Tag Archives: Animal Touching

To All The Dogs We’ve Loved Before…

One of the few drawbacks of travelling from place to place (especially at the speed that we do) is that it often you fall so in love with a place and its people that it breaks your heart when you have to move on. The big killer for us though is the gorgeous stray dogs we meet on our adventures that we would love to let tag along for more of our travels, or in some cases Susan has actually started looking into the logistics of organising to adopt them and take them home to Ireland! Here are the top dogs that stole our hearts (and most likely some of our dinners):

1. Nob Island  (Utila, Honduras 2013)

Nob Island nobbling about with us on our pub crawl.

We met little Nob Island shortly after we got off the boat from La Ceiba to Utila. We had no accommodation booked but had decided on a hostel that unfortunately was closed when we got there. As we spent a bit of time outside knocking on all the doors/windows trying to get someone’s attention (it was the middle of the day), we entertained ourselves petting a lovely little stray scamp that was hanging around in the street. As we gave up and decided to find somewhere else, little Nob Island (named after our nickname for Utila – because our trip there unfortunately collided with US Spring Break, and it was therefore full of Spring Break nobs) followed us.  She was our road companion for pretty much the whole day (us having resorted to the usual “we’ll go and have a beer and assess the situation” that usually happens when we haven’t found anywhere to stay), exploring the island and stopping off at various bars, sharing our nibbles and ordering her a bowl of water wherever we went. Susan was completely besotted, and was using anywhere with wifi to Google how to transport a dog from Honduras to Ireland.  Eventually we decided on the apt sounding Hotel Margarita and went back to relieve ourselves of our backpacks, but on arrival the owner (the commanding Miss Carmen), took aversion to our little furry friend and chased her away with a broomstick. We understood her not wanting a flea-ridden stray dog in her nice clean rooms, but she could have just slept on the bench outside and there was NO NEED to hit her with a stick! It almost made us leave the hotel we were so annoyed. Despite much searching we never saw little Nob Island again and it breaks our hearts to this day. We do console ourselves with the fact that, lovely though Susan’s apartment in Dublin is (and right next to the park!) she would only have been disappointed when she was used to a beautiful Caribbean island.

Nob Island enjoying her foraged chicken on the beautiful beach in Utila.

2. Giant Mini Kiev Island Police Station (Kiev, Ukraine 2014)

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Is it a dog? Is it a bear? It’s Giant Mini Kiev Island Police Station!

Touch more dogs this way…

Craic commandos, flabbergasting hospitality and animal touching abounds in the mountain wilderness – Tblisi to Mestia, Georgia

Jill was happy we’d managed an early (ish of 2am) the previous night but Susan was still of the opinion we should have gone to a tittie bar (even though we’d seen plenty in the bath house earlier that day) when we were rudely awoken by the dustmen at about 8am on the Wednesday morning, as we’d ordered a taxi for 9ish to take us into Tblisi city centre where we would be picked up in a minibus (at the statue of St George next to Rustaveli metro) and taken to Vanilla Sky’s little airstrip outside of town for our terribly commercial flight on a 2 person plane up to the mountain village of Mestia in the Svaneti region of Georgia. Susan was convinced we had tons of time and had snoozed the alarm which lead to Jill getting very anxious and impatient, convinced we were going to miss the flight and she’d had just about enough of missing flights this trip, thank you very much. It was a good 20-30 minutes in the taxi from the hotel to the city centre, and then the taxi driver drove straight past Rustaveli and had to double back around the one way system, so we were starting to really panic! We had been told to look for a “white Mercedes Sprinter” and were relieved to find loads of them waiting near the statue when we finally got there. Unfortunately NONE of them were our Vanilla Sky minibus and one of the taxi drivers told us we had just missed it, so we jumped in and told him to catch up with it! We ended up getting there in good time for the flight still thankfully, the weather was decent so the flight was going ahead and and we flopped ourselves down in the comfy chairs in the waiting room, swigged some breakfast beer and petted the two resident airport toy poodles that were mincing about being adorable. Seriously, take note Ryanair – Our research has shown that customers find the whole airport experience a lot less stressful if you provide them with poodles to touch!

We bonded over poodle touching and breakfast beer with Liz and Andy, a lovely couple (both journalists from That London but living in Ankara in Turkey and you can read Liz’s very interesting blog here) around our age who were also going to Mestia and were soon to become our new BFFs while we were there. After a short wait we boarded the tiny 15 seater turbo prop plane, which was too small even to stand up straight in. The pilot told the four big burly (and seemingly quite drunk) Russian blokes in front of us to sit at the front of the plane, we assume for ballast, but this didn’t stop them from trying to walk around and get into the cockpit/chair at the front once we’d taken off. It was too loud in the plane to really talk, but we attempted to continue our conversation with Liz and Andy by yelling over the sound of the engine and the drunk Russians, who were also shouting at each other. Top plane camaraderie achieved!

Come fly with us come fly come fly away…

Beasts, Beers and Babushka scrubs – Tbilisi, Georgia, Day 2

Thank Parmaynu for huge orthopaedic mattresses and Thai ladies with their business men massages as for once we woke up all refreshed after a much needed (after barely any sleep on the night train from Yerevan before) night’s sleep splattsed out in a nice comfy bed. We spent it wisely by pottering about our living room having breakfast beers and watching rubbish Russian music channels while getting ready. Today we were off out to properly explore Tbilisi – we liked what we’d seen of it the previous day but didn’t really have much of a chance to enjoy it as we were busy trying to sort out our plane tickets, but today we had no obligations and no plans other than to explore at our own pace and chill out in the sun on some nice terraces.

We got the metro to Rustaveli station, which looked to be the central hub for the city, and promptly found a little kiosk with tables and chairs outside in the sun and had a couple of beers there while looking at our map and deciding where to go next.

The old town seemed like the best bet, and there seemed to be loads of little bars and restaurants with terraces so we headed for there. On the way we passed so many amazing souvenir shops and street stalls – along with the usual fridge magnets and snow globes-type tourist tat, there were some great drinking horns, swords, daggers and ornate goblets that were pretty reasonably priced! Susan got some nice jewellery for presents and made a mental note of our favourite horn/dagger/goblet shops so we could come back later and pick up some good stuff to take home.

Follow us down the winding roads…

Helmets on Fire (Terraced House!), Street Drinking, Absinthe and Mini Giant Kiev Island Police Station – Kiev, Ukraine (Part One).

We arrived at Kiev with the bouquet intact where we resisted the harassing offers of taxis into town (with the aid of our cunningly scribed hand dictionaries) and decided instead to make our own way on the little old rickety mini bus that took about an hour to get to the train station. From there, our hostel had given us directions of the various Metros we needed, so we (upon finally locating the underground station and having a quick beer next to it – after Lithuania’s non-street drinking/no kiosks with booze on the street corner, we were very relieved to find the streets packed with little shacks selling cheap booze for the thirsty traveler) we bought tokens for the metro and attempted to put what we thought were the tokens into the turnstile, only for it to spit them out and the security man shouted at us until we sussed out that we were actually putting our loose change into there instead of the plastic tokens. Michael Bayed that right up like! We then descended down into what seemed like the core of the earth on the massive escalators and pushed our way onto the packed Metro, trying to perfect our non-standing out, dour Eastern European demeanour of not smiling at anyone when making eye contact.
Put the rest of this in your face

In which your two girls commit crimes (but not cards) against humanity – Tikal, Guatemala

It will come as no surprise to you, that we had quite a nice lie in until about 10am and missed the last bus to Tikal, so decided to have a wander around Flores and get some breakfast and hopefully happen upon some kind of tour company that could get us there that day. We walked along the lakeside and the only place we could find with a breakfast menu was the unimaginatively named “Bill’s Place”. We ordered traditional breakfast (Jill getting very excited about the accompanying Guatemalan tortillas, freshly made and kept warm in a basket wrapped in hot tea towels, bringing back fond mammories of her previous adventures in these parts) and a couple of Gallos. Bill himself, a domineering but friendly American ex-pat, came and introduced himself (breaking the ice by scrounging our cigarettes as he was supposed to have quit), poured himself a breakfast scotch and joined us on our table. We mentioned we’d just come from Caye Caulker and he told us that he’d wanted to open a bar there, but they’d wanted a million US dollars for a tiny tumbledown hut on the beach and he was having none of it, so opted for Flores instead. He’d ran bars all over the shop, in Jamaica, Cuba, and Belmopan in Belize, which was quite an impressive feat, especially since he spoke NO SPANISH. He came across as quite ignorant in this respect, barking his requests to the Guatemalan girls behind the bar in English but they were obviously quite used to this and usually laughed at him before going about their business.Conveniently, the bar lead through into a tour office that opened onto the main street, that was also owned by Bill, and after hearing of our plan to visit Tikal he shouted through to the lady to come through and talk to us and within 10 minutes we’d got ourselves booked on a shuttle to Tikal and back, entry to the ruins and tickets for our planned night bus to Rio Hondo (from where we would continue on to El Salvador). We were a bit reluctant to resort to a tour company sorting our stuff out, but it was a weight off our minds to know that our onward journey was all booked and taken care of, so we could enjoy Tikal without the stress of worrying about having to sort it all out once we got back. So we happily supped on a few cold beers and Susan got to touch a really cute dag.
Put the rest of this in your face

Kayaking Mishaps in Search of a Nice Loose Pub on the Lake of Seven Colours – Bacalar, Mexico to Caye Caulker, Belize

We woke up in our lovely eco-cabana in the park next to Lake Bacalar (Scott Bakula) and found a couple of bottles of Sol in our bags to drink for breakfast as we sat out on our little patio and admired our beautiful surroundings in the daylight. Having arrived late the previous night we hadn’t appreciated all the lovely flowers and trees in the park!

Rejuvenated by the first beer of the day, we wandered down to the lake to take advantage of the free kayaks and spent a hilarious couple of hours paddling about ineffectively on the lake, trying to find somewhere along the shore that looked like a bar where we could get some beers and brunch. Unfortunately we were in quite a remote location so our quest was futile and everywhere that looked like it might be a bar turned out to be someone’s house once we got close up. There was a hilarious incident when investigating one of said potential pubby looking chains we attempted to moor our kayaks and disembark, Susan first, who promptly slipped on the algae covered landing ramp and ended up soaked to her waist much to Jill’s amusement. This amusement was short-lived though, as cocky in her knowledge that the ramp was slippy and she was going to watch her footing and not go the same way, she managed to slip regardless, fall to her knees and then slide backwards down the ramp scraping all the skin off her knees and ending up neck deep in the lake.

We got back to the eco-park and wandered back to the terrace, soaking wet, to have a few post-boat adventure beers and touch the resident dog before ordering our taxi to Chetumal. Jill went to have a cigarette, only to find that despite her thinking she was clever and sealing them in a zip-loc bag in her dress pocket for the lake, all she had was a pouch of wet tobacco and mushed up paper and had to buy some more from the man on reception.

We got to the water taxi terminal and paid our (quite preposterous) “exit fee” to get out of Mexico (after lots of running around in search of an ATM in which to take out said funds), and ended up sitting having a few beers, chatting with a lovely Belizian couple at a little kiosk by the landing point that was playing some quality 80s pop classics. We had to line up our bags on the jetty, where the customs men with their sniffer dogs wandered up and down inspecting them. The dogs were quite interested in one of the bags, and us and the Belizian couple were whispering “ooooh someone’s got something they shouldn’t!” and watched intently as it was revealed that the bag in question actually belonged to the driver of the boat and the substance that had interested the dogs was actually his packed lunch.

We went straight for the vacant back seat of the boat, and realised our error as soon as we started moving as we were getting the brunt of bouncing off the waves and neither of us had the foresight to wear a sports bra. We had a quick stop to change boats at Ambergris Caye (the largest and most popular of the Belize islands) just as the sun was going down, and grabbed a quick beer and a sandwich at the kiosk on the jetty before resuming our voyage to Caye Caullker in a tiny little dark boat.

Our chosen hostel (Yuma’s House) was fully occupied, so we had a quick margarita at a bar on the beach (where we didn’t linger as it was full of pretentious America Spring Breakers) before heading off up the one road on the island to try and find somewhere else to stay. Every hostel we tried was also fully booked and we spent a good while trudging up and down the island. Every time we passed the one policeman on the island (who was hanging around his little police hut next to the beach, with his kids playing around next to him) he kept asking if we’d found anywhere yet and telling us that we could stay at his house if we were stuck! Several other locals we repeatedly passed made similar kind offers and we were completely taken aback at how lovely and generous they all were!

We randomly bumped into a slightly tipsy cockney bloke stumbling along, who on being informed of our plight made it his mission to find us somewhere to stay. He had been wandering about the street in a quandry, having allegedly lost $20 from his wallet and was terrified of going home and breaking this news to his weightlifting Belizian wife (although from the state of him, we deduced that he must have just spent it all in the pub). He came up with the goods though, and found us a lovely little ramshackle place off the main road, run by a lovely big dreadlocked rasta bloke and his cute Swedish girlfriend. We repaid the favour by offering to take him out for something to eat, which he declined but said he’d come and have a drink with us and recommended a good restaurant that did the best “conch” on the island. The restaurant/bar he took us to was amazing – they had SWINGS instead of seats to sit at the table on, massive dirt cheap margaritas and the food was gorgeous. Jill had the endorsed conch which was lovely (kind of rubbery texture like calamari and very tasty). We sat and chatted over several rounds of drinks, the cockney bloke (sorry we can’t remember his name!) had us in kinks regaling us with tales of his adventures in South America, the highlight being when him and his mate told someone in a bar in Columbia that they wanted to buy some coke. in response to which the barman made a phone call and shortly afterwards a blacked out limo came to pick them up and took them to a mansion in the mountains, where the resident drug baron was eager to sell them several kilos. The lads, having only originally meant that they wanted to buy a couple of grams for themselves, were absolutely shitting themselves and managed bluff their way through it by saying they wanted a few grams to try to make sure that it was good stuff before they committed to buying the lot. So they were dispatched in the limo with several grams of free cocaine and returned to the bar. And promptly took the lot and left the country the next day. “And that ladies, is why I can never go back to Columbia.”

We bid him farewell and retired to our tumbledown hostel for a nice nice t nice sleep, as we wanted to be fresh the next day for our planned snorkelling adventure.

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