Crazy Carnival in Rio de Janeiro

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.

Lost in a Landslide

After 4 gruelling days of jungle trekking and endless stairs we were more than ready to embark on the short 3 hour walk to our bus back to Cusco.

We began watching the journey that had taken us days whiz past our eyes. But it could never have been just a five hour journey now could it! We hit a line of traffic and very reassuringly our driver instantly muttered that we weren’t getting home tonight and to stay in the car as it was still dangerous outside. We awaited his return for all of 10 minuets before walking up ahead to see what the commotion was. A landslide covering the only road back!

There we could see our bus driver lording over the pile seemingly shouting orders but doing nothing. Whilst all the firemen stood around watching a simple bus driver throw his weight around. The only equipment they seemed to have bought was a long rope we used for a giant game of tugawar with a tree, needless to say the tree won. About an hour in the firemen all rounded up and dispersed having been absolutely no help. So now with no authority apart from a few scruffy bus drivers and some eager to get home passengers we began to shovel mud handfuls at a time off the edge of the cliff. Scrambling with the branches of trees trapped in the mess as they tore our hands to bits only for the cuts to be instantly plastered with mud. The rocks were a group effort as we rolled them out of the road. Headlights turned on to illuminate the muddy faced hills have eyes looking people we had now become, as we continued clawing at mud for hours. As night fell the genius opportunists from the surrounding towns started appearing in the crowds selling hot chocolate and sandwiches, a car pumped up the techno and with the car lights peering from either side of the mound it began to feel like a party gone wrong.

The hours passed and rumours spread from the other side that there were busses turning around and heading back to Cusco, so we checked the driver would wait whilst we went to see, we sacked in the digging and crossed. Waded through a few rivers only to find we were too late all the busses had gone! Now soaking wet, covered in mud and damn right pissed off we retraced our steps returning to find the bus no longer there. So now completely stranded in the middle of nowhere with a very temperamental landslide that could go again at any minute. We decided our best bet was to try to walk back to the town we had stayed in at the start of our trek. This happened to be a lot further that we remembered and we seemed invisible to passing cars as we stood in the middle of the road desperately waving our hands around. Finally we got picked up by a lovely family who cleared the back seats of any possessions before letting 4 smelly wet Brit’s clamber in to the back. We arrived at gone 3am and everything was closed as we wondered town banging on any door looking vaguely like a hostel. We did manage to bag some bread rolls and cans of tuna to tame our rumbling bellies and eventually as we almost gave up and had started eyeing up doorways, we found an open window pushed it open with a timid “hola” and managed to get the hostel owners to let us in. I almost hugged the guy with relief but I’m glad I didn’t as a wet muddy faced stranger hug at 4am would have only got us turned away. I don’t think any of us even said good night before we fell asleep surrounded by crumbs and tuna cans. I had an ice cold shower in the morning where I washed the mud dreadlocks out of my hair and scrubbed and soaked my hands only to find the mud was stubbornly unremovable and remained there for a few days despite how many times I washed them. We payed for another bus back to Cusco only to stop at the same point, turns out the landslide fell again just before we got there, and even 24hrs on the only machinery was one spade and the only authority was a set of new bus drivers. We only waited an hour this time before finally crossing. Three hours later we got back to Cusco and march straight up to the tour company to give them a piece of our minds only to be called liers and have water thrown at us.

But not about to let this taint a great week with some amazing people we went back to Organika and ate till our tummies were sore. All finished off with the biggest pancake known to man. Nothing like some good food to numb out aches and tame our tempers. Goodbye Cusco.

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.

Ladies of leisure in Lima

Lima is a culinary maze and we have definitely over indulged in our gluttonous stay. Walking through various neighbourhoods stopping to share a plate in every interesting looking place trying to fit in many different dishes a day. One afternoon after a free breakfast we wondered the 5k across Miraflores to the other end of Barranco stopping at a place called “Bao” serving up some very mouth-watering delicious steamed rice buns filled with a range of different succulent meats and pickled veggies.

Next stop was to try Aji de gallina a traditional chicken and walnut stew said to be the best in “Las Mesitas”.

Next stop was “Barra Mar” where we tried another Peruvian speciality, Causa, potato, avocado and fish beautifully presented as a tower.

Despite my ever growing appetite during this trip, I can safely say there has only been two occasions where I have felt like I have completely overdone it. And fallen in to a food gouch so extreme I can no longer walk or talk only undo my trouser buttons sigh and hope the moment will pass. This was one of those occasions. To Daisy’s great amusement I walked 10 very slow steps and flopped on to the local park bench with an uncomfortable look on my face. In some kind of self inflicted food coma. After a few self pitying moments we decided the only way to solve this dilemma was ice cream! So a place we had seen with cues round the block became our next victim. Where we asked to try almost every flavour before making a purchase and flopping on to their sofas to indulge once more.

Still heavy with food we opted for a bus back unable to carry the excess weight back home. On the journey back I honestly thought this was us done for the day and that there was no way we would be hungry again for dinner. How wrong I was. A few hours later I was ready to go again and with it being the Chinese New Year and all the talk of the amazing Chinese/Peruvian collaboration dishes we couldn’t help ourselves and headed out to “Wa Lok” a highly rated restaurant. The food was expensive but we couldn’t resist and ordered the prawn and scallop dumplings and the stewed tofu to share.

We waited an age for the food and when it did come out it was very lack lustre and Luke warm. Leaving us underwhelmed.

The next day we were trying to cut costs before our extremely expensive reservation at restaurant central, number 6 of the worlds best. Breakfast was the free kind and we whipped up some cheep pasta for lunch. A quick wonder around town and a catch up of chefs table and we put on our most sophisticated outfits and set off. The food was like nothing else I’ve ever tried. After being shown to our table we were presented with a pleasant looking palette cleanser made with some very subtle Peruvian Fruits and a home made edible flower ice cube.

Next they bought an entire loaf of amazingly soft dense purple looking bread with a melt in your mouth it’s so soft butter cream and a herbaceous pesto.

The first of our eight course tasting menu was the sea bass and clams, which felt like an incredibly balanced ceviche where acidity and sweetness came together in the most complimentary way. The plum sauce was to die for and you were left with a subtle nutty hint at the end.

Next up the scallops and seeds, served with a new to us Peruvian vegetable, where they had appeared to have frozen and charred the meaty part and flaked the seeds from inside. The sauce packed a punch of ginger and lime.

Next was the tubers, thinly sliced and pickled yucca and potatoes so colourful and precisely cut and plated. Sat on a smokey creamy substance.

Next was the cured duck an absolute explosion of flavour and my favourite dish! The duck was beautifully crispy the squid perfectly cooked and the absolute balance of texture needed. Served with a bread type pitta I had to ask was edible. Now I’m the sort of person who only knows duck to be covered in hoisin and wrapped in a pancake at my local Chinese so this was amazing and definitely the best duck pancake I’ve ever eaten!

Course number five was named vegetable diversity and was a combination of flavours and textures I’ve never tried leaving me feeling a little bit confused but delighted. So thin they were almost see through vegetable noodles on an intense coffee broth and served with artichokes crisps. Tasting slightly bitter and earthy in all the right ways.

Next the beef cooked for 14 hours, it actually melted in my mouth! The sauce was rich and tasty with some sort of foam. The burnt corn purée was super creamy with chunks of all different coloured corn, lurking like little hidden surprises.

The first of our two deserts the Frozen Pomerose (whatever that is) was a beautiful bright pink frozen substance covered in a herby green dust sat on a sweet cream with some apple flakes.

Dessert number two was cocoa from the mill, let’s just say I didn’t know chocolate and honey could taste soo good.

Lastly they presented us with some chocolate Bonbons beyond words. Throughout the entire meal the service was effortless the staff topped up our wine at exactly the right moment and the chefs came and explained every dish we were presented with. The evening was a type of sophistication I would love to get used to and I left a very happy full lady! Lima has been some of the best food I’ve ever eaten from the local classics to the Michelin stars they know their way around a kitchen!

Hangovers in Huanchaco

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!

Mooching in Mancora

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.

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.