Old Bird Diaries

ME LOVE CHAN CHAN.

Or Trujillo my new love.

ALERT: PUTTING THIS OUT ON A HIDEOUS BUS TRIP IN GUATEMALA SO THERE MIGHT BE MANY MISTAKES!

At last I feel at home in Peru. I arrived from Cusco yesterday and now I am really happy. It’s so much more me.

You can f***ing breathe for a start which is good in my books and you don’t feel hemmed in by those dang mountains.

Typical reed boats at the beach mount those Pacific waves easily.
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SOLO TRAVELLERS GUIDE TO POOEY POOT.

OR HOW NOT TO SCREAM AND CRY AT AN AIRPORT TWO MINUTES BEFORE BOARDING.

ALERT: This is a vital page. As I’ve been traveling in South America I’ve been stung twice now at the gate two minutes before boarding. I’m quick enough to book ongoing flights (screaming ” well give me WiFi so can book an outward journey then.!!!) and still board my flight but it’s wasted me a huge amount of money. The casual wandering is no longer to be.

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A QUICKY

OR WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT CARTAGENA!

TOP TIP: Don’t come here it’s vile. I loved the rest of Colombia and have moved into the Old Town now but Boca Grande is shit and not for the solo traveller. Let’s hope I’ll be happier here…. It’s pissing down too. I’m feeling really low and so I thought I’d tell you you can get like this don’t be scared. I’ll be watching Netflix later and listening to audiobooks, it usually disperses the blues that can come out of nowhere and really freak you out. Deep breath and wait for it to stop raining and hit the museums…… or just wait for my bloody room and Netflix it!!!

OVER AND BLOODY OUT!!

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ON THE WAY TO TRUJILLO.

Or, at last I find peace in Peru and Cool Dudes!

ALERT: WordPress playing up so this is lacking some captions and coherence! Bear with me on this it’s very frustrating and taking me ages to do ANYTHING!

I liked Cusco well enough but it was a tourist trap par excellence. It begged, bullied, cajoled and ripped you off. Soul shrivels in these vital transit points, just look at Aguascalientes!

Pink Art Deco is good!
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INCAS AREN’T SCARED OF HEIGHTS.

OR YES, BUT OLD BIRDS ARE, THEY CAN’T FLY!

OR THE END OF THE INCAS (HOORAY?!)

ALERT:Off to pastures new now. Looking back further in history to what I think are the more interesting predecessors on the lowlands by the sea. I’m going to Trujillo because most people don’t! I will look at the periods from 1200 B.C. to 1470 A.D. when the Inca interfered again. This means the Moche and Chimu and the mysterious Lady of Cao. See you there.

Back in Cusco after the mad train journey, I slept like a baby only to be kicked out of the pretentious hilltop hotel as they had accepted a large group swearing blind I hadn’t confirmed my extended booking. I moved down the street a bit to a new hotel absolutely furious but then settled in to a day of laundry and catching up with el bloggo!

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AT LAST! MACHU PICCHU!

OR I DID IT SOLO DESPITE THE ODDS! BRAVO TO ME!!

Hard work and persistence despite not walking the famous Inca trail. I had booked bus tickets to go up the final ascent, you can walk but it takes about two hours and do you really want to exhaust yourself by doing that before you even enter the site? Not on your Nelly! (ooh Nelly Dean my local, I want a beer now!)

The great Machu Picchu
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PISCO SOURS IN CUSCO.

OR ALTITUDE SICKNESS AND NARROW STREETS.

Grab hold of a Pisco sour and let Cusco entrance you, add a tasty ceviche and you’re good to go on your first day! This place is full of excellent restaurants and bars to get your teeth into without getting on the phrenetic tourist trail. you’ll have plenty of time for that later! Enjoy and welcome to Cusco.

A waiter preparing me the Pisco house special.
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LIMA DISAPPOINTS.

OR HOW PERU DEMANDS YOU SHOW YOU’LL LEAVE BEFORE YOU ARRIVE!

Shurely not!!

The flight with VivaAir had been cheap and was direct from Medellin but here ended the benefits. A whopping 50 quid was added to my bill for my case and the vile young man with braces and spots simpered about that, then relished telling me that I couldn’t enter Peru without an outbound ticket to another country. The weak WiFi in the airport threatened to make me miss the flight as I desperately tried to book a flight on a random date to bloody Bolivia. I was trying on both my iPad and my phone to see which would be the fastest picking up a signal. Spotty boy smirking made me determined and I managed to book my passage to La Paz AND pay my excess baggage with minutes to spare.

MEDELLIN, MUSEUMS AND ESCOBAR!

OR THE BEAUTIFUL CITY AND ITS DRAMATIC HISTORY.

My favourite painting sends a Twin Peaks vibe. Medellin Antioquia Museum

After the peace and quiet of San Augustin and Tierradentro I arrived in the hustle and bustle of this, for the most part, wonderful city.

The amazing afternoon light.
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OF FORGOTTEN GODS AND TOTEMS

Or San Augustin Archaeological Park amazes.

The two days I spent visiting the lava stone funerary monuments was the natural progression from the tombs of Tierradaentro and the original reason to travel South to the more isolated and dangerous regions of South Colombia. This UNESCO site is worth all the blood, sweat and tears it took to get there.  According to UNESCO, who named San Agustin a World Heritage Site in 1995, the San Agustin Archaeological Park, “bears vivid witness to the artistic creativity and imagination of a pre-hispanic culture that flowered in the hostile tropical environment of the Northern Andes.”

Monolithic guards and gods and anthropomorphic creations.

You’re fine when you reach San Augustin, it’s a mellow picturesque little town and visiting the incredible sites there is safe for a woman alone, it’s outside those places on isolated roads you have to be careful. On that nightmare trip from Tierradentro I thought I’d had it. It was more the constant road signs that warned of guerrillas in the area and the sudden police check that showed me that there were still risks in this magnificent country.

Guard to each tomb individual and amazing.
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PAINTED TOMBS AND DANGER.

OR BEING STOPPED BY THE POLICE ON A REMOTE MUD TRACK.

The whole reason I wanted to come to Colombia was for some of its amazing and mysterious archaeology. I’ve been getting it in bucketfuls, and indeed nearly kicked the bucket for one of my most important things on my bucket list ha ha.

The amazing painted tombs of Tierradentro and San Augustins funerary statues were top of my list

Pretending to be brave.

Alert: This trip is not for the faint hearted. The journey is arduous and the final climb up to the tombs harsh. Descending into the tombs is very dangerous, the steps are VERY steep and there is nothing to hold onto and there a sheer drop to the bottom. I was very scared much to the amusement of the guards. I was later told that many people refused to go down into them even after all their exertions to get there. The reason given for the lack of some kind of handrail was that it would spoil the aesthetics of the design! Please don’t consider this if you are scared of heights , are claustrophobic and, if you value your life!

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ALL THAT GLITTERS IS GOLD.

OR MAMBO AND MAMU SHOWS ALL.

ALERT: MY FLIGHT TO NEIVA IS SIX HOURS LATE SO I PAID FOR VIP LOUNGE TO WAIT OUT THE STORM IN COMFORT. WISH ME LUCK THINGS DON’T GET WORSE! I SHOULD BE KNOWN AS THE TYPHOID MARY OF FLIGHT DEPARTURES! I’M SOOOOOO TIRED ……

It’s been a fabulous first few days in Bogota but tomorrow I must leave for Neiva, but before I do here’s another glut of photos from the very fine Gold Museum, and the Miguel Urrutia Art Gallery Complex MAMU, along with the rest of my shennanagins!

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ULAANBAATAR TO BEIJING CROSSING BORDER BY TRAIN

OR THE NIGHT OF HELL, AND HOW NOT TO MAKE PEOPLE FEEL WELCOME IN YOUR COUNTRY.

Alert: Off to Colombia in a couple of days so I will only be posting from there and my ongoing journey. Will be back on this journey through China (Forbidden City, Great Wall and Terracotta Army), Vietnam (Hanoi and its great museums and its scooters and bikes, Halong Bay, and Nha Trang for a rest and snorkelling), Kota Kinabalu for R and R and finally Thailand (Retreats by rivers and Ayuttera for amazing temples and history). I thought this was a good stopping point, a cliffhanger if you will. So OVER AND OUT and an intermission from this trip xxxx

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TRAIN FROM ULAANBAATAR TO BEIJING.

OR, THE INCREDIBLE GOBI DESERT AND THE LAST PART OF MY TRANS SIBERIAN EXPRESS ADVENTURE.

Mongolian boy waving off his family

Again, I had a feeling I was never leaving this bitterly cold and amazing place but as they say, all good things must come to an end. As usual I was up at the crack of dawn to catch my last connection by train to Beijing. Sad to leave but also wildly excited to see the Gobi Desert from the train. On this last train journey I only bought high hopes and windy biscuits for the trip. (I was all done with things meaty or so I thought!)

The Mongolian train cabin.

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ULAANBAATAR CAPITAL OF MONGOLIA.

OR MY LOVE AFFAIR WITH MONGOLIA AND IT’S PEOPLE

I only spent four days here but I fell in love with it and it’s people. I arrived at six in the morning and got a cab using some euros I had (you can’t get currency outside) The drive to the central square was about three minutes! The cabby was a ruddy faced lovely chap and I was impressed at how helpful he tried to be with very little English! My hotel, the Khuvsgul Lake Hotel was a sheer delight. A tall building overlooking the square, a brand new no frills place that had frills!

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TRAIN PROTOCOL CROSSING BORDERS.

OR IRKUTSK TO ULAANBAATAR TRAIN JOURNEY

Holiday cabins on the shoreline of the frozen Lake Baikal.

Should have known it was all too jolly. I was welcomed by some people who had stayed on the train since Moscow and were not getting off at all until Beijing- the fools. They all had a twitchy feel to them, like people who’d had too much coffee, and there was a reason. They hadn’t had any external input since Moscow they hadn’t had anyone new come into first-class so hadn’t had any fresh blood since Moscow.

Random pic of me going mad at the Jurassic Coast

They weren’t getting off the train in the near future and they were in that strange state that I had been in when I arrived in Irkutsk… feral and somnambulant. They cross-questioned me on what Lake Baikal and Irkutsk had been like and I told them how amazing it all was and started to explain how cold, cruel and magnificent it was, then I asked them about the diner. With that, they lost interest and scurried off barely answering my questions (they probably no longer equated there was a world outside the poor lost souls) and like a group of junkies wandered glazed eyed up to the diner with cups of tea and grubby UNO cards clutched in their fists like a fix. I followed them but they were fast, when I got there, they were already hunched over their cards at a table playing what I can only presume to be their millionth game since Moscow.

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IRKUTSK AND THE NEXT TRAIN BIT TO ULAANBATAAR.

OR NOT THE PARIS OF SIBERIA. LET’S GET BACK ON THE TRAIN AGAIN:(

I wanted to love Irkutsk, so many times labelled the Paris of Siberia. However I ended up feeling apathetic about it. The cab had been late picking me up from Listvyanka so I was all of a tizz and had made my plans in a shoddy anxious way having expected to have the full day there and seeing it slip away from me.

Weird hotel breakfast obviously for the Chinese tourists and there were a lot! I missed it as I was running for train
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THE FABULOUS LAKE BAIKAL.

OR ICE SCULPTURE AND -40 WIND CHILL FACTOR.

Cautiously getting off the train in the early light of a freezing Siberian morning in February, I immediately saw my name on board clasped to a mans chest. Seeing as I was the only person getting off he stepped forward to grab my little suitcase and drive me off to Listvyanka on Lake Baikal.

Ice blocks cut from the lake make for stunning sculptures.
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TRANS SIBERIAN EXPRESS DAY 2

or How the Old Bird nearly broke the Train.

They tap off ice at each station, that’s not my fault!

Well it was bloody hot at night and I saw no problem in prizing open the window a bit. It was difficult to do but I was determined, a right stubborn old bird bent on destruction!
Mistake.

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TRANS SIBERIAN EXPRESS

OR AN INTRO TO TRAIN LIFE! HOORAY!

ALL ABOARD! IT’S TIME FOR TRAIN LIFE. THE ONCE IN A LIFETIME ADVENTURE ACROSS THE HUGE EXPANSE OF SIBERIA AND MONGOLIA ENDING IN BEIJING. BETTER KNOW AS THE TRANS SIBERIAN EXPRESS!


MIDNIGHT EXPRESS MOSCOW IRKUTZ. WELCOME TO OVER THREE DAYS OF RUSSIAN TRAIN LIFE. WELCOME TO TRAIN NUMBER 20.

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ON TO MOSCOW.

OR A VERY DIFFERENT RUSSIA.

From elegant Tsarist St Petersburg to hardcore Kremlin Moscow!! Very different but also very exciting. I’d never visited before and my early morning train ride had been superb. We are now getting towards the trainy bit, the big bad boy, the Trans Siberian Express. This is the modern train bit!

ALERT! Just had my yellow fever jab and got a Peppa Pig plaster for being brave! Roll on Colombia at the end of August. I’ll finally experience going live!!

ST. PETERSBURG STATION ON A VERY CHILLY MORNING
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THE STATE RUSSIAN MUSEUM ST. PETERSBURG.

OR AU REVOIR Санкт-Петербург JE TAIME!!

The State Russian Museum is the world’s largest collection of Russian art, housed in a unique architectural complex in the historical centre of St Petersburg. This is my last day here and I have a big snowy hike ahead of me.

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ST. PETERSBURG ROCKS!

OR OF TZARS AND PALACES and THE HERMITAGE AND ALL THINGS GLITTERY AND GOLD.

“There are five buildings associated with the Hermitage including the Menshikov Palace. I’m going to them all with my plans for the day on a bit of paper clutched in my sweaty fist. I had prepared with military precision how I would attack this day and was sure of making it magnificent and as tourist-free as possible!!” From my diary

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ST PETERSBURG IS CLOSED!

OR MY BIG FIRST DAY DESPITE HOLIDAY CLOSURES!

Pure happiness next morning. Snuggling under my quilt perusing the heavy snow through the window and already planning my day. Winter wonderland had a serious number of places for nerdy me to see, but when I started checking I saw that most places were closed until tomorrow. Was this a big Russian vodka hangover? No, Monday is a dodgy day for a lot of countries so bear it in mind before getting ahead of yourself.

VIEW FROM OTHER SIDE OF THE RIVER TO MY YELLOW HOTEL. ST. ISAACS’ CATHEDRAL AT THE BACK
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ST. PETERSBURG? J’ARRIVE!


…OR ARRIVING IN RUSSIA ON THE 75TH ANNIVERSARY OF THE LIBERATION OF LENINGRAD DAY.

So excited to be leaving London for my massive adventure in the cold! Tiny suitcase and rucksack with me for about two months journey and no qualms. I was finally off hooray!! First stop St Petersburg. Swathed in my Russian military coat and wearing my new furry snow boots, I was far too hot for London and had to travel sweating and regretting until I arrived then I would be very happy with my choices

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THE TRIP IDEA

OR BIG TREES FROM LITTLE SEEDS…..

It was the day before my birthday and I was blue. I was dreaming of far off lands where it wouldn’t be raining and foul. I was dreaming of exotic palaces and balmy breezes. I was dreaming of fragrant food and escaping….

FITNESS AND THE MATURE SOLO TRAVELLER

OR GETTING IN TRIM FOR MY TRIP

ALERT: I CANNOT BELIEVE I FORGOT TO POST THIS BEFORE LEAVING! IT ALL GOT A BIT (VERY) HECTIC AND THIS IS SO IMPORTANT! FORGIVE ME I’LL HOPEFULLY SORT MYSELF OUT, I’VE BEEN A VERY BAD OLD BIRD.

It’s no good pretending we are as fit as we used to be, and frankly, if you’re going it alone you must get as fit as you can. You obviously should always follow a sensible health regime but hey, we’re not going to be goody gum drops at our age are we? So to rectify the gobbling of heavy meals and the slurping of too much booze and try to get as fit as possible before leaving. For me it’s swimming and the gym and a slightly more sensible diet and dwinky regime.

NO MORE BEER AND PIES REBECCA!