The Bish Krew on Tour

Welcome to the antics of the BishKrew on tour round the world. Bish Crew members: Tommy O'Gallagher, Kieran Rafter, James Askew, Tom Fleming, Laurie Howell and Teo Lopéz-Bernal.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Ecuador Pics

Spring Break!!

Cuenca. Night. Nothing amusing.


The Devil's nose.

Baños Baby!

Cuenca 3am. God i'm such a 'baller.

So you walk down these stairs....

... and come out looking like this.
(Waterproof clothes!?! How do the people at Rohan sleep at night?)

Howler monkeys in there somewhere - God I miss Bosley!

Working hard.

They jumped me.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Isla Margarita

Dear All,

Slightly apprehensive due to all the dangerous stories we heard, we landed in Caracas airport and headed over to the domestic terminal. Here came mistake number one. We had turned up with NO money, not a dime between us and you guessed it, our cards didn`t work. Some "friendly lads" took us on a 2 hour tour of the airport looking for banks until we were saved when Laurie was able to withdraw enough to pay for our departure tax out of the boiling hot hell-hole. Our new found friends then decided we owed them nearly 20 quid for following us around the airport offering comiserations! After a "&$*k that" and a very generous on our behalf, 5 pound tip, we ran into the departure lounge followed by howls of abuse.

We touched down in Isla de margarita looking forward to tanning our white bodies ready for England. We kicked things off to a good start by immediately befriending some pizza guys and a self-confessed local stud!! The beach, called Playa el Agua was fantastic, a back drop of palm trees, white sand and bath temperature water where we could play bat and ball to our hearts content.

The structure of our days in Margarita was simple. We got up early, ate as much complimentary breakfast buffet as possible, then retired again to our room for another couple more hours sleep. Then, at around 1pm, we made our way to the beach, packing the `Geek Bag` with the essential items: sun cream, sunglasses, bat and ball and the football. 4 or 5 hours later after various sessions of keepy-uppy and bat and ball ( Kieran and Tom`s 1200 record from Barca remained intact) and a daily dip in the crystal waters we would head, perhaps slightly `rougier`, to Miragua Cafe for our daily Cocada ( a beautiful coconut smoothie thing). Now, at about 6pm, we would head back to our air conditioned hotel room and cool down, watching the Film Zone or CNN before heading to Kalimbas for our routine evening pizza. A Palmera for Teo, Salvaje for Laurie and a Jardin for Tom. After some banter and beers with Luis and Hector we made our way to Woody`s in the vain hope that that night would be different. It never was. So we returned to the hotel room, Tom and Laurie fought over the little space their measly double bed offered, and we went to sleep.

Woody`s: We strolled into this much recommended establishment...confident that we could aquaint ourselves with some of the local ladies with our honed spanish abilities. Our dreams were promptly shattered when every girl turned out to be a prostitute or under 16 and german. The blokes were all capped gangsters that thought dancing involved bobbing your head on the dance floor with a drink in hand and looking as menacing as possible!!! Thus, we contented ourselves with being the crazy dancing englishmen. Over our 10 days we hoped this would change.

Our time in the Carribean Paradise did have some quirks to the firmly established lifestyle that we had adopted from the word go:

  • One change of hotel from Posada las Ross to Hotel Costa Linda Beach ( too far to walk and we wanted our free buffet breakfast).
  • Whilst walking down the waterfront boulevard we would occasionaly be hailed by our young 16 year old (self confessed stud) Leo. The proceeding 30 minutes would be full of his conquests over the female tourist population of Margarita or his apparent near signing with the Brazilian national football team. A friendly chap none the less.
  • Various new records were set in the pool and on the beach. 46 water based headers, 23 sand based keepy-uppy aerial exchanges and of course the eight consectutive pizza nights.
  • A days snorkelling around the coral archipeligos of Los Frailes. This included unlimited Polar Ice, our cerveza of choice. A huge amount of parrot fish and some embarassing boat side backflip attempts.
  • One day trip to the Angel Falls by Teo leaving Tom and Laurie with some peace at last!

All in all its been a fantastically relaxing ten days and an incredible six months. We look forward to seeing you all in a matter of hours and boring you with our tales.

Lots of Love,

Teo `The Battery` Lopez Bernal,

Thomas ´The Dart` Fleming,

Lawrence `The Hooligan` Howell.

Quito to the Carribean (photos)

Beauties and the Beast.

The `Heroes`.


Humpback Whale.

Parrot Love.

Papallacta..... sublime!


Playa el Agua, Carribean Paradise.

We do apologise for the quotes.

Bristol 18/07/07


Well, having been silent for quite a while now, KT have decided that it's high time we updated the readers on our globetrotting voyage. On Friday the 30th of June at roughly 9:30am we came to a bumpy landing at Heathrow airport, prepared for the most intense culture shock of our travels. Shortly after picking up our luggage we were zooming across the British countryside in a monstrous, fuel guzzling 4x4 vehicle, packed in tightly amongst extremely creepy and over familiar passengers. Fortunately we both had our i-pods at hand and, having plugged ourselves in, feigned sleep for the entire duration of the journey to Bristol.

Upon arrival we were devastated to discover that, due to booking complications, we would be forced to stay in separate hostels. Fortunately they are within minutes of one another and are both of a fairly decent standard. We've both found the beds to be reasonably comfy, the other guests tolerable and the food regular, if basic. There have been times when we've both felt compulsions in the early hours to visit "arches" - a local chippy which seems to have become one of our haunts since we arrived. In the evenings we have frequented a number of fantastic venues. The Lizard Lounge, an extremely sweaty underground grotto guarded by vicious brutes, has consistently impressed us with its heroic and apparently unchanging playlist whilst the Berkely, a fairly basic, bustling bar, has had us gaping in wonder at just how small the world seems whilst travelling. Also guys, when you arrive you should really look out for a club called OCEANA – multiple floors/rooms/bars/music styles and we’re pretty certain that it’s the only one in the entire world.

Life’s pretty sweet in Bristol and we’re actually considering sticking around until well into September at which point we may split up and start travelling alone for three years or so.

Look forward to seeing LTT tomorrow, you’ll love it here lads.


P.S: We didn’t actually blog our insane adventures in New York and Washington, but if there’s enough demand we may hold a seminar in the near future.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Muisne, 15/7/06


After leaving the boys looking somewhat tearful in Puerto Lopez I bused down to the chilled out surf resort of Montañita. Here I checked into the cheapest dorm accomodation ever - $2 per night but bats may land on you - and quickly established I was indeed the only person in the place! The owner was a legend however and after a few beers promised to take me out surfing in the morning. It was great fun 3 metre waves are a little large for me at the momment.

On a whim I decided to go to Guyaquil that night and arrived at the absurd (small international airport) sized bus terminal at 11pm. The rough guide describes Guyaquil terrestre as very dangerous with petty theft a common occurance and suggests that on no account should you go there at night! I have to agree although it was pretty fun making myself look as angry as possible and then swaggering arond the underground walkways surrounded by shady characters. Feeling slightly threatened I decided the best move was to jump on the next bus to Cuenca. Sadly it arrived there at 3am.

Cuenca is a beautiful colonial city. The bus station is terrible. Having tried to snatch a few hours of sleep cruelly disturbed by geese carrying peasants (too stingy to fork out for a hostel I know) I took the only course of action, drank 7 cups of coffee and played hacky sack until dawn finally broke. Feeling pretty wired I hit the old town and wandered around the deserted streets looking at the beautiful Spanish architecture and checking out the small saturday market. I then discovered my first choice hostel had shut down but (thanks to the help of my lovely mother) I quickly found another and crashed out for some well deserved rest. Awakened by the guys next door aka the "cronwell rd massive" (bloody Bristol uni students) we hit the bar for breakfast and to watch England lose. More sleep. We then watched Brazil lose. More sleep. Crap day.

In the evening following a quickly grabbed snack overlooking the beautifully lit up skyline we hit "Roca" one of Cuencas biggest salsatecas to celebrate Canada day big time! A good time was had by all and I was sorry to leave at 4am to catch the bus to Alausi. A little innebriated me and the friendly conductor quickly established (in flowing spanish no less) that I had indeed lost my ticket. He let me stay and I am eternally greatfull. I was on the 4am bus on account of the hostel owner telling me the train leaves at 8.30 sharp. It leaves at 11. Luckily 4 other gringas had heard the same and we hung out on the freezing platform.

The devil's nose is awesome! You sit on top of a train zooming down the Andes at ridiculous speeds with dizzying drops and then every so often you have to take the switchbacks and the train de-rails! It was great fun! Having fallen asleep on the Canadian member of the group on the way back (she had obviously been celebrating heavily) I was quickly persuaded that going back to volunteer work was a stupid idea and that I really needed to see Baños.

Baños is awesome! Having found a four person room, meaning I would be sleeping on the floor (I suggested rock, paper, scissors to the girls, but they where having none of it), we went for a meal at Casa Hood, a backpacker institution, for an awesome thai curry followed by "Soy Cuba" some Russian propaganda movie which is aparently a "classic" but is really too intellectual and too artsy for the likes of me. The next day the girls went for massages followed by facials while I grabbed a mountain bike and headed down 22km through the cloud forest. On the way I saw loads of stunning waterfalls, took a cable car and even a $10 dollar bungy jump which looked really good but I was puished for time. The highlight however was going down into the Panillo del diablo, a 50 foot waterfall with a stairway through the jungle into the falls and got soaked. On arrival back in Baños we hit one of the thermal baths from which the town gets its name for a refreshing soak before going up the active volcano Tungurahua. The cloud was so thick that you couldn't see the top from our vantage point but the noises where amazing and it was a great experience.

The next day I attempted to return to work in Muisne at the far end of Ecuador from Baños but after sleeping a little too late I found myself stuck in Esmeraldas City at 11pm. Small children attempted to steal the shoes tied to my bag. Feeling a little sketched out I found a hotel room and hid for the evening. The next day I finally got back to work 12 days later than had been promised and was quickly filled in with the latest gossip. It's better than a soap opera round here!

Work is still pretty fun. We do a lot of the routine stuff on our own now - monitoring shrimp, clearing trails, replanting mangroves but at the same time we also do some cool stuff on the reserve with the definate highlight this week of watching a fisherman reel in a 5foot hammerhead shark with a day working with the local school kids cleaning the village a close second. We also have spent more than a few hours on some great beaches and had a couple of fun nights out in Atacames.


Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Quito, and back, then back again, then back again again!

With James now on board we happily collapsed into his plush Quito appartment after another routine night bus, this time from the hairising border crossing of Huaqillas. Not much was done on the thursday we arrived except for lounging around in our new home and as the day drew to a close we had the dilemna of deciding who slept with James. After many games of rock, paper, scissors it ended up with Teo having to put up with 6 nights of rompous snoring! Anyway moving on.
Friday was spent going up the scenic TeleferiQo, getting the material and fittings for our suits, and sampling the Quito night life. After an eventful night out we returned to our apartment for our three hours of sleep before getting up at 6 to leave for the Otavalo. In a bleary eyed, hungover haze, we slumbered slowly around this huge street market, purchasing gifts and other market paraphanaelia including sunglasses, bracelets, hats, mats, and most notably two huge wooden ??????! Don´t ask me why. We returned soon after lunch to catch the Brazil match and that evening, after one of James´ much hyped Hotdog´s ( they´re lush!), we headed for another night on the town. Slightly less rowdy than Friday we headed again to the infamous No Bar, where James would meet a Colombian with a withered arm and we (as a whole) would meet some strange, high-pitched, squeaky American girls who saw Tom as a potential rapist and who were reluctant to enter the basement of a perfectly normal bar because it apparently looked ´sketchy´.
Overall, however, the night was a success and the following day England took on Ecuador in what proved to be a bit of an anticlimactic match that we ended up watching in the apartment, for fear of being killed. Later that day England again took on Ecuador in El Parque Carolinas, this time the result was reversed, we blamed it on the altitude.
The highlight of Monday saw two heroes undertake one of the most courageous and manly of challenges. Eating the whole menu of the Hot Dog stand. This included a double hot dog con todo, a single hot dog con todo, a double burger con todo, a single burger con todo, and a beverage. The two heroes, better known as Tom and Teo, completed the task with aplomb only to be left for the rest of that evening groaning and clenching their stomachs! Don´t try this at home.
On Tuesday Teo witnessed the dumping of Spain out of the World Cup at the hands of France ( a la bimbon, bimbon, bimbo, a la bimbon, bimbon ba, España, España no vale na!) and the rest of the day was probably spent in Papaya.Net, our regular Internat Cafe.
That night we decided to leave our beloved Quito and head to Puerto Lopez in the hope of seeing some whales and catching some fish. We did both, count it! Again we arrived in the early hours of the morning and were forced to catch up on sleep, this time in Hostal Fragata. We got up at about 11.30am, quickly organised for Paco to take us out in his boat and soon began our quest into the Pacfic Ocean. After seeing some blue footed boobies (who needs the Galapagos?), we cast our rods and hoped for the best. A few seconds later and the first fish was reeled in, it was a strange little brown fish that would prove reluctant to die. As the day wore on and the fish count increased, we were soon rewarded with an amazing ceviche (raw fish dish) made by Paco with one of the fish Laurie had caught. And so there we sat, in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, the sun reflecting off the waves, eating sublime ceviche and sipping ice cold coke... until out of nowhere we heard the shout of WHALE! WHALE!coming from Toms mouth. Without a moment to loose Paco revved up the engine and headed towards the beast and soon enough we were to witness one of natures many wonders. A Humpback Whale fully emmersing itself from the depths of the sea...spectacular!
However the day was not over, we still had time for another half an hour of fishing. Just enough time for Laurie to battle against and eventually to reel in a humungous Sierra. This particular Sierra turned out to be perhaps our best ever evening meal and this day perhaps one of the finest experienced on our travels.
The next day was spent snorkelling in a nearby bay, and more importantly saying goodbye to James, who now had to part ways.
We love you James! TLT
(P.S. James owes Teo 5 dollars and Teo wont forget! Nor will the blog!)

As we got off the bus from Puerto Lopez we were only a little bit less tired than our previous eleven hour journey of hell along the same road, we had nowhere to stay this time. We grabbed a taxi and headed for the centre of Quito and the Mariscal. We wandered around the tourist centre at 5 in the morning for hours but there was no room at the inn. Desperate for a place to stay we finally set eyes upon the 1950´s edifice infront of us. We pressed the buzzer and checked into the sterile but beautiful HI hostal and crashed out til the afternoon. That day we slept and ate and prepared ourselves for the night to come.

That evening we grabbed a mexican (´dunno what came over us we just grabbed the bugger´token), and set off for Level night club. It turned out to be exactly like it´s Bristol counterpart, however we just partied in ignorant bliss as we had little idea as to what was being hollared at us. With both Teo and Tom enjoying the forwardness of the local chicas Laurie took it upon himself to drink some beers with a particularly large and intimidating gangster. After a few hours a scene change was needed and we went to No Bar for the remainder. That is all we shall say but the night was quality and we resided to our NHS wipe clean hostal beds to get some kip.
The next day was the England vs Portugal game. Nothing more to say on that apart from, if C. Ronaldo happened to get hit by a First bus whilst walking down Gloucester road and we were a meter away we might just be forced a blink. Our anger and hurt was so great we forgot to pay at the bar we watched the game, after this moment of madness and illegality we decided to run away to the jungle.

Having heard bad things from James about the bus journey to Tena, we were expecting the worst. However our driver who was no doubt a legend threw the bus around the corners with an elegance similar to that of an Ecuadorian figure skater, we arrived in Tena that evening with not so much as a scratch on our hardened skin. We checked into the Travellers lodge, and got a good room with a fan thanks to Tom´s visit two years previous. This was not before asking ´did you see three lads here about 3 months ago´. This became quite a frequent question and came with the remarkable answer of ´yeh, good kids´amongst other less patronising answers. We adjusted to the humidity over an Italian and resided to our beds for our first jungle night.
The next morning we were fitted for the black rubber boots (wellies) that this part of the jungle is famous for and jumped in the back of a pickup. We were taken to Shangri-la. We checked into the cliff side jungle hotel and after about an hour of indecision decided to the take the less tiring option of floating down the river on a tractor innertube. With our guide who also knew KJT we ´went extacurricular´ and trekked up the river napo on foot to indulge in a spot of uninsured mental rapid tubing, this was so good it left a taste for more white water in our insect filled mouths. Our first day was awesome and it was a great introduction to the jungle. After chilling that evening in the hammock garden, playing hammock ball, talking with an over exubarent american lady and destroying the double bed in our room we got down for a night of sleep. The next day we got an early morning transfer to the Amorangachi huts.
Here we played with the very same parrot as Tommy before donning our boots and heading for the Cascades. We were surprised to meet a group of Christian Missionaries in the gorge and even more surprised by there lack of adventure. Our crazy guide was eager to get wet so without further a do we passed them and threw ourselves up and around the huge cascades without ropes (mothers) and generally soaked and bruised ouselves . After the last cascade we truged back to the huts and consumed a whole meal of food. That afternoon we took the medicinal plants walk where we learnt about the ways of the jungle and became one with the plants and fruit. The entire time we were keeping an eye on the now record flood that was lapping against the shores of the river Napo. We were told that we could not go rafting tommorow. In dismay we had no choice but to reside to our hammocks for the night, here we smoked jungle pipes, ate parrots and amazed our new missionary Deciples with tales of old and tales of our spitual journey.

Our jungle experience was completed with a days white water rafting. It began with some obligatory form signing and we immediately made ourselves popular with the "captain" of the rafts, by crossing out "we denounce all responsibility to press charges even if it is the fault of the company" or something along those lines, before we would sign it! (don't worry mum's we are taking care)
This was followed by half an hour of safety talks, much of which was spent swatting the various species of biting insects, only then were we allowed near the raft. As we set off our guide informed us that the day before our river had flooded to it's highest level in 4 years, and thus we were rafting with the best conditions that year.

After a hard half-days rafing we paused for a beach-football match against our fellow "rafters." We bet one of our 2 lunch time burritos on the match, which we then proceeded to lose!! (However we did the polite thing and ate it anyway when they weren't looking)

Later, we displayed our rafting skill, or lack thereof, by managing to be the only raft to tip ourselves fully over. Our guide may have been partly to blame, due to him being the biggest (literally) nutter on the river. The day was finished by everyone else deflating our raft (see photos), in retaliation to the consistent spalshing we subjected them to throughout the trip.

The hot springs of Papallacta had been recommended to us, so as it was getting dark, we headed off on a bus with no idea what was ahead of us. 5 hours later the bus conductor unceremoniously woke us up and turfed us out, seemingly in the middle of no-where, surrounded by clouds and mountains. This was then compounded by a 20 minute walk at 3700m to the springs, opposite which was meant to be a cheap hostel. This wasn't in existance so we were forced to stay at the papallacta springs hotel. Small consolations include a double bed, en-suite complete with our own private hot springs...oh yes!! Teo and Tom thought that this wasn't luxury enough and decided that full body massages would be more appropriate. We got onto the bus, fully lubed up and smelling of lavander from the massages, worrying that we might give some locals the wrong idea. It turned out to be the last bus of our travels (I can't tell you how good that feels, we have crossed the 100 hour barrier in Peru and Ecuador alone!!).

We made it safely to the internet cafe in Quito, where we bumped into none other than our old chum George Garrad, and friends. After some banter and MANY travel stories, we decided to celebrate the occasion by going out British style. The next day heads hurting we collected our much anticipated suits, and keeping true to lazy teenager tradition decided to pay for, and confirm that we had infact changed our flights for early the next morning and not 2 weeks ago! A much needed early night was followed by getting up at 4.30 in the morning for Venezuela...but that is for next time!!!

We are writing now from Isla de Margarita - fantastic, with its amazingly expensive internet facitlities. Photos will be posted in a couple of days, when we have saved up enough money by missing a few meals/begging etc...