Friday, December 11, 2009

Last Minute Planning, and Dead White Men

You know you're coming to the end of days when instead of relaxing all you can feel is the mounting tension of a trip about to pick up once more.

Now, it doesn't help that I left all my planning until these final days. Sure, I was ready to go to Africa – kind of. But I wasn't ready for my tour to end. So I locked myself in my room, and tried to book the following:

A flight out of Livingstone. This would prove to be quite the delight, as only four airlines fly from Livingstone, and only one flies the day I end my tour there, and they only have one flight direct to Johannesburg. That flight, of course, was full. Probably full of the other people on my tour! But, two days later there was another flight, and it was somewhat cheaper than the one leaving the next day, so – booking that flight – I now has something else to suss out.

I had to book a hostel in Livingstone. That was painless. I am a hostel booking master these days. Just check the reviews on hostel world, and off I go. Yes – I know – Hostel Bookers doesn't charge you the two dollar booking fee – so why am I paying all these booking fees when I don't need to? Honestly – I don't know. It's brand name allegiance. I can't break free. I just like Hostel Worlds set up more. Ohh well.

Now, I needed to grab a hostel in J.Burg. I don't want to discuss this as I'm slightly terrified of it. The one I booked looks alright, but I have met fellow travellers who stayed in a very similar one, where – one their second day – someone was shot dead just outside their gates. Ahh J.Burg, land of gates and cultural divides. Just stay on the right side of the fence, whatever that may be.

Now I needed to get out of J.Burg – would I go the cheap route and spend a full month in South America, or the stupid route, and spend three weeks in Thailand, before jumping back to South America? Of course, I choose the stupid route. There's always a cheaper flight – and I could have saved eight hundred (eight hundred!) dollars. But, it was sketch. And I didn't trust the connections. So off I went booking to stupid priced flight. This section took about an hour to book, lots of sweat, and some freaking out. I checked between Orbitz, Expedia, Travelocity, and Kayak. At one point I was told of great deals on orbitz, just to click them and have “oh – sorry – price just went up!” LIARS! Because I tried this with that flight for a full week, and it kept doing the same thing. Don't you bait and switch me Orbitz, don't you bait and switch me!

But flights were done, and I booked hostels for six days in Bangkok at the beginning, and then three days at the end of the month. Maybe I'll see if I can't fly to Cambodia for a week or two in the middle, but we'll see. I may opt for the ease of staying in Bangkok. And the relative cheapness of not needing another flight.

How much is a roundtrip flight from Bangkok to Cambodia anyway? Survey says 600 dollars. Look – that's stupid. Really? For a one hour flight? Ai ya. It looks like Cambodia, and the wonders of Angkor Wat are not for me – unless someone can tell me a cheaper way to do it? I mean – seriously? That's more expensive than flights in Canada. You'd think this was a route people flew all the time. I bet the Aussies have a secret handshake or something that makes it easier for them.

Well, with those hostels booked, and my flight to Lima taken care of, I just needed to book one night in a Peruvian hostel, before I would meet my tour there.

Great – done – aside from those two middle weeks in January, I'm all planned up until the end of April. Well – there's a week in San Francisco that is yet to be planned too – but there's still time for that, and it's in America. If I run out of hostel days in L.A. without a place to sleep in San Fran, I'm sure I'll be able to figure something out. America, I understand – except for their vats of hot butter in Chinese buffets. I don't even think they understand that, quite frankly.

O.K. High stress over. Time to escape.

My father took me to a number of parks before I had to head off. One of them was a boardwalk through the mangroves. Look, if I was a Spanish conquistador and I showed up in my heavy armour looking for gold, and found myself in that thick monstrosity, I would just get on my boat, sail back, and rock out on all the beautiful beaches of my home country. And try not to get pick pocketed. I assume Spain was always big on that.

The one park that we ended up at was fantastically special for a reason – it was the site of the very first white person to die in North America. Yes, it's true (maybe) the very first white person ever to die in North America died exactly (approximately) where I was standing (once again, maybe.)

The sign seemed to think so, anyway. A Spanish guy was killed by natives in some sort of clash. Luckily they have preserved his memory by constructing a wooden replica of him (or someone who looks nothing like him, but wears the same clothes, and looks vaguely Spanish.)

I took a picture of him. Me and him? We're buds.

Seriously though – what a silly thing to make mention of.

Well – it could be worse. While they may point out this momentous site of the first dead white person, and then construct a little alter with rounded benches you can sit at, and I assume, pray for the souls of all dead white people – at least they didn't have a sign before it reading “first dead 'ethnic person' recorded in North America.” You have to assume that the natives that died right after were some of the first to be noted, if only due to their killing of the other guy.

Not even Florida would be so crass as to have signs reading “ethnic this” and “ethnic that”, am I right?

So off I went to Wal-Mart in order to grab some last minute gear – a new towel (with Marvel kids characters all over it – I know, sweet, right?) and then to grab – ohh I don't know. Little scissors? Notebooks for writing in? All sorts of wonderful things. They'd all pile into my pack. I cleared things out – I made room – it would all be good. And then off to grab some shampoo...

Ohh dear god. Thanks Wal-Mart. Thanks.

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