So our last stop in Brazil is the beautiful Bonito. Where we shelled out the cash for the Abismo Anhumas tour where we repelled 72 meters down a narrow passage in to a cave.
After lowering yourself down you arrive in the most eery beautiful cave with a crystal clear water lake at the bottom. The formations of the stalactites resembled wonky Willy’s, strange looking thumbs and the dementors off Harry Potter.
After a brief boat ride we struggled in to our wet suits and submerged ourselves in the freezing cold water surrounded by tiny fishes. As we swam around observing the underwater world of stalagmites rising from the ground. A few hours later freezing cold, we felt like we were being birthed as we peeled off out wet suits.
We were then pulled back to the surface and headed back to town for our night bus to Iguazu Falls. Which turned up late and was a rattley old minivan with no toilet. Time to dehydrate ourselves for twelve hours whilst out heads bang off the headrests and we silently curse bring cheapskates and not flying. We arrive at 7.30am with all our bags, no sleep and no cash. We couldn’t be more unprepared if we tried. So after leaving Daisy at the bus stop with the bags I head to the nearest supermarket to try and get some cash out for the bus. As I approach the closed supermarket it looks like a scene off a zombie apocalypse movie as three individual middle aged men stand dotted around in the car pack drunk and swaying with blank expressions on their faces. And as I join them they all Lear a bit closer making me feel slightly uncomfortable standing there in my pyjamas. The supermarket finally opens and the casualty’s head for the booze isle whilst I race to the cash point desperate to leave this place. My card doesn’t work with any of the cashpoints and I end up walking around town looking for another one. Unsuccessful I walk back towards Daisy looking like a homeless at the bus stop in her pyjamas surrounded by bags. Just before I reach her as a desperate last resort I ask the hotdog van man if I can pay 20reals on card and he can give it to me in cash, which we debate for a while, whilst daisy try’s to communicate to me with her eyes. I can only guess she asking what the fuck I am doing and where have I been. In the end we team up with a lovely Argentinian family and all bundle in to cab for a cheeper trip straight through the boarder and to the waterfalls. We arrive laden down like donkeys and find some lockers to store our things and change out of these bloody pyjamas. Grab a map and head in to the national park ready to take on the 10k of different paths to all the falls.
No amount of pictures on the internet could have prepared us for how unbelievably breathtaking the waterfalls are. And they seem to go on forever growing in size and powerfulness. The water crashes to the ground causing huge whirling spray to rise making it impossible to even see where the falls end. Some paths leave you with panoramic views whilst others leave you soaking wet as you stand staring in awe.
So now with pulsating feet and starting to lag we decided to not stay the night in Iguazu Falls and go straight to Buenos Aires instead. So we load all our worldly possessions in to can straight to the airport which we approached without even realising as the airport is still a building site. We buy a flight straight from check in desk and check straight in. Bring on Buenos Aires.
So two weeks in Florianopilis has flown by and before we know it, its time to leave. During our last week with the weather always threatening to rain and the sun struggling for its moment to shine, beaches were not on the agenda. And so sick to death with the shit chat with random hippies we will never see again. And nine bed dorms that have you waking up all through the night as people stumble around trying to find a toilet. We decided to check air bnb, absolutely the best decision we have made yet as we found a beautiful three bed apartment in a great location for the same price as a night in the hostel. So for the first time in nearly 5 months we had our own bedrooms!
We did a surf lesson on Campeche beach where I’m sure I swallowed my body weight in salty water, flashed the instructor multiple times and got completely battered by the waves. You certainly won’t see me on bay watch any time soon. Daisy on the other hand managed to ride the waves for a few seconds at a time before she plummeted to the ground. Pretty impressive. We both emerged an hour later half drowned and with stinging eyes. I will defiantly rethink my swimwear options for any future surfing. The next day we decided to swap surfing for sand boarding and headed for the dunes.
Being our second time sand boarding we managed to stand for slightly more time before falling to an even more dangerous near death. But relentlessly we got back up again and again heading for the even steeper hills, throwing ourselves down with blind faith and tumbling to the bottom bruised and covered in sand. When our hour was up we hobbled to the beach where we sat so covered in sand we almost blended in to the ground. Lunch was served by a stroppy teenager who was clearly forced to serve us and had his girlfriend hanging around in the background silently hating us with her eyes.
Finally when it came time to leave we ordered an Uber and tried to pay the bill only for both our cards to get rejected with the embarrassing insufficient funds. Fuck! The woman was not helpful but finally agreed to hotspot us some data so we could transfer the funds for lunch and scraper quickly in to our waiting cab. Running from one embarrassing shit storm to another as we covered his taxi in sand and spent the entire journey trying to discreetly brush it on to the floor. When we arrived Daisy ran in for some cash that he then didn’t have change for so after begging the neighbours we finally had the taxi paid and entered our apartment covered not only in sand but shame at the chaos of the last half an hour. That brings me to our last day where after a few days of storms where we barely left the house apart from to get the essential munchies and ate rounds of oat flour pancakes with goji berries and chia seeds until our bellies swelled and we sunk in to food like comas.
But on the final day the sun shone for us and we headed to Lagoinha de oeste a beach an hours trek away.
The treck there was easy and we chilled on the beautiful deserted beach for hours before we attempted the scenic rout back along a narrow cliff edge for over an hour where looking over the edge we could see sea lions poking up their heads for air. It then curved in to the jungle where now sweating and dangerously low on water we hoped beyond hope we hadn’t taken a tong turn somewhere.
Relief floods over us when we arrive on the beach finally. The next morning we say our goodbye to Florianopilis.
After leaving Thea I felt slightly lost, three months of clinging on to each other like leaches, whilst hiking and non stop giggling. I arrived in Ubatuba which is a town north of São Paulo, this is where the Brazilians go on holiday, to see 80 different paradise beaches – which really are paradise. I arrived at Tie hostel, where I exchanged work for accommodation. Only to find Brazilian hippes smoking weed, Incense burning all round the hostel and singing Portuguese songs which instantly reminded me of the inbetweeners “why is there always some prick with a guitar”. Let’s just say that first impression aren’t everything, within hours of being there I had met my new family for 10 days.
Constantly pointing at random objects and saying what the name is in our mother tongue, finishing every sentence with “entende” this is where I learnt not to just reply with just “Si si” as it made me look like more of a gringa.
After exploring ubatuba city I decided to volunteer at another hostel further down south called Tribo hostel. This was the place that you could spend 5 years and it only feels like a month has gone by.
A tiny little town where everyone knows each other says “bom dia” every morning, bbqs in the locals homes, dancing forró in the rain and nicknaming ubatuba “ubachuva” “chuva” means rain in Portuguese. I was extremely lucky with the people I met as Brazilians will make you your best friend within the first five minutes of meeting you even if you don’t speak their language.
We watched the stars at night guessing which ones were planets and figuring out which way is north and south, swimming all the way to the bottom of the sea bed to collect sand even if we couldn’t hear anything else for the rest of the day, jumping of the rocks not knowing if it was safe, drinking red wine, learning “portanol” which is Portuguese and Spanish combined. After a month of sunsets and sandflies it was time to say our goodbyes.
So a month has come and gone, and at first travelling solo was a breath of fresh air. After three months of echoing each other’s laughs and having debated entire life stories it felt nice to pee with the door closed and meet new people. I arrived at the Liceu my new home for the next month to find I would be sharing a tiny bedsit style room with two blokes. But it is safe to say first impressions aren’t everything! I worked about 5 hours a day, teaching English to teenagers and adults and only god knows why I was entrusted with this task! As I taught them frases like “same shit different day” and “see ya wouldn’t want to be ya”. I even had to have a student tell me the name of a semicolon. But nonetheless they left with smiles on their faces and complimented my accent! (There’s a first time for everything). Our weekends started on Friday and we explored a different beach or waterfall every day. One of these excursions found us scaling a ridiculously steep hill in the mid day heat, this is where my new companions met the red face! But what awaited us on the other side was well worth the struggle, an absolutely beautiful deserted beach to our selves.
Another of our day trips took us on a walk through the jungle to a beautiful waterfall where we shivered in the freezing cold water giggling like kids.
One weekend I went to check out a food festival near by and ended up at a full on rave with drunk teenagers and a huge stage blaring the tunes.
My mornings were spent at Muay Thai classes something I have missed on this trip. (As if I haven’t had enough red faced sweaty moments). And my evenings cooking dinner and watching live music in the square. I guess it was about 10 days in that I realised one of my room mates had a slight infatuation with me as his eyes followed me around the room and he complimented me at any given opportunity. I decided ignoring this was probably the best method as a 36 year old man so hairy he looks as if he is rolled up in a sheepskin rug, isn’t my type. Turns out he wasn’t going to let me get away that easily and a few days later at dinner he threw me in the deep end with the words “Thea have you ever thought about us?” I nearly choked on my food and awkwardly laughed back the word us. That was defiantly a conversation I would rather have avoided. And now the next two weeks I spend avoiding eye contact and trying not to instigate conversation. Which was kind of easy. My other room mate turned out to be gay! Hallelujah! And not only that be he had as dark and sarcastic humour as me! And we spent more than a few days lying on the beach perving on the surfers as the emerged from the sea like gods! And more than a few evenings watching movies surrounded by popcorn.So after a month of sunsets and sand flies it’s time to say goodbye.
I’ve loved almost every minuet but now a month later I am sick of repeating the words pen and book and explaining the difference between tall and long… and am ready to be reunited with my short, sarcastic friend again where we giggle so much we manage to alienate complete strangers in seconds.
Next stop after carnival was Paraty a place a little further down the coast. Paraty is beautiful and less busy than Rio which was a welcome change. Despite this we still managed to check in to probably the busiest party hostel with a hoard of drunken Irish cheering at any given opportunity. They were very entertaining for a short while until there already thick accents became thicker as they slurred their words and one began rambling political contradictory bullshit to people who weren’t listening whilst his friend tried his hand at beatboxing spraying the unfortunate audience with spit whilst another tried desperately to control his drunken friends shushing then every few minuets. A girl then came from another table announcing “by the way your friend just got his dick out”. This was my cue for bed. Where I lay on a ridiculously high top bunk in an overly sweaty dorm cursing the Irish as their voices boomed through the walls making my earplugs feel like megaphones. The next morning and after a sweaty Muay Thai class I was happy to see our new friends check out, and with only two broken hours of sleep we got a bus to Trinidade a nearby beach town with breathtaking views and a natural water slide a short walk through the jungle.
Waiting for the bus after a lovely day we met a man with a puppy and the cutest kid ever that hung off me trying to communicate in broken Portuguese.
The next morning we must go our separate ways, setting off on a new adventure volunteering. Daisy will be in Ubatuba learning to surf and I will be in Boisucanga teaching English.
Carnival was as you can imagine crazy. The streets are full of drunken people in tutus, Lycra and covered head to toe in glitter. Everywhere there are huge trucks driving the streets with samba bands blaring their anthem. Whilst hundred of people try to sell you beers, caipirinhas and snacks. To one side you have beautiful beaches the other sky scrapers and you are surrounded by chaos.
We were lucky enough to have an apartment just out of it all, which became our sanctuary for the long hangovers we have become unused to. After not drinking for soo long we have become complete lightweights and after a few caipirinhas we are stumbling home slurring our words and downing water. Amid the drinks and dress up we did some of the classic tourist attractions Christ the redeemer was so high up one gust of wind and the clouds consumed the statue making it invisible and two seconds later they would part giving us a great view.
Sugar loaf mountains were amazing the view is priceless from the top and we stayed up there for hours taking it all in.
The botanical gardens were beautiful and we didn’t realise we had arrived on woman’s day until the tickets were free. Winner! We walked around the greenhouses dripping in sweat in the mid day heat.
The stairs in Lapa were very colourful and full of drunken youth dragging out the carnival as long as they could as us tourists stepped around them trying to get the perfect picture.
All in all Rio has been a blur of beautiful beaches and strong cocktails. And I would love to do it all over again but I’m not sure my liver would survive.
Huacachina is a Laguna in the middle of an expansive desert. The drive there was beautiful as sand dunes and coastal lines met.
The first day we climbed the closest sand dune where you sank in to every step so it was quite literally one step forward half a step back. We finally reached the top as it threatened to rain and collapsed two panting messes barely holding it together. A few photos and a discussion about how amazing South America is that you can be one minuet scaling a snowy mountain the next on a surfers beach and then here!
That night we went for a few cocktails with our new French mates and then headed back to our hostel Desert Nights, where we tossed and turned in a 10 bed dorm where at least half the residents were snoring and the temperature must have been well in the 30 degrees without a fan. The mosquitoes had an all you can eat buffet wherever you dared poke a limb out in the hope of lowering your body temperature. After hours of angry half consciousness we moved to the sofas where I had an all out fight with the sheet on the overly small sofa as I tried to get comfy without having an inch of skin available for the ever attacking army of mosquitos. That was definitely a war I lost as come morning I was sleep deprived and with a dot to dot on my face. That day was spent by the pool eating nachos mentally preparing for our sand boarding sunset tour.
Despite everybody’s advice we opted for the professional stand up boards rather than the tourist option of descending on your belly. A choice we were instantly unsure about after an adrenaline filled buggy tour we arrived at the top of our first dune where my belly did somersaults just looking down the steep drop. We seemed to be the only idiots choosing to board who hadn’t previously snowboarded and with no one to teach us the basics we threw ourselves off the edge managing to stand for seconds at a time before we picked up to much speed and tactfully threw ourselves on to our bums. We got only marginally better as the dunes got extremely more dangerous and the fake boarders dropped like flys giving in to their fear. Still we carried on naively. The last dune I was almost sure was a joke it looked like an absolute death trap, the people at the bottom of the hill were so small they looked like raisins in the distance. My heart absolutely pumping I accepted my fate and used my fool proof tactic of bruising my bum. Arriving at the bottom full of adrenaline and ready to go again. Next was Daisy’s turn where she came flying down the dune at a dangerous speed bent so low to the floor you couldn’t see her amongst the sand storm she was creating. Suddenly she is absorbed by the sand storm and you just see her board spiralling and bouncing off the floor as she is dragged with it. Everybody held their breath as she reached the bottom and somehow managed to rise covered in sand but apparently unharmed! With sand in her eyes, ears and mouth she hobbled over an absolute trooper. The pain only worsened during the day as she picked an entire deserts worth of sand from her nose. After showers that felt like sand paper we left in a taxi where the driver and his family (who were in the taxi with us for a discounted price) reassured us we were lucky to leave with “our legs not by our elbows” we laughed the entire way with the lovely family. Next stop Cusco
When we arrived in Huaraz we basically piggy backed a ride in a taxi, with a couple who had made a reservation before turning up at 7am, unlike us. We checked in to our room in Raju which had no window to the outside world meaning we managed to sleep until 11! Waking up delirious and disorientated we went on a hunt to soothe our bellies, we shared some street food, then wondered around town looking for a wall plug for what felt like the millionth time. Turns out electronics don’t last out here. Missions fulfilled we went to head home only to realise we didn’t have a clue of our hostels name and had walked beyond our sense of direction. Now feeling like absolute prats and wondering how we always manage to end up in these situations, by absolute chance we stumbled cross our hostel that was not in fact named Abdul as daisy thought or frow as I had thought. That evening we befriended an Irish lad staying in our hostel and grabbed some cheep dinner and beers together whilst discussing unsolved scuba diving accidents, shark attacks and other dark interesting story’s. I believe our interest in these subjects might have scared him of ,as once we got back to the hostel he agreed to a cup of tea and just disappeared with his tea going cold.
The next morning at 5 am we set off on our tour to Laguna 69. The buss journey was long and we drifted between conversation and sleep. We set off at an optimistic pace the moment the doors opened gawping at the already fantastic views. With dominating cliffs and mountains looming in every direction.
After trecking for a few hours where you would scramble up vertical hills and at the top be greeted with amazing flat fields full of cows and scattered Laguna’s. Only to have to scramble up again. Where I was unsure if It was the views of the altitude that were taking my breath away.
It was definitely the altitude as the last 1km dragged, we stoped regularly to catch our breath only to loose it again instantly. The view that greeted us at the top was worth every achey step!
Huge icy mountains surrounded a lagoon so amazingly blue it didn’t look real, the sort of thing you see a photo off and assume is edited.
It is here that we all chose an individual rock and drifted off feeling peaceful and accomplished.
The walk back was an absolute breeze despite the headaches. We chewed some coca leaves supposedly good for altitude and headed back to the city arriving at 8pm. We ate a rushed but beautiful Indian at Chilli Heaven, the portions were huge which was definitely necessary after a full day of hiking surviving only on snacks.
Next stop Lima.
After a night bus to Huanchaco we arrived spaced out and sleep deprived. So now starved and needing a coffee hit we headed off in search of somewhere to fit the bill. Some fruit and coffee later and we decided to head to Chan Chan an archeological sight near by. Safe to say it was not our cup of tea and without a guide to explain what we were looking at we ended up just discussing in depth what out next tattoos would be whilst wandering aimlessly and taking funny photos.
Which was not a good idea and just ended with us being escorted out.
That night we were surround by pissed up surfers and decided if you can’t beat em join em… this was a bad idea as hours later after rounds of blind Jenga we were loaded in to a taxi by a rather sensible 18 year old who wanted to make sure we got home ok. Despite this we only managed to stay in the taxi for a few seconds before we bundled out horrified by the price. And opted for a stagger home instead only stopping to devour burgers with the locals looking pretty classy with mayonnaise down our chins and Daisy’s bleeding knee. The next morning feeling like I had just been dragged out of a lamas arse and with a serious case of dry mouth I just about managed to drag myself out to the balcony. So I could die with a nice view at least.
That day was spent staring off at the walls of various cafes as we ate like bottomless pits, swearing we will never drink again.
Next stop Huaraz for some mountain treks!
Our flight back to the mainland was a turbulent death trap most of which was caused by our coffee shakes. The flight operated like a bus where once at Guayaquil we disembarked with only half the passengers as the others stayed aboard for the next stop Quito. We got straight on a night bus to Tumbes Peru and against all advice crossed South America’s most dangerous boarder at night. We hopped off the bus at immigration where there was a power cut and we stood in the dark the only light the bored staffs phones illuminating their faces as they scrolled social media, until the systems rebooted. Finally we were cleared and got back on our bus and drove through a refugee camp with Venezuelans sleeping rough and in tents. The boarders all over South America have seemed overwhelmed with refugees. We swapped busses in Tumbes and boarded the only bus leaving at this time of night. A bus run by some very obviously coked up men. At least 5 of them were wedged in the cockpit chain smoking and aggressively chewing on god knows what! So 2am tired and pissed off we arrive in Mancora with nowhere to stay.
Mancora is the Peruvian equivalent to Palomino (Colombia) but minus the power cuts. It has a laid back hippy vibe that bubbles over in to a party town at night. The beaches are long stretches with only a scattering of bodies.
There are plenty of food options and we have tried the £2 set menus all over town. Whole bbq fish, Chinese inspired Peruvian classics and ice cream coffees to die for.
We’ve spent our days lazing on the beach soaking up the sun or covering ourselves in mud at the mud baths trying to calm the sunburn. This being the only time it is acceptable to roll in the mud sober.
We have leisurely nibbled our way around town enjoying the slow paced lifestyle after our jam packed Ecuadorean escapades. In the evening we have enjoyed a few beers or pisco sours watching the town come to life, but quickly sneak off to bed before our minds become hazy. Being the good girls our friends back home didn’t think existed.
Throughout our stay I have been discussing ideas with a local tattooist and tonight before our night bus my ideas shall come alive.