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Day 7 – English lessons and Huancash

July 26, 2012

Yesterday evening I found a tour agency (not hard, it seems that every other shop offers tours!) who suggested that I went to see Huancas (pronounced, more or less, like a Geordie saying wankers) – a small village about 10 km North of here where there are a couple of viewpoints of a pretty valley and some handicrafts. Rather than try and sell me a tour for this he told me that you could get a shared taxi from a stop just round the corner for 3 soles, then you have to pay 1 sol to get into the viewing area itself. This seemed like a cheap and ‘light’ day out so this morning, after getting up relatively late (0830) and having a long breakfast in the hostel’s adjoining cafe (really good breakfast actually – fruit juice, coffee, fruit salad, fresh bread, jam , butter, eggs) I wandered out in the general direction of where I thought the collectivo stop was.

 

For people that have never used collectivos, they work a bit like this; Someone with a car/mini bus and some spare time on their hands writes a sign on a bit of cardboard with a destination on it. He then sits somewhere, known to locals, until the car is full (usually 5 people) of people wanting to go to that destination. Then they go. They do the same on the return journey (unless they KNOW there will be more people waiting at the starting point in which case they will go back empty or half empty). They cost less than taxis and go places that are too far for combis to go to.

 

On my way I was hailed by two young men who tried to talk to me in English, but quickly reverted to Spanish when they realised that my Spanish was much better than their English. They informed me that they were studying tourism and administration in a university here and as part of their basic English course they had to have an oral exam, with a native English speaker, in front of their teacher, and wondered if I’d help them. As I had the feeling that the trip to Huancas wouldn’t take all day I decided that I might as well. They apologetically informed me that their teacher wouldn’t be there for about 20 minutes and that if I’d wait they’d buy me a coffee. Agreed and they walked me over to the plaza to pick op the 3rd member of their little band. There were other students there too, with their own foreigners, all looking a little bemused. My little band took me off to a coffee shop on the plaza and then as we were chatting, shyly asked me if I’d look over their questions, check their pronunciation and practice with them, which, of course, I did. We also had a nice chat in Spanish about where I’d been in Peru, why I was here, football (Newcastle – yes the Urracas, Yes Solano) and why I hadn’t been to Kuelap yet. As we lwft to go to their English school they bought me a bag of Fair trade, organis locally produced coffee to say thank you.

 

The chatting turned out to be very useful later on when the teacher threw random questions at me to check their understanding. Most of the things we’d been talking about came up so they already knew, more or less, what I was going to say! The only problem they had was with numbers. They were fine with small numbers but anything over about 10 they just seemed to guess at! The teacher picked up on this and kept asking me questions about the ages of my siblings, how long I’d been teaching, when I left secondary school, the population of my home town (like I know that!?), the lowest temperature that it got to there and other such things. I tried to keep the numbers simple, but I felt a bit sorry for them! They did all pass though!

 

They then walked me to the collectivo stop, paid my fare for me, and told the driver to make sure I knew where to get off etc. They then went off. They were really lovely, nice to talk to and very keen to promote Peru. They couldn’t see why it amused me that two of them were called Lenin and Franco though. Once I’d explained why I found it odd they told me that have a friend called Stalin too, only he wasn’t there today as he was at work. I’m not really sure where this fashion for naming children after foreign dictators came from, but I have seen both here and in Huaraz, signs on walls asking you to vote for Hitler for mayor. I am assured that it has absolutely nothing to do with people’s personal philosophy – they just heard the names on foreign radio and liked the sound… I suppose I’m not really one to talk about getting named after things your parents heard on the media…

 

I sat and waited for about 20 minutes until the collectivo had enough people to go to Huancas. I was the only foreigner out of 8 (it was a people carrier, not a normal car) and got some funny looks. Unbeknown to me the driver decided to to an abnormal route – I was expecting to be dropped off in the Plaza in Huancas so I sat looking out of the window at more beautiful scenery as we went off through the streets of Chachpoyas, climed steeply along a road that was being resurfaced (with mud and stones) and arrived about 15 minutes later to a village I assumed was Huancas. We didn’t stop or pass through a square so I thought maybe there was another village. We then carried on to the Prison where everybody but me got off. He then turned around and I thought that we’d go to the square on the way back and he’d drop me off then. About 10 mins later, when we’d been round a lot of houses to pick up people I was completely disorientated. A couple of minutes later on I realised we were on the road back down to Chachapoyas and had just passed the 5km marker. I felt very silly! When we got back to Chachapoyas the driver looked at me very surprised and said ‘why didn’t you get off in Huancas?’ I replied ‘We didn’t stop – I didn’t know where to get off’ to which he said – ‘get back in then – I’ll take you back!’. I had nothing better to do so I said I would, but that I had to go to the toilet first (an hour of bouncing about on dirt roads after 3 cups of coffee is not the best thing for either kidneys or bladder!). I then waited another 20 mins for enough people to go. This time the car was full of school kids who had finished secondary school for the day (they only go for half days for some reason – they do 8 until 12.30). The other drivers refuse to take them as by law they only pay half fare, My driver would take them, but they had to sit suqished up; 1.5ish to a seat. One little boy, sick of being squashed by his sister, shouted out – ‘ If I give you 3 soles can I have a seat to myself?’ which made me laugh. This time we went to the square where myself, the one other tourist and 4 remaining school kids (the rest had been dropped off on the way) got out. It is an odd place. It has quite a large plaza, when you consider the size of the town, and a very well kept Municipal building; everything else seems a little dilapidated. There were a couple of shops on the plaza, but they were closed. So much for the handycrafts! I walked in the direction of an odd looking look out tower and on the way found one shop with a vast array of different textiles. I promised to go in on my way back. The tower is at the top of a flight of steps. At the bottom are a number of half built buildings. I have no idea whether it is supposed to be a holiday resort or if it will be more shops… there is also a little woman with the visitor’s log. She took my 1 sol and told me to fill the book in on my way back down.

 

They valley is incredible, deep and narrow. You can see waterfalls, cliffs and streams stretching off in both directions. Later the driver told me that it is 1000m deep. It was also VERY windy and I soon got ear ache and had to put my hood up. I had my binoculars with me and spent about half an our wandering along the path, looking at stuff and taking photos. I say some Viscacha (or similar) poo, but didn’t see any live mammals. There were a handful of other people up there (5 to be exact) but the place still managed to feel completely desolate and isolated.

 

On the way back I went into the shop as promised, was informed by the man working there that the work was all done by 6 single mothers who used the money to send their kids to secondary school. I bought a bag. I think I like it. He also offered me a taste of an orange liqueur they make with the famous last words ‘just a little taste, it’s not very strong!’ It was nice, but reminded me a lot of cough mixture!

 

I had been thinking of doing a walk to another, less known, viewpoint 3 km further along the valley where there are the remains of a couple of round houses. However it was a lot later than I’d planned and looking like rain so I decided to go back to Chachapoyas. I only had to wait about 5 mins in the square for the collective man to get there – I was quite lucky really.

 

I got back to the hotel room feeling a little worse for wear and decided that an early tea, and early night would be a good idea. Jose arrives tomorrow so I’ll be off to see some more impressive sites over the next few days (an probably will have better things to do than sit on my own in cafes writing my blog! We’ll see…

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Day 6 – Karajia and Quiocta

July 26, 2012

The day started out with breakfast in the peace and quiet of the Gocta Lodge followed by an early start to go to Chachapoyas via (although they are not really on the way!) the sarcophagi at Karajia and the cavern of Quiocta. To get to these places we had to leave the tarmacked road, cross the river and then climb to around 3000 meters to a small village called Lamud. In Lamud we (The driver, his friend who had never been to see those ruins, and me) met our guide. He had a very thick regional accent which I found difficult to understand when he spoke quickly and he gave me a leaflet about the area.  Besides telling me how many tourists from different countries came there in the last month he didn’t really give me any more information besides what was already in the leaflet.  I suppose it’s possible that so little is known about the remains that what was in the leaflet is all there was. Or possible he was a terrible guide. My suspicions about his poorness were first aroused when we got to the first site, Karajia, and all he did was walk to a spot, say ‘this is where you get a great pictue of this’, then walk somewhere else and say ‘ take a picture of this’. ‘Stand here – I’ll take a photo – it makes a great picture’ As if photos are the be all and end all. If I didn’t look immediately (for example if I was busy looking at something else) he got agitated and repeated himself again and again until I did as I was told. It was VERY annoying and really spoiled what was a beautiful place! I know very little about Karajia. What I do know (mostly from the tourism booklet) is that about 1000 years ago some people, who were probably important, were mummified and their mummies were placed in sarcophagi made of a mixture of hair and clay then they painted them and somehow placed them on ledges cut into a cliff above a 500 m drop, These ones are still in situ, facing the rising sun. They were discovered by Italians. I’m not sure if they took some of the mummies that were there away or not. Neither do I know anything at all about the other 2 types of mummy or the wall that had been built on one of the ledges, or the small pile of bones neatly laid out on the rocks underneath. That’s because about half way along the trail we met a pair of Hungarian tourists and,  for some reason, the guide then ignored me completely and showed them round. He also started with the ‘ stand there – it makes a great photo’ routine again, with them. They didn’t seem any fonder of it than I was. I took the opportunity to get my binoculars out and look at the mummies in more detail. The guide asked to borrow them, showed me a mummy that is well hidden in the rocks that he hadn’t mentioned before because ‘you need a telescopic zoom to take a photo of it’ then passed the binoculars to the Hungarians without asking me. They looked at me a bit sheepishly.

It was a beautiful location and the remoteness of it and the work that must have gone in to get the mummies there is staggering. The nearest village, which now has a visitor’s centre (consisting of a table with the visitors’ log book and a toilet) is another small Peruvian village suddenly learning the value of horses. The guide seemed quite surprised that I was prepared to walk. I checked the distance again – 1 km – and repeated that I’d walk. His reply was ‘maybe you can get one on the way back’. I didn’t get one, but I didn’t realise that of the 1 km to the remains about 700 m were more or less vertical (well steep switchbacks). I didn’t really notice it going down, but on the way back up my lungs reminded me that I’m not very fit anyway and a 700 m climb at 3000 meters is a LOT harder than the same walk would be in the Pennines! I ignored the guide trying to hurry me along on the way back and stopped to take the pictures I wanted to take! We drove from Karajia back to Lamud where we went to register for the caves, order the correct sized boots (‘really, 41? For you?’) and looked at the small museum (well – took photos of the things the the guide told me to take photos of!) and stopped for lunch. I wasn’t expecting much. To my surprise there was a restaurant the driver knew that actually looked like a restaurant, with wooden furniture and the tables set before we sat down! The decor was odd, but nice – the owner gets diners to write on the walls before they go (which I did). The food was really good and HUGE portions. I had duck, with some kind of turmericy potatoes and (of course – it is Peru after all!) rice.  Thank you David from El Batan de Don Mario for an Excellent lunch.  I highly recommend the place to any one else that happens to be in the area! Before we’d finished the guide came in looking for us to hurry us along. He had bumped into the Hungarian tourists and, without asking me, he had offered to take them with us to the caves and show them round too.

To get to the entrance to the cave we had to drive for about an hour out of Lamud, through stunning scenery, and then walk about 5 minutes to get to the entrance to the cave. There are reconstructed Chachapoyan huts just at the entrance too.  I’m still not really sure who the ancient remains in the caves belonged to or how long they have been there – there are obvious signs of fires inside and also what the guide said were alters – now little more than mudy mounds with skeletons on (although it is hard to tell if they were buried at one point and just being washed out each time the caves flood) and the remains of cocoa leaves.  Much more interesting than the skeletons were the bats – under each roost was a pile of dung, in which weird little beetles were living out their lives. The guide didn’t even mention the beetles… neither did he tell us anything about how the caves formed, how long they’ve been there, how long the stalagmites and stalactites would have taken to form. Again he just rushed us from one point to the next making us take photos, really irritatingly he would make sure the Hungarian had nice photos then move on whether I had taken mine or not. The thing that annoyed me the most, and really spoiled my day, was that he kept trying to get us to climb over the ropes, that have been put there to protect the formations,  so that we could have are photos taken next to them. He kept going on and on about it, even though we all said, very clearly, that we weren’t interested. The fact that an official guide, who is supposed to be protecting the natural heritage site for future generations, was not only encouraging us to break the rules, but getting quite cross with us when we wouldn’t, makes me very sad. This total disregard for other people and the ‘what I want now’ attitude that is prevalent in Peru is ruining their tourist destinations. The cave was about 500 m deep and consists of 8 ‘rooms’ connected by wide corridors, the roof in the corridors is about the height of a normal ceiling and was considerably higher in most of the ‘ rooms’ there a a number of really interesting formations, including some HUGE stalagmites and some lovely ‘church organ’ style stalactites. The guide had only brought 3 torches for 5 people (which I thought was particularly irresponsible) but I had my head torch with me; In the lower corridors the ceiling looked like it was covered in something glittering. At first I thought it was some kind of pyrites but I realised after a while that they were all individual droplets of water catching the light. It was fascinating! The floor of the caves was covered in sticky mud for which the best word would be clarty.  We didn’t go into the final room because the guide said it was a bit muddy – given that we all had wellies on, and had driven for 2 hours up a mountian to see the place, I think he could have asked, rather than just decided we weren’t going.

The guide began to rush us out, then stopped, made us all stand in a circle holding hands and turn all the lights off. It was pitch black. Far FAR darker than the night solo in Tambopata! It would have been nice to stand there for 5 minutes or so, but the guide yabbered on about how being in the dark gave you a chance to reflect and think about your life… It probably would have, if we’d been able to enjoy some silence! When the guide finally shut up the only sounds we could hear were the dripping of water and the chittering of bats. The rest was short lived and we were soon off again being rushed back out of the cave. I’d quite like to go back and have a proper look but it’s so far out of the way that I doubt I’ll ever get the chance! We dropped the guide back in Lamud and continued on to Chachapoyas.

We stopped to pick up people at one point – the driver obviously deciding that he couldn’t, in good conscience, leave a mother with a baby and a toddler in the middle of nowhere when we had many empty seats. However there was not good reason not to bring the other 5 people waiting too, so there was a car full when we got to Chachapoyas. The driver dropped everyone else in a square near the top of the town before asking for directions and dropping me at my hostal. He even carried my bags in for me. The hostal seems nice enough – the shower was hot, the towels and bedding are clean, the internet seems to work (occasionally). We’re a bit higher up here than we were in Gocta so I’m hoping the altitude isn’t going to stop me sleeping – it always seems to give me weird dreams. After my super high altitude exploits today I’m really tired so I think I’ll find food, find something ‘light’ to do tomorrow and then go to bed.

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Cartagena

December 24, 2010

Walking out of the Plane in Cartagena was like walking into a sauna. As I waited for my bag I realised that I didn’t have the piece of paper with the name of my hotel on it. The lovely tourist information lady let me use her computer to check my email. I like her more than the man in Bogota. The hotel was OK, but not really worth the money they were asking for so I decided not to stay there for more than the first night. I intended to look for somewhere else to stay that afternoon, but I got distracted by the city, the music everywhere and the dancing.   I also came across a stage being set up and when I asked what was going on was told there was going to be a free concert to celebrate Cartagena getting World Heritage Status.  I went, got a delicious early tea and came back for the concert.   It was great.   Lots of different types of music, dancing, carnival costumes, people climbing cirque de Soleil style, a shower of glittery confetti and fireworks. While I was there I got talking to an Australian tourist and his American and Brazilian friends and we ended up drinking aguadiente in a bar on the walls,  overlooking the whole city and the sea under a full moon.  You can’t complain!

Dancers at the Concert

I woke up feeling a little rough and realised that I had forgotten to buy water on my way home. I showered and went out in search of coffee as fast as I could after ascertaining that check out was 2pm so I had time to go in search of  Spanish lessons and accommodation.  The school that I had emailed about classes suddenly decided that I could only do full weeks at a time and had to start on a Monday, which was no good to me at all. I was a little irked to find that out after having walked all the way over to their building.   I was hoping that they could find me accommodation too, so I then had to go in search of hostels. I took advantage of the 7000 peso lunch menu, free WiFi and air conditioning in the Hard Rock Cafe and got myself a list of places to go and see. Only one of them had space and they were just round the corner form a Spanish and Salsa school that didn’t mind me starting mid week and offered to give me lessons every day until I leave (that includes Christmas day!). I went back there later to have a taster course and rather enjoyed myself. Roll on proper lessons later today!

 

The evening looked like it was going to be another lonely meal and early night but, as I sat in the square with a glass of wine waiting for my food and watching the street theatre, an American came over, said he was eating alone too and asked if he could join me. He had ridden his motorbike down from North America, through central America and now is working his way south through South America. He was interesting to talk to and it was nice to have company. We went for a drink after the food. I then had to go as I needed to be up early(ish) to be at my first Spanish lesson at 9.

 

The other person in the Spanish group is a Russian, living and working in Paris, who has a lot of Spanish friends and so speaks Spanish with quite a strong Spanish accent.  He is having lessons to improve his grammar. This suits me fine. I now have quite a lot of homework to catch up the last 3 days worth of work.

 

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Bogota

December 24, 2010

Well, I thought I’d blog my adventures in Colombia partly so that those of you stuck in the snow can be jealous of my tropical location but also because it gives me something to do when I’m sat on my own in a cafe. I may also translate it into Spanish because, quite frankly, I need the practice.

Getting to Bogota was stress free and I arrived, got a secure taxi from the airport to the hotel (Abitaire56) and settled into my room pretty quickly. I was tired and it was cold, drizzly and dark so I decided to go to the nearest food place, eat and have an early night. Who knew that beansprouts would work on Pizza?

The next day I spent the morning talking to Kevin via the wonders of the internet, and found out that he wasn’t going to arrive in Bogota that afternoon. I left him looking at other options and went into town for lunch and a wander. The taxi driver that took me into town went the scenic route (which I didn’t really mind as it let me see more of the city) and chatted me up for the whole journey. My favourite part of the conversation went roughly like this;

Taxista: como te llamas?
Me: Cally
Taxista: Como la ciudad?
Me: Si
Taxista: Hermosa y llena de vida como tu!

Which I think beats the freckle comment but I’m not sure.

I enjoyed wandering round La Candalaria, it is pretty much the same as all of the other colonial areas you see in Latin America, but the Christmas lights were pretty and the place was heaving with people, street vendors, street performers and traffic that doesn’t feel the need to use the horn every second. It started raining so I took refuge in a cafe and had a very nice chichen and potato stew thing with choclo in it. Just what you need on a cold rainy day. I eventually stumbled upon the tourist information and found out that almost all of the museums in Bogota are closed on a Monday, the exception being the emerald museum. I went there and learned a lot of geology in a short space of time. The most interesting thing was that the reason that gems are cut in different shapes is to do with the refractive index of the mineral. This is why good emeralds are cut in rectangles. It brings out the best of the luminosity and colour. I was quite pleased that I understood the tour as it was in Spanish.

I learned a few things about Colombian Spanish in my wanderings – they talk funny for a start – there’s a little bit of a zzz sound to the esses and they don’t roll their r’s so much and they run words together. They also use different words and phrases. They say sigue instead of pasa for example. They don’t use the word botica either.

I then bought a guide book for Colombia and realised that I only had 5000 pesos left. I decided to go and get money out at the cash point, get some dinner and then get a taxi back to the hotel ready for an early night in preparation for my flight the following day. This is where the problem began. I went to the cashpoint and it wouldn’t let me have any money. ‘Never mind’ I thought ‘there was a BBVA next to the Emerald museum – I’ll go there and sort it out’ Little did I know that the banks in Bogota close at 4 pm. I thus found myself in central bogota with virtually no money. First I went to Tourist information, they seemed to think it was amusing that I thought there may be a bank open at 4.30 pm , didn’t know where I could change money (I had 43 dollars on me to, but you can’t spend them in Colombia like you can in Peru) and wouldn’t let me use his phone to call my bank. He did give me directions to a locutorio (place where you can make phonecalls) even though he knew I didn’t have enough money for the call. The woman in the locutorio did give me directions to where she thought there MAY be a casa de cambio and I left starting to feel a bit panicked and teary. The universe decided to cheer me up at this point by making a combi drive through a puddle right next to me and soaking me down one side. I had to laugh. I found the casa de cambio, changed my paltry dollars and arrived back with some money feeling slightly better about the situation. The man at BBVA seemed to think it was my own fault that they had failed to put a note on my account to the effect that I was in Colombia on holiday and would want to get cash out and put things on my credit card. Somehow me going into the bank, talking to the manager and filling in forms wasn’t enough – the manager should have told me to ring a number apparently. Still he got it sorted in the end and the call only cost me 8000 pesos. I went to get money out and make sure that he really had made the changes on the system and decided that after such stress I deserved a coffee and cake. Mmmmmm.

I decided I didn’t really need a main meal as I’d eaten lunch late so I got a typical (if strange) dish consisting of a hot chocolate, some normal bread, some maize bread and some cheese. It was better than it sounds! I used the time to work out where the nearest Transmetropolitano stop was and went off to get public transport home. It was surprisingly simple. The only problem were idiot commuters who, despite not wanting to get on the bus that was in the station, still stood in front of the doors so they didn’t lose their prime spot when their bus did come. They ignored polite requests to move and then glared at me when I just shoved past to get on the bus as the doors closed. Dimwits.

The next day I had a pleasant taxi ride to the airport and then a very confusing time trying to drop my bag off and find the right part of the airport. Things just weren’t sign posted. Obviously you are just supposed to know. I then sat in the lounge for AGES as the plane was delayed for a few hours. I read my book. Somehow the cheapest tickets I could buy turned out to be executive class so I watched an episode of Glee while I flew. Nice!

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Portugal

January 16, 2010
Thankfully buying tickets to get from Spain to Portugal was nice and easy.  They didn’t even want to check my passport!  The only downside was that the train left Salamanca at 0430 to arrive in Nelas at 0830 (so the woman in the train station told me).  The journey from Salamanca to Nelas was fairly uneventful.  I couldn’t relax on the train as I knew that Nelas was not the final stop and I was worried that if I went to sleep that I would miss it.  The train was a sleeper, but I was sat in the sitting compartment with what looked like a sleeping GAP student and an older man who got up at every stop to have a quick smoke on the platform.  He did give me a can of coke at about 6 am though and thus saved me from severe dehydration!
It was only as I arrived in Nelas that I remembered about the 1 hour time difference between Portugal and Spain.  The woman in the train station had forgotten about it too.  This meant my brother was not waiting for me.  I spent an hour in the cafe on the station being looked at suspiciously by Portuguese men who obviously thought that a woman should not a) be out by herself or b) be in their cafe.  Also couldn’t remember any Portuguese other than ‘I don’t speak Portuguese, do you speak English or Spanish?’ which was met with blank looks.  I ended up with black coffee as ‘cafe con leche’ is too far from ‘cafe met laite’ and obviously unintelligible.  It was 55 cents.  I had forgotten how cheap Portugal is!
Jason was half an hour late.  I spent this half an hour stood on the sunny side of the road opposite the train station trying to photosynthesise and watching the interactions between the stray dogs and passing traffic.
We went to see a friend of Jason’s who, despite being a football hooligan in a former life, was too much of a wuss to use a chain saw on his own and needed  help cutting down 3 pine trees that had become infected with some kind of nematode worm.  Jason got his chain saw out and the two of them played happily all morning while I had a couple of cups of tea, sat in the sun and played with the puppies.  I was exhausted having not slept the previous evening and had a nice early night.  I’m staying in a flat in the village, Jason and Maxine are sleeping in their tent on their land because it is warmer.  They have the flat as a storm decimated their kitchen tent recently and the solar showers are not to efficient when it is frozen and cloudy so they use the flat as a storage unit, kitchen and bathroom.  With 3 bed covers it was nice and cosy.  I woke up at about half past 1 the following afternoon.  Nice.
The next few days were spent chopping wood, looking for a quinta to buy, going shopping, trying, unsuccessfully, to put the roof beams into the house without a crane and eating nice cakes and coffee in places that said they had free internet but turned out not to and having roast dinners.  Eventually I found a quinta to buy and then had to spend a rather stress free afternoon getting a Portuguese fiscal number and opening a bank account.  Considering I speak no Portuguese and Jason’s is not as good as my Spanish I thought we managed remarkably well.  The following morning I went to the lawyer to give my brother the power to buy a property in the Seia region on my behalf and power to take out and transfer money from my new Portuguese account.  If he buys 30 000 pastel natas (a type of local egg custard cake thing – delicious) with my money I will be cross.  I also tried to buy a bus ticket back to Madrid for Wednesday, but was told they didn’t run everyday now and I’d have to go back on Thursday instead.  I hope Madrid isn’t too snowy.  We have had one day of snow here – it was beautiful, but followed by a very hard frost for 2 days, Jason and Maxine’s quinta is the coldest on in the town apparently – it didn’t defrost for 3 days and the ice on the dogs’ water in the morning was about an inch thick!  Daisy was the only dog pleased with this as she loves eating ice, the other two were less than impressed.
The overnight bus to Madrid leaves at 2245 tomorrow and should get me into Madrid at about 6 am.  This gives me ample time to get to the train station, catch a train to Alicante and then the tram to Altea, again.  A journey I will have to do in reverse the following day to get back to Madrid with Mum in tow for our flight to Lima.
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Happy New Year

January 4, 2010

New year was stranger than I could have imagined.  I didn’t feel like drinking, but thought I’d better make an effort to fit in so behaved as if I had for most of the evening (up until the point that Anna, who couldn’t remember phoning the taxi 2 minutes earlier, said to mum ‘give me your car keys, I’ll drive us home’  when I decided that one of us needed to start acting sober and I was the only one who could pull it off… ).

The meal at Jan’s was delicious, and included another first – Ostrich steaks.  They are nice.  Just before midnight (spain time) we were given 12 grapes each and a party bag containing very silly hats, masks etc. which we all dutifully wore while posing for photos (see Facebook for evidence) and then we went round saying Happy New Year to everyone.  This involved a LOT of kissing, dutch and belgians kiss 3 times, the Germans twice.  Only at this point did we realize that the table behind us were Germans and the next table were Dutch.  We had been having a rather a loud discussion about the war during dinner.  Anna, being drunk, immediately started doing Basil Fawlty ‘Don’t mention the War’ impressions .  At no point did anyone vocalise ‘2 world wars and one world cup’  but I am sure I heard my mum sing do-dah, do-dah at least once.

We then had a glass of champagne with cassis in it ( I did drink that, it was yummy) and then Anna and I decided to do a bit of impromptu singing and dancing along to the CD…  I also introduced Anna and Jan to the game ‘would you still be my friend if I danced like this…’ with hilarious results

The bar crawl that mum had prophesied turned out to be more of  a bar ‘stumble round the corner to the bar and then stay there’.  It was interesting.  Yet again Anna and I were the youngest in there by miles, and for any song written after about 1970 we were the only ones dancing.  Our word-for-word interpretation of  ‘In the Jungle the Mighty jungle the lion sleeps’ was first class even if I do say so myself!  We then had to do the whole ‘Happy New Year’ thing AGAIN at 1 am as the British pensioners in the bar refused to believe it was really New Year until Big Ben had struck 12.  After that there was nothing to do but carry on dancing…  I probably should be more embarrassed than I am really, but I doubt I’ll meet most of those people again, and I doubt that they would remember much of the evening even if I do!

We left at about 3 am and got a taxi home.  Anna and Mum don’t remember that…

New Years day was late starting.  Anna made a delicious roast dinner for about 5 pm, I got dressed at 4.30 but everyone else ate in their pyjamas!  I then taught them to play the Peruvian dice game which they liked.  Then other games came out – Pass the Pigs, Pass the Bomb and Therapy.  I tried to go to bed, but gave up as I heard them starting to play Therapy at 2 am so I went to join in.  For those of you who haven’t played therapy it is a bit like Triv – you go round a board, answering questions to get pegs, but the questions are all psychology/sociology questions about different stages of life, and you can end up in another player’s ‘Therapy office’ where they try to ‘cure’ you by asking questions such as ‘on a rating scale of 1 to 10 how stubborn are you?’  then trying to guess what you have put.  If your answers don’t match you have to stay in therapy.  Jan was asked how romantic he thought he was, he put 8, Anna had put him down as 4.  There was a small,  but significant, argument at this point.  It is a game that invites them really!

Yesterday mum spent the day in the house in her pyjamas playing on her DS.  I got bored at 4 ish and walked in and out of Albir along the coast for some exercise.  I don’t think I would ever get tired of that walk, the scenery is just beautiful! I got back at 8 and went out for a pizza with Anna, packed and got ready to leave for Portugal.

I’m still not sure exactly how I am getting to Portugal.  I’m hoping that tomorrow I can sort this out!  I spent a LONG time on trains today, first the tram from Altea to Alicante, then a long distance train from Alicante to Madrid (with a film in Spanish… Apparently in English it is 4 Christmases – the Spanish title was NOTHING like that. I did follow most of it though.  Not sure it was worth the effort, maybe it’s funnier in English), then an hour in Madrid and another train from Madrid to Salamanca.  I arrived in Salamanca at 8pm having left the house at 8 am.  I have found a quite nice hotel though (and they have free WiFi which I can get in my room 🙂 ).  I really need a lot of sleep now and then a good day wandering aimlessly and eating a lot tomorrow…  I hope sorting out getting to Portugal is easy, I fear it won’t be…

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Winter blues.

December 31, 2009

The lull between Christmas and new year is always quiet.  This has been one of the quietest I can remember.  Generally days have run from mid-day through to about 1 am for me and have involved a lot of hanging round the house in my pyjamas waiting for mum to decide if she is going to come out and do anything or not.  She has only left the house once since Christmas as far as I can remember (and that was to go out for a Thai meal).  I tend to get bored by about 2 and go out for a walk, mess about on Facebook (I have spoken to quite a few people thanks to Facebook chat!) and get a late lunch.  Anna has come with me a couple of times too and shown me some of the nice eating places to be found in the area.  She also booked an appointment with her hairdresser for me, so I am now the owner of shorter, neater hair.

The weather has been variable.  Yesterday’s glorious sunshine has been replaced by grey clouds and a very blustery wind.  I am very glad of the 10 Euro jumper I bought from the cheap British clothes shop yesterday.  If it wasn’t for the scenery and the weather I might not know I’m in Spain.  I certainly haven’t needed to use any Spanish since I got here – the language I hear most often seems to be Dutch, followed by Russian, English and Norweigian.

The plan for new year is simple.  Go to Jan’s restraunt (Anna’s boyfriend is the chef/owner) then a pub crawl of the local bars.  Classy…  Hopefully mum will be able to walk herself home, but I’m not holding my breath!  I imagine there will be more Karaoke too.  My plan for after new year is to go to Portugal to see Jason and Maxine.  I doubt I’ll get to the UK, it just seems too complicated!  As it is I’ll probably have to spend a couple of days in Salamanca on the way (as noone in Spain seems to know what happens to public transport once you cross the Portuguese border) but It’ll be nice to get some peace and quiet!  Mum has decided she’s not going to come with me, she’ll probably stay in the house playing her DS game in her pyjamas…

I hope everyone has a happy New Year 😀 and hopefully I’ll see some more of you in 2010!