A Travellerspoint blog

June 2012

Hot Barcelona to camping in the Pyrenees

sunny 30 °C

Yes, you read that right....camping in the chilly Pyrenees...completely ill-prepared of course. Ross mentioned that we decided to just treat this as a long holiday but after a few days living it up (kind of) in Barcelona (which I won't describe as most of you have been and those that haven't, should ...it's as cool as London, but with a beach and some weird and wonderful Gaudi), we found ourselves in Decathlon buying a two-man tent, a blanket and some bed linen. I had an urge to see the Pyrenees, get a 'lakes and mountains' fix, and Ross was lovely enough to humour me despite his craving for the sun & the coastal route.
So our road trip began with an immediate detour North, heading for the Parc Nacional d'Aiguestortes i Estany de Sant Maurici (imagine trying that one when navigating...I just pointed at the map). As we climbed altitude, the scenery just got better. We passed through lots.... nondescript poor- looking towns - probably once prosperous but now riddled with closed-down units; arid farm plains; vibrant fruit farms and vineyards; on to magnificent mountain landscape clad in pine trees. Blue skies and warm sun, yet the air smelt of Christmas. Neither of us had visited Alpine territory outside of the ski season but it definitely won't be our last.
After driving through several ski resorts and alpine villages, we arrived at the town of Espot and decided to camp (don't laugh). The sun was still out but it was getting chilly and we wondered how we would fare being such amateur campers. We found a fantastic spot next to a roaring river. I knew we were privaledged to be able to camp at such a spot and in fear this may be our only chance, we / I thought we would ignore the fact that it gets cold in the Pyrenees at night! Dinner was a tin of sardines, a french stick and a bottle of red wine (we lacked equipment). Freezing it was, (and silly) but the only thing we lost was sleep, and to wake up to the river in front of us was worth it.
The village of Espot is quaint, afluent and historic with some great walks, but we headed up to the Sant Maurici for a trek. This place is amazing, and certainly gave us a lakes and mountains fix. Waterfalls, freshwater streams, salmon rivers, beautiful azure blue lakes, pine forests (Ross spotted deer), awesome peaks and some very cheerful ramblers on the way made for a fresh interlude.
After all that we are back in the baking hot sun driving South along the coast, currently in Tarragona (but very ready to be leaving tomorrow morning). Next stop, Valencia.
Love to everyone,
Charlie & Ross

Posted by charlieandross 09:54 Archived in Spain Comments (0)

From Southend to Barcelona

sunny 18 °C

Charlie and I have been back in the UK just over one week now. Aside from catching up with family and friends (which has been brilliant for both of us) the continual rain and wind, coupled with the reality of the UK daily grind, has left us both feeling a little flat. It is a bizarre feeling really - the bubble that we have been traveling in for the last seven months has suddenly (temporarily) popped. However much you prepare yourself for this reality before you return to the UK the mini low that follows is quite surreal. On the upside though; BBC 6 Music, the Euros, seeing my nephew Ollie, and my Mum's cooking have all helped distract my attentions somewhat!

As ever with us though our vague plans have already changed. Rather than buying a car here in the UK and driving through France down to Spain we have decided to fly to Spain and rent a car there. I think this seems to be the sensible thing to do with the money we have left. Had we bought a cheap car that broke down within the first week or so then our travels would probably come to a complete halt. Obviously neither of us want that, also the potential thought of ending this incredible adventure in such a way would undoubtably leave a bitter taste in both our mouths.

So, next Tuesday morning we fly out of London(?!) Southend airport to Barcelona. Southend airport is literally ten minutes down the road from my parents house and will be the first time either of us have ever flown from here. We spend three nights in Barcelona before hiring a car and following the coast all the way down to Portugal. This last hurrah is going to be more like a budget holiday than a continuation of 'backpacking'. Don't get me wrong, we are not in 4 or 5 star accommodation (unfortunately!) but we will be looking to enjoy our last few weeks back on the road without 'roughing' it too much. Also, as Charlie mentioned in the last blog entry, we will of course continue to update the blog, the map, and photos as we progress throughout Spain and keep you all abreast of our final chapter!

Ross and Charlie

Posted by charlieandross 04:20 Archived in United Kingdom Comments (1)

The Darien dilema!

overcast 28 °C

Hello Readers,

A lot has happened to us since the last blog update. In fact in many ways the last week or two have been the most pivitol of the trip so far. Upon leaving Isla Bastimentos we were due to head to Santa Fe for two days before our trip to Colon to catch the ferry onwards to Colombia. Rather alarmingly though we had started to hear rumours from fellow travellers that the ferry had been delayed once more! The original launch date was May 10th, postponed to May 16th and then finally May 31st (the date we were hoping to travel on). Alas, these chinese whispers proved to be true. Various political permit problems on both the Colombian and Panamanian sides have scuppered the launch date yet again. With much embarrassment, little communication, and lots of money floating about in the ether the Greek shipping company that had built the vessel in question were trying to retain as much credibility as possible from the ensuing fiasco - whilst we were left to piece the news together for ourselves via hear say, internet forums and lots of speculation!

Aborting our trip to Santa Fe we headed straight back to Panama City to claim a refund on our tickets and find a plan for our onward travels. You would think that getting your money back from a service that has clearly not been provided, and for which you have the tickets and receipt, would be fairly easy. Think again! After locating our rather embarrassed tour operators, Adventuras 2000, in the Multicentro shopping mall we were told to go to the Head Office to claim our refund. Clearly the 'alarm bells' were starting to ring for both Charlie and I now and in the back of both our minds was the possibility that we may not get our $388 back! Fortunately for us, and after some very active and persuasive action from Charlie, we were handed a cheque for the full refund amount and subsequently cashed this in at the nearest Banco Nacionale.

So now we were back to square one. 35 days and two countries (that we didn't plan to visit) later, we were no closer to getting to Colombia. We were a lot poorer and also getting short on ideas. The cheapest flight to Bogota from Panama City was now in the region of £500 each and the cheapest yachting option was now about $450 each!! With much trepidation we decided to cut our losses with South America and head home before going back out on the road to Europe. It had become fairly clear that whilst we could still afford to fly to Colombia, the remaining money left in our accounts would no way cover the experiences and adventures that we had left to see and do. However, we knew that the European leg of our trip was very much still alive and financially viable...

...With a swift call to our travel agent, LIz, in London, we actioned our last free flight change and brought forward our flight from Buenos Aires to Sunday 3rd June. All we had to do now was get a flight from Panama City to Buenos Aires at the cheapest possible price. This turned out to be a complete nightmare!

On the morning of June 1st Charlie booked two flights with an online booking company - Rumbo, which were confirmed. Having mentally got prepared to see black cabs and red buses again; and of course family and friends, we got to Panama City airport early. Things went wrong at the check-in desk - they had no account of our booking. After much confusion, spanglish conversations and time ticking, Charlie was asked to go to an office and call the agent for the booking. No response. Emails with passport details ensued, back and forth using a defunct scanner but their response was too slow and we were going to miss our flight, which we did. Phonecards, phone calls to banks, phone calls to other agents....8 hours later, we were still in the airport with no apparent problem with our cards. We tried to book two more flights overnight but we had the same problem. By this point we knew we wouldn't make it to Buenos Airies to get our flight to London, so we would have to cough up and pay about £1300 to get home from Panama City. The booking situation was impossible. It turns out that several companies are willing to 'sell' long haul flights that are due to take off within 24 hours of booking, yet they are unable to offer a 24/7 service to confirm the flight with the airline within 24 hours!! How ridiculous! We could have gone around in more circles like this for days. By this point Charlie was on the red wine and I was downing Panamanian lager in an overpriced airport restaurant we had become far too familiar with. We cut more losses, called another company the next day and booked a flight to...

...Madrid of course!

We are currently a quarter through our journey at Cali Airport, Colombia (how ironic!), waiting for our third flight of the day, to Madrid (the fourth is on to London). We have been living in the 'airport environment' for 30 hours now with another 33 hours to get to London to have a shower. As you can imagine, we won't be making many friends on the plane...or in Madrid.

Aside from the last few days, the last 7 months has been amazing, and while we are sad to be sitting in a Colombian airport without seeing the country we've spent 6 weeks trying to visit, hopefully this blog has made our senseless decisions make sense! Expect the unexpected we were told!

Well, we are now getting really excited about an adventure we didn't think would be possible in this year off. After about a week in London, the journey will continue with a roadtrip through Spain and we will keep going until the wheels fall off....and so will the blog.

Sorry the blog has gone on and on ... it's been groundhog day for a while now and we wanted to paint the picture!

Lots of love to you all and hope you're enjoying the Jubilee weekend,

Charlie & Ross

Posted by charlieandross 11:05 Archived in Colombia Comments (3)

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