A Travellerspoint blog

Argentina

Igauzu falls, Buenos Aires, Bariloche and Mendoza

sunny 35 °C
View Chris' round the world trip on dezmondos's travel map.

Well after seeing one side of Igauzu falls we stayed in Puerto Igauzu on the Argentinian side. Now this side off the falls offered a lot better views and let you get much closer. It was a really good day out, there was a walkway right at the top of the falls so you are standing directly over the drop – the falls are just huge. It must have been about 35 degrees that day so the spray off the falls kept us cool. After two whole days of looking at the falls to be honest I was ‘waterfalled’out.
Puerto Igauzu

Puerto Igauzu


I continued with Dave, Pat and Jo (so we were Chris, Dave, Pat and Jo) we did have a laugh about it as it sounds really common and headed on a 20 hour bus journey to Buenos Aires. After about a million games of cards and a few Caprihina's we were on our way. It was one of the best bus journeys I have been on so far – I have decided to take Cama buses for the rest of my trip – I know it’s a luxury but for the sake of an extra tenner on a 20 hour bus journey its got to be worth it – its like having a bed to sleep in. I actually had a really good nights sleep.
Boca

Boca


We were lucky to get to Buenos Aires as we saw on the news that a bridge had collapsed on the road we were just on and all the buses were in chaos. It seemed like a lot of bad things were happening around us in South America – the Inca trail had been closed for 2 months due to landslides which wiped out thr train, there had been major floods in Sao Paulo and now this. I was just hoping they wouldn’t catch up with us.
On the way to the falls

On the way to the falls


So we made it in to Buenos Aires and I liked what I saw at first. Its more like being in Europe then South America to be honest, lots of Spanish architecture. We stayed at the Millhouse hostel which a few people recommended as a great place to party – there wasn’t that much going on there. To keep everything cheap after Brazil we were drinking before we went out. Now, shopping in Argentina is cheap! Here is an example of a few prices: 750ml bottle of vodka 1.60 (yes under 2 quid) 20 Marlborough lights 90p, 2 big (and I mean BIG) steaks 1.80 and a one way ticket on the subway is 20p. That’s all in sterling by the way – ever since they had to reinstall windows on my laptop everything is in Portuguese so I haven't a hope in hell of finding the pound sign.
Cemetery

Cemetery


We spent a few days seeing the sights. We visited Casa Rosada – the balcony where Evita made her speech, the Cemetery – which I thought was a weird place to visit but it is pretty spectacular. The tombs are like little houses, it creeps you out a bit as the coffins are just sitting inside – but it is well worth a visit. Apparently Evita is buried there but we couldn’t find the grave which was a shame.
We also wandering into Boca which is known as being a bit of a rough area but we were getting pretty good at the public transport and braved it. It was full of bright and colourful buildings a must see. We also went to the Proa museum of modern art – Now maybe Im being ignorant but I do not get it at all – how someone can film a tree and call it art is beyond me. Jo had a degree in art and Im not sure if she liked it when I finished my beer, put it on the table and said that was better art then anything I had just seen (my version of modern art and in my opinion far superior quality, lol). So now I have been to see the Moma (Museum of Modern Art) in New York, the Baltic in Newcastle and now the Proa – all modern art museums – I don’t think I will be visiting another one.
Dont cry for me Argentina!

Dont cry for me Argentina!


Now I promise myself a decent meal out every time I get to a new country so being in Argentina we all decided to go for a big steak. Ohh my god! We splashed out on a traditional restaurant and it was amazing – the steak is one of the best I have had and it was huge! All in with beer and wine it was about 15 quid. Which blew my budget but was well worth it.We spent the next few nights taking it pretty easy – I love how the cafes are open late – it’s a lot more social then a club. That’s one thing about Argentina, people go to bed when the sun rises, something that I still need to get used to.
Steak house

Steak house


Now Buenos Aires would be the kind of city I could happily live in, but to travel…. Its not for me. All I have heard is people rave about BA saying it’s the best place in South America and how they stayed for months – I just don’t see it, its like being in any other city in the world. Don’t get me wrong, if you want to go clubbing every night its probably one of the best places to be in the world – but for me Im not impressed.
The next stop was meant to be Mendoza but because I cut BA short I decided to go to Bariloche in North Patagonia. Now I only had two weeks left at this point and it’s a 22 hour bus ride but I really wanted to see some part of Patagonia.
Bariloche lakes

Bariloche lakes


I arrived in the morning in shorts and a vest – big mistake. It was raining and freezing cold! I was tempted to jump straight back on the bus – but I'm so glad I didn’t. I got to my hostel (41 below – if you go you have to stay there, its one of the best) and met a really socialable crowd. Me and Finton, a guy from London decided to go horse riding the following day after a few beers. Now Emma-Jane my sister has had horses since she was young but I have never really warmed to them – most probably due to a reaction I have to their hair – I get all bunged up. But I wanted to do this so we headed off to the ranch the next morning. It was a total surprise – we thought we would be going with a big group but it was just us.
Not having second thoughts at all...

Not having second thoughts at all...


It was the Henock family ranch and they lived in this cute wooden house which the owner (our guide) had built himself. We were invited in for tea and got prepared for our ride. We had 2 hours in the morning and two hours in the afternoon. I was given a horse called Miele (honey in Spanish) which I later renamed 'Captain Slow’. We took off into the countryside and rode for a couple of hours – the views were beautiful – we were going along with the Andes mountain range on our right and a valley on the left.
On the hunt

On the hunt


Now, getting back to Captain Slow… she was the laziest horse I have ever met! She kept stopping and wouldn’t get going – when it came to galloping it was obvious her heart wasn’t in it, so I found myself constantly playing catch up with Finton and the guide. In the end we sorted out our differences ( I think it was due to me fashioning a whip out of a branch). We were climbing up some pretty steep terrain at times which captain slow did not like at all. It did dawn on me that I weigh quite a lot but Im sure it wasn’t down to that, lol.
My horse ''Captain Slow''

My horse ''Captain Slow''


We had the most amazing lunch at the ranch, it was huge and there was so much meat. I regretted eating so much instantly when it was time to get back on Captain Slow – as trotting on the horse was bouncing my stomach up and down – I actually had to stop once to stop myself from throwing up.
Along the trail the dogs from the farm followed us all the way, it felt like we were on a hunt, especially when they caught a rabbit. It was time to leave but not after another huge feed – we said our farewells and headed back to the hostel. It was a good day out and I instantly was glad about coming to Bariloche. Although I was aching everywhere – respect to people that horse ride, my arse took days to recover and I wont mention about other vital areas.
Riding in Bariloche

Riding in Bariloche


We had a night out that evening – we drank an obscene amount of wine (when in Rome!) and eventually realized it was 6am!. So after having an explore of the town the following day it was time to leave. It was only a sshort visit but well worth it. The photos do not do it justice at all. If you go on a long distance bus journey in Patagonia make sure some of it is in the day – the views are well worth it.
Mendoza wine tour

Mendoza wine tour


So next stop Mendoza. I arrived pretty early so headed to the hostel – I planned to rest for the day but I ended up meeting Els from Holland and we headed off on a bus to a couple of wineries. It was pretty cool trying all the different wines. Mendoza is perfect for me as I only like red wine and that’s the main grape here. Melbac wine is the most produced out of this region. So after seeing how it was made and tasting a few different varieties that was it for the day.
Wine experts... not

Wine experts... not


We went out for a meal that night (more steak!) and more red wine of course. The next day we booked a couple of bikes and headed to Miapu – a region just outside Mendoza, it was about 11km in all and we visited vineyards, olive productions and a chocolate and liquor factory. It was such a good day – it was really hot so was a bit of a struggle by the end of the day as the effect of all the red wine tasting began to take effect. I was really happy as I got everything in that I wanted to do in Mendoza so I could head off to Chile the following day.
Not sure if they had enough wine for me

Not sure if they had enough wine for me


So that was the end of my time in Argentina – I really enjoyed it – ok BA wasn’t as good as I expected but the rest of the country is great. I feel like I need to come back and visit a bit more of Patagonia so I can do that justice. The realization is hitting me now that I just have 12 days left of my ‘Americas’ tour and Im a little sad… I'm excited about Australia but I have had the time of my life on this part of my journey but I suppose everything has to come to an end at some point.. right?
Next stop… Chile

Posted by dezmondos 15:26 Archived in Argentina Comments (2)

Brazil Baby

Maybe my favourite country so far…

40 °C
View Chris' round the world trip on dezmondos's travel map.

So we arrived at the Brazilian border and all the Spanish we had picked up was useless – great! We headed through immigration and headed to the bus station in Corumba. The plan was to head to Campo Grande and head to the Pantanel for a river tour but it turned out to be easier to go straight from Corumba. So a very tired from our bus journey we headed straight to a lodge in the Pantanel. It was a total shock with the weather, coming from Bolivia which was pretty cold and getting to 35 degree heat was pretty intense.
On the way to the jungle

On the way to the jungle


I wasn’t complaining though… We were the only people in the lodge which was a result as the buffet lunch was all for us. Our first tour was a boat trip down the river with ‘fat’ Tony our guide for our stay. We thought he was full of shit saying we would see Jaguars and Alligators but we were proved wrong. After spotting about 10 Alligators we were getting a little bored of them and all of a sudden Tony got excited, he spotted two Jaguars on the river bank. It was truly amazing! I have seen them in Zoo’s before but seeing them in their natural habitat was an unforgettable experience. They didn’t seem bothered at all that we were there, we went up about 10 meters away, to be honest I was a little scared and I did ask how far they could jump…
Aligator, only a small one

Aligator, only a small one


It was an excellent start to Brazil – it made me even more pleased when a guide told us he had only seen one Jaguar in two years! We saw a lot more Alligators and a Capybara ( the worlds biggest rodent) but it was the Jaguars that stole the show.
Next was a night tour, which was OK apart from all the insects – we were swarmed! It was pretty cool when they shined the lights as the Alligators eyes lit up like cats eyes in the water.
What a view

What a view


Now the next day was interesting, they only went and took us up the river and told us to get in.. They chucked some tubes in and let us float 40 minutes down the river back to the lodge. Now I am the first to admit I can be a big girl at times but come on – floating down the river where you have been spotting Alligators and Jaguars! At least I was entertainment value for the other guys. We were about half way when I saw an Alligator on the river bank and I m not afraid to admit I was pretty scared, especially when the thing went under the water towards us. I was shouting to Fat Tony at this point who was a good 100 meters away to get us out of there – but he just laughed. Everyone else was just laughing hysterically – but whatever – I just saw an Alligator about 10 meters away with me in a rubber tube!
Jaguars, what an experience

Jaguars, what an experience


Luckily we made it back alive, I was pretty happy about that. Next up was the Piranha fishing – we thought we would be taken out to a different river, but no, just outside the lodge where we swimming the day before. It was quite funny actually, we asked Tony if it was alright to swim and he told us to wait for a minute. He only went and told one of the local boys to jump in first – this guy did not look to happy about it. But when he made it out Tony gave us the go ahead. I love the safety tests here. I did wonder if my insurance would cover swimming in Alligator infested water..
Unfortunately we didn’t catch any Piranhas but we couldn’t complain, the trip was amazing. Im glad I met Luke, Kennedy and Bex as I didn’t plan on doing this. Sadly it was time for us to part as they were heading to Igauzu falls and I was off to Rio but I will definitely catch up with them in New Zealand when I get there. So a nice 23 hour bus ride to Rio awaited me after a night in Campo Grande.
Swiming with the crocs

Swiming with the crocs


We had a bit of a panic in Campo Grande as Luke thought he had left their passports in the lodge. I felt terrible for them as they were heading to Argentina the next day. But a stroke of luck – the bus driver turned back up at our hostel with them, they had left them on the bus! We decided to drink a bottle of rum I had been carrying around since the salt flats. I don’t thin I have kept a full bottle of alcohol unopened for so long. We didn’t want to drink it on the buses through Bolivia due to the lack of toilets. That and the beer gave me a hell of a hangover before my 23 hour bus journey.
Maracana Stadium

Maracana Stadium


Now Brazil is expensive, my bus to Rio almost cost me as much as my Bolivia trip – I was tempted to head with the Kiwis to Argentina but I couldn’t come to Brazil and not do Rio.
I was shattered when I reached Rio and headed to bed for an early night. The next day I headed for an explore, Rio is such a cool place, it kind of reminds me of Miami. Its good just to sit on the beach and people watch. Now Rio has a reputation for being dangerous – which is deserved when you hear the stories but most of the people you hear about being robbed are just being stupid, i.e carrying their camera around their necks. Rio has such a good vibe its hard to explain, but I have totally fallen in love with the city as soon as I arrived. I spent the next few days doing all the tourist stuff. I visited the Christ Redemer, the big statue of Christ you see in all the pictures. It was pretty spectacular – we were lucky as it was a clear day and we could see over the whole city. I also went to see a footy match at the Maracan stadium which is well known for the enthusiasm of their fans. We were shocked when a local told us they were disappointed as their was no tear gas being used! The match was between Fluminese and Bangu, which Fluminese won 3 – 0. It wasn’t as busy as it could have been which was a shame as we didn’t get the full atmosphere – but it was a good game all the same. The stadium is an 80 thousand seater – it used to be 140 thousand but gradually brought it down due to crowd trouble. It is also going to hold the world cup final in 2014 and the Olympics in 2016.
Christ Redemer

Christ Redemer


I visited a few more sights like the cable car up to sugar loaf mountain wwhich was an experience in itself, you get a great view over the city.
The heat has been crazy over here, it 40 degrees almost every day – it even hit 48 the week before! Seeing the sights was a sweaty experience… I was staying in Impanema which was by far the nicest area to stay in, although the prices are crazy – I would say on par with England.. Not backpacker friendly at all. We met a Brazilian who was pretty cool that took us out to Lapa where there is a street party every Friday night – and boy was it a party! There were people everywhere, it was crazy. Street sellers, Samba bands so we had a few drinks and a bit of a dance with the locals. It did piss me off a bit though as you had to keep you hands on all your belongings, people were in your pockets trying to rob you all the time. Luckily I made it out with all my stuff. Anyway it was good to see how the locals party and I really enjoyed myself.
Cathedral Metropolitano

Cathedral Metropolitano


One night a few of us decided to splash out and go to a traditional Brazilian meal which involved a lot of meat. It was an all you can eat buffet and they came around with every type of meat possible – one of the best meals I have ever had!
We heard it was a lot so we skipped lunch in preperation – we were meant to go out after but that was shelved – we ate so much all we wanted to do was lie down.
Sugar Loaf

Sugar Loaf


Now I had stayed longer then planned already in Rio so it was time to leave Brazil – well until I met two Canadians that said they were heading to Ihla Grande – an island just off the coast in between Rio and Sao Paulo. So after a 3 hour boat trip and 40 minute boat ride we arrived. It is a stunning island, it is covered in rain forest and has some of the best beaches in Brazil. We had a look around to see what there was to do on the island being as we knew nothing. We decided to go to a bar to decide what to do – that was at 3pm – the next thing I knew it was 4.30am in the morning and we were drinking rum on the beach.
Crqzy night in Lapa

Crqzy night in Lapa


I have finally realized that all day drinking sessions are not good for me anymore – I felt like death the next morning and we planned to go on a tour to a waterfall.
Now the tours were about 100 dls for a 2 hour hike to the waterfall. Being adventurous (and tight) I suggested that we do it ourselves. We had been joined by three Scotts by this point – David, Pat and Jo. The trek had no signs but we knew which direction to head in – luckily we met a local on the way who explained how to get there as it was not easy to find.
Impanema beach

Impanema beach


Now the first mistake was wearing flip flops – there were ants the size of my thumb! I realized it the hard way when I stepped on one barefoot – the bite was like being stung by a wasp. We ended up going barefoot as it was very slippery and steep. We ended up having to climb one part of it. Thankfully we made it to the waterfall in one piece (see who needs a guide) – I have to admit it was a bit of an anticlimax… It wasn’t a great waterfall, but at least the hike was well worth it. So after a swim and a few photos we headed back – I was pretty pleased at finding it without a tour guide as it saved us money but I lost 90 Reis on the way when it fell out of my camera case – gutted! Ahh well at least someone would have a pretty good night out on me.
The next day me and the Canadians headed out on a speedboat to tour the island. We started at 10am - Brazil really has got it all. We spent the day snorkeling and hanging out on the beaches around the island. It turned out to be a really good (but bumpy) day out. The only down side was when I stepped on a Sea Urchin – ouch, those things hurt!
Waterfall Ilha Grande

Waterfall Ilha Grande


After three days on the island it was time to move on. We all teamed up – Scotland, England and Canada and headed to Foz do Igaucu (the waterfalls – Devils throat in Spanish). We ended up being really lucky with the buses and made it non stop to the waterfalls. It only took around 25 hours (only).
Cool Palm Tree

Cool Palm Tree


The waterfalls separate Argentina and Brazil – we were told you had to visit both sides as they offer two different perspectives. The Brazilian side was a lot more expensive but offered a panoramic view of the falls.
They are huge – I have never seen anything like it – you actually get to go out on a walk way into a section of the falls – we got soaked! We then headed to the border which took ages as the buses don’t wait for you to go through immigration so you have to hop off an on a few to get through.
The guys at Foz

The guys at Foz


So that was the end of my Brazil trip and I have to say I think its been the best country so far for me – well at least up there with Colombia and Panama. Most of the other countries I have visited I have felt like I have seen enough of them. Brazil is not like that – it is such a big country that it merits another visit at some point.

Next stop… Argentina.

Amazing

Amazing

Posted by dezmondos 20:09 Archived in Brazil Comments (1)

Bolivia

...with a little trip through Peru

sunny 25 °C
View Chris' round the world trip on dezmondos's travel map.

Why is it that everytime I get in a plane there is turbulance? Anyway, I survived and made it back into Lima all prepared for my first of many bus journeys. This was the start of a three day journey to La Paz, with a stop off in Puno to see Lake Titicaca. I was up at 3am to get to the airport in Dominican Republic then 7 hours flying, and now a 18 hour bus journey to Arequipa, then another 6 hours to Puno, hmm looking forward to this, not.
I was looking forward to getting to Bolivia as I felt I had already seen enough of Peru, so I was pretty excited to get to La Paz.
Puno - reed islands

Puno - reed islands


Now I stupidly bought the cheapest ticket to Arequipa, a mistake I would try not to let happen again, 18 hours with my legs up around my neck, not the most comfortable I´ve been, but on the other hand 22 dollars for an 18 hour bus journey cannot be argued with. I arrived at Arequipa planning on spending the night and having a look around but instead decided to head straight to Puno for the night. I stayed at pretty much the only hostel in Puno. Puno itself is a bit of a shithole but you cannot argue with Lake Titicaca, it was an amazing sight. I booked a tour of the floating islands for the following day and set off. Now these islands are the definition of touristy! each island has its own tourist boat visiting each day, that said it is the worlds highest navigale lake so it was up there on my list of things to do.
Eating the reeds

Eating the reeds


It was really strange walking on the islands, i felt like I was going to fall through at one point. The locals gave us a talk and showed us how they make the islands. The only thing that I found dissapointing was the amount of rubbish in the water, the touristy area was clean but behind the lake was full of plastic bottles. Its a shame as it did spoil this beautiful place.
CIMG1880.jpg
I met a few Brazillians and Argentinians on the tour and taught them how to play some shithead and of course how to drink rum, I had a bit of an early night as I had to buses to get to La Paz the following morning. The buses were terrible, I had been warned about Bolivian buses so I was prepared but to be honest Im suprised they actually made it.
Meeting the locals

Meeting the locals


My first stop was Copacabana, the most uninspiring city I have visited yet so I was quite happy to get back on a bus out of there. The border crossing into Bolivia was an absolute joke. There was no officials to stop people just walking across with big sacks that looked a little suspicious. There were lines of people everywhere with no one really knowing where to queue. But eventually we made it across the border, it was around about 4 hours from the border, we had to get on a ferry to cross part of the lake but it was pretty straight forward from there on. Coming into La Paz was an experience, I would not like to drive in this city, they are crazy. The view however when coming into the city is out of this world. The city has outgrown the valley it is in and has climed the walls. It kind of reminds me of Meddillin in Colombia.
The next series of events did not make me fall in love with La Paz or Taxi drivers... Off the bus and I jumped into one of the taxis that was waiting. Now after about two minutes a guy was flagging down the cab . I told the driver not to stop but he did anyway. The guy said he was a policeman and wanted to see my passport. Luckily I have heard about this trick, they basically run off with your passport and it costs you a fortune to get it back. Thank you Lonely planet!
He showed me his fake police ID when I refused and started shouting. I politly told him to fuck off (sorry mum) at which point he opened my door. (It did dawn on me for a split second that he might be a real cop and that I was heading to jail). He was mad to say the least and grabbed me. It started to get a little intimidating if Im honest but I stood still. At this point I could see the taxi driver getting nervous, he ran to the boat grabbed my bag and threw it on the ground. At which point the fake policeman jumped in the car with him and they drove off. Luckily I had all my bags - a bit of advice for people, always keep your bags next to you in a cab!
At the top of the WMDR

At the top of the WMDR


I was a little shaken after that and it was starting to get dark. I just wanted to get to my hostel. So I jumped onto another cab and told him the address. He dropped me off and said the hostel was just down a pedestrian street. Obviously this was not the case and it was about a 10 minute walk, bloody taxi drivers!
Now at this point it would have been easy to write Bolivia off as a bad experience but I refused to let myself think like that. So decided to book a mountain bike trip down the road which is actually called `The worlds most dangerous road´Basically its a road carved into the side of a mountain thats hundreds of people have died on over the years. Some stretches of the road are only wide enough for one car.
CIMG1913.jpg
Crazy you may think but I had been really looking forward to this. The first 10k was Tarmac and we got up to speeds of around 70kmh which was real fun. Then we hit the rough stuff... I had a bit of a fall in New Jersey back in July on a downhill bike track so I decided to take it relatively easy being as there were 600m drops. I have to say this was one of the highlights of my trip so far. You could not pick better surroundings. We had a few begginners in our group so you had to stop and wait for people to catch up every now and then. You really had to concentrate when going fast as there is no such thing as health and safety precautions on this road! I did get a little cocky going to fast round a corner and hit a rockand the front wheel slid out, but luckily I managed to stay on.
CIMG1910.jpg
The crosses on the way down reminded you haw dangerous this road can be so I slowed down a bit. Most of the deaths have been locals in cars but I think around 8 cyclist have died in the last 12 years on this road. They have opened up a new road so there was not as much traffic on the road as there used to be but we still met a few cars.
Our group made it to the bottom all in one piece much to the relief of our guide. At the bottom we were taken for lunch at an animal sanctuary full of monkeys. Now this is an experience I will not forget in an hurry. There were monkeys everywhere, all they wanted to do was play with you all day. They were looking for volunteers as they needed help but I had to keep going with my plans.
Not scared at all...

Not scared at all...


The scariest part of the day was actually the drive back up the death road, especially when it started to rain. I was sitting next to the window overlooking the drop. You dont realise how big the drop is when you are riding down - probably as you are concentrating so much on staying on the bike. Now I met some great people on the ride - Luke, Rebecca and Kennedy all from New Zealand and found out that they were heading the same was as me to Brazil ao we decided to team up. After the death ride we had a few celebratory drinks in their hostel - where we saw two casualties from the road. One guy had a broken arm and the other was on a stretcher to the hospital. I suppose its not called the death road for nothing.
Spider Monkey

Spider Monkey


The next day we went for a wonder around the city visiting the witches market and San Pedro prison (the one form the book Marching Powder). Unfortunetly they were no longer allowing tours inside the prison (I was quite relieved to be honest).
Locals kids playing

Locals kids playing


Next stop the salt flats. We all got an overnight bus down to Uyuni, the home of the famous salt flats. It was a 10 hour journey on the worst road I have been on so far. Did I say road, I meant dirt track! Obviously this meant no sleep was had. We checked in to our hotel and headed off on the tour. Now Uyuni itself is a town just made of mud buildings with a railway track through it, not really much to do at all.
Worlds most dangerous road - can you see why?

Worlds most dangerous road - can you see why?


We headed out to a train graveyard first in a 4x4 then to the salt flats. It was out of this world, it felt like being at the North pole - apart from the 35 degree heat that is. It was so bright the salt is blinding in the sun. So we spent an hour or so taking the mandatory saltflat photos, stopping on the way to visit the salt hotel and an island covered in cacti. It was such a good day, a must see if visiting Bolivia.
Train Graveyard

Train Graveyard


From here we had a mamouth series of bus journeys to get to Brazil. We heard that these were the worst roads to go on. We were praying it wouldnt rain as we heard people have been stranded for days in towns trying to get out due to roads being closed. Our first bus was to Potosi, the worlds highest city. It was a 6 hour bus journey from hell, no tarmac whatsoever! It was a little concerning that the bus driver was stopping every half an hour to tighten the wheel nuts... The bus was already full but he insisted on picking up locals so the isle was full of people aswell. We made our connection to Sucre and I have to say I as shocked. So far Bolivias cties have been ugly to say the least. But it is a beautful city - it is actually the judicial capital of Bolivia ( the government capital is La Paz). I would recommend a visit to Sucre if you come to Bolivia, its full of white washed building. We arrived and asked to be taken to our hostel.
A must at the salt flats

A must at the salt flats


After 30 minutes we realised he had taken us to the wrong hostel on the other side of the city. Our hostel was actually about 20 steps from the bus station where we were dropped off. But nevermnd we had a tour of the city I suppose. We had until 4:30 the following day before our bus to Santa Cruz. We thought we had booked the luxury bus but it turned out to be about 30 years old and stank. Great! Again no road just dirt tracks. I wouldnt recommend this route to anyone that doesnt like bus journeys, it was pretty tough. I know I have made it sound bad but to be honest looking back it wasnt that bad. We had a pretty straight forward trip to be honest.
So after another 15 hour bus journey we arrived at the border. I am really looking forward to Brazil, not so much to the prices though it has to be said... Bolivia has been sooo cheap. The hostels are less then 3 pounds and the meals are around 90p. We have travelled across the country on buses taking over 65 hours for about 40 pounds. Bolivia, a must see country.

Next stop... Brazil

Posted by dezmondos 12:28 Archived in Bolivia Comments (1)

Christmas in Dominican Republic

Drive like a Dominican...

sunny 30 °C
View Chris' round the world trip on dezmondos's travel map.

Well, this was the first flight that actually arrived on time – must be a good sign! So after a brief stop in Panama I backtracked back up to the Dominican Republic. Katherine was there waiting for me – it was so nice to see her. It seems like along time since I left for Mexico…
The first few nights were pretty chilled out, we did a bit of shopping and had a few nights out. Now for a Christmas present for us both we booked into an all inclusive resort in Punta Cana on the East coast for four days. Luxury I know but I think I deserve it after living in hostels and just coming back from the Inca Trail. So we jumped on a bus and headed 4 hours to Punta Cana, 4 hours on a bus is nothing for me now! We stayed at the Carabella which was a nice resort – free food and drinks – I can see myself getting fat!
Punta Cana

Punta Cana


We spent the days relaxing on the beach and even went parasailing… I have never done it before so it was an experience! At first we went up and I was being cocky saying how easy it was , until they let a shit load of line out all at once! It got a little more hairy at that height, but it was good fun all the same.
Now the evening entertainment was really good, it was a smaller resort so it was a lot more personal, the first night I resisted getting up on stage as they made the contestants strip and dance to the Hot Chocolate sound track! The second night me an Katherine both got up on stage. It was men against women and it was such a laugh and the men won much to the disappointment of Katherine, lol.
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Now with Christmas approaching rapidly I had to buy a few presents so we set off for the shopping mall. We got told it was 15 minutes away but after walking for 20 minutes we turned around and decided to get a taxi. Now being white in DR everyone thinks you are rich (which I am obviously not) so they just try and rip you off all the time – they must think Im stupid – the taxis wanted $10 to drive just down the road so we politly told them to shove it up there arse and decided on a moto taxi – now I swore I would never get on the back of a motorbike whilst I was away, let alone one that has to carry me and Katherine without helmets! Luckily we made it without a scratch – for about $1.50 – a lot better then $10 thank you very much.
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So, that was supposed to be the end of our resort stay, but we enjoyed it so much we decided to book another two days – we moved to the Barcelo resort down the road which is huge. The best thing was that when we got the they upgraded us to the Premium resort as they we full so even more luxury for us. The food was amazing, I swear I put on at least a stone, lol. We took a paddleboat and a Kayak out to see which was really fun. Now Katherine loves to play Volleyball so we decided to join in with a bunch of Russians – big mistake – they were a bunch of idiots. Now I’m not a great player but its just a bit of fun… or so we thought. They took it a little bit seriously for us to say the least so we made a quick exit. Katherine wasn’t impressed with them and made her feelings known, lol.
We had a little gamble at the casino at night – I even got Katherine playing but we soon lost all our money! The shows were amazing at this resort we saw the Tropicana and Glamour shows which had some pretty cool singing and dancing.
Sadly it was time to leave, but not without even more taxi drama – they wanted $20 just to take us to the bus stop! I mean come on – it only cost us $8 for a four hour bus journey to get to the resort and they wanted $20 to get to the bus stop! Now we flat out refused but in the end had no choice to pay else we would have missed our bus – I felt totally ripped off. Taxi drivers really are not my favourite people at the moment!
So a quiet bus journey home we thought… nope! The bus driver was going to fast around a corner and there was a car stopped in front. We ended up going about 50 metres through the bushes, everyone shit themselves. We were pretty lucky to be honest that the verge was flat as it only did minor damage so we could keep on going. Pretty scary stuff though.
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Now, until now it hadn’t really felt like Christmas, it feels weird being in 30 degree heat at this time of year – not as festive as I thought but we had a really good time. Well apart from me getting ill on Christmas eve. We went to Katherines’ auntiies to meet the family for food and drinks. I had to make an early exit due to me not feeling well. Christmas day was great, we swapped presents, went to the seafront, drank Pina Coladas! I could get used to this.
We did a lot over the next week – Cinema, Bowling, drinking! We paid a visit to Socoa which a picturesque waterfall in the middle of a national park. We took the jeep to get there and went for a swim – it was bloody freezing! New Years Eve camp around really fast. Katherine had booked a beach house with a pool and Jacuzzi for the 2 days. It was a really good New Years. We each had a secret friend to buy a new years present for, I got more alcohol (to add to the 2 bottles I got for Xmas) I’m sure they think I’m an alcoholic, lol.
It was getting close to the 5th (my leaving date) so we decided to visit a couple more places before I left. We went to Santiago to meet Fabio (one of the guys we met at camp) played some pool – it was really good to see him again. That night me, Katherine and her cousins went bowling then headed to the Hard Rock café for ladies night; girls get free drinks, hardly fair I think! Now, I me and Katherine have been sharing the driving duties so obviously I need to be told where to go. Have you ever tried to be in a car with four girls giving directions? I would not recommend it. Don’t get me wrong, they knew where they were going they just didn’t know their left from right! I asked which way and I had a different response from each – “left”, “right”, “straight”. It was pretty funny.
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We were meant to got to Bahia de las Aguilas which is a stunning island in the south east of DR to camp for two nights but I was far to hungover to make the trip, oops.
So we decided to go on a day trip to Isla Saona instead; its in a national park only accessible by boat. So we arrived in the nearby town and got a local to take us over.
We went snorkeling, and spent the day on the beach. The water was crystal clear it was like paradise!
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I would like to say a huge thank you to Katherines family – they have been amazing and so generous towards me during my stay. I ve got a lot of favours to repay at some point, lol. It truly has been a great Christmas and I have really enjoyed the Dominican Republic. Its going to be hard to leave Katherine again but she is coming out to Australia in April to stay for a while so its not that long.
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So, back to South America and I ve got a pretty packed schedule so its going to be a bit of a whirlwind adventure for me as I need to be in Australia by the end of February for my visa (and to top up my funds!). I have quite a few things planned, I’m going to ride the worlds most dangerous road in Bolivia, Party in Rio de Janeiro, sun it up in Uruguay and do a little bit of wine tasting in Argentina.

So next stop…. Well Bolivia – after a nice 24 hour bus journey from Peru

Posted by dezmondos 08:54 Archived in Dominican Republic Comments (1)

Peru

Walk like an Inca...

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View Chris' round the world trip on dezmondos's travel map.

It just so happens two of the aussies from my hostel were on the same flight from Bogota to Cusco – so we got the taxi through the hostel. It turned out to be a member for staff that worked there, which we thought was great at least we wouldn’t get ripped off – we were wrong! We agreed on 20,000 pesos with the receptionist – which was about 5,000 more then a taxi but we thought as its coming to the door between us it doesn’t matter to much. When we got to the airport the guy tried to charge us 40,000 pesos saying that 20,000 was for one person and that the extra weight damages his car so he needs to add some to the bill. I mean come on does he think we are stupid??? After flat out refusing to pay the extra we caught out flight.
A rare sunny day in Cusco

A rare sunny day in Cusco


I arrived in Cusco at 6am and had fun trying to get another taxi… If you hadn’t noticed I am starting to despise taxi drivers – I mean I don’t mind paying say a dollar extra then the locals but these guys were trying to charge 30 Soles!! That’s like 10 dollars and the hostel wasn’t even that far! After telling them to politely piss off I went to the bus stop where one chased me and said he would do it for 15 (still expensive but after no sleep on the planes I took it). I mean come on, that’s double the price and they halved it just like that, bastards! Getting so annoyed at trying to be ripped off, that’s the only down point about this trip so far – I mean I don’t mind paying a fair price but they just take the piss! Right, sorry about that, rant over.
Nights out

Nights out


I got to the Loki hostel which I was told about and I lasted just one night there… it was like being on an 18 – 30’s holiday – Im not joking just full or Brits and Irish – I hated it! It was a huge hostel and it was a bit out of town, meaning everyone just stayed at there bar. In the morning I saw sense and got out of there – don’t get me wrong, if you looking for an English atmosphere in a hostel go there – but that is not what I came away for. It was not a good start for Peru to be honest – I was honestly thinking shit – I have 8 days to kill here before the Inca trail. But I found another hostel the next day, The Point, ok its billed as a party hostel but at least everyone’s not 18 in this place – god I sound old! So I had 8 days to kill – I booked a few day tours around the city. The first one was a half day tour I visited Saqsayhuaman (its pronounced ‘sexy woman’) – did make me chuckle. It was such an impressive site… the stones are huge – this particular site was 32km from the quarry where they got the stones. Now these stones are big, some weighing up to 120 tonnes – try dragging that up a big hill! The way they build the walls is also impressive – they use no cement, just carve the stones to slot into each other – no two stones are the same.
That day I also visited the Santo Domingo church, Quenqo, Tambomachay and Pukapukara. All famous sites, and all very impressive. I met Stefan from Germany on the tour and we met up with a few people he had met the day before and went out for dinner. We found this family run restaurant where we got a three course meal and a drink for just 10 Soles – that’s about 1.50 – finally found a really cheap country!
I met a couple from England – Francis and Lucy and we decided to go for pub quiz – I know – a very British thing to do. But we only went and won it!! I was so happy, the first pub quiz I have been on the winning team and I actually pulled my weight, lol.
Now Francis and Lucy were a lot of fun, mental actually – I loved it, we went to a club/bar and had a really good night.
Guinea Pig dinner

Guinea Pig dinner


Now the next tour I had booked on was a day tour to visit Chinchero, Pisac and Ollantaytambo – Machu Picchu has a lot to live up to after these sites. We went up to an altitude of 3850 meters and I was still fine with the altitude – ok maybe I wouldn’t be able to run a marathon at this height but I can make the Inca Trail. The next few days I planned on taking it easy as I wanted to be in good shape for the trek – obviously that didn’t happen – Cusco being such a touristy place you cannot help to stumble along happy hours – 2 cocktails for 12 Soles – about 2 quid. All I can say was there was a few good nights and very rough mornings – I filled my days with buying stuff for the trek as I quickly found out that I was totally unprepared for the trek and the weather. A few of us visited the El Molino market. If you go to Cusco you have to pay a visit to this market – you can get everything you would ever need and cheap. I mean most of it is fake or knock off but hey when in Rome…
Oooo and I tried Alpacha and Guinea Pig – now these Guinea pig actually come out as a baked Guinea pig – it is interesting to say the least but I have always tried the local dishes in all the countries I have been so far and I’m not going to stop now! I had stayed in Cucsco for over a week and its been really relaxing – a good recharge for the Inca Trail.
The start KM 82

The start KM 82


Day 1 Inca Trail
Well, I had to be up at 4:30 am on the day of the trek, which was a nightmare, as people in my hostel kept on coming in drunk at 2am, so not the best preparation…
There was 11 in my group, a few were sick so dropped out at the last minute but 11 was a good number. There was Steve, David and Alicia from USA, Rory and Muireann from Ireland, Michelle and Ulanda from Holland, Chris from England and a couple from Canada. It was a really good group, we all got on and everyone was really fun.
We got picked up and went through villages of Chinchero, Urubamba and Ollantaytambo until we reached the start of the Inca Trail, Kilometer 82. They took us to this restaurant for breakfast, which they obviously had something going with them as it was 20 Soles – which is ridiculously expensive – so I passed on that one.
Now the first day of the trail was so easy, it wasn’t even hard work – I have to admit I was thinking that everyone had been pulling my leg saying that it is a tough trek. We went past the Inca hillfort of Huillca Raccay and had an excellent view up and down the Urubamba valley. We stopped for lunch and I couldn’t believe it, it was really professional. The porters had already gone ahead and set up tents, wash basins and the table was ready for us – a lot better then the tin of baked beans I’d imagined that we would be eating. The meal was fantastic, we actually had a four course meal and it was some of the best food I have had on my trip so far.
About three hours of easy trekking later we reached our campsite at the small village of Wayllabamba at 3000m. The views of the Cordillera Urubamba (Urubamba mountain range) and the snow capped peak of Veronica were great – the mountain is about 5900m high.
Only a little tired

Only a little tired


Now our guide was called David and the assistant guide was Augusto, they were good guys and challenged us to a game of football. Now, it must have been the best view from a football pitch I have ever seen. The pitch itself was just a dirt patch but it was surrounded by mountains, pretty spectacular I have to admit. I don’t think we knew what we let ourselves in for to be honest, the altitude meant it was a lot harder to run and recover but the porters are obviously used to it so they were running rings around us. They said it was first to two goals or 15 minutes… an hour later they finally scored a goal and I was absolutely shattered – I knew I would sleep well that night.
Now everyone was going on about how disgusting the toilets were at the campsite, so I had a surprise when I walked in and it was in a good state and it even had a toilet seat! I went back to see what they were on about as it was the best toilet I have seen in a while… it turned out that I had used one of the villagers toilets and the campsites toilets were on the other side of the campsite, oops. Didn’t stop me going back though as the campsite ones were disgusting – they stank and it was literally a hole in the ground. I suppose I had to get used to it.
So that was the end of a very easy first day, the football had made me more tired then the trek itself, I was hoping it was going to get a bit more challenging.


Day 02: Wayllabamba to Pacamayo (12km)

Now we had been told the second day of the trek was the toughest, it was basically 10km uphill the 2km down hill. Now it was pretty tough, met a few guys from England on the way up, one of them, James, even went to Bath University. We got told to take a small rock from the bottom of the valley to the top with us, apparently it is tradition, so I put mine one of the many piles of rocks at the top. It was tough and at one stage I was regretting playing football the night before but I made it to the top of the highest pass of the trail (Abra de Huarmihuañusca or 'Dead Woman's Pass) at 4,200m.
The decent from the pass is steep, very steep and to be honest I would pick going up hill rather then down as it really hurt my knees. The 2nd night's campsite was at Pacamayo (3,600m). Now we had arrived there at 2.30pm so we had a lot of time to kill, out came the cards and many games of Shithead followed.
The rain finally came

The rain finally came


We had been really lucky with the weather so far, the first day was really hot and sunny – we even got sunburnt which sucked as I didn’t pack my sun screen, I was prepared for the rain and cold but not for the sun. As soon as we got to Pacamayo the heavens opened…which suited us just fine as it cooled things down a bit and the porters had our tents up and ready for us.

Day 03: Pacamayo to Wiñay Wayna (15km)
Now day three was the most enjoyable for me of the trek. I didn’t think it was going to be as you could see the climb from our campsite and it looked pretty steep. It turned out to be a doddle, when we reached the top it started to drizzle a little but nothing to bad – the poncho came out for a good ten minutes. It was a bit demoralizing as we had just climbed down 700m the day before and then we had to climb back up another 500 – theses bloody Inca’s why didn’t they just make it flat… lol
We were given a tour of the ruins of Runkuracay and then he told us to walk on at our own pace and meet for lunch – I don’t know why but I had a boost of energy and stormed the next section, I just put the Ipod on and went for it. I made it to the lunch area and started on the Coca tea, now, I am addicted to Coca tea – I love it. Must have been drinking about 8 cups a day, I would even go as far as saying its better then PG tips – yes Jodie I actually said that!
Standard...

Standard...


In typical travelling style I met a guy called James from Bath University, so we got chatting on the next stage – small world yet again.
The trail then climbed up to the 3rd pass (3,700m). The view from the pass was amazing, not, well there should have been excellent views of several snow-capped peaks including Salkantay (6,180m) and Veronica (5,750m). But nope, it was all clouds – the next ruin definitely lived up to its name Phuyupatamarca, the most impressive Inca ruin so far. The name means 'Town in the Clouds'. There was even a face caved high up in the rock face – pretty impressive. The clouds did clear and it lived up to the hype – it was stunning. Now the thing is that it is about an extra 30 minutes walk to get to these ruins away from the campsite – people were actually missing this out and heading to the campsite, they lost out big style. I thought it was pretty stupid to come out all this way and not see it all.
Build me up Buttercup

Build me up Buttercup


The final section of the day was a killer! It was down 3000 steps – I would rather walk up steps then down any day! Me, Rory, Mark and Steve were watching the porters and they were running down them... there must be methods in their madness – so we followed suit – it was a hell of a lot easier then walking.
So we arrived at Wiñay Wayna, the last campsite before Machu Picchu and we were all soooo looking forward to it as they had a bar and hot showers! So we had a well deserved hot shower then hit the bar after dinner. The final dinner was amazing – they really pulled out the stops and even finished it with a cake! (It must be as the tips were getting dished out that night).
The one request the guide had was that we prepare a song and dance to perform infront of the porters. So as usual I stepped up with my rendition of ‘Build me up butter cup’ Mark knew the dance as well so he joined in. If you want to see me perform this just look on my Facebook videos – theres a funny one from camp in the summer…
The rest of the night involved a few drinks ;-) which was probably a bad idea as we had a 3:30am wakeup time.

Day 04: Wiñay Wayna to Machu Picchu (5km),

We woke up ridiculously early as we got told it’s a bit of a race to the Sun Gate – not that it mattered as it was misty and we couldn’t see a thing. The trail to Machu Picchu is about 1½ hours. Now this bit was tougher then I thought – probably due to all the walking the day before – and maybe a little to do with the beers.
We reached an almost vertical flight of 50 steps – they are named the gringo killers leading up to the final pass at Intipunku (Sun Gate). Talk about an anti climax! We expected the picture perfect postcard scene – but we just saw white. But we kept on telling ourselves it was ok and that it would clear.
Sun Gate

Sun Gate


David then gave us a tour of Machu Picchu, the tour took about 2 hours. After the tour we headed to the café – I had my penny pinching hat on so refused to pay $5 for a coffee and all sat there pretty depressed to be honest – we walked all that way and couldn’t see Machu Picchu. At one stage we almost contemplated leaving at 11am. What a mistake that would have been – we stayed around till 1am and went back up – and the mist had cleared. We got that postcard picture after all. It was such a high, it put us instantly in a good mood – we even did the extra walk to the Inca bridge.
The mist finally cleared for the photo opps

The mist finally cleared for the photo opps


We got the bus down the hill to Aguas Calientes – it was pretty hairy stuff to be honest, coming down the side of a mountain. Now I would not recommend Aguas Calientes as a town to visit, it is basically just a tourist town with overpriced food and drink. We found the cheapest one and went in for a celebratory meal and drinks before our train. It was a 2 hour train ride and two hour bus journey back to Cusco that involved a lot of rum and drinking games. It was such a good feeling to have completed the trail.
Now I only had four days after the Inca trail to get to Lima for my flight, I was toying with the idea of going to Arequipa to visit the Colca Canyon but decided I would be a bit pushed for time, so I think I will leave that for when I get back to Peru after the Dominican Republic. The last night in Cusco involved more Guinea Pig, this time it was the whole animal fried on a plate – very interested although there is surprisingly little meat on them.
Machu Picchu

Machu Picchu


I had an overnight bus to catch to Lima and I decided to splash out and go for the luxury service – it was less then half the price of a flight and it was a 24 hour journey so why not hey? I have to say it was great, the leather seats reclined in to beds and we got served food and drinks. It was better then staying in a hostel. I met Dave, an English guy from Shropshire on the bus and he had stayed in Lima before so I stayed at the same hostel as him and went out for some food.
I stayed in Miraflores which is a pretty nice and relaxed area. To be honest there isn’t a hell of a lot to do in Lima so it was time to relax before my flight to DR.
So that’s the end of my Peru trip. Well, actually I will be coming back in January but that’s they end of part one! It has been really good – the Inca Trail was one of the top things I wanted to do and it did not disappoint.
Celebrating the completion of the Inca Trail

Celebrating the completion of the Inca Trail


Next stop, Dominican Republic to see Katherine :-)

Posted by dezmondos 08:24 Archived in Peru Comments (1)

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