Random Travel Thoughts

Discussion in 'Salser@s Anonymous' started by bailar y tocar, Dec 14, 2011.

  1. azana

    azana Super Moderator Staff Member

    Trying to get excited about leaving for Jamaica in a couple of days, but I just love Dominica so much! It's such an untouched, unspoilt nature island, is super friendly and has great hiking and adventure activities. People know me now and greet me around Roseau; today I got on the local marshrutka (backpacker-speak for public minivan bus, as they're so common in Central Asia /the Caucasas) to visit a waterfall and another passenger said "Hey, I saw you in Castle Bruce [on the other side of the island] yesterday!" :) . So nice and peaceful with no cruise ships in port. The only downside is no salsa; I asked around just in case, but it's basically a case of DJs including a salsa or bachata song here and there if it happens to be a big hit, but not accompanied by any formal dancing.

    Would definitely return to Dominica if it wasn't so far away!
  2. azana

    azana Super Moderator Staff Member

    "White girls, they LOVE Jamaican men!"
    "You know, this isn't the first country I've heard such claims in."
    "Jamaican men, they've got the big stuff."
    "Jamaican men, they have the big bone. [Hmm, ever misbehaved in Turkey? :D] Let me tell you a joke."
    "Oh please don't."
    "So, you like reggae?"
    "Nope. I like salsa!"

    This is going to be a long two weeks...
  3. azana

    azana Super Moderator Staff Member

    At the hostel (in Kingston), one of the women routinely announces to us all what time she's sending a minivan to pick us all up, which dancehall party we're going to, when we're being brought home..."Every Friday, all my guests go to this party!" we've been told today. You don't argue with Nikki :) Okay then, apparently we're going dancehall at 10 tonight. Jamaican men really can move (and they don't have to be at a party to break out the moves). No salsa around, so I guess dancehall it is. Yah mon!

    Today went to Spanish Town with another girl from the dorm (there are four of us girls in the dorm, who all love to dance, and one poor guy stuck with us :) ). So much for the reports of constant gang violence there; we just found lovely colonial architecture and roaming goats.
  4. bailar y tocar

    bailar y tocar Clave Commander

    Gang violence in Spanish Town?!? Huh!?
    That is the first time I have ever heard that. Many people moved from Kingston / Saint Andrew to Spanish Town because it is much safer and they built a toll road that makes it possible to commute fairly easily.

    Btw, I hate dancehall so much I would put up a fight if someone tried to convince me to go. They make the Jamaican patois sound so ugly, I just can't stand the sound.
  5. azana

    azana Super Moderator Staff Member

    Yes, it's garnered a bad reputation for violence. Most travellers don't go. I often take such warnings as overblown :) . Part of Emancipation Square had been burned down, but otherwise it was worth visiting. I go running each evening in Kingston and have encountered no problems on the streets.

    I agree; dancehall is extraordinarily boring. I think patois lends itself to MCing myself, but my problem was hardly anyone dances! (although Mondays Uptown near Halfway Tree is supposed to be better). Even at a more regular party we went to after dancehall saw little dancing. The DJs just talk too much and dancing is sporadic. The women's moves are overtly sexualised - they have the Cuban curves and movement, but the moves didn't appeal! Not my kind of music, either.

    Heading for the Blue Mountain Peak climb then Port Antonio, which everyone at the hostel seems to name their favorite destination in Jamaica.
    thepresenceon2 likes this.
  6. bailar y tocar

    bailar y tocar Clave Commander

    It had to happen sooner or later. What a pain.
    My (not very secure) magnetic strip only debit card had unauthorized charges while I am traveling in Colombia. So the card is cancelled and cash is no longer an option. Plus I have to dispute several charges by mail or fax which is not easy to do.

    Oh well, I knew the days of using a mag strip card were numbered. Now they are over.
  7. azana

    azana Super Moderator Staff Member

    I spent a couple of days in the Blue Mountains in Jamaica, in a very basic hostel in the middle of nowhere with no electricity (or obviously WiFi) and limited running water. Only the hardiest 4WDs could negotiate the rough road up the mountainside; the hostel ute picked me up from the nearest bus stop. You could request meals cooked for you (no stores anywhere nearby) which was inevitably jerk chicken and piles of rice. I hiked to the peak, which was an easy climb for an experienced hiker, and I couldn't see Santiago de Cuba from the top as promised, but it was a pretty trail. The hostel was a plantation house dating from 1776 and had been owned by the current family for 900 years. Dusty books dating from the 1800s lined the bookshelves - you almost didn't dare finger them out of fear they would disintegrate in your hands - and there was an abundance of creaky and quaint archaic furniture. The lovely, green garden contained beautiful, immensely tall trees, and the night sky was awash with stars. It was so peaceful, and very quiet and dark at night; I would sleep 9 hours straight despite the tiny, rickety bunks and only wake if another backpacker stirred to start out on an early morning hike. I would sit and read in the afternoon on an ancient armchair by the window providing the most light, with Los Van Van playing on the iPod. Although it's nice to be back in 'civilisation' (four buses from there to Port Antonio on the north coast :)) it was such a lovely, away from the world experience.

    Well, I have travelled in many places that play the 'how many humans and assorted stuff can you possibly fit on one minibus?' game, but Jamaicans are the hands down winners. I have never ridden a marshrutka with so many people squeezed on board! Seats put across the aisle to make a fourth seat, but we were 5-6 across with kids on laps. Then they took on more people to stand in the doorway and hang out the door. Luckily I was by a window; we were six across, I was half squashed by a giant arse bearing down on me, and offered to hold the bags of women standing up (a typical gesture on trains in Japan), so I had about five bags on my lap which I was trying to keep off the baby on Giant Arse's lap. At one stage there was almost a passenger mutiny when they squeezed more people on. Someone trying to get out from a back seat had to push open the back emergency window to escape! Not as bad as that hellish overnight bus I once took from the Rwanda-DR Congo border to Kampala (Uganda) - this was only 2 1/2 hours from Halfway Tree to Porty. This is travelling :).
  8. bailar y tocar

    bailar y tocar Clave Commander

    Packed in the middle like that you missed the best part of Jamaican bus drivers:
    Holding the passing lane and forcing oncoming traffic to yield.

  9. azana

    azana Super Moderator Staff Member

    Best part of Jamaica so far was jumping off the top of the lovely Reach Falls, an 8 metre drop to the deep green pool below. Exhilarating :). Decided to spend a couple of days in Ocho Rios - no, definitely not to go to Ocho Rios, and fingers crossed there won't be a cruise ship in port, but to try to get to the Green Grotto and climb up Dunn's River Falls. I hadn't been planning on doing too much in Jamaica, but I'm really enjoying it and the people are lovely.

    So, let's see what the buses will be like along the coast to Ochi :) .
  10. azana

    azana Super Moderator Staff Member

    Forget the passing lane. The driver on the way to Runaway Bay simply crossed into oncoming traffic to overtake, forcing it not just to give way, but onto the shoulder! I was in the front passenger seat. With two other women. Worse, it was Sunday, and not only were there religious songs playing loudly on the radio, but the two women I was sandwiched between were singing along to them. Actually, it was a fun ride, only $1:50 for a 35 minute trip, nice people, and I was the only person visiting the Green Grotto and had the caves to myself. At one stage, as we were walking down into a cave, the guide told me to stop where I was. So I waited patiently, and when he reached me, started to follow him, and he called "No, stop there." He shone his torch on the ground. A metre in front of us was a boa constrictor.

    Don't know about Ochi; a little too touristy for me. Even though I'd timed my visit to avoid cruise ships, it was still expensive and the sites too regimented. Thinking I should have stayed in Port Antonio. Hostel was good, though, $20 beds and super friendly. This time I was the only female in the dorm. The guys stank, which I announced to them. I couldn't understand their need to leave their underwear lying all over the floor... I opened all the windows, threw out all the crap on the sink in the bathroom and ordered the guys to keep the bathroom door open as it too stank. That being said, I had my smelly running gear hanging off my bunk...

    We joined with some people from the other dorm at night at the picnic tables in the courtyard. The sheer variety of what was being smoked and drank was quite breathtaking. Jamaican rum is good stuff. Fun times :).

    Finishing the trip off in Treasure Beach, which took two buses and three route taxis to finally reach. Swim, run, read, repeat for three days :).
    thepresenceon2 and LarsM like this.
  11. bailar y tocar

    bailar y tocar Clave Commander

    Scored two milesaver award tix at 35,000 each to travel from South America to the US.

    We will be traveling from Cali Colombia to Chicago O`Hare to attend the 16th Chicago International Salsa Congress in February 2017.

    My credit card gives me a 10% reimbursement so the actual miles used are 63,000 total. The key is to book as soon as the itinerary with mileage redemption is available online at approx. 11 months in advance and to travel on off peak days such as Monday, Tuesday or Wedensday.
    lidiap likes this.
  12. thepresenceon2

    thepresenceon2 Rhythm Deputy

    Azana, love the review of your time in my motherland...
    azana likes this.
  13. azana

    azana Super Moderator Staff Member

    Hiking down into the Haleakala Crater (Maui). Spectacular!
  14. azana

    azana Super Moderator Staff Member

    Love hiking through rainforest or jungle when it's steep, stinking hot and humid, you're sweating all over, sloshing through streams in river shoes and have mud streaked down your legs. What a great workout. Best feeling!
  15. bailar y tocar

    bailar y tocar Clave Commander

    Its over. Miles hacking is over. :(
    I used to be able to accumulate 100,000+ miles via credit card manufactured spend. [read up on flyertalkforums if you want to know what you missed out on]. Not anymore. They changed the software on swipe terminals and now the gift cards that act like debit cards don't work anymore.
    Oh well, It is going to be Spirit Airlines for me :meh: for many future trips.
  16. azana

    azana Super Moderator Staff Member

    Must get back to Africa. Need to get back to Africa. Missing Africa :). Thinking Dec -Jan, thinking the southeast. Madagascar as I love lemurs! They is so cute :) Mozambique for surfing, Swaziland as it will allow me to overland to South Africa, and the cheapest flights are usually through Jo'burg. I haven't been to Cape Town for 20 years; I should go back. It's supposed to have a good salsa scene. It's a stunningly beautiful city, but I love the culture, people and edge to Jo'burg so I keep going back there instead. I'll see if I can fit in both.

    Actually, I might try to get to East Timor again soon. It's been a couple of years and I miss it too :). I can use ff points for that one. Should I go via Indonesia or Darwin? Hmmm...
  17. azana

    azana Super Moderator Staff Member

    Salsa or no, I am now officially boycotting travel to America.
    Nuyorican, groovetpt and Sabrosura like this.
  18. groovetpt

    groovetpt Capitán Del Estilo

    Good for you!
    Sad state of affairs over here...
  19. azana

    azana Super Moderator Staff Member


    Madagascar and Swaziland don't look hopeful, but I'm wondering if I'll have some luck in Mozambique as it's Lusophone. There was a small scene in Dili (East Timor) until the Portuguese left some years ago (occasionally an enterprising salsa enthusiast tries to get something going again there). Okay, I'll pack some old dancing shoes just in case. I'll try to will salsa occurring somewhere I stop on this upcoming trip! Despite bad luck in the past, I might happen upon something in Jo'Burg or Dubai on my way back.
  20. azana

    azana Super Moderator Staff Member

    Focus of this next trip will be hiking and surfing - and looking forward to just camping in Africa again :) - but I'm having terrible withdrawal symptoms for a good salsa scene, so I'm looking at Tokyo for next northern summer. My recurring homesickness for Japan is dreadfully costly! Visit the friends in Kobe and Osaka, maybe head out west for a few days (I've always liked Shimane) but then just hit Tokyo and dance dance dance :) Hope salsa in Roppongi is still going strong...

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