Santa Barbara and Hollywood for a day

Posted in Uncategorized on 07/08/2009 by mfcx4tm2

Day 116
Time to jump in the car and head up Route 1 towards Santa Barbara for our next stop off. We made the most of the Rule’s fridge for the last time and packed up a big fat picnic for the journey. The drive was really nice as most of it ran parallel to the shoreline. We stopped for our picnic in Malibu and admired some of the beach houses before getting back on the road.

We arrived at the Bittencourt’s house (another family that Tom stayed with whilst he was coaching football) late afternoon and met the family (Bonnie, Bill and Maddie who was about 8). We didn’t get up to much in the evening and the house was a lot quieter than the Rules so we just chilled and had some dinner with them and then watched Billy Elliot in our room!

Day 117
We went in to Santa Barbara and had a little shop. Santa Barbara is great, almost like Harrogate but with mountains and a beach! Its very picturesque and clean and everybody obviously has a lot of money.
We had a spot of lunch (almost a curry buffet but we thought that was a bit OTT for lunch time) and pottered down to the beach.
In the evening we went out for dinner with Bonnie, Bill and Maddie and then had another quiet night.

Day 118
It was time for a haircut so we took a trip to Super Cuts. This was definitely an experience and super cheap for a good reason. Enough said. We then took in the Santa Barbara sites (The Mission and The Courthouse) and Tom racked up another 100 photos.
In the afternoon we went to the beach with Bill and Maddie which was good fun. Tom got dragged in the ice cold ocean- I successfully resisted (I did have a new haircut). Tom and I then drove up a hill where we could get a good view of the sunset and take some good photys before heading back for our tea.
In the evening we hit the town and had a good night! We went to a few bars (one with live music and massive barrels of monkey nuts) and then this outdoor club. We entertained ourselves in the club as we sat next to some English boys who were trying to woo some American girls by saying they were professional footballers. They were pretty embarrassed when we said hi in our English accents and told them that we had been listening to the whole thing!

Day 119
Tom got up and played football with Maddy in the morning and I packed up our stuff as we had to get on the road again. We were driving back to LA to get the bus up to San Fran!
We made a stop off at Santa Monica which was fun. We looked round some of the shops and then went down to the beach to laugh at all the weirdos. We started doing some tricks on Muscle Beach but then stopped as we realised we were embarrassing people with our ridiculous strength.

Next stop was Hollywood Boulevard…This was ok. Fortunately we didn’t have great expectations. Tom had been before and I had never heard great things about it. Still, it was cool to walk down and see all the stars.
We had a bit of a nightmare returning the car which was highly frustrating but eventually made it to the Grayhound station to take our last overnight bus.

Huntington Beach

Posted in Uncategorized on 07/08/2009 by mfcx4tm2

Day 113
We had a long overnight flight to LA and arrived inconveniently at about 2 in the morning. We weren’t sure what to do really as it was too late to go and stay somewhere in LA and too early to turn up at the Rules house (one of the families who Tom stayed with when he was doing his football coaching the year before) in Huntington Beach. We decided to make our way to the hire car office to try and sort out some wheels and then make a decision from there. This wasn’t as easy as we anticipated as the airport rental car offices weren’t actually that near to the airport so we had to wait for AGES for a bus to come and collect us. Eventually we got our little motor and just decided to head down to Huntington Beach whilst the roads were quiet.
The journey was nice and quick and we didn’t get too lost! We were still really early though (about 5am) so found a car park and had a little nap. Obviously this wasn’t very sensible but we were just so tired and completely crashed out…

At about 8 we woke up and decided to go grab some breakfast. We went all American and went to Ihop (International house of pancakes)…It did the job and we cleaned ourselves up a bit in the toilets before making our way to the Rules. When we got there nobody was around so it was more sitting in the car! Mark (Mr Rule) turned up shortly after though and welcomed us in to the house. It was so nice being in a proper house for the first time in months! Their house was especially lovely with massive sofas and good powerful showers and a RIDICULOUSLY full American fridge! Mark had to do some work so just left us to it which was fine by us! We slumped on the sofa, watched the American Office box set and made regular trips to the fridge!

Tyler (one of the kids) was at a Lifeguard summer school thing at the beach so we offered to pick him up. He was very excited to see Tom (he cried when he left last year!)…we took him to the pool which was shared by the residents on the complex for a while and then went back for some dinner and to meet Hermine (Marks wife), Lindsay and Gillian (the two younger girls). For pudding Hermine made fresh cookies which I was delighted about. It was like being in heaven.

Day 114
After a lovely lovely sleep in our princess beds (we were sleeping in Lindsay and Gillian’s room!) we had another lazy morning watching the office! When we had been on facebook the day before it popped up that one of our friends from uni (Bobby) was backpacking in Huntington Beach, working at the football camp so we thought we would surprise him! It was really funny, we just turned up at the end of the camp when all the Mummies were turning up- he had no idea we were coming! We then went back to the beach to collect Tyler again. It was a good favour to do as then we were given the free parking ticket so could go to the beach earlier without paying to park!
In the evening there was a market on the main street in Huntington with lots of nice bits and bobs. We had a potter round with Mark and Lindsay and then went back for another delicious dinner cooked by Hermine! After dinner Hermine was attempting to make a Lifeguard cookie for a cookie competition that Tyler had at his lifeguard training. I was quite excited about this so stepped in with my skills. Eventually Hermine got bored (and could see that I was the pro) so she went to bed and left me to it!!

Day 115
We picked up Bobby after football and hit the beach for a while. I had a hair appointment so went off for that to get my scarecrow hair sorted! We then had a little drive to Newport Beach (where the OC is filmed) and had a little explore. It was alright but the main town was very touristy. We needed to be up in the hills in the mansions! The Rules were going to a free Melissa Manchester concert in the evening at a Mall in Newport so we tagged along with them. It was really good and all free!

Panama to Roatan

Posted in Uncategorized on 07/08/2009 by mfcx4tm2

Day 102
Had a very early start ready for our 3 flights to Roatan. Tom was obviously looking forward to seeing his old buddies although slightly apprehensive that they might not remember him! When we finally arrived on Roatan we jumped on a busy bus that would take us to Punta Gorda, the village where Tom lived. Amazingly one of his old students was on the bus and remembered him so I think that was a bit of a relief!
When we reached our destination at 5pm after over 12 hours travelling we were pretty tired so were keen to find a bed. Mary Lou, who did all Toms cooking when he was there, hooked us up in one of her friends guest rooms which was actually really nice. Big room, flushing toilet and a powerful ceiling fan. Luxury! Although, it was more money then what we had been paying elsewhere- but fine for a night.
After we had freshened up a bit we went down to Mary Lous for some dinner. On the menu was Baleadas which was Tom’s favourite Honduran cuisine so I was excited to sample them- they were deeeeeeelicious.
We spent the rest of the evening just pottering round and catching up with people. Tom was wooing all the old ladies with rude words in their native ‘Garifuna’ language…i just giggled along clueless!

Day 103-105
In the morning we packed up our bags as one of the families in the village had offered us a bed in their little house (we weren’t sure where the bed was at this point as there seemed to be about 12 of them living in 2 rooms!) The house was also nicknamed ‘Fatville’ by Tom (for valid reasons!) so that didn’t help the space matters either…
Before we went down to Fatville we popped up to visit the new teacher to see the house where Tom lived. Tom was a bit gutted as the house now had a fridge/freezer, water tanks, a toaster and a flushing toilet…luxuries he had to live without! There was only one teacher (James) left in the house as his partner had left back in October. I couldn’t believe that he was living in this little village with all the Honduran people by himself! He was happy to see us and have some English chats!
We then made our way to Fatville and were shown to our little room which was ok; double bed and seemingly clean sheets. They were really happy to have us there and insisted on cooking us lots of meals throughout our stay even though they obviously didn’t have much money.
We didn’t do much for the next few days, just carried on catching up with people. We spent a couple of evenings drinking and laughing at James who seemed to enjoy crossing the boundaries with his young students! Tom had a go at doing the ‘Punta’ which is the traditional garifuna dance- I hadn’t had enough to drink to embarrass myself in front of lots of strangers!

Day 106
Today we were going to West End at the other side of the island. West End is where the backpackers usually go when visiting Roatan so it was quite different to Punta Gorda. The beach was amazing and there was a pier that jetted out in to the sea which we sunbathed on and then took turns to jump off. There was a really great bar in West End where Tom used to go to watch the sunset so we went there at about 5 to make the most of the happy hour! Frozen Margaritas mmm… Feeling a little bit tipsy we went to wash off the sand and then dressed up for the Argentinian Grill (another of To’s favourite places!) The food was AMAZING! especially after we had been eating rice and beans for the last few days. Plus, they served this really nice bread when you sat down which we obviously destroyed. Tom got a steak and I got prawns. Mmmm……

Day 107
We took the boat from West End to West Bay which is supposedly the most picturesque beach on the island. It was lovely but unfortunately a Costa Cruise ship had rocked up nearby so there were loaaaads of tourists and it was really busy. We still enjoyed it though and had saved some of our dinner from the night before so had a lovely picnic!
Tom claimed that he had never been on a glass bottom boat so we decided to be proper tourists and booked tickets but unfortunately when we turned up there was some sort of problem so he still hasn’t been on one! We also visited one of Toms friends from the village who worked in a scooter hire shop and he gave us free t shirts which we were well happy with!
After a relaxing day at the beach we hit the road again and travelled to one of the resorts on the island where some of the people from Punta Gorda were putting on a Garifuna show for the tourists. It was really good fun, they got everybody up dancing and doing a limbo competition!
James had offered us the spare bed at his house which was nice as it meant we didn’t have to squeeze in to Fatville or eat any more of their food!

Day 108
Took the bus to Oakridge and went to a little restaurant that Tom used to go for some lunch. It was nice and peaceful and the food was really good. It was owned by an American couple who were obviously delighted to have some English visitors that they could chat away too!
Back in Punta Gorda it was ‘Carnavilito’ week and so there were lots of celebrations going on….there was a seriously odd May Queen presentation where young girls were prancing around in bikinis. It was VERY weird!

Day 109
We took the bus to the Fantasy resort where it was pretty easy just to waltz in and use the nice facilities- shame that the weather wasn’t very good but a nice day all the same.
A few weeks before we were heading to Roatan one of the other old teachers had emailed Tom to say that he was going back to Roatan as well and it was at exactly the same time! Massive coincidence! So he (Tom as well, but known to the Punta Gorda folk as ‘Pompillio’. Never worked out whether this was after a footballer or if it means ‘boy of the sea!’) turned up in the evening with his girlfriend (Mischa) and we pottered around with them. One of the families we visited insisted that they braided our hair. They started by doing a little bit in Tom/Pompillios hair and then they just all swarmed around me and before I knew it I had a fully braided head. It was SO painful and the results were NOT good! I had to pretend I liked it though didn’t I, and felt obliged to keep it in for the rest of my stay!!! It wasn’t my best hair do.

Day 110
We were leaving the next day so spent the day saying bye to people…The carnival was still going on so there was various bits of entertainment in the evening. We had dinner with Mary Lou again and Tom/Pompillio and Mischa came back in the evening.

Day 111
Got up nice and early as we were spending the day in West End again and wanted to make the most of it. We arranged to go out on one of the diving boats and do some snorkelling which was amazing. As soon as we jumped off the boat there was a little turtle swimming around!
We were back in the bar early for our frozen Margaritas again before returning to the Argentinian Grill for exactly the same meals!!

Day 112
As the snorkelling was so good we wanted more and so jumped on another dive boat.It was good but we didn’t see any turtles so we were a little bit disappointed! Managed to get away without paying though so we were well happy with that!
After showers we made our way to the airport ready to leave Honduras and begin our Californian adventure!

Panama

Posted in Uncategorized on 07/08/2009 by mfcx4tm2

Day 95
Left Portabello for Panama City with our sailing gang and had a pretty rapid journey which was pleasant, even though we had to sit on upturned buckets on the bus! Bit of a hassle finding a vacant hostel when we arrived but we got there in the end! Didn’t really get up to much in the day, and just had some drinkys in the evening.

Day 96
Went to visit the almighty Panama canal and saw some big big ships passing through the locks. Decided that we wanted to go straight to Bocas Del Toro because there wasn’t that much else to do in the city other than see the canal. So off we went on another night bus. Definitely one of the poorer journeys. Got pulled over by the police because the driver was driving like a maniac. Not the best sleeping conditions!

Day 97
The bus arrived on the north coast early in the morning so we took a cool little boat that bombed through all mangroves before arriving on the islands. Found a bed and then helped ourselves to the free do it yourself pancake breakfast. Mmm. Then we crashed out because we were zonked from the bus. Had some chinese in the evening and lots of happy hour drinks and then headed to a little club where women drank for free!

Day 98
More pancakes for breakfast! Wandered about the town for a while and then took a water taxi to one of the other islands where we took a little trail to a beach called wizard beach. Bumped in to our sailing buddies so just chilled out with them and ate some coconut that had just fallen from a tree! On the trail back to the water taxi we spotted a little monkey just chilling out in the trees! Had a pizza for tea and then enjoyed some more happy hour drinks…

Day 99
Another day, another beach. We like beaches after all the cities and pretty towns, much more relaxing. This time, it was on the island we were staying on so we just took a bus. Back to the chinese for dinner and then back to the hostel where we were entertained by the hostel owner who had overindulged in his own drinks offers. Then we finished his dinner for him…

Day 100
Did some shopping and time wasting because we had checked out of our hotel and we were taking the overnight bus back to Panama City. Had a delicious thai lunch and made some sarnies for the bus. Nothing exciting really…Bus arrived early in Panama City at 4am! Luckily we managed to find a bed so we could get some kip for a few hours which was nice.

Day 101
Shopping day. Had best pizza ever at the ‘Brazillian Panamanian’ restaurant. Mega. Hit the mall to get some goodies and tom won the shopping game purchasing numerous t shirts and some oversized skater boy shorts. Cool. Went to see Batman in the evening which was aaaaaaaaaace.

Sailing to Panama

Posted in Uncategorized on 06/08/2009 by mfcx4tm2

Day 90
Guess what, another early start ready to set sail. Met up with our team and took taxis at 6am to the port to meet captain Mark and Melody. Away by 7, we were all very excited about getting out in to the open sea. About 2 hours in to the sail we were lucky enough to be joined by a group of about 10 dolphins jumping up and down alongside the boat. A good start! Spent the day reading books, listening to Ipods and getting to know everyone. We seemed to be ok with the sea sickness but Julie the danish girl was really suffering! Mark had told us about a new discovery that listening to music extra loud balances out the vertigo so helps your body to cope better, tom had his in most of the time! Took turns overnight doing 1 hour shifts looking out for obstacles, the boat was on auto pilot so nobody had to steer which was a bit of a relief! Tom did the sunrise shift and was lucky enough to see some more dolphins knockin about for company. Mark was up bright and early the next day so I managed to avoid my Tasty shift…bonus. Still didn’t get much sleep though, being chucked around against the side of the boat.

Day 91
Another full day of sailing and little activity. We were behind time because of strong winds so didn’t arrive at the San Blas Islands till well after dark, by which point we were in bed.

Day 92
Ventured out of the boat in the morning and we were in paradise! We had anchored in the middle of about 4 little palm treed islands, all completely devoid of human inhabitants. Had some brekkie and then Mark took us off in his dinghy to one of the islands so we could have a little sunbathe and swim. Then went and did some snorkling. Saw loads of fishies and a MASSIVE spotted eagle ray. Pretty cool. Mark was out with his spear gun trying to catch us some munch! Went back to the boat and Captain made us some delicious fish tacos, which were pretty special. We were glad they were good as he had been telling us about them repeatedly since we met him. He loved them almost as much as he loved his ice store. For the rest of the afternoon Nice we just lazed around the boat soaking up the rays and beers.

Day 93
Was pissing it down when we woke up…devastating. We did make some good fried eggs though. Slapped Cool Runnings on the plasma TV and chilled out. Some people went snorkling again but the rest of us were feeling too lazy and didn’t think it would live up to yesterdays snorkling. In the evening there was a little get together with the other folk who had their boats anchored in the San Blas. Most of them were old leather skinned yanks but they brought nice food (including the best pudding ever) so we weren’t bothered. After dark went back to the boat and watched another film and then crawled in to our cubbie hole bed.

Day 94
Had to set off early as we had a long trip to Portobello in Panama, which is where we were saying our bye byes to Melody. On the way we went past more of the San Blas islands, all very nice. A couple of them just had one palm tree on and nothing else but white sand. En route to Portobello Mark caught a fish on the line at the back of the boat. He didn’t think it was anything special at first, but then when he reeled it in it was a big fat barracuda! Pretty savage, the boys took turns picking it up, I just took the snaps! We also bumped in to some Kuna people on the way, who live on the San Blas. We didn’t like them though because they wouldn’t let us take a picture even though we gave them loads of fruit from the boat. Arrived in Portobello in the evening and found a shabby little hotel and finally had a wash after 5 days. Ventured out for some food which was pretty disappointing after the boat food. Finally got our heads down for a nice long sleep on dry land.

Bogota ta ta to Cartagena ena ena

Posted in Uncategorized on 06/08/2009 by mfcx4tm2

Day 84
Because if all the delays we didn’t get into Bogota until about 5 in the eve. Went to El cafecito which was unfortunately renamed El Cafeshito in Colombia. Didn´t live up to the Ecuadorian standards and was in a bad spot and it was pretty dead. Had food and caught up on naps after all the travels ready to go somewhere better the next day

Day 85
Moved to Platypus, right in the middle of town and much better. Spent the day cruising Bogota, bit of shopping and tried to sort out the perennial cashflow issues. Tried to enjoy a film in the evening but turns out everything was in Spanish at the cinema. The nerve. After doing a couple of laps of the city ended up just going back and reading our books. Old school.

Day 86
Another day just knockin about the city and then hopped on a bus overnight to Cartagena on the North coast ready for some sun, sand and sail.

Day 87 Arrived late afternoon and it was hoying it down. Not as planned. Hadn’t eaten anything but a donut all day so went searching for a restaurant that was in Dirty the guidebook. After searching the city for about an hour we found out it died about a yeas and a half ago. Stupid guidebook. Ended up eating somewhere overpriced and rubbish. We´ll charge it to Lonely Planet. Also set the balls in motion for the sail by meeting a captain from the signs we´d seen on the notice board. Turns out all was good so we got ready to leave in 2 days.

Day 88
Met up with some of our fellow sailors to go and see the boat. Was pretty nice and we were happy with everything so handed over our passports and the required dollar. Did all our sightseeing around Cartagena in the afternoon, lots of pretty little streets and big old churches on nice plazas. Plenty of people trying to supply you with banned substances too… Had dinner and went for a few beers with our new best friends, couple of Brits, couple of Yanky doodles and a couple of Danish pastries.

Day 89
Got awoken by banging on the door as it turned out the alarm had failed and we were off to the mud volcano. This is Volcan Tutulmo, about 45 minutes outside of town which is filed with mud that you can go and bathe in and apparently makes your skin all nice and stuff. Was a very interesting experience, the mud was really buoyant so you could barely stay balanced. It was packed with people too so everytime you bobbed one way or the other you kicked a stranger in the chops with your muddy feet. After about 45 minutes in there we went and ashed off all the goodness in a nearby lake, munched on some mango and went back to the city. Did more wandering in the afternoon, tried to get into the fort which was closed so failed after trying to get the gurad to sneak us in. Then stocked up with beers and snacks and rum for the 5 day sail to Panama.

Puerto Lopez to Quito

Posted in Uncategorized on 06/08/2009 by mfcx4tm2

Day 81
After lots of hanging around we finally wandered down to the beach with our group and jumped on a little boat. After about and hour we were in and around the whale site and keeping an eagle eye. Almost straight away we found two humpback whales out to play. The males are around 12 metres long and the females 14 metres. Pretty massive. We got to see pretty much every stereotypical view of whales you can imagine, loads of jumping, swimming along with their fin out the water, slapping their fins. All this made for a good hours entertainment, with the whales sometimes as close as 10 metres from the boat. Maaad. Needless to say we were snapping away and took about 100 photos, which when we got back to shore and reviewed them became about 5! The wonder of the digital camera. Had a steady afternoon trying to calm our excitement, grabbed some pasta at a nice italian place we had found and then got the bus up to Quito overnight.

Day 82
Got to Quito early, found a hostel and then went to our old fave El cafecito for brekkie. Food lived up to the Cuenca Free Willy 2 standards. Spent the day perusing the city, went up to a couple of viewpoints, one which was very precarious at the top of the basilica towers. Had a curry for dinner which was ace, one food we´ve found hard to come by and hence missed the most. Then indulged in the 12 litres of free rum and coke that the hostel provided and chatted to some fellow ´travellers´, one of which had cycled down from alaska and was going all the way to Patagonia. Crazy. He wa actually a bit dull though, clearly needs a story to tell… After feeling like we´d made the most of the freebies we went down to a salsoteca down the road and hit the caipirinhas. Unfortunately it seemed we overindulged, so who knows if we enjoyed it or not? The answer is, i do, Claire does not. Stumbled home and tasted our curry again. Yum..

Day 83
Loved getting up at 6am to go and jump on a bus to Bogota, Colombia. Claire had a Mars bar and was all better. Sat on a bus all day and did little other tha cross the border. This proved more taxing than we´d hoped as the electricity had gone so we were waiting for about 4 hours. Just what you want with a sore head. Good opportunity for some locals to ask for their picture with us though. Celebs. Then back on the bus all night on our most epic journey yet.