Saturday, 28 September 2013

South America – Uruguay, Argentina, Paraguay back to Argentina

The trip has been going well so far. It been a nice enough journey and I’ve met a few nice people on the way. But I’m still waiting for something to really wow me.

I enjoyed my two couch-surfing experiences in Uruguay. The first was with a really nice Yoga instructor, Fabiana. I was certainly surprised at my first couch-surfing accommodation. My own room with a double bed and ensuite bathroom, was not what I was expecting. Still we do have to rough it sometimes.
The weather wasn’t great at the start, but we were able to stay in and chat, and we took a little run down town and got some food together and had a quick look at the centre. The day after was much nicer and Fabiana was able to borrow a car and she drove us out to the beach where I got to try surfing for the first time. I even managed to stand up on the board on the second attempt. It’s something I will have to try again. The day after that I borrowed her bicycle and went a ride along the water front. It was a nice day and a good little ride.

Montevideo is a very nice city. The beaches run all the way along the front and I could imagine it would be a nice place to live. I did look into doing work with international house and I could have got a job there, but it would have been by the hour, which sounded a bit too similar to what I was doing in Argentina and I really hated the spit shifts and the lack of security.
After Montevideo I made my way along to coast to my next couch-surfing destination. I was in a small town called Punta Bellan, but it wasn’t from Maldonado and Punta del Este. Here I was staying with Luciana and her two kids.
This time I had my own room again and mattress on the floor, which was nice. The house was great. It was in village next to a forest park about 20km from the town. For heating there was a log fire. There was a dog and a cat (that kind of acted like a dog) that were really nice. Despite the dog being shy we bonded really quickly. She had really nice eyes, one blue one brown. The cat would often sneak into the house and come and sit on my lap and purr.
I arrived late after noon a Luciana picked me up from the station and we went for a walk in the park. Again we got on well and she was very interested in eastern mysticism, so it was nice to hear a lot about that, and I was surprised to find that there was a little ashram near by.
The next day Luciana took me along with the kinds on a drive along the coast and we stopped a few little towns and seen various sites. It was nice trip. The kids were also nice, although they argued from time to time. I got on really well with the younger one and she liked to play games where she climbed and jumped about. The older girl was more stand-offish but still friendly enough.

Sadly on the second day the youngest girl got a little sick and so Luciana had to stay at home with her. I walked down to Punta del Este which is a holiday town that the Argentinians like to go to. The weather was a bit rough again and it was quite a cold wind. I had thought about going to Roacha – my first host had practically demanded that I go. But the expensive of Uruguay and the thought of freezing on the beach put me off.
So the day after I decided to head back the way and then North. It took a long time. I took a bus back to Montevideo and then another bus up to the border city of Salto. In Salto I crossed the border into Argentina and from there I got a bus up to Foz de Igauzu. On the way I was lucky enough to me another traveller who was heading the same way. A Uruguayan guy called Daniel. He’s studying in Iguazu and was heading back. It really helped for getting the bus up to Igazu as navigating all the different bus companies can be a bit of a challenge.
About twenty seven hours after leaving Punta del Este I arrived in Iguazu. It had been a long journey and here I made a small mistake. I had seen a hostel, home sweet hostel, in the guide book (I couldn’t find somewhere to couch surf there). To get to the hostel I passed a few other nice looking places, but when I got to the place I had planned to enter there was a building works out the front. For some reason I checked in anyway with the rather unfriendly staff and paid for two nights. I was show to the room – a place with a broken door and easy access from the front gate that was never locked. When I went for a shower the water ran brown for five minutes first. I’m still not sure why I checked in there. But at least it was a little cheaper than the other places.
After checking in, I got on a bus to the waterfall park. It’s a really impressive sight and walking along the gangway across the river to get to falls themselves is also nice. I was luck here and met a couple of friend, one from Malaysia and one from Singapore. We went around the park together and then had dinner late. It was nice to have some company.

The next day I was off again. I left the hostel without a word (I didn’t see the point in fighting over a day’s rent and I doubt I would have got it back anyway.) I had thought of saying on another day, but the only thing to really do in Iguazu was the park. So I got on a bus and crossed the border into Paraguay. I think I was even in Brazil for a little time as well.
Here there was another mistake. On entering Paraguay the bus didn’t stop at immigration. So I’m here without a stamp and it might cost me a little to get out.
I stopped in Ciudad del Este for a few hours. I really liked this city. I was a rough market town. It reminded me of a Chinese market it a way. Lots of hustle and bustle and people selling real, but sometimes random, things. I got some socks, because I hadn’t been able to wash mine, and a cap because I burnt my nose in Montevideo. Another thing I liked here were the performers that came onto the road every time the lights turned red. At each stop sign the were be random things like jugglers and a troupe with hullahoops – some of them were very good. They’d perform for the cars then try and get a little money before the lights changed. Nice city but I felt that a couple of hours were enough and the same day I was off to Asunción.
We arrived a little late at the terminal in Asunción. I had heard there were hostels there, but guide book didn’t have any listed so I asked at tourist information on found one that sounded nice. It was called circus hostel. It’s next to an old railway station near Plaza Uruguay. I got there a little late and the place was dark. I pressed the buzzer and young guy came out to meet me and took me into the place. It was very quite. I was the only guest. Still it meant I got a dorm room to myself. At the time I couldn’t figure out why it was so quite, because it’s a really nice hostel, with nice staff.
20130926_114859I had a good time in Asunción I walked about, took some pictures and went to the cemetery. It’s a nice place. Very chilled out. It also turned out there was going to be an event on just outside the hostel in the old train yard. It was run by an English/South African girl and her Paraguayan husband. So I decided to break the bank and little and a have a party night. I met up with an English girl from couch-surfing who was volunteering there and we had a drink then went to the event. It was really nice, great people and good food and I generally had a nice time. However, near the end I started to feel like more of an outside. I thinks it’s normal as they are all living there and I’m just passing through. So when they all went for a smoke I declined and went out to have a look at the rest of the city. It was a nice night and I had fun. But the next day I was up early (I don’t know how) and ready to hit the road.
I’m on my way to Salta now. I before I mentioned why the place was so quite? Well buses might be the reason. I’ve having to go south quite a bit to be able to travel North again. It’s also going to mean a change of buses. So I guess that dead end puts off a lot of people.
So the trip had been fine. A lot of nice things. The falls were probably the most impressive sight, but I’m not overly impressed by South America. I think I just expected it to be more different, in the same way as when I went to China for the first time. Also things are much more expensive here than I thought they would be. Buses are not cheap and the distances from place to place is more than I really realised. It often seems like a lot of time sitting on buses for a small reward.
That said I’m hopeful about going North. Peru and its ruins is really attracting me. I’ve also heard that it’s a good deal cheaper than here. I can only hope.
PS: It cost me $50 to get out of Paraguay with no stamp.

Monday, 16 September 2013

South America – Getting to Uruguay

South America – Getting to Uruguay

Map of the Río de la Plata, showing cities in ...
Map of the Río de la Plata, showing cities in Argentina and Uruguay. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
If my last post wasn’t clear enough, I wasn’t too happy in Buenos Aires. So I decided to quit and move on.  I wont be doing the Delta course this year and instead I’m just going to travel. It might be a terrible idea, but there is no point wasting my life in a city I don’t enjoy.
The plan is to go through Uruguay, back into the north of Argentina and then further north to Paraguay, Bolivia and Peru.
Anyway I set off this morning and I am now in Montevideo. It was a bit touch and go for a while. Today I took a taxi down to the port and the driver took me to the wrong ferry port – Buquebus. Luckily I had left enough time to get to the ferry. Of course when we arrived at the terminal for the right ferry, ” Colonia Express” , the ship had been cancelled due to bad weather (Sorry no refunds). So then I had to take another taxi back to the Buquebus ferry terminal and pay full ticket prices (it’s cheaper if you book in advance).  Meaning that I paid full price for the ferry I took as well as the price for the ferry I didn’t.
Another couple that were in the same boat (or not in the case) said we could contact the bank and tell them to refund the transaction. It might be worth a try.
So a ferry and a bus later I’m in a very wet Montevideo. I’m couchsurfing ( and staying with girl who seems very friendly and the place seems really nice. So while to BA side was bad, I have a positive feeling about the trip.
The only thing getting in the way are thoughts about jobs. It seems September was the start time for most of the jobs I would have liked and it will be Jan/Feb before  schools are looking for people again. There are jobs RIGHT NOW, but that would mean not seeing South America, which would be a shame after coming all this way. I think I’ll just put things of the back burner for now and see what happens with what I’ve applied for. Otherwise I can maybe stop somewhere along the way and do a little work to keep me going until the hiring season.
For now I will explore Montevideo and start planning the next leg of the trip.

Thursday, 5 September 2013

A series of random (and sometimes unfortunate) events

OpenStreetMap Logo
OpenStreetMap Logo (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
It’s been a while since I last posted an update. Mainly because things have been a bit hectic and I haven’t really had time to sit down a sort out my own thoughts, but the story goes a little like this:

I returned to the UK after Indonesia with the intention of doing a PGDE (teaching qualification) at the university in Aberdeen. It had been quite a challenge to get into the school and get funding, mainly because of the distance and because I had been living outside the UK for so long. In the end, however, I was accepted.

I went back home and lived with my Gran for a bit and found a little job teaching English in Glasgow. It was a fairly nice time as I got to meet up with people, like my friend Paul who I hadn’t see for some time. I also got to see my family again – I had been unsure about living with my Gran but we ended up getting on really well. I also got a chance to meet up with my Dad for the first time in many years, which all seemed to work out well.

Despite all this, after a short time back in Glasgow I was ready to leave again. In part this was itchy feet, in part I was bored and in part it was the grim place that is Glasgow. I was excited about the idea of going to Aberdeen, but worried as well that it would be the same story as Glasgow – that is unimaginative people and generally grim situation all round -with a few exceptions of course.

I needn’t have worried. Shortly before going onto the course I got a phone call from Aberdeen telling me that the course I was planning to study had been cancelled due to their not being enough students enrolled. I have to admit I was disappointed, but it opened up a lot of opportunities and I found myself considering a whole world – quite literally – of options.

In the end my choices were narrowed down to returning to Indonesia; going to the middle east to make some cash or going to south America and chancing my luck. The Indonesia option was appealing on many levels. I like the place and the school, but I think my wander lust was pulling me in other directions. Saudi was tempting on some levels, not least as I could save up a little for my masters. However, the whole male/female separation did not sound fun. The south America idea was also tempting, not least because I could wait unit January and save up to do the DELTA course there.

Then a fourth option came up. A chance to go to Canada and see and old friend. So in the spur of the moment I decided to give that a go and ended up in Canada for three weeks. The trip had some nice moments and I even got a chance to visit the USA and I went to a casino for the first time – what tourist could resist going to an Indian casino? My friend even managed to win a couple of hundred dollars after playing the slots for a few minutes.

The trip, of course, came to an end and I found myself flying south to Buenos Aires in Argentina, where I still am now. I’ve been able to find a place to stay – although it’s a massively over priced box in a shared house. I’ve also found work with a couple of companies doing freelancing. I have to say, it’s not what I’m used to. The pay is terrible and it’s impossible to work out how much I’ll have each month as classes are often moved or cancelled (I don’t get paid if they give more than 24hrs notice). I’ll need to sit down an work it out, but I’m not sure I can afford to stay here with the amount coming out and going in. Argentina has massive inflation problems at the moment. It seems I couldn’t have picked a more “interesting” time, financially speaking

That said I enjoy the classes. It’s nice to be teaching adults again and the students I teach seem to be quite interesting people. Most of the work I’m doing is with mid-high up people in big companies like HSBC and Johnstone and Johnstone, which is something new for me. The people at the schools seem nice as well, but I miss the security of a proper job.

I’m also a little disappointed by BA itself. It seems like a regular slightly run down European city. I guess I was hoping for something more foreign. Or at least something with more of a South American flavour.

My plans for the DELTA also hit a familiar rut. I had been planning to do it as a distance course for the first of three modules and do the rest as an intensive in January/February. Of course, after I arrived I got a familiar sounds email which said something to the effect of delta one course being cancelled because there are not enough people – where had I heard that before?

So what am I doing here? Well it’s a good question and one I’ve asked myself quite a lot in the past couple of weeks. On one side, I don’t want to be too hasty. The work has been picking up and I have lots of classes now and city wise I get the feeling that there might be a lot of interesting people and places here if I could break the surface – maybe once my Spanish improves? There is also the option of doing all three DELTA modules in January and February – that is if I have enough money left and the course is not cancelled. So I guess I just need to wait and see what happens at the end of the first month or so.

Saying that, I’m also keeping an eye on the job boards to see if anything interesting comes up. If someone offers me an interesting well paid job, I’ll probably get on a plane.