BLOG MOVING

Hi All,

I am moving my blog to a new, more travel friendly site –

http://www.travelpod.com/members/drcajunstyle

I will be moving all of my old blog posts onto this site so please come and subscribe 😀

Advertisements
Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Horse riding in the Andes, Hot Springs, Rafting with Spiderman & Wine Tours with Mr Hugo. Thank you Mendoza!

Mendoza has been amazing. We have been in the foothills of the Andes for the past week, its a beautiful green city with no skyscrapers, excellent wine and lots of cool stuff to do. We arrived in Mendoza in style, on a Cama Suite (first class) bus. We were served a meal with wine, followed by champagne and our leather seats reclined into beds. Much better than any bus I’ve ever seen in Britain.

On our first day we got ourselves settled in Hostel Lagares, explored the city and went for a walk around Parque General San Martin (liberator of Argentina). The park is huge, 420 hectares to be precise. We had a wander round the lake and had a play on the swings and basically just took it easy. That night we went to Taco Tabasco, a quality Mexican eatery, we went the whole hog with margaritas, nachos and fajitas. We got to sit outside, even though it was 10 o’clock and it was freezing thanks to some energy inefficient heaters.

Since we had such a strenuous first day we decided to treat ourselves to a bit of R&R on our second day. We headed to the thermal hot springs on nearby Cacheuta. Greatest place ever! Set in between the Andes with the Mendoza river flowing by, there were 4 outdoor pools, some with bubbles, some without and a varying range of temperatures. Inside there at least 6 more pools ranging from freezing to extremely hot. I went lobster red in the hottest one, which provided a good laugh for the locals. We also discovered a flume outside, so we spent all day playing on that then heading to the warmest outdoor pool to suck in the scenery and bask in the sun & pools heat. Needless to say we were rather wrinkly by the time the sun set over the mountains and were the last people to leave. When we arrived back in Mendoza we hit a small supermarket for some sirloin steak which we rustled up in the hostel,mighty tasty.

On day 3 we hit up Mr Hugo’s infamous bike tour with a couple of dudes from California. Jeremy, Cardiff, Eilidh and I arrived in Maipu (where the wineries are) a bit later than we originally anticipated after a bit of a nightmare getting the bus. (You have to use exact coinage on the bus but it is actually impossible to get coins from anywhere.) Mr Hugo provides a bike, a map and the promise of unlimited free wine upon your return and sends you on your way.

Our first stop was an olive oil, chocolate and liquor producer. We got to try their olive oil, thier olive conserves, some chocolate and finally some booze! We kicked the day off with a shot of 75% absinthe (complete with wormwood oil) followed by a shot of chocolate and mint liquor. We then jumped back on our bikes and went to a wine museum where Cardiff & Jeremy gave us a brief tour (they had done a proper wine tour the day before) followed by a free glass of vinho tinto. As it was Saturday a couple of the larger wineries like Trapiche annoyingly shut at 1:30, we didn’t even make it to Maipu for then, so unfortunately we had to check them out from afar. Our next stop on our wine tour was a beer garden where we enjoyed the best beer in South America (so far at least) and a small snack. Before heading to a family run vineyard that sold their wine solely from their premises. We tried 3 vinho tintos, 2 malbecs and 1 cabernet sauvignon and 1 desert wine that was created by the Grandma of the family. All delicious. Jeremy, Cardiff, Eilidh and I, as well as a number of other people hit one of the clubs after that, all in all a very enjoyable day!

Unfortunately it did lead to a rather lazy Sunday but since pretty much everything shuts down on Sunday we didn’t feel too guilty!

On Monday we went back to Parque General San Martin and walked about 10km (round trip) to see one of Mendozas most famous landmarks, the Monument to the Army of the Andes, on the summit of Cerro de la Gloria. The monument is situated at the top of a hill at the back of the park, and as it was a bank holiday it was reasonably busy. You get amazing views of the city, the park and the Andes all in one. After such a strenuous day we needed to get some good grub in us, so we teamed up with a Mancunian called Alex to create team barbecue. We had burgers, sausages, guacamole, corn on the cob and of course chocolate bananas. Mindblowingly good stuff.

On Tuesday we realised that we had no idea what we were going to do next so we swiftly booked ourselves in for another night and got some planning done. We decided to go to Rosario next. It is on the opposite side of Argentina, around 4 hours away from Buenos Aires. We will be staying in Hostel La Comunidad for 3 nights before heading to B.A to stay for 1 month in San Telmo in our own apartment! (link shows actual apartment)
After the success of Mondays barbecue, Alex, Eilidh and I got it fired up again on Tuesday night replacing the sausages with steaks and therefore completing our goal of beating the previous night. We also had more chocolate bananas, completing our fruit requirements 😉 just can’t beat em!

On Wednesday we booked our bus tickets and generally did some preparation for our move. We knew we would be busy on Thursday as we had booked a trip to go horseriding and white water rafting. So we got our travel pizzas (cooked pizza we then put back in the box, our travelling food of choice) made up and had pasta for dinner so we could take it for lunch on Thursday.

Thursday was beyond amazing. We had to be up early doors as we were being picked up by Argentina Rafting who we were doing the activities with. We got whisked out to the Andes, where they have their base next to a huge lake. We were taken up to a small village and introduced to our gaucho guide and our horses before getting saddled up and riding into some of the most majestic scenery we have seen yet. Snow topped peaks, accompanied by Clint Eastwoodish western terrain with the lake appearing every so often as well. We trotted around for a couple of hours, all the while with this amazing backdrop of scenery. It was the first time I had ever ridden, Eilidh had done it a number of times when she was younger, we both loved it.

image

We were then transported back to base camp where we were told we would have to wait an hour or so for the rafting as the group we were doing it with were getting lunch. The hour turned into an hour and a half, at this point Eilidh and I were getting a bit nervous as the bus we had booked was sailing rather close to the wind in terms of time frame. After making a wee bit of a nuisance of ourselves we were told the reason for the delay was we had a VIP in our group. It turned out to be none other than Argentina and Newcastle football star Jonas “Spiderman” Gutierrez! To make matters even better, even though he had 15 friends with him, Eilidh and I were in the same raft with him and 2 other guys! We had 6 in total including our guide, and with that we set out down the Mendozan River. Again, Eilidh had done rafting before while I hadn’t, so getting to do it with a Premier League star just made it even more memorable. Rafting is extremely fun, my good friend Jonas and I even took a tumble into the river at the same time (the wise folks on our raft obviously rescued me first). We went through 4 rapids, including one grade 3 rapid and three grade 2s. Once we had finished Eilidh and I had just enough time to get out of our wetsuits and get changed before racing back for our bus. Thankfully the helpful guys at Argentina Rafting swung us by the hostel to get our gear before dropping us off at the bus terminal, we made the bus by the skin of our teeth! Unfortunately due to our haste we did not get a chance to buy the photos of the rafting, we are currently trying to get Argentina Rafting to email them to us.

Anyway, a fantastic week in Mendoza. One of the highlights of the trip so far! As always we have lots of pics up on flickr with more to follow!

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Cordoba & A Visit to Che Guevara’s Childhood Home

(View from roof terrace of Baluch Backpackers)

We are just about to leave on yet another bus journey, this time to wine country! 10 hours (on a first class bus) to Mendoza where wine tasting and white water rafting awaits!We will be staying in Hostel Legares for 6 nights and will be doing wine tasting with Mr Hugo.

Cordoba has been a cool city, we have done some exploring, seen all the churches (obviously!) and the highlight was going to see Che Guevara’s childhood home in Alta Gracia which we did today. It included many photographs from before he was the famous revolutionary and also had a lot of letters he had written to various people throughout his life, including one to Fidel Castro informing him that he was leaving the Cuban government (which he had helped set up) to go and try to gain freedom for the people of Congo. We also saw the motorbike (may not be the exact bike as he had to dump the original in Peru when it broke down) that he went round South America on when he was first exploring the continent and which led to the book/film The Motorcycle Diaries which was one of the reasons Eilidh and I came to South America in the first place!Before he had embarked on his trip round South America he did a similar journey of discovery, but just around Argentina. He did this on a bicycle that he attached some sort of motor – see below.

We also saw pictures of Fidel Castro visiting the same museum, weird to think that Eilidh and I have now walked in both Fidel and Che’s footsteps! All in all it was a very interesting experience visiting his childhood home, Viva La Revolution!

As for the rest of the time in Cordoba we have either spent it wandering around the city, checking out the various sites such as Los Capuchinos Church and Cordoba Cathedral. We have had some good meals, and lots of nice wine (in training for Mendoza).

The other highlight for me was going to watch Game 6 of the NBA Finals between the Miami Heat and the Dallas Mavericks, we watched it with a dude from LA who was also wanting a Mavs win. We began in a Scottish bar (of all places!) before moving to an empty pub/club that was playing it from a projector and was accompanied by some uber-cheesey Europop. Anyway, Mavs won and everyone went home happy! Good times.

So now we are just about to leave for Mendoza, hopefully we will get our first proper bout of outdoor activities under our belt. Everyone says it is a really cool city, with numerous people we have met having done sky diving, white water rafting, zip lining, trekking and of course the wine tasting! Can’t wait!

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Asuncion to Cordoba and a bus journey from hell.

We are now in Argentina, and have been for the past week or so. Unfortunately we have been in a number of smaller towns with poor internet connections and this is the first real chance I have had to update the blog! We have just arrived in Cordoba after a long 15 hour bus journey from Posadas and are in our latest hostel, the Baluch Backpackers Hostel.

Since my last post we have succeeded in a number of tasks we had set ourselves, Eilidh has got herself a new camera, I have got my health requirements form sent off to New Zealand and Eilidh is now in the process of applying for New Zealand citizenship! We enjoyed our time in Paraguay (where we got the camera and health check) and spent most of it checking out Asuncion, shopping for cameras, struggling to speak Spanish and eating good, cheap food.

On our way out of Paraguay things got a little bit more interesting, we had got a bus from Asuncion to Ciudad del Este as we had booked into a hotel for the night and were going to try and find Eilidh’s camera. The first bus we were on travelled for about 3 hours, covering about 20 miles an hour at the most. They then decided that this bus was not fit for purpose (only took 3 hours!) and we had bus change number 1. The new bus ran slightly better, but to make up lost time it sounded like the driver blew out a tyre by driving reasonably quickly over a Paraguayan road. Mistake. Hence bus change number 2. It was dark by now, and we were already meant to be at our location but were hardly half way through our journey. We all got off of the bus, including a mother with a very young baby and stood around for about 10 minutes until another bus came! It looked like this bus already had some people on it and it filled quickly. The next person to get on that bus, if it hadn’t of slammed its door in her face, was the mother with the child. She was not very happy about this and proceeded to punch both of the bus staff right in the face while holding the baby, one after another. It was impressive! So after we got onto bus number 3, at which point it wasn’t even so much a bus as a tin can on wheels, we drove for a further 5 minutes until we reached a police station where the bus staff reported the woman and made us sit and wait another half hour while they sorted that out! We eventually got to Ciudad del Este, with a 4.5 hour journey taking 9 hours, needless to say we were not impressed, especially when I realised that during one of the bus changeovers, they had somehow lost one of my flip-flops. We then had the pleasure of going to a particularly unimpressive hotel called San Rafael. The place looked like it was stuck in a bad 80s movie, thankfully we only had to endure 1 night as we found Eilidh a camera in the morning and hotfooted it out of Paraguay into Argentina!

Our first stop in Argentina was Puerto Iguazú. This was a nice wee town that bordered both Brazil and Paraguay and our hostel, Residencial la Esquina del Bambu was good as well. We stayed here for 2 nights and went for our second taste of the Iguazú Falls. Although we didn’t have quite as nice a day for it second time round, it was no less amazing. We stood right over Garganta del Diablo which literally translates to The Devils Throat, it is the biggest fall of em all and you can’t even see the water hitting the bottom due to all of the condensation and water coming up from the foot of the falls. We were transported round the Argentinian side of the park on a train, and we did a couple of hiking trails round about to ensure we saw all of the falls from all the possible angles. We also got a quick boat ride over to Isla de San Martin, which is a small island in the middle of the Iguazú River. Feels good to be in Argentina, can finally stop drinking beer and move onto cheap wine! Hurrah! Also, the food here is better than Brazil, easily. There is actual choice on menus!

After Puerto Iguazú we headed south to San Igancio. This was a very small town and the only reason we were here was to check out the Jesuit Mission ruins of San Ignacio Mini. We stayed at the San Ignacio Adventure Hostel (not too many adventures going on as far as we could see) for 2 nights and checked out the ruins on our full day there. They were cool, pretty ruinous, but they had a decent tourism set up so that they had all the relevant information about what had happened there available in English, which is handy as our Spanish is still rubbish. There are a lot of Jesuit Mission ruins kicking about, but I think we will consider them covered having seen one. Interesting hearing and seeing all about it once, probably don’t need to do it again.

From San Ignacio we headed to Posadas, where we only spent 1 night at Vuela El Pez, another nice wee hostel. I’ve got to say I think we are doing pretty well in terms of the quality of hostel we have been staying at. Apart from that 1 night in the hotel in Ciudad del Este we have been very lucky! We had a number of things to do in Posadas, none of them interesting, just planning, washing and getting some stuff sent off for our relevant NZ applications. We managed to get all that done in the time we had and then jumped on an overnight bus (a little bit more successful this time) to Cordoba. We have just arrived a few hours ago and are just about to get out and see what Argentina’s second largest city has to offer. Hopefully some food as we have found out a bus dinner is just as bad as a plane dinner, if not worse! First class bus next time I think, we have heard rumours of steak and wine on Argentinian first class!

P.S We have lots more pictures of Iguazú Falls and San Ignacio Mini that will be uploaded onto Flickr soon, including from Eilidh’s new camera, which should be better quality than my phone.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Iguaçu Falls & Country number 2 – Paraguay

We have left Brazil, an amazing country with some really cool people, both natives and travellers! We are now in Paraguay in search of an elusive chest x-ray for our New Zealand working visa. We are staying in a 3 star hotel (Paraguay is way cheaper than Brazil) called Hotel Palmas Del Sol, it is extremely nice and makes for a welcome change from hostels, albeit we have liked most of the ones we stayed at.

We are in Asuncion, the capital of Paraguay. It is considerably smaller than Sao Paulo, and has a more laid back attitude as well. We actually walked over the border, which is effectively the Iguaçu River into Ciudad del Este, which is known as the Supermarket of South America. Apparently lots of Brazilians and Argentinians go here to get there goods, as it is cheaper than their own countries. Unfortunately we did not have time to look around as we had our rucksacks on, but a couple of Norwegian girls that were also staying at Klein Hostel on the Brazilian side walked over with us for a days shopping.

We have spent our first couple of days here exploring the city, hitting some Lonely Planet recommended eateries, and trying to get in touch with el Doctor! Not easy when none of his receptionists speak any English! We have done a bit of sightseeing, although the sites are relatively few and far between, and we will also be attempting to get Eilidh a new camera for improved picture taking for the rest of the trip. We may also try and do a Spanish course whilst we are here, but maybe in Encarnación instead of Asuncion.

The highlight of our past week, and possibly even the trip so far, has been the Iguaçu Falls.

We went on a beautiful day, the sun was shining and it wasn’t too hot, and rainbows were in abundance, yet another Brazilian slice of paradise. We got the bus there, paid entrance into the national park, and then got another bus up to the trail that took you along the falls. There were multiple miniature falls lining the trail before you came out to the main part. The path extended into a runway overlooking some of the falls, and you could walk right out and look down. Rainbows were everywhere, and you could actually see them starting at the top of a waterfall and then curving down to end where the fall hit the river. There are loads and loads of pics on Flickr so go and check em out. If only we had had Eilidh’s camera for this! We spent pretty much all of the day at the falls, doing the trail twice to ensure we didn’t miss anything. We will be heading back to Iguaçu as soon as we have sorted out the chest x-ray to do the Argentinian side, and then we plan to head to Encarnacíon to do the language course.

So just a quick blog post this time, makes it much easier for all of us I think!

Adios amigos,

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Paraty, Trinidade & Sao Paulo – 1 month on the road and counting…

So that is us 1 month and 1 week on the road, only 6 months and 1 week left in South America. time has flown by, hardly seems like a week ago when we were arriving in Rio. Time flys when you’re having fun. 😀

Our last three stops have been Paraty, Trinidade and Sao Paulo. Paraty is an old colonial village, with lots of old European style buildings. We stayed at the Sereia do Mar hostel. It was a cool hostel with a pool table and nice bar/restaurant. We caught a ferry from Ilha Grande to Angra dos Reis and then had a 2 hour bus journey down the coast.

We spent our first day getting our bearings and doing a bit of exploration around the town. We had met a couple from LA and we had a meal with them that night at our hostel, all you can eat pizza 😀 Awesome

On the second day we went round the old town and saw most of what was there to see, which was mostly nice old buildings that were pretty much identical. Paraty is definitely not the most exciting place we have been and after checking out the old town and the docks we felt we had seen enough and spent our last day chilling out on a reasonably mediocre beach. One plus side is that Paraty is where our favourite caçacha is made, Gabriella. It tastes of cinnamon and cloves and is amazing. We bought a shot to share on our final night from a street vendor. As you can see, it was a good sized measure and it was extremely tasty.

We left Paraty and headed about 30km down the coast to Trinidade. This place was perfect. It had 3 of the best beaches we have seen on our travels so far, as well as waterfall all within a 15 minute walk through jungle to each other. We stayed at the Kaissara hostel, it is situated in the jungle and is probably my favourite place we have stayed so far. We  had a huge boulder in the middle of our room, we were 5 minutes walk to numerous beaches and we were adopted by a dog for 4 days.

Her name is Teka and she is known around Trinidade as “The Companion of the People”. She followed us everywhere, including up on a huge rock overlooking the sea and swimming in a natural pool. She slept outside our door at night and even waited outside the restaurant when we went for dinner. We were told that she only does this for gringos, and that even after we left she would sleep outside our room for a couple of days until she found some new gringos to take her all over town. It was tough leaving her behind!


Everything else about Trinidade was equally hard to leave behind; we spent our time there lounging on the beach or swimming in waterfalls or napping in the hammocks in our jungle lodge (its tiring lying on the beach all day). We had really good weather whilst we were there and as it could be our last beach time for a while we made sure we used it wisely. Check out the photos on Flickr, there are some good uns. 😀

image

We swapped Trinidade for its antithesis, Sao Paulo. Everything that Trinidade was, Sao Paulo is the complete opposite. Everything is huge, there are skyscrapers everywhere. No beach, no waterfalls, no hammocks and the only jungle I saw was made of concrete awash with cars and people. We stayed at the 3 Dogs hostel, another nice wee place that did some tasty banana cake for breakfast!

We covered more distance in getting to Sao Paulo than we had for the entire 5 weeks before that. We have decided to leave Brazil as it is expensive and the food is getting very repetitive. Bread, ham and cheese for breakfast, probably the same for lunch and then rice beans and chicken for dinner. This is mainly due to our constrained budget but Brazil is no Argentina in terms of food quality. Thankfully this was one redeeming factor of Sao Paulo. Lonely Planet calls it the gastronomic capital of Latin America, now obviously we will be the judges of that, but in all fairness the quality (and price) of the two restaurants we tried in Sao Paulo were high. We tried a Mexican the first night, and Italian on our last. The Italian was particularly good as we received a free starter and desert! I’m pretty sure this came about after we explained to the Italian woman running the place that we could only speak English, not that we were English. Once she realised we were Scottish and traveling she just started throwing free food our way, a lovely woman. 😀

We spent 3 nights in Sao Paulo and did some sightseeing during the days. We saw the Sao Paulo Cathedral, it is the first cathedral I have seen that has palm trees outside leading up to it, a fantastic picture op if ever there was one! We also went to Ibirapuera Park, which has an Oscar Niermayer designed auditorium.

image

I am currently writing this blog draft on my phone, we are halfway through a sixteen your bus journey from Sao Paulo to Foz do Iguaçu, and we have just had to swap buses for an unexplained issue. Its gonna be a long night.

We have just arrived here at Foz do Iguaçu, it was a long night. We are both looking forward to checking out the falls, I think we will do that tomorrow and will hopefully catch the Champions League final here in Foz today. We are then going to hot foot it into Paraguay as we both need chest x-rays to meet working visa requirements for New Zealand. Pretty annoying!!

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Ilha Grande

Sorry all for the long period of bloglessness. The internet in paradise wassn’t quite up to scratch. We spent the last eleven nights in Ilha Grande and today we have our first full day in Paraty, an old colonial village that has the most uneven cobblestones you have ever seen. You have to keep your eyes on the ground at all times to ensure you don’t injure yourself! Paraty is still in the state of Rio de Janeiro, we got here by getting a ferry from Ilha Grande to Angra dos Reis, and then a bus from Angra to Paraty. We are staying at the Sereia do Mar Pousada & Hostel, it is an impressive place with lots of lounging areas and the sea only twenty-five yards away. We spent our first night wandering around the old town, and then had dinner with a couple from LA. All you can eat pizza, awesome. 😀

Ilha Grande was amazing, long sandy beaches, jungle everywhere else, no roads or cars and more palm trees than you can shake a stick at. We were staying at the Aquario Pousada and Hostel, and due to our long stay we were put up in the Captains Room. We had our own balcony overlooking the sea and a window that looks onto some jungle. The hostel itself was good; the kitchen isn’t the best which did lead to us eating our more than we can probably afford but on the plus side we did find a nice wee restaurant that gave us a free caiprinha every night we went.

We spent most of our days lounging on various beaches, with the highlight being Lopes Mendes beach. It has been voted one of the top ten beaches in the world by various publications and you can see why. The surf was huge on the day that we went, so much so that we actually got told by the lifeguard that we weren’t even allowed in to swim. Obviously we did not heed his warning and just moved further away down the beach but we maybe didn’t go for it quite as much as we would have. At any given time there were at least 4 tiers of waves, with the back wave being sufficiently huge enough that even we steered clear of it! We don’t think that it is always like that, it calls itself a surf beach but we saw numerous “surfers” with their boards but none of them actually took the boards in. The pictures don’t really do it justice!

Another highlight was visiting the Lagoa Azul, or Blue Lagoon. We went on an organised boat trip on our last day on the island, basically it was a large salt water lagoon that had thousands of fish in it. We saw numerous species, and when people threw food in the water they swarmed around you. A fishermans paradise if ever I have seen one! We also rented out snorkels to see the fish better, and the day was made worthwhile when Eilidh spotted a sea turtle, and we both swam around with that for a good 5 minutes. Very cool.

We also rented out kayaks one day and did a paddle around the bay of Abraao, which is the main village on the island and the one that we were staying in. We are not too sure how far we went but I reckon that it was at least 6km. We visited 3 of the islands in the bay and had to fight against the wind for the most part. We certainly knew that we had been doing something at the end of that day!

The rest of our time on the island was mostly spent either on the beaches close to Abraao, or doing some of the smaller hikes available on the island. We hiked up to a natural pool which was extremely refreshing, as well as visiting a ruin of an old prison that was closed down midway through the last century. We met some good people, like Ryan and Kathryn from Ireland and Paul from Liverpool. We had dinner with them one night, and Ryan and Paul foolishly drew Eilidh into a debate regarding British politics, many hours and a few beers later they thankfully reached an impasse with everyone agreeing to disagree. Ryan, Paul and I also played some beach football with a couple of Danes, a German and a couple of Brazilians. Beach football is hard, especially when you are playing in the heat of the day. The sand often does the defenders work for them and it is easily twice as knackering as playing on grass.

I have also finally got the photos up onto Flickr from Sugarloaf and our final days in Rio. We have been a bit more careful with my phone as it is still not working quite right, so some of the photos may have been taken through a waterproof casing. Therefore the quality may not be quite as good as we would like.

I will endeavour to ensure that the next blog does not take so long to go up, hopefully now that we are back on the mainland the internet connections will be better which makes it a lot easier for the blog to happen.

Posted in Uncategorized | 3 Comments

Tchau Rio. We’ll be back.

Tomorrow we leave Rio. We have had an amazing time here and will definitely be back. Contrary to what many would have thought reading some of the guidebooks and websites, we have found this to be probably the friendliest city either of us have ever been to. The people here are quick with a smile and quicker with questions even if they can barely speak English; where are you from? What’s your name? Usually followed by some questions from us too; where is the metro and how do you say (insert word here) in Portuguese, being the two main ones.

On Friday we finally made it up to the Christo. (We have plenty of pictures up on flickr so go have a gander! Thanks to Billy for the removal of the crowd on the above picture!) It was amazing (if a bit high up for my tastes) and the views were spectacular. Neither of our cameras could ever really do it justice but you basically get a 360 degree view of most of the city. We got a bus there from Botafogo and we decided that instead of getting the standard cog railway up that we would walk it. Fortunately for us, a couple of hundred yards past the railway, some guys from the local favela were standing around with their motorbikes. They offered a taxi service on the back of their bikes up to the top of the access road at Corcovado, so after a bit of haggling and ensuring we got helmets, we jumped on and got taken up. We spotted a monkey on the way up and the two gents were even kind enough to let us stop and take a couple of pics gratis. 😀 Lovely fellows.

At the top of the access road you have to pay entrance and you then get a lift up the rest of the way in a bus. All in all if we had tried to walk it, I think we would still be walking now. Its a long way up. We went up and had a look around and took numerous photos, aided by a very helpful security guard who shooed people out of our way and was our personal photographer for a wee while. I tried to stay away from the edge and keep myself central at all times, fortunately he was quite insistent about getting the best shots!

On Saturday we finally returned to the beach! After a week and a half of both avoiding it due to burnt feet and some bad weather we decided to head to Ipanema beach to see the beautiful people (turns out, we fit right in). The surf was amazing and super-powerful. I got slammed into the seabed a few times trying to body surf it and rag-dolled by waves numerous other times. If you tried to just stand up and let it wash over you it would know you down pretty much every time. Extremely fun stuff 😀 Unfortunately for us Eilidh’s trusty waterproof and shockproof camera seemed to meet its match against these waves and is currently out of working order. We spent Tuesday trying to get it fixed, only to be told, when we found the shop, that they didn’t do repairs and we would have to try the one in São Paulo. We will not be there for another few weeks at least as we are heading to Ilha Grande today (Thursday). We are booked in for 11 nights in the Aquário Hostel and have even managed to negotiate a free dinner each and a boat trip to Lopes Mendes beach which is one of the top ten beaches in Brazil, if not the world, depending on who you ask! We are looking forward to the change of pace from Rio………its a tough life!

We moved on Sunday to our final stop in Rio, The Baron Garden, an amazing guest house with a pool! The building itself it huge and has at least 3 live in staff as well as numerous rooms, and possibly even wings that we have not even explored. It is in Gloria and is about a five minute walk from Flamengo beach. We feel like we have started to get a pretty good feel for the areas in the city, and have become pros at using the metro (subway). Our favourite area is still Santa Teresa but everywhere we have been has lots to offer. We spent much of Monday and Tuesday trying to sort out numerous issues, such as the camera, getting some documents scanned and looking for a laundrette (didn’t find one after at least 2 hours of looking). We did go out for another meal on Tuesday night and realised that we had been missing the mark a bit with a lot of menus. We thought that the food was really expensive but what they actually do is put the price for 2 people down, and you then share a larger portion. It took 2 weeks for someone to explain that to us, Rio does not have the tourist mindset fixed firmly on yet, which is both good and bad. The World Cup and Olympics will change that quickly I reckon.

On Wednesday we did the last major landmark of Rio (apart from the Maracana, which is closed to the public for repairs :() Sugarloaf Mountain. Some pics will be up on flickr soon, but only from my (water damaged (bloody rain)) phone! We decided to walk up the first mountain and went up a steep trail that went through a jungle until you came out just next to the cable car station. Again, the views were amazing, but unfortunately it was quite cloudy and the visibility was nowhere near as good as from Corcovado Mountain. We didn’t bother going right up to the top mountain both due to the clouds and my unwillingness to go any higher than I needed to. The views from Morro de Açúcar were good enough, a relatively expensive 2 minute cable car journey up to Pão de Açúcar on a cloudy (and slightly windy!) day was not something I was in a hurry to do! We walked back down as well and returned back to our hostel where we have failed to do any preparation for our next move. The bus will be picking us up in around 9 hours and needless to say we are not packed or even remotely organised. I should probably stop here and get some sleep.

All in all, Rio has been amazing. It has been everything we expected and a lot more. If you can get here over the next couple of years I highly recommend that you do it. The World Cup and Olympics are starting to make their mark already and I think that to really get a sense of the Carioca lifestyle you need to get here soon before it is touristified (its clearly getting late, I’m making up words).

On a football related note, I secured both Eilidh and I tickets for the Copa America final! I’m extremely excited, Eilidh less so.

Peace and love,

Posted in Uncategorized | 4 Comments

Rain? This isn’t what we signed up for…

Over the past few days you could have forgiven us for thinking that the past week had all been a dream, and that we were still actually in Scotland. They said that on Monday night in Rio they got 40 days worth of rain. Needless to say Eilidh and I have been caught out nearly every time the rain comes on, and have soaked to the bone on numerous occasions.

The first blast was on Sunday. We had just been out for our first feijoada, which seems to be their traditional Sunday lunch. It was the only thing available on the places whole menu! So after we had dusted off the feijoada and were just about to set off on our merry way, the heavens opened and San Pedro (St Peter (Brazilians believe that he controls the weather for God)) decided to make it rain. Hard. We took shelter in the local cinema and had a roundabout conversation with a couple of Brazilians, through a handily placed translator, about the weather, football and William Wallace. We eventually had to make a mad dash for it as the rain showed no sign of abating. My feet, ever the hindrance, were slipping all over the place in my (ex) flip-flops and bandages. I’m sure you’ve all been admiring my feet fashion sense this past week, and that night was no exception. So we got soaked and went back to our Villa to find a small pool of water on the bed. The rain stopped, we dried the sheets and we thought that was the end of it.

Unfortunately, that was just the warm up for Monday nights downpour. We had spent an awesome day getting a private eco-tour around some of the best naturalistic sights in Rio. We went to the Parque Lage, which has an Art School in the palace and an aquarium in some caves! We then moved onto the Botanical Gardens and had a good wander round there. It has some pretty amazing species of plants, the most impressive being the Imperial Palm Tree. We then went to the most amazing spot in Tijuca Forest, which is the largest urban forest in the world, it was a waterfall that only Cariocas know about. We had the place to ourselves for most of the afternoon and it was amazing. Due to the rain the night before, a lot of water was coming down the mountain and into “the box”. “The Box” was a small crevice in the rock that could easily fit two people, there was also a crack in the ceiling of the crevice and a lot of water was flowing through it. We could climb up into the box and basically get an uber-massage/shower, it felt awesome.(See Pics on Flickr)

As Rodrigo (our guide for the day) said, it washes all your problems away! After we had spent ample time playing around in the water and chatting away, we headed back into the city proper and hit a bar. It was a nice wee place, and we had monkeys running around over our heads, generally just monkeying around. Eilidh was very taken by them, and even went so far as to shoot the elder statesman of the bar a couple of looks for shooing them away. This was until one of the wee monkeys decided to pee on her. As you can imagine this was hilarious, Rodrigo had been living in Rio for 15 years and had never seen that happen. Eilidh must just be lucky, 1 week and the monkeys feel comfortable enough to urinate all over her! After we had had an undisclosed number of beers there,including 2 Saideiras (Last drink, sometimes they have up to 20 Saideiras) we decided to move on. We headed back towards Lapa, and with the rain beginning to come down, we went to the Casa da Cachaça (House of Cachaça). Cachaça is like a Brazilian whiskey, it is made from sugar cane and is quite a bit sweeter than our whiskey. It comes in many varieties and, like whiskey, the more it ages the better it gets. We tried a couple of blends (ginger, and cinnamon and cloves) as well as a traditional cachaça. What was meant to be respite from a quick shower, turned into us sheltering from San Pedro’s wrath for over an hour. The streets were literally turned into rivers, with the street we were on being by far the worst. In Brazil they respect the dangers of Cachaça, an old Brazilian proverb states “The asshole of the drunken man has no owner.” This is meant to explain how cachaça, rather like whiskey again, if not respected can have an adverse effect on your night. We saw this first hand. (See Pic Below) As you can see the water was nearly up to knee level, and with rubbish floating down the street, it was not Rio at its best.

Eventually, we had to make a run for it as we would of had to have slept there if we waited for the rain to stop! This is where the ultimate foot fashion statement came into play –

As you can see, for this seasons foot fashion, I have decided to go for the plastic bag under trainer look. Not only does it look fabulous, but it also protects sunburnt feet from disgusting rubbish water, or not as the case may be. Anyway, what was meant to be a hour 6  eco-tour turned into a 13 hour battle against the elements. One of our best days yet! We got back to our hostel to find again, that the water had penetrated our roof and soaked our bed. As we got back so late we had no time to dry the sheets so we had to get the mattress onto the floor and make do. Yan and Lucila were both massively helpful in getting this sorted out and ensuring that we got a free nights stay in recompense.

On Tuesday, it was raining again so we had a quiet one. We went out for lunch and got some stuff sorted out etc. Nothing too exciting.

On Wednesday we moved hostels again. We left the Villa Leonor with heavy hearts, as Yan and Lucila had both been amazing. We hope to see both of them again before we leave Rio, and we may even see Lucila further on down the road as she is from Argentina and will hopefully be down there around the same time as us! We moved to Beach Backpackers Hostel in Botafogo. This hostel is not as good 😦 we are stuck inside a tiny little box room, in bunk beds and we are not impressed! We are in a better location for accessing a lot of the things that we want to do in the next week however, so it is a necessary evil. We spent our first day here just getting orientated, and we also went and watched El Classico in one of the local bars. My brief thoughts; shame that Pepe got sent off as it totally changed the game, but even so, Messi is the best and Ronaldo just doesn’t compare. Mourinho did not look like a happy chappy at the end of the game either.

On Thursday we went up on a cog elevator up through a favela, this dropped us off on the top of a hill where we saw the UPP or Police Pacification Unit. These guys are in the process of trying to pacify favelas, and take them out of the hands of the drug lords and back into government care. They were carrying some pretty serious weaponry and they were actually giving a guided tour to some tourists when we saw them. Eilidh and I on the other hand were just wandering about on our own, so we headed out of the favela and up to an amazing viewpoint that offered stunning views over Botafogo bay and across to Sugarloaf mountain. Pics will be up on flickr, check em out :D. So we spent most of the day checking out Botafogo and its bay, before heading out for dinner. We decided to give one more chance to the per weight restaurants and we went to one that was recommended in the Lonely Planet guide – Kilograma. Luckily for us, and unluckily for them, they had an all you can eat deal on. Lets just say we did ourselves justice. 😀 😀 We had a couple of rounds at the buffet, which was good, but the highlight of the meal was definitely desert. Although we had been told at the start of the meal that we were not allowed to hit the desert tray, this became moot when we realised that they were bringing round desert pizza. Greatest thing ever we hear you say? Yes, yes it was. Chocolate and coconut pizza was the highlight for me. Like a melted bounty pizza. Mmmmm. We will be back Kilograma, be warned.

So yeah, that’s been our week really. We’ve skipped breakfast today due to still feeling quite full from last night and plan to go up and visit the Christo today and we have also got ourselves tickets to see Brazil Vs Venezuela and Mexico Vs Uruguay at the Copa America. Tickets for the knockouts go on sale tonight, so will try to get some of them also!

This blog post was longer than most of my Uni essays so sorry about that, I’ll try and not wait so long until the next one!

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

A quiet couple of days and the best staircase you’ve ever seen.

Well we have been a bit all over the place in the last few days. Luckily for us the Villa Leonor has been our home away from home. We have met a number of fantastic people here, Christine the French Canadian who has now completed her goal of being to every continent in the world before her 50th birthday and the most epic of travelers Owain and Hannah who are 18 months into their motorcycle tour of South America. They were all a wealth of knowledge and advice for us newbie travelers and many a beer has been drunk in deep conversation in our wee bar on the terrace of the hostel overlooking the beautiful city of Rio. Lucia and Jan, who both work at the hostel and speak better English than either of us, have also been amazingly helpful and friendly. We like it so much we have booked ourselves in for an extra night which keeps us here until Wednesday. My burnt feet, the topic of discussion apparently for all residents here, have had more tlc then I would ever have given them. Everyone who has seen them has given us some sort of remedy and we now have a first aid cabinet instead of a first aid kit! A lovely Brazilian lady who is staying here for Easter even played Doctor and bandaged them up for me while her son translated for us in our room! Don’t worry though, they are on the mend with every chemical under the sun (no pun intended ;-)) working their magic.

In Brazil they have the Thursday and Friday as their Easter holiday, instead of the Friday and Monday as most other places do. So on Friday we ended up traipsing around looking for a bank so we could get some cash to pay our hostel. We walked through Lapa, which is the home to many samba clubs and the excellently named Sambadrome, stopping off to enjoy one of the many fresh fruit juice bars and generally enjoying the feel of the Cidade Maravilhosa. We spent most of Friday night in the bar talking to Jan and Owain and knocking back one or two cheeky beers.

On Saturday we went to see the most amazing piece of artwork Lapa has to offer, the Escadaria Selarón. Selarón is a Chilean artist who has taken over a staircase 250 steps long and has collected various tiles from across the world (even Scotland woop!) and has made an amazing mosaic, which in his words, is his tribute to the Brazilian people. The photos will be up on Flickr today at some point.

We also saw the Arcos da Lapa and even hung off the side of the tram back up to our lovely hostel in Santa Teresa. Better than any rollercoaster! We went out for a nice meal in a lovely wee bar last night where our sandwiches were presented on flattened wine bottle plates (again see Flickr).

I finished off my first book of the holiday Christopher Brookmyre’s Pandemonium. Read it, it is absolutely awesome.

Happy Easter everybody, keep it real.

Posted in Uncategorized | 3 Comments