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.

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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.

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.

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.

Climbing Colca canyon

Now don’t ask me why but for some reason this entire trip we have found new ways to torture ourselves, having ditched the hangovers in favour of a more healthy lifestyle, we seem to end up on some ridiculously intense hike every few days. This time the Colca Canion Trek which thank god we decided to do in three days rather than the very rushed suicidal two days.

The first day we met our group just us and two other girls travelling together who seem to be equally sarcastic and crude. We had actually met them in Huacachina but never got beyond pleasantries but now we got on instantly as we decended in to the canyon. The walk was only a few hours but every step down I knew would be a step up and as the hours passed the dread grew.

We stopped for lunch at a very basic place with no electricity, hot water or apparently enough food as the portions were tiny and we ate our way through nearly all our snacks just to keep us going till dinner. Dinner was also pathetically small so before we could get hungry again we climbed in to bed. A long sleep followed by a slow morning and we set out along the canion to Oasis our next stop. So a few hours later and we arrive at our new place where the portions were slightly bigger and the pool an absolute dream after walking in the mid day heat.

We all flopped around in the shade and relaxed the day away. Exchanging embarrassing stories for hours. Again there was no electricity so after dinner and a few giggles we stumbled in the pitch black back to our room and called it a night. The third and final day started with a 4am wake up. Still pitch black and on empty stomachs we started the climb up out of the worlds second deepest canion. I cursed the people who reccomended this treck every time it looked like we were about to reach the top but didn’t.

Despite the complains we were right at the front and managed the vertical climb in 2 hours rather than the suggested 3 and got to the top red faced, sweating but some of the first to make it. Yay. But it’s never over when you think it is and we still had to walk from there to breakfast which we devoured in seconds before piling on to the bus, that seemed to go on forever stopping at various view points or to see lamas whilst I nearly pissed myself. The last stop was the hot springs my favourite way to finish an intense walk.

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.