Happy Anniversary, WordPress

Yeah so I’ve kind of been neglecting you recently, WordPress. But don’t worry. It’s not you, it’s me. I can change…

I promise I’ll be back soon.

But seriously, what a year we’ve had.

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Arequipa – July 24th

Despite such an early arrival in Arequipa and a terrible night sleep on the bus, our first glimpses of the city were actually experienced through a rather chirpy, upbeat pair of eyes and we quickly checked into La Pasada del Cacique run by the Peruvian Liverpool fan, Alfonso. From this point my body began to give up on me. We had a quick walk around the main square and up to the park before I decided enough was enough an I returned to the hostel to sleep, leaving Warrick to barter with the locals at the market.
Upon my arrival back to the real world we decided it best to get some food as the previous 24 hour’s diet had consisted of biscuits and a couple of chips. Looking through the guide book we both settled on trying something new; alpaca steaks. Although a little pricey it wasn’t bad at all and my stomach was certainly thankful. Once we returned to the hostel we settled down with Alfonso and our Argentinian roommate to watch the Copa Libertadores final whilst pretending to understand Alfonso’s Spanish ramblings. One thing we did catch though was ‘penales’ – but only after the math had indeed gone to penalties!

Nazca

An early morning start greeted us along with rain and cold showers. Team this an illness that had creeped on overnight and it’s safe to say I wasn’t feeling my best. 4 hours and a short chat with an Anderson lookalike and we had checked in to the definition of a basic room – nothing more than two beds, not even a window.

By this point I’d decided I was going to do the Nazca Lines Flyover regardless of how much it was going to cost me. Having been quoted $180 by a dodgy man at the bus station I was happy to find a $100 flight in a 4-seater plane leaving in 5 minutes with 1 space left – it had my name all over it.

I’d just eaten a 6 soles lunch at a questionable establishment. It sucked it up and got onto the small plane with my American and Belgian compadres. Just being on such a small aircraft was an awesome experience and it did feel like it could fall out of the air at any given moment. The Nazca lines themselves weren’t as clear or obvious as I’d expected but it was still incredible to see the sheer size of the drawings and the spectacularly desolate landscape. Despite not joining me on the plane Warrick was still able to cause mischief by printing numerous photos of his mascot to various printers in the airport thanks to he beauty of wireless – the perfect crime.

After this my illness took hold and I was restricted to lying in bed and moaning. An overnight bus to Arequipa didn’t help matters either. 22:30 departure, 08:00 arrival

Huacafuckingchina

After a casual lie-in in the very uncomfortable beds we went and got a quick banana and croissant breakfast before spending the morning relaxing on the shores of the tranquil oasis, waiting for our dune boarding trip to start.

It. Was. Spectacular.

We had a particularly nuts driver who showed he meant business by turning his snapback cap backwards before setting off. How the cars survive the pummelling they receive I’ll never know. As avid skiers both Warrick and I went into the experience expected to boss the sand boarding but this didn’t prove to be the case. After just 1 attempt we were both flat on our arses and decided, with everyone else, that body boarding was the way forward. Despite my slight frame I caught some huuge speeds zipping along the dunes and even got a few ‘battle wounds’ in the shape of bruises on my chest.
Showers were the order of the day and afterwards we headed to the peculiarly named Huacafuckingchina restaurant with 2 Brits we met on the trip, Poppy and Max. Our waiter Jerry was a grade A nutter and kept us fully entertained throughout, often stroking my head or dancing suggestively between courses.
After we’d got our fill of free Pisco we were a bit tipsy and made our way off to bed and the worst night sleep of my life – probably due to the large ‘crack’ I heard from my back during dune buggying!

Got that Peru feeling

What a sleep. It seems we may not have completely recovered from jetlag as we slept soundly from 9pm til 7am. It was an earlyish start as we had booked on a boat trip to the Islas Ballesteras – dubbed the poor man’s Galapagos. To avoid disappointment we had booked and paid for our tickets the night before but this was to be our first experience of the Peruvian tax system and we were then charged an additional 5 soles government tax AND 2 soles to use the jetty! I had a right mind to fuck the system and swim to the boat but then I remembered that it equated to a mere 50p. Our first stop came very quickly when we were joined by dolphins alongside the boat – much more impressive than the ones seen off the welsh coast. The first island we came to was home to a ton of pelicans. We’d first seen them stood on the jetty but when they spread their wings and flew they were huuuuge.
We also got our first taste of the Nazca lines (ish) with ‘The Candelabra’ a large drawing on the side of the peninsula.
A short blast across the sea and we were at the islands; home to even more birds than the previous but this one mainly a variation of the seagull with piercing eyes. Our tour guide mater told us that the ‘guano’ produced by these birds resulted in a 17cm covering all over the island. Charming. Naturally the smell was pretty pungent and proved too much for poor Warrick’s tiny nostrils as the buff was pulled up in futile protection.
There was wildlife aplenty as we travelled further around the island and we ticked off all the animals the tour book stated: sealions, dolphins, gulls and penguins.
It was a pretty animal-based day as after a seafood lunch we moved onto spotting wild-dead in the form of giant jellyfish as we walked away from the village and into the posh holiday home area.
Our evening bus took us into the desert oasis of Huacachina and after checking into an 18 bed, sloping floored dorm with no lock on the door and headed to dinner. We got chatting to the ladies on the table next to uus and it turned out one of them was from Munich!
After dinner and cocktail we decided to walk up the dune to get an amazing view of the surrounding area but my god was it hard work. It must’ve taken us a good half an hour to walk up and then less than 30 seconds to run back down again!

Did you add a large bear to the account?

Supposedly a good night of sleep should have followed our treacherous trip but the positioning of my bed in the hostel left me with ALL of the noise from the traffic outside (the Peruvians love a good horn beep), ALL of the light streaming in from the windows and ALL of snory Alejandro’s snoring to deal with. Despite this we slept in til 10 with the idea of seeing the city before heading off to our next destination in the evening. Unfortunately the last bus to Paracas was at 2pm so this made short work of our plans.

Having shared a taxi to the bus terminal with 2 frightfully posh sisters from Bath, we got on to our first of many Cruz del Sur buses and boy was it heavenly: ample leg room, wifi, decent dinner and a film!

It turns out Peru is arid as fuck where even a quick refuel looks like a zombie apocalypse as the locals appear out of the woodwork desperate to sell you some Agua or Inka Kola. We passed through a lot of very desolate housing areas with an inordinate amount of stray dogs, usually lay in the very middle of the road chilling the fuck out.

On first inspection, Paracas is a charming little place. The wooden roofed bus stop and hostels gave along with the waves lapping gently against the shore gave it a very peaceful an safe atmosphere, a million miles away from the hustle and bustle of Lima.

A stroll along the beach followed by a couple of local cocktails Pisco Sourb (minging) gave us a nice end to the evening and even though it was a little after 9 we were still ready to sleep – especially as we were to be up early for a boat ride to the Islas Ballesteras in the morning!

Long Haul to Lima

I’m currently lay in a hostel bed in Arequipa with a bit of down time so I’ll try to update a bit on our south American voyage so far. They will more than likely be day by day accounts copied from my travel journal, so without further ado let’s travel a week back in time…

Our 12 hour flight(s) was mostly uneventful and we were actually afforded a fair bit of comfort considering. Even so my sleep only really consisted of a couple of hour-long naps. After getting through customs by 7:20am disaster struck – my bag wasn’t on the carousel. Turns out the ground staff in Madrid weren’t the smartest bunch and had left it there until the next flight 12 hours later. At least they knew where it was.

Bagless and clean clothes-less we hopped in a taxi and made our way to the district of Miraflores battling through the craziest 15 lane traffic I’ve ever seen. Upon arriving at Loki Lima we promptly fell asleep. 4 hours and a shower where toilet paper had to be used as a towel we were about ready to hit the town. Settling on an eaterie on a road called Berlin we watched the world go by while chowing down on the Peruvian staple of chicken,rice and chips. Our walk around town was a little quiet and rather westernised but we did find out that cats are like squirrels in peru’s capital – they’re everywhere.

It was now heading on for 9pm and I was FINALLY able to change out of the clothes I’d been wearing for 36 hours. Spruced up, we headed to the artisan district of town, Baranco. Here we began to start our long quest to sample all of peru’s beers but we were a little put off by the bloke on the table next to us who had ordered fried guinea pig.
Heading to the misleadingly named Bierhaus we got chatting to a multikulti group of english speakers who claimed there was plenty to do in Lima, despite the fact they were. Unable to give us any exact ideas.
At around 1 we tried to get a taxi back and could not have picked a worse one. Not only was it lacking seatbelts and properly closing doors but it also seemed to have severe engine troubles. My (not so) expert opinion was that the spark plugs were bust but unfortunately I didn’t know the Spanish for it. Halfway home we’d just about had enough and jumped out to find a different taxi, but all of a sudden the engine found one more gust of life and we were able to reach the hostel. Having missed dinner we were famished and HAD to eat something. Unlike in england not everything is open late at night and with our tails between our legs we skulked to McDonald’s. Typical.

Pars, Friendly Ma’s and Nottingham Bars

Barely did I have time to wash the festival smell from my very pores before I was whisked away to Shiningford Manor for a week of living the high life in celebration of Betts’ recent 21st Birthday. To say this place was extravagant would be an understatement. Boasting 8 double bedrooms, a hot tub, pool AND spectacular views it was a million miles away from the relative squalor I’d afforded at Glastonbury. As this was a celebration, alcohol played a large part in our week and after our very civil dinner of Pizza and Pasta we all retired to the hot tubs with wine, beer and spirits flowing like water. It’s no surprise then that by the time we retired to the living room to play board games I was suitably jolly.

Maximum Capacity 7 my arse

A leisurely Wednesday involving a game of rounders to get the alcohol out of the system left us with plenty of energy for our big night out in Nottingham. Being in the middle of nowhere, we needed some form of transport to get us to the city and this came in the form of hell on earth, or The Party Bus as it is usually known. Now I’m not usually one for getting car sick but the combination of 1,000,000 degree heat, no windows, movement and alcohol were too much for me and I spent the entire journey willing it to be over as the others (thoroughly) enjoyed themselves. Thanks must go to Liv for helping me through this traumatic experience. Once we arrived and the lads had re-done up their shirts we made out way to the cocktail bar Coco Tang. Despite it being advertised as ‘student night’ there were very few students there at all and as I made my way to the bar I noticed an all too familiar face, namely Buff Ben who I hadn’t seen in over 6 months. As fate conspires his lovely girlfriend Kate works in the bar and by bizarre coincidence it happened to be Ben’s night off. With a Lychee Martini (incredible) in hand we retired to the smoking terrace to catch up.

As I said, 1,000,000 degrees on the Party Bus

By the time we returned downstairs a number of things had happened: one of our group (who shall not be named) had ended up with her head wrapped round the toilet bowl, George’s shirt had lost an entire arm and he seemed to be trying it on with any male who came within touching distance of our group. A few more Lychee Martini’s later and I had joined them on the dancefloor, busting moves and throwing shapes until there was just Kate, Riti and I left as the draw of McDonalds had just been too much for many of the group. At 3 we made our way back  home in a much more sombre party bus than the one we had arrived in. Except for Max. Max was determined to make sure the party bus lived up to its name and the rest of the group willingly threw their last ounces of energy at him.

dem galz

Despite Wednesday being the big night out it wasn’t until Thursday that things started to hot up, with the arrival of Cath, Liz and Julie; the troublesome Mums. Bringing with them yet more alcohol and food we gathered outside with cocktails for Betts’ Mum’s speech about how she wasn’t too much of a looker as a child. If she thought this was to be the most embarrassing moment of the evening she was very much mistaken. After covering the topics of Marijuana, sex in golf bunkers and ‘Soggy Biscuit’ Betts and Zoe had turned a suitable shade of red and we retired inside to play The Cardboard Box game which some people took more seriously than others (me included). After a few rounds we were down to the last few: Me, Nikki, Riti, Betts, John and Ollie. Shock exits for Riti and Betts left the boys with a numerical advantage but unfortunately John’s pecking technique just couldn’t hack it in the final few rounds, setting up a final between Nikki and myself. By this stage we were down to just the very base of the box and I couldn’t see any way in which victory could be mine. A quick pep talk later and very important choice of song I was ready. With Shakira’s Hips Don’t Lie egging me on I reached down and somehow plucked the box off the ground! The Mums were as excited as any and it’s probably best that I leave out the X-rated scenes that followed.

We scrub up well…

The following morning we had a check out time of 10am but having only got to bed at 6ish it’s safe to say that NONE of us were up. The unbelievably rude cleaner had ridden into town on the highest of her high horses and proceeded to blame us of many ridiculous things, including vomiting and pissing in the beds. It turned out to be water. Dick. Matters were made worse by the arrival of the owner who had an even higher horse than the cleaner, branding us disgusting before asking us to leave the premises. What a hilarious end to a fantastic week and once we’d sobered up sufficiently we headed home.

WP_000193 WP_000191

Tomorrow is the day where I finally celebrate my 21st birthday (6 months late) and next week I embark on my South American adventure with Warrick – so little time so much to do!

Glorious Glastonbury

It’s been a long time since my last post but my summer has now exploded into action, starting with Glastonbury Festival. Thankfully us northerners (Lily, Sophie and I) were able to have the most relaxed journey down possible as Chinstrap Jack and his friend Ally had made the shorter trip from Devon and had set up the tent in a great location near the John Peel Tent. When we eventually rocked up at around 6pm on the Wednesday there was zero traffic, zero queueing and zero hassle. The journey’s only main talking point was the rather dubious Welly-Swap being run at Service Stations by Hunter Wellies. Sophie was able to swap her cheap ASDA welllies for a glamourous red pair. All in all she was very happy. Lily was not so, as she had paid full whack for the same sort of wellies a few weeks earlier!

Looking fresh-faced before the madness begins…

Wednesday night gave us an opportunity to explore the site without the pressures of a music timetable and we found, amongst other things, a giant twister board, The Unfairground and a motel with a London Tube crashed into the side of it. The sheer size of the place is unbelievable and the level of detail going into each and every miniscule aspect boggles the mind. To give an hour by hour review of the festival would not only take days but it would also ruin the magical, whimsical feel that the festival creates. It’s a place where people go to forget what the real world is like and instead be who they want to be, safe in the knowledge that they will be accepted. Instead I will run through the top 5 moments that defined Glastonbury for me.

5. These Grannies

Expect the unexpected. It was Sunday, the sun was out and Jack & I were on our way to see Palma Violets play at William’s Green. What we didn’t expect to encounter was 3 men dressed as old women riding tartan shopping trollies whilst rapping. But this was exactly what we did see, and boy was I happy for it. I laughed like a loony at the sheer peculiarity of it. And this wasn’t the only ‘interesting’ fancy dress we saw over the weekend. To name but a few we spotted 4 guys dressed in neon orange suits, a man in nothing but a thong, and these 2 blokes. My poncho and leopard print shorts paled in comparison.

 

4. Secret Sets

One thing Glastonbury is renowned for is its ability to put on surprise performances across the entire weekend. Luckily for us Thomas, my German friend, has his finger on the pulse with his connections and tips and was able to point us in the right direction the entire week. This led to us catching one of the highlights of the week, Alt-J, perform at William’s Green on the Thursday evening before the music had even really begun. We also caught secret sets by Fatboy Slim and Haim but Thomas’ awesome psychic ability didn’t manage to predict what would happen on the Sunday night at The Park Stage. Headliner Cat Power’s set was due to start at 8:30pm leading many to believe that there would be a secret headliner appearing onstage afterwards. Kings of Leon? David Bowie? The National? Pretty much every band’s name was thrown into the mix and it seemed we weren’t the only ones to have thought this as a sizable crowd had formed. It was only after the tech man announced to a chorus of boos that there was no secret headliner that the crowd began to disperse. A little disappointing but it did mean Jack and I were able to get our funk on to the end of Bobby Womack‘s set before heading off to…

3. Heaven

At this year’s Glastonbury, Shangri-La took on the guise of Heaven vs Hell. Having visited Hell on previous nights Jack & I joined the queue in purgatory, waiting for judgement from the rather rough looking set of angels. In order to gain access to Heaven we were informed it would be necessary to sing a song. After sharing a sherbert Dipstick with one of the angels I nearly blew it for the pair of us by bursting into a rendition of James Blunt’s ‘You’re Beautiful’ but luckily Jack was able to save us with a crowd participation heavy version of 5ive’s Keep On Movin’. After removing our shoes and placing them in plastic bags we joined yet another queue before gaining entrance to the carpeted wonderland of Heaven. Despite Jack’s awful puns (Knockin’ of Heaven’s Door, Breaking Into Heaven, ‘this place is heavenly’ to name but a few) we weren’t thrown out and were able to make it into the inner sanctum where we were to find out what Heaven is really about. After watching an impressive performance by 2 girls spinning light sticks we were treated to the unexpected brilliance of a firebreathing babe who set her nipple tassles on fire as her piece de resistance’. And she was by no means the only person with her taytees out. Heaven, it seems, it a place full of queuing and flame-titted exhibitionists.

Heaven the Glastonbury way

 

2. Temple Funk

One of the more bizarre moments of the weekend occurred after the main acts had finished on the Friday night. Having just seen Portishead with Kate, Hannah and Chloe I followed the crowd and headed through the crush of people trying to get into Shangri-La and joined Chloe and her friends outside The Temple, a large amphitheatre-like construction harking back to the Aztec era. Making our way inside with an 18 year old dressed as Pikachu we expected to enjoy the hypnotic beats of Phaeleh but were instead treated to a fantastic ancient tribal dance by four men in facepaints and pants. I finally felt my decision to wear a poncho had been vindicated…

 

1. “Please allow me to introduce myself…”

It had been billed as arguably the booking of the Summer and I must admit that I was dubious as to whether The Rolling Stones could live up to the hype surrounding their Saturday night headline slot, 50 years after they first formed. A few early sound difficulties left me unsure and unfortunately this included the slightly flat rendition of my favourite song Gimme Shelter. But once the open refrain of Sympathy For The Devil rang out all of my doubts were blasted away as a huge mechanical Phoenix perched on top of the stage roared into action, opening its wings and breathing fire. Despite being around 100 metres away from the stage the  atmosphere was unbelievably jovial, with people hugging and jumping around knowing that they’d just witness something truly life-affirming. This was further improved by the security staff who were on fine form, telling people that they ‘wouldn’t get no satisfaction’ unless they followed where they were pointing!

The First Pisskidneys Weekender

After a long time of very little happening the summer finally began in some style this weekend. With the return of Warrick from Birmingham the entire group (minus the elusive Matt) were re-united once again for three nights of debauchery, starting at the Pub Quiz on Thursday night. Even the weather had begun to pick up, and as such we took a seat outside to enjoy some ale before the quiz started. Obviously we got a little carried away and managed to miss the first 4 questions of the quiz. Our performance was probably even worse once we started trying to answer the questions and this was made all the more difficult due to the fact that the Quiz master WAS Alan Partridge. We just couldn’t get over this and spent the next hour or so laughing and doing our own impressions before heading over to the Itbox. For the uninitiated, the Itbox is an interactive Pub Quiz – very, very different from your normal quiz. Well, not really.

The second night of our weekender took place at Warrick’s as we got the Domino’s pizzas in and tried to fathom how anywhere can sell pizzas for 18 quid a pop. Fortunately, the young lady answering the phone was able to inform us that any pizza, any size would only cost £8 and we were sorted. Once Josh had finished whatever important business he’d been attending to at home he joined us for The Dark Knight Rises, the Batman film with arguably the most holes in the plot, all of which we were more than happy to point out.

It’s safe to say that FIFA isn’t really my forte but nevertheless I battled through the jeers and putdowns from Evo to record an unprecedented 2 wins from 5. This was accompanied by the ‘trololo’ man, a 70s Russian pop star singing an unbearable tune made entirely from ‘ololol’s and ‘heyheyhey’s. He’s become somewhat of an internet sensation but we could only managed to sit through half an hour of the ten hour looped clip. See how long you can last below:

The third part of our ‘weekender’ was easily the main attraction; a night out in Nottingham to celebrate Joe’s 21st Birthday. Setting off around 3pm, we all piled into Big Nic’s Ford Focus and hit the road. Although the modern folklore generally states that ‘it’s grim up north’ this was definitely not the case on Saturday, as we left the blue skies of Cheshire and plunge into the rainy greyness of Nottingham. A few quick games of Mario Kart though and any negativity about the weather was forgotten as we headed to Spanky Van Dykes for something to eat. Not only was this pub/eaterie cool and full of alternative babes but the food was actually great AND they had Erdinger Weißbier on tap! We then moved next door to continue the drinking at the suggestively named The Horn in the Hand, a bar frequented by an altogether different type of clientele. The jukebox was throwing out all sorts of metal, although Josh informed us that it was all far too mainstream for him. As you can imagine then, my choices of Bonobo and Portishead didn’t really get the warmest reception I’ve ever seen.

Via the Offy we arrived home with enough time to get ourselves dolled up before the drinking really began. My mix of Cherryade and Vodka was going relatively well – until it was mysteriously spiked with Ouzo. Safe to say not a great deal of the evening was remembered from this point on until we’d left and Warrick had tried to steal something from a corner shop. The eagle-eyed shop assistant though was having none of it.

Warrick having scaled the Wall in the Children’s Play Area

As is customary on any night out in Nottingham, our evening didn’t end once we’d arrived home. Instead, we found a frisbee and headed to the park. By this point it was already as light as day and despite sending the frisbee onto a building site a couple of times we were able to enjoy a decent smattering of fun before bed.

Awaking at around midday we were all feeling relatively fragile and unable to move, despite the fact that some of us still had THREE trains to catch to get home. A round of Zombie Call of Duty coupled with some disturbing YouTube videos Joe seemed far too familiar with finally got our bodies moving and at 16:11 Josh, Evo and I were able to catch the first of our 3 trains home. The travel time of just under 3 hours passed by without any problems and I was overjoyed to be greeted by the sight of Ham, Chips and Beans on the dinner table as I walked through the door.

Next stop Glastonbury!