Aaah the challenges of staying a stress-free tourleader…
-One faulty credit card
- One Travelex card with a $700 daily limit (fuck all)
- One big-ass truck needing fuel, repairs and maintenance
- Twenty people to feed and put up with accommodation
- Number of passengers to increase to 27 next week.
- 3500 kilometres / three weeks to shiny new working credit card.
Most countries in South America give you a three month visa upon entry. When you leave the country and then re-enter, a fresh three months are automatically issued, and this system is pretty much indefinite (as long as you hold a valid travel document with at least 6 months validity on it). Simple. Yet not in Ecuador. Ecuador issues you a one-off three month period each year. The way this works is that each time you leave and re-enter Ecuador, the total days of your stay are subtracted from the 90 days you initially had.
For example: if you enter the country and stay 21 days, then leave, the next time you enter Ecuador they will only grant you 69 days (90 - 21). Once 365 days have passed, a fresh three months are issued. These are not added to your days left (if any) though your days taken do accumulate (UNFAIR!). If you overstay even one day, you get banned from entering the country for a full year.
By now I have spent quite a bit of time in Ecuador, so the last time when crossing the border I made sure to ask the officials there to check how many days I had left, and what I should do if my days expired (because I wanted to spend my month off here, and I will be coming back at least twice with tours). They assured me I could just pop into any Ministerio de Relaciones Exteriores, either in Ecuador or overseas before my visa would expire, and they would give me however many extra days I would need there and then, without any hassle.
Right. I should have known something was fishy, nothing ever goes smoothly in Latin America - especially when government documents are involved.
I was having a great holiday, I mean really a holiday! A break from everything, including boozy benders. I was sooo relaxed, surrounded by great people and lovely animals right at a beautiful beach, lulled to sleep every night by the crashing waves, hardly any tourists there apart from the ones staying at the lodge, and I was staying there in exchange for a few hours’ work a day, so no costs, it was perfect! I went to the gym a couple of times a week and read a book, but that was about it activity-wise. A true holiday.
Until this Monday. Because Monday I decided to get THE VISA organised. I could do this in Manta, which is a relatively big city. I went in with my passport and my papers, really just to ask what they would want to see the next day when I intended to “walk in and out to get my extension stamp” (I can be so naive sometimes). And that is when it all changed…
At the Manta office we calculated that my visa will expire on 22 September (40 days from 14 August entry date, being this Sunday). I was told that first of all, I would need to provide two copies of my passport, two copies of my last entry stamp, a copy of my bank statement to show I have at least $900, a letter written by me in Spanish to explain why I needed the extension, and 2x $30. This was different to what I was told by the two Dutchies that were running the lodge where I was staying: they had to pay $230 each for their visas. But great, even better if it is less, right?
Except, that is when I was informed that I would have to leave my passport at their office. For at least four days. Until Friday, possibly until Monday. Ehr…. what??? Really? But that is impossible! I start a new tour from Quito on Saturday, and have to be in Quito on Friday to print/prepare stuff for this tour. I had planned to take a night bus on Thursday night for the journey to Quito so that I would get there Friday morning, but ok, I guess I could stay until Fri AM and pick it up first thing in the morning. But no, that was not an option either, because they can’t guarantee the passport will be back on Friday. OK, so can you send it off for me but put Quito’s office as a return address? No, the return address has to be Manta. Which is a 10 hour trip from Quito, in the opposite direction of our tour. Which, in other words, is not an option.
OK, Then I will just travel to Quito immediately and apply for it there, because I will be back in Quito on Monday as part of our tour. No, that was not an option either, because the Quito turn-around time is 8 working days, not 4 like in Manta. Are they doing this on purpose??? I eventually decided to travel to Cuenca. Cuenca is not my favorite place to be, but it is the place where I will come through with my group before leaving for Peru in two weeks’ time. This means that I can leave my passport there for the procedure for as long as they need, and then pick it up when I travel through at the end of September.
SO. I travelled for 8 hours to get to Cuenca, leaving my precious beach, lodge, cats and especially cuddly lovingly loved dogs behind at the Donkey Den Guest House. I got to Cuena around 21:00, and went to the immigration office first thing the following morning. **sigh**. After waiting in a queue for 2 hours I was told by a very polite young man that the people in Manta had lied to me; it is illegal to leave a passport with their offices and they probably just didn’t want to do the work. Also a few forms were missing that they hadn’t told me I would need (I had already prepared everything that they told me to have with me in Manta, including a wonderful passport sized photo I had taken this morning, I even wore make-up and hairspray for the occasion). He said I should have just gone to Quito from Manta as planned, because “you just walk in there and they have to do it on the spot, as long as you have all your forms with you.”
So in other words, I had just been told I had skipped a total of three days of my holidays at the perfect beach, and instead spent them travelling, paying for lodging, a flight from Cuenca to Quito, and hours of waiting around in offices - and all of that had been unnecessary. I tried very hard not to be pissed off, just before he told me that I had to go to the immigration police on the other side of town, to obtain a report of my entries and exits of Ecuador. “But it’s all in my passport, that’s what the stamps are for” I exclaimed. But no, I had to get this print-out, there was just no way they could email it to him following a phone call with my passport number. Oh, and do make sure to be back before 4 PM because that is when we close.
SO. I rushed by taxi to this office at 12.15, only to find a notice that the office was closed between 12 and 3. I was struggling hard not to break down in tears of frustration. Luckily I quickly encountered a delicious tiramisu and a fitting coffee with a dash of Bailey’s and after that the whole world was a happy place again.
I went back to the immigration police at 3 PM sharp where it took less than a minute to get the report. I rushed to the other end of town again to get back to the immigration office, in the hope (by then it was 15.40) I could still get my visa processed before they closed at 4 PM.
After explaining the entire story for the 4th time this really sympathetic girl did everything she could to process it before the office closed and stayed until 4.30 to get it done. She also told me that it was actually true that Manta and Quito keep your passport for several days, so every office does it differently! At the very least this meant I hadn’t travelled to Cuenca for Jack Shit which made me feel a wee bit better.
She then advised me that I could not get the $60 visa, the only way there might be a possibility was if I could provide an original letter from my boss, which was signed by him, outlining how many additional days I would need, when and why. But even then it is highly unlikely it will be approved for that visa, she said.
This was different again to the Manta office, who were ready to issue it to me had I had the four spare days to wait around! I told her that I could get my boss to write a letter and scan it after he signed it, but a scanned copy would not be acceptable; only a signed original copy. So again not an option as my boss is in Peru.
The next problem was the fact that my bank statement didn’t show my personal details (name etc), so it could be anyone’s bank statement. I showed her online but due to security reasons my online banking doesn’t show personala details anywhere so she wouldn’t accept the bank statement. We eventually remedied this by getting a print of my credit card statement which shows I have a $5000 limit, and which does show my details (you have to show evidence that you have at least $900 - whatever the hell that figure stands for, I couldn’t live on only $900 for six months even if I tried, unless perhaps in a mud hut in Ethiopia).
I finally had to fill out a new application form because the bottom of the one I had was a little bit crinkled. For F*ck’s sakes, really really really? I kept imagining there were people next door elbowing each other and doubled up with laughter, coming up with what else they could make me do before hitting breaking point!
Eventually, three days and many trips later, I got the visa (noooooo, another whole page of my passport full!) but was told I now needed to go to the Quito office to get the visa registered. So, the day after that, when in Quito, I waited another two hours in line, only to be told that no, this can only be registered at the same office that gave out the visa. Being Cuenca. So I still have to go and get this done next time I am there, but now at least I have the damn thing.
Next time: how to get a cat to serve breakfast, teach a baby to do a triple backflip salto, teach a dog to talk Russian and have a deep and meaningful conversation with an extreme left wing red neck American without getting angry- all in less time than obtaining a visa in Ecuador.
I arranged to volunteer for a week in The Donkey Den; a beach hotel in a suburb of Manta with self-contained apartments and suites. This turns out to be the loveliest place I have been in a long time; not just the beach on which it is located (by far the best beach I have seen in Ecuador), but also the hotel itself, the people in it, the lady that owns it and the rescue animals that live here that she has adopted (six dogs and ten cats). I have already extended my week ‘s stay until the day before I have to be back in Quito because I like it here so much.
The day I arrived I found that there were actually more volunteers than guests staying… It is really cozy here, it is a very relaxed and social place, everyone is really interesting and friendly and there are loads of Dutchies and Germans. There is even a German with a great sense of humour, I didn’t know these species exist until now! You learn something new every day.
I found this place through a Website called Helpx: I volunteered through them a bit last year as well, when I was still travelling around by myself. It is an excellent way to travel and keep costs low, meet local people and get to know a place in a very personal way, as a local rather than a tourist - especially when you end up staying somewhere for a longer period.
The Donkey Den is owned by Linda; a retired 69 year old widow who is an absolute dear. She has rescued several cats and dogs that all roam the hotel, she has as a prerequisite that guests that want to stay here must like animals or they are not welcome! The rooms don’t have numbers but are named after the dogs and cats (so you get something like: the Americans are staying in Bailey and Molly needs to be cleaned because they checked out today…). All the dogs are just so cute and well behaved, I want to take them all with me!
The beach is just beautiful, it has a constant surf, it is always windy here and a very popular spot for kite surfing. It is a bit out of the city so outside weekends it is really quiet, there are lots of foreigners that have bought a property here and/or own a hotel here. Falling asleep to the sound of the crashing waves is very therapeutic, as is sleeping with that sound in the background.
There’s a few houses, beach restaurants and bars, but apart from that there is nothing, just sand and sea. Let’s hope it stays this way in the years to come. I have seen several whales from the balcony, there are lots of hammocks and it is just lovely here. If you do get bored you can grab a dog or two and take them for a walk, lie on the beach, go for a swim or take kite surfing lessons if you really feel energetic.
I have already met some of the locals. There is this one Canadian couple who retired early and live here with their 24 year old son. Apparently all they do all day every day is get drunk and stoned together from early in the morning, the three of them. Every day. I don’t know, I meqan I know it can be fun every now and then to get on it during the day but every day, and with your kid, I find it rather sad.
The dad asked me yesterday until when I will be staying. “Until the 18th”, I replied. “Oh”, he said, after which he exclaimed: “so you are staying right up until the end of the month, that is great!” I looked at him in silent disbelief, and said: “no, until the 18th”. He said nothing, but kept looking at me with questioning - raised - non comprehend-eyebrows. I patiently explained how the 18th is not the end of the month, rather, that would be the 30th or 31st, or on VERY rare occasions it might be the 28th, but never earlier than that. He continued to stare at me with a vacuous, rather puzzled expression. I sighed and decided to leave it, he probably won’t get sarcasm either. So kids, let this be a lesson. Don’t do drugs, drugs are bad.
Well, my relaxing month off at the beach turned out a bit different than planned… I have been stumbling around with an open, sore big toe for the last 2.5 months, and recently it has become very badly infected. I have seen a doctor three times now and after scorching it and several cleaning sessions (during which I had to refrain from clawing myself to the ceiling or punching the doctor in the face) it still looks pretty bad and I am now on my second antibiotics course.
This means no beach (sand is bad), no bars (alcohol & antibiotics or stumbling around drunk is bad) no surfing lessons (beach is bad) and no salsa classes (people stepping on toe is exceptionally bad). To top it all off I got a bad case of the stomach flu - everything came out both ends Exorcist Styyyyle - and at times simultaneously.
So while I was sick and had nothing else to do I listened to music a lot, and noticed just how crap some lyrics actually are, clearly just written so that they will rhyme rather than because they make sense or express feelings, opinions or thoughts. And because I was bored I wrote some of them down - here’s a small sample of the collection.
Tiki Taane - Light years away.
Every night I look to the sky - I wish you were here to help dry my eyes.
I don’t know where to begin explaining how lame this text is. First of all, why would you want to dry your eyes? That would be really sore and uncomfortable. So sore and uncomfortable that they would start getting teary - thus exacerbating the situation of wet eyes. Second, how hard is it, if you really, really want to dry your eyes, to just grab a dry cloth and rub them dry? Or more effective would be rubbing salt in them, everyone knows that salt extracts moist. So does pure alcohol. Or try putting chunks of rice in them overnight- you could be experimental and insert sushi the way people insert contact lenses. It can’t be hard, you don’t need anyone to help you do it - especially someone who’s dead - unless you are just looking for attention. Yeah, Tiki. Not such a tough guy after all.
Anouk - Lost
This music’s irresistible, your voice makes my skin crawl.
That’s nice, it’s like saying:
"I think your hair looks nice, but your breath’s an unwelcome surprise" or: "you’re the nicest person I’ve met, it’s a shame that you’re so fat".
Madonna - I love New York
I don’t like cities but I like New York. Other places make me feel like a dork.
-Sigh- … REALLY? Did you get inspired by Rebecca Black's ingeniousness in your lyric writing? So when not in New York (but at posh parties, on stage, on tv, in world cities, on your yacht, with your celebrity friends, etc) you feel like an ugly overweight ginger teenager with braces, big glasses, big teeth, zits and you suddenly excel at maths. How about: I'm vegetarian, so I don't eat pork. That still sounds lame but at least it rings true. Or: When eating soup, you'd best not use a fork. Or: some wines are screw top, but I prefer cork. Or, to fit in nicely with the context of the song: I'd settle for Reykjavik, but I don't like Bjork. Yeah. Much better.
A whole month off in Ecuador, free to do whatever I feel like! For my first days off I returned from Quito to Baños to stay with Sue and Marc. They are a lovely ex-Tucan tourleader & driver couple who own a campsite/hostel near Baños, in Rio Verde. Their place is just stunning, I got to stay in the “crew house” which is located in the forest on a riverbank and staying there is just awesome. You wake up to seeing all these different coloured birds frolicking in the trees through the massive windows next to the bed, the sound of the river running below and the smell of the flowers and the trees all around you.
Will (the driver I worked with for several months) and Colin (a driver from a similar ENEMY company called Oasis) were also staying there so it was nice to have some familiar faces to spend time with. We knew Colin from a few months ago, when we were parallel running a similar tour up until Lima. He broke his finger when punching a Peruvian driver that got too friendly with one of his passengers (that’s when he found out he doesn’t know how to punch) so he is recuperating for a few weeks until his finger is better.
Most of the days in Baños were spent around the kitchen table, everyone taking turns at cooking dinner, talking shit and having a few drinks. The nicest part of visiting here (for us) is the feeling of having a real home every now and then, very welcoming when you are always travelling! Touristy as it may be, Baños is a splendid little town to spend some time, it is green, mountainous, has several rivers with activities such as white water rafting, kayaking and canyoning, and there are over 60 waterfalls to gaze at in the area. There is also an active volcano at the side of the town, there are several hot thermal pools and heaps of massage and beauty salons for a bit of pampering for little money. A real good place to get into the holiday feeling!
On Wednesday I left to go to Montañita; a small funky surfie type of town. It is a bit similar to Mancora in Peru, except it is so much cosier, friendlier, prettier and nicer. It is a tiny tiny little town (population 1000) but it booms with tourism and there are travellers all over the place. Every single person there is smiling and laughing the entire time, but that might have something to do with the fact that pretty much everyone there is stoned :D
I had arranged to hook up with Hillary: an ex-passenger from my previous tour who has a few weeks to spare. We stayed at a really cool hostel on top of a hill: run and built from scratch by a very staunch Dutch chick. She also thinks Holland is a “kutland” (shit country) to live in and three years ago she traded her houseboat for a piece of land on top of a hill in Montañita, Ecuador. She built it all herself and is still building it, and everything in it. She was telling me how she started off by getting people that booked to pay half the price up front with their credit card so that she could quickly buy some mattresses and build some beds for them to sleep in before they arrived!
Hostel Punto Verde
View from the hostel
Almost everything there is hand made, the lamps are made from cement bags (and they look really cool), the shelves are planks tied together with rope, everything is made out of wood and cheap building materials but looks so great, and she does it all herself! There is a compost toilet for number twos which takes a bit of getting used to (the idea of whose sweaty ballsack sat on the hole before you can be a bit off-putting) and a daily breakfast is included and changes every day. At night there is the option to eat with her for a small fee, and the food is great! She works with volunteers via Workaway and Helpx; two organisations I use myself when I travel to keep costs down (the idea behind this is you work for a few hours a day in exchange for a place to stay and often food). If you ever head this way I really would recommend staying at this hostel, it is not in the center of the town but it is only a 10 minute walk from there and is a great place to chill out.
We met some awesome people at the hostel and spent a few relaxing days in Montañita before heading off to Puerto Lopez. As exotic as this town may sound, it is actually nothing more than a dusty run down little beach town. The main reason people come here is to visit the Isla de la Plata, to watch whales in the season they come here to mate (which is now) and to visit the National Park (part of which the Isla de la Plata).
The normal cost of a tour to the island is $40 but we managed to haggle it down to $35, and we got an excellent day out for that, great value for $$!
We saw so many whales, it almost became boring (just kidding) and at one stage we were within ten meters of this pod of five adults and a baby calf. The whales come here each year to give birth, and this is the final month to see them before they move on again.
It was an extraordinary, humbling, fantastic experience to see these magnificent enormous creatures from so close by, and they were just as curious about us as we were about them. Absolutely fantastic, and there were so many of them! In the distance we kept seeing more on the horizon.
After the whale watching we proceeded to the Isla de la Plata where you can watch birdlife, birdlife and lots of birdlife as well as birdlife. And birdlife.
The island is a national park, meaning the birds have absolutely no fear of humans because they are so used to them walking around there without harrassing them.
We saw lots of bluefooted boobies (this really is their name, it reminds me of the double breasted pink mattress slapper) which are so endearingly clumsy, they just walk around with their out of proportion big feet, and just sit and stare at you from top to toe as you pass by. They are so cheeky and cute, I REALLY WANT ONE!
The females make an entirely different noise than the males, and their pupils are dilated to the extent you’d think they’ve been taking XTC. Also the males have their tail sticking up so all in all it is quite easy to spot the males from the females.
We also saw a lot of Frigatas; they are very bizarre birds that puff up their red chin like a balloon to impress the ladies.
After the walk and being fed lunch we were taken snorkelling along the coral reefs that grow on the other side of the island. There were tonnes of tropical fish as well as giant turtles, it was really cool (though I admit I didn’t snorkel, it was too cold and I have been spoilt with Australia’s Great Barrier Reef).
It was a great day, time to go for a refreshment after all that excitement, I say…
Anonymous asked: Hey Nienkie , nee ik heb geen vraag maar t zijn mooie fotos , en ik vind t mooi dat je geniet xxx Johnny
Anonymous asked: do you like purple or do you not know how to change the background color?
I love purple, it is my favorite colour along with green. However, I don’t like red and white, especially when in the shape of some sort of a cross.
After already having worked for Tucan Travel for six months I have now got a whole month off before starting a new trip. There’s some big changes coming up for me, one being a very exciting one, though it will be challenging at times, I am sure!
I applied (and was accepted) to run the biggest tour that our company has to offer in South America: the mother of them all, the BIG circuit, the great loop of the Southern continent of the Americas.
Covering Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, Chile, Argentina, Paraguay, Brazil, Venezuela and Colombia, this is going to be a six month overland journey taking in pretty much all the excitement South America has to offer. From the lush green jungles past the mystical Inca ruins, taking in the sheer rugged beauty of Patagonia down south, descending all the way down to fire spitting Tierra Del Fuego close to the Arctic region.
After that it is back up again via Buenos Aires, past the amazing Iguazu Falls, stopping at the Rio de Janeiro carnival - the biggest party on earth.
And this is where it really starts getting interesting for me! Virgin lands await me as I have not seen a great deal of this part of the world yet, and what I have seen I absolutely LOVED. From the carnival we make our way up the Brazilian coast, take a five day boat ride along the Amazon river and go through Venezuela, enabling me to see the world’s highest waterfalls before heading off to my (so far) favorite country of all times: Colombia. From Colombia we will eventually end up back in Ecuador by when it will be mid-May. WOW! It’s quite a trip, which is quite a trip! I am really looking forward to it although I am sure it will be hard at times. These are no Budget Expedition tours which is the type of tours I was running up until now. These are tours with lots of grown ups with high standards and expectations. Not just youngsters that only want to get drunk. I think this will be a huge learning curve for me and there are so many things to look forward to! I have also been booked onto the Inca Trail this time, which I haven’t done yet so that’s another cherry on the cake (though we’ll see how I feel on the second day of this four day hike)…
All of this is still a few months down the track though, before the start of The Big Fuck Off Journey I will be doing a “short” two month trip from Quito to Rio de Janeiro, accompanying a group of passengers using public transport. A breeze compared to working on the overland trucks: no shopping, no cooking, no cleaning, no schedules to arrange, no tents to set up. But first things first: a holiday!
As I am writing this I am on the Ecuadorian coast in the cozy little touristy town of Montañita (pop 1000). I have until the 20th of September to explore country and coast, and I love Ecuador so I will make the most of my time here. There is so much green, so much nature, so much wild life, it is a fantastic place to be and I will definitely keep you up to date with my adventures over the next few weeks.
Until then, saludos y salud, it is time to have a drink - these are my holidays, after all ;)
Anonymous asked: anyting?
Only anything. Not anyting. Because that is just so rude and stupid, you must be Swiss
After 1.5 years of very little exercise and the last six months or so of sitting a lot and eating & drinking too much I convinced myself it was time to get healthy and active again.
Swimming is not always available, outdoor running is not an option due to dodgy knee and self taught zumba can only be done in spacious hotel rooms - with absolutely nobody around - (and only after having thoroughly checked every corner for secret cameras). What to do, what to do… the most obvious option was to start going back to the gym regularly - which can be a bit of a challenge when you are in a different place every few days.
This gym thing has become quite the experience, so much so that I thought it worth writing a blog about it - my encounters so far with the jungle of gyms in South America.
At a height of 4090 meters (13,420 feet) above sea level this probably was not the best place to get started. Not only is it a lot harder to exercise at such altitude, I was also suffering from severe altitude sickness to begin with. But, because stubborn old me had the idea planted in the head to get started that day, this was going to happen no matter what.
I went together with Daizy (a girl from my tour) after being explained how to get to the gym building. There was a sign outside and it took us a lot of asking backwards and forwards to find where exactly in the building the gym was located. After paying a cooking woman in a hallway 3 bolivianos (under U$ 0.50) we were allowed in. The “gym” was a practically empty space with two treadmills, some steps trays and a few hand weights as well as a few strange machines we weren’t sure what they were used for.
I started doing some exercises but soon started throwing up all over the place. I tried to persist for half an hour but the vomiting didn’t stop, the headache got unbearable and in the end I had to give up. So in a nutshell: not a good start!
La Paz was a lot better, it is 4058 above sea level which is still pretty high but I wasn’t sick anymore and the gym was very flash. It was also very expensive in comparison; instead of 3 bolivianos I had to pay 50, but then this was a proper gym.
Next up was the Peruvian city of Puno: a bit lower again at 3830 meters this was the strangest experience by far. I got to a gym, paid the entrance fee (3 soles = just over a dollar) and started straight for the treadmills which were situated in a separate little room. In that little room there was a grumpy old guy, and he shouted at me that I was not allowed in there. I said that I just wanted to use the treadmill, but he said that was not allowed unless I paid more money. So, I went back down and had to pay an additional 4 soles in order to use the electrical appliances! Scrooge then very reluctantly let me into the little room.
This was not all. Once I got the machine plugged in, the guy started pacing up and down behind me, constantly keeping his eye on me like some desperate hyena waiting for leftovers. I tried hard to ignore it but it was impossible: it was dark outside and the bright lights inside had turned the windows into a mirror. I gave him a few very filthy looks but he didn’t let up. It made me very uneasy and uncomfortable but I kept going, stuff him. After about ten minutes he tapped me on the shoulder to ask whether my heart rate was okay. Sigh…Well, it was before you asked me this stupid question! JUST LEAVE ME ALONE TO ZONE OUT WHEN I AM RUNNING!!!
After more pacing up and down and staring he finally told me that I had to stop because it had been half an hour so I had to leave the room. I tried another gym a few days later which was 10 soles but you could run on the treadmill as long as you liked and nobody paced or stared or bothered you. I know where I’ll be going back to next time.
I had my expectations set high for Cuzco but that was not so great either. The first gym I went to did not have any cardio machines. The lady told me they were all broken and unable to get fixed although my guess is that they just don’t want to plug anything in because it costs electricity.
I tried another one upon recommendation of my boss but that one was even worse. It had no working treadmill either (this lady swore the next week it would be sent off to get fixed) and it was full of pictures everywhere of ridiculously pumped up muscly guys and gals. You know, the types that do competitions where they are all covered in gold paint, the girls have no tits and the guys have so much muscle bulk that it looks like they are covered in hideous tumors. One picture was of a girl with pink lipstick and stubble on her face - are they for real???? Keep training and one day you may look like this??? BRING ME CREAM PIES, PIZZAS AND LOTS OF DEEP FRIED FOOD IMMEDIATELY!!!
I tried another gym and I did some yoga as well while in Cuzco. I am still a bit disabled from the yoga session, I thought it was supposed to be easy and good for you!
The best experience I had was yesterday in AREQUIPA.
I searched the Net for a good gym and took a taxi to get there because they weren’t answering their phone. When I got in, the receptionist told me that they don’t do daily passes, you can only buy a three monthly membership. I put on the puppy eyes and said I had been searching eeeeverywhere and came from soooo far away. She said there was no way to charge me for just one day.
Luckily one of the trainers overheard this and said that she could let me in on a trial pass and pretend that I was about to buy a three monthly pass (even though they knew I would not). She agreed and I tell you this is the very best gym I have ever set foot in! Super modern, every machine was flash and the treadmill I was on was just about short on making coffee and ice cream, it did everything else, it was awesome! I didn’t want to get off it and the only reason I did was because I was eventually about to start running on my tongue.
The same trainer that snuck me in gave me a lot of tips and exercises to do, so in the end I got the best gym for free, including a free personal training session! How about that!
One thing that really stands out here in comparison to western gyms is that people blatantly stare at you and have no intention of hiding this. A lot of the gyms I have been to have a very macho culture with few or no women in them (apart from the classes).
As soon as you start doing your bit some of the guys drop whatever they are doing and just sit and stare at you. I just pretend I don’t notice and think: I will most probably not see you again ever, so I don’t care! Or what I have also done a few times is just go into the group exercise rooms if they are empty and drag the weights and things I want to use in there.
You also see a lot of posters of semi-naked girls in compromising positions on the walls, that form of sexism is still very acceptable in this part of the world (not just in the gyms, you also see it in restaurants, shops, offices, gas stations, probably in kindergartens as well). I never had a problem with it but it could be intimidating to some.
So far I am already three weeks into it, have been going pretty much every second day and I am starting to feel the benefits! Who would have thought, eh? We’ll see how long this lasts… if I start noticing a stubble, it’s back to doing nothing, that’s for sure.