Ben's World

Another Message from Uncle Ben!

Sun, 24 Apr 2005 12:32:27 -0700 (PDT)
From: “Ben Hallman”
Subject: Hola amigos

Word up,
All here is cool, thought it was best to wait a few days before writing so that i actually had a few things to write about. First, however, let me say that today´s been the best so far- it´s rainy and cold, but Pompey beat Southampton 4-1. HOOOOOOOOORAY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Anyway, what´s been ¿happening?! Well, i landed in Beunos Aries, got to the hostel and went out for a drink with the South African guy i´d found my way to the hostel with. One drink turned into mucho drinks of course and i was immediately doing England´s reputation proud in some bar. Nice!

So, after an interesting arrival i spent a couple of days in BA, it was a little stressful as everything was rather new and different to say the least but i made myself do stuff and on my third and final evening in the hostel an Irish guy called Ed asked me if i wanted to go and get some food with him. I said yeah and tried to be all casual but inside i was doing cartwheels and thinking;

Indeed. Thank God for Ed. I´d been so nervous ever sinc arriving but we went out and got some food and after that everything started going about ten zillion times better!

So, i left BA the next morning and went to Montevideo…
Forgot to say, i was standing in some square in BA when i got hit on the head by a stick. Very sureal. It had been thrown by the goalkeper kid in a football match taking place next to me, he just didn´t want to dive on it- i think. I do stand out as an Ubergringo though, maybe he thought i needed it. Anyway, being hit on the head with a bit of wood in the middle of Buenos Aries was rather strange.

Yes. i went to Montvideo, it´s very nice. Quietish, chilled. Spent some time wandering around with Niall, my new best friend who i met on the ferry to MV. Everybody in the hostel ate together in the evening which was cool, i felt myself starting to get the hang of the making friends quickly thang.

Next day i went to some place called La Palomia, it sounded great in the Lonely Planet but i got there and found myself to be the only person in the hostel other than the wheezing, one eyed owner. It was too late at night to run away so i spent a very odd evening there on my own, was also very hungry as i hadn´t eaten and the owner had helpfully expained that in summer there were loadsa shops, cafes, restauants, bars etc etc etc but now it was Autumn, everybody had left and i was a crazy Gringo.

Was gonna get up first thing and leg it but it was so lovely and sunny in the morning that i decided to go for a walk, wandered down the beach for ages, it was really quiet and serene, (spl!¿?) and beautiful, i had to pinch myself ´cos i couldn´t believe that i was in South America. Nutso.

Anywayo, that afternoon i got the bus to Colonia la Sacremeto, a little town west of MV. It´s so laid back and pretty that i´ve been here for three days doing an awful lot of not much. Met quite a few fellow tourists, am refining my instant friend making skills constantly. So far have been best friends with Sean, Ed, ( the guy who made me stop being terrified of EVERYTHING in BA) Niall, Sean #2, Paul and Tedge, (!). Also met yesterday a very interesting chap called John who´s 75 and on his ninth solo round the world trip, having gone on his first when he retired and decided that Dorset was rubbish. He really is a character and, cheesy as it sounds, is quite inspiring. Work colleagues, he told me to tell you to tell Terry that she should just book a ticket and take off- she´ll be fine. ´´GO FOR IT´´, he said!!!!!!

Anyway, that´s where i´m up to now. I´m sitting in some internet place with suitably Latin sounding chachachay ´´OOOOOY, YAH YAH YAH, YEEEEEPPPPAAAAHHHHHH´´ music blaring out, trying to deal with this confusing foreign keyboard and it´s ñ ¿ stuff.

Due to today´s weather i´ve been doing not much other than drinking coffee, talking to fellow Gringos and enjoying the fact that Pompey kicked arse today. I´m heading back to BA tomorrow before flying to Peru on Wednesday, i´m really nervous about going up there as apparently it´s completely crazy.

So, anyway, after a slightly overwhelming first couple of days it´s been, so far, AMAZING !!! I just gotta hope my luck doesn´t change!!!!!!!!!

Before i go i have three things to mention to people, forgive me for tagging them onto the end of a group email but time is of the essence.
Simon. Please, if possible, can you ask Nikki to send me a blank email or something. I can´t send her messages again, maybe if she sends me one it´ll fix the problem. Or maybe you could forward this one to her. Thanks very much indeed.

Annie, please can you send me Elly´s email address or get her to send me one or something. Cheers.

Allison R. Please can you let me know if this makes it so that i know i´ve got your email address right. Gracias.

So, right, yes. I gotta get to the bus station before it shuts and sort out my ticket for tomorrow. Hope everybody is well and everything, please write back. I´d love to hear from everybody!!!

Date: Sat, 30 Apr 2005 17:27:23 -0700 (PDT)
From: Ben Hallman
Subject: OG – Peruuuuuuuoooooohhhhhhh!!!!!!!!

Well. i am in Peru. I can´t quite believe it but it is a fact- the stamp in my passport says so!
Trip is proving to be mental. In a good way!
Gotta go and eat food with best friend No.1453647, will write something at some point.

Date: Tue, 10 May 2005 18:49:47 -0700 (PDT)
From: Ben Hallman
Subject: OG – Obvious group email!!!!!!

Word up,
Haven't written since Uruguay- thought i better wait 'tail some more stuff happened. Here, as briefly as possible so as to avoid boring you all, is what has happened. Indeed…

Got plane to Lima, never been so scared in my life 'cos I'd been told ten zillion horror stories about the insanity that awaits as soon as you get off the plane. Bag snatchers, muggers, taxi drivers with Kalashnikov etc etc etc. Was terrified all the way through customs, came out barrier bit where everybody jumps on their long lost brother at the airport and, without any hassle whatsoever, got mad bus of pollution to my hostel- nothing scary happened at all in the end. THANK GOD!!!!!!!

Spent less than a day in Lima 'cos it was yellow and had a funny smell. Mental taxi ride, (no Kalashnikovs luckily but lots of crazy sidestreets, honking horns and, i think, Peruvian swearing) to bus station, booked myself onto a coach for Cuzco.

According to the Lonely Planet i was on the numbero uno coach company in Peru. Well, thank goodness for that as i don't wanna know what the crap ones are like. I was told it was a twenty hour journey, it took thirty one hours in the end, including changing coach in Mentalville 'cos the original coach kept spewing dirty water out its coachguts and we had to wait for yonks whilst the driver woke up local people and got more grey water off 'em!

I did have a big seat though.

Got to Cuzco at about 1a.m. Found hostel. Slept for ages, got up, had breakfast in most amazing location ever. Hostel balcony overlooks town square that has two incredible cathedrals, (spl) then, beyond that, mountains in all directions, some of which have been snowed on. Breathtaking.

Spent a day or two getting used to living at altitude- dizzy spells and breathlessness occur frequently at first. Wasn't so ill that i couldn't go out and have a mad night with best friends #46527284, Gillian from Ireland and Colin form Scotland. Ended up watching the sunrise from a church halfway up a mini-mountain, woulda been freezing but i couldn't actually feel anything by this point, which was handy.
A little more time in Cuzco then off on a trek to Inca ruins at Choquikkira, (spl) Only me, a German girl called Marie and our guide- Jesus- on the trip. We trekked out for two days, got to the ruins. We were the only ones there, unbelievable. One of the most mind blowing experiences of my life. I don't mean to sound gay but it was so overwhelmingly beautiful and awe inspiring that i almost cried, really. I didn't though 'cos i'm a boy and Jesus would of laughed at me…

During trek we;
Camped in the middle of NOWHERE. Could see the milky way. Andean mountains all around us. Occasionally trekked past Peruvian women with mad hats and babies in intricately, (spl) woven cloth sacks on their backs driving donkeys up hills. Eagles. Parrots. HUGE tarantula. Cactusisusis. Wooden huts. Mud huts… For the first time in my life i truly felt that i'd left the west behind. Swam in mountain rivers. Ate oranges straight out trees. Drank pure sugar cane pulp. On the second day we went up a mountain, it was so steep that the only way to do it was by chewing coco leaves. They're great. They stop you being thirsty and make you think you can keep going for yonks 'cos you can't feel your legs and think you're indestructible!!

At end of trek marched into ultra-rural Peruvian town. It was like a different world- felt like such a gringo it wasn't true. I've never seen anything like it- EVERYBODY says hello as you go past, (not like home huh?) and there was even a town meeting going on in the square. It was much, much more than a world away from anything i've ever experienced in my life before. Dogs everywhere, and pigs and cows and sheep and donkeys. Everything ever. ROCK!

Got back to Cuzco, went out and got drunk with Marie, danced like a twat to old school rock such as Rage Against The Machine 'til 5 a.m, which meant i´d been up for 25 hours non-stop- a personal best.
Chilled next day. Day after toured Sacred Valley, the area around Cuzco. Tons of Inca stuff. Tons more gringo tourists. Great though.
Then, yesterday… Had arranged day trip to Machu Piichu, the Mecca of Peru. Up at five for train. Felt a bit funny. By time train got there i felt sicker than ever before in my entire life. Realized that, in what was a foolish move to say the least, i'd eaten tons of shellfish on Sacred Valley tour. At time i'd been extremely hungry! Was trying desperately hard, with varying degrees of success, not to simultaneously turbopoo and vomit. When we all got up to exit train i said to everybody, 'I`ve got to get off'. Nobody moved. So i said, 'Or i'm gonna puke'. Once i said that it was like the parting of the Red Sea.

I felt hideously awful. I swear, i actually wanted to collapse so that i could wake up in some nice hospital. I was determined to see MP though. Went up on the coach with eyes shut, i felt like i was gonna die. Got there. Could hardly stand. Staggered to ruins grasping hand rails to keep me upright. Touched an Inca wall. Took a picture, ( in which i bet i look terrible!) to prove i was there. Then embarked on what was easily the most epic journey of my life back to Cuzco hostel. I'd never of made it if i hadn't met the two most helpful, kind and wonderful Peruvians ever, bless 'em. Got back at last and spent several hours in bed with imodium and Gatorade, a luminous coloured drink that shouldn't make you feel better but does!

Woke up today, felt much better. Have taken it very easy indeed, not moved much, read tons of Moby Dick- it's shite, don't bother with it. I suppose that on a trip like this you're bound to get tummyitus at some point. Thankfully i wasn't half way up a mountain on that trek or something!!!

Anyway, off white water rafting tomorrow so tummy had better be ok!! Then off to rain forest on Saturday for three days then not sure what. Either more time in Peru or on to Boliviaaaaahhhh. Excellent!! I totally recommend South America to everybody, just don't eat shellfish when you're several hundred miles form the sea in a country that doesn't handle food as carefully as good old Sainsburys!!!!!!
See you in July!!

P.s. For those of you still reading, sorry it didn't turn out to be very brief!!

Sun, 22 May 2005 17:13:49 -0700 (PDT)
From: Ben Hallman
Subject: OG – Fwd: Graff Spree… Update!

Wotcha people i know,
Once again i'm gonna try and write an update that isn't about three years long, hopefully this time i'll actually manage it. Sorry for not writing to everybody individially but that would take weeks as so many of you lovely, lovely people have been wonderful enough to write to me. Thanks!!

I think i was about to go w.w.rafting last time i wrote, so here's what's been occuring in Benland since then…

Rafting was great except for first morning- was stuck on a boat with evil neo-hippy Belgian family. The family devilchild, who had such wussy hair i thought he was a girl, (as did everybody 'til, in an extremely liberal move, he showed us all his boyhood) was compeletely out of control thanks to his wonderful parents who just wanted him to be however he wanted to be, high pitched screamy and obnoxious as that was. Still, in a brill act of God moment he fell out boat and sulked for rest of trip, much to my relief/delight. Lucky, as up to this point i'd been tempted to whack him with my oar mid-rapid.

Rest of trip was great. Nice people, stayed overnight in tent in middle of nowhere, had brilliant chat with one of the rafting captains about Peru's hostory, political situation etc, fascinating… Highlight however was naming our raft- it got christened 'The Good Ship Lollypop', and if going down mad rapids isn't enough, going down mad rapids in a boat with the most inspired name ever is surely the best thing ever. ROCK!!!!!

Two more days in Cuzco, included another v.silly night out which resulted in me finding myself halfway up a mountain with a German at half past seven in the morning with no idea how on earth i'd got there.

After that visited rain forest for four days. Crazy. Felt like i was in a Viet-Nam film, kept looking for Gooks instead of monkeys as a result. Did see lots of monkeys though, plus parrots, S.American crocodiles, (can't remember what they're called, Caymen or something) ridiculous spiders and, best of all, HUGE vultures. Also saw tons of other mad plants/animals as we went down the river Obligogobumbog or something, too many to remember. Stayed in wooden huts with mosquito nets, coooooool. Experienced biggest, baddest thunderstorm ever. Never ever ever seen or heard anything like it, properly awesome!

Best thing about trip though was just the overall experience of being in the rainforest. It's how you imagine, but to see the damp, lush, dense, many hued, (blurgh) green-ness and to hear the outrageous monkey sound effects and ridiculous junglebird noises in real life is, to say the least, a bit mad.

Back to Cuzco, met up with Dean of Oz, we first met in Urugary. Turned out we're heading the same way so we've been travelling together since Tuesday, will be for about another week. It's great to be with somebody for a bit as it means i don't have to be making new best friends constantly, which, though fun/the way it is, gets little hmuummphy after a bit.

Spent the past two days visiting islands on lake Titicaca, some of which were made of reeds and were floating! All the people on 'em lived in reed huts, but, thank GOD, they all had TV's, kindly supplied by a company that gave 'em free solar power for a year then started charging for it. Lovely to see us Westeners screwing up even the most remote and far flung corners of the globe.

Spent the night on a non-floating island with a local family who kept trying to sell us braclets, ponchoes and Coke. In the afternoon the family teenager produced a Peruvian style guitar and a flute and we had a play together. Sorry to sound cheesy but it was AMAZING, one of the best experieces of my whole life ever. We couldn't speak the same langauge at all but there we were making up a little song together… It was so crazy i alomst exploded!!

Got back from floating island chaos, spent a night in Puno then got the bus to Bolivia today. Staying in a very pretty town called Cocacabana today then on to La Paz tomorrow. Exciting stuff!!!!
Ok, i think that's it for now… I'm sure they'll be more for me to waffle about in the nearness of future, 'til then have a good time. All the time. If possible.

P.s. I apolgise for any errors i've made on the spelling front, can't be bothererd to re-read entire message.