26. Sep, 2015

Travelling is Learning About Living

Travelling is fun. In the photo you will see some things that have been pertinent to us on our travels, - they don't need explaining why they are there but I will help determine what is there - sunglasses, reading glasses, moisturiser, passport, postcard, socket adapted, cable for charging, portable charger, underwear, padlock, scrubbing brush, sun hat, hair locking tool, water, wine, vitamin C and zinc tablets, electronic tablet, tissues, insect repellent, online banking  card reader, bag and bank card, cash, shampoo from hotel, bacterial hand wash, bottle opener, camera goggles, germolene, wristwatch and yellow fever vaccination card. All needed for a 3 and a half month travelling experiencest!

There are many things we have loved about it and and the things we had seen, the people we had met and the experiences we had had were inspirational and as we had thought would provide a lifetime of smiles. In the main we had been on the go, go, go and I am so glad that we made an effort to get fitter so that we could make the most of our trip and keep up with the pace. Our route through The Americas seemed perfect. Quito had prepared us well for the altitude issues we would encounter in Cusco and Cusco's altitude made Machu Picchu very accessible and we didn't struggle at all. Equally the weather in Argentina was perfect in September and was much warmer than we had anticipated; perfect for city touring. South Africa's winter should have been slipping away by the time we got there.

The top 20 things we have had to consider or we encountered when travelling:

#1 Check ins at hotels and airports were both thrilling and emotionally draining. We loved peering round the door of our new home or our new country and only one hotel disappointed us.

#2 Washing the few underclothes we had was pretty much a daily affair and then to dry them we always had to be inventive including using the hairdryer. 

#3 Swimming pools and gyms looked lovely, always clean and very inviting, but after a long day travelling and sightseeing it was easier to drag yourself to the bar than the pool or gym. Needless to say we have both gained weight!!!!

#4 Charging our multiple electrical devices was an organisational challenge. We had now been to 7 different countries and they all had different socket and voltage types, so on some occasions we only had one power adapted to charge all our things - 2 tablets, one computer, one camera and 2 portable chargers. 

#5 Maps, hotel names and room numbers had to be carefully looked at and recored so we could be well prepared for the taxi drivers. At one point John gave the check in guy the wrong room number and was given the key for it - that could have been an interesting outcome if I hadn't reminded him that we were staying in room 26 and not 206. 

#6 Toiletries- we had brought none with us other than toothpaste, mouthwash and moisturise And so were dependant on the hotel's range.  Toiletries were stocked from hotel to hotel as often only one lot of soap and shampoo was on offer, so we would keep them just in case we needed them and if our luggage space allowed.

#7 Luggage management was a hot topic. Occasionally we had to be mindful of what we could take on board the plane, what things had to stay with us etc etc. We should never have cared as in every Central and South American country the security rarely looked carefully enough at the luggage to see if bags breeched security rules. We also had to be mindful of the weight of our luggage. It wasn't just flight limits but with moving so much we had to consider how much we could physically carry. A couple of times we would ask the hotel to keep our luggage for a week or longer so that we could travel lighter.

#8 Tipping 

We always tipped, but at times having enough small change was a challenge. Some taxi drivers were reluctant to change larger notes and it wasn't customary to go to a bank to get or change money except using an atm. Believe me not in SA. 

#9 Tours

Organising trips and day tours was great. Some countries made it easy, but you definitely had to have your wits about you. Trust in an agent had to come thick and fast as we had limited time to find out if they were trustworthy. On 3 occasions we handed over several hundreds of dollars to agents we had met minutes before in the hope that our itinerary would become realised and I am glad to say they all did. In Lima, Peru we visited 5 different agents in pursuit of getting the best out of our visit but also best VFM. In the end we designed and booked the trips ourselves with a little help from a new agent who we learned to trust in Cusco. Lima agents were expensive and so we saved thousands of dollars booking things ourselves. Trip Advisor and guidebooks are pretty good, but much information is out of date and local travel agents and local tourist  information booths do not have up to date information, so it is best to go hunting yourself and luckily we had the time to do just that. Unfortunately with such busy lives back in the UK we had not mastered Spanish and as a consequence found it hard to barter. People never let us down. They are proud of their countries and want to share it with you. Many realise that tourism is here to stay and they can capitalise on it and help you get the most out of your visit. 

# 10 Mosquito and bug repellants were a must and we regretted it if we didn't wear it in most climates we visited. Nights were worse. One night outside our hotel in the jungle we became stranded as the electronic key failed. I waited with the bags whilst John went back to recharge the cards and I got bitten 8 times in 5 minutes - twice on the face! Always remember the repellant because it is more of an effort nursing your bites than spraying yourself!


Banking online and changing or getting the local currency. I will just say that we were quite savvy, but it was an effort to achieve best VFM and thank god for online banking!


Wifi codes. Everywhere we went we had to change wifi etc and with no phone it was a lifeline to our British world. I had an Internet phone and so could make essential calls and we could upload The Times, access the BBC radio and news and use FB to message and keep in contact with friends and family. When you are illiterate, or at least in the early stages of learning a new language, this contact in your literate world is essential.

# 13

Losing things- say no more!


Cultural norms were fascinating. People in all of the countries seemed genuinely happy to be alive and were very ambitious for themselves, their country and their fellow man. I think this positive nature and laid back attitude to many things was often down to their heritage but also the weather.  Men in Brazil openly ogle the women's legs, boobs and bums and it seems to be accepted as the norm, yet nowhere else had we seen this behaviour. Clapping when a plane landed safely and carrying babies as opposed to putting them in a buggy. I must admit I rarely heard a child cry and I never saw a child misbehave the whole time between Mexico and Peru - attachment disorders and maybe other disorders may be non existent there owing to the care and the close contact given by the families. Another difference,  owing to the ancient plumbing, was putting toilet paper in the toilet was practised only in Argentina and Brazil, but in Peru this habit could block a toilet for a week. There are so many other cultural norms already documented in the blog. 

# 15

Food and drink as expected with most dishes being tasty, innovative and affordable. The only surprise being a real lack of spicy foods available even in Mexico. 

#16 Sick and tired. When you are away from home any illness is magnified. We just went with it and any ailment never stopped us from doing anything. Tired - what's that?! If we were tired we just slept for an hour or so - we just went with the flow and as a consequence had a blast. There were times when we just gave in to how we were feeling, we never beat each other up about it but just enjoyed any moment we had. At the time of writing this John is snatching 40 winks before we go out for the night on the tiles. 

# 17 Having each other for company. What can I say - it will depend on our mood. I had 3 cycles and trust me this is a woman who knows about PMT. After 32 years of living together we just roll with it and take the ups with the downs. We spent one night apart and that was because John had a cold and his snoring had kept me awake for 2 nights. We relied on each other and enjoyed spending time together, laughing lots or just sending a quiet smile with sweet contentment and when we didn't enjoy each other's company, and that was really rare, we would withdraw and use our tablets as a friend for a few minutes or just stare out of the window. 

#18 public transport. We love public transport and most of the time it was a good way to get under the skin of a country. It was cheap, reliable and in the main safe. We would try our best to orientate ourselves around the cities by jotting down the names of local streets and bus numbers so that we could easily return - quite important that!

#19 other travellers in the main were a delight to meet. Occasionally they were not. People were just as thirsty as us to see the world unfurl before their very eyes and revel in its mystery, its history and tell stories to their great grandchildren!

#20 critters - I will always gently laugh when remembering  when holidaying in India I was asked by several young men, who I am sure were highly educated, what animals were native to England. I was asked if giraffes, hippos,lions and elephants lived there. I was quite embarrassed when I had to disappoint them by saying any animal like the big 5 only lived in zoos and that the most dangerous critter we had in England was an angry badger or a hungry fox! But that is what it is like in England, you do not have to fear animals or critters. I know I may hear some of you scoff and say adders or bulls, but here there are literally hundreds of things that can take your head off and you were never quite sure which ones you could trust. When you look at the to 10 list of dangerous critters in the UK you will see why I became wary when I saw caimans, vultures, iguanas or monkeys, we just don't see such potentially dangerous animals. http://www.planetdeadly.com/animals/uk-dangerous-animals 

I could say children, language, house and house sitters, gifts, postcards, books, music, photos and blogs, but I won't, as they all seemed to take care of themselves well and never hindered our trip in any way and some, like music and books, only enhanced it.