Sunday, 29 March 2009


9th March 2009 -Lucy´s Dad´s 60th birthday and the day we started the Inca Trail. We had made our way up to Cusco, via the town of Puno and enjoyed a couple of nights of peace before the start. The first thing we noticed was that the two of us looked the most unfit out of the entire group, the second was that everyone else was either from Oz or NZ and we were the only Brits.

The first day was fairly easy and we arrived at our first campsite quietly relieved, but also dreading the next day which we had been told was the hardest of the 4 - the infamous Dead Woman´s Pass at 4200m. And they weren´t kidding. Four and a half hours uphill, no wonder that woman is dead. Rob miraculously found a new source of energy through chewing Coca leaves and turned into Speedy Gonzales, whilst Lucy stuck to Red Bull, Kit Kats and the power of music through Rob´s mum´s ipod. We still don´t know how we made it through that day.

Unfortunately that night Lucy had a few toilet troubles (we´ll spare you the details) and didn´t get much sleep, and felt like absolute crap the next day. So that was a barrel of laughs, considering the first part of the day was uphill again. On the plus side, the scenery was starting to get a lot prettier - we were walking through jungle and rainforest, with streams running alongside the trail. We arrived at our final campsite (where there was a bar!) about only 1 hour from Machu Picchu.

We had a really early start the next morning, 4am, we thought this was so we could get there for sunrise, but in was in fact so the porters could get home at a reasonable time. Bless them though, the porters are bloody amazing - carrying all our stuff for us and actually running the trail! We all chipped in some money to give to them on the last night, as they don´t get paid very much.

We finally arrived at the Sun Gate which is the entrance to Machu Picchu, and as we climbed the last few steps, absolutely exhausted, knowing that we had actually completed this mammoth 4 day trek what did we see? The magical Lost City of the Incas? Nope, a big bunch of cloud. Fantastic! Thankfully it did start to clear so we did actually get to see Machu Picchu. We had a guided tour of the ruins and were then given the option to climb the peak of Huayna Picchu. We had both said at the beginning that we would do it, but as there was still a bit of cloud around, that was enough for us to say ´It´s probably not worth it!´ We walked around a bit longer and then made our way down to Aguas Calientes where we were catching the train back to Cusco. A few people in our group decided to buy in a few boxes of wine for the journey, and we thought that was a brilliant idea. It certainly brightened up the 4 hour journey, even if we did get told off by the guards 3 or 4 times for being too loud. Sleeping in a proper bed that night, and having a decent shower was the best thing ever.

The next day we made our way to Nasca, to see the famous Nasca Lines. However, we didn´t realise we´d have to get in a plane that only seated 5 - and that includes the pilot! Although pretty terrifying, at least we didn´t throw up, and it was definitely worth it. We stayed a night in Nasca as we felt too frazzled to travel again the same day, and the next day we made the journey up to Lima for our final night in Peru.

We hadn´t left enough time to see Lima, although we did see some of it as we were driving through that night. Our stupid taxi driver couldn´t find our hostel, so we had to get dropped off at the airport and get another taxi, who did know where it was. The next morning we were up bright and early ready to catch our flight to Costa Rica and start the Central American part of our trip!

Saturday, 14 March 2009

Bolivian Madness

So we had booked our 3 day tour to Uyuni from San Pedro. We found a company ´Pamela Tours´recommended in Lonely ´Líar´Planet, and the price seemed reasonable so we booked it. Big mistake! We were taken to the Bolivian border where we were to meet our driver and the 4x4 jeep that would be our mode of transport for the next three days.

As we arrived at the border we saw a lots of jeeps waiting. We parked next to a lovely red one, the driver was just polishing the sides, and we prayed this was our jeep. Then we looked to the other side and saw a battered old grey one, 2 bald tyres at the front and a 15 year old for a driver. And you can guess which one we got. We reluctantly got in but not without first kicking up a fuss about the tyres. We were assured that they would be changed when we got to our first accommodation.

The driver couldn´t speak any English, but luckily there was a french couple in our group who could speak Spanish. The next 3 days were like a rollercoaster - we had the best time visiting the beautiful lakes (with lots of flamingos!), and of course the salt flats - but it was also probably the scariest 3 days so far. We´d heard lots of horror stories about drivers getting drunk and falling asleep at the wheel which worried us (even though our driver probably wasn´t even old enough to drink!), and to make things worse Carnival was on during those days, which is basically just a massive piss up. Plus the whole bald tyres issue was always on our minds. The driver did change one of them the first day, but then the next day we got a puncture, so he had to put the bald one back on! Also, Rob managed to pick up a bout of diarrhoea, so that made things fun.

The second night we stayed in a salt hotel, which was really cool, although Lucy did find a beetle in her bed as she was getting in and refused to sleep in it, so we both had to squeeze into Rob´s single bed. When we arrived at this hotel, the owner was already pissed (it was about 5pm) and all the staff spent the night getting wasted celebrating Carnival. They had only one song - Jamelia, Superstar that they played over and over... The next morning we had to leave a 5am to make sunrise at the salt flats, and the hotel owner was still stumbling around, bloodshot eyes, stinking of booze, mumbling to himself. We had all taken showers, for which we were supposed to pay 5 bolivianos each, but because he was so pissed we told him we hadn´t actually taken showers and he believed us. Mug!

The town of Uyuni at the end of the trip was a bit of a dump, so we just stayed one night before we planned to go to Sucre. We booked our bus tickets with a company called 'Diana Tours' - 2nd big mistake! We must learn not to book tickets through companies named after women... The bus was supposed to take us to Potosi first (7 hours) and then on to Sucre (3 more hours). After 7 hours on a very bumpy road on a shitty, decrepid bus designed for 20 people, but carrying around 45, and with Rob still suffering in the toilet department (God bless Imodium), and a kid puking up behind us, we arrived at Potosi. Everyone got off the bus except us. Then the driver decided that he didn't fancy driving to Sucre and told us to get off and find our own way there. After we protested in broken Spanish that we had paid the fare to Sucre, he agreed to find us another bus. We found one that was leaving in 5 minutes, and we had to get on with all of our luggage on our laps. In the confusion, Rob left his guitar that he had bought in Buenos Aires on the 1st bus. Bastards. Anyway, if you come to Bolivia do not book anything with Diana Tours!!

We were completely shattered when we finally arrived in Sucre, and had just about had enough of Bolivia, when our knight in shining armour appeared - La Dolce Vita hostel in Sucre. This place was by far the best place we stayed in Bolivia (maybe even the whole trip so far). The room was huge, and the showers fantastic (after 4/5 days of cold, shite showers that was a godsend), and the icing on the cake was the amazing breakfasts they prepared for us which cost only 2 quid! Eggs, bacon, toast, yoghurt, fruit salad, coffee and fresh orange juice. Danny Chapman take note! Sucre was a lovely city, very pretty, much nicer than Uyuni and we were sad to go when we left for La Paz.

In La Paz we stayed in a brewery. Seriously. The hostel brewed their own beer and everyone got a free beer each night, and it wasn't bad! Rob became a stout drinker. The hostel was fun, organising fun things to do each night (we won the quiz night!), and we also made a trip to the highest curry house in the world, although the chicken tikka masala wasn't a patch on the Green Spice. We were a bit wary in La Paz, although we had no trouble whatsoever. Even so, we didn't flash the camera about in public. We visited the witches market, and although we were tempted by the llama foetuses, we thought we might have a few problems getting through customs. We also visited the site of Tiwanaku, which is apparently much more important archaeologically than any of the Inca sites, but no-one's really heard about it. Lucy wanted to do the bike ride down the world's most dangerous road, but Rob was too chicken. Fact. We also wanted to pay a visit to San Pedro prison, where you can enter and visit the prisoners who apparently govern themselves, but after talking to people in our hostel, we heard that they weren't letting people in at that time for some reason.

From La Paz we travelled to Copacabana which is on the border with Peru and is also on the shore of Lake Titicaca, which we'd heard is the highest navigable lake in the world, but in fact that's just a myth. We booked a boat tour to see the Isla del Sol, and after climbing the steps to the top of the island, we realised that we are both incredibly unfit and that we should really be worried about the Inca Trail, which was due to start in exactly 5 days. Oh dear.

See some of our Bolivia photos here:

Sunday, 1 March 2009

Chile - short and sweet!

We were only able to visit one town in Chile - San Pedro de Atacama, as a stop off between Argentina and Bolivia. The town is in the middle of the Atacama Desert - the driest place in the world! Which unfortunately meant there was a lack of water for everything, and showers have the habit of just stopping after about 3 minutes!

Although we only a few days here we both really loved it. The people were so friendly, and could speak English really well. The town is backpacker central, loads of travellers everywhere. And the food was amazing, we ate some really nice meals here.

While we were here we saw the Tatio Geysers, Valle de la Luna and the Altiplano Lakes, which we were told had loads of flamingos, but in fact had about 5, so a bit disappointing! The Geysers were great, although we did have to get up about 4am to get there for sunrise which wasn´t nice. Plus it was bloody freezing, but we had a nice dip in the thermal swimming pool there. The Moon Valley was really beautiful, we went there for sunset, and Lucy got a bit carried away and took about 200 photos.

We wanted to do some sandboarding, but we didn´t get enough time to sort it out as we needed to get to Bolivia to make sure we had enough time to make it to Cusco for 9th March (Inca Trail). We also wanted to do stargazing, as the skies are really clear in the area, but again we didn´t have enough time. We both loved Chile so much that we´d love to come back and see more of the country, so maybe we will come back to San Pedro. There is an astronomy tower being built there at the moment, and it is supposed to be the largest in the world, so maybe we will come back when it´s finished...

We also booked a 3 day tour to Uyuni, Bolivia whilst in San Pedro. The tour takes in the salt flats, which are the largest in the world. But more of that in the next post!

See our Chile photos here:

Monday, 9 February 2009

Argentine Adventures

Things we have discovered about Argentinians in our time here:

- They never have change. Ever

- They love to queue.

- They love Morrissey. A lot.

- They can speak better English than Brazilians, but pretend they can´t

- They don´t want to sell you anything.

- They´re not over the whole Falkands thing. Our bad

- They can`t see that Maradona is, in fact, an overweight, cheating, drug addict, dwarf

We had a really easy border crossing into Argentina (the taxi driver did everything for us - we didn`t even get out of the car!) and we arrived at our next hostel on the outskirts of the town of Puerto Iguazu. The hostel was amazing, more like a resort, with a massive pool out front and a real party atmosphere. We had 4 great days there chilling out, and we also visited the Argentinian side of the waterfalls. You can get a lot closer to the falls on this side, so the experience is more exciting. After Iguazu, we made our way down to Rosario, which is the birthplace of Che Guevara. We were expecting to see quite a bit about him, but the flat he was born in is owned privately and closed to the public (erm, message to the bloke who owns it - sell it for a lot of money!) There is a monument, but it´s way out of the town centre. Rosario itself is a nice city, lots of shops and a few touristy places to visit. When we first got there though, we got completely lost and ended up on the wrong bus in the middle of nowhere. Fortunately, thanks to a kind pharmacist, we found our way back to the correct place to get the bus into town.

We were only spending one night there before heading to Buenos Aires, about 4 hours away. BA is massive. As soon as we got there, we realised it was a completely different place to anywhere we´ve been already. Millions of people just everywhere. Again, we got lost and found ourselves at the train station instead of the subway station like we wanted. Luckily the trains stopped at Palermo which is the area we were staying in. Unfortunately, our hostel was pretty shit, and it did put a bit of a downer on our time in BA. They managed to cock up both of the excursions we booked with them (city tour and day trip to Uruguay), and in the latter, it resulted in us almost missing the ferry, and when we had returned from Uruguay, ending up in La Boca which is the roughest part of the city. We thought we were somewhere completely different, and we walked straight into the heart of La Boca into a housing estate named islas malvinas (falklands to the winners). We soon realised that we were somewhere we didn´t really want to be, and after briefly shitting ourselves, quickly found a route out of there! Luckily it was during the day, and no-one really seemed interested in us but it could have been a lot different, and we told the hostel staff how their incompetence almost got us mugged! Even they admitted that they would never walk through that part of the city and they were locals.

Anyway, enough complaining... The highlight of the BA was visiting Boca Juniors football stadium. We managed to get a photo of Rob sticking his fingers up at a statue of Maradona without anyone noticing. We also visited the Evita museum, which was a bit of an eye opener. When she was dying of cancer, people actually held up signs saying 'Long Live Cancer'. Pretty sick. Uruguay was pretty cool to visit, although if we're honest we only really did it to get some more stamps on our passports hehe.

After BA we headed down to Puerto Madryn, in Patagonia which is the gateway town for visiting the Peninsula Valdes. The Peninsula is home to lots of wildlife including sealions, elephant seals and penguins. There are also whales at certain times of the year, but sadly not when we were there. Apparently the area gets 100mm of rain the whole year and 99 of those mm came on our first day. It absolutely pelted down, and it was touch and go whether we would be able to visit the Peninsula as the roads are made of gravel, but we made it - just - thanks to our mental driver. The next day we went down to a penguin colony at Punta Tombo, where there are about half a million penguins. Lucy was in her element, and wanted to take them all home. We also went on a boat trip to see Commserson´s Dolphins, which are only found in this part of the world. They´re quite small and black and white and very cute. There were a few of them just dancing around the boat.

Next we headed west to the town of Bariloche in the Lake District. We both agree that this was our favourite place in Argentina. Its quite a touristy town, but we found it to be really relaxing and chilled. Plus the setting of the town is absolutely beautiful - surrounded by lakes and mountains - there is a real Swiss feel to it (helped by the fact that lots of the buildings are wooden lodge style). Plus the town is renowned for producing the best chocolate and ice cream in Argentina, and after much research into this, Lucy can conclude that this is true... Bariloche is also the centre for activity tourism, and during our time here we went white water rafting (and crossed the border into Chile), and also did a bit of trekking to see some waterfalls and a black glacier. We would have loved to have stayed longer, but this was the one place we were actually organised and bought our bus tickets in advance so we couldn't change them. Typical.

Never mind, it was Mendoza next, the heart of the wine region, for a quick overnight stay. We did a winery tour where we visited two wineries and an olive oil factory, and Lucy realiased that she actually does like red wine after all these years of thinking she didn't. So we bought a bottle from one of the wineries, plus a small bottle of olive oil, and made ourselves a dinner of fresh bread, cheese, olive oil and wine.

Our final stop in Argentina was Salta, in the north west. By the time we got here we were both absolutely knackered, so we just spent a few days chilling out and exploring the city. There are quite a few tours you can do but neither of us were really up for it. After travelling most of the country by bus we just wanted to catch up on some sleep. We chose Salta as it is a good location to travel to Chile - there are regular buses but they get filled up some quickly. We had to buy our tickets acout 3 days in advance which meant we had to stay a couple more nights in Salta.We didn't mind though as our hostel was really cool.On the last night we had a massive bbq (cooked by the hostel legend Victor) with free flowing red wine (making Lucy very happy!) and then at around 2am we all headed to a local bar called Barneys - which was themed around the Simpsons. We decided to bail around 3.30 because our bus to Chile was leaving a 7.30 in the morning and we still had some packing to do. There were 2 Austrian guys, Kristian and Daniel, catching the same bus as us, and when we went downstairs at 7am they had just got in! Needless to say they both suffered on the bus, which was about 10 hours and as we were arriving at the Argentina border, a rather unpleasant smell engulfed the entire bus. The bus conductor ran to the back of the bus shouting in Spanish and banging on the toilet door. Someone had taken a shit. Out emerged a rather sheepish Kristian. The smell was so disgusting but luckily we all had to get off the bus to go through border control. When we got back to the bus there was a bucket of water sitting there - yep they made Kristian clean out his own shit in front of the whole bus. So, rule number one when travelling on buses - don't take a shit!!

Next post coming soon - Chile!!

Saturday, 31 January 2009

Be careful when travelling...

By Lucy

We recently met a girl in Puerto Iguazu (Argentina) who had been mugged in her first few days in Buenos Aires. She was walking through an area called La Boca which is reported to be fairly rough, (but very beautiful) in the middle of the day with lots of people about. Some guy just ran up to her snatched her bag and ran off. Rob and I never carry too much in our day bag - all our important bits are locked up back at the hostel or in our money belts strapped to the inside of our legs, but it does make you think how it would affect us if something like that happened. The girl seemed fairly upbeat about it, and we heard her telling lots of other people at the hostel, so she was using it as a story, and piece of advice to tell other travellers.

It reminded me of the woman me and Rob met when we were in Buzios, Brazil. We had been exploring all day and were on our way back to our hostel when we passed an ice cream parlour and decided to treat ourselves. We were sitting down outside and my ice cream had started to melt faster than I could eat it and I was getting annoyed. Rob told me to stop worrying about it and we started to have a (minor) argument. A lady had come and sat down on a bench behind Rob and I could see her looking at us. All of a sudden she shouted over 'Where you from?!´ Oh great, I thought, she´s going to tell us to be quiet, `Inglaterra, England´I replied. She then started going on about how she didn´t like Buzios (she was from a place about 20 minutes away and had come to visit her mum) and how people in Buzios were very rich, but thieves never robbed local people, only people like us - foreigners.

When she said that I got a bit concerned, why did she say it? It sounded like a bit of a threat, or was she trying to give us advice? We had just been to the bank to get some money out, and I became very conscious about it. I put my hand on the pocket it was in to check that it was still there. I didn´t move my hand away after that. Then, a dodgy looking bloke sat down the other side of Rob. Oh my God, I thought, is this her accomplice? He was just staring at her, and looked really weird.

Then she proceeded to ask us many questions in very broken English, like were we married etc. We had our Portuguese phrase book and we were attempting to answer her. She seemed geniune but I was still concerned it could be a scam. She started telling us about her family, she had 2 children, a boy and a girl, and she said she was waiting for her son who was on the internet. She was separated from her husband. She also told me she was half Armenian and that the Armenians were some of the loveliest people in the world. She also told me a fact that I already knew - all of their surnames end in -ian (thanks Lisa J!) The weird bloke had moved on by now.

Then she said something that really touched me. She told me and Rob that we had love and light in our eyes (our ojos!), and that she sensed a lot of love and sincerity between us. She told us that meeting us had been a special moment in her life. I thought, there´s no way she could be a con artist and say something that lovely. We thanked her for her nice comments, and with that her 12 year old son and his friend appeared from the internet cafe. She tried to introduce them to us, but being typically teenagers, they weren´t having any of it.

We told her we had to go, and with that she got up and walked round to me, she hugged me and kissed me once on each cheek. She told me it was one kiss is Sao Paulo, and 2 kisses in the rest of Brazil. She then kissed Rob. We said goodbye and walked away. As we were walking we both confessed that we were really worried when she first turned up. No-one does that in England, strangers aren´t interested in eachothers´lives, so being Englsih we get concerned when someone starts talking to us - what do they want, what are they trying to sell me etc.

She was just a lovely lady, waiting for her son, who saw a young foreign couple and wanted to find out a bit more about them, and I won´t ever forget her.

Friday, 23 January 2009


After a 12 hour flight from Madrid, we were both absolutely knackered. We managed to get a bus from the airport, after being accosted by a million taxi drivers who wanted to charge us 80 reais. The bus cost 7 each, but we weren´t really sure if we were on the right bus... It turned out we were but the bus stop was about a mile from the hostel, so after a nice midnight hike through the streets of Ipanema we arrived at the hostel sweaty and tired.

Whilst in Rio we visited Sugar Loaf mountain (by ourselves!) and also took a taxi ride of a lifetime round the sights of Rio including Corcovado mountain with the Christ statue (which was fantastic and the highlight of Rio). The taxi driver was a complete lunatic and only spoke about 5 words of English, but he was great fun, and took us through the favelas (slums) of Rio and explained the history of them to us (via an Italian/Canadian/Romanian translator who shared the taxi with us). He also took us to Lapa Steps which are beautifully decorated by a lunatic artist with different tiles (and bath tubs!) from all over the world.

After a manic few days in Rio we headed to chill-out central Buzios, about 3 hours along the coast. It was discovered by Brigette Bardot some time in the 60s and the people there love her so much they erected a statue of her (which Rob decided to abuse - see photos). We were very impressed with the hostel there as we had our own personal hammock, which we made full use of.

From Buzios, we headed back to Rio to catch an overnight bus to Campo Grande which is the gateway to the Pantanal wetlands. The bus trip was about 24 hours in the end and we were both shattered once we arrived. We booked a 3 night package to leave the following morning. Lucy slept pretty much the whole day in Campo Grande. The next day we headed to our lodge deep in the Pantanal, and over the next 3 days went horse-riding, piranha fishing (and ate some!), trekking, jeep safari and a boat trip where our crazy tour leader, Sandro, fed piranha to some caiman (and almost had his hand bit off). We saw loads of different animals, but unfortunately as we have a crappy camera, the photos aren´t amazing. On the last night, we were headed to a party in another lodge and we had to walk across a pitch black field with our wind-up torch kindly donated by Pagey (Rob´s mate), and we saw a pair of eyes staring at us which happened to be a snake. We then shat ourselves and ran the other way. So unfortunately we never made it to the party.

After the Pantanal we went south to Bonito to do a bit of snorkelling in the Rio da Prata (Silver River) as the waters are crystal clear and fantastic for viewing fish. It was Lucy´s first time snorkelling, so she was given ´special´ treatment by our intense crackhead guide. On the way to the river we were ambushed by some monkeys who were playing overhead, and it was probably a better wildlife experience than the whole of the Pantanal!

We´re now off to Iguacu to see the waterfalls before heading over to Argentina where hopefully we will be able to communicate better with the locals, cos Portuguese is a bloody nightmare!