Follow Amanda & Rob around the world for a year. From 30 September 2005!

Friday, October 28, 2005

Living on the Edge (well we climbed a volcano)

Hello all. Been in Antigua for a week now and we have been living life dangerously. First off, there was a minor earthquake the first day we arrived here. No need for panic, it was just about three seconds of shaking a bit when we were in a cafe, and nobody else thought anything of it, but it was a bit weird.

We have done our 20 hours of Spanish. That wasn´t dangerous. Was good though. We had one-on-one tuition and we were chugging through present, future and past tense of hundreds of verbs. Our teachers were good. I (Rob) chatted to mine a lot about the floundering Guatemalan football team - Amanda learned a little more Spanish. Our understanding is very good now though so it has been worthwhile. And we are staying with a Guatemalan family with two kids and two dogs (one of which is an evil dog whose head is too small for its podgy body), so it feels like German exchange all over again.

Afternoons, after school, the school lays on activities. We did salsa dancing which was fun, don´t think I´ll be giving up my day job though. Oh hang on a mo, I already did. Then we visited a coffee plantation which was really interesting. Even Amanda, the tea queen, had a cup of coffee at the end and actually confessed to quite liking it.

Tuesday, we went to a volunteer organisation for deprived kids just outside of Guatemala. It was a real eye-opener and made us realise how lucky we have been and are in our lives. Their website is http://www.ebs-guatemala.net/home2.html if anyone fancies having a look. Whatever money we gave them seemed insufficient.

Guatemala is a very poor country. Some parts of it are even worse than Bradford.
Thursday´s activity I will leave for another blog until we can download the photos. Lets say it was a momentous occasion in both of our lives and leave it at that……

Today, the danger levels hit new highs as we climbed Pacaya Volcano. An active volcano. Ooooohhhhhh. Took us a while to get there as our minibus got a flat tyre (A message for Sue and Trevor Hill – all the roads here are crap. We can definitely confirm that you were right !). And just a note here, to say how great the MOT and TUEV systems are. Over here the vehicles are rubbish. They are either belching out smoke or falling to pieces. Today, we saw one truck tipped over in a ditch and one whose back wheel had fallen off whilst it was driving along. Most unfortunate. Anyway, took us two hours to climb to the top which isn´t easy on volcanic ash I can tell you. At the top we got to look into a crater of lava, not for long though as the suplhurous gas was not too pleasant. Was pretty neat though. We´ll stick the photos on Flickr (btw, don´t forget to check our photos via the Flickr link on the right of the screen).

Now we are back in Antigua not being very dangerous in an Internet Cafe. We head off at 7am tomorrow to Panajachel on Lake Atitlan (things are Ok there now so we are going to spend a couple of days there) before heading on to Tikal, to swing in the trees with some monkeys, and then in a week or so to Belize for diving.

So adios for now.

Amanda ´Danger is my middle name´Hares and Robert ´Slightly less dangerous than Dangermouse´Speake

Friday, October 21, 2005

The Cheesecake Incident

There were four things that I really wanted to do before I left America:

1. Meet Homer Simpson
2. Eat a Krispy Kreme Donut or ten
3. Crash into a saloon with swingy doors like in theYosemite Sam cartoons and the country and western music and punch ups to stop momentarily as all the cowboys turn round to look at me and tumbleweed rolls across the floor
4. Eat some really good cheesecake

Now, number one was a little unrealistic. I kept asking people but nobody knew the whereabouts of the rotund yellow man.

Number two task was successfully completed on our first night in Vegas. And then again the next day. And the day after that. Very tasty they all were too.

Number three, we went to Fort Worth, a wild west town no less, but alas there were no swingy doors. However, there is a bar in Antigua with the very same doors soI will have to go in there and be happy with gringos rather than cowboys.

On number four, there is a bit of a story. And I think travelling is all about stories that will either make me laugh or make me cry in years to come. My abiding memory of my trip to the wonderful Canadian Rockies was not the view of Lake Louise, but the moment one morning when Mark and I heard a huge commotion from the bathroom and went in to find Neil had slipped over and virtually destroyed the bathroom. Shower curtain was ripped down, water everywhere. It was very funny.

So here goes with this little one……When I say I wanted some really good cheesecake, I really did want some good cheesecake. In fact Amanda will tell you, I didn’t stop going on about it for most of our time in the US. I had a piece at a buffet in Vegas but it wasn´t up to scratch. So imagine my delight when we were wandering through the magnificent Caesar´s Palace and there before us in big neon lights (it was Vegas after all) was a sign for the Cheesecake Factory. My eyes widened as I perused the list of over 30 different types of Cheesecake. I faced one of the most difficult decisions of my life – how I regretted getting rid of that beard, it would have been stroked a plenty. I eventually plumped for Craig´s Crazy Carrot Cake Cheesecake – combining, in my humble opinion, the two best cakes known to man. Amanda went for the low-carb cheesecake with strawberries – boring. However, at the time we were not that hungry, so we carried this cheesecake round a few more casinos, on the monorail back to our hotel, on the shuttle bus tothe airport, and thru check-in, promising ourselves that we would eat our cheesecake after we had checked in. Seemingly the anticipation of this patisserie delight got the better of me and, as I rushed over to drop my rucksack off at the baggage drop, the carrier bag slipped from my grasp. I watched aghast as, almost in slow motion, my box containing my precious cheesecake slipped out of the bag crashing to the floor with a splat as the plastic box opened. Thank the Lord, most of the cheesecake remained in the box with only a little of the whipped cream spilling on to the terminal carpet. I hasten to add that Amanda´s girly slice, remained perfectly in tact.

Within milliseconds I had scooped my cheesecake back up into the carrier bag, under thewatchful eye of the big burly security guard. Ten minutes later, the cheesecake was all gone. It was not aesthetically pleasing after its tumble, but was mighty tasty. Five minutes later I felt sick.

See below link to the best photo of our trip so far…..

http://static.flickr.com/24/54690031_0dcbb90de1_o.jpg

Turning into a traveller

Well Amanda has updated you on our travels, which gives me time to write some rubbish.

We have been on the road for 3 weeks now and slowly but surely we are turning into travellers. The beard is sadly no more. After 6 days it became really uncomfortable and, whilst I did like the option of giving my chin a good old stroke every time a semi-important decision had to be made, it was just no fun any more. But other things have started to happen.....

We got really excited when we found out that there was a free laundry at our Vegas hotel. And the first thing we did when we got there? Straight to the roulette table? Straight to the box office to buy Celine Dion tickets? Well we wouldn´t do that anyway. No, we went straight to the laundry to wash our pants. How sad is that?

Then I am beginning to think of daily showers as an option rather than a necessity. Although, this has always been the case really as I am a boy. We are losing track of what day it is, but that may have something to do with the red wine from a carton I drank last night. Note to self: never again ask for vino de casa.

We are both now proud owners of head torches. Now I think these are the best invention this side of the wheel and sticklebricks. Top stuff, and what´s more it gives me the excuse to do an impression of a Welsh minor everytime I don mine. Amanda finds this hilarious as you can imagine.

But the biggest indication that I am turning from an office worker into a vagabond is that I bought some sandals. Not any old sandals you understand - at the age of 27, I don´t want to turn into my Dad quite yet - but blue Salomon, top of the range, hi-tech, Amphibian shoes. So Crocodile Shoes then. Probably designed by NASA scientists or something. The really sad thing is that the other day it was a touch chilly in the evening and I looked down in horror to find myself wearing gleaming white socks with my new sandals. Oh dear, I blame it on living in Germany for too long. I promise it won´t happen again.

Right, got to go drink more vino de casa. Laters all....

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Leaving the USA

Ola!

Seems like ages since we last wrote as we were so busy. We covered about 8 US national parks in the same amount of days, camping the whole time (we didn´t give in to the cold again after that windy night at Bryce).
After Bryce (GORGEOUS) we went to the Arches, Canyonlands, Capitol Reef, Monument Valley, Lake Powel, Grand Canyon and Lake Mead. Lake Mead was created by the Hoover Dam, which we took tour of - very impressive. Did you know with the amount of concrete used to make the dam they could have built a 4 foot wide, 3 inch thick pavement around the Earth´s equator? Amazing!

Of course the Grand Canyon was the icing on a very large cake (with Bryce being the best layer), and the plane flight we took over it was the cherry.... notice the food associations again!! We had a lovely campsite at the GC, in the forest. We even had a campfire! Did a fairly long hike into the canyon and our trainers turned orange from the sand. Rob even got a kind of fake-tan effect on his legs...mmmm.

Finally we packed up the tent, mats and sleeping bags for the last time (for now) and drove back to Vegas for a few days of luxury. I wasn´t as successful as Rob on the slot machines but did well at the roulette table (with pink chips) after overcoming our initial embarassment. Vegas was lots of fun, but as everyone told us, it was nice to get away from the noises of the slot machines when we left. We did eat some great food (over-ate so many times at buffets!) and saw a v funny comedian who had tears rolling down my face. Unfortunately we had quite bad weather, it rained for 2 of our 3 days there (it´s in the desert... make sense?!) but it didn´t spoil it too much for us. Know which hotels we´d like to stay at if we ever went again too.

So last night (Wednesday) we took a short flight from Vegas to LA and from there an overnight flight to Guatemala City, landing at 4.30am local time. Hardly had a wink of sleep. We were understandably a little apprehensive - until now it´s all been very easy in the US and Central America will be quite different to that. We walked out of the airport not having a clue where we should go (it was 5.30am) but a taxi-driver spotted us and seemed to know we wanted to go to Antigua. And so we took our first journey which led us out through the run-down streets of Guatemala City into the hills to Antigua, the old capital. We arrived around 7am, but the hostel we´d planned on going to was full. Taxi driver was v helpful and took us to another place he knew, where we were greeted by the friendly owner and shown to a basic room with... a bed! That was all we needed. We slept til 12, fantastic!

We´ve wandered around the town and looked at language schools, had something to eat etc. Is really quite different to anywhere either of us has been to before. Rickety old buses and cars, lots of people to-ing and fro-ing. It´s a holiday today so maybe it´ll be quieter tomorrow when people are back at work. For now it´s just interesting to watch and take it all in. Hopefully we´ll start a Spanish course on Saturday, where we´ll stay with a family for a week and get one-to-one tuition for 4 hours a day.

Think that´s about it for now without going into too much detail. Rob will update on the Cheesecake Incident very soon...

xxx

Sunday, October 09, 2005

Beyond Washington

Tis me, young Robert. Well Amanda is posting the first bit so I will let you know what we did next. Dallas was next up. It was great to meet all the guys I've been working with for the last few years - thanks to all of you for making us feel so welcome. Apart from seeing everyone we shopped a lot. We learned that there are shops a plenty in Dallas. Had some great food too. We learned that there are restaurants a plenty in Dallas. Anyway, from there we flew to Vegas and after cruising the strip and stopping at Dennys for a bite to eat (Nunn, Howat - I lasted fully one week before my first visit there) we drove to Zion National Park and today on to Bryce National Park. Been walking both days. Zion was grand. Went walking in the canyon yesterday and today got up at 6.30am (yes, don't ask why but even though we are meant to be being lazy, we are getting up at silly times) to catch sunrise which was most pleasant. Today we drove out of the canyon through the rest of the park where the rock became less jagged and looked more like raspberry ripple / vienetta (you may notice I have become a little obsessed with food). Bryce was even more stunning - I don't gush about much but this was great. The rocks looked a little more like peach melba / orangey sherbety stuff, but the rock structures are flippin' brilliant. 7 mile hike for us today and I took more photos than you can shake a stick at.

Now we are at a campsite, but Amanda's girliness has come out in a abundance and, kicking and screaming I hasten to add, she has persuaded me to take a little wooden cabin tonight rather than our little tent we bought (its a fine tent too - no pink palace Linds, but the colour is not very manly I can assure you). So it shouldn't be too chilly. Anyway, my beard growth is coming along nicely to keep me warm. By Christmas I hope to look like Brian Blessed. If I carry on eating burgers at this rate, I may have the girth to go with it.

Anyway, best sign off for now. Off to Capitol Reef and Arches National Parks tomorrow before heading down to Grand Canyon and a few early nights with a cup of hot chocolate in Vegas.

To our Mums and Dads, we have heard about Guatemala. Lake Atitlan was on our route but probably won't be anymore - we'll probably head to Belize much earlier and spend more time there. So don't worry.....

Over and out for now.

Rob

Washington & Frederick

Hi everyone!

Can't believe we're finally here and really underway now!

Just a quick update on our first stop. We had a pretty uneventful but quite enjoyable flight over from London to Washington. Bit nervous to start with but once we were in the air felt considerably better.

We were picked up by my uncle and taken back to his house in Frederick, about 45 mins drive from the airport and fed a lovely meal, even though by that time our bodies were telling us we should have been in bed long ago!

Saturday was spent exploring the wonderful city of Washington DC. After a few teething problems with the metro system we managed to cover a lot of the city, including the Botanical Gardens, the Capitol Building, the White House, the Natural History Museum, the Aquarium and the Washington Monument. Amazing city and all very clean, well kept & well presented.

Sunday and Monday were spent with the family and the dog Tobie (who will have an identity crisis if they're not careful - they call him Sally when he's around so he doesn't know they're talking about him...). We saw downtown Frederick and Sugarloaf Mountain, and ate lots of ham (!). We were truly spoiled and it was a fantastic and 'easy' start to our trip. Thanks again for having us!

We stopped by the Air and Space Museum near the airport before our flight to Dallas on Tuesday - a huge hangar with all sorts of examples of aircraft and spacecraft. Very interesting!

In those 4 days we managed to take well over 100 pictures... so will just put a select few onto flickr for you! Follow the link on the right hand side ---->

PS. A few notes on the USA in general - they all drive very large cars or even small trucks, which they have apparently no real need for. Roads very wide and houses very large too!