An insight into the world of travel

Day Pack Essentials and Dodging Excess Baggage Fines December 9, 2009

Filed under: Rio,Travel — backpackerbird @ 4:55 pm
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I thought this day would never come. 6 long months I have been waiting patiently ’till the day when I can start packing. ‘You still have 3 weeks left until you hit the road’ I hear you say… 3 weeks of  trying to fit all my friends around the last few days of work. Many a boozy night is ahead of me now, I simply haven’t got time to wait any longer. Of cause I will probably pack, unpack, re pack and pack again. Im that kind of organised freak.

So I thought I would compile a detailed list of what I would call Day Pack Essentials. I will follow this blog up with Backpack Essentials. But for now here is all you will need in your day pack, all the things you will need to hand, a fool-proof guide to getting it right when travelling.

I must add, the day pack is an extension to your backpack. If you are anything like me you will be struggling to fit all you want to take in one rucksack. Things tend to overspill into the daypack particularly when you have been on the beaten track for a while. No matter how hard you try not to buy useless tack that at the time you thought would be a perfect gift for your mum, you inevitably end up carting around more than you set out with. Curbing spending money on such things is a skill I am yet to acquire.

I had been in South America for 3 months when I was due to fly from Rio to Lima. I had the mistake buy, my Roxy soft surf bag (mentioned in Getting the right backpack. (a follow up on what to take)), my day pack, additional hold all I had purchased in Argentina and a stiff cardboard tube containing a large (100cm x 30cm) panoramic photo of  Rio. Arriving at the check in desk I was asked the usual… ‘Has anyone helped you pack your bags to day?’ No… ‘Has anyone offered to carry your bags today?’ No… and ‘How many bags will you be checking in today?’ Ummm. Well I did try my hardest to check in just the one bag and sneek the rest on as hand luggage but of cause there is a weight restriction on this. And yes you guessed it, my bags were over that limit, even over the check in bag weight limit. I was carrying 45kg, 23kg over the limit.  Oooppps.

A moment later and a receipt was presented to me, the charge of my 3 month long over spend in South America… $200. £200? I can’t have had $50 to my name at this point of my travels, how was I going to pay for that. Jesus I’m in trouble. Panic set in, I had to battle with the tears that wanted so badly to steam down my embarrassed red cheeks. I took a huge gulp and asked to speak to someone about this matter. I quickly composed myself and put on my ‘I can talk myself out of anything’ head and walked towards the smartly dressed official who was coming my way, he had a look of purpose across his face. this wasnt going to be easy.

My Spanish wasnt the best let alone my Portuguese, I didnt have a hope of understanding this guy. I tested my charm on him, it didnt work. He soon got fed up of me begging in a language he didn’t understand and sent me to an office behind the check in desks. Here I was pleasantly greeted by a good looking petite girl, I’d say a reject air hostess who didn’t meet the hight restrictions to be a fully fledged hostess so had been shoved in an office. I sat in front of her and tried my very hardest to explain my situation. After a good old grovel and an animated shaking out of my purse to reveal only a $20 note and a few coins. we came to an agreement. I would slip her the $20 and she would work her magic. I couldnt believe it, I had got away with a $200 fine for a backhand $20. I went on my way. Result. Lets hope I don’t acquire too much excess baggage this time round!

So, a good place to start when deciding what to pack in your day pack would be to look in the bag you use on a day to day basis in your normal life. If you usually carry medication pack that, if you chew gum, throw that in. There are the additional seasonal indispensable, sun cream and mosquito repellant. This is what I plan to have in my day pack and why.

Camera – any one who knows me knows that I cannot leave home without my camera, capture every moment forever.

Sun cream – avoid looking like a lobster.

Passport – you wont be going anywhere without this.

Vaccination record – some countries can be funny about you entering without proof of vaccines.

i pod – helps ease the 17hr flights and 24hr bus journeys. (although mine has just decided to die, typical)

Phone – not only can you communicate but doubles up as a clock. I never wear a watch when travelling, the only time you really need to know the time is if you are catching a flight.

Purse/wallet – goes without saying or you’ll get nowhere.

Insect repellent (deet) – avoid being eaten alive in the tropics.

Lip balm spf 20 – to soften lips on the air conditioned planes and to avoid burning lips in scorching heat.

Condom – you never know when you might need one,always protect yourself.

Sunglasses – or you will be blinded by the lights

Lighter – dont get caught out when you fancy a little recreational drug use.

Antibacterial hand gel – get those hands clean before eating.

Deodorant – freshen up on a  long journey.

Toothbrush and paste – get rid of that travel breath after being asleep on the bus for hours.

Chewing gum – freshen your breath before liaising with the opposite sex.

Spare memory card – you dont want to run out of photo space before you have chance to download them.

Padlock – lock your bag when you are in crowded places or if you are leaving it to persue an activity like sky diving.

Penknife – Always useful, make sure the blades are less than 6” or you will run the risk of being interrogated for carrying an offencive weapon.

Medication – paracetamol, antihistamines etc

Guide book – always good to read up on where you are heading.

Journal – you never know when you might be inspired to write. Good for scrawling down contact details of people you meet.

Mac-in-a-sac – A good a place as any to keep your rain coat, at hand to whip out in a flash tropical storm.

As you become more comfortable with travel you will tailor your day pack to your individual needs. You will realise what you need regularly and can’t face digging deep down into the depths of your backpack for every time you require it. You may leave your backpack on the roof of an Asian mini bus or in the hold of a Boeing 747 but your day pack will by always by your side.


Rio: Fully Loaded. Part 3 December 3, 2009

Filed under: Old Journal entries,Rio,Travel — backpackerbird @ 9:59 pm
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The big game: That night it was the Brazilian cup final. Flamengos v’s Vasco. What was so special about this game is the finalists were both teams from Rio, it would divide the city.We had tickets. We had purchased them earlier in the week through the hostel in Copacabana. The owner was an avid Flamengo fan so we said we would go and cheer on his team.

2 hours before the game we were picked up from the hostel and escorted to the Maracana Studium across town by our body guards. They carried guns. They did not joke about, they were there to protect us. As we drove to the stadium we passed hundreds of street vendors selling flags, beer and horns. I bought a beer and a huge flamengo flag. On arrival we were ushered out of the mini busses and congregated around a statue outside the Maracana stadium. The scene was awesome, thousands of fans gathered in the streets, some with flares and most with flags. Some even had fire crackers which when let off sounded rather like bombs, quite scary really. Everyone was wearing a Flamengo shirt. We were definitely on the right side of the ground. It was all heating up.

As we walked up the steps to the stadium past all the chanting crowds I felt a rush of adrenaline. The Pitch appeared, lit by flood lights, it was colossal. I have been to many football grounds but not anything like this one. The Maracana has 2 huge tiers that circle the pitch. It holds 17o,ooo people. Massive. The fans were going crazy, chanting, singing banging their feet. All 50 of us joined in. The atmosphere was electric. I waved my fag along with everybody else. There was one flag the size of the whole stand we were in, we helped it along its way by passing it over our heads. Flares were still being let off and the singing didn’t stop. Flamengos 2, Vasco 0. Super.

We waited a while after the game had finished before we headed out of the stand. Our body guards were concerned for our safety as the crowds had started to brawl. As soon as we left our seats and walked down to the outskirts of the stadium we were pushed flat against the wall by our guards. They had heard something over their radios. Riot. Suddenly out of nowhere a herd of hooligans chanting and swearing ran past us. Hot on their heal were the police, battons at the ready. Then back again, police still behind until one guy, slower than the rest was caught. Battered, The police were brutal. Blood splattered up the walls. All we could do is watch.

After such a packed day we all decided to say in the hostel bar, The Majito was flowing and the singing carried on. A truly awesome day in Rio de Janeiro.


Rio: Fully Loaded. Part 2.

Filed under: Old Journal entries,Rio,Travel — backpackerbird @ 6:44 pm
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Paragliding…. We arrived at the beach and met a sporty looking well tanned guy who was to be our instructor. We hopped into an air-conditioned leather seated saloon and driven to the top of what seemed like a mountain by a guy who clearly loved driving. He weaved in and out of traffic at 60-70 miles an hour throwing us round corners we would be on 2 wheels at times. He was clearly an adrenaline junky. Before long we had reached the top. We walked up a few steps and to the top of the mountain. The views were breathtaking. The whole of Rio could be seen. All that was up there was a wooden slope. It soon dawned on me what it was. The runway! This is when I got a little nervous.

1 practice run and we were ready. Harnessed in and ready to leap. I was told to run, fast. The faster the better. Gulp. 1,2,3, and I was running. What happens if we just fall. Faster faster. 10 steps across the wooden runway and the wind took the wings. We were flying. The sensation was out of this world, I felt like a bird. We soared across thick forests and over an expensive looking part of town, all the houses had swimming pools and tennis courts. I could see The Sugarloaf Mountain and Christ Redeemer in the distance. Magical.

It wasnt long before I found myself preparing for touch down on the beach. We hit the sand running. Perfect. 10 minutes just isn’t long enough.


Rio: Fully Loaded. Part 1.

Filed under: Old Journal entries,Rio — backpackerbird @ 5:58 pm
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So many people ask me to tell them tails of my travels. I could spend hours on end recalling my experiences. There really isn’t enough time for all the colourful stories so I have decided to recite some of my old journal entries from past travels.

I will however be writing current journal entries once I am on the road again but here is a little to wet your whistle.

 Nicole and I woke early, excited for our day ahead. We had an awesome 3 part, fully loaded 24hrs planned. It was just the two of today as the rest of the guys had had a rather large night previous and couldnt face getting up early. More fool them!

Part 1: We thought we would go and experience the other side to Rio. We had been staying in Copacabana a fully developed part of town. Mc Donalds on the corner and a shopping Mall down the road. We thought we should visit a favelas and learn a bit about the drug scene.

We arranged a tour through the hostel we we re staying in, Mellow Yellow ( a great place to stay, well recommended). 65 R, pretty expensive but later proved to be well worth it. We were picked up at 10am and were driven by our guide Daniella to the foot of Hasianda, the largest favelas in South America. And possibly the biggest in the world. As we drew near the surroundings changed drastically from plush tree lines boulevards to run down shack lines dusty, over populated streets.

We were met buy a motorbike and a driver each. No helmets provided, we hopped onto the back of our bikes and sped up the hillside dodging dogs and kid as we went. A few minutes later we arrived at the entrance to the favelas. A quick head count and we were passing the checkpoint into a different world. The checkpoint was guarded by an intimidating man who was sporting possibly the buffest muscles I have seen in a long time. Everyone who enters Hasianda is monitored and checked. If Mr Muscle didnt like the look of you, you were not permitted to enter. Simple as that.

We walked deep in to the favelas, down winding, dusty un-named streets, too narrow for cars. Houses were piled on top of each other and sewerage was running the pathways. At 1st I thought this was a truly terrible way to exist, but as I looked closer and learnt more my perceptions changed.

Every house hold seemed to have a huge TV bigger than mine, a Hi-Fi which was often heard blasting out music from the Brazilian rap and R & B scene, and everyone was dressed in the latest gear. All the kids had football shirts.There were many shops, even a Mc Donalds (they get everywhere).

The adults all have regular jobs, granted not professional but a job never the less. Many of them earn a decent wage in the city sweeping roads, driving taxi’s and cleaning. The average wage is 700R ( £175) per month.  This doesnt sound like much to live on. However: they all cheat the system… All electricity cables are plugged straight into the pylon, bypassing the meters and water is stolen from nearby systems and piped into huge blue tankers. The only money anyone in a favelas needs to spend is on food. They pay no rent or tax. If you can find a space, build on it and it’s yours.

Daniella was very informative and told us about the hierarchy of Hasianda. It was under the management of ADA (a drug mafia). Their tag was sprayed on every available wall throughout the favelas. These managers can earn millions or Reals a week on drug trafficking. They sell their drugs at the foot of the favela to people living in Rio, often to professional, well suited and booted people. The police are around but there is an unwritten agreement… The police turn a blind eye and receive coke as payment. Everyone is corrupt. Little is done about it.

On 25th October 2005 ( the previous year to my visit), the main man about town was killed by an undercover police man who had been living and breathing the favelas life for 3 months undetected. The man who rented the house out to the policeman was quickly seen hanged. He had been butchered by the boss men. (He was unaware of the policeman’s identity)

We visited a daycare centre for young children. teetering on the hill-side it looked rather like any nursery you would find in england. A diningroom was set out with tiny places ready for dinner, bedrooms were tastefully decorated but the playroom had very few toys. The children were sleeping so we didnt stay long.

Further down the sewer lines paths after passing a guy with a pistol strapped to his leg, we stumbles across a cake shop. The smell of home cooked,fresh cakes was an inviting one. We stopped for a while and got chatting to the local teenagers who were all looking forward to tonight’s football game Flamengo’s v’s Vasco.

Soon we were at the foot of the favelas and passing the notorious drug exchange. Over weight police men were sat basking in the sun playing checkers, not battering an eyelash at what was going on right under their noses. Very surreal.