Sassy São Paulo

São Paulo feels like home from home and after the small town life we fall in love with the city. The tubes are more than efficient and make London look prehistoric with its cramped, delayed sweaty tubes. The carriages feel like penthouses with their air con and colourful chairs that don’t force you to sit in a rows avoiding eye contact with a stranger.

The area we are staying in is riddled with beautiful boutiques selling one off items, and having worn our clothes to extinction. Every item showing the signs of abuse. We decide it is finally time to lay our misshapen, off white, stained things to rest and adopt a new wardrobe. Day two and we head to Buntantan food and vintage clothes market where people rout through piles of junk looking for that one gem amongst the smell of dead peoples clothes. Then head to the food stalls and shoulder their way to the front to shout their order at very rushed looking staff. We indulged in both parts of this process and head home with yet more clothes. Feeling like something off a chic flick we defiantly got carried away and after two days we emerge new women. We now look far too clean for our hostel and hit the town. Where we end up in a swanky bar that reminds us of London. The gin and tonics go straight to our heads and before we know it we have joined a party of english speakers who meet up once a week to practice English. It’s a win win they get to hear a pissed up Brit in its natural habitat and we get to look like we actually have friends. And although we are in a swanky place we are still overdressed as we managed to turn up for a pyjama party themed night.

We stumble back to the hostel after an embarrassing money issue with the taxi driver where our card got declined so we showered him in change and left whilst he counted the coins. We managed it up the stairs and demanded a lighter so we could make drunken munchies before stumbling to bed armed with water. The next morning we rise, somehow without hangovers and feeling like we were winning at life we decide to hit the town again this time with a new friend. Once again we drink too much and chat political bollocks we know nothing about before deciding our bellies need attention and head to the Mexican up the road. We get multiple rounds of tacos before heading to a night club. A night club we decided was far too expensive so instead hung around outside drinking neat whisky and chatting to the locals. But Realising we could no longer stomach our drinks and every mouthful was a challenge we thought it sensible to head home.

The next morning barely a hangover in sight we head to the Japanese part of town where two quick efficient tubes later and you emerge from the station wondering how you made it all the way to Japan. The streets converted in to a marked wafting different delicious smells from every direction. Now with not enough belly space for all the new creations we want to try we get tactful deciding to order one of everything and split it therefore trying the maximum amount of flavours. The giant gyoza was swimming in a delicious sauce and the steamed bun felt like sinking your teeth in to a cloud. The prawn balls weren’t quiet as good but then maybe by this point we were spoilt. Followed by some sweet bean pancakes that really confuse the tastebuds in a good way. Next we move on the nick nack stalls where we buy things we don’t need at prices too cheep to question. A quick wonder around the town and the worlds tiniest Japanese garden and it’s time to drag our swollen bellies home. Deciding to walk it off before getting the tube, we leave Japan behind us and walk towards home where we stumble upon a run down part of town with a pile of puke every few meters and old grey buildings towering above us. After having only seen the bright lights of São Paulo its certainly a contrast. That evening after a few rounds of cards we take over the Netflix area dominating the sofas with our blankets and watch kill bill, and in every loading break we make up the stories to go with the Portuguese comics lying around. Giggling enough to drive the other back packers away wondering what we have smoked. (Let’s not tell them that we are naturally this blonde).

The next morning and time to say goodbye to our new friend and head out for more sight seeing. We start the day my favourite way and go for lunch. Where we order enormous bowls of ramen from Lamen Kazu, they defiantly live up to expectations and I slurp the contents down in record time and then help Daisy finish hers. (Moments like this remind me why we work so well travelling together). Next trying to fit in as many things in one day we walk home the scenic rout stopping at a park, then going to the top of a sky scraper for our classic view point where we were offered complimentary champagne. Winning! We stop at another park on the way home where we watch a hoard of skaters whiz by, a girl practising some very energetic dance routine to no music and a lost looking gringo play the harmonica. Wondering what the people watching us must think. On the way home we pop in to “Coffee lab” and order two caçhasa coffees… and wow they tasted like liquid heaven I won’t say more but go there!

Another day of adventures and we wonder back to our haven of a hostel “cafe hostel” where the owner is non stop singing, creating a ripple affect around the hostel as we all echo his cheesy tunes. That evening we head for falafel wraps at “Haya falafel” where we chose kale wrapped falafels and pumpkin houmos! Yummy!

That brings us to day five in the city and we head to the park to read our books in the sun, before visiting the modern art museum offering free entry on Tuesdays! We then head for lunch in “Jiquitia” where you can choose any three dishes on the menu to make your own set menu. Despite them being run out of everything the choices we did have were very nice. Made better by the incredibly sweet desserts. We arrive back home to find the hostel overrun with professional looking cameras and enough camera men to create a block buster movie. Only it’s not so no chance of us becoming famous no matter how much we hover around awkwardly trying to find a corner to ourselves.

So it’s our last day in São Paulo and what better way to spend it than to jump 12000feet out of an airplane for the bargain price on £50, which does beg the question is the parachute included? You’ll be sorry to hear it was and we will continue to clog your news feed for the foreseeable future. The dive was amazing despite missing our bus there and having to pay an overpriced taxi.

We all huddled in the back of the mini plane practically sat on each other’s laps, Nervously giggling as we watched the earth turn in to a patchwork quilt. After watching daisy plummet through the sky it was finally my turn. I dangled half in half out the aircraft and when thrown out my giggles morphed in to screams and my stomach struggled to catch up with me as the adrenaline coursed my body! All too soon the parachute is deployed and a few spins and a journey through a cloud later and I land on my feet only to be pulled back on to my bum in a fit of giggles.I feel like a child wanting to demand again again. That night we head to the bus station hoping to get the night bus to Florianopolis only to find out that we would have to wait till 23.30pm! Note to self: always book busses first unless you really enjoy 3 hours sat on uncomfortable plastic chairs people watching.

Parting in Paraty

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.

Marching to Machu Picchu

So after lots of debate we decided on the inka jungle trail to Machu Pichu where you are promised not only ancient ruins but a side of adrenaline along the way with mountain biking, zip lines and hot springs included. So we haggled on the price, recruited some friends and set off. The first day after a short drive we were geared up with protective clothing and half decent bikes and sent down the mountain promised that although it was 58km over half was downhill. This didn’t stop us peddling till our legs went numb as we each tried to keep up with the figure in front. As we swerved giant rocks and passing cars whist splashing through rivers that snaked over the roads. At the start we were high up in the mountain with crisp cold air but as we descended in to the jungle we were hit with a hot humid tropical wall of heat and minuets later the rain began, the clouds fell around us making visibility tough as we wound our way down. But almost as sudden as it started a very clear line in the road where one side was soaked and the other bone dry marked the leaving of the rainy area.

And two hours later we arrived to meet the van soaked through and hearts pounding ready for the first of our quinoa soups. That evening we relaxed at our accommodation playing cards before a very disruptive nights sleep as parrots, cockerels and crickets all competed for our attention. At least once during the night we were convinced our tour guide had turned in to a ware wolf clambering around on the roof.

Day two after a very early breakfast we set off on our 21km walk with absolutely no idea how far that really is… VERY FAR! We walked along a powerful whirl-pooling river and through the dense jungle where we weaved between towering plants and tornadoes of mosquitos before coming across a family who clearly lived here in this dangerous nowhere. They prepared an array of strange jungle fruit for us to try, most of which was politely accepted but discreetly spat back out as the the warm substances resembled my vomit. We then bought some 100% natural fruit ice lollies which were absolutely delicious and set off on the worst part of this journey. What felt like a five hour walk up an impressively sized mountain whilst we all sweated and questioned if we were there yet like the annoying children we never grew out of. During the journey we stopped at every given opportunity as the guide explained the many medicinal purposes of the plants surrounding us. The view from the top was amazing and we were grateful for the breeze so high up.

We stopped of at monkey lodge where we tried a few local spirits infused with random herbs and snakes, ate chocolate doused in honey and watched some parrots bathe (not in a creepy way). The walk down was spent not nearly as out of breath but with toes cramped up in the front of our shoes as we walked vertically downwards towards lunch yet another quinoa soup set menu! More walking and a very questionable cable car to cross the river that was operated by two jungle dwellers who pulled us across in twos and grunted for payment before we finally arrived at the hot springs where we calmed our aches and washed the sweat away in a bath full of strangers. Before eating multiple chicken sticks and heading to dinner. A scramble of a buffet as we tried to load up on enough carbs to fill out constantly rumbling tummy’s.

Day three was the zip lines as we all anxiously geared up and threw ourselves off the side of mountains soaring at incredible speed to the bottom where the next line awaited. The last was done upside down with our legs in the air as we resembled monkeys. We then walked 11km on our already blistered feet following the train tracks all the way to lunch. A quick game of cards and we began the last 3hrs of our journey to Aguas Calientes our last stop before Machu Pichu, where we spent the night exchanging foot massages in preparation for the 4000 stair climb awaiting us the next morning.

Finally the day had arrived with a 4.30am pitch black morning walk as we headed to the steps of doom. We all split up choosing our pace, as we climbed and climbed and climbed panting in unison with the surrounding strangers only stopping to down water and comment on the intensity. We managed the supposedly two hour climb in an hour proving the stairs were not as never ending as we once thought. Once in we were herded straight to the entrance of waynu pichu a mountain that has surely earned it’s name from the moans of the people stupid enough to climb the thing, and extra we had added on before we knew what leg pain was. On the way up we wondered what we would possibly see through the wall of fog surrounding us but as we struggled on one foot in front of the other we watched the clouds rise around us with such speed that it looked unreal and once at the top the view now clear reminded us why we had chosen this torture. As we cracked open our well prepared tuna salads and sat amongst the ruins enjoying the sunshine.

The decent down ruined our knees but not our spirits as we laughed at bad jokes and ate any snack in sight. That night we feasted like kings in the market diner for little more than £1. Ready for the trip back the following day. Where clean clothes and dry shoes awaited us.

Hardcore sand boarding in Huacachina

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

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.

Powering palomino

Another day another tan line. This time an awkward neck burn caused by shit sun cream application. There is more skill involved in this apparently simple task than meets the eye. So our first evening here in palomino welcomed the first of a series of blackouts that have happened throughout our stay. Meaning no lights, phone reception or WiFi! So after walking through an apparent ghetto, looking for a better rout to town than through the woods we found a nice bar with a back up generator so we pitched up there to wait for our friends from back home. Hoping that they would be drawn in by the music and lights. We were in luck a few hours later we recognised their silhouettes and signalled them in. A nice dinner later with our very jet lagged companions where at least one person was starring off in to space at any given moment and we all retired to bed exhausted but optimistic for tubing the next day. Another early start and we waited on the beach for the others to arise. Then we all set off in the mid day sun with giant tubes balanced on our heads on an uphill sweaty trek. We expected some sort of rapid adventure but instead it was the most chilled lazy river ever, where we marvelled at the surrounding beauty for the first 10 minuets then spent the next hour with clenched bladders and complaining about the lack of food and beer. When the river finally washed up on the beach, six very hungry sunburn Brit’s rushed back to civilisation for some falafel wraps and beers. That evening we passed by a restaurant I been recommended “7 mares” it was completely empty and my so called comedian friends sarcastically joked about making a reservation. Karma hit us when after a few cocktails we tried to return for dinner to find every table full! So after a few walks up and down the street staring desperately in willing the people to eat faster and leave, we decided our bellies could wait no more and settled for pizza.

Saying goodbye to San Gil

So San Gil flew by, I’m still struggling to decide if my highlight was white water rafting or the Italian burger from Gringo Mikes which no word of a lie is the best burger I’ve ever eaten! We set off about 8 of us from the hostel for the rafting, on arrival they did a half hour safety briefing explaining that this wasn’t just a fun day out but an extreme sport and then proceeded to explain how dangerous it was! It was at this moment as we struggled to stay focused on what he was saying and were more concerned about sun burn that we seriously began to wonder if it was such a great idea to take part in level 5 rapids (rapids only go up to level 6) when it is one of the few things our insurance doesn’t cover. We jokingly discussed how anyone injured would have to put a brave face on it until we got far enough away from the scene of the crime that we could blame it on something else! We hopped in to the boat a flurry of nervous laughter and realised we were at the front therefore leading the whole team, poor souls! We swallowed our body weight in dirty river water struggling to stop the boat capsizing! At one point the instructor shouted inside and I leapt maybe a bit too enthusiastically as the whole boat tipped to one side and I ended up on top of Daisy almost knocking her out with my paddle! The boat became a paddling pool as it filled with water and we frantically continued to paddle as it slowly drained out and we made it back alive and well! Now all on a hype from the rafting we tried to instigate a pool party back at our hostel which was an epic fail where we drank overpriced rum and passed out by 12am! A few rushed hungover goodbyes to our new friends after a day lazing by the pool and we set off on the night bus to Santa Marta!