So our last stop in Brazil is the beautiful Bonito. Where we shelled out the cash for the Abismo Anhumas tour where we repelled 72 meters down a narrow passage in to a cave.
After lowering yourself down you arrive in the most eery beautiful cave with a crystal clear water lake at the bottom. The formations of the stalactites resembled wonky Willy’s, strange looking thumbs and the dementors off Harry Potter.
After a brief boat ride we struggled in to our wet suits and submerged ourselves in the freezing cold water surrounded by tiny fishes. As we swam around observing the underwater world of stalagmites rising from the ground. A few hours later freezing cold, we felt like we were being birthed as we peeled off out wet suits.
We were then pulled back to the surface and headed back to town for our night bus to Iguazu Falls. Which turned up late and was a rattley old minivan with no toilet. Time to dehydrate ourselves for twelve hours whilst out heads bang off the headrests and we silently curse bring cheapskates and not flying. We arrive at 7.30am with all our bags, no sleep and no cash. We couldn’t be more unprepared if we tried. So after leaving Daisy at the bus stop with the bags I head to the nearest supermarket to try and get some cash out for the bus. As I approach the closed supermarket it looks like a scene off a zombie apocalypse movie as three individual middle aged men stand dotted around in the car pack drunk and swaying with blank expressions on their faces. And as I join them they all Lear a bit closer making me feel slightly uncomfortable standing there in my pyjamas. The supermarket finally opens and the casualty’s head for the booze isle whilst I race to the cash point desperate to leave this place. My card doesn’t work with any of the cashpoints and I end up walking around town looking for another one. Unsuccessful I walk back towards Daisy looking like a homeless at the bus stop in her pyjamas surrounded by bags. Just before I reach her as a desperate last resort I ask the hotdog van man if I can pay 20reals on card and he can give it to me in cash, which we debate for a while, whilst daisy try’s to communicate to me with her eyes. I can only guess she asking what the fuck I am doing and where have I been. In the end we team up with a lovely Argentinian family and all bundle in to cab for a cheeper trip straight through the boarder and to the waterfalls. We arrive laden down like donkeys and find some lockers to store our things and change out of these bloody pyjamas. Grab a map and head in to the national park ready to take on the 10k of different paths to all the falls.
No amount of pictures on the internet could have prepared us for how unbelievably breathtaking the waterfalls are. And they seem to go on forever growing in size and powerfulness. The water crashes to the ground causing huge whirling spray to rise making it impossible to even see where the falls end. Some paths leave you with panoramic views whilst others leave you soaking wet as you stand staring in awe.
So now with pulsating feet and starting to lag we decided to not stay the night in Iguazu Falls and go straight to Buenos Aires instead. So we load all our worldly possessions in to can straight to the airport which we approached without even realising as the airport is still a building site. We buy a flight straight from check in desk and check straight in. Bring on Buenos Aires.
So two weeks in Florianopilis has flown by and before we know it, its time to leave. During our last week with the weather always threatening to rain and the sun struggling for its moment to shine, beaches were not on the agenda. And so sick to death with the shit chat with random hippies we will never see again. And nine bed dorms that have you waking up all through the night as people stumble around trying to find a toilet. We decided to check air bnb, absolutely the best decision we have made yet as we found a beautiful three bed apartment in a great location for the same price as a night in the hostel. So for the first time in nearly 5 months we had our own bedrooms!
We did a surf lesson on Campeche beach where I’m sure I swallowed my body weight in salty water, flashed the instructor multiple times and got completely battered by the waves. You certainly won’t see me on bay watch any time soon. Daisy on the other hand managed to ride the waves for a few seconds at a time before she plummeted to the ground. Pretty impressive. We both emerged an hour later half drowned and with stinging eyes. I will defiantly rethink my swimwear options for any future surfing. The next day we decided to swap surfing for sand boarding and headed for the dunes.
Being our second time sand boarding we managed to stand for slightly more time before falling to an even more dangerous near death. But relentlessly we got back up again and again heading for the even steeper hills, throwing ourselves down with blind faith and tumbling to the bottom bruised and covered in sand. When our hour was up we hobbled to the beach where we sat so covered in sand we almost blended in to the ground. Lunch was served by a stroppy teenager who was clearly forced to serve us and had his girlfriend hanging around in the background silently hating us with her eyes.
Finally when it came time to leave we ordered an Uber and tried to pay the bill only for both our cards to get rejected with the embarrassing insufficient funds. Fuck! The woman was not helpful but finally agreed to hotspot us some data so we could transfer the funds for lunch and scraper quickly in to our waiting cab. Running from one embarrassing shit storm to another as we covered his taxi in sand and spent the entire journey trying to discreetly brush it on to the floor. When we arrived Daisy ran in for some cash that he then didn’t have change for so after begging the neighbours we finally had the taxi paid and entered our apartment covered not only in sand but shame at the chaos of the last half an hour. That brings me to our last day where after a few days of storms where we barely left the house apart from to get the essential munchies and ate rounds of oat flour pancakes with goji berries and chia seeds until our bellies swelled and we sunk in to food like comas.
But on the final day the sun shone for us and we headed to Lagoinha de oeste a beach an hours trek away.
The treck there was easy and we chilled on the beautiful deserted beach for hours before we attempted the scenic rout back along a narrow cliff edge for over an hour where looking over the edge we could see sea lions poking up their heads for air. It then curved in to the jungle where now sweating and dangerously low on water we hoped beyond hope we hadn’t taken a tong turn somewhere.
Relief floods over us when we arrive on the beach finally. The next morning we say our goodbye to Florianopilis.
After leaving Thea I felt slightly lost, three months of clinging on to each other like leaches, whilst hiking and non stop giggling. I arrived in Ubatuba which is a town north of São Paulo, this is where the Brazilians go on holiday, to see 80 different paradise beaches – which really are paradise. I arrived at Tie hostel, where I exchanged work for accommodation. Only to find Brazilian hippes smoking weed, Incense burning all round the hostel and singing Portuguese songs which instantly reminded me of the inbetweeners “why is there always some prick with a guitar”. Let’s just say that first impression aren’t everything, within hours of being there I had met my new family for 10 days.
Constantly pointing at random objects and saying what the name is in our mother tongue, finishing every sentence with “entende” this is where I learnt not to just reply with just “Si si” as it made me look like more of a gringa.
After exploring ubatuba city I decided to volunteer at another hostel further down south called Tribo hostel. This was the place that you could spend 5 years and it only feels like a month has gone by.
A tiny little town where everyone knows each other says “bom dia” every morning, bbqs in the locals homes, dancing forró in the rain and nicknaming ubatuba “ubachuva” “chuva” means rain in Portuguese. I was extremely lucky with the people I met as Brazilians will make you your best friend within the first five minutes of meeting you even if you don’t speak their language.
We watched the stars at night guessing which ones were planets and figuring out which way is north and south, swimming all the way to the bottom of the sea bed to collect sand even if we couldn’t hear anything else for the rest of the day, jumping of the rocks not knowing if it was safe, drinking red wine, learning “portanol” which is Portuguese and Spanish combined. After a month of sunsets and sandflies it was time to say our goodbyes.
So a month has come and gone, and at first travelling solo was a breath of fresh air. After three months of echoing each other’s laughs and having debated entire life stories it felt nice to pee with the door closed and meet new people. I arrived at the Liceu my new home for the next month to find I would be sharing a tiny bedsit style room with two blokes. But it is safe to say first impressions aren’t everything! I worked about 5 hours a day, teaching English to teenagers and adults and only god knows why I was entrusted with this task! As I taught them frases like “same shit different day” and “see ya wouldn’t want to be ya”. I even had to have a student tell me the name of a semicolon. But nonetheless they left with smiles on their faces and complimented my accent! (There’s a first time for everything). Our weekends started on Friday and we explored a different beach or waterfall every day. One of these excursions found us scaling a ridiculously steep hill in the mid day heat, this is where my new companions met the red face! But what awaited us on the other side was well worth the struggle, an absolutely beautiful deserted beach to our selves.
Another of our day trips took us on a walk through the jungle to a beautiful waterfall where we shivered in the freezing cold water giggling like kids.
One weekend I went to check out a food festival near by and ended up at a full on rave with drunk teenagers and a huge stage blaring the tunes.
My mornings were spent at Muay Thai classes something I have missed on this trip. (As if I haven’t had enough red faced sweaty moments). And my evenings cooking dinner and watching live music in the square. I guess it was about 10 days in that I realised one of my room mates had a slight infatuation with me as his eyes followed me around the room and he complimented me at any given opportunity. I decided ignoring this was probably the best method as a 36 year old man so hairy he looks as if he is rolled up in a sheepskin rug, isn’t my type. Turns out he wasn’t going to let me get away that easily and a few days later at dinner he threw me in the deep end with the words “Thea have you ever thought about us?” I nearly choked on my food and awkwardly laughed back the word us. That was defiantly a conversation I would rather have avoided. And now the next two weeks I spend avoiding eye contact and trying not to instigate conversation. Which was kind of easy. My other room mate turned out to be gay! Hallelujah! And not only that be he had as dark and sarcastic humour as me! And we spent more than a few days lying on the beach perving on the surfers as the emerged from the sea like gods! And more than a few evenings watching movies surrounded by popcorn.So after a month of sunsets and sand flies it’s time to say goodbye.
I’ve loved almost every minuet but now a month later I am sick of repeating the words pen and book and explaining the difference between tall and long… and am ready to be reunited with my short, sarcastic friend again where we giggle so much we manage to alienate complete strangers in seconds.
Next stop after carnival was Paraty a place a little further down the coast. Paraty is beautiful and less busy than Rio which was a welcome change. Despite this we still managed to check in to probably the busiest party hostel with a hoard of drunken Irish cheering at any given opportunity. They were very entertaining for a short while until there already thick accents became thicker as they slurred their words and one began rambling political contradictory bullshit to people who weren’t listening whilst his friend tried his hand at beatboxing spraying the unfortunate audience with spit whilst another tried desperately to control his drunken friends shushing then every few minuets. A girl then came from another table announcing “by the way your friend just got his dick out”. This was my cue for bed. Where I lay on a ridiculously high top bunk in an overly sweaty dorm cursing the Irish as their voices boomed through the walls making my earplugs feel like megaphones. The next morning and after a sweaty Muay Thai class I was happy to see our new friends check out, and with only two broken hours of sleep we got a bus to Trinidade a nearby beach town with breathtaking views and a natural water slide a short walk through the jungle.
Waiting for the bus after a lovely day we met a man with a puppy and the cutest kid ever that hung off me trying to communicate in broken Portuguese.
The next morning we must go our separate ways, setting off on a new adventure volunteering. Daisy will be in Ubatuba learning to surf and I will be in Boisucanga teaching English.
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.
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.
Cusco is a city buried high in the mountains teeming with culture as people dance in the squares and sell alpaca items by the dozen. At 3399m above sea level the altitude has you loosing your breath at every step as you wonder the cobbled streets looking for the next vegan restaurant of which there are millions. The first night we enjoyed an amazing tuna salad and a vegetable quinoa crepe at “Hanz” the food was amazing and only the start of what was to come.
“Chia” our next vegan discovery had a salad bar included in a dirt cheep set menu meaning we visited here twice the second time to show our new hostel friends.
Our third and final discovery was Organika and by far the best where I tried my first Alpaca steak with carrot purée and a peppercorn sauce whilst Daisy enjoyed a very pretty goats cheese salad. Both washed down by some very colourful lemonades. One with beetroot the other mint.
During our stay here we decided to visit the infamous Rainbow mountains (montaña de 7 coloures) which involved a very early start where we were bundled on to a bus in the pitch black and pouring rain to drive hours before we stopped for a very disappointing breakfast. Once released from the bus we were pointed in the direction of the mountain which involved a three hour climb to over 5000m above sea level where rather than the promised mountain of 7 colours we saw only one, snow! We reached the top at the same time as a snow storm. What luck. So after a quick shivering wonder around hoping for it to clear, we gave up and scrambled back down to the cover of the bus.
On the rout back my face started to turn a familiar red and radiated heat. Turns out I must be the only person in the world who can burn in a snow storm. Great.
Huacachina is a Laguna in the middle of an expansive desert. The drive there was beautiful as sand dunes and coastal lines met.
The first day we climbed the closest sand dune where you sank in to every step so it was quite literally one step forward half a step back. We finally reached the top as it threatened to rain and collapsed two panting messes barely holding it together. A few photos and a discussion about how amazing South America is that you can be one minuet scaling a snowy mountain the next on a surfers beach and then here!
That night we went for a few cocktails with our new French mates and then headed back to our hostel Desert Nights, where we tossed and turned in a 10 bed dorm where at least half the residents were snoring and the temperature must have been well in the 30 degrees without a fan. The mosquitoes had an all you can eat buffet wherever you dared poke a limb out in the hope of lowering your body temperature. After hours of angry half consciousness we moved to the sofas where I had an all out fight with the sheet on the overly small sofa as I tried to get comfy without having an inch of skin available for the ever attacking army of mosquitos. That was definitely a war I lost as come morning I was sleep deprived and with a dot to dot on my face. That day was spent by the pool eating nachos mentally preparing for our sand boarding sunset tour.
Despite everybody’s advice we opted for the professional stand up boards rather than the tourist option of descending on your belly. A choice we were instantly unsure about after an adrenaline filled buggy tour we arrived at the top of our first dune where my belly did somersaults just looking down the steep drop. We seemed to be the only idiots choosing to board who hadn’t previously snowboarded and with no one to teach us the basics we threw ourselves off the edge managing to stand for seconds at a time before we picked up to much speed and tactfully threw ourselves on to our bums. We got only marginally better as the dunes got extremely more dangerous and the fake boarders dropped like flys giving in to their fear. Still we carried on naively. The last dune I was almost sure was a joke it looked like an absolute death trap, the people at the bottom of the hill were so small they looked like raisins in the distance. My heart absolutely pumping I accepted my fate and used my fool proof tactic of bruising my bum. Arriving at the bottom full of adrenaline and ready to go again. Next was Daisy’s turn where she came flying down the dune at a dangerous speed bent so low to the floor you couldn’t see her amongst the sand storm she was creating. Suddenly she is absorbed by the sand storm and you just see her board spiralling and bouncing off the floor as she is dragged with it. Everybody held their breath as she reached the bottom and somehow managed to rise covered in sand but apparently unharmed! With sand in her eyes, ears and mouth she hobbled over an absolute trooper. The pain only worsened during the day as she picked an entire deserts worth of sand from her nose. After showers that felt like sand paper we left in a taxi where the driver and his family (who were in the taxi with us for a discounted price) reassured us we were lucky to leave with “our legs not by our elbows” we laughed the entire way with the lovely family. Next stop Cusco
When we arrived in Huaraz we basically piggy backed a ride in a taxi, with a couple who had made a reservation before turning up at 7am, unlike us. We checked in to our room in Raju which had no window to the outside world meaning we managed to sleep until 11! Waking up delirious and disorientated we went on a hunt to soothe our bellies, we shared some street food, then wondered around town looking for a wall plug for what felt like the millionth time. Turns out electronics don’t last out here. Missions fulfilled we went to head home only to realise we didn’t have a clue of our hostels name and had walked beyond our sense of direction. Now feeling like absolute prats and wondering how we always manage to end up in these situations, by absolute chance we stumbled cross our hostel that was not in fact named Abdul as daisy thought or frow as I had thought. That evening we befriended an Irish lad staying in our hostel and grabbed some cheep dinner and beers together whilst discussing unsolved scuba diving accidents, shark attacks and other dark interesting story’s. I believe our interest in these subjects might have scared him of ,as once we got back to the hostel he agreed to a cup of tea and just disappeared with his tea going cold.
The next morning at 5 am we set off on our tour to Laguna 69. The buss journey was long and we drifted between conversation and sleep. We set off at an optimistic pace the moment the doors opened gawping at the already fantastic views. With dominating cliffs and mountains looming in every direction.
After trecking for a few hours where you would scramble up vertical hills and at the top be greeted with amazing flat fields full of cows and scattered Laguna’s. Only to have to scramble up again. Where I was unsure if It was the views of the altitude that were taking my breath away.
It was definitely the altitude as the last 1km dragged, we stoped regularly to catch our breath only to loose it again instantly. The view that greeted us at the top was worth every achey step!
Huge icy mountains surrounded a lagoon so amazingly blue it didn’t look real, the sort of thing you see a photo off and assume is edited.
It is here that we all chose an individual rock and drifted off feeling peaceful and accomplished.
The walk back was an absolute breeze despite the headaches. We chewed some coca leaves supposedly good for altitude and headed back to the city arriving at 8pm. We ate a rushed but beautiful Indian at Chilli Heaven, the portions were huge which was definitely necessary after a full day of hiking surviving only on snacks.
Next stop Lima.