Bugs can be a deal-breaker. Just as you have that tropical package all sewn up and ready to go THAT question jumps up. “Er, do you think there will be bugs there?”. Well, it’s Costa Rica. Pretty good chance of there being bugs. Same thing in Belize, or Mexico or Africa. Bugs kinda like hanging out in hot tropical humid destinations.
What is it about bugs that most of us don’t like? Is it because they are small or that they scuttle (shudder) or just that they look so strange? Maybe it is because we don’t like the idea of them creeping up on us and looking for one of those warm humid places they like so much! When you see them in the jungle that’s no so bad. After all that is their natural habitat. But when you see them in your natural habitat – well that’s just freaky.
I once had people come back from Anaheim telling me how their vacation was totally ruined because the room was full of bugs. Upon examination it turned out that the bugs were actually ants – and I agree that is annoying. When I asked if they had advised the management they said they sorted it out themselves by plugging up the ant holes with toothpaste….. mmmm – novel approach. I wonder if the mint in the toothpaste made the ants’ eyes water.
And I must admit having been guilty of bug-fear too (before I was cured that is). I spent an entire two nights at Umgazi River Bungalows on the Transkei Coast in South Africa just petrified of falling asleep in case one of the geckos on the thatch ceiling fell on me. I learnt very quickly that you can get used to anything in time. It’s so tiring being scared all the time, really!
And ignorance is bliss – young children haven’t learnt to be scared yet but copy our reactions. So when I found my young son sitting on the doorstep in Africa with the remains of a huge millipede scattered over his bib I just had to merrily say “Oh dear – what have you been up to?” while I got rid of the debris.
We call the millipede a Shongololo in South Africa
Really – I would love to know. Poor Karl. He travels all over the world but always seems to get the short end of the straw. Maybe that’s why he always seems singularly unimpressed with the wonders of travel. Imagine spending days on the Trans Siberian train in one of these bunk beds! Mind you I guess it is one way of getting to know your neighbours.
It’s not a surprise that the wonders of the world don’t impress him.
And he is not that fond of the wildlife
He’s really not sure if the local style is his “thing”
and I can just imagine his list of complaints to his travel agent when he returns -
On the Great Wall – “You can see it for miles. Like, it goes over the hills and stuff ….but so does the M6″
On Mexico – “The Chichen Itza is just a pyramid with four sides, with stairs on each side leading to some kind of bungalow on the top.”
On the Museum of Cairo – “It’s like my Aunt Nora’s house – too many ornaments”
On India – “The toilet is too far from the sink which isn’t what you need in India. Both are often required at the same time”
On travel vaccinations – “She gave me the jabs and said I was covered for every worst-case scenario, including being bitten by a dirty chimp. I told her this is why we have over-population problems. Why are idiots who annoy dirty chimps being protected?”
If you love to travel you will love this show.
Sharing the bill – paying your part – going Dutch as it is known. My Dutch friends joke that they have earned their reputation of being … well let’s call it frugal. Taking a close up look at the Dutch and their history makes you think twice about calling them frugal. After all many Dutch almost starved to death in the second world war after the failure of Operation Market Garden. A tour of the cemetery in Arnhem is a sobering experience. How touching that people visit these graves regularly. One young glider pilot buried there has a postcard at the foot of his tombstone. It’s from his buddy in the war who made it out. On the postcard a picture of a young man in uniform and a much older man sitting in a glider. “Hi Sport” says the postcard “I said I would come back and thank you for paying the ultimate sacrifice.” Each year the local schoolchildren place bouquets on each grave as thanks for the soldiers who tried to save them.
Our guide for this moving tour was surprisingly a witness to the bombing and attack on Arnhem and told us how she still vividly remembers hiding in the cellar with her family who told her that the loud bangs were just from a big thunderstorm overhead. Years later she would have the urge to run into the cellar if ever there was a thunderstorm.
The Netherlands is like Forrest Gump’s box of chocolates. You really don’t know what you are going to get but are sure to be surprised around every corner. Little gems like Volendam and Edam are well worth exploring. You can be ambitious and explore it by bike as I did. Bit of a disaster actually. I think I was a danger to every other biker, motorist and pedestrian around, but the joy of being on a well maintained bike path biking through the Dutch countryside was really well worth the high level of fear I was experiencing. My shoulders were quite sore afterwards – not from the exercise but from the tension. Probably similar to the amount of tension the motorists experienced when they saw me coming.
Williamstad is another lovely gem. Tiny little cobbled stone streets with orderly little houses facing onto squares of green space, old churches and cycle paths. A delightful little place. Again this is another place that goes onto my “Worthy of Another Visit List”.
Finally back to Amsterdam – be sure to avoid the central area of the city. The tourist masses around the station and the red light district can result in a crowded, dirty and noisy experience. Instead head out of the centre of the city to the more residential side of Amsterdam. Areas around the Jordaan district are quite delightful with leafy canals and cute pavement cafes with tables and chairs perched on the very edge of the canal. The sun was shining but the air was still frigidly cold so a hot gluwhein was a welcome treat.
Amsterdammers love their bikes…. the city survives on its bike transportation and bike lanes are an important part of the landscape. But be careful on those lanes. The bike riders are not patient with bewildered tourists wandering vaguely into their path. It might be safer crossing against the traffic on the road. A few pictures to conjure up the experience.
If it has happened to you in the past you are a rare beast. Statistics tell us that 99% of luggage arrives safely at its destination. Which is incredible if you think about it. I always look at my suitcase trundling down into that Neverland of suitcase mayhem and wonder if I will ever see it again. I get to the other end (of the world) and lo and behold there it is! It’s a miracle.
- Look how happy she is.
Not so much fun is losing your bag – forever! Yes we have all had baggage delays and then that nice man from Calgary airport arrives at the front door at 11 pm a couple of days later with the missing bag. But what about when it disappears completely? What happened? Did the baggage tag fall off? Did your address label tear? You know you should have bought the sturdy leather one and not rely on the last-minute paper labels at the check in counter. And you do realise you should have put your name and address inside your suitcase? Otherwise how will they ever know it’s your bag? Another problem is filling in the form for the lost baggage. Can you remember actually what colour or make your suitcase was? I know I couldn’t. Mmmm – did I take the red one or the black one this time? Did it have two wheels or four wheels? Maybe the best thing is to have such a distinctive bag that it really stands out in a crowd.
And talking about crowds…. what is it with the baggage carousel? People stake their claim to a place right in the front leaving the late arrivals bobbing around trying to peak between shoulders to see if they can identify their bag. Then when you do see your bag you have to rugby scrum your way through the crowd to get to it before it scoots along the line and disappears down the hole again!
Your bag is not there yet!
So eventually when your unidentified suitcase lands up in the warehouse someone has to go through the contents to see if there is a way of identifying the owner. Not a nice thought. Remember that next time you cram all your dirty washing in a plastic bag. Imagine that after a few weeks in a warehouse in Barbados!
Apparently there are giant warehouses all over the world where lost luggage piles up and the contents are eventually sold to defray expenses. John Smith of the Toronto Sun described how he went to what they call “Roll Out Tuesdays” where unclaimed items are sold sight unseen by the pound. http://www.torontosun.com/2013/01/29/where-does-unclaimed-baggage-end-up . A bit like Storage Wars. There is even a whole website devoted to one such operation down in the States. You can buy just about anything and their blog makes interesting reading. http://unclaimedbaggage.com/
I guess you could come away with some great bargains – including wedding gowns! Imagine how mad that bride was…..I wouldn’t like to be the airline representative for that airline! Mind you – some wedding dresses might be better off lost for ever…..
I think I am getting past it – shopping that is – when I am travelling. Don’t get me wrong. I love shopping for things I can use – like clothes or shoes – especially in exotic places like the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul or the Silk Markets of Hanoi. But cut me out with knick knacks. I am really done. I think I am moving into that part of my life where I yearn for simplicity and order. Really – I have to look at some of the things I have from my travels and say to myself “What the hell were you thinking of when you bought this?”.
Take this alabaster cat. It’s horrible. It’s heavy. It’s not particularly well made. It was at the end of our tour in Egypt and we were taken to the alabaster shop, shown ancient tools still used today – to make badly carved cats and vases. I felt bad. The shop owner followed me around the store while I desperately looked for something that wasn’t going to cost an arm and a leg. I felt I should really buy something – and I like cats. Mmmmm – this was one of my mistakes.
Let’s not even talk about the bangles that made my wrist go green or the pure cotton woven shirts that disintegrated in the washing machine.
My colleagues are just as bad … look at their desks…..
Mind you – I do have a few little bits and pieces that I am quite fond of. The peat Celtic cross I bought in Ireland, the medieval soldier from Germany and the Buddha from Vietnam.
And then there are those cute hats I bought in Vietnam which I have hanging on the wall. And they are special because I saw the lady making them.
How can I throw any of these away? They are all memories – some good some bad but on a snowy day in Calgary they remind me and take me back again and again.
It’s the best day of the week for the dogs of Johannesburg. That’s a Monday – and it is Piki Tup day. What an ingenious name for garbage collection – a real African winner.
Now the dogs of Johannesburg are generally confined to the front yard behind walls and gates – standing (or lying) on duty to sound the alarm should a stranger think of entering. Just another layer of security in a city where this is considered the norm. But you have to agree that any dog would get a bit bored with this – especially if it is just the same old people each day walking past the gate on the way home after work. So Piki Tup day is – EXCITING!
You can hear the truck before it arrives. Hanging onto the sides of the truck are the “pickers” – no automation here – all human interaction. As they come down the street they announce their arrival with loud whistles…. and the dogs go crazy! Doesn’t matter if they are the biggest meanest looking Rottweiler or the littlest short-legged, stomach-just-off-the-ground dachshund. They jump. They bark. They run back and forth in front of the gate. They yell to their mates “Hey here comes the Piki Tup…. come on guys…. can you bark a bit louder?”
It’s not just the Piki Tup trucks that cause such excitement. Before the trucks even approach, the streets are full of bottle pickers who comb through the Piki Tup bins for anything that can be recycled for money. What an amazing job they do. Certain types of paper, plastic and all sorts of bottles are transferred from the wheely bins into huge and unwieldy contraptions balanced on wheels – sometimes cannibalised from baby strollers. It’s African entrepreneurship at it’s best. Out on my morning jog I passed by one such bottle picker who filled the street with his beautiful baritone as he sang an old tribal song. I didn’t know the words – maybe something similar to the Walking Song but this was a Bottle Picking song. Whatever he was singing about I felt I could just close my eyes and be transported to the depths of rural Zululand.
I am with the dogs! I love Piki Tup Day!
It’s cold here in the Netherlands – and Belgium. But is it ever gorgeous. I am river cruising on AMAWaterways and have visited beautiful little spots like Volendam, Edam, Gent and Brugges. We want for nothing on this cruise. Food is amazing, wine is premium brand and plentiful – and yet – you just can’t please some people and it still continues to amaze me.
Tonight the chef hosted a dessert buffet after dinner upstairs in the lounge. An extravaganza of chocolate, cakes, ice cream, eclairs and goodness knows what else. Ms B. (guess what the B stands for) got extremely irritated because one of the other guests was having her photo taken with the chef and it was getting in the way of HER photo opportunity. Oh well. Deal with it sister.
The next moment I saw Ms B. was when another lady was leaving the buffet with (I will admit) a heavily laden plate of sweet goodies. Now you know the rule ladies. We all pig out and when a sister does this you turn the other way and say nothing! Ms B. does not know that rule. “Are you sure you have enough on that plate?” she asked sarcastically. I was a bit stunned but was sure that the victim must at least be in Ms B’s circle of “friends” and not a complete stranger. Nope. Wrong again. The victim is seemingly another guest or acquaintance with a sweet tooth and not necessarily in Ms B’s party.
I am still speechless. Maybe there are issues that I don’t know about in Ms B’s life that make her… well… bitchy. Maybe she has a reason to be so sour. Who knows? What I do know is that it takes so little to be kind and such a lot of bile to be mean.