Archive for March, 2012


**I read and wrote this review when I was living in Sydney in late 2008**
Funny enough, the day after I finished this book I was watching the morning news and Charley Boorman, who is a co-author of this book, was on his own adventure of traveling from Scotland to Australia by ground only, was finishing his latest adventure in Sydney that day! How funny is that? Unfortunately, I didn’t get to hunt him down. Oh well, next time.

Anyway, this book is a sequel to another book that he and Ewan wrote a few years back except this one took them from the tippy-top of Scotland down to the bottom of S. Africa on motorcycles. These books are good things. They do good as they travel and bring awareness to causes that normally don’t get any coverage. Probably the only thing I have to complain about is the amount of stuff they carry when they travel. Since they are celebrities when they travel, they have like whole support crews, where if something goes wrong, someone is there to fix it. They would write about people who they met on the road, now they are real travelers. They are traveling like them, minus the road crew. They talk about things that could go wrong, but with the amount of people traveling with them, really what can? And of course, nothing does.

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Used: 2011

I love traveling because I get to see and experience things I would never see at home. Off the coast in Puno, on Lake Titicaca (hehe, remember laughing at that name when you were a kid, but you had no idea where it was? I can’t believe I have been there now!) the locals escaped the Spaniards like a million years ago (hey, you didn’t come here for a history lesson. That is what Wikipedia is for) and created their own “islands” and live on the lake, on floating reed islands! Unfortunately now, most live back on the mainland and travel to the islands daily to put on a “show” for the tourists. Despite the floating reed islands being super touristy, they were still really really cool. The reeds were really plush to step on, though I don’t know if I could sleep on them. The whole thing is super nuts.

Taking a boat out to the floating islands, Lake Titicaca, Peru

Taking a boat out to the floating islands, Lake Titicaca, Peru

Floating Islands, Lake Titicaca, Peru

Floating Islands, Lake Titicaca, Peru

Floating Islands, Lake Titicaca, Peru

Floating Islands, Lake Titicaca, Peru

The tourists take motorized boats on the lake and they move so slow. Each ride took like 2-3 hours, even though the islands look a lot closer then they are. After the floating islands, we took a 2.5 hour ride to Taquile Island, which is the 3rd biggest island on the lake. The biggest island is technically in Bolivia, so I didn’t go. Taquile has a decent size population. We hiked up a very long hill to the “town square” and the guide explained facts about the island and people. We had a meh lunch. Typical high elevation food, but I was so not hungry and the food just kept coming! I was so used to just eating very small meals, that anything larger then one course was always too much for me. Oh well. While we waited for our food, the guide explained the clothing that the guys and gals wore on the island. On Lake Titicaca, the guys are weavers and create their hats and belts and they all mean something, of which I can’t remember what. Typical stuff, married, single, looking, etc. There was lots of tourist stuff to buy in the town square and the views of the lake were pretty amazing! Then it was back on the boat for another 2 hour trip to Amatani island, which is the 2nd biggest island on the lake, and were everyone does their homestay.

Taquile Island, Lake Titicaca, Peru

Taquile Island, Lake Titicaca, Peru

Taquile Island, Lake Titicaca, Peru

Taquile Island, Lake Titicaca, Peru

The home-stay on Amantani is quite touristy. They have the whole evening mapped out for everyone. After a pretty decent hike up to your homestay (with all your stuff, so pack LIGHT! It’s only one night with no shower, there is no excuses), I spent the afternoon watching the locals play some of the other tourists in a game of soccer. Then my guide lead me on a hike up to Pachamama, one of the two hills on the island to watch the sunset. It was quite a hike, but well worth it at the top. All along the route and at the top, there are people selling stuff and kids trying to get everyone to buy their crap, but I just shoo’d them away every time. If you feel bad for shooing people away, this is not the place for you. Thankfully, I don’t mind, so it wasn’t that annoying for me. The sunset was fantastic, much better then I thought it would be! Also, this is apparently were all the Australians are hiding out! There wasn’t a single one on my Inca Trail tour, which the British couple and I commented was odd, as they are known for being every where! I wish I had brought my flashlight as it got quite dark when we were walking back down the mountain to the homestay. Dinner was in an hour and I was pooped and cold, so I crawled into bed and took a nap until then. My room was super cute. I had the room to myself. It had a bed with tons of blankets and a table and chair. Not expected, but it had electricity, which I was surprised with. They only had an outhouse, which was a bit of a shlep and BRING YOUR OWN TOILET PAPER! I can not say that enough.

My bed at the home stay on Amantani Island, Lake Titicaca, Peru

My bed at the home stay on Amantani Island, Lake Titicaca, Peru

When we arrived at the homestay earlier, I was given a cheat sheet on Quechua words. Since my guide was fluent in Quechua, Spanish and English but I arrived at dinner before him, it was slightly uncomfortable, but not too bad. The home stays are totally used to people and know about our cheat sheets, so they know what questions to ask. The one thing that kind of shocked me the most was that when they (or anyone actually) would ask me where I am from and I would say “United States” in English, they would give me a quizzical expression, they had no idea what I just said. It wasn’t until I would say it in Spanish (thanks growing up in Los Angeles!!) that they would understand me. I don’t know, I thought that was kind of odd. But that could be the selfishness talking. Otherwise, since they know what to ask me, I thought I did pretty good until the guide arrived in figuring out what they were asking me. Dinner was large and pretty good. I don’t know, as these high altitudes, I can’t eat very much in one sitting and all the portions are HUGE! I ate soup, some potato and a little rice and veg.

Football game! Amantani Island, Lake Titicaca, Peru

Football game! Amantani Island, Lake Titicaca, Peru

After dinner, the women of the house came and dressed me in traditional Quechuan garb over my every day clothes for the dancing that all the tourist and home stay locals go to in the village hall, which sort of reminded me of a high school gym. The guys get to just wear ponchos, but the girls, we are decked out in heavy skirts and tops and scarves, to keep warm because it’s so cold. It’s very funny and I started chatting with another tourist in the hall who said something along the lines of “this is their way of making fun of us” which is probably true, but I didn’t care. The whole thing was so freakin’ touristy, which is something I kind of blah at, but here for some reason, I didn’t mind. I know this is how most of the island make money during the winter months. I am not much of a dancer, but it was fun, everyone dancing in huge circles. Reminded me a lot of dancing we do at Jewish weddings and B’ Mitzvahs. Dancing descends all cultures! Also, dancing keeps you warm as it was totally freezing, even with like 10 layers on. Tip: Bring some change to tip the band, which I forgot and felt really bad about because they were really good. After that long day, we came back to the home stay and I had one of the best sleeps I had in a while. It was pitch black and kind of cold, but the blankets do a really good job keeping you warm.

Amantani Island, Lake Titicaca, Peru

Amantani Island, Lake Titicaca, Peru

Sunset from Pachamama, Amantani Island, Lake Titicaca, Peru

Sunset from Pachamama, Amantani Island, Lake Titicaca, Peru

Amazing sky at sunset from Pachamama, Amantani Island, Lake Titicaca, Peru

Amazing sky at sunset from Pachamama, Amantani Island, Lake Titicaca, Peru

The next day, I got up for breakfast, which was smaller this time. Just one pancake and tea, which is perfect for me. Then it was time to kayak! Thinking back to the day before, thinking how long it took to get from on island to another, just on the motorized boat, I couldn’t imagine how long it took to kayak from one point to another! It took a little over two hours to kayak from Amantani Island to the Llachalan peninsula, which is technically part of the mainland. The trip was very nice and peaceful and it was fun to be that close to the water and play chicken with the boats on the lake. Paddling kept me very warm! Once we got to the Llachalan peninsula, we took a motorized boat back to Puno. After all that paddling, I was pooped and all I wanted to do was go back to the hotel, take a shower and rest for the rest of the day. I was also burning out from Peru at this point.

Kayaking on Lake Titicaca, Peru

Kayaking on Lake Titicaca, Peru

Moral: The home stay was a highlight of my trip, something I knew I wanted to do, but I didn’t realize I would like it that much. It was just the right amount of home interaction with time to myself. The layout and décor of the room also helped a lot. It was a lot better then I thought it would be. I liked mixing my travels up and I think doing the Inca Hike and kayaking on Lake Titicaca were two good activities. People raved about Colca Canyon, but more long term hiking? No thanks. I think I chose well.

This book was super cute! Like 40 years ago, a couple from New Zealand got married and then did their OE in the UK. But instead of just taking a shit home, they bought a Bug and drove it home. And this book was about recreating that, as old people, in the same car! It was definitely an interesting read, but probably my least favourite thing about it was the Dude’s need for media attention regarding it. It was like, they were driving through some pretty rough countries and having the media attention on them was both good and bad. The Girl definitely had a better outlook on it, but unfortunately, it was the Dude who did all the talking. I liked how they inter-spliced it with memories of the olden days. Good read for travelers, especially since they were ending in Australia, even though they were from New Zealand. Plus throw in the UK, and I have been to all those places! (Except everywhere in-between, almost).

Okay, so *technically* I am not a backpacker. I don’t sleep in dorm rooms if I can help it. I don’t include alcohol in my daily meals or consider drinking late into the night with strangers fun. Heck, I don’t even travel with all my stuff in a “backpack”. When I left on my overseas adventure, I packed all my stuff into a huge duffel and a smaller duffel and used my beat up old Jansport backpack for carry on and day use (though I did pack a smaller purse for work and stuff). I do travel with a backpack, it’s just not used how most people use theirs.

My backpack, pockets and all

My Jansport has been with me forever. I remember exactly when I got it. Costco. New Jersey. August. 2001. My sister, mom and I were back east over the summer for a wedding when my backpack broke. My aunt, who lives in this HUGE house had never been to Costco before. My mom has a card, so we went, just so I could get a backpack. I didn’t love the bag. In fact, I sort of kind of hated it. It was nothing special with a vinyl bottom (I wanted leather) and had about 600 pockets. It was $20. I assumed I would get it, use it for the rest of the trip and maybe the school year and it would break and I would finally get the one I really wanted.

11 years later, I am still using the same bag. I sort of forgot my hate for it after a while. I used it for school and all my trips. It’s my go-to carry-on bag. All those pockets turned out to be a godsend. If a bottle of water spills in one pocket, the rest of the stuff in the other pockets are saved. There are so many pockets and it’s so deep, it’s easy to hide money and passports in there, especially when it’s packed full. No one is going to waste their time digging threw my mess to get to my stuff. There is so much room in it that I managed to jam a weekends worth of clothes in it when I went to Chicago last year and didn’t want to pay for carry on on Spirit. It fit comfortably under my seat.

All the tags from the travels. I try not to take them off, if I can help it! I love them all!

Looking back, I can’t believe it’s lasted this long. The zippers are still in fine working order and there are no holes, but the insides are starting to fray and jam up the zippers sometimes, but so far I have always managed to pull everything loose. I love all the pockets and secret places inside. And I love that I bought it at Costco in New Jersey, on my travels. This bag has lasted the longest I have ever, even after constant use. Here’s to another 11 years with the best backpack ever.

Moral: I was inspired to write this piece after all the backpack posts over at Her Packing List. Since I don’t travel with a traditional backpack, I thought I would write about my pack that is near and dear to my heart here. Do you have a bag that means that much to you?

I love this author, so of course, I had to pick this title up. It was about a British guy who drove across the US by not using anything that had to do with chains and big corps when it came to his car, gas, eating and lodging to see if he could do it. It was a really interesting read and funny too. Prob. the only downside of this story was that he had a deal with some production company, so essentially, they owned the rights to the trip, which I thought defeated the whole purpose. Plus, since they were financing the project, he had nearly unlimited time and money to dick around with, which is why chains exist in the first place, to make things cheap for the rest of us! As with all books, about 2/3 of the way through there was some drama, that was kind of lame and of course everything worked out. All these types of books run the same pattern. A good travel read.

Like back during the summer of 2003, I bought so many books in the UK, I bought nearly all of Tony Hawks books except for some reason this one. So of course, when I saw it in the massive book pile in the hotel lobby, I had to pick it up. Once again, another lame bet ensues. I think the reason I didn’t pick this one up is because right there in the title it has two things I don’t care about. Moldovans and Tennis. I am glad I let this one sit for a few years as I was getting a little tired of nearly the same story that Tony always writes about. They are entertaining, but when you get down to it, they are the same thing over and over again.

ANYWAY. Does he win the bet? I think so. It was an interesting read about Eastern Europe from yesterdayyear and you kind of wonder how and if things have changed since then. As always, a fun and entertaining read.

**I read and wrote this review when I was living in Australia in late 2008, early 2009**
Another one of the free books from the awesome pile! I have been wanting to read this book since I heard about it. I mean, look at the title! It’s perfect! This book was an okay read. I makes you think twice about “The Bible” as Lonely Planet is known on the road. Which is why I don’t read it. Anyway, this guy is American, but is interested in S. America, so he wrote a LAS guide which Lonely Planet published when he was in college, so when it came time to update the Brazil (cause they speak LAS there, NOT!) book, they asked if he would do it. And because it’s everyones dream to travel write, he chucked it all in and went off to update.

Very different then what he expected. Lots of books are full of bullshit, which he learned and he pretty much ended up drinking and fucking his way around S. America on LP’s dime. Not what I really want from my writers. Just another reason to NOT use LP (though I am sure RG isn’t much better) Some parts were funny about when some girl yelled at him because a restaurant that she and a friend were going to meet up at no longer existed. Which is why I never use books for food reccs. And what else…..it was pretty funny. Makes you hate LP in the end, which was a good read for me because while I think they do okay work, I hate that like everyone uses them and think they are the end all and be all of travel books. And because of that, their quality has gone down and their books are kind of a pain in the butt now. Sort of like the backpackers trail on the E. Coast of Australia! But that is another book for another time.