Posts tagged ‘Uncategorized’

The Benefits of Coming Home after Travelling

Although I miss travelling already I’m not unhappy about being back home; after all there are so many advantages for someone who’s recently travelled. Here’s my list:

  • Perspective

To cheer myself up about having to spend money on groceries I compare the prices to that of how much we would have paid overseas. Jason bought a six pack of beer last week that cost the same as one beer in the USA. Score! Well at least it feels that way.

  • Tipping

I came back with heaps of coins from America and Antigua that were shaking around in my wallet for at least a month. I had no idea how handy they would be until I went out to have a hangover breakfast one morning. After Jessica accidently spilt an orange juice all over me I asked a waitress to bring me a wet wipe or a serviette to clean my pants. She rolled her eyes at me and when she returned to clean the table I had to ask her again. Finally another waiter brought me a bowl of dipping water. My friend Astrid pointed out that she definitely wasn’t getting a tip. I did give her a tip though, in US dollars.

  • Some more perspective… for other people

I came back to discover that my youngest sister cleans the bath properly now and my mother occasionally cleans the counter after cooking. Actually this has fairly little to do with me going away but it’s still nice. While I was away my mother had a tenant who was pretty much half blind. She couldn’t see well enough to clean the counters or even the bathtub properly. Jessica, who was annoyed about having to clean the tub before bathing each time, admitted that she now knew how I felt when she had done the same to me. Some of the best words I’ve heard uttered.

  • People actually want to listen to me

Actually this applies more to Jason because he loves to talk much more than I do. The point is that ever since we came home people have been interested in listening to us. They want to hear about the parties and killer rums in Antigua and sometimes about the ‘oh-so dangerous’ sea travel. These people are usually friends but Jason doesn’t allow the label of ‘acquaintance’ to deter him from exhibiting a slideshow of 101 photos.

  • South Africa is awesome!

Just a few of my favourite spots

Kaapsehoop- inhabited by mist, horses and rocks

Hike to Bridal falls, outside Nelspruit

God's Window

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On a Serious Note

So I’m just going to put humour aside here; bear with me. Today I want to mention one of the things that made our experience as travellers so wonderful. The people we met were really what made it fantastic; starting with Sophie and Matt who we met in Tortola.

When we arrived in Tortola we had no idea what we were in for. We couldn’t find any work that wouldn’t get us deported and the cheapest accommodation we could find turned out to be very expensive. In no time at all we had spent our airfare money and we were pretty stressed. When we met Sophie and Matt they were just about to go on holiday. They did not need a house sitter but offered us the choice to house sit for them anyway. The best part of all is that they had such a lovely home with a view of all the nearby islands. When I finally did get a little bit of work I didn’t have to spend my earnings on expensive hotel fees, instead I bought us tickets to Antigua. For Sophie and Matt’s kindness I will be eternally grateful. They are the kind of people that make the world so fantastic and not only because of their kindness but also because of their sense of adventure.

Sophie and Matt looking at the view after our hike up.

Thank you, Matt and Sophie.

Very Amateur Travel

I have been writing almost every day for the last two weeks but not at all about anything that I would ever read or ever write about if I weren’t being paid to. However, it’s surprisingly less tedious than I thought it would be because it’s still writing even if the topics include ‘how to pick up women’ and ‘medical cargo pants’. Still it’s really amusing; I don’t know the first thing about picking up women seeing that I’ve never tried.

The other thing that has been taking up my time is trying to decide what to do with this blog seeing as it is a travel blog and I am not travelling. It is dishonest after all to have a blog called ‘Amateur Travelling’ which is really about my boring life as a part-time shop assistant/internet-fluff writer and whatever else I stumble upon.  So I’ve come up with two possible solutions:

  1. I could change the name of my blog to something more appropriate like ‘My travelling is so amateur I don’t even leave the house’ or ‘travelling is for amateurs; I stay at home’. Only problem is that I don’t have the slightest clue how to change my blog’s name. It would probably take a lot of effort and an understanding of how websites work.
  2. The easier option would be to simply earn enough money so that I can go on holiday frequently and write about that. A four hour drive to Nelspruit still counts as travelling and maybe I’ll even make it as far as Mozambique. In the mean time I guess I could write about all the places I plan to travel to when I do have the resources to. I would love to do another yachting season in Europe but at the cost of doing an almost-three month boat delivery to get there I think I’ll take a rain check.

What I really want though, is for someone to pay me to go on holidays. I wouldn’t mind writing about that sort of thing at all. So hopefully someone will stumble upon my blog sometime in the near future and decide that that is exactly what they want to do.

This has nothing to do with my topic but it's really funny. My sister and her best friend woke me up wearing this.

I guess my life isn’t completely boring…

New York

New York was a mad rush consisting of two days that are, now, a blur to me. Even some of the photos are blurry.

On the Saturday Gareth, Courtney, Jason and I took a taxi to Providence where we were to catch a bus to New York. Our taxi driver was probably half blind; he almost squished a squirrel and went straight through a stop street after that. We found ourselves wishing he’d do more concentrating and less talking. He told us in a paternal sort of way that New York was very overwhelming. “Whatever you do, do not let the city overwhelm you!”

After three and half hours on the bus we started walking towards our hotel room and closer to Times Square. When we reached Times Square we stopped to take it all in. Courtney clutched his chest and gasped, “The city! It’s overwhelming me!”

Times Square, overwhelming us.

And it really was overwhelming; the noise, the smells and the clutter of people, buildings and flashy advertising. We spent the first few hours just walking around dumbfounded. For the first time since we left home I actually felt like a tourist especially with Jason walking next to me with a big camera taking pictures of everything.

After booking into our hotel room we lost Gareth and Courtney in a hoard. We shrugged off our losses and went ahead and had a great day anyway.

We took a stroll in Central park, explored over-the-top shops including a three story Toys R Us and also a two story shop devoted entirely to candy coated “m&m” souvenirs.

m&m statue of liberty, because you know, liberty has everything to do with candy-coated chocolate.

Found in Central Park. “Twinkle twinkle little bat, how I wonder what you’re at”

Life-sized T-Rex robot in Toys R Us

Also in Toys R Us, which I pointed out to Jason would be more appropriate in an Adult World

 

My favourite though, was the Ripley’s Believe it or Not ‘Odditorium’.  Surely it doesn’t get much better than shrunken heads, albino giraffes and three-legged tap dancers.

Yeah, that’s my boyfriend.

Albino giraffe!!

oink!

My pickled head

Shrunken head

On the next day Jason and I visited the Natural Museum of History which we had to do quickly to get to our bus on time. At the ticket counter Jason asked how long it would take to do a proper tour of the whole museum. The lady told us that it would take about a week but that we could do it in three days. “Perfect!” we told her, “we have three hours.”

We ran through the museum taking fuzzy pictures, occasionally stopping for a brief ogle. Jason pointed out that when people asked us “what animal does that skeleton belong to?” and “Why is that guy wearing a shell suit?” we’d probably say something like “Oh wow, I don’t remember seeing that.”

Giant Armadillo

Giant skeletal Tortoise.

No, I don’t know why he’s wearing shells. Honestly I don’t know why anyone would.

My overall opinion of New York: It was noisy, stinky, excessive and crowded. After spending only two days there I decided I could never live there. But despite all of that I loved New York; loved the lights and the signs and the busy energy and everything that made New York excessive.

South African Planet

That One Time We Hit a Shark: Antigua to Newport

Two weeks ago Jason and I hopped onto South African racing yacht ‘Prodigy’. In exchange for working as delivery crew to Newport the owner agreed to buy us flights home. Since then Jason has decided to stay with the boat for a while longer to work as race crew. I’ll be flying home this week. The delivery took 10 days and along with our Skipper, Gareth, and third crew member, Courtney, we had a pretty good time.

Sorry this is so long. Props if you don’t fall asleep halfway through. I’ll put a post up about our trip to New York next week.

Prodigy 

Prodigy, built in South Africa in 2006, hasn’t had the best of luck. After sinking about 4yrs ago she sat in a harbour up until the beginning of this year when she was finally repaired and sent off to the Caribbean to compete in the Antigua Race week which she didn’t enter due to engine and generator problems. We have now delivered her to Rhode Island where she will take part in the Transatlantic race. I’ll let you know if she doesn’t break down before that.

If you don’t know much about racing yachts then you probably don’t know how uncomfortable they are.  They are extremely uncomfortable. This delivery was very challenging in the way that we really had no luxuries; no shower, no air conditioner, no fridge, no freezer, tiny gas cookers and no autopilot. So just to make our suffering clear, that meant washing out of water bottles outside, eating mostly tinned foods and someone had to be steering all the time.

Introducing Courtney (left) and Gareth

My bunk: the no-fun hammock.

Kitchen

This is the account taken from my journal.

Day 1: Didn’t I say I’d never do this again?

Finally left, 15 days late. It was just one disaster after the next trying to leave Antigua.  Felt mild discomfort (seasickness) after a few hours of sailing but overall it was a good day. When the wind was right the boys brought out what looked like a circus tent, but really it was just a spinnaker sail because apparently it makes no sense having circus tents on racing yachts.

The boys caught two fish today.

Caught this Barracuda first but we let him go. Weren’t sure if he was safe to eat so close to the coast.

The Tuna the boys had for dinner.

The circus tent and a very hung-over Courtney after a night of forgetting he was on antibiotics.

Day 2

After a good night of rest I’m feeling very chuffed about the deal I struck with the boys. Basically it was agreed that if I cooked dinner and helmed a little during the day, when the boys had to do sail changes or repairs then the boys would do all the night shifts.

We stopped for a swim today. It’s been very calm and flat today; unfortunately no wind.

Photo by Jason

Beautiful Dorado. Let him go because he was too big for dinner.

Day 5: The Peg Game

Gareth invented a game today for us to play for the rest of our trip. I’m too lazy to think of a catchy name so I’ll just call it the “Peg game”. Basically we all have a clothing peg that we’ve named and pegged to ourselves. These are the rules:

  1. No talking about the peg game outside of the peg game. (oops)
  2. You have to keep your peg on you at all times. If caught without your peg the other three competitors get to graffiti your face with marker pens.
  3. To eliminate another contestant you must steal their peg without being caught and peg it on the Dan buoy.
  4. Peg can only be pegged onto clothing.
  5. The winner gets three drinks on the rest of the competitors and must proclaim that he/she is the “Peg champion!” after each drink.

Small fry holding a big fish.

Day 6: Sneaky Tactics

Jason deviously stole Gareth’s peg while he was sleeping this morning. We all sat outside snickering like foxes waiting for Gareth to wake up and realise. Finally I had to wake him up for his shift, calling to him through the hatch. All I heard in reply was a string of profanities and insults directed at his lousy crew. Ironically Gareth had been telling Jason all night how he knew he was going to win the game.

When Gareth finally came out he gravely informed us: “I never thought a peg would make me feel so bad.”

While taking a nap this afternoon, Courtney snagged my peg. I woke up when I heard someone running on the deck; I checked for my peg and realised I’d been jacked.

Peg Game just became Courtney vs. Jason.

Jason laughing at Gareth

Day 7: The Mysterious case of the Ravioli

Because we’re beating into the wind we had pretty rough weather last night. Things got thrown all around the boat and it’s pretty messy inside. Fortunately I slept with my head under my sheet last night because of the strong diesel smell; when I woke up there was canned ravioli sauce all over the ceiling, all over my sheet and on the wall right above my head.

The boys claim no responsibility and apparently have no idea how it got there.

I took my revenge on Courtney while he was winching this afternoon, making Jason the peg champion.

Gareth checked the weather today on the satellite program and apparently we’ve missed a hurricane by a week. That’s how we roll!

Day 8

I threw up for the first time today which is definitely a new record for me.

We’re running out of good food and Courtney suggested that they eat me. Sometimes I can work pretty well under pressure; I skilfully changed his mind by pointing out that it would be silly to eat the skinniest. It totally worked.

Hiding from the cold.


 Day 9

We spotted small dolphins and a whale today.

Dolphin

Whale!

Day 10: “We just hit a whale! Bring the camera.”

We saw a pod of whales/porpoises this morning. We’re undecided. So everyone who’s smarter than us can take a look at the photo and make suggestions. For all I know they weren’t either. Someone will probably inform us that they’re submarines, not even cunningly disguised ones.

Pod of something.. possibly a flotilla.

Two of them

I’d just gotten into my bunk this afternoon when Jason stuck his head through the companion-way and shouted what I thought sounded like “We just hit a whale! Bring the camera.” Obviously I knew I’d heard wrong. I grabbed the camera and climbed up.

“Jason, did you just say ‘we hit a whale’?”

“Yep!”

“Oh shit”

We all looked down into the water searching for the whale we’d hit. What we saw was rather unexpected. Swimming directly towards us was a very large mass with a big shark fin and then another two. It was a little unnerving considering the biggest was almost as long as the boat but also too captivating to worry too much about falling in the water. At first we thought they were Great Whites and the boys actually advised me to stick with that version of the story for sensationalism; but unfortunately for my poor readers I’m entirely ruining the story with the truth. On closer inspection we decided that they were actually Basking sharks which are completely harmless, unless you’re plankton.

Day 11: What’s up America!

We arrived in Newport 8 in the morning. Two customs officials rode up on bicycles to meet us and after satisfying their needs we hit the town. We didn’t have any plan other than to find something to eat that wasn’t in a tin. I suppose we were more curious than hungry because we walked past several restaurants.

Newport, a popular yachting town turned out to be a pretty town with heaps of old mansions and beautiful churches.  I’m blaming Jason for not having any photos of Newport; he’s the only one who never has any shame about looking like a tourist.

Walking around in an American town for the first time was amusing. Having watched Hollywood movies all our lives we suddenly felt as if we’d stepped into one. We couldn’t help laughing at everything we deemed ‘movie clichés’. We got a few looks which the boys claimed to be due to their delicious accents; I think it probably had a lot to do with us chuckling at fire-hydrants, zebra-crossings and other normal things. No wonder no one likes South Africans.

 8June

We spent one night in Newport before moving on to Barrington where the boat had been booked in for the rest of its stay.

Barrington is a lot smaller and is truly the kind of town where people lend you their cars on the day they meet you, take-away restaurants let you walk out with your soda before paying, and friendly neighbours who give you lifts have wives who send you left-over carrot cake. All of these have happened to us. Ok, except for the carrot cake part but there is a very good chance this will still happen.

I’m not going to put any photos up because Jason was driving and I took really bad photos trying not to look like some kind of stalker/pervert. Trust me; it’s not fun taking pictures of people’s houses because your boyfriend thinks camper vans and American flags are amusing.

The Small Things

I’ve been living in Antigua for four months now and in less than 2 weeks we’ll be leaving. In true Carmen ‘leave-it –to-the-last-moment” fashion, I’ve still hardly written a word about Antigua and I how I feel about being here. It comes down to a little bit of procrastination. Mostly though I didn’t want to write because of how miserable I felt about being here; starting when Tasi died. He was one of Jason’s closest friends and being unable to make it to his funeral was very hard for us. It was one thing after the next following that; missing important birthdays, being unable to comfort my family when they needed me, and just simply missing home and the people I care about.

Being stressed about not finding full time positions while all around us our friends were hopping onto boats just made me want to be home all the more. As South Africans we knew it would be hard to find positions, we just didn’t know how hard. The painful truth is that when it comes to hiring, Europeans and Americans will always take precedence over even the schengen-holding-South Africans.

A few weeks ago I went on a charter as a chef/solo stewardess with a Kiwi (neither the bird nor the fruit) Skipper who helped me gain a little perspective. After a week working together, because he realised how hard I’m prepared to work and that I’m really good with guests, he asked me if I would like to come work for him when the owner buys the new boat. It made me realise that there are still Captains (or at least captain) who don’t care how much paperwork it takes to have the most diligent crew rather than the most entitled.  After arriving back in Antigua, a South African friend of mine was also offered a job and he is now on his way to England.

Back to the point though; what do I think of Antigua? In the last four months Antigua has become a little like a home to me and not because I’m fond of Antigua itself, in fact I barely like the place. It’s the friends I’ve made here that have made it a home. I’ve always struggled with people a little; I’m very judgemental, cynical, harsh and also insecure at times which makes it hard for people to like me. Coming to Antigua gave me a fresh start; a chance to be more of the positive traits I have. In the last five months, I’m including Tortola, I’ve made more friends than I have my whole life.

Antigua without these people and without Jason would just be the brown island of the Caribbean with terrible service and a shortage of good manners, to me.

Other than that it’s the small things about Antigua that intrigue me; it’s the small things about any place that I want to hear about. When my Aunt came back from India where she lived for six months one of the things she told me that fascinated me the most was simply that ‘toilet paper is really expensive in India’. That’s not exactly something you would find out about by reading ‘Lonely planet’. So I want to talk about the small things and you can find out about the beautiful beaches and great restaurants in a travel guide. By the way if that travel guide also tells you that there’s good snorkelling in Long bay then the writer obviously hasn’t snorkelled there since they built Sandals on the beach; if you want to snorkel then go to another island all together.

The first thing the guide books won’t tell you is that the locals really aren’t big on ‘service with a smile’; in fact half of them make you feel guilty about having asked for service in the first place. In my experience whenever I’ve had a friendly waitress, bartender or cashier he/she has come from another island. I won’t pretend to know why this is; maybe they’ve had enough of all the tourists and crazy yachties or maybe their culture is just plainly lacking in etiquette. Either way it’s something you become accustomed to if you stay here long enough. I’ve acclimatized to the point where I might never tell off a Cape Townian waitress again.

The rest of the things that bother me about Antigua are pretty much the same as the things back home: animal abuse, careless littering, steel drum bands, drug abuse etc.

I regress; just like the toilet paper fact I’ve one trivial fact (from now on known as the toilet paper fact) about Antigua that really surprised me. A while ago I started looking in all the little shops in English Harbour for an A4 book. When I didn’t find one I went to the stationary shop in Antigua’s town, St. John, and in every other possibly stationary related shop and I still couldn’t find one. Soon after that I started noticing all the scholars doing their homework, outside the local internet cafe/grocery store, in little A5 books.

A street in St. John

Toilet paper fact #1: Antigua has no A4 books.

Well now that I’ve made Antigua sound like the worst place in the world (tourist music!?!?) I have to be honest and say that there are also things that I like about Antigua besides the fact that you can walk in the streets without a shirt and a beer in your hand. Not that I would do either.

Antigua has really good public transport in the form of very expensive taxis and very cheap buses and if you manage to hop on either in the right direction there are parts of Antigua to see that aren’t brown. We went to see some of these places on four-wheelers which happened to be my favourite day spent here. I’ll let the beautiful photos Jason took do the mending.

 

Jolly Harbour where the eighth member joined us.

Boys sitting on a canon at an abandoned fort

Sitting in the top a windmill. From left: Ollie, Rob, Lukas, Jason, me, Ryan, Gareth.

Now the season has ended here, all our friends have left or are leaving, and also because I don’t particularly like hurricanes it’s time to leave. We’re going to Newport where we’ll try again for a little while and then we’ll be on our way home.

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