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Iains American Tales
American Chronicles | Canada | USA | Brazil | Bolivia to Chile
Bolivia Peru Chile

ay 28th Hola once again,
How are we all, enjoying the joys of spring I hope. Hands up how many of you reached the end of the last one? Sorry for it being a bit long winded, I soon realised when I read it over myself a couple of days later. Anyway better stop rambling and get on with all the juicy bits that Im sure you are all gagging to hear about!

After I last left you all, I decided that I was going to leave for Chile the next day. I toddled back off to my rather pants hotel and started to re-pack my bag, it is then that I realised that somewhere along the lines I had lost my Entry/Exit card to Peru. I searched hi and low but to no sight of it..anywhere, (I assume I left it in Cusco somewhere). I initially didnt think it was going to be too much of a problem, famous last words! That night I sat reading my LP trying to format some kind of plan for Chile, then decided to have a look at the entry requirements for Peru, where I read with great horror that it was needed to escape the country however replacements could be obtained in Lima.. about a 24 hour bus ride away, something I really didnt want to do. The next morning I made a phone call to the national tourist police, but discovered they were unable to help me due to no one speaking a word of English! This is when I started to panic. I decided to ignore all this and made my way to the bus terminal. I bought a ticket and then had to explain to a rather confused ticket seller that I had no card the look on his face was priceless until the oh dear came out of his mouth. With all this off we went, about 35 mins later we hit the Peruvian border control, our bags were sniffed, passed through an x-ray machine and then manually checked, all clear. Then on to passport control. I handed my passport over and got asked for the card, I tried to explain that I had lost it somewhere and had no idea what I had done with it. I was then escorted by a big military/police man to a room where for the next 1 hour I was questioned (in Spanish the last 15mins an English speaker turned up) as to where I had been, what I had been doing in Peru, what did I have for breakfast, where I was going, how long was I spending in Chile and when was the last time I cut my toe nails. After a lot of backwards and forwards and me constantly telling them no entiendo they decided that the standard 90 day stamp that I was given had been forged by yours truly and that I had only been granted 10 days, so had over extended my stay! (This is the point the English interpreter turned up and bloody thankful I was too.) He soon explained what I was saying to them, which they accepted, however still didnt believe I hadnt fiddled with the stamp. I realised where this was all heading, so after 10 US dollars and 20 Peruvian soles later they where happily bribed, I was happily stamped out and on to the very straight forward Chile border control.

From the moment I stepped into Chile I realised once again it was going to be very different to both Peru and Bolivia, for me it is a lot closer to Argentina then anything, it still has its poor and down areas (but doesnt everywhere) but it seems somewhat more organised and efficient. It is the most expensive place I have visited in South America, but the overall quality of most things are so much better it compensates it somewhat. My first stop was Arica, the border crossing town with Peru, Arica is ok, a nice seaside feel to it, after Peru and Boliva, the buildings seemed so stable inside and out, the food increased in quality 10 fold and the women just all together looked better. I liked what I first saw of Chile! I only spent really a day here but did go to have a look at the church Alexandre G Eiffel designed, although not as impressive as some of his other structures!

Next stop was Calama, main reason for this was the stop after but also to see the nearby town of Chuquicamata, which is in the process of being re-located to Calama. Chuquicamata is just a small mining town. The Chuquicamata mine is the largest open pit mine in the world, covering an area (at present) of 4.5km wide and 800m deep, there are another two mines adjacent to this which within the next 2 years will be merged into one. The only thing that is mined is Copper. The difference between this and the co-op mines in Bolivia was astonishing. Everything here was automated, blood and sweet labour was near non existent, and the health and safety standards were firmly in place. Calama it self is an nice town to sit back and relax for a few days, I managed to catch up on some films at the outstanding quality cinema and also stumbled across a Circus, which I paid a visit too, a lot better then the last one I saw in the UK, but it did lack something not going with my niece (although did cost me a lot lot less!!)

From Calama I moved on to San Pedro de Atacama, situated in the Atacama desert (one of the driest in the world) I initially never intended to stop here, as to me it seemed a stop over point if coming from South to North, however for the first time since I started this trip, I seemed to have more time on my hands then what was needed, so thought what the hell. Am I ever grateful I did. Initially it reminded me a lot of Tupiza (Bolivia). It is a very laid back place, saying that for South America is something! If it got any more laid back it would fall over itself. I met up with a fantastic short Auz here and between us took the place by storm. A visit to the El Tatio Geysers was the first trip, and despite the freezing (about -11c) weather and the 4am start they where impressive, seeing the steam and boiling hot water bellow out to various heights and seeing the sun slowly peeking its way over the Andes to defuse them a couple of hours later was a sight. The next trip was to the Valle de la Luna (Valley of the Moon) a great vast space of really nothing but desert and rocks, some of which really do resemble how the moon looks.... funny that. The rest of my time in San Pedro was spent enjoying the very warm desert sun, getting very drunk with Carla and doing a spot of horse riding, something I haven't done in years... and not sure I will do again for some more years!

From San Pedro I made my way off to La Serena. This place grew on me more and more stayed, its clean, friendly, very pretty and even better is on the coast (although the weather wasn't that great) It also has a really nice Japenese Garden (Kokoro No Niwa) around the main park area. Whilst here I wanted to take a trip to the Reserva Nacional Pinguino de Humboldt, however a fishing accident had occurred the day I arrived so all tours where cancelled out of respect until after the funeral, in typical South American style this just took longer and longer, and so I never actually got to go! However I did take a tour to the Observatorio Cerro Mamalluca, a fantastic side trip, seeing Saturns rings through a telescope was a highlight. The Observatory is purely for tourists but the guides are extremely knowledgeable and I learnt a lot I never knew about our little universe. I got a recommendation by Adam and Fran to go to a bar/restaurant called Cafe del Patio, I'm still not sure whether to kick them or love them for it, from the moment I walked in I made good friends with the owners, who took me out to the local casino, most nights I was there I got free drinks until we were all in a total state of being paralytic, if I was ever in bed by 3am then we had a quiet night!

I finally managed to drag myself out of La Serena and moved onto Ovalle. A very small town, with not a great deal going for it. Main reason for going was a side trip to the Parque Nacional Fray Jorge (a substitute for not being able to make a trip to the Reserva Nacional Pinguino de Humboldt.) A Unesco protected area (or at least 400hectares of the 10,000 hectares of the park is) The vegetation is unique to this area, due to the arid conditions, a lot of the plants are similar or the same to what is only found in south Chile, the rest is unique, and despite some cloudy cold wet weather the tour was good, certainly the closet I got to the south anyway. I also went off to the Monumento Arequeologico Valle de Encanto (Enchanted Valley) which contains various petroglyphs, pictographs from the ancient El Molle culture.

From Ovalle I moved off to Vina del Mar, another sea side town just outside of Santiago. The city became really popular after the railway linked it to Santiago and hundreds of people flocked here because of the easy access to both the beach and Santiago itself. Some of the houses are huge, the shopping is extraordinary and the food even better. Vina in itself doesnt have a great deal to do, but it is a nice place to visit and has a somewhat homey feel to it. I spent the three days here, either wandering around the town or in a museum of some sort or another.

This is where the story nearly finishs for now at least. My last and final stop for South America, Santiago. Along the trip everyone has told me that Santiago is more effort and hassle then it is worth and that I didnt need more the 48hours here. I personally disagree. I like it a lot. The city in itself is small and compact but once you move away from the heart of it all it has a lot more to offer. I cant really say what, but it just has that something that makes me go yeah I like this place I moved in with Christian and Eduardo (a contact from Elin, the Swedish girl I met in Salvador, Brazil) Christian is a total nutter, a fantastic photographer and an amazing host. Eduardo is a lot more subdued and really a world of difference to his house mate, but he is one hell of a cook. The house is big, very airy and very relaxed and open. I also met up with a Marillion fan who lives in Santiago, who would have guessed! Santiago itself, where do I start? The snow covered Andes to the east of the city, towering above everything, the great food and restaurants, the museums, the street performers, the hussle and bussle but in not so much of a complicated horrible way as most major citys seem to have, the list I could carry on.

So where now? I leave Santiago tonight night, bound for Auckland. Have I enjoyed my time here in South America? Im sure I dont need to answer that one. Would I come back? In a blink of an eye. South America is a truly wonderful continent, the people are great (except two gits on a hill in Bolivia) and very hospitable, the food (can be!) first class, the music is interesting! the lust for love are things that are so very different to anywhere else I have ever been. South America seems to be over looked by a lot of people, but really shouldnt be, it has so much to offer and as long as you can cope with the laid back approach to anything and everything and just go with the flow, then you cant lose. I have no regrets on anything that I have done, but do have regrets on things that I havent been able to do or didnt do at the time, but I cant do everything can I now?! I dont feel I have even started to scratch the surface of what lies beneath the exterior of what I have seen. I am sorry that I am now leaving but know what lies ahead will be another chapter in the book. Keep reading, its going to get better :)

See you in New Zealand!

Lots of love


P.S. Thanks for all your emails, keep em coming!

29th April
Its been a long time hasn't it? I do have some good reason for this, all my original draft and notes had a nasty end so I have had to start from scratch, a task I didn't like the idea of too much. Most of you will understand when you write something and then have to start it again it never seems to flow in quite the ame way, so apologies if this has a stop and start feel to it. Before I start, how are you all? I am grand, still having an amazing time over here in South America (yep still haven't left) and loving every moment of it. There has been so much I have done and seen since I last wrote to you all, that this may turn out to be an epic of sorts. I have tried to make it a little smaller so that you all get to the end, but if it doesn't end up that way, please excuse me.

Shortly after I last left you in Tucuman I met up with a couple of locals (well I asked them for directions), one thing lead to another and I had made myself another couple of friends who took me around and got me very drunk! Tucuman is a nice little city, sod all to do apart from a couple of Museums but does have a great park where the independence of Argentina was declared, the park also is home to a nice lake with rowing boats, I was that convinced on the safety of them, so decided not to partake and stayed dry. I left another set of new found friends in Tucuman with another vowel to learn Spanish and return one day soon, from Tucuman I made my way to Salta. Now Salta rocks! I came across a fantastic Hostel, a very welcome break from staying in hotels on my own and possibly one of the best I have stayed in since I started this little adventure. The residents and staff were fantastic, the only downside (not that it was really that much of a downside, probably more of an upside) was the hostel had a bar open 24/7 and to that them arranging nights out to clubs every night and things got quite messy. I must admit I really didn't achieve as much as I should have done here, except drink, but it did make a nice change to mingle again. Salta as a town is nice and has some great places to just sit and chill out, I climbed to the top of Cerro San Bernardo, the towns major landmark and took in some great views of the surrounding valley and town along with another few beers!
From Salta, what I should have done was headed south to Cordoba or Mendoza, however what actually happened is slightly different. I went north. I left a nice warm Salta at 9pm and in the bloody freezing early hours of the morning I arrived at La Quiaca at the Bolivian border. I had to wait around for an hour until the border opened so found myself unpacking my coat and searching for a pair of jeans. When the border finally opened I got my exit stamp, walked across and got another new stamp in my passport. I was now a very different place altogether and I soon realised that Bolivia was going to be nothing like Brazil or Argentina. I decided that my first stop was going to be Tupiza (more so as this was the first bus that left, and Villazon really didn't take my fancy.) This is when I realised that the standards of buses and everything else was going to drop...considerably. Its hard to describe the bus, (I do have a photo) but it looked as if it had about 10 serious accidents, wheels that were ashamed to still (just) have the 'Goodyear' shadow on them, my bag was loaded on top of the roof, tied down with what seemed like more luggage then a 747 would hold and off we went. Four hours later, sitting on a very uncomfortable seat and next to some coca leaf chewing, rather unpleasant smelling Bolivian the bus stopped, to be honest I thought it had stopped for a break in a little out of nowhere town.... it actually turned out to be Tupiza.
After finding a decent enough hotel I took myself for a walk and discovered that the little town grew on me, very quickly. The buildings were shabby, the people extremely different, the dress sense of the women is something from the 40's with a bolar hat that never fits. The air had a distinctive smell, not unpleasant but not something you would want to spend the rest of your days breathing. However the surrounding area is exquisite, and unlike anything I had seen before. Tupiza is sat in the middle of the Cordillera de Chichas, simply put a surreal landscape of rainbow colored hills, rocks and mountains, I actually got to see a mountain with 7 different colours, quite a sight. Tupiza is where Butch Cassidy and the Sundance kid spent their last night after robbing a near by bank and then before moving on the next day to meet a nasty demise. Apart from a tour into the local mountains and surrounding area, there is nothing much to do, so after 3 days I decided to make a move on to Uyuni. The bus trip from Uyuni stated in the same way as it did from Villazon to Tupiza, the main difference being this one took about 8 hours had chickens flapping about quite happily and for the majority of it I seriously valued my life. The roads were pretty much non-existent, we actually drove through a river for the best part of 20mins to reach the next part of road.(for lack of a better word) The trip was all spent driving through mountain ranges, at times not wide enough for a small car let alone a bus. When the bus went round corners with steep slopes and leant to one side (more so then what gravity should have allowed it) I panicked and everyone else carried on regardless and just seemed to lean the opposite way. Uyuni is another small town, with even less to it then Tupiza, all it has to offer is a few stranded locomotives (they got left there when the new line and station was built) but its main (and really only) attraction is the Salar de Uyuni.

The Salar is the worlds largest salt flat. Imagine an area covering about 12,000sq km flat as a pancake sitting at about 3500m above sea level, with a octagon shaped pattern on the floor with a blindingly white surface. At the point I was there it was classed as wet season which meant that the whole area was covered with about a cm to an inch of water. This in tern meant that the floor gave perfect mirror images of the sky, clouds, car, mountains and us. You could look in any direction, and it just seemed that there had been mirrors placed on the floor and on the horizon. A really incredible sight to see.

From Uyuni I made my way to Potosi, on again another similar bus trip, although this bus still had some padding left to the seats... but only just. Potosi I really liked, apart from the altitude that I soon realised was going to make some things a tad difficult... like walking! Potosi is officially classed as the worlds highest city and sits at an impressive 4070m above sea level. Many many moons ago it was South Americas richest and largest city (the architecture shows this in many places) due to the discovery of Silver in the over looking Cerro Rico hill. The silver soon dried up, however the hill is still mined for tin. I went on a trip to the mines, which is something I won't forget! I have never had to scramble through holes on my belly (I would have never made it on all fours) climb up and down crickity ole ladders and squeeze past some incredibly tight passes. The health and safety standards are non-existent and it is no wonder that very few of the miners live to be older then 50. The tour took about 3 hours and was hard work for all of that, however well worth the trip. I spent the rest of my stay in Potosi wondering around the town, taking in the great architecture and also a visit to the Casa Real de la Moneda, The Royal mint musuem, also rated as Bolivias best museum, but personally it didn't grab me all too much.

From Potosi I moved on to Cochabamba which is where things all went pear shaped....again! Cochabamba is a nice city, more funeral parlors then I care to think off and about 12 cinemas all from the 60s, overall it reminded me a lot of Corrienties (Arg) Once again in pursuit of being on top of the world I decided to take a quick walk up to the Cristo le la Concordia (similar to Corcovado in Rio) the walk up was fine coming down was where it all went wrong. About half way I went past another lad, as he passed I felt my bag pull from behind me and then realised I was having it nicked... a little struggle later and I feel a couple of blows behind me, I soon realised I had two attackers, I after a few punches later I noticed a blade in one of their hands and decided to give it up, so once again I had lost another camera (myself and cameras are not a subject that go well!!) and with it my LP guide and all my notes to write this! It shook me up and bruised my confidence slightly and even worse my view on S.A, but not enough to make me turn around and come home. A trip to the unhelpful police and another crime report later I decided to leave Cochabamba and cut my loses there, so not much to report on that one I'm afraid! (I had to stay for 24hours at the police request)
From CBMA I moved onto La Paz, probably not the best bet after what had happened as it is Bolivias largest city and the last thing I needed was a big city to navigate around. La Paz to me seemed like a 'wannabe' Rio, but lacks the charm, energy and beauty, almost everyone else I have met that has been there agrees that it is not worth the effort, nothing to see (even the architecture is disappointing) and very little to do. I only spent two days here and was really bored by the end of it. The only great thing that La Paz held for me was a nice Sony shop selling my by then well missed minidisc player, the best buy so far and a well used device so far.
I departed La Paz and headed of to Copacabana which is sat on the border of Peru and next to Lake Titicaca. This is also where I met up with my travelling companions Adam & Fran, a couple from Norwich and with whom I spent the about the next 4 weeks with. Copacabana is a small town again, about the same size as Uyuni just with a nicer feel and with better overall surroundings. We found a really nice hostel and went off for a beer, that soon turned in a few, a few into lots and by about 12:30 we were all totally legless. The next day bought us all some nice hangovers, not the most welcome thing as we were on a boat heading for the Isla del Sol. The Isla del Sol is in the middle of Lake Titicaca, South Americas largest lake, with a surreal blue colour to it. The visit to the Isla took us from the north side by boat and a short walk to some Inca ruins, we then had to make our own way back to the south side where we were being picked up, this involved a longish tiring walk around the island, up hills and with some blazing sun, (yes we did all get burnt) the view of the lake at points was really majestic though. We arrived back in Copacabana about 7pm and continued to find another bar to help cure our hangovers! - I at this point we realised we weren't going to help each other and the next few weeks were going to be a drinking massacre. The next afternoon we jumped into a very crowded Colectivo (like a small minibus) and headed for the border of Peru.... Puno was in our sights, looking back we wished it wasnt though! Puno is horrible, its main attraction being the main gateway for Lake Titicaca, we only spent a night here as none of us particularly felt safe or liked anything about it, we woke at the crack of a sparrows song the next morning and caught the first bus to Cusco.

We arrived in Cusco and the moment we got of the bus were bombarded by touts trying to sell us hotels, restaurants, tours you name it. A couple of times the touts even jumped into the taxi with us, informing us that every hotel we were going to was terrible and his one would be by far the best.... at US$50 per night I should hope it was. Cusco I liked, its a bit too touristy orientated and there are many other travellers wondering around but somehow this adds to a nice ambience. The main Plaza is big and has some great architecture (Fran commented that it looked a bit like Venice) and the Inca mark can clearly be seen at times. Cusco has a reason for such a huge tourist influx, it being the gateway for Machu Picchu and the Inca Trail. We all wanted to do the Inca Trail, but also wanted to see the Sacred Valley at the same time, so we incorporated the two and instead of returning to Cusco after the S.V tour stayed over in Ollantaytambo (my first major Inca ruin site, originally it was called a temple, however after defeat the Spanish called it a fortress and it has been known as such since - If seen from above it is in the shape of a Llama - Most major Inca ruins are in the shape of an animal) for a night before being picked up to head off to KM88 - The starting point for the four day hike. The Inca Trail itself was hard work at times, but seriously rewarding and something I will never forget. Machu Picchu is outstanding and after doing the Inca Trail and arriving there I could see why it was only discovered in 1911. It was something I was looking forward to since I decided to head into Bolivia instead of Chile, but I never expected to enjoy it as much as I did, for the 4 days I seemed to gain a unknown quantity of energy and was named 'Llama Boy' as all were amazed at how I pounced along without a care in the world, the guide was so impressed he presented me with a T-shirt at the Sun Gate at Machu Picchu for being an untiresome bouncing lunatic! I still don't know where I got the energy from or even why, but very thankful that I did. I will try to make this a slightly condensed version as I could quite happily double the amount I have already written, but its going to be hard. Needless to say it has been by far the highlight of my trip so far. The first day resulted in an early start, about 5am. Adam, Fran & I were transported to KM88 to met the rest of the group, all seemed a nice enough bunch. We had breakfast, were given our tickets and off we went. Day one was a relatively easy days hike, and I thought that all the talk of it being difficult was just rumours. We stopped for lunch about 1ish on a hillside overlooking Llactapata (Town on the Hillside) an Inca ruin site. From here we continued on a gradual (at times steep) uphill climb to the first camb Wayllbamba, where we arrived about 7pm. When we arrived the energetic porters had set up our tents, and dinner was being prepared, we were given a beer each and some popcorn and a toast was made to the next 3 days. We retired to bed about 9ish as we had to be up at 5, for which was going to be the hardest day. At 4:45am a smiley porter unziped our tent and handed us a cup of Coca tea and with a big grin warned us for a hard day - at 5am in the morning, no showers and being at 2500m above sea-level with the air being bitterly cold not many people were rays of sunshine - myself included! We set off around 7, after some breakfast.
The first few hours were not to bad, the climb was reasonably steep, and the surrounding Andes were now coming into focus as the sun rose and the clouds moved on, the view was sublime. We continued uphill walking following an original Inca path and taking in the amazing view of the Andes in all directions at around 11ish we reached our lunch camp and were presented with the next stage of the hike - 'Dead Womans Pass' it is named so because if you look at the top you can make out the outline of a naked women laying on her back (biggest boobs I have ever seen!!) At this point we were about 2900m above sea level, it was estimated to take us between 1.5-2hours to climb to the top at which point we would be at 4125m (about 13,500feet - small aircraft cruise at this height!) I lumbered off with the fantastic and knowledgeable guide, Augusto leaving Adam & Fran and the rest of the group behind us, about half way up, Augusto left me to it and told me to wait at the top. I made it up in just under an hour, it took me the next 35 mins before anyone arrived to catch my breath back, at that height the air is pretty thin and you almost find yourself trying to catch it in your hands and pass it towards your nose! On reaching the top I could see down both sides of the mountain, one side had the view of the lunch camp below with the rest of the tour groups clambering up. The other side was covered in clouds that were swirling around and climbing up the mountain, covering me in the mist before being swept over the other side and rushing down towards the approaching groups. I sat down, caught my breath, reached for my trusty bubbles and stuck a few bubbles in the mix, I'm not sure if it was the altitude or just the thinness of the air but they looked remarkable and were highly welcomed by people reaching the top. After the rest of the group and had reached the top and all caught their breath we started the descent - that was the tricky part. The original Inca road had been destroyed over years, either by the Incas themselves to halt a Spanish invasion or by landslides and nature, the path consisted of lose stones, rocks and pebbles which made coming down again to an altitude of 3600m quite a task. We arrived at the camp about 4ish, had some food. A little while later two of us decided we were bored and much to Augusto's surprise decided to go for another walk to kill a couple of hours - this turned out to be the best decision we made. We followed the path along what would be the next days hike, we decided we would reach the next pass and then turn round to come back. Every time we thought we had reached the top we turned the corner to be presented with another steep slope, at some points we were nearly on all fours and dreading the thought of climbing it the next day with our packs. We also passed another small ruin on the way. (I'll come back to that) On reaching the top, we were presented with a gorgeous valley below us, surrounded by a jungle, what made it so special was it was a cloud jungle. We were at this point above the clouds and could see them being blown and drifting along the tops of the trees like crisp bags caught in the wind! One moment it would be thick the next moment nothing the view changed so quickly and each and every second was so different and outstanding I could have spent hours there just watching. Every now and again the wind would change direction and blow the clouds towards us, they would then climb the side of the mountain and blow through us before once again, disappearing over the other side behind us and down towards the camp. After 45mins we decided we should head back and join the group for dinner. On our arrival, the rest of the group was keen to know what was in store for the next day - we told them with great excitement! After dinner and a couple of bottles of rum to celebrate the cooks birthday we all collapsed in our tents and slept like babies.
The next morning we were woken up again at 5am with a smiley porter who handed us some more coca tea (which I must add is really nice and has grown on me a great deal) I clambered out of the tent and then realised that I couldn't feel my legs! We all looked around but all we could see was mist, we couldn't see 5meters in front of us, the rest of the group were inquiring as to whether it would clear with Augusto, who said he doubted it very much as it was too thick. After breakfast we started off up the trail again and reached the ruins that myself and Dave had passed the day before, Runquracay which we were told would have been used as a store house, a half way house for the Incas, or that it would have been used as a watch tower as it gives a near 360 view of the surrounding Andes and would have been an ideal place to warn the inhabitants of MP of an attack. We reached the submit and discovered that the clouds had not dispersed and still nothing was in sight. We continued down the path though an 20m Inca tunnel cut through solid granite. After about a couple of hours we reached Sayacmarka, an impressive fortress, which according to archoligst would have been almost impossible to attack due to its location. From there we continued through the cloud jungle, stopping for lunch and continuing on until we arrived at our last camp site, where there is a decent building containing hot showers (although you had to pay for the use of them). Before a fantastic dinner and a few beers at the bar, our guide took us off to see Winaywayna (Forever Young) which was only discovered in 1941, the ruins are impressive from a distance as the terraces that the Incas built to cultivate crops work from the Urubamba river below up to the top (about 100+ levels). After probably to many beers Adam, Fran and I went off to bed, finding every guy-robe and tent possible to trip over, resulting in waking the rest of the group up.
The final morning we were woken up about 4ish, went to have breakfast among some rather irate fellow campers due to our noise the night before (it didn't help when I found a nasty flying bug inside the tent, who it seemed was determined to bite half my face off - the noise I made and the lack of a torch didn't help matters much - All Adam & Fran could do to help was laugh at my panicked state). We strolled off and around 5:15am reached the steps to the Sun Gate (the steps we had to climb up on nearly all fours) of M.P. To our horror we were engulfed in mist again and realised that our first views of MP were not going to be that clear. We arrived at MP at the top of the Terraces over looking MP at about 6am - despite the mist the view before us was like no other ruins I had seen before. The city is spectacular and beyond describing. The water canals that the Incas created to provide the city with water are still running naturally from the glaciers on the surrounding peaks. The city it self is huge, the main alter and temple is impressive and the technology the Incas had and knew is incredible. Augusto took us on a 2.5hr tour and gave us a fantastic insight into it all. By this time the mist had disappeared. We then had about 3 hours to ourselves, before we had to be in Aguas Calientes (the village below for lunch, also where we spent the night). I decided at which point, still with too much energy that I was going to climb Huayna Picchu (Young Peak, incidentally Machu Picchu means Old Peak) if you have seen pictures of M.P, its the famous mountain in the background. Certainly as far as I am concerned the hardest part of the trek. The climb was a incredibly steep scramble on all fours for the majority of the top end of it, but once again I was rewarded with a gorgeous view of M.P (which is in the shape of a Condor) and the Andes surrounding it. After I made my way down, I discovered that I had missed the rest of the group and the bus to Aguas Calientes, and as Adam & Fran had my cash, had to walk back. After some dinner we all went off to the hot springs, soothed our aching muscles and bones and retired feeling content, exhausted, and very rewarded to bed.... well after a few beers at least.
The next morning we headed back to Cusco, where I stayed for another night, whilst I waited for a package containing some more Minidiscs, a new LP guide and a few other surprises. From Cusco we moved on to Arequipa. After the buzz of Cusco and still on a high from M.P (and still with aching legs) Arequipa was a bit subdued, it probably didn't help as it was Easter week, and its hard to find anything open to do. We did however have a wonder around the Monasterio de Santa Catalina, where at one point 450+ nuns lived, without any contact with the outside world, they exchanged goods and crafts through turnstiles and lived totally cut off. From Arequipa we took a 2 day tour to see the Colca Canyon, there is some speculation to this comment, but it is supposedly the worlds deepest canyon, either way it is impressive, whilst at the top we also got to see wild Condors, I knew they were big but never expected them to be quite as big, hearing them 'whoosh' about 8m above my head was a sound I will never forget.
From Arequipa we moved on to Nazca. Nazca is a small town, the main reason for going there was to visit the Nazca lines which are set in the surrounding desert. To see them we had to take a guided tour in a small aircraft. (Adam left this bit out as he is terrified of heights) The trip took about 40 mins and was worth going out of my way for it. The lines themselves are huge and incredibly impressive, they include a Condor with a 130m wingspan and a 90m high Monkey. Nazca itself has little else to offer, although we did find a fantastic resturant called The Grumpys. Adam and Fran then headed towards Lima to catch a flight home and I headed off towards Tacna, but made a stop over in Mollendo (a small seaside town) before heading towards Tacna, which is on the Chilean border (finally I have it in my site) and is where I am now. Tacna is OK, another border town really, although it is a tax free zone and a mecca for buying cheap electronic goods... not sure I will invest in another decent camera!
I think that draws us all up to date. Hopefully you are still all awake have got this far. Hope you are keeping well
Take care


11th March
Cant think of a title
The trouble with writing these emails (like any badly written novel) is I forget where I left you last and as I have no concept of time or dates anymore it becomes harder to back track. So when it comes down to it I just ramble and hope for the best. So how am I? Good, really good. To be honest I dont think I have every woken up every morning with such a spring in my step and a desire to get out there and discover another mesmerising place. Every time I think I must have reached my peak of excitement and happiness, I turn the corner just to be smacked again by an insane bus driver, and believe me they are all insane..seriously! This leg of the journey is truly a experience, South America is amazing. The people (inc the eye candy!), surroundings, food, culture and pure lust for life is inspiring. As I have said in the past, with the obvious language barrier I am having I am getting around and interacting so well (at least I think so, after all if the people are cursing me and calling me names they are doing it with a
smile!) If humans can interact with Monkeys, this mosquito bitten monkey can interact back! This email has now been a long time coming and written in so many
stages, I hope it makes some sense and gives you all some idea of what I am experiencing.

I finally left Salvador and hopped on a very nice bus to Porto Seguro, some (more the long distance ones) of the buses here are fantastic, and beat the socks of Greyhound, they have near fully reclining seats, pillows, blankets, foot rests, drinks and snacks and the most important thing Air-Con. Porto Seguro is a lovely little sea-side town and also where the first recognised Portuguese landfall was made in 1500 (or around that date) It has everything from Cocktail stands, bars, small kiddy funfairs, popcorn and candy floss stalls, its only let down is it has no direct beach (its mainly a docking port for boats) however you can catch a 10min ferry to Rio Buranhem which has crystal clear waters, coral reefs and perfect white sand, truly idyllic. I met up with Henry here, but it soon became clear we had to different agendas, his mainly to sit on a beach, avoid any tourist attractions and eat constantly! I only spent 2 days here, one day spent around the town and visiting Cidade Alta (a small Church, expected to be the oldest one in Brazil which is now a nationally protected area) with a fantastic view over the town and surrounding coastal area) Porto Seguro is also home to one of the best clubs I have been to in a long time, its based on the small island of Ilha do Pachio is based outdoors around a huge lake, is very loud and has HUGE fish tanks everywhere, housing everything from goldfish to mini sharks! It doesnt open until 1am and closes at 7 - a very long night on the beer. From Porto Seguro I made my way slightly south to the very small dusty town of Itaunas, a small fishing village which has been rebuilt over recent years. The old town has now been engulfed by sand dunes which
surround the area (some reach 30meters high) and up until about 2.5years ago you could still see (and touch) the old church steeple. The town is pretty much cut off from the real world, the next biggest town is 50mins away, they deal only in cash, have a real lack of hot water and lots of Mosquitos, who all seemed to find me, for dinner. I originally planned to stay here for about 4 days and do some more trekking in the nearby national park (Parque Estadual de Itaunas) which is home to wild monkeys, Sloths and Jaguatiricas but cut myself off as I ran out of cash! I expected (I should know better by now) everywhere to have a cash machine, but soon discovered the nearest bank machine was a 50min bus drive away in Conceicao da Barro, I had a total of 5real on me, the bus was going to cost $1.50real each way, I still had not paid for my accommodation and had not eaten for over 24hours. Not a problem I thought until I arrived in Conceicao to find the bank machine wouldnt take my card. I caught the next bus back and had to explain my
situation to the Hostel owner, who then very nicely made me some food, told me the other nearest bank that I could use was nearly 1.5hrs away and would cost $3real each way and then still a chance my card wouldnt work, but she would allow me to leave without paying if I promised to put the money in the post to her, an option I took and have since done (along with a little extra as a thank you). The hostel was great with a funky loft style meeting room, which housed a fridge, TV, DVD player and the biggest bean bags known to man! Two days after arriving I paid for my next bus ticket by Visa (just) and hoped on a bus to Vitoria. I only stayed in Vitoria for one night, and really only used it as a stopover to break up the journey to
Rio. It has very little to offer and is just a port city. Apparently in the past did have a lot of colonial history but now most has for one reason or another disappeared. During the one day I spent here, I wandered around the town, visited the Metropolitana Cathedral, the state government building and just by accident stumbled across a chocolate factory, which apparently makes the best choc in Brazil, personally I wasnt that taken by it, but that didnt stop me eating away at it. Next stop Rio. Rio, what can I say? There are few places in the world that can conjure up the atmosphere and feeling on a daily basis as Rio can. Think everything you know about it and have seen of it, add more and you may be getting some where close to what it actually is. Despite loving Rio, it is expensive (compared to anywhere else in Brazil) so I decided to shorten my stay there, besides prices were escalating far too much in the lead up to Carnival. It is a beautiful city, from the huge hills with Favelas to the tall high rise blocks of central. Copacabana and Ipanema are busy, very laid backed, extremely clean and extremely busy with gorgeous women (and they know it!), sun tanned volleyball players and people trying to sell you anything and everything. The three days I spent here were divided between visiting the Beaches, Central, Pao de Acucar (Sugar Loaf mountain), which has some fantastic views of the city and well worth a
visit and of course my main reason for visiting Rio, Cristo Redentor on Corcovado mountain, the statue is amazing and offers some breathtaking panoramic views of Rio, the monument is 38m high (the statue itself is 30m) finger tip to finger tip is 28m and it weighs a total of 1.145ton - So how do we now come to be?
From Rio I moved inland to Curitiba, after the bus being stopped, everyone being chucked out, bags searched and passports/identity cards checked - try telling a non English speaking policeman why you are in Brazil, that you have no fixed address, at 4am in the morning and with a stonking hangover! Curitiba to me and to most other people I met there, including Brian (a Danish guy I spent the next week traveling with) was far far too European. It is Brazil’s success story in terms of cities. The bus system is meant to be the best in Brazil, it offers free internet, and is also home to a little 24 hour street, housing everything from restaurants, bars, and shops but to me had very else to offer. So why go there? One reason, the train trip to Paranagua, rated as one of the best in Brazil. The railroad was the first in Brazil to be completed in 1880, along with huge amounts of deaths due to disease. The rail road is 110km descending a steep 900m mountain taking in 13 tunnels, 67 bridges not to mention some surreal views, canyons and tropical lowlands, the trip in total takes 3.5hours (you can drive it in 1.5hours) and is breathtaking, I doubt any photos I managed to take will do it any justice. From Curitiba we moved inland even more to what has to be the greatest and most amazing thing I have seen on my trip so far and probably in my life time to date. I have no doubt in my mind that I dont know of any words that can do it any justice and know for a fact that no photos will ever relay anywhere near the spectacular beauty that it is, welcome to Foz do Iguacu (or Puerto Iguazu, depending which side of the border you are on) Foz is sat on the border of Argentina and where the Rio Igacu river crashes 80m in 275 different falls. We spent one day visiting the Brazilian side which gives a fantastic overall view including a very wet close up view of Garganta do Diablo (Devils Throat)
which is the main fall, however this is really only half the picture (you dont find this out until you get to the other side!) The evening we spent at the hostel, which is more like a mini resort with a swimming pool, tennis courts, football pitch, bar (which is a rare thing for HI hostels for those of you that know HI) After starting drinking at 5pm Brian and I got chatting to two guys from Bristol, a Dutch girl and a German girl, around 2am the Bristol wimps hit the sack we continued to drink Cachaca (a EXTREMELY lethal high-proof sugarcane rum drink) until about 3:30 when the bar shut, Im not sure who initiated it or even jumped first but the pool looked to inviting the next thing I knew we were all skinny dipping, before being asked to leave around 5am because of the noise! The next morning presented itself with some raging heads, and a nice set of infected eyes for all of us, it turned out the pool had a lump of Chlorine dumped in it about 40mins before we fell in! From here Brian and I moved across to see the other side, our intention was to have a look and move on, but got told we would need a full day to do the park, and even with a full day we would be hard pushed... and we were. The Argentinean side is mind-blowing, you get to see a lot more of the falls and as there is a national park this side there is a lot more wildlife. We checked into a little Pousada and soon found out the sleepy little town was having a small carnival which we stayed to watch, and was great fun. From Foz we moved onto Posadas (my intention was never to com to Argentina, but one thing has lead to another and this is where I am, Argentina seems to be hooked on a drink called Mate (mattay) it looks like chopped grass, is drunk either hot or cold and through a thin metal straw, everywhere you go, you can see kids, teenagers and old people walking around with a Thermos flask and a little cup of it, passing amongst friends like a ritual! Posadas is a lovely little town where almost everything shuts for Siesta, even the buses are a rare thing to see moving, but it did give us some time to get around the town without being rushed or bumped out of the way! Brians eye got a lot worse while we were here and a quick phone call later he was heading down towards Buenos Aires to possibly catch a flight home. After he left I somehow (and Im still not sure how) caught a bus into Paraguay to visit some Jesuit Ruins. I (think) I was told they were about 20min bus ride after the border, 1.5hours later, piles from driving down some heavily pot-holed roads sitting on a lump of metal classed as a seat I arrived. The ruins are really nice but if anything the site is small, I have since been told they are more of an unfinished project rather than ruins. From Posadas I decided to carry on across Argentina instead of trying to catch a flight to Chile, as 1) it would be cheaper and 2) why not. The next stop was Corrientes. Corrientes is a great town, and if you are ever in Argentina, go and visit it, the people are so friendly, the buildings are old but really well kept and once again things just stop for Siesta, except the bars which everyone gathers on for some light and heavy drinking.... I like Argentina! Corrientes also is a major Carnival player and after a two year break (due to the economy) the carnival has made a revival this year, and it kicked off big style! I caught the last week of it, my intention only to see one night but met up with some locals on the first night (after a heavy foam fight) they took me under there wing, showed me around got me involved in the Carnival, so I decided to stay put. Despite them speaking as much English as I do Spanish, we communicated really well and had a great time, I also discovered the attraction of Mate with them, it tastes a bit like hot bitter grass, but acts like a coffee stimulant and is really addictive. I must post back 5kilos! The carnival was fantastic, the costumes are outrageous, the women are stunning, the music and beat of the drums creates an amazing atmosphere, the people lap it up and the louder the noise the better it gets! whilst in Corrientes I also caught a bus to Resistencia, an odd town full of Sculptures, the story goes that the local museum ran out of room so started to place them on the pavement outside, they then ran out of room here, so put some in the city’s centralpark, this then became overcrowded and before long they were spread right across the town, on every corner, roundabout, and park visible, there are currently over 300 scattered around! After 3 days of serious partying I reluctantly left Corrientes, leaving some very sad new friends behind, with a promise to learn Spanish (and them English) and a return visit in the future. There are so many more things to tell you all about, but I would be sat here for ages if I attempted to write it all down for you and have no desire to sit here for any longer!
I am now in Tucuman and from here I have absolutely no idea where I am going! I have a few ideas, but each one is in a different direction and none are heading much closer to Chile! I’ll keep you posted, honest!
Much Love

Boa Tarde,
Well here I am, Brazil and what a place it is turning out to be so far. I arrived in Salvador around 12pm on the 5th after just catching my connecting flight from Sao Paulo, with a fresh new stamp in my passport, a bounce in my step and an offer to stay with some people in Brasilia who I met on the plane.
After leaving the airport my first major challenge presented itself with a nice big smack... trying to catch a bus to where I was staying. Phrase book in hand and a bit of body language I still had no idea where to go... I opted for luck and hoped on the next available bus... 45 minutes later, after driving down some of the best coastline I have ever seen I arrived, somewhere near my destination. I found the hostel easily enough and checked in for 2 nights at a cost of 20 real per night inc breakfast (about 3.50pound) OK for those of you that dont know, look at a map of Brazil, find Rio and work north for about 5cm (depending on the size of your map of course) and you will see Salvador sitting on the coast. It is the capital of Bahia and Brazils 3rd biggest city with about 2.4million people. Up until 1763 it was the capital of Brazil until Rio took over which was then replaced by Brasilia as the political capital in 1960.
Salvador is beautiful and is home to one of the biggest African-Brazilian communitys in Brazil, and it shows in everything from the music, food, dress and culture. Unfortunately due to poverty it is a haven for pickpockets and crime (lucky ole me huh? - unlucky for them though, I have nothing else to have nicked!), however the area is HEAVILY guarded by armed police who have no worries about pulling their guns out and waving them around in the air the moment any trouble or look of trouble occurs. Salvador is spilt in to the upper city and lower city. The buildings are brightly colored, the streets are cobbled and lined with lively restaurants, bars, shops and houses, the architecture is basic in most places, but the town seems to swallow anything up and make it colorful. The Pelourinho (centre) has a fantastic waterfall (fountain, depending who you speak with) and comes alive at night with street performers, dancers, musicians and mini parades all gearing up for the carnival. On my first night I met up with some Americans in restaurant (hostels dont have cooking facilitys here, but when you can eat a 3 course meal with drinks for about 3/4pound why cook?) Mark owned a boat, so after diner we headed for that sailed into the sun set...a wonderful start to my trip.
After 3 nights in Salvador I took an overnight bus west to the small town of Lanois (pronounced Lenswar) with Elin, a very nice Swedish girl I met in Salvador, who has spent the last 8 months traveling around South America, she convinced me to go to Lenois with her, how could I refuse?! Lenois is situated in the gorgeous region of Chapada Diamantina (from now on known as C.D!) and is a tiny village, the dogs room free, the horses join them and the chickens do what they please. With no more than 500 people living there, I got a real good taste of a small Brazilian village; there is no industry here (except a little mining) so most of the locals survive by selling crafts or opening up their homes as Pousadas (Guest houses). I stayed at the Pousada Nossa Casa, and was welcomed in with open arms, the owners have never had an English person with them and went out of their way to do things for me, including all my washing, which came back ironed as well. A morning shower had two options a) Using the normal bathroom shower or b) walking 5 mins and heading for a natural waterfall/river with little pools that you can bath in... Believe me there is nothing like bathing under a waterfall and then jumping into a fresh water pool at 6am and then overlooking the town and watching the day begin.
The C.D is a wooded oasis with natural fresh water streams, waterfalls, pools and caves covering a total area of 1520sq km and only 1 of 3 in Brazil. I decided to take a 12km trek on day one to the Cachoeira Da Fumaca, which is Brazils longest waterfall at 420m, and is stunning, you have to hang over the edge to see the bottom but the look down is well worth it. The walk was mainly uphill but took in some of the best scenery I have seen and made it all worthwhile, the view was outstanding. The heat however made it hard work and despite some serious sun block I still got a tad burnt, as did everyone else. On the downward walk we took a different route and arrived at the Ribeirao do Meio which is a fresh waterfall with a natural rock slide down and a pool at the bottom, a very welcomed refresh after the walk. Day two took me off to the Caverna Torrinah, as the name suggests it is a huge Cave spanning nearly 24km in. The tour only takes you in 2000m though, squeezing through gaps that even little me struggled with but entirely worth the effort. On the way back to the Pousada we visited Morro do Pai Inacio which is the highest peak in the C.D at 1120m and the view is breathtaking. For my final day in Lenois I spent looking around the town and surrounding area, it really is a beautiful place, the people are fantastic and the food, oh my the food is something else. I left Lenois last night and headed back for Salvador to catch a bus for Porto Seguro, unfortunately I forget I wasnt dealing with Greyhound anymore and after a few problems with communication discovered that there was no space left on the morning bus so have to wait until 9pm tonight, so headed back to Salvador town to catch up on some emails. So far Brazil is turning out to be everything I expected and a lot more. The buzz of trying to communicate to catch a bus, order a drink, meal or just to buy something at a local market is wonderful and even more so when Im successful which isnt every time!
Hope you are all well
Hello you lovely lot,
Thought I would drop you all a quick note to let you know I made it to Brazil in one piece and with no difficulties. My flight left Miami (hell forsaken place, but I still got ta love it) a tad delayed at around 9:40 last night and I arrived in Sau Paulo very tired (I lost 3 hours in the process - yes that does mean I’m only 2 behind you now) and just caught my connecting flight to Salvador. When leaving Sau Paulo, the plane was just starting to run down the runway and then stopped, it turned out we had lost contact with air traffic control for no reason.
arrived in Salvador at around 12ish, with a fresh new stamp in my passport and an offer to stay with some people in Brazila (they work as missionarys) I got slightly stumped when I had no idea where to catch the bus and no one seemed to speak English, phrase book in hand and a few lucky choices I jumped on the next bus and said take me home amigo. 45 minutes later, after driving down some of the best coastline I have ever seen I arrived, somewhere near my destination - a nice shower. I got to the hostel pretty easily, but now regret wearing my Jeans and boots, it was about 90 today and I was wet in the most unpleasant way (and places), I think, I smelt pretty bad also. I checked into a very nice hostel (20 Reals a night inc breakfast - 3.39 pound Sterling)), with good security (not that there is anything left to take!) and had a nice cold shower (the hot water lasts for 30 secs) but a cold shower is what was needed. I spent the rest of the day wandering around, getting my bearings and congratulating myself on a wonderful job, Im in BRAZIL MAKE SOME F*@#ng NOISE! As a well done to me I have just taken myself out to supposedly the best restaurant in town, for the HUGEST Meal I have ever seen (it arrived on two plates) with 3 beers and set me back the grand total of 4.58 (pound sterling). I got chatting to some strangers (I must stop doing that, some of you will be right before long :)) who felt sorry for me sitting with todd and invited me over to join them, I reluctantly did after they twisted my arm so hard I felt water in my eyes...oh hang on that was the sweat from my brow, did I mention it was hot here.... rassssssssp? Anyway it turns out one of the guys owns a 45foot boot moored just down the road (and yes it is in water not actually on the road, smartarses) and I have been invited aboard tonight for a few drinks etc, was cautious at first but then thought what the hell, take a risk, I can swim after all. Now I suppose you want some details on what this place is like.... well you will have to wait until the next installment. (and mum knows not a lot more, so dont be bugging her for gossip!) all Im saying is its Brazil, Im on a high again and like what I have seen so far..... in a massive way. Well I had better think of going this is costing me 0.42p per hour! Im planning to push the boat out and go on a two day trek into a ecological park, which includes all accommodation, food, transport and a guided tour, it will set me back 50quid, but at that price I cant lose. Then work out somewhere to meet up with Henry. Unfortunately I couldnt get a new camera or minidisc player at any airport, so settled for some books and will use disposable cameras until I can find one (there is nothing around here). Anyway really gotta go, need to wash parts of me again!
Love ya all, let the good times roll, and remember lifetimes are so short the youth is wasted on the young and wisdom on the old. (Have I used that yet?) Love....
Who else?

USA Chronicles
eb 3rd

Hello All,
Aren't you all lucky getting another email so soon? Well I made it from one country into another and from one side to the other. Things have been great and despite a couple of mishaps that at times have made me want to turn round and come home, I have really enjoyed my time in the US, I have seen some amazing sights and made some great friends along the way. I leave Key West and head for Brazil tomorrow night (4th) and am really looking forward to it. This is where the real adventure starts! I'm armed with my phrase book and everything else I need.... at least I hope so! I also received an email today from a guy I met in Philly who is going to be in Brazil around the 8th (I think) and our plan is to meet up and see some sights together. Well thats about all from me for now, hope you are all well and shivering nicely (for those of you that are unfortunate enough to have cold weather that is).
I'll give you all a warm thought when sunning myself on Copacabana beach :)
P.S. Remember that lifetimes are so short that youth is wasted on the young and wisdom on the old.
January 28th
It’s long with a splash of Bourbon and handcuffs
Hello All,
Apologies for the lack of email recently, i have been a very busy boy. If I told you to make a cup of tea for the last one, make a pot this time. I'm not entirely sure where i left you all but think it was from Philly so thats where i will continue from, please correct me if i'm wrong but don't expect a decent report! From Philly I moved on to Westminster (Orange County) Just outside of Baltimore and met up with some friends of friends of my parents, Ernest & Margit who very nicely put me up in their house and gave me some nice creature comforts again including homecooked meals, decent shower and a very welcomed break from the city. Westminster is in the back of beyond and is full of rolling hills and farm land. Ernest is an architect by trade and design the house they now live in about 11 years ago and had it built on 9 aches of land and it's impressive. Whilst I was there they also took me on a day trip to Washington DC which saved me some time as they know their way round very well and got me to the places i needed to see very quickly. DC is HUGE, it's basically it's own state and consists of maninly government buildings and museums, however due to 9/11 most things are shut to the general public and the ones that are open are very tight on security, but netherless I saw the bits I needed to and wanted to and a few other bits that I would have missed without them. Apart from that I hit Baltimore for a couple of days and returned to Westminster in the evenings. The heart of Baltimore is around the Inner Harbour which was run down until about 20 years ago and now consists of museums, cafes, bars and resturants and has a great feel to it, despite it being so damn cold. Little Italy was pretty but was exactly as the name sugests; little. Whilst in Baltimore I spent my time in the National Aquarium which is split across 7 levels and houses more than 10000 animals and was a fantastic day out. The American Visonary musuem is a 3 floor musuem that showcase's 'outsider' talent (what ever that means!) it's wasn't what I would all modern art but just some very detailed and impressive things, including a 2.5 metre replica of the Titanic made from Cocktail sticks (560,000 in total). I also hit the Maryland Science Centre, but as they are refurbing it half of it was shut, so caught an Imax film while I was there. Whilst in Westminster I met Ernest & Margits family and Neil (the son in law, who owns the greatest barn I have ever seen) told me to hit New Orleans (a few other people had mentioned it also) as it was a happening place, so thats what i did. I decided that I would move straight down and miss everything else in the middle as nothing really caught my attention and the one place that did, I couldn't get accomodation as the hostel was having some much needed work done to it. I left Baltimore on the 16th and prepared my self for the 22hour journey ahead of me, or at least 22hours was what it should have been. It seemed Greyhound Bus 7028 was doomed, firstly it was a brand new bus that broke down just outsied of DC, so we then had to wait for a mechanic to come and fix it, it turned out the problem was something simple but i can't remember now, anyway about 10pm we arrived in Lynchburg (Virginia) and arrived in a heavy snow storm, as the bus was pulling out of the station it was losing grip and then slid down the hill and hit a bus stop and smashed one of the windows, this was the start of the problem, the driver had got the bus wedged against the bus stop and when he went to drive away he had no traction and kept sliding back down the the hill in the end he gave up being gentle with it and decided to go full throttle, this meant taking the top of the bus shelter with us and 4 other windows out, the atmosphere on the bus after this was....different. Whilst this was all happening I stepped out for a smoke (I have now give up smoking twice, both times succesfully) and got chatting to lovely young lady named Jessica, who was travelling back to New Orleans also, so we budded up and made the journey a great one. To make things worse as our bus was now 2 hours late in arriving in Atlanta, Greyhound had put on another bus, which meant we then had an 1.5 hour delay in Atlanta, the home of my first pickpocket incident, luckily he only got away with $25 and my magic $2 bill. I finally arrived in New Orleans after a 29 hour journey, feeling very dirty. New Orleans, what can i say? The place is dangerous, it has the highest murder rate in the US, but is a town that knows how to party and also where anything goes, or at least thats what I thought until I got arrested (I'll come back to that). The main part of NO is known as the French Quarter and consists of lots of little streets with fantatsic Spanish & French style buildings, the main drag is known as Bourbon Street and it's the place where anything goes, you can walk down the street with a pint of beer ($1.50) and every pub has fantastic live bands, playing everything from Rock, Blues & Jazz, the rest of the streets are full of street performers. Eating in NO is a whole new experience, the food is mainly Creole & Cajun and is wonderful, eating in the French Quarter is a must for anyone that goes to NO, and something the locals are all very proud of. Bourbon St at night is mad, (and gets even worse during Mardi Gras (people do what they want, including having a bunk up on the street) above the street there are balconys with people hanging beads from them, women & men (mainly women) walk along and flash in return for beads, after a few two many beers we decided it was time to grab some beads and proceded to pull our jeans down and flash our backsides, the downside being the overweight cop didn't appreciate us doing this in his direction, and the next thing I knew I was being cuffed and arrested for Public Lewdness! I got taken to the station had my rights read and was locked in a cell for 45 mins before being transferred (shackles around my feet & wrists and in a row with about 10 blokes) city jail. My phone call was to Jess but bail stood at a hefty $80 and I still had to report in the next day, I was advised if I kept my mouth shut and was good I would be out the next day, advice I took. It has to be the most scary night of my life, locked in a cell with 2 beds, 6 men all either very very drunk, high or both and cursing all night, I got out safe and sound the next night after spending about 20 hours locked up, an experience I don't want to repeat in a hurry! Whilst I was a free man in NO, I went on a swamp tour, but due to the season all the Gators were in hiding, and my camera battery died as I was about to take the first Photo so have no photos of it, but it was a fantastic day out. I left NO pretty quickly following my arrest and headed down to Orlando, the home of Disney and thats all that is there. Orlando, breaths, lives and sleeps Disney and the theme park area is just gigantic, Disney also has it's own 'Downtown' the downside to this is it's expensive (tickets are about $48 for any theme park). I stayed outside of Orlando in a place known as Kissimmee which is just about 9+miles of Motels, Hotels, tourist shops and resturants, if you want theme parks than Orlando is the place for anything else forget it. I went to MGM Studios, which was great, the 3D movies are fantastic, America really knows how to build a theme park, but I think this was the first time I missed having someone with me. Whilst there I bumped into a couple of blokes I met in Philly who where leaving and had a free day pass to the Universal Island of Adventure theme park, so extended my stay for another day and went there with two Aussies I met the night before, the park was good but I would have felt very ripped off if I had payed the $48 to get in, as 2 of the rides were shut and you didn't find out until you got in. From Orlando I made my way to Miami Beach and it's great. It's hip, clean, safe and very friendly. When I arrived and was wondering around trying to find the hostel I got chatting to two guys (Frankie & Manu) who where walking along side me, they took me straight to my hotel and then waited for me before taking me out for something to eat and a very heavy drinking sesion, nearly all paid for by them. (Frankies sister is stunning) I'm in what is known as the Art Deco area, it's flash and full of some of the most beautiful women I have ever seen, it is known as the playground of the rich and beautiful. Shopping here is fantastic, forget London, Paris & New Yo rk, Miami Beach has it all. The weather is fantastic and the beaches are even better. Did I mention the women? The downside to this is that unless you drive a Ferrari and have an inch thick wad of $100 bills you have very little luck - even I'm stuck here!
I'm planning to hit the Everglades tomorrow and then on to Key West before heading back to Miami for my flight to Brazil, which I think is where the real adventure will start. Anyway I think that draws us to a close, there are tons more stuff to tell you all about but time is limiting, the sun is beating and my beer glass is empty. I'll leave you all there for now, and try to give you better updates more often..... don't hold me to that though.
Hope you are all well.
Over & out
Hello all,
Firstly HAPPY NEW YEAR, did you all have a good one and survive without me ok?!? Before we start, go grab a drink, get comfy this could be a long one. Here we go, I finally got my backside out of T.O. on the 29th of Dec and took a night bus to NY, I was told it would be a 12 hour trip, I arrived about 8 hours later and at 7am in the morning, feeling very tired as I had some big oath sat next to me on the bus snoring all the way, even with headphones in and on full blast, Marillion stood no chance! I kept knocking him every so often, he would jump, grumble, wake up and just stare blankly ahead before saying, "Oh are we there yet" "No" I reply, to which his response everytime was, better get some more sleep then hadn't we! Cheeky begger. I arrived at my hotel (luxury for a few nights!) with little trouble to find out I couldn't check until after 3pm - what to do? Walk and walk and walk so that's what I did after grabbing some well needed brekkie. The hotel was about 5mins from the Empire State Building, 10 mins from Time Square (which is fantastic)and about a 20 min walk to Central Park (I never actually realised how big it is.) To cut things short, I met up with Jane and her mate Susan later that afternoon and spent the majority of my time coasting around the Big Apple with them. I manged to see the following: Chrylser Building, Madison Square Gardens (which wasn't quite what I was expecting), Ellis Island, Liberty Island, Staten Island, Macys, Central Park, Wall St, the Rockafeller Centre, Times Square, and Ground Zero, possibly one of the most scary things I have seen to date, when I first arrived I thought it was smaller than I imagined until I got closer, it's a huge hole and a lot of damage has been done to the surrounding buildings, it was amazing to see how much work has been done in the clean up process and that is still being done to clean the area up. I also caught a few other bits and bobs. I loved New York, everything about it rings true and is exactly how it's meant to be, from the steaming drains, yellow taxis zipping in and out to the overweight policemen sitting in their cars eating donuts and drinking coffee. We caught an an "off broadway show" called 'Bartenders' a one man show telling the story of 6 Manhatten bartenders, thankfully we didn't pay full price for the tickets, it was pretty crap! - another womens decision! Unfortunately I didn't make it up the Empire State, the one day we were going to do it, we decided against it because it was 'slightly cloudy' - hindsight is a wonderful thing as the next 2 days it just rained.... hard and there was 0 visibility. New York is very easy to navigate around, except the subway which after 5 days still made no sense to me. I left NY on the 3rd (I think!) and headed for Boston. Boston is a great city, although a lot smaller than I thought, but the Irish influence is clear and makes for a great atmosphere. I took myself on the Freedom Trail, a 5mile round trip of the city, which links 16 important colonial & revolutionary sights, including Bunker Hill... 294 steps to the top... hard flipping work! Downtown Boston is nice but again smaller than I was expecting. Boston was pretty much covered in Snow whilst I was there, and I got in some sledging on the Common with some local kids, who bet me they could beat me down the hill for a Pepsi, they won, but then they were about 6 stone lighter. I found both the Cheers bars and had the obligatory pint in both... oh and a Bloody Mary in the Orignal...not convinced on that what so ever. The hostel had some free tickets for the Boston Comedy Connection which we all hit on my last night night, some were very funny, the others on the other hand needed to go back to the 'Learn to be a Comedian' book. I left Boston on the 7th and headed towards Philadelphia, which is where I am now. I was told that it was an 8 hour direct trip, I later found out that I had to change at NY, so when I arrived at 4:50am and then got told that the bus to Philly didn't leave until 7:15am, I was not in the best of moods! I had major trouble boarding the bus as the driver who reminded me of a Marine Drill Sargent didn't recognise the 60 day bus pass, and told me that unless I could explain the ticket and how it worked etc.. (I hand the driver the ticket, he looks at it and I board, nothing difficult) then I would have to wait until he had checked with security and Customer Service that the ticket was valid before he would let me board, at 7:15 and little sleep my temper was running thin! to make matters worse if no one had arrived by 7:15 when he was due to leave he wasn't going to wait for me. All turned out good in the end. I finally arrived in Philly at around 9:30 and only just made it to the Hostel on time as they kick everyone out at 10 am (I arrived at 9:50) and don't let you back in until 4:30 - and then lock you in at 12:30 and the door stays locked until 8am - apparently it's safer that way! I spent most of yesterday walking around and getting a feel for the place. Iwent to see the Liberty Bell and Independence Hall though. I also went to find the Rocky statue that was used in Rocky 3, I just wish I knew how far out of town it was before I started to walk, it took me and hour and 45mins to get there and the same to get back, and was it worth not really! Philly is also home to the worlds largest suspension bridge, (1.8 miles) the 'Benjamin Franklin Bridge' but it is closed to the foot walkers at the moment due to much need renovation. Despite being warned off Philly by a few people on my little travels so far, I'm glad I came here, I like it by day, however by dark it's a bit scary, its the home of rap music and clothes that never seem to fit the person wearing them, but overall is a nice city. The hostel is also one of the best I have stayed in so far. Anyway I think that brings me pretty much up to date, whats all your excuses?!? Off to see the Art Museum now and run (well maybe crawl) up the steps also used in the Rocky Movies. Hope you are all well Take Care

Canadian Chronicles
23/12/2002 UPDATE
Hello All,
Thanks for all your recent e-mails it's nice to hear from you all. Things here are good, as most of you all know my hormones took me on a 61 hour round bus trip across to Winnipeg. (It's sar far that I was 6 hours behind you whilst I was there) Winnipeg is a strange town, in my opinon not a great deal to do tourist wise, and seems very much a local town, most people seem not to have left it and have no intention of, on the up side it had more snow than I have seen anywhere so far and I had a major snow ball fight :) It supposedly has the world's most windy street corner, It was a pretty cold corner. The last time I walked through there snow was coming in horizontally and it ripped your face apart, no kidding it was pretty windy, but then so was the rest of Winnipeg. I went to the Forks, (very cool area with a market and gardens, bit like parts of Camden Market in places. I wasn't there that long, but feel that I got the feel of it! I didn't see Winnie the Pooh in his garden either, he was a little far away. I met up with Jo on Saturday morning and went off to the Man & Nature museum, a very small condensed version of our Natural History - Nice day out though. Dinner and a few drinks followed with her and some mates, all nice people, but was concerned that I had travelled so far to meet her and didn't come armed with a blood stained axe in my back pack! - Winnipeg has a real lack of bars & clubs - there is no main drag of them and the ones that are there are incredibly spread out. The night time sights I saw were great though - well worth the trip!
I have now just got back to Toronto until around the 27th then I'm planning to hit Chicago for a couple of days before heading down to NY for New Year - Well so far thats the plan, these things are always subject to change!
Take Care All, Missing you all Have a good xmas
P.S. You have got to try Sponge Hockey - Basically you get some boots with huge sponges on the bottom and play Ice Hockey - I played for 5 mins and ched for the next 24 hours!
23/12/2002 MERRY XMAS
Hi All,
For some stupid reason this machine won't let me enter any more addresses than what I have so this will have to be sent out twice. Just a quick message to wish you all a very merry christmas and a fantastic new year. I'll see the majority of you in the new year.
Take care & enjoy
Missing you all loads
Dec 11th I’m still here
Hello All
Apologies for my lack of mail recently, it's been a mad week! Most of you know the recent news but for you of those that don't I will explain now. After much conversation Nathan has decided that travelling is not for him and consequently is returning home on the 17th (this Tuesday). It became clear quite early on that he was not settled. We have spent the majority of our time discussing this and his decision has not been an easy one for him by any stretch of the imagination. Anyone that knows Nathan well will understand his reasons. I respect his decision and if nothing else I hope I have helped him to make the right choice. I would hate to think that he would spend the next year being unhappy and not enjoying what we had set out to do. He is an amazing guy. We travel the world to find out what we want is at home, he has found this out earlier than most and I am extremely happy for him.

My original thoughts were to crawl up in a ball and have a fit, but over the last week my mentality on it all has changed and I am now looking forward to it more then ever. I have already meet some great people and the thought of being able to do what I want to do and when I want to do it, without having to consider anyone else is a wonderful feeling. Obviously I will miss him more than anything but I know it's for the best.... for the both of us. On a brighter note, what have we been up to? We moved onto Montreal for a few days, the french seem to be everywhere, even in the building sense, although it was flipping cold -27 wind factors - thermals become useless! From there we made our way to Quebec city, a very small city, but very beautiful, and a very old feel to it. From there we hit Ottawa, which to date has been the most friendly place we have been, everyone went out of their way to help us, and a smile from everyone you met... fantastic atmosphere. We are now back in Toronto for a couple of days before Nathan leaves, may plan from here is to take a 30 hour bus ride to Winnipeg to meet up with a young lady I met in Montreal!!

I have lots to tell you all about but obviously have a few e-mails to reply too, so just wanted to let you all know that I am fine and things are dandy. I will send a more detailed report later on. Please don't worry about me, I know it's easy for me to say, but I know I have so many people at home I can contact at any point I need to. As I have said, I am really excited about the adventure that stands before me and I am going to leave my mark on the world. Hope you are all well, missing you loads. Hugs & love to all
NATHAN 29/11 OOOOOOooooo my head
It may not surprise any of you to learn that, soon after sending the last message when we checked into the Hostel..........we got drunk! We ventured out into the city and settled in a bar for food where a plateof food and garlic bread costs $6 (about 3 pounds) and a Guinness cost $7.......... seems a bit bizarre but didn't stop us indulging. Then did a bit of a pub crawl back to the Hostel where the lager is $10 for apitcher (4 pints - ish) so i may have to start drinking lager.......or I could cut down......hmmm?
So yesterday started painfully with a hangover and the fire alarm going.....not nice.Yes it is cold, very cold. High's are minus 3! Don't want to talk about the lows. People are very friendly in the hostels and we have a quad dorm which means that people arrive and leave randomly. There were three of us yesterday when I went to bed and four when I woke up, which was a bit awkward as the fourth is a girl called Emma so we all had awkward moment scrabbling for some trousers to put on to be able to get out of bed...... quite amusing. We have done a lot of walking and mooching around the city. Just looking for the differences between the countries. The most difficult thing here is crossing the roads as sometimes, we have priority and other times, the cars can actually go through red lights to turn right......tricky! Individual buildings are huge and they seem to be all over on one side near the CN tower. West of there is much smaller and has some houses too. It's weird as the houses will be half way down a street and have small front gardens so they look really out of place. We plan to do the CN tower tomorrow and then to experience one of the night clubs tomorrow night. There's a "festival of lights" on Saturday and we hope to go to Niagara on Sunday. On Monday we plan to leave and go, probably to Montreal for a few days. Ottawa and Quebec are also on the list before we come back to Toronto for Christmas. Iain has some family coming here for Christmas so we are looking forward to meeting them. I hope you are all well and enjoying life.?
Take care, love from Nathan.
IAIN 29/11 Chilly... you have no idea
Hello peeps,
How are you all? Well I hope. We have now settled in and starting to make our mark on Toronto. The couple we sat with on the plane it turned out are from Sandhurst, we didn't realise this until we left the airport and shared a taxi with them (their hotel was about five mins from our hostel) Toronto is a strange ole city, lots of new mixed with old and parts of the city look quite run down. The roads are HUGE and crossing them can be.....strange to say the least, cars can turn right at red lights etc.... Overall though it's like a typical American/Canadian city. I like it. Seeing the big yellow school buses made me smile. The hostel is nice, basic enough but has everything we need, including a very cheap bar (about a pound aincrediblyredabily cheap (it cost us about 2pound (no pound signs on this keyboard!) for a meal each) We have met some nice people and so far everything is going to plan. (including waking up to find a blonde in the bunk opposite me, nice!!) Not done a great deal to date, we decided to take it easy and settle in before doing anything more, so have really just wondered round freezing our bits off (yesterdays high was -3c) still seen no snow apart from a very feeble attempt today...heres hoping. I was speaking to a guy called Chris last night who said he was here last new year and queued for 1.5hrs in -18c to get into a club...two layers of thermals and all the jumpers i have for that, maybe i'll invest in a hot water bottle to tie under my t-shirt!) We went to the Eaton centre today (a big underground shopping centre) quite impressive. We have extended our stay at the hostel until Sunday, then move off to Ottawa and then onto Montreal before heading back to Toronto for xmas.
We are visiting Niagara on Sunday and the CN Tower tomorrow.
Take Care, missing you all


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