Donate Button



Donate today BECAUSE Logan will probably use the money to fund his upcoming RPG. More entertainment for YOU!

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

THE DOCTOR VISIT

DISCLAIMER

I'd first off like to apologize for discussing my medical stuff.

There is nothing that screams 'You are dull as fuck and have nothing better going on in your life if you are sitting around talking about your medical problems with someone who is not a medical professional being paid to listen to your woes'.

Really.

Normally, I try to be very vague about my medical problems if someone asks then I try to quickly change the topic of conversation - simply because I know the only person it's relevant to is me.

The reason I'm discussing them here is twofold:

First, the readers of this blog seem to enjoy when I am in pain, suffering or in hospital.  My only guess as to why is because they find it amusing.  Or they believe I should suffer because I'm doing cool stuff (well, traveling) and this is the yang to that yin and it makes the world more right.

Second, it gives a bit of a view into what getting medical care in other...er...less developed countries is like.

And, I reveal the costs.  Unlike lame travel writers.  As a bonus.



THE DOCTOR VISIT

Sadly, it wasn't Doctor Who coming to visit me.

For about the fourth or fifth time on this trip, I managed to get another case of conjunctivitis.  Note that the eye in the link looks a lot better than what my eyes looked like before I went.

I'd tried some self medicating because doctors usually give me the same thing but after a week it became obvious it wasn't working.

So I consulted with Janet who runs the hostel at which I am staying.

She stuck me in a $1.25 USD taxi and I was off to Hospital Badesda, pronounced like 'Bethesda' - the famous hospital.

Didn't look like the famous hospital at all.

In fact, when we pulled up, I couldn't tell it was a hospital.  (Yes, apparently you can get surgery here but it would frighten me.  Less than a field tent in Africa, but still scary.)

After shrugging and paying off the cab driver (you do a lot of shrugging if you travel long enough) I went in and requested to see the best doctor in the whole town, Dr Proano.

This guy is a general practitioner, not an eye doctor.  But I'm still in Banos and it's an amazingly small town.  Fortunately, the doctor speaks excellent English.  Trying to explain 'conjunctivitis' in Spanish is rough.  Yes, it is the same word but that is no guarantee I will be understood.  Note, you can slightly mispronounce words in Spanish and - unlike Russian - maybe you'll get understood.  But when you're dealing with medical stuff?  Ug.

But he was not only familiar with this affliction but understood my condition.  After briefly checking out my eyes he suggested not only steroidal eye drops but a big damn needle in my ass.

Sadly, that is the only thing he would put into my ass.

I really wanted to get my prostate checked as well.  He waffled on about needing blood tests and such but I think he was reluctant to stick his finger up my ole chocolate whizway.   Mind you, I am not thrilled about anyone double knuckling up their either but (ha!) I figure it's better than prostate cancer.

The doctor didn't think so.

It might be another five or ten years before that gets checked.  I thought it was suppose to be every year.  Ah well.

The only note of discord happened when the nurses attempted to take my blood pressure.

They came up with 110/70.  I told the doctor he might want to retake it himself.  He came up with 170/110.  I'm not sure how wildly incompetent you have to be to fuck up taking blood pressure.  I've personally only ever seen it done and learned to do it myself from just watching it.  I carry my own manual blood pressure taking stuff with me.

So I would make a hell of a nurse.  In Ecuador.  Aside from not being able to speak Spanish.  But I could accurately take blood pressure.

For those who know about blood pressure and are thinking 'holy shit - his is amazingly high' - yes, I'm on three medications to combat it.

I have to buy a lot of pills.  No, I don't have any insurance.  Obamacare is not going to save me.

Fortunately, the locals of the countries I live in don't have much money - or out of  control lobbyists so getting treated isn't cripplingly (ha!) expensive.



COSTS (compare to your home country!)

Consult with the doctor, $20
Eye drops, $7
Shot with a big damned needle into my ass, $8 plus pain

MORE FUN WITH BANKS

PAYPAL

Carolyn suggested I make it easier to let people contribute money to me via paypal.  If you're wanting to send me money, go to Paypal.com and click the send money to someone button.  If you want it to go to me, my e-mail address to put in the blank is logan9a@yahoo.com   Thanks in advance.  (If you don't want to send money to me, I do hope you will at least laugh evilly and wring your hands together for awhile.  It will make us both feel validated.)

For those wondering why I don't have a Paypal button on the blog, I do - it's at the bottom of the page.  I apologize for that but I can't figure out a way to put it at the top with the way it's set up.  So people have to scroll all the way down to find it.

Sucks, I know.





MORE FUN WITH BANKS

Because I have developed 'trust issues' while traveling, I called back the bank the next day to see how my card ordering went.

They didn't order the card.

The lady I'd talked to didn't seem like the sharpest knife in the drawer, but I'd really hoped she'd hit the 'order card' button.

The lady I spoke with ordered my card.  Then she asked me security questions to see if I was a bad guy pretending to be Logan.

I'm wondering if the original lady did try to order it but due to the attempt to send the card to Ecuador, it hit the 'cancel order' button and was bound up in bureaucratic red tape.

Needless to say, I am calling back tomorrow to see if the card was really ordered.  [Note - I did and it's on the way to my buddy in the states who will then send it to me.]

Another happy fun time - when I asked 'how it would be sent to me', they didn't know.  I asked if it was possible to speak to the people who sent out the cards, no it was not.  Subcontractors.  Not possible to put a note on it either.  I'm not sure if I'm fucking it up by having them try to send it direct as opposed to Bert and then have him send it via FEDEX (which looks like it will cost $100 - feel the fun!).  What a pain in the ass.

My biggest comforts during this time are my buddy Bert who has my back in the USA and skype.  I'd also like to thank the three people who contributed some money to the paypal.  My donations now slightly exceed the number of posts I've made.




ADVERTISEMENTS FOR THIS BLOG

(Just because you're reading it doesn't mean I think you've absorbed enough of it's advertising yet)

From Carolyn N:

"This is Logan.

He has a foul mouth, and a dirty mind, and gives no fucks to beggars. He's already had a cooler life than you by a thousand times. And his ballsy antics would make Anthony Bourdain weep with joy and envy.

Read his blog, take his advice, and, if you have a mind to, throw him a few bucks so he can continue to write vulgar rants about his travels around the world!"

and

"Logan is every bit as gritty and interesting as the world he explores. Follow him as he gets drunk in every municipality in South America, scrambles to find new work to feed himself and his need for overpriced internet, all the while learning from the locals and haggling like a champ.

Logan's Voyage: It's the one you don't have the guts to take."


Monday, November 25, 2013

STUCK IN ECUADOR WITH NO MONEY

Stuck in Ecuador with no money!

Either today is international "Fuck you, Logan" day or the universe has mistaken me for my friend Jim Galford.

So, I discovered $1500 of transactions have taken place in Colombia while I've been here in Ecuador.

Naturally, I freaked the fuck out.

Since these were ATM withdraws it did cause me a moment of pause since I still have the card and wouldn't tell my own parents my PIN.

There is a number on the back of the card you can call.

Sadly, all they do is cancel your card and send you a new one.

Now, we switch to what I call the Jim Galford format as the universe seems to think I am him and is trying to smite me with the 'Dildo of Inequity'.

Logan:  "Can you mail the card anywhere?"
CS:  "Yes."
Logan:  "I'm in Ecuador."
CS:  "Shouldn't be a problem."

Note that I've been told previously that it is not possible to send my card to anywhere outside of the USA but I was grasping at straws.

The 'shouldn't be a problem' turned into a 'maybe' then a 'we'll see what they say' as the conversation continued.  I didn't feel I was talking to a rocket scientist and got put on hold for a couple twenty minute swatches of time so they could talk to their supervisor.

Logan:  "I'm going to need money to live on until my new card arrives."
CS:  "How long will you need to get to an ATM?"
Logan:  "If you can wait until after tomorrow to cancel it, I can go to a bank tomorrow and have money to live on until my card arrives."
CS:  "Sorry, we're going to need to cancel it tonight."
Logan:  "Two hours?"
CS:  "Half an hour."

If there is one thing I've learned from my as of yet unresolved $400 rip off that took place in Panama (five working days my ass) it is best to use machines inside of the bank.  They are less likely to fuck you up the ass.  Now, I'm forced to use street machines.

Well, this is a nice town.  I'm hoping they don't make the journey up the ole 'chocolate whizway'.

First ATM:  No money for you, gringo.
Second ATM:  No money for you, gringo.
Third ATM:  No money for anyone.  I am broke.
Fourth ATM:  Sorry, you've already hit your maximum withdraw amount!

Note, when I got that message back in Colombia, that meant that another ATM had claimed to have given me money and lied.

Seeing this message did not put me in a fucking chipper mood.

The only good thing was that when I told the hostel owner of my woes and said I might have to push back the day I'd pay him on he merely said "I'm not worried about you."

Fortunately, I have money on skype from the distant past when someone last used the donate button on my paypal so tomorrow I'm going to call up the bank and start whining.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

LOGAN'S ETIQUETTE GUIDE

ARRIVAL IN BANOS

I was dropped off near the bus station in Banos where I happened upon an odd sight.

A older gent who drove taxis had approached me and asked if I needed a cab.  Before I could answer, he excused himself and went over to bitch at a local who had dumped a bunch of leaves in the gutter.  He pointed out a garbage can nearby and told her to throw her trash in there instead.

Of course I wanted a cab ride with Mr. Civic Pride.

It turned out to be only a few blocks but for one dollar, I am not bitching.  Always take cabs at night.



HOSTEL TRANSYLVANIA

Small, basic rooms.   Like everything at this cost level, there are pluses and minuses to this place.


Pluses:

$8 per night per person.  Since it's just me, I can afford that.
Pool table, free.
They serve reasonably priced good food here.
$1 beers.
Hot showers with great water pressure.  Best showers I've had in either Central and South America.
Private cable to wifi - see below.
Really friendly staff and owners.  They actually know where stuff is in the town.


Minuses:

Cat, dog, children.  If you have allergies or disdain for them, don't recommend this place.
Lots of rooms.  This means lots of potentially noisy tourists.
Smallish rooms.
No screens on windows.
Mediocre at best security for gear.


Quick story on the wifi:  They have some sort of problem with their wifi adapter.  Not sure what.  Naturally, it works for most or all of the other guests.  I'd expressed concern about this.  They ran a 'hard wire' cable to my room.  Just for me.  I've never had this anywhere before.  It kind of locks me into this place.  Hot showers and good internet?  Fuck, I'm here for awhile.  Possibly until after New Years festivities are done.  I'm working on avoiding travel during Christmas and New Years because 'travel during holidays - unless you are specifically wanting to view that holiday - is a lot more hassle and expense than it's generally worth.'



FOOD IN BANOS

Of course there will be a section on food.  According to Wikipedia, I am a 'foodie'.  Their definition is:

"A foodie is a gourmet, or a person who has an ardent or refined interest in food and alcoholic beverages.  A foodie seeks new food experiences as a hobby rather than simply eating out for convenience or hunger. While gourmet and epicurean can be used as synonyms they have fallen out of favor and bring to mind a stodgy or snobbish attitude."

While my attitude toward food is neither refined nor snobbish I would say it is 'ardent' and I do go looking for new stuff to eat.  And drink.  Good times.

Anyway, I've managed to break down the general costs of food into a couple simple categories within Banos.  Note that this does not include buying and making your own.  While I agree it is cheaper, I feel you miss too much of the culture when you shop and cook for yourself.  Plus, I am a rotten and uncaring cook.

For either what they call 'fast food' (read as simple dishes) or a set meal (they bring you out an appetizer, soup and main course possibly with a drink) the cost is under $5 USD.  If you want to order your own meal, under $10 USD.

Simple!

Should you have 'dietary restrictions' due to ill health or ancient religious practices, it is advised to stick to the $10 plus menu.



LOGAN'S ETIQUETTE GUIDE

Years ago I'd read four large phone book sized books on etiquette, just in case the Queen of England wanted to have me over.  I normally don't use this information but it is good to know - just in case.

After observing myself eat, I've written an etiquette guide for myself.

1)  Dining is not a race.  One should chew ones food rather than emulating a duck.

2)  By slowing the intake of food and taking more care, one may limit the amount of other people who become 'involved' with your dining experience by being splattered with said food.

3)  One should not hack at ones food with a knife, nor taunt it.  Conversation should be with ones fellow diners, not the dish.

4)  A soup bowl is not a drinking vessel.  

5)  The purpose of cutlery is neither to assist with the corralling of ones food, nor to point at objects of interest nor to threaten fellow diners with.

6)  Expulsion of bodily gasses should be curtailed or made discrete.  Never advertised nor aimed.

7)  Furred horned helmets and weaponry have no place at the dining table nor are they part of the service.

Note, I don't follow my own advice well.



LIFE IN BANOS

It's much more active here than in other towns I've been to.

They seem to have put this down as a 'tourist town' and as such, many things are open on Sundays, late hours and so on.  Interestingly, it is the locals who seem to enjoy this in greater numbers than the tourists.

Due to old religious laws, liquor is not permitted to be sold on Sundays.  Due to being Logan, I still managed to buy it.



FACEBOOK FUN

I was playing a Facebook game (a rarity) where someone assigns you a number and you have to put that many pieces of trivia up about yourself.  Bill G assigned me the number 6, so here are the six pieces of trivia I put up about myself.  [Note, if you want to put up trivia about yourself and don't use FB, you can always put it in the comments.  Though, if you are paranoid enough not to use FB, you probably won't.]

OK - Bill Godfrey assigned me six.

So here are six things people may not know about me.  Hopefully, this stuff hasn't already been in my blog.

1.  When I was young (16) I had moved out of the house and by age 17 I'd joined the military in 'military intelligence' (army, 96B).  I did a lot of boring stuff and some things I still won't discuss today.

2.  The trip I'm on is not my first trip outside of the USA.  In addition to living in both Munich, Germany and Korea I illegally traveled through the former USSR (while it was still the USSR) shortly after getting out of the military.  It was illegal because I'd worked for the government in an intelligence type job after leaving the military living in Germany and it was thought that should anyone find out what I did they would get secrets out of me.  The trip was a couple months long and went from Munich to Egypt with a lot of hitchhiking, camping and searching hotel rooms for electronic bugs - and finding them.

3.  I've trained in martial arts (jujitsu and hapkido) for over a decade both before the military and afterward.  I received (nor requested) any belts.  I wasn't training to do exhibition stuff but to learn to kill people as efficiently as possible.  (Yes, I was a violent fucker when I was younger.)  My martial arts teachers despaired of my slow reflexes and thus I was taught to fight dirty.  Very dirty.  Unknown to me until years later, it turns out my hapkido instructor was very famous in that art form.  The jujitsu instructor was just a short, sadistic oriental guy who enjoyed throwing me around.

4.  I can shoot a smiley face on a target with a 9mm pistol from five meters.  Mind you, it's not a perfect happy face but enough to irritate Matt Lunn when I took him out pistol shooting when I lived in IL.

5.  I've experimented with pot, LSD and hash.  The LSD was trippy but not as trippy as my normal life so I stopped.  Yes, I was once on LSD at a NERO event.  Due to playing Lumsie, nobody noticed.  And it was a lot of acid.

6.  I've never been in a serious relationship though I've had sex with more people than I can honestly remember.  No diseases.  Hot damn.



PRICES

Fast food or set menu, under $5 USD.
Expensive meal, generally under $10 USD.
Two liter of diet coke, $2 USD.
Cigarettes, $2.80 USD.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

WELCOME TO TACO BELLO

OTAVOLO, ECUADOR

For those coming on Sunday, be advised everything is closed.   Fairly hopeless for shopping.   Some of the things do open up after noon but in general it's a dead day.



WELCOME TO TACO BELLO  (Otavolo)
This place is owned by Carlos whose been running it for the last year and a half.  Carlos used to be a private investigator in California and has retired to his native Ecuador.   He's one of those friendly, charismatic outgoing individuals and speaks great English.
You can get a reasonably good - though small - margarita for $3 and a shitload of food  (enough for three or one American) for $5 if you order the 'Fiesta Platter'.   Here's some pics of exactly what you get.  The lighter (used for size comparison) is normal sized but I can't tell you how big that is.

The food is pretty decent.  The free nachos and big thing of guacamole were FREE.  The guacamole was excellent but the chips were only so so.

The downsides:  The restaurant is closed on Tuesday and sometimes unexpectedly.  No hours are posted.  No clue why this is.

Other pics of Taco Bello are here:  1, 2, 3, 4, 5  Note the guns were 'for display only' according to Carlos but I wasn't handed any of them to check out.  If you are the kind of person who faints at the sight of a gun, you might want to skip this place.



ON TO QUITO

Getting the bus to Quito was surprisingly easy.  Showed up to the bus station, was told 'get on the bus', bought a ticket on the bus and off we went with no waiting.  Good deal.

Quito was a pretty average city.  Nothing special unless you want specialty food or shopping.  I came here because I needed new frames for my broken glasses and got them within an hour of arrival.

Sadly, this is one of those towns where you are warned to keep your bag on your front to discourage pickpockets.

In this country, rather than lodging in the big city being cheaper it is more expensive.  I'm not sure why that is but I've seen it in other countries as well.  It's a strange phenomena.   I wasn't digging staying at a $15 per night place and fortunately either them trying a 'bait and switch' or just incompetence saved me from having to do so.

I'd checked into and paid for a hostel room and dumped my gear.  I was told the key had been taken by someone for some purpose and I'd get it later.  No idea why they can't own more than one key to the room but whatever.  Went off to take care of my glasses issue and grab some food as it had been awhile since I'd eaten.

I even managed to find a quirky cool little cafe with the best tiramisu I've had in years.  ['The Cheese Cake Cafe'.  Address:  Juan Leon Mera E4-434 y av Colon.]

This is a sign they had hanging up in there:

When I got back to the hotel, I was told alas, the room had already been reserved.  "But I've already paid!"  I protested.  No avail.  They showed me up some very rickety metal stairs to another room which smelled strongly of paint and was harassed by the sounds of construction.  I responded with "No."  Much discussion in Spanish ensued.  Eventually, I was given back my money.

So glad I was already done with my business here!  I grabbed a very expensive $12 cab ride to go to the further away bus station.  For some reason, the cab driver keeps his wife, baby and two children in the cab with him as he works.  No fucking clue what's up with that but I'm guessing it's a 'cultural difference'.  I demanded and got the front seat.

A four dollar bus ride and I was in Banos.  More on Banos later!



ECUADOR RESTAURANTS

In many of the restaurants by the time you get your food you forgot what you ordered and perhaps why you were there in the first place.

Many of the restaurants have pictures up of what they serve.  When I look at many of the pictures I think "Not hungry enough to eat THAT."

Depending on where you eat, you can find a meal in a restaurant for under $5.  If you are eating fancy $7-10.  Talking the possibility of cloth napkins on the table.  They still bring you paper ones to use, but the cloth ones may actually be on the table.

Although Central and South America are famous for their coffee, I've yet to have a decent cup.  Usually when you order coffee, they bring you boiled water and a jar of instant coffee.  No clue why this is.  Even 'coffee houses' have served me mediocre or shit coffee.



ECUADOR LOCALS

You've got those of Spanish, Indian, black and various mixes.

The attitudes of the locals varies wildly.  Some are friendly, others standoffish.  Some give you a 'hard look' but sometimes you can crack that with a goofy grin.  Sometimes not.  Pretty normal attitudes generally ranging toward friendly.  I'd probably do better if I actually spoke fluent Spanish but unfortunately I can't download stuff like in the Matrix.  If I could, lots of languages would be step one.



STRANGE MEMENTOS

Heard about an American tourist who was popping into different countries just to get a stamp in his passport.  He wasn't interested in seeing the country or staying there - he just wanted a stamp.  This is baffling.  I've got an old passport hidden away (at a friends) which has stamps from countries that no longer exist.   Czechoslovakia, Yugoslavia, the DDR (that use to be East Germany) and so on.  You can't get those stamps any more.  In the last couple decades, I looked at that passport all of twice.  Hope that tourist gets his money's worth...



PLANNING AHEAD

Prior to my sea voyage, I ran into an American who needed to take heart medicine.  Problem was it was freakishly expensive where he was.   He was bitching about the price and said that a friend of his had told him medicine in Panama was really cheap.  "Was that all the research you did, this one friend?"  Yes.  "Didn't stock up while you were in the states, just in case?"   Nope.   Expensive fail.



ECUADOR MEMES

A couple Canadians who read the blog asked me to check out Ecuador as they were thinking about expatriating here.   Aside from visiting for six months (minimum) to a year before doing so I'd warn anyone that some of the memes of Central and South America might drive people from Western civilization nuts.  Things like amazingly shoddy or stupid business practices.  Nobody ever has any change.  Noise pollution.  Litter.  Loads of semi wild animals roaming around.  Beggars.  Things like that.  Personally though, I am digging on Ecuador.  Much better 'value for money' than places like Panama or Costa Rica though I fear it may eventually go that way here.  It's not as cheap to live as say Thailand or Indonesia or Cambodia but Spanish is easier to learn - and more useful - than Thai, Indonesia or Khmer all put together.



STRANGE LOGAN TRIVIA

The only pairs of corrective glasses I've had break have both been on buses.  Not sure what it is about buses and my glasses but two of them so far.



TRAVELER'S TIP

Secure your shit before leaving your room.
Yes, this is the 'Pacsafe'.  I may buy an additional one at some point.  They give me a warm fuzzy feeling that my computer may actually still be in the room when I return.



WHO IS JIM GALFORD

He is a writer.  Like published books and all that.  He is close to what I consider a professional writer.  When he finally gets around to making audio books of his books so that I can steal them, he has hit the big leagues.  You can check out his books on Amazon here.

Having Jim as a friend on Facebook is always a lot of fun because he has a lot of really messed up stuff that happens to him within his regular job.

Having a 'Jim Galford' experience can be defined as something really messed up you have little control over.

I had one today.  I was getting tired of having shit on my bathroom floor.  Literally.  The toilet floods.  So, I asked if it could be cleaned up.  I knew in the flophouse I'm staying repair would never happen.

They offered me a new room instead.  Tried out the new room.  Fine except it was noisier and no wifi.

I went back to my old room.  Apparently, I'd rather have shit on my floor than no wifi.

Yes, I will be looking for a new place to continue staying here but the perks of this place (1.70 USD liter of beer delivered to my room when I want, quiet, friendly staff) will be difficult to beat.  Oh, and it's $7 per night.



CONVERSATIONS WITH LOCALS

Local:  "Just because you put 'o' after a word does not make it Spanish.
Logan:  (long stare)  "I don't believe you."
Local:  (sighs)  "OK.  What is your name?"
Logan:  (in Spanish)  "My Spanish name is 'El Logano'!
Local:  (shakes head)



STAYING AT CHEAP PLACES

Honestly, the worst thing about staying at cheap places is that locals also stay at cheap places.

I've yet to find a country where this is a 'good thing'.

Locals are usually worse to live with than people who are traveling.

As an example:

Staying in the hotel I fondly refer to as 'exploding toilet' when suddenly I hear loud arguing in Spanish followed by prolonged loud screaming.  I figure we've got us some 'domestic violence' going on.

The owner of the place later comes to the door and starts informing them she is calling the police.  And she really does.

The problem?  In Ecuador the police time ranges between twenty minutes and 'never'.

So another guest and I buy beers and sit out in the hallway drinking and smoking.  I softly chant 'Jerry!  Jerry!  Jerry!'

We're hoping the police show up and maybe drag the people off.

They don't show at all.

This makes us sad.

The kicker?  It wasn't just a man and a woman - they had a small child with them.

Sad.

The lesson to be learned?  If you can afford to stay in a place more expensive than what the locals can afford to stay in, I recommend it!  Sadly, I usually can't.



VIDEOS (Note - these should have been with the 'At Sea' blog but due to shitty internet they take a long time to upload)

At Sea
First Island
Another Island
Die Crabs Die
Island Princess
Making Port



COSTS

Bus from Otavalo to Quito, $2.  Taxi ride from the bus station to a hostel, $6.  That is weird but seems standard in big towns.  If you completely avoid big towns, transportation would be basically free in Ecuador.

To get lenses made for glasses is pretty expensive here at about $150.   Not sure how much it was in Cambodia but I'm thinking cheaper.  Maybe half or my memory something something.  Frames are about $25.

(Quito)  Indian (ie India, not South America) meal, including chicken massala, rice, drink and nam bread, $7.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

FROM CARTAGENA TO ECUADOR IN ONE GO

WRITERS NOTE

Sometimes I put stuff in brackets [] which is showing from the point of view at the time of writing rather than at the time of experiencing - just to be clear.



NOTES ON CARTAGENA

Didn't seem all that different from Central America, honestly.  The prices in Colombia, Panama and Costa Rica all seem to be jacked up but the terrain looks the same and you don't get more for your money.


While it's not difficult to find men smoking the reasonably priced (USD 2-3/pack) cigarettes, I haven't seen any women smoking.  Not sure if this is a 1970's 'women don't smoke' thing or if they just have more sense than the men.  And Logan.


While in a store, I got to watch some guy try to pass a counterfeit bill.  The lady proprietor freaked the fuck out on him.  She screamed at him as she tore the bill up into confetti.  She then gave it back to him and took away the soda he had been trying to buy with it.  He left chagrined which makes me think he knew it was a fake.

Foreign currency doesn't really seem that difficult to fake with some resources.  My favorite currency is still the plastic stuff I've seen in a few (3?) countries.  Wears well while looking good.  Harder to fake.
It's sad to think the US will probably never evolve up to that.



IT'S MY RACKET

Still mourning the one I lost to evil airport security, I purchased a new mosquito killing racket.  It's electronic.  Some of the locals saw it and commented on it.  I used my best Bond villain voice and said "Mosquitoes muerte!" and did a bunch of evil laughing.  They laughed for a short time then stared at me as though I was mental since I continued the laugh past it's natural stopping time.  Good times.



CARTAGENA CARNIVAL

Went and checked out their version of 'Carnival' here.  Holy shit, it is not for me.  It was a bunch of people sitting around drinking and listening to loud music.  Yes, I hate Spanish music as much as Asian music.  On top of that, much like the Indian tradition of Holi, they go around with cans of what I suspect is a shaving creme like substance spraying each other down.  Not sure when that gets fun.  There is a tradition that people are suppose to threaten to spray you down unless you give them a small coin but most people didn't get the briefing on that and just spray each other down.  Fortunately, I missed out on that part of the 'fun'.  Sometimes, paint is used.  Yes, like house paint.   Again, doesn't seem like 'fun' to Logan but whatever.  In addition to worrying about the people who were drinking liters of 'stupid', I was also warned repeatedly by multiple people about pick pockets and bag snatchers.  After checking this out, I decided I'd rather sit around quietly at the bus station for an extra few hours.



DID I REALLY GIVE COLOMBIA A FAIR CHANCE

No, I don't think I did.  Having said that, I would counter with "Do I want to spend Europe money to see South America?"   Oh fuck no.

I would also like to say that despite Colombia's reputation for good coffee, I never had any.  The locals always said "You can get special coffee at X or X cities."  I responded "So unless I go to certain cities in Colombia, I can't get decent coffee in a country known for coffee?"  They claimed of course I could but I didn't find that to be true.



OFF TO THE BUS STATION

The cab driver took the most convoluted dangerous route I've ever seen.  It was a trash strewn maze of unhappiness.   [No, sorry, unimpressed with Cartagena.]

Eventually, we reached the 'terminal transporte'.  This place was no where as horrible as the rest of the city had set me up for.  Of course, it would have been tough to freak me out - been to India, bitches.

After paying off the driver, I settled down for my five hour wait for a twelve [ha - turned out to be much longer!] ride.  Livin' the dream.

As I sat there contemplating life, it seems that my wanting badly to get a 90 day visa for Colombia was a complete waste.  Live and learn.  Colombia turned out to just be a port of entry (literally) into South America for me.  Since I'm now doing land travel, I shouldn't be hassled for my 'proof of onward travel' - just have some sort of itinerary rather than a shrug and say "No clue, dude."

Looking around this bus station I was again struck at what kind of weird shit they attempt to sell.  Some of the stuff makes a lot of sense - things you can eat or drink.  Some makes some sense - tampons, soap, stuff that you may have forgotten to pack.  But other things like a giant gaudy delicate seashell which lights up when plugged in - who the fuck is going to buy this shit?  I mean, I can see some escaped mental patient eventually buying one sure - but at a bus station?

A lot of people say I am down on everything but I'm really not.  For example, I was blown away by how well the security guards and police at the Cartagena bus station spoke English.  Very admirable.

There was a bunch of locals eating at a four stool sit down kiosk (like in the movie Bladerunner) so I decided to risk it
and eat there.   Being that they didn't have a menu, I just ordered the same thing as the guy next to me.  He looked a bit freaked out like I was saying "I will eat this guys food." but the proprieter understood.  It was a good meal for 6000 COP (about 3.50 USD) and more food than I could eat.  [And best of all, I didn't get to rip ass later.]

Despite the otherwise modern appearance of the bus station, they do have four or so wild dogs which wander around and beg for scraps.  I'm not sure why they can't just put a bounty out on dog heads and pay off people to get rid of them.  Them, and children.

You do get searched and frisked here before getting onto the bus.  It is literally the worst frisk I've ever seen in my life.  I'd learned to do a quick frisk years ago.  It's not that hard but this one was closer to a back rub.



THE FIRST BUS OF DOOM

It was Brazil-something or other.  Avoid this brand.  I don't know what it is about their buses but it caused everyone quite a bit of discomfort.  For me, I was cramping up, having leg spasms and all sorts of fun.

Here is a picture of what Logan looked like while he was traveling
Doesn't he look happy?



MEDELLIN

Because it is 'more fun', they have two different bus terminals.  One if either you are coming from the north or going to the north, the other for the south.  To get from one to the other, you can either spend 12,000 COP on a taxi or 1700 COP on a bus.  The bus driver drove so aggressively I was having wild thoughts like "Surely, he's not going to try THAT in a BUS!"  Oh yes he did.  I'm thinking he would have been good in Speed for the driver, though less pretty.

Northern bus terminal had a great information kiosk with people who not only spoke English but were willing to go with me to where I needed to be.  The southern bus terminal had nothing to recommend it.

The bus bathroom sells you a small box of toilet paper for 200 COP.  When you remove the paper from the box and unravel it, you've got about six sheets worth.  Try it at home.  Not enough by a long stretch.  If there is anything that long time readers of the blog have learned it is that you always pack three things for any trip - toilet paper, water and something to eat that won't spoil if you forget about it for a few days.  Water because you can wash with it and use it to brush your teeth.



BUSING ONWARD

I've noticed I'm having trouble focusing my eyes and my hands have started to shake from the trip.  If I weren't so stubborn and poor, I'd probably stay in this town for a couple days to recover.  I wondered if I'd suffer physical collapse at some point.

If my count is correct, Colombia is the 36th country I've been in.  Oddly, it will also take me 36 hours to escape Colombia.  [Note, the actual count was closer to 40 something.  But it sounded profound at the time.  Possibly due to Logan's deteriorating mental state.]  The total amount of money was approximately 111 USD to cross Colombia.  Guessing a flight would have been more and again, if you fly in they usually want proof you will leave the country.  They are the evil airlines who are on the hook for getting you back to whence you came from should the country ask hence they are more stringent about asking.

Had to pull out my sweater and make a ring for my ass as I'd gotten too much of a pounding on it from the bus.  The bus had me worse than any cowboys.

During one of the stop overs, one of the inexperienced travelers wandered off.  The bus drivers, talking amongst themselves said that if he didn't make it back on time it wasn't their problem.  Why people wander off and think the buses will wait is a mystery.  Don't do it.  When the bus driver is climbing onto the bus to get going, my goal is to be the guy right behind him.  Being stranded in some foreign town with all your stuff on a bus that may or may not deliver it to your destination - fucking scary.  And what if the bus continues on past your destination?  Where will your shit be?  When you get off the bus, move like you have (as they say in the military) 'a sense of fucking purpose'.  Go fast - bathroom, food, drink, smoke then spend your time loitering near the bus.  Maybe those people who are paying a lot more for private tour groups can afford to be like stupid children but I won't try that crap.

One of the frustrating things is they like to show movies dubbed into Spanish because people are lazy.  Even worse, they don't start them promptly so you have to watch the first part of the same movie more than once.  I've seen most of the French film 'The Intouchables' TWICE and will have to download it should I ever want to see the fucking ending.

The Logan Luck (TM) again struck.  Sitting next to me was a guy who was from Ecuador and behind me a girl who offered to translate for me several times.  The guy even ended up going out of his way to make sure I got to the right counter at the border to check out of Colombia then he pointed out where to check into Ecuador.  Thank you Christopher and Anna!

Unfortunately, the other side of the Logan Luck (still TM, bitch) struck and my glasses broke while being cleaned.  Cheap Cambodian glasses.  Hence, I will have to get new frames for those later - if I can find a glasses store.  [Note, haven't yet but everything is closed on Sundays where I am.]



ECUADOR AT LAST

Getting into Ecuador, you get 90 days at zero dollars.  Good deal - they obviously want to promote tourism.

After crossing the border, I had to get another taxi (they don't make it fucking easy here) to a town called Tulcon.  It was 3.50 USD and from Tulcon the bus to Otavalo which was 3 USD.   On this bus I was tortured with some horrible Mexican movie from the 1970's.  They use to make horrible movies like this in the USA but fortunately, someone got them to stop and they're not seen any more.  Here, some of the passengers were excited to see it.  This makes me think entertainment options may be limited in Ecuador.

From Otavalo, another taxi to the Hotel Korea which was 1 USD.  Seriously - a buck.

Once in Ecuador, keep your passport handy.  You've got not one but two military checkpoints to get through.  They check your passport pretty closely for the stamp and such.


After I got to Otavolo, I had two beers (provided to my room for a total price of $1.70 each - fuck yes) then I passed the fuck out.



PHILOSOPHY

Whenever I go to an 'old town' part of a city and think it looks pretty cool, it always makes me a bit sad.  It tells me that either the city has lost the civic pride it once had or peaked and then hit decline on their building making skill awhile ago.


Note, if this blog is discovered in a couple thousand years, do NOT attempt to start a religion using it. There is already enough silliness in the world.



MEMES

When arriving at a new place, I use to ask myself "Why do they do things this way instead of this other (clearly, in my mind) better way?"  After reading four books, I've come to the conclusion it is due to which memes their culture/town/society/country/group has downloaded.

I've noticed that when I mention "I've read these books" often people have enough curiousity to ask "Which book" but it ends there.  My guess is that they are checking to see if it was a book they were forced to read during school.  The short answer is "No, you've not read any of these books."  I can make a statement like that and will predict I'm over 80% correct which is good enough for me.  But for those who are wondering "What does Logan read since he doesn't waste his time with music", the four books are:

Snow Crash  (Rather lengthy discussion of memes, their possible origins and so on as well as an adventure story)

The God Virus (Religious people avoid this - it will make you question things.  For non-religious or irreligious people this is an interesting look at how religion affects you - even if you are not religious.)

Because I Said So (Fun read.  Deals with all the stuff both wise and amazingly stupid parents stick into their children's heads.  Unfortunately, as adults, we still believe the stupid stuff without questioning it.)

Civilization:  The West and the Rest  (Why are people in much of the world barely eeking out a living or having trouble doing simple business things while western civilization has bought us things like the helicopter?  This book gives half a dozen factors why parts of the world are doing so well economically and others lead a more hand to mouth existence.)



EL BANKO RIPOFFO

Still waiting to see if my bank clears up the $400 that the other bank said they gave me and didn't.  My bank tells me 'it can be up to 10 working days'.  Any time someone says 'it can be up to X working days', rest assured - it fucking will be at least that.  You never seem to get an answer early.  By tomorrow (MON) I will either know or be stressed out more.



TRAVELERS TIP

If your room has an external lock, do not use the one issued to you by the hotel.  I suspect I may have gotten ripped off 100 USD in a hotel by getting careless and lazy.  Use your own lock and hide any valuables as best you can in the room to at least slow down the thieves.



COSTS

Taxi from hostel in Cartagena to bus terminal, 15,000 COP.

Bus from Medellin to some town near the border of Ecuador I can't remember the name of, just under 100,000 COP.

Cab ride from where the bus drops you off to the border, 7000 COP.  For locals that is per taxi load - for gringos, possibly per person.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

LOGAN AT SEA 3 - bonus round

DAY 4

As we set out for open water, the captain related some of the 'business practices' of the other boats:

Buy nothing but cheap food.  Yes, sometimes everyone gets sick.  They don't buy food from the locals as it decreases their profit margins.

Nobody is allowed out on deck for 'safety reasons'.  I've got to tell you there are many times when you 'need some air'.  I can't imagine being cooped up in overcrowded cabins or a wheelhouse.

Double or more the amount of people on board the ship we had.  Believe me, sometimes it felt a bit crowded with just the six people we had on board.  More would feel like the old 'tight pack slave ship'.
Not that I spent a lot of time on these or had shares in 'Confederated Slaveholdings' like some people I could mention.

Other than that, day 4 went quietly.  Nothing much to look at unless you are into the whole 'endless ocean' thing.  I find it loses it's appeal after about two and a half minutes.  Ditto for 'gosh there are a lot of stars out at night'.



DAY 5

Spent most of the day in bed, 'relaxing'.

Life aboard a boat, I've determined is a lot like a bratwurst cooked to perfection and garnished with spices both subtle and rare.  Stuffed inside a VW sized bun of boredom.

The end of the day showed us to still be 100 miles from our destination.  Why they use miles is beyond me.  The reason we were so far away and should have docked today?  Becalmed.  Were it not for our little engines we wouldn't have moved anywhere.

We did finally break out the 'Cards Against Humanity' photocopy game I was given.  Thanks!  It's amazing how 'America-centric' the humor is.  I got to translate a few fun words into German or explain them to the Swiss guys.  A good time was had by all.

Note that if you are going to be at sea, bring a lot of little games to play and hopefully have people around who want to play them or you're kind of fucked.  "Oh, I'll read a book!"  Yes, if you are blessed with the weather we had you can.  If not, have fun trying to stare at a page while feeling miserable while Mother Nature tries to bump you off.



DAY 6

The captain informs me he is 'putting on the breaks' so that we arrive tomorrow morning rather than tonight.  Since by now sinking the ship is getting more and more interesting over continuing to live on it, this news doesn't make me a happy boy.

His reasons for arriving in port do seem sound (less parking problems, less getting run over by other bigger boats since we have all the running lights of the average drug smuggler) but that day being Sunday does concern me.  Will they actually be open to give us our visas?  [Fuck no was the answer for those who are sick of all of the suspense.  And, no reach around.  In addition, they were closed the next day for a public holiday.  Yes to the 'laid back lifestyle'!]

Again, bored out of my fucking skull.  [See "Logan's Head" below for yet more information about Logan's skull.]

Just for the record, you can NOT swim safely in the high seas if you are Logan.  Perhaps if you are other people.  And you can't swim while the boat is churning away going somewhere.  Well, actually, you can swim.  But getting back onto the boat is not certain.


By day six, everyone - and their stomachs - had become accustomed to the relentless rocking of the boat.  I'd heard that a lot of people who claim "I'm seasick all the time" simply are speaking from short experience.  If you spend a week on a boat, you cease to be seasick.  That, or all of these people with seasickness and motion sickness just need to 'harden the fuck up'.


The captain talked about a bit of the business behind the ships.  Some of the hostels (like the horrible Hostel Wunderbar) actually make more money booking the ship rides than having guests.  If you're paying $550 USD (as I did), the hostel gets $50 for sending a couple e-mails.  If you contact the captains directly you could save fifty or more dollars.  Of course knowing who to contact could be rough.  I only know one of the captains and that is Bernard.  In addition to his linked Facebook page, he can be reached through his e-mail at IEMANJA57@yahoo.fr.  Fair warning - he doesn't really understand computers.  The unkind of you (my friends, mainly) may well point out Logan doesn't understand computers either.  He understands significantly less than even Logan.  So, show some patience when contacting him.  He knows boats much better.


The chicken had all turned green and needed to be thrown overboard.  Bernard explained that in Central America the food may only have a day or two left from when you bought it before it goes totally bad.  They routinely let stuff thaw and refreeze it several times due to either inadequate cooling equipment or gross incompetency.  So keep an eye on your food.  Just because you bought it from a reputable looking super market doesn't mean it isn't wonky.



DAY 7

At about 6AM our boat truged toward port.  The process of getting into port and finding a parking space (trickier with a boat) takes about four or five hours.  Nothing is fast on a boat.

As we were heading in to the harbor, we noticed it was flanked by two old fortresses.  The captain said that in the olden days they use to stretch an iron chain between the two to keep out pirates.

I asked if it worked.  This is never a convenient question to ask someone as they never know.

Apparently, they took the chain down as there is a large pirate ship that routinely makes its way back and forth ferrying tourists with it's big diesel engines.

After spending an hour or two cooling our heels in the dock aboard ship, the captain rented us a 'water taxi' which I christened the "Oh gods oh gods we're all going to die".  It was actually a dug out fishing canoe and the most unstable craft I've been in and survived.  [For a list of craft I have been in and didn't survive, please reference previous blog entries.  All of them.]

The captain took everyone to a hostel (in Cartagena, Colombia) which cost 22,000 COP per night.  I said "Fuck that" and went and found a private room which cost 24,000 COP.  About a dollar more per night.


And that concludes my exciting (well, hopefully more to read about than experience) voyage at sea!  As you can see, the five day voyage actually took seven and overall was a mix of interesting bits and a huge boring base.  I can now say that I've traveled in a very small vessel on the open sea however.  Not planning on a repeat performance but my life is very strange so I can't say "It will never happen" with any finality.



LOGAN'S HEAD

Like many other places (including the Republic of Georgia) boats were constructed for shorter people than I.  The top of my skull has yet another new scar.  I'm sure that should a futuristic anthropologist discovering my skull would classify it as several different unsuccessful attempts at trepanning.
Hell, this has happened so many times I really feel I should get a t-shirt.  Preferably free.  And in XXXL size.  Air dropped to me by the Marines.

LOGAN AT SEA 2

NATURE TRIES TO OFF LOGAN

DAY 3

You feel pretty continuously grungy on a boat.  Salt, not washing, washing with a very limited amount of fresh water only and so on.

It was time for me to get a bath.  In my underwear and standing on the back of the boat I soaped up then jumped into the water for a bit of exercise.  Paddle around within a meter of the boat ladder.

Ever watch a cute kid walking around with that kind of 'spaced out wonder' that sends you back to thinking of your childhood?  And as he's walking past you in the park he just wallops hell out of your groin with his metal Tonka truck he was carrying?  Having nature try to kill you suddenly and unexpectedly is a lot like that.

Surprise and pain.

So I was floundering around in the water and the weather came up.  Very suddenly.  The tide swept me away from the boat - fortunately toward the shore.  Mind you, it doesn't take a lot of current to prevent me from swimming the direction I want to go.

I yelled to the captain who encouraged me to swim toward the boat until he saw I couldn't make it.  Then, he told me to swim to shore.  Hell, I didn't think I could make that either.

Eventually, I swam the short distance to shore and waited for several minutes as Bernard secured the boat.  The boat is always the first concern in such cases.

Eventually, he came and got my exhausted ass in the dingy.

Scary as hell being stuck on an island in your underwear.



QUINN

To avoid sunburn I could feel starting, the shirt came back on but not the pants.  Since my 'operation shorts' had been destroyed, I emulated one of my role models 'Quinn the Pantless' (NERO reference) and only wore underwear from the time of my near drowning until we docked.

Though it made me feel a bit sorry for everyone else.

Not sorry enough to put on my damned pants, however.



LITTLE KUNA ISLAND

Remember the Kuna from before?  Well, they seem to own (ie were granted by and subsidized) all the islands in the area.  They have a set of 'vacation home' islands as well.  They aren't particularly nice - they are smaller than the island shown in 'Castaway' and have a hut on them.  The Kuna wait something like five years to be able to take their turn to go stay there.

The reason this is a 'super special' thing for them is that tourist boats pass by and often stop at the islands.

Yes, it's a chance to make some money.

So we anchored near one and the captain was telling us we could go hang out on the island.  I'm pondering buying some overpriced ($2) beers and chilling on land to drink them.

Like many islands, it looked much better from a distance than up close.  The palm trees surrounded what looked to be a charming little hut.  When you got closer, it appeared to be a disease ridden shack you'd want to torch rather than live in - as do many of the Kuna homes.

The old guy whose temporarily in charge wants $2 per person just to be on his island.

What the fuck.

The others and I seem to be in agreement and we're back on the boat.

Something disappointing about poor tribesmen just with their handout as opposed to doing some sort of rudimentary business that would net them more money.

I must confess that I did take this picture of his island then yell "I've gotten a picture of your island for free!  HA!" or something along those lines.



MORE ON THE KUNA

I did forget to mention that the Kuna can be distinguished by their shins and forearms quite easily.  In their culture, having thin shins and forearms is considered attractive.   Like a fat girl who buys new shoes to be pretty instead of just dropping 20 KG, they tightly wrap multicolored bands of thread around their forearms and shins to keep them thin.  I've no idea if it's unhealthy or not but didn't much care either.


In addition to wanting to charge people for setting foot on tiny islands, the Kuna do come around with goods in boats.  One came with some of the moas (quilted or sewn stuff):

"You want to buy one?"

"If I can't carry it, I don't need it and I'm carrying enough."

"You could buy it as a gift?"

"Don't have anyone I like that much."

Oh the looks I get.

If he had beer and nibbles, we may have done some business.

Now to be fair, the Kuna do sometimes bring by fresh fish or crab.  If the smell of seafood didn't make me sick I might have been more excited.   Captain Bernard often bought fresh fish and crab from the natives.  He would buy three crab for ten dollars which I was told is less than a quarter price of a restaurant.


In addition to trying to sell goods, we did have a couple Kuna show up and demand water.  Not a small amount - they had their own large drum with them.  The captain dutifully filled and returned it.  I asked him about it and he told me there was a 'fraternity' at sea.  I'm wondering if that was the Kuna tax.


In the next blog, we set sail (er - use the motor - not enough wind) for the dangerous open sea.  Stay tuned.



HOW TO DO DISHES ON A SMALL BOAT

Since fresh(-ish) water is a stored, valuable commodity, you need to start the wash with salt water.  Either sit on the back steps if you are anchored or use the nifty bucket with knotted rope to get the salt water.  After scrubbing them off with that, rinse with fresh.



HOW TO SHIT AT SEA

I really hated this toilet.  It looks big in the picture but if you're over age ten it's a small target.  If you are a fat bastard you need to squeeze the business end of your ass into a very small and uncomfortable spot and start shitting.

Once you've managed to get rid of the crap, it's time to manually pump out the waste.  To the right of the toilet is a gray handle.  You pump slowly to get all the shit out.  If it doesn't all go out, you flip the gray switch to 'fill the tank', pump to fill it and then flip it back to 'drain' and keep pumping.

For those who don't like to discuss poop or have others know they poop, I'll bet this is a nightmare.  Everyone on the boat knows you used the toilet as you're spending a couple minutes down there with a noisy slow barely working pump trying to get rid of the shit.

But wait!  There's more!

You may still have shit in your ass!  How do we get rid of that?  We can't use toilet paper!  No - we need to spray it out with a hose that has enough water pressure to dribble out the water in a depressed fashion.

So you need one hand to hold your ass open, one hand to work the sprayer and another to scrub out your ass.

Aside from a few three handed freaks who regard this as 'no big deal'
you are now stuck juggling three things you'd rather not.

Knowing my readers as I do there will be a certain percentage that go try this out in their bathroom.  If your bathroom isn't moving like a slow moving bucking bronco, you haven't had the full 'flavor' experience yet.

And when I was sailing the seas were 'dead calm'.  I can't even imagine the fun of trying this in rough seas!

But enough with my coprophilia.



BOAT SECURITY

There really doesn't seem to be any.  This is a bit confusing for me.  Everyone just leaves their crap on their boats and wanders off.  Natives wander around on their boats.  My guess would be that the natives don't rob the boats because if they did people would stop coming to their area and buying stuff from them.



SHIPBOARD LIFE

Most of what you do at sea seems to be 'wait'.  You wait until you can go do something else.

This irritated the fuck out of me.  I'm the kind of person who likes to always be doing something.  With my lifestyle, I have plenty of time to think about stuff in silence already.  Activities which encourage this are quite a bummer.

Living aboard a boat doesn't seem to be for the crippled or weak.  The captain is routinely dirty from messing with the engines, anchor, plumbing and so on.  He works his rear off.

A boat would make an excellent money pit.  You see, boats quite naturally want to have everything go wrong with them and then sink into the ocean.  Only someone messing with the boat all of the time and the power of money can keep the boat from following what it wants to do.  Sometimes even these are not enough but in general if you have enough people working on the boat and throw enough money at it, you will get days if not weeks of service from one.  Till it wants more.

If you're a non-smoker on a small boat, you may be fucked.   Smoking in the pilot house during inclement weather (more often than you think) is quite normal as is smoking in the open air.



OVERALL THOUGHTS ON CENTRAL AMERICA

With the exception of the two wildly overpriced countries (Panama and Costa Rica), the rest had just blended together.  Same basic architecture, food and people.

Overall, Central America seems a bit pricey for what you get.  [Note for those people who think it's just Logan saying this, fuck off, it is not that uncommon to hear from other tourists as well.]

I can't think of anything which would bring me back to Central America.  Been there, done that, done with that.  It made me miss SE Asia where I could get a much better meal for a third of the price and lodging for about two thirds of the price.



PHILOSOPHY

"The laid back lifestyle."

Ah.  Saying this brings up images of
laying in a hammock, enjoying the day as time slips by.  Maybe ordering a drink from a passing waiter...

Oh - wait - the waiter is no where to be found.  They are off talking with their friends and ignoring the customers who have all entered the first stages of dehydration.

And the hammock?   Yeah - it actually looks like this
simply because nobody would be bothered to repair or replace it.

When people think about the 'laid back lifestyle' they are thinking about a simpler life for them.  They are not thinking about lazy, incompetent or inept people that may want to have preform a service for them - like fix a toilet.

I'd rather live in a place where the people aren't trying to live a half assed 'idylic lifestyle'.  Translation, they don't work much and are paid appropriately hence they are always poor.

If you're on a vacation, which is more relaxing?  Being tended to or having to go do stuff yourself?  Hell, you've probably already paid big money to get there and since you are on vacation you don't have to work anyway.

Think about that next time you hear someone advertising the natives of a place you were thinking about going on vacation live a 'laid back lifestyle'...

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

LOGAN GOES TO SEA - PART 1

WHERE'S LOGAN?

From David Holt:

Yes, this is the first fan art of this blog!


LOGAN GOES TO SEA

Note, the writing style (aka 'no style') I am using is pretty much the same order as I put notes into my notebook.  Hope it builds toward a breathtaking climax for you.  It didn't for me, but it might for you.

DAY 1

Went with one of my future shipmates to town as the captain asked us to pick up some chicken breasts and eggs.  We're kind of getting the chicken both coming and going if you ask me.  Note that despite the chicken breasts being from a major store and professionally wrapped, they turned green after just a couple days at sea.  In Central (and perhaps South) America it is not unusual to sell something just before it goes bad.  Nasty.

To get to the town with a working ATM and for the shopping required an hour each way in a Bluebird school bus garishly repainted and outfitted with shitty speakers to pump out shittier music.  In some places, these are called 'chicken buses'.  The seating is made for two children.  Hence, two or more adults is not comfortable.

After arriving, I tried the ATM.  Splitting my daily allowance amount in half and doing withdraws for that doubled my chances of getting something as well as my bank fees.  Fortunately, it worked.  Happy.

We got the money, picked up the requested groceries and some extra stuff for ourselves.  They even had Booberry at the store.  I was floored.  Unfortunately, it didn't taste that good.  Don't know if my pallet has changed or if they have a different recipe in this part of the world.

The captain himself is a 56 year old Frenchman who shuns redundant (or most) safety gear as an 'American thing'.  Like running lights.  Like the thing that when activated tells the coast guard where you are, who you are and that you are in trouble.  Like life rings.  There were some life preservers I discovered later but I'm not sure if there were enough for everyone if we sank.

Cast of characters:

Bernard:  Captain
Mark:  Swiss guy
Roman:  The other Swiss guy
Lawrence:  French girl who joined us
Daman:  American tourist

We sat around until eight at night waiting to see if an 'old American lady' would join us - she didn't.

The trip itself started on a fairly depressing note for Logan as there was no plug ins.  Sure, those of you with sailing experience might say "Well, of course not!"  But we did have a deep freeze.  The captain had a plug in for his computer - which did the vital navigation.  We had interior lighting.  But no plugs for my computer.  Hence, no computer for the trip.  I found that 'trying' to say the least.

Unfortunately, the captain liked his music.  He has perhaps 35 'hippy dippy trippy' songs from the 1960's he plays on a loop.  That shit got old real quick.  I've no clue why people fear the silence so.

Due to the heat, the shirt got lost real quick and didn't reappear until day three when I noticed it was getting close to sunburn time.

We cast off.

As we were the only crew the captain had, we got to pull night watch.  Having been in the military, I immediately jumped on my favorite watch - the last one.  I graciously volunteered to take it and immediately went to bed.

That night watch was the coolest of the trip.  The weather was clear but overcast at high altitudes.  The silence of the sea slapping the small boat, spears of lightning briefly illuminating the sky.  Distant lights of other ships and fish farms.   Dawn eventually came, casting its milky glow.

Being on a boat during calm waters is like being on a slow bucking bronco for days.




DAY 2

We stopped by a very small island.  The other, more fit shipmates swam to the island.  Being a smoker, weak, crippled and generally more adept at video games that physical activity makes me a very weak swimmer.

Hell, if I jumped off the boat, I felt lucky to be able to swim the three or four meters to catch it.

The water was warmer than many showers I've had.

I can't even imagine trying to do this cruise with more than the six people we had on the boat.  Officially, there are four double rooms and two single rooms.   Like so many other things, this is a lie.  The captain sleeps in one of the doubles.  The two single rooms are full of bed - nothing else and separated from a double only by a curtain.  To get into the room, you either go through a very inconvenient hatch in the top or through someone's room.  The French girl who had been assigned to a single ended up sleeping in the wheelhouse.   Since she choose to sleep in the room with the radio, people smoking and doing watch, etc I'm guessing the singles weren't very comfortable.

Sometime during this day, I put a head sized hole in the shorts I'd been operated on while wearing in the Republic of Georgia.  Those went in the trash and it was underwear from then on.

Wear European boxers.  No hole for your penis to attempt it's escape.  Note, for those without a penis you can order one online.

Lunch was fresh vegetables, cut up hard boiled eggs, rice - all mixed and served cold.  It was excellent.

After sitting around for awhile, we were offered - and accepted - a guy coming to get us with a boat for $2 each to take us to see the Kuna.



THE KUNA

We went to see the native tribesman of the area on their island.  Part of the island was natural.  I suspect the rest was made from trash, old seaweed and snot.

My wiring seems much different from my shipmates and indeed, other tourists.  While they saw it and perhaps saw a 'charming simpler life', I thought 'what a tumble down depressing squalid shit hole'.

Despite of what Logan thinks of as an 'acceptable standard of living', the Kuna did seem mostly happy.  We were told we couldn't take pictures of any of the individuals but everything else was alright.  Later, this turned out to be only mostly true as I wanted to take a picture of a mural on a wall and an old woman wanted to shake me down for more gringo tourist money.  She failed to get any.

But Logan, don't you feel obligated to give any of these people money?  When you have so much and they so little?

No.  Not even a little bit.  If someone wants my money it is simple.  Offer me a product or service that is good at a reasonable price and I may give them money.  This is not a difficult concept.  I dislike supporting beggars.

Even the children had been taught to say "One dollar!" though they did it without expectation of getting anything.  Ah, raising them right.  If you want them to become beggars...

They do have quilting as their native art.  Nothing I was at all interested in but pieces did go for roughly 5 to 50 USD - depending on who you bought it from, quality and the tourists lack of haggling skill.



BACK TO THE BOAT

The conversation shipboard seems to be about 60% in French and the rest in English.  Unfortunately, my French sucks.

Considering we have only six people, it is a bit wild that the conversation ranges in French, English, Swiss German, German and of course Spanish.  This just seems to underline the lacking areas of the American educational system to me.  Or perhaps the lack of American interest to leave their continent.

Regardless, my life needs subtitles.

Some people say things like "Life aboard a boat is extremely laid back".  That doesn't really illustrate anything.  Saying "Not much happens" misses the mark as well.  Lets try:

If you see something even moderately interesting, everyone will come and look and that will provide the next hour of conversation.

It's a bit slow paced for me.

There are people who have not experienced travel by sail and have a certain picture of it in their heads.  The amazing thing is that this picture may not even be disrupted by reality.



Tune in later for day 3 - when nature makes a half hearted attempt to kill Logan!  Will it succeed?  Stay tuned...



ALTERNATIVE TRAVEL

Should you want to skip the week long voyage by sea, you can always take the 24 hour trip length Panama to Colombia ferry for $249 USD (about half of the week at sea cost).  The price includes 50 KG of luggage.  Contact www.SANBLASFERRY.com.  I've only heard that it may be amazingly disorganized.  No experience with this at all.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

GETTING THERE IS NOT HALF THE FUN

APOLOGY

Sorry if this is a little choppy but that's what happens when a) I get off a boat after a week  b) I've had no access to wifi to publish the blog in two weeks with things actually happening  c) I'm feeling really funky.



JOURNEY TO PANAMA

Blowing through Panama and Costa Rica.  Gosh, I'm glad I sped through these countries.  They look like a slightly (20%?) cheaper and much much shitter version of the USA.  Beware when you see 'Outback Steakhouse' and such - means you are in an expensive zone.

Like the bus to Costa Rica, the bus to Panama makes no stops.  This makes for a slightly shorter and much more hellish trip.

Even if the bus is late, it may not affect your arrival if crossing the border.  The border is - believe it or not - closed during the night.  Why this is, I do not know.  Why the bus speeds there to make people stand around for a couple hours waiting for it to open is also a mystery.

While we were at a border, I managed to pass off a dollar I'd picked up somewhere that had some random markings on it.  Stained or done by some idiot with a pen or a stamp.  The guy selling drinks didn't want to take it but when I told him 'no problemo' and offered the drink back he found it in his heart to accept the bill.  Remember, the higher denomination of bill, the harder it is to pass along an imperfect one.  This is because uneducated people think perfect bills are less likely to be forgeries.  Sad.

Found out the 'executive seat' (ie first class) I'd bought was on a bus that offered nothing but.  When they are all 'first class', none are.

At around midnight, I had to do a foray to the bathroom.  Playing the 'cowboy game' (peeing standing up just hoping to get some in the toilet) is even harder while breaking and accelerating wildly as well as random swerves side to side.  How do you win this game?  By not peeing on yourself.  Or being a woman who has to sit on the toilet.

If some huge cereal crusher ever grabs me by the throat, slams me into a brick wall and growls into my face "Have you ever been in a small box shaken harder than a 6.0 earthquake while trying to pee into a small hole?"  I can stare that big brute in the eye and say "Yes I have."  And when he screams into my face with breath that can bleach bricks "And did you hit that hole?"  I can smile and say "Only by accident."

Of course we'd been told 'pee pee only' on this extremely long (either 12 or 24 hour - can't remember) bus ride as the toilet was broken.

That's luxury bus rides for you...

Panama style.



ENTRY INTO PANAMA

Getting into Panama is no joke.

For some reason I can't figure out, they think people will want to stay there.

My e-mail confirming my sea journey in the most preemptive and basic way was closely scrutinized.  They then asked for proof I had 500 USD.  Rather than making myself a target for a later mugging followed by rape followed by having my throat slit followed by having my corpse violated in unspeakable ways, I just held up my debit card.

The border guard then asked if I had my account statement.

His superior caught me giving his lackey the 'are you fucking nuts' look and came over and told his lackey to let me pass.

In terms of time spent at a border crossing, this was one of the worst.

But wait - there's more!

Everyone from the bus was then taken into a room with tables in a circle.  We were told to place our luggage upon the tables.  The guy who looked like a teacher then locked the door and did...roll call.

You'd better believe it.

It was the most tedious thing ever - especially since many of my fellow passengers seemed to have forgotten the fake name they were traveling under.

Eventually, the roll call was complete and then the bags were searched.

Well, actually, just by the teacher guy who did the roll call.  The other guys, including the one I had just ticked off the bags and told us to go out the other door.

I felt a bit bad for the people who had the teacher madly going through their bags in the most inefficient search I've seen in a bit.

Sad.

Eventually, I got dropped off on some street in Panama City.

A cab driver named Michael, fearing I would have all of my gear stolen picked me up and took me on the most expensive cab ride I've ever had - $55.  To be fair, it was hours of driving.  With a stop for food.

Eventually, we got to 'Hostel Wunderbar'.  Way, way out in the fucking middle of nowhere.  Really, extremely 'what the hell am I doing here' remote.

For the last couple days, I've stayed in 'Hostel Wunderbar'.  It's not.  This is one of those kind of places that has to trick people into staying there.  They aren't located near anything you want to do or see nor even close to where the boats leave - despite what they tell you.  And it's a noisy refurbished 1970's shithole.  With no wifi.  Despite them having a web page and answering e-mails.  Only the owners computer is allowed to touch the connection.  No, you can't touch the computer as you will cause evil spirits in the form of little understood 'viruses' to enter and destroy the computer.

Hell, I had to walk a couple hours to get wifi.  Not good.  Yes, I'll put a review on trip adviser about this later.  Like as soon as I get my passport back.  More on that later.

The choices you have for a room are $20 for one with mosquito netting next to a pool table or an uncomfortable 1970's style roomwith AC for $30.

Not only are they doing renovations on the building (ever ongoing) but they have a shop for doing work on boats.  You will get woken up at 7AM by machine shop crap.

One of the rough things is when an ATM tells you "Transaction cancelled by your bank" and then it tells your bank "Yeah, he got the money".  Oh, that is happy fun time when you have no easy access to wifi.  Skype saved the day, however.

People who want to 'get away from it all' either have it too rough where they're at or no fucking clue what that means.

The owners have an attitude that you are bothering them by staying there.  Why folks like this have a hostel is one of the great mysteries of life.

While there, I met up with two Swiss guys who were going to be taking the same boat as I.  Due to being lied to by the owners of Hostel Wunderbar, they thought it was going out a day sooner than it was but whatever.

So, we banded together and left that wretched place and went to Captain Jacks in Portobello Panama.

Captain Jacks is a decent though pricey hostel.  Their beers cost $2 each and a bed in the dorm about $13 or $15.  It is not great but not horrible either.  The food is very expensive ranging from $9 to $18.  This place is frequented by some fairly outlandish characters.

Fortunately, we (the two Swiss guys, I and an American we met at the hostel) got to meet our captain in the flesh here.  It turns out the boat was leaving from the town Captain Jacks is in, not the Hostel Wunderbar one hour away we'd been led to believe.

The next day, we would be starting our sea voyage!

Next blog entry, "Logan goes to sea".



CENTRAL AMERICA WRAP UP

Overall, I didn't really enjoy my time in Central America.  Most of it seems pretty trashy and it's priced way beyond what you get for your money.  Before you say "Oh Logan" I'd like to point out that many other tourists have echoed this.  So piss off.

I can't foresee any circumstances that would bring me back to Central America but now at least I can make an informed decision not to go there.



SEASIDE PHILOSOPHY

There seems to be a correlation between how trashy places are and how close they are to the sea or ocean.  This can only be overcome through grossly overpaying.



KINDLE PHILOSOPHY

It's weird because you can put every book you want to read - perhaps even will read on an easy to store Kindle.  People seem to have a lot of resistance to them.  "I just like the feel of paper." they tell me.  I'm wondering if another generation or two needs to die before people start to 'get it' - like with those people who were too suspicious of computers to ever use one.  We'll see.



VIDEOS

Pouring rain



JOKE

"How do you take your coffee?"

"By force, if necessary..."



COSTS

Tica Bus station:  For a small cup of coffee and a hot dog preserved from antiquity, 3.50 USD.  You can also rent a hotel room at the bus station for 30 USD per night.

PICTURES

{{2011}} London, GB | Rail N Sail | Amsterdam, Netherlands | Prague, Czech Republic | Budapest, Hungary | Sarajevo, Bosnia | Romania | Chisinau, Moldova | Ukraine: Odessa - Sevastopol | Crossed Black Sea by ship | Georgia: Batumi - Tbilisi - Telavi - Sighnaghi - Chabukiani | Turkey: Kars - Lost City of Ani - Goreme - Istanbul | Jordan: Amman - Wadi Rum | Israel | Egypt: Neweiba - Luxor - Karnak - Cairo | Thailand: Bangkok - Pattaya - Chaing Mai - Chaing Rei | Laos: Luang Prabang - Pakse | Cambodia: Phnom Penh | Vietnam: Vung Tau - Saigon aka Ho Chi Minh City

{{2012}} Cambodia: Kampot - Sihanoukville - Siem Reap - Angkor Wat | Thailand: Bangkok | India: Rishikesh - Ajmer - Pushkar - Bundi - Udaipur - Jodhpur - Jasalmer - Bikaner - Jaipur - Agra - Varanasi | Nepal: Kathmandu - Chitwan - Pokhara - Bhaktapur - (Rafting) - Dharan | India: Darjeeling - Calcutta Panaji | Thailand: Bangkok - again - Krabi Town | Malaysia, Malaka | Indonesia: Dumas - Bukittinggi - Kuta - Ubud - 'Full Throttle' - Gili Islands - Senggigi | Cambodia: Siem Reap | Thailand: Trat | Turkey: Istanbul | Georgia: Tbilisi

{{2013}} Latvia: Riga | Germany: Berlin | Spain: Malaga - Grenada | Morocco: Marrakech - Essauira - Casablanca - Chefchawen - Fes | Germany: Frankfurt | Logan's Home Invasion USA: Virginia - Michigan - Indiana - Illinois - Illinois - Colorado | Guatemala: Antigua - San Pedro | Honduras: Copan Ruinas - Utila | Nicaragua: Granada | Colombia: Cartagena | Ecuador: Otavalo - Quito - Banos - Samari (a spa outside of Banos) - Puyo - Mera

{{2014}} Peru: Lima - Nasca - Cusco | Dominican Republic | Ukraine: Odessa | Bulgaria: Varna - Plovdiv | Macedonia: Skopje - Bitola - Ohrid - Struga | Albania: Berat - Sarande | Greece: Athens | Italy: Naples - Pompeii - Salerno | Tunisia: Hammamet 1

{{2015}} Hammamet 2 | South Africa: Johnnesburg | Thailand: Hua Hin - Hat Yai | Malaysia: Georgetown | Thailand: Krabi Town | Indonesia:
Sabang Island | Bulgaria: Plovdiv | Romania: Ploiesti - Targu Mures | Poland: Warsaw | Czech Republic: Prague | Germany: Munich | Netherlands: Groningen | England: Slough | Thailand: Ayutthaya - Khon Kaen - Vang Vieng | Cambodia: Siem Reap

{{2016}} Thailand: Kanchanaburi - Chumphon | Malaysia: Ipoh - Kuala Lumpur - Kuching - Miri | Ukraine: Kiev | Romania: Targu Mures - Barsov | Morocco: Tetouan

{{2017}} Portugal: Faro | USA: Virginia | Michigan | Illinois | Colorado |

For videos with a Loganesque slant, be sure to visit here. You can also Facebook Logan.

If you enjoy this blog, please donate! Help Logan keep on traveling.