Day 7: Frenchie And The Book

07.01.09: Got to the border bright and early this morning, and tried to find a bus to Quito, the capital of Ecuador. There was no central bus station, each coach operative had their own depot scattered around the small town of Tumbes. Don't forget - I've got no guidebook so I was completely winging it. In the first bus depot I found an Irish lad called Alan who assured me that this was the bus to get if I wanted to go to Quito. Unfortunately for me, it wasn't. I thought the bus was just going to take me over the border, but it was taking me to a place called Guayaquil some seven hours away. Alan said it was on the way to Quito, but I couldn't check in his guidebook as some French girl was reading it. All I needed was to look at…

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Day 8: The Brussels Sprout

08.01.09: I flaked it. I should have been up with the lark and on a bus to the border, but I decided to have a day off. This decision is no doubt going to haunt the rest of my trip around the Americas. Actually, it wasn't much of a day off - I had loads of stuff to do and putting together the first podcast took ages. I've got to say Quito is magnificent, though. Unlike every other South American city I've visited (and every city in poor old England), they haven't tried to integrate Modernist concrete and breezeblock municipal shopping mall/offices/discotheque/multi-story car park hell (come, come, see effendi, all under one roof like some kind of Djinn magic!) into the nice bit of the city. They've shoved that to one side like an unwanted Brussels sprout and left the ‘old city' to its own devices.…

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Day 9: Hey Hey We’re The Monkees

09.01.09: Okay - day of ACTION! Got up at some ungodly hour and rendered the podcast, got to the Internet café at 7.30am and uploaded it. Got to bookshop at 9am and bought new Lovely Plant guidebook (PHEW!) Jumped on the first bus to the border (11am) and CROSSED THE EQUATOR!! So I'm now back in the Northern Hemisphere. Exciting stuff!! Got to the border in good time, 4pm. Then.... Waited, and waited, and WAITED to get my exit stamp. It was 7.30pm before I got across. And I pushed in. I bribed a Canadian guy called Matt who was in the middle of the queue (rather than the end) with a Coca-Cola and he let me in. Thanks Matt!! It was the old South American trick of employing just one guy with a stamp to process 500 people. Urgh! Entertainingly enough though, there were actually…

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VIDEO: The Gringo (2002)

In this eight part series, I take THE GRINGO TRAIL through South America. Starting in BUENOS AIRES, I have a quick look around URUGUAY and CHILE before heading up to BRAZIL just in time to miss the 2002 World Cup Final. But I didn't miss the party afterwards!! Then I head over to Bolivia, the most BRILLIANT country in the WORLD (and I should know, I've been to a few!). From the salt plains of UYUNI to the rivers of the AMAZON RAINFOREST via the Health and Safety-baiting Silver Mines of POTOSI and the CAMINO DE LA MUERTE (the Road of Death), Bolivia is just a powerhouse of nutty hilarity from beginning to end. After hitting the INCA TRAIL to MACHU PICCHU, I head up through PERU and ECUADOR and end my journey in Bogota, COLUMBIA, one of the most dangerous capital cities in the world.…

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