Tag Archives: travel

That Is Not Rain That Is A Monkey – Jim’s Corner

Jim has so many travel stories. This is one of my favorite stories and I never get tired of hearing him tell it. That is not rain, buddy!

I’ll let him tell you the rest! – Lillian

That is not rain.
When it feels like rain, but isn’t.

 

“You should really go to Tikal, everyone in Guatemala goes to Tikal.” said the Australian guy.

I replied, “I know, I just don’t want the 15 hour bus ride on a bad road.”

“You can always ride on top of the bus; the view is better, you get fresh air, it smells better. You have to work though.” the Australian responded.

“Work?” I asked.

“Putting people’s stuff up there; baggage, packages, bundles of corn, pigs…”

“Pigs?” I interrupted.

“They usually crate them.” he answered.

“That’s good.”

The next day found me lugging my backpack to Tikal. You have to get  off in the town of Flores, spend the night and then get another bus to Tikal the next day. It takes a few hours on the bus to get there.

I arrived in Tikal in the evening, hungry and tired, to begin what would be a familiar routine, in the week I was there, at the only Comedor (small restaurant). It went something like this:

Me: ¿Tiene el pollo? (Do you have chicken?)

Cook: No hay.

Me: Huevos? (eggs?)

Cook: No hay.

Me: Arroz y frijoles? (rice and beans?)

Cook: Si hay.

I had been there a couple of days when I went to the top of the Jaguan Temple (the tallest temple) to watch the full moon rise over the jungle. With Howler monkeys and thousands of buzzing insects as the soundtrack, we watched the moon light up the main square of the city; an amazing sight!

It rained almost every day I was there, but if you were off the trail by mid afternoon, you usually stayed dry. I met a lot of travelers because there was only a couple of small, cheap hostels at Tikal. I  was with a couple from Sri Lanka and a Kiwi when we took a short detour to the ruins through the jungle.

“It’s raining a little early today,” I said.

“Raining; it’s not raining!” said one of my companions.

I looked up to see a Howler Monkey looking down at me. He almost looked like he was smiling.

“Ha, ha, ha!” they all laughed, “He peed on you!”

I think he just wanted to say hello – jungle style.

 

 

 

I Did The Inca Trail In 1987- Jim’s Corner

I Did The Inca Trail In 1987 - Jim's Corner

I did the Inca trail in 1987; I’m sure it’s changed since then but here’s my experience: I was traveling alone in South America so most people told me not to go on the trail alone. I heard various stories about how dangerous it was (the best one was how two German guys got robbed at knife-point by five or six “ladrones” who took all they had and left them in the freezing cold in their underwear).

I went shopping for the trail in Cuzco and happened upon two guys from Arizona who were shopping for the trail too. They heard all of the bad stories I had heard so they said I could join them (safety in numbers they said). They told me one of the guys wanted to do the trail as a bucket list kind of thing for his 40th birthday. I remember thinking “my God, he’s ancient!” Knowing me, at the age of 26, I probably said something really inappropriate like, “Are you sure you’re not too old for the trail?”

The first thing you have to do is buy a train ticket to the start of the trail (Km 21 I think). It’s the same train that goes to Machu Picchu so it’s pretty popular – buying a ticket three or four days in advance was recommended. I think I waited in line for a couple of hours. I also needed to rent a tent. I had everything else I needed in my backpack, like a stove and fuel (you could take stoves and fuel bottles on planes back then). We needed a permit too, but I think it was free or at least really cheap back then.

We loaded all of our own stuff (enough for five days). We didn’t go far the first day, but made up for it in the next three days. The trail was really hard because there weren’t a lot of switchbacks. It just went straight up! We got passed a lot by Porters – insane little descendants of the Incas who chained smoked, drank rot gut Pisco (like White Lightening), and chewed massive quantities of Coca leaf. They all seemed to be carrying dining room tables and chairs on their backs…barefoot! They made quite an impression.

The places where we camped out were amazing – mostly small Inca ruins like miniature versions of Machu Picchu without the crowds. One night we camped out in a cave. I’ve heard the Peruvian Government won’t let you camp out in the ruins anymore because of all the litter left behind by foreigners. The amount of blue, disposable gas bottles (canisters) from Sweden left behind was disgusting.

We ended up traveling with three guys and a girl from Australia so you know what that means: Lots of drinking! Usually our lunch breaks consisted of rice, beans, maybe an egg, along with three or four beers in a village or a locals house.

I think by the 2nd day on the trail the older guy in the group was baddly lagging behind. One of the tour groups had a doctor who said the guy was suffering from severe altitude sickness (I think we were at around 10,000 feet). The doctor gave him Coca leaf to chew (a local remedy for altitude sickness), but he refused, saying he wouldn’t do “cocaine.” He wanted us to go ahead, but we just rested (and went down a bit) and he was OK.

The last slog to Machu Picchu was pretty brutal, but we were almost there! It rained a little so the smooth stones that make up the whole trail (all done by the Incas) were slippery. There’s a rock portal that you pass under and then, there it is: Machu Picchu! Pretty amazing.

Side note: My room was rented to someone else when I got back and the whole town of Cuzco was booked out for an Eastern Festival. I was desperate (and tired) so I went to a high-end (for Peru) Hotel. It was full too, but the clerk was a former Inca Trail Porter. He said I looked beat and told me I could sleep in his cot in the back for free! He even cooked me an awesome breakfast in the morning. God bless you, Porter Guy!

Have you done the Inca Trail? If you have, tell me your Inca Trail story!

Fiji Kava Ceremony – Jim’s Corner

Welcome to the first edition of “Jim’s Corner” where Jim writes about travel, speech therapy, and being a dad. His posts will be published every Friday.

Fiji Kava Ceremony
Fiji Rainbow Reef

Some of the best things about traveling, besides the food, are the cultural aspects. If you stay long enough somewhere in Fiji like I did (a month I think), you’ll probably get invited by the locals to a Kava Ceremony.

In the U.S. the Kava-Kava is considered an herb that calms you during the day (Valerian is better if you want to sleep). In Fiji, Kava is sort of like an alcohol substitute to be drunk in a coconut cup with 20+ people in a long-house. It goes something like this: If you stay in a guest house or hostel in the same town (or a beach campground like I did) and aren’t too annoying a chief or other important person will invite you to attend. I went to several.

A lot of foreigners are a bit apprehensive of Kava ceremonies because Kava looks like dirty dish water and is drunk out of a communal cup. Someone will usually ask you if you are sick and then it’s courtesy to abstain. The cup is passed around by request for around a dime each time; you call out someone’s name or (or point), pay equivalent of a dime in Fiji money (I can’t remember what it is called), and then the person of your choice drinks up. It gets pretty loud in the long-house because Kava is a mild stimulant that makes people very social.

The best thing is there is no side effects (like hangovers) and you usually get used to the tangy taste.

Fiji: It’s an awesome place to visit!