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.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Quito 2/8/06

So, last one then.

After a huge good bye party in Atacames with the other volunteers I rolled back to Quito ready to get prepared for the madness of Colombia. Everything I had heard had led me to believe I was going to a land of ridiculously beautiful women and was going to get kiddnapped. Had to be done then.

From Cali airport the minibuses wind their way through sugar plantations in ridiculous (40 degree) heat towards Colombia's third largest city. As you enter city limits a sign welcomes you to "Cali, the home of South Americas most beautiful women". No seriously they have the sign!

I rolled up to the plush hostal Iguana and quickly went hunting for some food at a local supermarket where the disadvantages of stupidly hot women everywhere became evident. Firstly, the beauty section was about a third of the shop! Secondly and probably more importantly the staff kept trying to help me and I kept knocking things over! Apparently I am still scared of girls. Escaping with some basic provisions (aguadiente, juice, coffee and bread). I rolled back into the dorm to discover my new roomates in the middle of a flowing hebrew argument. After introducing myself and breaking up the near conflict between Tal, Shai and stoned Israeli kid (never did learn his name) we decided to hit the nightlife for which Cali is famous. It was pretty damn good for a Wednesday, though I really can't salsa and we only seemed to be able to attract the attentions of guys from Cali, who bought us copious amounts of alcohol, and girls from Mexico (I was told one of them had beautiful eyes, I mean who says that?).

A next day and feeling a little the worse for wear we woke early and headed for the nearby village of San Cipreano in the jungle. Colombian bus stations are really nice, Colombian buses are horrific. As we weaved along bumpy roads, through stunning jungles and past tanks, soldiers and seemingly limitless road blocks, assorted Colombians decided to amuse us with the contents of their stomachs. Me and Shai appeared to be the only people not getting sick and so traded stories from when we were 18, him blowing holes in people/houses in the West Bank during 2 compulsory years in the Israeli army while I blew up 3000 balloons in my school at 3am. Different world. On arrival in Cordoba we rocked onto the craziest train I had ever seen. It was a motor bike attached to the rails with wooden planks where the sidecar would be. We then rocketed through stunning jungle all holding on for dear life while the driver just laughed and went faster. On arrival in San Cipreano we headed straight for the River where we swam, tubed skimmed stones and generally wasted an afternoon. The way back on the train it was rainingand I was pretty sure we were close to derailing on every curve!

On arrival in Cali we where informed that it was the 472nd birthday of Cali and that there was a gigantic beer and salsa festival to celebrate. We hit the beer festival hard for $5 all you can drink! Then we headed to "Blues Brothers" for live Salsa and weren't disappointed either by the Caleñas or the band. Following this epic night we grabbed savory churros (absolutely gorgeous) and staggered to bed.

Friday I realised signalled 5 months away and as a result I felt spontaneous so headed to Medellin for the flower festival. So Medellin has a bit of a bad reputation on account of previously having the worlds highest murder rate in the early nineties while some guy called Pablo Escobar ran the infamous Medellin cartel exporting the white stuff. If you can find it watch Rosario Tijeras, which is probably the greatest film I've ever seen, but I fear you cannot get in English subtitles.

The drive was stunning as we saw huge coffee plantations, jungle and the mighty andes all in one fail swoop. Arriving in Medellin I was disturbed to discover Casa Kiwi - the place to be - was filled with English people and that I would be sleeping in the TV room, allbeit at knockdown rates.

Having chatted to some lads from London and Sheffield it appeared Friday was gonna be pretty big so we headed out into El Poblado, Medellin's zona rosa. So basically this is the first time I say this, but it wont be the last and I probably will be going on about it all summer; the girls in Medellin are the hottest in South America (maybe the world), nothing else even comes close, I have honestly never seen anything like it. This said unlike Buenos Aires they are really really friendly and almost everyone goes out of their way to make you feel welcome.

OK back to the night fastforward a couple of hours of reggaeton (thank god) and we got thrown out, not sure what for, I think for drinking someone elses drink but I don't know and walk out into a massive fight. The scrap was very brief as we quickly find ourselves staring down the wrong end of 2 soldiers Kaleshnikovs. We were informed that in order to avoid arrest we would have to pay them 20,000 pesos (US$8) and that they wanted one of the other guys green hat ("it looks military"). Following a lot of swearing and threats (in english) we paid and wandered back to the hostel. Someone wanted to watch City of God which was fine by me but I got almost no sleep.

The next morning I was up bright and breezy to do Medellin's sights. Having jumped on the metro I began to work out a plan. As the birthplace of Santiago Botero, Medellin has the largest collection of his works anywhere in the (free!) modern art museum and also has loads of statues in the Plaza de Botero. I started with the museum of modern art and was again distracted by the ridiculous amount of beautiful assistants all of whom wanted to show me around. The museum is really cool and the Botero section is amazing, though you can't take any pictures. Having wandered around the square checking out the crazy statues I headed for the, again free, cable car which gives stunning views over Medellin. I then grabbed an awesome strawberry batido at the botanical gardens before heading back to the hostel to meet the guys and do the flower festival. The flower festival was kinda crazy, basically a massive advertising parade with a few horses (no flowers) and I'm not really sad I forgot my camera.

Following another crazy night out, I headed back to Cali for my flight the next day. I was sorry to leave Colombia and definately want to go back to do the whole country properly. Though I did nearly miss the flight on account of being searched 4 times and xrayed twice before questioning about my colombian family(!?) and job description.

Anyway, Dad I'll see you tomorrow, everyone else see you Saturday!


Ecuador and Colombia Pics

Medellin. 5 Months and I can sure time a photo. (they were 17 seconds apart)

Colombians write meaningful stuff. Me I jus graff the place up.

Botero; Legend or Nutter?

Cali - Is that someone playing the jazz flute? He dabbled.

Wacky Colombian transport system.

Atacames, last night of work.

Cacao harvesting. That is my Mancora 'beater by the way! Never go to a Quito Laundry.

Congal biomarine station. Artsy

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.