Unbelievable Ubatuba

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.

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Back to basics in Boiçucanga

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.

Hiking in Huaraz

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.

Glorious Galápagos Islands

Well what can I say the Galapagos are everything I thought and more. I constantly feel like I am staring in a nature program but I have yet to perfect my David Attenbourr voice.

The early boat was like a giant sleepover as we were lulled to sleep by the calm of the ocean. And within minuets of stepping off the boat here you are surrounded by sunbathing sea lions and crabs and lizards by the dozen. In the bay the odd penguin pops up to say hello.

The lonely planet describes the Galapagos as the only place on earth you can have a staring competition with wild animals and loose and boy were they right. You are so outnumbered by fearless wildlife you feel exactly as you should, a visitor.

On Tortuga beach the sand is white and the sea a clear blue as the waves come out they bring with them swarms of baby sharks in water no deeper than my ankles. Turning to face land you see proud iguanas parading down the sand unfazed by our presence. The rocks are covered with bright red crabs and there are sea lions on every bench peir and empty boat throughout the islands.

A trip to a lagoon and you watch birds soar on the waters surface to catch their prey as the fish dance out of the water taunting them.

Snorkelling in even the closest bays and you come face to face with giant sea turtles gliding along elegantly so close you could touch them, and sea lions playfully pivoting around the piers.

Waves crash against the majestic remains of volcanoes out at sea. The water trickling between the cracks and flocks of birds rest here between meals. Every glimmer in the ocean has your head snapping round as you catch a glimpse of a rays signature wave or a turtle rising for breath.

Under every rocky cave lurk schools of sharks. The penguins dart through your line of vision teasingly too fast to keep your eyes on. It feels like a scene off Finding Nemo as the colourful fish go about their day seemingly unfazed by our presence.

Pelicans sour above us at all times and these animals can all be found side by side looking like the oddest gang you’ve ever seen. The island itself looks like something straight out of a cartoon with dark volcanic rocks, mangroves, huge cactuses, lava tunnels and craters the size of entire towns.

The cars slow down and drive around the giant hundreds of years old tortoise, giving them the respect they rightfully deserve.

Patty house the cheapest accommodation we could find is just out of town but Patty herself is lovely and like a kind aunt she advised and arranged our days for us, sending us off on her selection of death trap bikes. We must be known on the island as the two blond boy racers always cycling in circles on squeaky bikes calling for directions to town… again.

In the evening a street not far from town is teeming with life as the restaurants join their tables and chairs together in two long columns occupying the whole road and dish out some of the best seafood! Entire fishes, giant paella’s and mountains of shellfish at decent prices mean we have dined like kings and every day here feels the luckiest on earth.

We have only been here four days and we haven’t wanted to even blink scared we will miss something incredible.

Bike rides in Baños

Baños has a small town feel to it buried high up in the mountains. The first night our hostel was lacking in dorm beds so we were upgraded to a private room and all for the same price as I cheekily suggested, proving my mum was always right when she said don’t ask and you won’t get. That night I ate a two course meal and drank half a bottle of wine, whilst Daisy sat across the table from me feeling ill but politely nodding along to my tipsy ramblings.

The next morning we rented bikes and set off on a 17km bike ride along a busy road with no helmets and in the pissing it down rain. We passed four beautiful waterfalls before arriving at Pailon del Diablo. Where we stared mesmerised as the crashing water resembled the flames of a fire and the spray the smoke rising in thick patterns before hitting the rocks. Now soaked to the skin from the ride we resembled drowned rats. And opted for a lift back in a pickup where we squelched in our shoes and my jeans felt at least two sizes smaller making me feel as though I had been sectioned in my own clothes.

Now absolutely starved we rode around town in search of some lunch. I got distracted by a veggie looking place, nearly dropped my bag, slammed on the brakes so hard that I nearly went over the handle bars. It Was a close shave but a great find of Avo burrito! So was totally worth the bruised shin.

That night we went to a vegetarian restaurant called Healthy Cafe the food was to die for. We ordered two different curries and both were amazing and even better washed down with a bottle of red. So now drunk, full and ranted out we stumbled home.

After an unproductive day we went for dinner in an amazing Spanish place Tascos! The tapas were amazing and all the surrounding tables, us and the owner friendlily conversed between courses. When we got back to the hostel we found the place a complete mad house, the already strange residents were even stranger with the addition of beer pong and brightly coloured wigs. They couldn’t understand us brits being sober and kept trying to pressure tequila shots on us, until we locked ourselves in a dark room and tried to watch a film that was intermittently interrupted by strange shadows opening the door.

The next morning we went to Casa Arbol for some not so high adrenaline but super cheep swings and zip lines. With lots of time to kill before our night bus we went for some Chinese massages where I was manoeuvred like a piece of meat being aggressively rubbed up. So now sufficiently tenderised we headed off to the city ready for our flight to the Galápagos Islands.

Places in Popayan

A boat and two busses later and we arrive in Popayan armed with some seriously toxic bed bug spray. We splashed out on a private room, locked ourselves in the bathroom with all our stuff and gassed ourselves out. Going a bit OTT with the bug spray looking and feeling like mad women when we finally tumble out with red eyes and serious headaches, hoping we had finally got on top of this infestation. Waking up with no new bites felt like winning an all out war! And although 100s of bites still remained scattered on my body I knew their days were numbered! We took our clothes to the laundrette changed rooms and strutted off to Silvia. A town so high in the mountains that Daisy shivered in her inappropriate attire. We bought some fruits for breakfast and scaled the nearest peak for our tradition of a viewpoint.

Everywhere In Colombia seems really easy to get too but is like a series of hunger games on the return journey. As everybody fights for a spot on the designated method of travel, on this occasion a bus. But feeling unbeatable after our victory with the bed bugs we decided against the scramble and strolled off in the general direction of Popayan. We successfully thumbed down a lift to the next town with a local and jumped on a conveniently waiting bus. Where we began attacking our bags of fruit, devouring tomorrow’s breakfast! Offering it to the locals and dropping it all over the place.

That night we ate at a place called Pita and as you’ve guessed it sold pittas.. with a variety of toppings. After a game of backgammon where me and Daisy realised we can’t play anything other than cards without bickering and Daisy wanting to quit because she’s loosing! So we left. I was definitely still hungry as I don’t believe hummus qualifies as a side so we shared some cake at the hostel whilst laughing at how pathetically competitive we are. (And for the record I won backgammon but maybe don’t tell Daisy I said that).

The next morning we grouped up with some people from the hostel and headed to the hot springs. Swerving the usual tour and catching a bus. The hot springs stank worse than my exes curry farts and at first I was hesitant to go in and cursed the children splashing in my general vicinity. But half an hour in and now immune to the smell we began rubbing smelly clay all over ourselves (doing as the locals do).

After a dirt cheep meal we went back to the hostel where we no joke tried a slice of every home made cake, rating them in order. My favourite being the chocolate, orange and zucchini followed closely by Daisy’s favourite Banana and cardamon and lastly the still amazing coffee and chocolate. Yum! That night we all went for Tapas at Restaurant Carmina. Where we drank wine, ate delicious food and drifted between intellectual debates and chatting shit. Until full and giddy we wondered home missing our turning for the second time since we’ve been here. The next morning we checked out only to later realise we had been undercharged. Alright for some!

Jardin in a hurry

The entire journey to Jardin we felt like experienced travellers ruffing it with the locals. Wedged in to the back of the bus where the luggage usually goes. After a quick beer we headed to bed in our new hostel Arcadia, a hostel with three story bunk beds and riddled with bed bugs!

The next morning itchy enough to want to rip off my own skin, we burnt some pancakes and scattered wishing we had never returned to Medellin. Next stop Jardin a supposed three hour bus drive that took five. We got stuck in traffic and I found myself super annoyed and restless waiting in the heat until we passed the reason for it. A car accident that lives had almost definatly been lost in, it left me feeling hollow as people gasped at the tragedy and I wanted to cry for the message a family was about to receive. The rest of the journey was spent in silence as I realised how lucky we are to be here. Jardin is a beautiful small town with soo much choice of food.

Our first meal was spent in a busy local place where we invited ourselves to sit at a table with a fellow backpacker, from the moment we sat down we managed to make her feel uncomfortable as we scratched our bites that were now everywhere, discussing the possibility that we had caught some sort of skin condition. Needless to say she ate quickly and left before she caught said skin problem. Dinner was Thai at a place called Bon appetite. And that evening we readily jumped on a very sketchy unsafe looking cable car to a view point high in the mountain. Where we enjoyed a beer whilst taking funny selfies, just two goons set loose on the world.

Breakfast was a DIY of cereals and toast, I opted for cereals a bad option as they barely kept the hunger at bay as we set off to to the local river. Which was beautiful, feeling like Mowgli off the jungle book we jumped along the rocks up river for a beautiful unspoilt view.

On the way back we ended up tagging along on the back of a tour in to some cave tunnels full of bats. At this point we were feeling pretty smug believing we had just blended in and avoided paying the £2 entry. We strutted out only to be asked to pay up, proving that even with out now off white skin we are still easy to spot amongst the other tanned tourists. Now lured away from the beauty by the familiar hum of hunger on the horizon we set off in search of a vegetarian restaurant “Dueños silvestiano”

The food was amazing and we inhaled it in record time, but then feeling super healthy and needing balance in our lives we searched for a bakery to stock up on treats for our upcoming bus trip. A doughnut and a caramel filled pastry cone in hand and we boarded the very festive looking locals bus to Riosucio.