Day 16: Hog Roast!

16.01.09: Up at 4am and on the minibus to Suriname. Thankfully paved roads all the way, and even a nice new shiny bridge over the river meant that we got there in double quick time. The guy driving, Champ, was such a top bloke - he seemed to know absolutely everyone in the country and had smiles and waves for everyone. We arrived at Molston Creek around 9am and Champ had to lend me the money to get the speedboat across the river - I had underestimated the cost somewhat! But I made it over, was swarmed by taxi drivers on the other side - trying to explain to them that I was just stepping foot in Suriname and that I intended to go back straight away was a bit lost on them. But there you go - every nation in South America in just under…

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Day 15: Death Bus To Guyana

15.01.09: Awoken at 4am, we recommenced our journey through the jungle. Over a river on a chain ferry made of rusty metal and some wooden planks borrowed from The African Queen. Then we pulled over for some breakfast, a pee break, a coffee, another pee break, elevenses, twelveses... I got the feeling I was never going to make it to Georgetown. Then we pulled over again. Why? The guy driving just says "roll over, roll over" and points to the side of the road. A bus coming the other way had missed the bend and fallen into a river. But what was much more unsettling was the fact that there were five dead bodies inside. They had been there for two days. Suddenly my merry little jaunt around the good ship Planet Earth became something a little more real and a lot more scary. I could…

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Day 14: Call Me JoJo

14.01.09: Got up nice and early after a surprising restful sleep and headed to the border. I was first to be stamped through and I headed to the nearest bank to get some Brazilian Reals. Only the bank doesn't take foreign cards, so now I'm in the back of a shared taxi on the two-hour journey to Boa Vista on a wing and a prayer and a promise that I'll pay the taxi driver after we find a bank that will take my cards. Luckily enough for me, I'm sitting next to a particularly yummy mummy from Brazil who keeps breast feeding her six month old baby Jojo. Not the most unpleasant seatmate of the Odyssey I have to say. Oh, she's doing it again - don't look, don't look, don't... oh, bugger it, this is GREAT! Welcome to Brazil! It's almost enough to make me…

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Day 13: Sorry, We’re Closed!

13.01.09: Woke up in Mario's house. His family had been so accommodating, taking in a big ginger stray like me for the night and looking after me on my trip through Venezuela. I can't thank them enough. I headed back to the bus terminal and jumped on the first bus to Santa Elena on the border with Brazil. Oh, you might be looking at the map and wondering why I can't just enter Guyana from Venezuela. I wondered that too. Well, that would be because Venezuela for some god-only-known reason thinks that it owns Guyana. Yep - it's marked on maps and ‘Land to be reclaimed'! Never mind that it has been a British colony since 1796 (before then it was Dutch and before then Arawak - the native people of the land). Never mind that it has never been Venezuelan, ever, or that it's people…

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Day 12: The Jenga Piece

12.01.09: WOKE UP to the DEAFENING SOUND of a pirate copy of ‘Death Race' being played on the bus at MAXIMUM VOLUME. This continued until Jason Stratham got sacked from his job as a steel worker and then, inexplicably, the televisions turned themselves off. Maybe that's what passes for an alarm clock on a Venezuelan bus. So rudely awoken from my slumber, I realised we were passing through Caracas, the capital of Venezuela. Oh dear. Oh deary, deary me. One day the town planners of the 60s and 70s will be hunted down like Nazi war criminals and made to pay for their crimes. Yep - you guessed it - all the old colonial buildings were razed to the ground in the decades that taste forgot and, in their stead, guess what dreaming palaces were built... A teardrop on the face of eternity? No - ugly…

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Day 11: My Guardian Angels

11.01.09: Got to Bogotá yesterday, but there was barely enough time to pull my undies out of my backside before I was bang! on another overnight bus heading up to the border with Venezuela. For some reason, Colombian buses must be kept at a constant -5 degrees C at all times, so I was forced to wear pretty much all the clothing I own and my sleeping bag. But that's the way they like it. We were roused from our collective slumbers at about 7am for some breakfast on top of a mountain. And I thought the bus was cold...! Luckily, the driver kept us all locked out of the coach for half an hour so we all got to experience the full freezing coldness of an Andean mountain on an early Sunday morning. What is this with countries near the equator being cold? I don't…

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Day 10: The Need For Speed(Boat)!

10.01.09: I think I'm about 3 days behind schedule now; I really need to make up some time in the Caribbean. Don't know how easy that is going to be, absolutely NOTHING has been arranged. I feel quite sick just thinking about it. There are hardly any ferry services in the Caribbean, cruise ships flat refuse to take on casual travellers and the chances of working my passage on a private yacht are probably less than 50:50. In short, I could be stuck in the Caribbean for quite some time. If any of you know anyone who is in the Caribbean at the moment and has a boat (preferably a speed boat!) PLEASE let me know. It's getting to the 11th hour here and I don't want this whole thing to fall apart at the first hurdle. Thanks. At the moment I'm on the bus to…

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Day 9: Hey Hey We’re The Monkees

09.01.09: Okay - day of ACTION! Got up at some ungodly hour and rendered the podcast, got to the Internet café at 7.30am and uploaded it. Got to bookshop at 9am and bought new Lovely Plant guidebook (PHEW!) Jumped on the first bus to the border (11am) and CROSSED THE EQUATOR!! So I'm now back in the Northern Hemisphere. Exciting stuff!! Got to the border in good time, 4pm. Then.... Waited, and waited, and WAITED to get my exit stamp. It was 7.30pm before I got across. And I pushed in. I bribed a Canadian guy called Matt who was in the middle of the queue (rather than the end) with a Coca-Cola and he let me in. Thanks Matt!! It was the old South American trick of employing just one guy with a stamp to process 500 people. Urgh! Entertainingly enough though, there were actually…

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Day 8: The Brussels Sprout

08.01.09: I flaked it. I should have been up with the lark and on a bus to the border, but I decided to have a day off. This decision is no doubt going to haunt the rest of my trip around the Americas. Actually, it wasn't much of a day off - I had loads of stuff to do and putting together the first podcast took ages. I've got to say Quito is magnificent, though. Unlike every other South American city I've visited (and every city in poor old England), they haven't tried to integrate Modernist concrete and breezeblock municipal shopping mall/offices/discotheque/multi-story car park hell (come, come, see effendi, all under one roof like some kind of Djinn magic!) into the nice bit of the city. They've shoved that to one side like an unwanted Brussels sprout and left the ‘old city' to its own devices.…

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Day 7: Frenchie And The Book

07.01.09: Got to the border bright and early this morning, and tried to find a bus to Quito, the capital of Ecuador. There was no central bus station, each coach operative had their own depot scattered around the small town of Tumbes. Don't forget - I've got no guidebook so I was completely winging it. In the first bus depot I found an Irish lad called Alan who assured me that this was the bus to get if I wanted to go to Quito. Unfortunately for me, it wasn't. I thought the bus was just going to take me over the border, but it was taking me to a place called Guayaquil some seven hours away. Alan said it was on the way to Quito, but I couldn't check in his guidebook as some French girl was reading it. All I needed was to look at…

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