Today was a hectic day on the road — especially compared with my past week of going nowhere and of lying on the beach. Last night, I finally said goodbye to Ko Tao, departing on the night ferry back to Chumphon. The ferry set sail at 11pm, and arrived on the mainland at 5am. It was a sleeper ferry, fitted with a deck-full of bunk beds — and miraculously, I slept like a log for the entire journey. From Chumphon, I immediately grabbed a minibus (pre-booked) west to the city of Ranong, from where I did a so-called "visa run" over the border to Burma (now called Myanmar), and then came straight back without hanging around. I didn't hang around in Ranong, either: from there, I caught a bus headed south; and by 4pm, I'd made it to the city of Krabi. Lots of bussing and boating to squeeze into one day — so much, in fact, that I had time for virtually nothing else.
Brian's an elderly English chap whom I met on the train from Amsterdam to Berlin today. He's a real character: for the few hours that we ended up sitting together, he started chatting away about all sorts of things, from international politics to the nature of women. He's a great-grandfather, who has family scattered all over Europe (and the world), and who's been a bachelor since his wife passed away several years ago. He's amazingly pro-active for his age, and is obviously "the rock" of his large family. He lives in a small suburban place near London called Hertford.
That's it for England: this evening, I flew out of the country, and now I'm in Rome! As with the US, England has been nice and easy: no language barrier; everything home-like and familiar; and really, nothing that took me radically by surprise. But then again, England's also boring, it's expensive, and the weather is foul. It's quite funny: although this is the first time I've been to England, I feel like I may as well have been here a thousand times before, as it's so socially and culturally similar to Australia, and as I've learned and heard so much about it for my entire life. Anyway, now I'm in Italy, and that should be far from boring: new language; new cuisine; and new craziness.
Last night was a very short night. I took off from Boston's Logan Intl at about 6pm, and I landed in London's Heathrow Intl by 5am. And it was only a 6-hour flight. First time I've ever been across the Atlantic ocean, and also the first time I've flown with British Airways. All went well: no delays, no customs dramas, and no turbulence worth mentioning. Not much sleep — but good movies made up for that anyway.
It was a pretty big day today — visiting Iguazu Falls (Argentina side) and all — but I couldn't rest quite yet. First, I had to leave Argentina, and cross into Brazil for the evening. This turned out to be a lot easier than I'd feared, mainly because I chose to take an easy mode of transport: taxi! After a bit of bargaining, I managed to negotiate a ride straight from the Hostel Inn, on the Argentina side, to Hostel Paudimar, on the Brazil side. And all for just 40 pesos (US$13 or so) — not too much more expensive than navigating numerous bus lines, and certainly a lot less hassle.
Today was a day of bus trips, and not much else. From Pucón, this morning I hopped on a bus, and rode the 4-hour trip to the town of Osorno, a bit further to the south (but still in the Chilean Lake District). There's really not much to see in Osorno: just another town in a very long country, and one that has very little open on a Saturday, at that. The main reason for stopping in Osorno (and the reason why I came here today), is because it's where the road begins that goes over the Andean mountains, and straight into Argentina. Anyway, I had to wait about 3 hours in Osorno, before I could grab a bus for the rest of today's trip: over the border, and to San Carlos de Bariloche.
This evening marked the end of my long and much-loved time in Peru, and the beginning of my time in Ecuador. After making it to Tumbes — the northernmost major town in Peru — I embarked upon a 5-legged, night-long journey, from the border-crossing at Huaquillas, all the way into the heart of Ecuador. The next morning, I found my first introduction to this country being the lovely (if tourist-infested) town of Baños. It was a long and bumpy night, but I've made it.
Crossed back into Peru today, from Arica in northern Chile; and I must say, it's good to be back! Almost feels like coming home again. The money looks familiar. The food looks familiar. And the people look familiar (and they have that familiar Peruvian friendliness). Got a shared taxi across the border this morning, from Arica to Tacna; and then it was a long evening's bus ride, from Tacna to Arequipa.
This morning, Chris and I left for our tour of the Salar de Uyuni, on a three-day trip with Esmeralda Tours (actually, ended up being Olivos Tours — meh, same diff). But before we left, we went to the immigration office in Uyuni, and we officially exited Bolivia. So, despite the fact that we won't be in Chile until Wednesday, as of today we're technically no longer in Bolivia. Technically, until Wednesday we're not in any country at all.
This morning, I completed my first-ever international land border crossing. Being an Aussie and all, I don't get to see them all that often. Crossing from Peru into Bolivia was fairly easy, even for someone such as myself, with a mild hangover and a vicious bump on the head. Slightly overpriced exchange of money; walking through a simple stone gate; various stamps and taxes on each side of the green line; and I was done. So, now I'm in Bolivia!