thought it worked. I got free booze so I suppose it did work. I went up to the bar and I was asking (or demanding) for free booze and the bar man got the manager. Woops. Perhaps I was out of my depth but the alcohol kept me afloat. I explained to him that MTV promised me free booze. He explained that “Kevin” from MTV always informs him of a celeb arriving. Snap. Potentially rumbled. POTENTIALLY. I said “Kevin” is sick and “Damien” is looking after us. The manager then informed me that “Kevin” was in earlier. RUMBLED. I stood staring blankly at him for a moment. Trying to work out my next move. My next move was to laugh and walk away. I am unsure if anyone actually believe that we were from Jackass. As at the end of the night, I told someone that I wasn’t actually Bam Margera and she said that she knew. I guess they enjoyed us telling our fibs. 

I was out of money so I decided it was time to go. I found Omar dancing to ACDC on his own and Leon asleep on a couch. Away we went. We arrived at our door step to find the girls sitting outside the apartment. They were not impressed. We had the majority of their money and the keys to the apartment so when they ran out of money (early in the night) and come home, they couldnt get in. I assumed that they went to a drum show, La Bomba instead and when I stumbled in the door, I asked, “How were the drums?” no doubt slurring my words. 

“We were not at the drums.” Emma responded through gritted teeth. The lesson we learnt from this experience? There are two Roxy’s in Buenos Aires and being a dickhead will get you laid. Go figure. 

After we split up from the girls (moved out of the apartment). They went north and we headed all over the place. We decided to return to Buenos Aires for my birthday and to sort out our bus to Patagonia. We decided to do a pub crawl on my birthday. Fun fun! We befriended two lovely girls from London in our room. Spending my 25th birthday with two 19 year olds did not help the feeling of getting old. I got free shots which was nice but THE EVENT occurred when we were in a club called Crobar. Good club if around the Buenos Aires area. I’ll be honest, I will love any club once it plays pop music. I prefer to sing crap songs then to dance. I can’t dance anyway. Except ironically. I am a fabulous ironic dancer. Myself and Mar went to get a drink at the bar. Some guy (looked about twelve) knocked over our drink. Now, I tell people it was his attitude after he knocked over the drink that made us so agro (he just shrugged) but in reality it was most likely that the drink was 25 peso and we were on a 100 peso daily budget. 

So, we asked him (quite aggressively) to replace the drink and he refused. It could have been because he was underage! He walked off and me and Omar were not impressed. His friend took me aside and told me to “Be careful”. I took no notice of this warning as I am pretty sure I have issued false threats like this in the past. What happened next. Mar knew better so I shall hand you back over to his entry

“You would think I would know more, but its a bit of a blur. I like how you phrase it, “we asked him to replace our drinks” More like, screaming the price of the drink in his face. Anyway, he was a total dickhead about it. Later that night, I see him again and I administer a vicious “dismissive tut” at him. Now, I could have sworn he was about six feet away when I did this, anyway, next thing I know, the guy hits me so many times, so fast, I can literally do nothing but wipe the blood away from my face. It won’t stop, at this point there is a circle of people formed. Brian thought I was involved in a dance off. I am obviously furious and go for him and his mates but he gets pulled away. I don’t know by who, but I get ushered into the medic room where I continue to swear blindly. Next thing I remember is the two girls trying to calm me down, which I sorta did as soon as I saw they were covered in my blood. I had came out and Brian formed a team of bouncers to find him. He was found and kicked out.”

Bam Margera was the theme of first two stories well blood is definately the theme of the above and the next one. Argentinians do not arrive at clubs until about 2 – 2.30am, so pre-drinking should not begin before 11. We started at 6pm so by the time we set foot in the club, it was about 8 hours. God. Disaster. We went to LA BOMBA.

La Bomba is absolutely brilliant. If in BA, it is a must. African style drum concert. Sometimes songs will include guitars, keyboards or vocals. Some of the stuff is brilliant. Good place to socialize and have a bit of a dance. This starts at 7.30. It was the girls we were with last night in South America so they wanted to go mental. Me and Omar…..I suppose we were still celebrating my birthday? Yeah. That must be it. The smell of weed in the place is pretty mad. We heard rumors of “special” brownies going around. I saw nothing of the sort.

I had “special” brownies in Amsterdam before. It was nothing to write home about….despite the fact that I am writing about it now. A girl I know ate brownies and slept for 30 hours. Fun sidenote. This blog has it all. The girls knew someone who could get free tickets. He brought 4 tickets for us all. Then the dick didnt give me or Omar tickets because he thought we were boyfriends and he wanted to hook up with the girls. Despite the fact that he went to the drum expo with a girl. He was also accompanied by an australian guy, Gus. Gus was cool. Not a whole lot to say about him but he was extremely positive (everything was amazing or brilliant) and he said the words “Higgeldy Piggeldy” which I found beyond hilarious. 

Anyway, we left the expo and headed back to the room for some drinking games and celine dion songs. They were brilliant girls now that I think about it. We formed a little group so easily. We arrived at the club. Unsure if I could even formulate sentences at this stage. I could certainly take pictures. Evidence. I need to stop supplying other with evidence of my lack of class. I say, while posting this is a blog. Sure, its a lesson learnt. 

Let us begin. I fell in glass and cut my hand open quite badly. Blood everywhere. No one noticed that I was spewing blood everywhere. For whatever reason, I then began to hug everyone. Still unaware I was bleeding nor was anyone else. Everyone woke up very confused as to why there was blood everywhere. Everyone just assumed it was Omar bleeding on everyone again. 

Big F.E.A.R. that next morning. 

That night I slept in my bed. Covering it with blood and shame. More so blood. But especially shame.