A Travellerspoint blog

Colombia

Cartagena

sunny 35 °C
View Esther's Adventure on spacebooth's travel map.

Hola amigos,

The thought of leaving my new friends is almost too much to handle. I will miss them more than you could imagine. I'm also slowly coming to the realization that it's not always about where you're travelling, but whom you travel with. I love d, v, c, s and t a lot. But I bite the bullet and book a flight to Colombia. Cuzco, Lima, Bogota and finally Cartagena. Ive had a great time and it's time for the next chapter. Colombia!

After a very late night I leave The Point with a tear in my bleary eye, in a taxi bound for the airport. I wave goodbye to Vikki and Clare from the back window and they get smaller and smaller, as we crawl down the busy street leaving Cuzco. The airport is not far and soon I'm checking in for my flight bound for Lima. I'm glad I decided not to do the twenty hour bus ride from Cuzco. Its a luxury to fly, but Ive heard that the road is horrible. I sit down outside the gate and spill half a coke bottle over my leg. The whole day is then spent in airports. Collecting my backpack from various carousels and rechecking in for the next leg (with a sticky leg). Everything runs on time, so can't really complain. I meet a nice Colombian man and his son on route from Lima to Bogota. Half way through the flight he asks the stewardess for a bowl of water. Then opens a bag which I hadn't noticed, on the floor between his legs. He has a puppy in it! Very cute and the first mutt I've ever seen on a flight. It's actually not a mutt, but some pedigree which the man breeds in Lima and sells via the Internet in Colombia. I think of e-pups and Pet back in London. I miss Pet.

I arrive Cartagena rather tired but very excited. I jump in a cab which takes me to the Marlin Hotel on Calle Media Luna. The hotel was a tip from Jade and Steve. I check in to my very own room with en suite. LUXURY!! Its about 100 degrees though and a sweaty as a Swedish sauna. I'm dripping and I feel my hair going boing, it's going to be curly!. After the last two months though the heat feels wonderful. Bolivia and Peru were sunny in the day but cold at night. Ive been cold to the bone for too long. I relish the warmth. Cartagena is a beautiful Colonial town on the Caribbean coast of Colombia. It was the main port the Spanish used to ship all the gold and sliver to Europe, it also had a dubious slave trade. I have always wanted to go ever since watching Romancing the Stone with Michael Douglas and Kathleen Turner. I wish I could have an adventure like hers. I wander the streets and find the food market. Amazing fruits, weird pancake things with cheese being cooked on hot plates (arepas), fresh donuts and tamales tolimenses (rice and beans and bits wrapped in banana leaves). I stuff my face and hope I don't succumb to motezumas revenge. I get back to the hotel. My room is now rather unpleasant, it's so hot that even the fan just seems to blow the sticky air onto you. I have a beads of sweat rolling off me.

After a good look round Cartagena I find the best cake shop ever. It's beautifully decorated and serves the best chocolate brownie with dulche de leche and coffee. It seems full of wealthy Colombians, I imagine they've made their money through the drug trade which I hear makes up 80% of Colombia's GDP. I love my furtive imagination. I sip my coffee and let the brownie and toffee melt on my tongue. In the evening relax in the reception area to read my book (uncomfortable wooden chairs). I meet Brian from Wisconsin. He's very nice and invites me out for dinner with his friends. I meet Tristan and Dor, Australian and Israeli respectively. We end up all going out for dinner with a German girl also travelling on her own. Cartagena is quite touristy but we seem to have a problem finding a suitable bar/club for after dinner. After walking round Cartagena about three times we end up and The Banana Bar. Which is essentially a hooker bar, catering for all the sailors who turn up in the port. It's fascinating to see all the working girls and their fake boobs, I don't need my imagination at all here. We end up all back in the boys room which has air con and is bliss. I'm invited to move in with them as they have a spare bed. I can't tell you how good air con is. It ruins my life. I cant live without it now. We spend the next few days literally just chilling in the room or going to the beach. Dor and I visit a Colombian Homebase to get a plug for his hair clippers. Its home from home, it has everything. Including mock Cotswold cladded gas fires?! One evening I've said I will cook for the boys and for a Colombian guest called Margarita (whom is a friend of a friend of Dors). I make a chicken stew with rice and Dor makes a yummy salad. The utensils in the kitchen are stupid. So it's quite an achievement to get anything. I cook with a massive spoon (abnormally big) in a pan with a burnt black bottom. The knives are so blunt it's like cutting with the blunt edge. We end up at a Salsa bar down the road till the early hours. Brian ends up in the clutches of Margarita (formidable), spending the rest of the romantic night in a room opposite ours (my old old room), he sneaks back into ours and the air con in the morning having escaped her...Unfortunately she left her sunglasses with us. We leave them behind reception for her and Brian keeps a low profile for the next few days. It's very relaxed in Cartagena and I love just watching the world go by. There is a great balcony in our hotel which overlooks the street. One morning we watch the sunrise from here and I hear a woman screaming in Spanish on the street below, obviously drunk and wasted. Dor translates the Spanish for me: "I'm not going to bed until someone fucks me for money". She shouts this for the next twenty minutes until I head to bed. I'm sad, Calle Media Luna is sad. Its a poor street and although I'm lucky to be here and travelling. I'm surrounded by real lives which are lived on the edge. It's easy to miss this side of life.

The next morning I head into town for a fresh orange juice. There is jolly woman with an orange stall. While I'm waiting for my juice I'm asked by a 60something man (he looks like he should be in the Sopranos) if I'd like a seat next to him while I drink my juice. The woman knows him, so I sit with him and drink my juice. He starts talking with me and I understand some of what he's saying but a younger man joins us and ends up translating. The man wants to know about my trip and if I'm single. He has always wanted a blond English wife apparently. I say I am, and he then offers to marry me!? Officially my first ever proposal. I sip my juice and have to answer no, but he's kind for asking and I blush at the thought. That evening we are invited to a house party. It's in a flat overlooking the main square in Cartagena. It's the first time in ages I hear good music and mix with people other than fellow travellers. I start drinking rum straight which I really like. You end up drinking a ton of pop otherwise.

The next day I check out, say bye to the boys and head to Santa Marta on the bus. Colombians are super friendly and I love Colombia!

The Cartagena sloth in the park, so sweet, so slow!
Rollerblade track with girls in cycling catsuits.
Tristan/Dor love triangle (ridiculous).
Breakfast, we order the same thing but its always arrives different.
Coffee = addict
Medellin Rum, straight, the only way to drink it.
Could be married andliving in Colombia...?!

xxxxxxxx

Posted by spacebooth 00:33 Archived in Colombia Tagged backpacking Comments (0)

Peru

Cuzco and Machu Picchu

sunny 16 °C
View Esther's Adventure on spacebooth's travel map.

Hello again,

God I'm so far behind. Not sure whats happened but just not getting to Internet as much as I'd like. The equipment in Bolivia and now in Peru is not of the highest quality. I miss my power book. So we book this tour bus thing which takes all day and we drive through some spectacular scenery in Peru. Pucara, Andahuaylillas...I think? Colonial churches and an Inca Village. I'm sort of shocked at the revelation that the Incas were around in the fifteen hundreds. Of course they were wiped out by the Spanish Conquistadors. Somehow I knew this fact but didn't put two and two together. I have to say my history from School has generally let me down quite badly. Doing it in German probably didn't help. We also stop at more (really cool, subjective) vendors selling knitted stuff along the way. Vikki, Clare and I have an addiction, all things knitted. Mine's been brewing for a while now. But it's quite dire, we can't go past any stall without having a good look through the wares just in case there's something new we haven't seen. Danny and Sean just roll their eyes at us, they don't understand...Actually I don't really understand either. I see a hat which I want, but its way too expensive. I'm snapped wearing it and the more I see it now and think of it Id wish Id got it. Alpaca fur, too cool! We stop for a big buffet lunch along the way. A man walks straight into a glass door right in front of us. Luckily he doesn't break the door, but his head must be very sore. There is a big greasy forehead and nose mark on the glass. We try very hard not to laugh. Why do I alway have the urge to burst out laughing at inappropriate moments? Story of my life. Finally after a long, but interesting day we arrive in Cuzco; gringo capital of the world. It's much bigger than I expect and very poor on the outskirts as we drive in. As we near the centre it gets more and more developed and prettier. The bus drops us about a ten minute taxi ride from the centre. We head into town, to Loki Cuzco to try and get in a dorm. Its full! So plan B, 'The Point'. But also full for the night. We book in the following day when they have availability. The boys head off to find a bed for the night. We end up in a little hotel, in a vaulted room overlooking a pleasant square. I go to sleep that night imagining all the comings and goings, people and things the room has seen. I love history, I feel like I do in Rome, all historical. I need to learn more history. Cuzco centre is beautiful, its an old colonial centre is built on Inca foundations. The whole place feels neat and well looked after. It's very touristy and although us travellers shun all things gringo. For instance there is an English pub which serves pie, chips n gravy, and PG tips (yuk but strangely attractive after nearly five months away and guess what, ace!). Also another cafe which we head to for breakfast and which serves the best bacon, egg and tomato jam sandwich ever in the history of sandwiches. I dream of it still now. We eat well in Cuzco after a month of crap.

A day or two of chilling and looking for a tour which will take us to to Machu Picchu. I'm going to be doing the trek with Clare and Sean. Vikki and D have booked the Inca trail for June, which I'd like to have done but it's booked up till September or something? We decide to do a two day tour, which will take us through the Scared Valley, then train us to Agua Callientes. One night in a hostel, then the day at Machu Picchu and back home to Cuzco. It's priced OK and we book it for the next day. That evening we end up out clubbing till about 5am in the morning. I have to leave on the tour at 7am. I'm very hungover. The Sacred Valley really wows you, so much so that I struggle though all day without complaint (well maybe the odd moan). Our 'tour' bus is decidedly gringo. We have Japanese, Taiwanese, Dutch, German, Swedish, French and English. Including a single English guy who's in his fifties and regards wearing very short denim jeans cut off shorts with his, I can only assume shaved legs, OK. Wrong! and it doesn't do anything for my feeling nauseous. After a very long day we get the train up to Agua Callientes. It's a nearly 2-3 hour ride, I fall into a beautiful seated sleep and wake with a nice crick in my neck. We get to the hostel and bed down for the night. The plan is to wake at 4am to climb up Machu Picchu at 4.30am?! Why? Oh yeah to see the first rays hitting the site. The alarm goes and its a few minutes before I can rouse myself. But then we spring into action and head out. The sweet hostel owner has made us some sandwiches because we're missing breakfast. We head out toward the path that leads us up to the ancient site. We don't actually know the way. There don't seem to be any signs, plus is bloody dark. It's so dark that we can't see any of the landscape around us. After about 10 mins, we think we're going the right way, a dog finds us and makes friends with us. We follow him and he leads us the right way! He's an Inca dog. We then start walking up giant steps for about an hour and ten minutes. It's exhausting but rewarding. Slowly the dawn brakes through the morning mists. It's breathtaking as the scenery unfolds before our eyes. We've climbing through jungle and the mountains and chasms between, seem to float in the air and mist. I'm speechless and breathless. Going up goes on forever. We reach the summit, the entrance to the park at about 5.45am. We wait for our guided group and head into the park. Jaw dropping, gob smacking, tear jerkingly beautiful. I cant believe how incredible it is. You have to go.

We spend a whole day (till about 4pm) wandering around. Sean and I climb up Waynepicchu, which towers over the site. There are a lot a people, but the site is also quite large. So there is plenty of space and you never feel too close to anyone. I have a sleep on a sunny stretch of grass for an hour or so. I wake and open my eyes once and see two condors circling high above me. Machu Picchu really is magical, I can feel the energy.

After a very long day we get walk back down into the Valley. We're exhausted and in our own way have done an Inca trek. I'm very proud of myself. We go straight for some food, having not eaten since breakfast. We're all exhilarated but spaced out and nobody speaks. But we're happy and just taking in what we've all seen and experienced. It's a mission getting back to Cuzco, but I've forgotten that, and think only of Machu Picchu and its incredible power.

We meet up with the boys again in Cuzco (Dom and Dan). Plus on route up to Machu Picchu I bump into Jade and Steve who I last saw sitting on Ipanema beach in April! We have decided to meet up and go out for a curry. It's delicious but cold. I like a cold curry but only for breakfast.

The time has arrived for me to separate from my trusty travelling companions. How lucky have I been?! I met Vikki and Danny on the 36hour bus from Bariloche to El Calafate in Argentina early March. I met up with them again in Rio, where I introduced them to Thiago. We've now travelled though Bolivia and Peru together. Along the way we also met Clare and Sean and Tommy. We've been inseparable since and it's wonderful that a group of strangers can get on as if we've known each other for ages and ages. They are all friends for life and have enriched my trip immeasurably. I have two and a half weeks before I have to fly from Santiago, Chile to Auckland, New Zealand. I book a flight to Cartagena, Colombia!

No Bolivian wotsits available in Peru.
Guinea pig dinner.
Baby alpaca bottle feeding.
Post office, sending parcels, panic about them ever getting home.
Flip Flops and leg warmers.
Maltesers.
The Swedish chav.
The Funk - name of our dorm room because it smelled 'Funky' - like a dungeon.
The bag of weed I bought, which wasn't.
Mama Africa's for my leaving party, bed at 7am...oops.

Colombia here I come!

xxxxxx

Posted by spacebooth 15:57 Archived in Peru Tagged backpacking Comments (0)

Bolivia / Peru

Copacobana / Lake Titicaca / Islas del Sol / Puno

sunny 18 °C
View Esther's Adventure on spacebooth's travel map.

Another bus journey to endure. Bolivia buses = crap! This time we have to get off the bus to allow it to cross the lake. It's all actually OK, just a bit of a hassle. On off, on off. It looks like the thing will sink. Lake Titicaca is beautiful, it's waters are deep crystal blue reflecting the sky. We arrive and check into a gaudy looking hotel right on the lake front. It's been recommended to us by an Aussie girl at Loki in La Paz. The three girls share a room as do the three boys. We watch a beautiful sun set on the lake whilst drinking some beers and some insipidly sweet white wine that the boys found.

I'm really bored of eating out. Theres no romance in it anymore. We go to a fish restaurant, promising us local farmed trout. Like any business in Bolivia. One place starts with a unique concept. Then a dozen other venues pop up and then generally they all go bust because they haven't enough clientele. This has happened with trout farming and restaurants around Lake Titicaca. I order trout tacos (yes, stupidly). I'm remembering 50 cent (fiddy) fish tacos in California which were good. These aren't.

I'm feeling rather fragile after La Paz so decide that Copacabana will sooth me by letting me spend some money on nice things. I buy some beautiful antique Bolivian throws and some woolly socks. Instantly I feel better. I will try to send the throws back to the UK. They're really heavy. I have now got my backpack which is at saturation point. Another day pack which I bought for fifteen quid in BA and my trusty Muji hand bag thing. Which I hate but its just so bloody practical. I bought myself a nice sew on patch in Potosi, to make it more personal. I have no way of sewing on (sensible thick Japanese fabric). So the patch lives in my moleskin notebook, slipped into the sleeve at the back.

We have booked a day trip out to Islas del Sol in the morning. Up bright and early we head for breakfast, banana sandwiches and coffee. I'm drinking loads of coffee now, never used to. Then off to the harbour to catch our boat. The boat holds about fifty people and has two small outboard motors to move it, one's broken. It officially becomes to slowest boat journey ever. As we chug out into the lake toward the islands, we all moan about how slow the journey is. If we were in a hurry, we'd be in trouble. Luckily we're all lazy b*stards travelling the world and don't even know what day of the week it is. I think we're all quite grouchy today.

After what seems like an age we arrive at the island we're heading to. It's beautiful! The lake is twinkling in the sun, and there are sandy coves to welcome us. We've paid a tour operator money for this trip back in Copacabana. However as the day progresses we pay the same amount of money again, to hiding Bolivians who pop up along the way and don't let us pass until we pay them. We walk in the bright sun light for about four hours on a path round the island. The views are stunning and I understand why the Incas worshipped the sun, there ain't much else! I see a European woman with an Indian baby who now lives here and makes jewellery to sell to tourists. Everything in Bolivia is turning to tourism, but for now it's still in the early stages. Its disorganised and unmonitored. I'm sure over the years to come its will be better organised but much more expensive and less accidental. There will be proper stalls selling drink and food, they will be a Starbucks (no!). For now we stop at a couple of dirty children who are selling waters and cokes under a sun umbrella. Once back at the ferry harbour we tuck into a delicious chip butty for lunch. Back on the chug chug boat and home. On route we discuss all the naughty things we did as children. Like garden hopping, Ouija boards, stealing parent cars, sneaking out at night (generally me getting caught). Like the time I pretended to go 'rowing' every Sunday, but was really drinking beer with boyfriend. Parents and German exchange who was staying with us decided to visit me and watch me row...Where's Esther??!

Dan and Dom whom are half the English lads we met in Chile (there were four of them, they haven't got smaller), are spotted in central Copa. We end up having a dinner with them. This time I have a yummy trout curry! Good. A few beers later, a spot of Internet and off to bed. In the morning after checking out we have that awkward time when we are homeless. We walk up the main street to try to find a cafe to sit in. Check out has varied from place to place, but generally its around 10am. Our bus isn't until 1pm so we have time to kill with our backpacks in a pile which resembles an Everest expedition. We find a suitable cafe and effectively move in. I check through my photos and notice a strange occurrence. There seem to be blacked out photos in my collection?? I panic. There is a virus on my memory stick, NO! I head up the street to copy everything onto disk. How frustrating I don't have my laptop. I miss it so much. It would have been ridiculous to drag it round South America, but utterly useful and I'm gutted I didn't bring it. Typing this bloody thing for a start. I obviously have to pay to use word which sucks. Half a hour later and the discs are burnt. Not really sure whats going on with my camera, and I think I have dust in the lens. Soon we are collected from the bus station heading to the other side of the Lake, in Peru!

The bus journey is short but frustrating. On a mini bus first (about eleven of us), then off at the border. Passports stamped etc, then a walk with bags over the border into Peruvian immigration. More stamps, and then back on another bus to Puno. Once we arrive in Puno we are pretty pooped and decide unlike the countless other times, to accept an offer of accommodation from a tout at the bus station. Normally you get off the bus and are harassed by various touts promising cheap luxury accommodation. Generally you walk past with and air of indifference, pretending to know where you're going...We're offered a free taxi ride there, and its cheap, and it promises hot water; Sold. We zoom into Puno. There are Tuck Tucks here! The hotel is fine and quite luxi actually. It may have hot water but it doesn't have heating. We're only one night here. Off for yet another Chinese, Danny's hunt for Chili Beef continues. I order five spice chicken. Mmm. I fall in love with all Peruvian knitted things. We book a bus trip to Cuzco which stops at various Inca or Colonial places along the way, we're to leave in the morning. Up early, boiling steamy shower! Simple pleasures are the best.

Hair Report: Flat out.

Five spice chicken = Orange deep fried battered chcken pieces with fushia sauce on greasy fried rice with cubed 'things' in it.
Finger puppet girl in Peru who's fluent in English.

xxxxx

Posted by spacebooth 22:43 Archived in Bolivia Tagged backpacking Comments (0)

Bolivia

La Paz

sunny 16 °C
View Esther's Adventure on spacebooth's travel map.

We arrive at the bus station in Potosi early so that we can get some nibbles etc for the journey. The boys are sent off to purchase the journey staples. They return and we load onto the bus. I ask for my bag of cheesy wotsits and tuck in, I'm definitely addicted to the colourings. I'm about 3/4 way through, when Vikki asks for her bag, oops Danny didn't get her one!! She's furious, quite rightly so, as her cold turkey/wostit sets in...The boys have managed to spend 90 Bolivianos (6 pounds = vv expensive in Bolivia, 3 main courses at least!), on hardly any food! Moral of the story: don't send boys to do anything, they're crap.

As per usual the bus journey is fraught with problems, we stop and it appears we have to change tyres. This is done with us all still on the bus. That'll be easy to jack up? I don't think one bus journey in Bolivia goes faultlessly. We arrive in La Paz in the early hours of the morning, it's breathtaking even through the sweaty wet window. La Paz is in a crater so the city center is in the bottom, and the city sort of spreads upwards around it, favela like. It's very dramatic, so exactly like the Bolivians. There is also a brilliant snow peaked mountain on the horizon. La Paz is the highest capital in the world at over 4000m. A lot of newly arrived people get altitude sickness from flying in, and arriving at this altitude. We're now totally acclimatised, so are all fine. We've booked into a hostel called Loki Backpackers which calls its self a 'party hostel' and proves itself to be so after the week I spend here. We're all in the same dorm room again which were happy about plus... the bunk beds are well made, the mattresses are comfy AND we have duvets! Nice plump, fluffy, snugly duvets and clean brushed cotton sheets. I want to stay in bed forever and try at least once in the next week. Loki hostel is on a steep street, so although I don't get altitude sickness, I do get breathless walking up and down.

NB: Very sadly on our second night in La Paz an Australian boy whom the boys play pool with in our hostel bar, falls off a first floor balcony (central atrium of hostel), breaks his neck and dies. It happens at about 2am while we're out and about, so we only hear the news the next morning. It's the most awful thing to happen and we're all in a state of shock for a few days after. It's just so sad and so final. We all support each other and feel very lucky to be alive. I miss everyone so much at home, but its nice to be with such super new friends too. Danny, Vikki, Clare, Sean and Tommy are brilliant and we all have a good cry. We also look after Sam his friend who's been left behind, I hope he'll be able to cope with it OK. He's only 23 and obviously still in shock too. It's a sad time and one to reflect on how lucky I am to be doing this trip. I skype home and have a nice chat with the family and with Ben G, who's there by chance. We will never know exactly what happened on the night. It's presumed that he fell, but no one saw what happened. Sam had already gone to bed. We also know that the hostel cleared up the body immediately, before they called the police. The police had to be paid off. We learn all this from Jonno (see below). This disaster could have happened anywhere, but I feel very alone, and very fragile, so far away from home and in this crazy city. We're certainly not in good old blighty.

La Paz becomes a bit of a hedonist blur for me after this. We'd been so well behaved in the salt plains...no boozing at all. So La Paz is a bit crazy, especially after the death. I still cant believe it happened. There is a festival in the street on the Sunday after we arrive so we head to this and enjoy watching the spectacle and drinking beer all day. I'm so lucky to have met this group of people and it's so nice to feel safe and loved with them all. We've been dying for a good curry so in the evening we head out for a yummy cuzza! Chicken Tikka Masala ish.

Our dorm room has an en-suite bathroom attached. This is rather luxi, however it pongs a bit and the shower is never hot, or it is for about two hours a day, and these differ every day, hopeless. I go on a quest for a hot shower. I hate cold showers, I just cant do them. I'd rather go without. Finally after days of luke warmness or no shower at all, I find a downstairs one that's always hot. Gosh I miss my bathroom, I look forward to a bath so much. I haven't had one since Brendan's in Buenos Aires. I prefer showers anyway but its pain sometimes to shave legs etc standing. I long for a glorious deep hot soak in delicious aromatherapy oils.

There are rather a lot of casualties floating around Loki. We meet Jonno from Australia in the first few days. He's been in La Paz for about two months. He's stuck here and has got a job at Loki. How he keeps this up is anybodies guess. Hes out every night and never seems to sleep. He can still string a sentence together and is actually quite cool (great legs?!)...but also a warning to us all...'that could happen to you', if you don't watch out...

We enter the Loki pub quiz one night and come second! Would have come first if I'd been believed that the smurfs were created in Belgium and not Switzerland. I eat my way through about twenty BLT's at the hostel (less than a pound each!), this is the first hostel Ive stayed at where you have a tab. So everything you order at the bar is put on the tab. Rather scary when I get to the end of the week and tot it all up. We all go out together one night and end up at a club called Orange, a good boogie and ridiculous photo session. I end up at a hideous joint called Club 36 far too often, falling in with 'the wrong crowd' (I think I instigate it though, in fact I am on occasion; 'the wrong crowd').

It's decided that we will attempt to mountain bike down the world most dangerous road. This means an early night and no boozing. The other girls chicken out so it's me, Danny, Sean and Tommy. We head off early for breakfast arriving at the cafe at 7am, we order breakfast in plenty of time (40 mins), then in typical Bolivian fashion nothing arrives and we have to leave. In the last minute my breakfast arrives and so does the boys, but with crucial bits like bread missing to theirs...so they cant even make a takeaway. We leave the money on the table but don't pay for the orange juices which didn't arrive. We are then collected from the cafe by Gravity Assisted and walk out to the bus, the waitress comes to find us on the bus demanding money. We explain to her that we couldn't eat everything because it was late and there was no oj. She drops her head scuttles off again. The ride is one of the best things Ive ever done, and how I didn't fly off into the abyss, ie off the edge, is a mystery. But suffice to say I was very careful and did it slowly. Beat Danny though! ...You start at 4500m and end up at 1200m. From freezing high mountain to jungle, its brilliant and scary. The road is only about 1.5 cars width and the drop off the edge is instant death (well after a cool free fall). Along the way you see crosses marking the spots where unlucky cyclists met their creator. It's madness really, but the views are staggering. Some parts of the road are in line with streams which cascade over the road and shower you while you pass beneath. The first 40km are on tarmac, then the road turns into gravel. Ive never really ridden a mountain bike, but the suspension and breaks are incredible. I'm careful no to break too hard for fear of flying over the handlebars. I'm devastated that I didn't bring my camera (warned against it). Once at the bottom we enjoy a nice lunch and a hot shower. Then its back into the van and we drive up the road we've just ridden down, much more scary than being on the bike. We buy some celebratory beers gawp at the ridiculous geography of this road (www.gravitybolivia.com). On route home and in the dark, Danny wees out the window whilst the bus is driving.

Peru is coming up next so we head to Lake Titicaca and Copacobana. We get the bus which has no tread on its tyres (see photo on facebook).

The HAIR REPORT: very flat and lanky, mostly covered in hat.

Ram Jam, Orange, Mongos, Club 36...
San Pedro Prison (riot, so no go)
Wild Rover. Not as good as Loki.
The laundry not being clean again.
Jenga at 7am in Club 36.
Broken nose.
Champions League. Man U victory.
The pizza that's so big it has to go sideways through the door.
The hole I fell in.
Did I ever say that my Chinese sign on my necklace means 'long life'?...
ALEX! (a new one, this will make M chuckle)
The Aussie twats.

xxxxxxxx

Posted by spacebooth 22:11 Archived in Bolivia Tagged backpacking Comments (0)

Bolivia

Potosi again

sunny 10 °C
View Esther's Adventure on spacebooth's travel map.

So its back to Potosi. Which has some mines that we want to see. We're now all acclimatised with the altitude so don't feel so out of breath as before. We spend a little extra cash getting a better bus, which we're all glad about. We're booked into the Kola Den which is where we tried to get in last time, but couldn't. We have a six bed dorm room to ourselves, lovely. Potosi is very hustle bustle and is full of school kids and things happening, I like it. It's cold but the sun is shining and eveything looks crisp.

We haven't cooked so far in Bolivia. Theres no point. It's mega cheap and with six of us its just a faff to cook anything decent, kitchen tranklements are crap. I'm surviving on empanadas for breakfast, which are like Cornish pastie things baked or fried, with meat (questionable?) or cheese, there's a variation in each country (I've mentioned them before). They generally spill their contents over you, and wreck your clean jeans or dribble on your gortex shoes. Lunch is either brunch or burger or sanger or big pack of giant cheesy wotsits and oreo cookies and Coke. Then dinner a hotch potch of what we dream about eating, like Chinese! mmm, but just not quite right in Bolivia (dirty dirty Chinese). Oh my god my diet is shite. I long for Brazilian acai and fruit juices. I long for Thiagos flat and Thiago. Oh hell I long for my friends and my family and a big bag of spinach with poached salmon and salsa verde.

Speaking of clean clothes...not that anything is really clean, it's decided that after the salt flats everything desperately needs to go to the laundry. My whole backpack is filthy so I take it to be washed. This results in Vikki and I waring a ridiculous outfit for the day (only clean cloths we have)... we look like Armenian refugees. Then we go to collect the 'clean clothes', I swear mine aren't that much cleaner. Cold water wash with no powder I assume. My socks pack flat again so thats the main thing sorted.

We book the mine tour the following day. The mine tour is possibly the most depressing day out Ive ever encountered. So upsetting. We pile into a mini bus from the hostel which takes us to the mining part of Potosi and for us to be dressed in our mining outfits. A waterproof rubberish suit, hard hat and head torch. We're also made to buy some bandannas to go over our mouths. Then off to the mining shop to get some dynamite. We also buy a bag of coca leaves which we stuff into out cheeks (you chew the leaves with some catalyst, in our case quinoa ash)...we look like chip monks. After a while my cheek and teeth go a bit numb! Ha it works. Um it tastes fowl though and I have green teeth and fowl juice in my mouth, sexy. We get back on the bus and head to the mine entrance. The mine is situated in the mountain that overlooks Potosi. Apparently the mountain is like a giant Swiss cheese it has so many tunnels and holes in it. It used to deliver silver back in the days of the conquistadors. It's actually very important historically. The silver from Potosi made Europe wealthy. Now there is no silver left, but they still mine tin and other minerals from the mine. I feel like Ive stepped back in to the dark ages. Those scenes from Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. We walk into the mine tunnel and I'm immediately overcome by the shit in the air (arsenic, asbestos?), which the head torch highlights. The bandannas are really going to help us, not breathe this shit in (?). I spend then next two hours crawling on hands and knees in dirty, dark, stinky tunnels. I see young men lugging ten ton broken waggons on fucked rails, it's horrible and I wow never to moan about work again. It's crazy that they work in conditions like this. I hate it and an immensely glad to get the fuck out of there. Once back in the fresh air, we play with the dynamite and make bombs. Bolivia hey, health and safety...

We meet a juggler and his girlfriend on the tour, and its with them we head out later that evening, for a dirty Chinese. Us girls also head off for a wander round the markets. Its the end of the day so we miss most of the hustle and bustle. But I still manage to find disgusting goose necks and lungs? Also a cow face, which has had its skin taken off, but the eyes and wet black nose remain intact. I tried taking a photo but was threatened by a fierce Boliviano woman. Then in a skip outside the market on the way to the Chinese, cow horns with skully, brainy bits still attached thrown in and in a pile. YUK! I think cheese empanadas from now on. God who'd eat meat?! Thers no neat vaccum packed stuff in Bolivia.

We're all rather knackered from all the activities we've been up to so its decided to have a DVD day at the hostel. We watch Rainman which is so brilliant, Id forgotten. Then later on in the evening we watch The Pianist. Only the resident night watchman behind reception, who we've named trench foot, his feet smell like poo (honestly). Hes a moody git and reeks of booze as well, revolting. So when he keeps trying to shut down our film watching, which is peaceful and disturbing no one. We block the door so he cant get in! Such bad behavior! but reasonable under the circumstances. The next day we head to La Paz, we're all very excited...

Hair report: mostly flat with fly away tendencies, smidgen oily on top.

Our phrases:
There's no 'I' in team amigo.
You never see an old man eating a twix.
You can never have enough hats.
Theres no town like your own, but when in Rome...

Tommy's lost pillow, it falls off the top bunk onto me every night.
What this old thing?!
The hair ball in the shower, preposterously large.

xxxx

Posted by spacebooth 21:42 Archived in Bolivia Tagged backpacking Comments (0)

Bolivia

Santa Cruz, Sucre, Potosi (briefly) and Uyuni Salt Flats

sunny 5 °C
View Esther's Adventure on spacebooth's travel map.

Dear diario,

I have to pack my backpack and leave Rio. Obviously I'm dead excited about where I'm off to, but still I'm sad. Thiago takes me out for a nice lunch and then we head back to the flat to play with his new toy. An Apple tower power mac thing with bells and whistles. I'm glad he has a new toy to amuse himself and take away the thought of me going (he's obviously devastated that I'm off??!). We say goodbyes and then he has to go. I'm left there in his flat all alone. I pack up, and have to throw the key back into the flat once I’ve locked the door from the outside. I panic that I’ve left something behind and now can't get back in... I realise later, I did; my heart.

Into a taxi and off to the airport. A flight to Bolivia on Gol airways, very luxurious. A ridiculous flight which stops three times before I reach Bolivia. Santa Cruz to be exact. Not even sure exactly where it is. I arrive rather wearily at 3am and get another taxi (paid in US dollars) to Jodanga hostel. Where I hope Vikki and Danny are staying, although there was still no word from them before I left. I get there and luckily get a bed. Top bunk, in an 8 bed dorm with some American girls, who get up really early and are really noisy. I haven't really slept anyway due to the shock of being on the road again and sharing a dorm room with lots of bodies and being bloody
cold too. I’ve gone from balmy Rio to fucking freezing. I drag myself out of bed at about 9am and try to find D and V. They are here! It's nice and sunny out in the day here, so the temp is pleasant. We sort ourselves out. Deciding to leave for Sucre that evening in the 16.30 bus. Then off for some lunch, Irish stew and dumplings?! Bolivia is weird. We grab our bags back at the hostel and get going.

Our first Bolivian bus journey is OK, but the bus is dirty and old. Anything you touch is covered in a thick layer of dust. I sit next to Vikki at the back. The bus stops in the dead of night for a wee pause. We bundle off and are welcomed by a dirty, smelly non loo with no paper and no sink. Back on the bus and I sit there for a while awake. We're high up on some mountain pass and the bus is rocking from side to side rather graphically, it's pitch black and a trippy experience.

We arrive in Sucre early and it's freezing again. Until the sun is fully out and blazing, Bolivia is damn cold. We find a hostel where there are two free rooms, Vikki and I share, and it’s the first night she's spent apart from Danny in 9 months! We put on some extra layers and head off to a cafe for some grub. I fancy a lager (?), but am told its too early (10.30am). We all order chili con carne, because of bus lag we're not really sure what time it is, and tummies do the choosing. Delicious. At 12 I'm allowed a lager. Sucre is a beautiful town and is called Ciudad Blanca because all the colonial buildings in its center are painted white. We enjoy a nice afternoon chilling and mooching about. It’s in Sucre that I'm introduced to my new obsession: all things knitted. Oh my god... gloves, hats, scarves, blankets, it’s all amazing and beautiful. When we return to the hostel later and discover that there is no agua calliente (hot water), I'm glad for my new hat and scarf and gloves. Vikki and I bed down for a freezing night. The boys are watching football in the morning so it’s up early and to the cafe again for the TV. It’s also now decided that we will head to Potosi next and then straight on the Uyuni to see the salt flats. There is another football match (champions league, man u or and earlier one???) on the following Sunday, and we will need to be back form the salt flats before that. Our next week is therefore planned around football (I mention this now because of a situation later). It's is our intention to jump in a cab for the four hour journey to Potosi. We are now six as we have met up with Clare and Sean, so we might be able to afford it. We leisurely head toward to bus station in the early afternoon to see about a fare. As soon as we jump out of the cab taking us there, we are accosted by a very indigent woman who is keen to get us on her bus. As soon as she has the whiff of us wanting to go to Potosi she's dangled the carrot with costs and journey time being halved. We can’t really say no. Within about 10 mins we're all sitting on her bus bound for Potosi. We soon realize that: A, she was a big fat liar, and: B, you get what you pay for. We have a clapped out bus (which breaks down), we have the back seat (which means it’s like being on the big dipper), and the bus is filthy and smells like spring onions for seven hours!! We bond over how much we hate it. What doesn't kill you makes you stronger. I’ve never been so happy to get off a bus. I feel high, actually that'll be because Potosi is 4070m above sea level. We're all exhausted, dirty, and now we can’t breathe. Danny and Tommy head to a food stand they saw up the hill to buy us all a chip butty. Our first choice of hostel is full so we find another and end up in a 70s suite attic room. Its freezing and everything you do renders you breathless, but we're glad to be together and after a few games of the shithead league (we've got a league book and everything). We head to bed, for a completely sleepless night.

I get up knackered and we head off to catch a bus to Uyuni. We go to the bus station and barter with a woman about a bus. Again promises of speed and comfort are realised later to be fibs. Another painful journey, this time so dusty that we all feel like we have asthma the following day. We arrive in Uyuni very late hoping that we can still book a salt flat tour for the following day. Luckily some tour agents as are still open. So for 80 USD we get a 3 night, 4 day tour with all expenses paid for (not bad). Were also shown to a hotel which we're promised has agua calliente. Its freezing in Uyuni which is a little like a ghost town, I keep expecting to see tumble weed blowing though it. We go out for a dinner in a freezing restaurant; I'm now so cold to bone that it would take a miracle (and an electric blanket) to warm me up. Our hotel may have hot water but it certainly doesn't have heating. Vikki and I have a room at the front of the hotel which has a massive window to the road, i.e. no insulation. I put my icicle body into bed and have another freezing night where I don't sleep, because I'm shivering the whole time. I wake up and have gone blue. Finally after some brekkie, we're in the land cruiser, our home for the next four days. Pedro is the driver and Jacqueline his wife the cook. They don't speak any English and and our Spanish is crap, how will this work??

The salt flats (flat, one massive dried up lake) is incredible. It's like being on mars or the moon. The lunar landscapes, the blazing sun, the freezing nights. It's another world. Hard on the body though, and my ingrained tan which had been intensified while in Rio, literally sees the salt and dry air and jumps off my skin. I have crocodile skin legs and cracked sore lips. But my hair is straight again! It’s the best thing ever; I can’t believe how frizzy it gets in Brazil. The first day is spent taking silly shots on the salt (see facebook) we even manage a mini rave outside the land cruiser which is videoed by Perdo who thinks were all totally crazy. We stay the night at a salt hotel on the edge of the flats. Danny tells us the story of the fart tape. This is a Dictaphone kept on the mantle piece at his flat. Every time you need to fart you go to the Dictaphone and start recording: you say your name, the time and the date and then fart into the micro phone. Between fits of giggles and more silly stories including Tommy's dog who accidentally eats leftover vindlaoo and ends up projectile pooing all over the curtains. We eavesdrop on another table next to us. They're all discussing the American elections and the different merits and problems with the different opponents, we're giggling about farts and poo. Will I ever grow up? (Don’t answer that). We have to brush teeth with bottled water as there are no taps. Clare is about to take a swig when she notices what looks like an ear plug floating in the water?! We
have another fit of giggles and gag, earplug?? It’s not an earplug but Sean's malaria tablet which obviously didn't get swallowed. We head to bed. I wake with a stiff back and a mouth like the salt flats. After brekkie we pack up the cruiser and head off to see more spectacular scenery. We see some live volcanoes and Fish Island which is covered in cool cacti and has fossilized coral reefs. Bolivia gets stranger by the day. We end up at another hostel in the evening, and slightly warmer night, but still very cold. The next day we stop for lunch next to a green lake with red soil. The girls all go for a wee, and due to adverse wind conditions (don't want our wee blowing onto us) we have to moonie the boys. Luckily no one has a camera with a good zoom lens. Our last night on the salt flats is at yet another hostel in another strange deserted cluster of
buildings, which obviously rely solely on the tourist industry. This is the coldest night yet (-10) and after dinner Tommy and I go outside star gazing. We're at 5000m above sea level and the stars in the sky go from horizon to horizon. There is not one bit of sky that's un-glittery. I'm spellbound, no star struck. I count three shooting stars and make three wishes. We turn in for the night. We're all in one room again and I fall asleep chucking about Danny's brothers band called DAMP (the P is for Paul), Sean's rap ballad he's made on the music player on his mobile and the rats or mice running about outside our window. I wake at 4.30am with great difficulty, I'm cocooned. I get up, dress and wait for the others to stir. They're all still in bed and take an age to creep into action. Finally we're all packed up and sitting in the landy. We set off in the dark and because the front window is steamed up and Pedro can't really see, he drives over a large meteor like rock. The car is wedged on it. We all have to get out and wait while another land cruiser tries to push us off it bumper to bumper. That doesn't work,
so Pedro has to jack the car up. It's dark and freezing and we do star jumps to keep warm. The car finally moves and we're free. Off we go towards flamingos and hot springs. We're looking forward to the hot springs, as none of us has had a shower for three days. We see some flamingos, albeit miles away (tiny ones!). Then straight to the hot springs which we jump into. Bliss and rather smelly (sulphur). We meet some fellow gringos in the pool with beards, god I hate traveler beards. Danny and Tommy get out first and head to the breakfast hut. We've been told its mesa 4 (table 4). I join them after about 10 mins...I'm just pouring myself some coffee when I see a crazed looking Boliviano woman hurtling towards me with murder in her eyes. She is going mental at us. I look up and see "mesa 9" written on the sign above the table. We're on the wrong table. T and D have already eaten half the pancakes in front of them and drunken most or the yogurt drink. Honestly though, you've never seen anything like it, they go completely ballistic. The first Boliviano woman gets others involved, and there are literally plaits and plait tassels flying, and big skits being hiked up, it's all so dramatic. It's like watching a panto. As Vikki and I try to placate them, by suggesting that all we need do is swap our breakfast pancakes for the eaten ones etc. T and D are oblivious, and continue to eat the wrong breakfast, its so hard not to laugh. But they've started so they might as well finish. This sends the women into near epileptic levels... After it's all over (we simply swap the pancakes and yogurt drink from our table)...we sit at mesa 4 and marvel at what just occurred. Incredible, Bolivia is bonkers. I think we've been banished from the hot springs forever, but I'm not sure, because my Spanish is crap. Back in the landy and off to the bubbling lava geysers. Then finally a five hour drive home back to Uyuni.

It's good to back to civilization and even better to go out for delicious pizza. It’s been speculated I could be the best pizza I ever had? I awake in the morning and try to charge my ipod for the upcoming journey to La Paz. There doesn't seem to be any power. In fact it transpires that there is no power anywhere in Uyuni. Therefore NO TV OR CABLE. Therefore NO FOOTBALL! The boys are inconsolable. I think it's quite funny, the whole trip has been planned around this bloody match and now we cant see it!...We all sit in a cafe, it's 10am on Sunday the match has started and there's still no power. We wait and age for a breakfast to appear, cooked on a gas stove apparently?...It comes in dribs and drabs and doesn't come at all in some cases. The cafe also seems to be staffed by children, all very odd. Then finally at half time, the TV miraculously turns on! We're saved; there is mass rejoicing and mass elation. The games on and the boys are happy, so I'm also happy. On Monday morning with rather sore heads (must still be the altitude?!) we leave Uyuni and head to Potosi again.

The Hair Report - Mostly flat, some undulation below, dry ends.

Hats placed precariously.
Wotsits (big Bolivian ones)
Tangerines.
Nearly break leg in loo (hidden step).
Llama lunch.
Alan "yeah" after every sentence.
Too much funky house on Ipod.
The mummies, what’s the story??! (We’ll never know)
Double funny (it’s so funny its Double Funny)

xxx

Ps sorry it's late; a dog ate the first draught...

Posted by spacebooth 10:11 Archived in Bolivia Tagged backpacking Comments (0)

Brasil

Rio for a month!

sunny 26 °C
View Esther's Adventure on spacebooth's travel map.

The flight to Rio is very good. I sit next to a Korean Business man who listens avidly to my stories about my trip so far. He's very nice and invites me to dinner if I ever get to Lima. The plane lands in Rio and I make my way through customs. It's strange being back and recognising it all from when I landed here with M back in January. We were so excited and full anticipation for our trip! What a great feeling and what a great trip! (I'm sure M concurs:-). Once through I get the shuttle bus to Flamengo and Thiago's place. I tell the bus driver in broken Portuguese where I need to be dropped. The bus leaves the airport and slowly winds it's way through Rio towards the beaches and Zona Sul.There are some gringos fresh off the plane from Blighty who ask me my advice about Rio. They're petrified of it! I explain that it can be dangerous like any capital city. But as long as they're careful and keep they're whits about them, don't walk on the beaches at night, and don't band around the camera or Ipod, they should be fine. Zona Sul is also a lot safer that other neighbourhoods. I remember how scared M and I were. The bus drops me on Botafogo Praia and I jump in a cab to Thiago's. It's only round the corner, but just to be safe. It's about 9ish when I'm finally sitting in the flat having gotten the key from the doorman. I chill out, unpack and wait for Thiago.

The purpose of my stay in Rio is because I love it. It reminds me of San Diego and living there and loving the heat and the beach. Jumping out of bed every morning when the sun is shining and you don't have to worry about freezing when you get out the shower or generally is pure bliss, my kinda place. Rio is so beautiful, it's setting is stupendous, and the visual feast you get breathtaking. It makes me feel alive. OK you get the idea...

After a few days of acclimatisation, getting used to Rio and Thiago. I try to find a Portuguese course for two or three weeks, which is in budget. They're all very expensive. I finaly find one which starts on the Monday of the following week (nice B'day pressie from M and D, thank you!) That gives me a week to reinstate the tan (!) and explore Thiago's Rio. He take me to some great foody places, including a quilo place next door to him. Wholesome fresh food from a buffet which you pile onto your plate and weigh at the end, and cheap enough to make it worth while. I'm so glad to be back in Brazil and eating good food. I really missed it throughout Argentina and Chile. The fruit and veg in Brazil are plentiful as are the juice bars on every corner. Thiago works quite crazy hours so I spend a lot of time doing my own thing and visiting shops and places I'd like to research. The beach is also there beckoning. On Thursday eve there is a Samba bar open in Lapa where I meet some of Thiago's friends. My non Portuguese is very apparent, as is their non English. I have a fustrating (but OK!) evening speaking sort of Spanish / French - with an accent. I find Portuguese so difficult to understand. Usually I find I can imitate an accent for a language quite easily, like French or Spanish. Portuguese though is entirely another matter. Even when I think I'm saying what I hear, and imitating it, I'm not understood.

On Saturday I'm excited to be taken to Morro do Alemao, The German Hill, which is a favela in the northern suburbs of Rio, the land was once owned by a German. There is a street festival going on with lots of graffiti artists working on the streets. Thiago and his friends will be filming the artists and the street party throughout the afternoon. It's sobering to be in a favela with Brazilians and seeing it from this perspective (instead of the gringo tour I did before). Although the favelas are run by drug lords, you quickly realise that most people here try to live normal lives. Going to work or going to school, but in the poverty and essentially the 'war zone' of the favela. The festivities and the fact the drug lords and their cohorts have been warned about our presence, mean we are given a Carte Blanche to photo and walk around freely. The Federal Police and their AK 47's at the end of every road is a reminder that things are not really OK, in fact far from it... This is what these people have to live with every day. At one point we see the drug lord himself on a street corner with his henchmen, he looks about 18. It's paradoxical that this is literally 200 m from the Federal Police blockade. At no point however do I feel threatened or un safe, Thiago and his friends have been here before and know the ropes. The fact that the drug lord is there is safer for us. Children follow us about and are fascinated by our cameras. There is so much life and soul and a sense of community there, something I don't think Ive ever seen anywhere else. I'm very lucky to have been there and participated in the day. In the evening we head down to Cine Lapa and a really cool evening of soul and funk. We dance into the early hours. At the end of the eve I politely offer to escort a drunken girlfriend of one of Thiago's friends to the loo. Where she blatantly comes on to me and tries to snog me!? I like men, sorry!

Vikki and Danny have facebooked me to tell me they will be in Rio the following week. I'm looking forward to seeing them. I start my course on the Tuesday, I tell you its hard getting up at 8.30 for well, school!? Class finishes at lunch so I can still head to the beach after. I meet Danny and Vikki on Ipanema and we all marvel at the spectacle, it's incredible people watching. We try to meet up in Lapa on the following Friday but don't manage it, Lapa on a Friday night is insane. We end up at Fundicao Progresso to see Afrika Bambata. Lots of fun. Vikki and Danny head over to Flamengo the next day to meet us and see the David Lachapelle expo. Thiago takes us for some Lebanese afterwards.

Next day we head to the football at the Maracana. Amazing. Flamengo against Botafogo. We spend all day drinking and end up at a street part in Santa Theresa. I meet Neil and Justine who tell us about visiting San Pedro prison in Bolivia, we all take notes...(wait for La Paz chapter)

My favorite district in Rio is Santa Theresa. It was once one of the most opulent neighbourhoods in Rio (till the beaches were developed). It's in the hills and is full of crumbling old colonial houses and winding leafy lanes. It's beautiful. One evening we go to a house party in an amazing house which is basically someones home. All their possessions are there, pictures on sideboards, toiletries in the bathroom...but they rent out the house for parties. Obviously the clientele are in the know and it's invitation only, but still it's strange. I fall in love with the house and Rio all over again. It's the coolest venue for a party I've ever been to. I want a house in Sante Theresa, I want THAT house. I think about Brissy and her letting us party in her house for new year (she was away!). Who does that??? She was so happy about the reports from that party. We partied like it was 1999, including muddy footprints on the new white carpet, 8 people in her bed and the mouldy burgers in the oven (which we discoverd whilst trying to cook) and Bill's lethal cocktails. A damn fine party and Brissy was very happy we'd had such a good'n.

My course is going OK and I enjoy living in a flat and not being in a hostel. We decide to hire a car the following weekend to take us up the coast to Macae and Buzios. Vito's parents have a house there where we can stay and there is a birthday party to go to. A good party except for when it's pointed out I have my skirt tucked into my knickers. On the way home we stop in Buzios v cool, and head to Pacha. The super club is beautifully designed, but the music beautifully atrocious. Thiago drives me home, back to Rio.

I finish my Portuguese course and pass! (86%, how??), although I have to say I still can't speak a lot. I understand most things written down and understand what people are trying to say. I'm much more happy with the pronunciation. I've had a great time in Rio with Thiago, he's been really cool letting me stay and looking after me. His friends have been very friendly and I'm really sad to be leaving Rio after this month of pretending to be a Carioca. I've explored all the districts in Zona Zul, Flamengo, Botofogo, Copacabana, Ipanema and Leblon. Ive found cool shops, cool restaurants, great beaches. I still love Santa Theresa most of all. I love the street of lady boys in Gloria (only to be viewed by taxi). The craziness of Lapa and the whole place really...what can I say apart from I'll be back...

After the football, I get home steaming and have to do my homework at 2am, which I pass!
I have a stab at driving in Rio, successfully.
My Birthday! Thiago makes me breakfast then taken to fab restaurant in Botofogo called Miam Miam. I don't like being older (34 WHAT??)
Mums parcel never arrives (mourning the loss of Helmut Lang perfume)
ACAI ACAI ACAI everyday.
Skype with camera revolutionary, cept I can see Marianne's in MY bed!

Love me xxx

Posted by spacebooth 06:37 Archived in Brazil Tagged educational Comments (0)

Argentina | Chile

Rio Gallegos, Ushuaia, Punta Arenas

semi-overcast 10 °C
View Esther's Adventure on spacebooth's travel map.

Hello,

Vikki, Danny and myself head to Rio Gallegos on the bus with the intention of me heading down to Tierra del Fuego, and the guys heading up towards Puerto Madryn. We've been warned by the English boys that Rio Gallegos really is quite dire, and quite rightly so. The Footprint guide informs you that there are 'some interesting trees' around the main square. Hmm interesting. We arrive and its late in the afternoon, we hope we can all catch a connection so we don't have to stay in Rio G. Luckily for V and D there is a bus toward Puerta Madryn that evening. Unluckily for me the bus to Ushuaia is in the morning. It looks like I'm staying the night. We book tickets and head into town for some dinner. South American pizza (a pastry base drowning in cheese). On the way back to the bus station D and V drop me at a hostel. It's a very odd hostel, it's basically a persons house with dorms made out of the bedrooms upstairs. It reminds me of the O'Brians house in Sutton Courtenay where I grew up, there seem to be bunk beds in every available nook and cranny (the O'Brian's used to have bunk beds in their lounge). There are also attractive 70´s style throws on the beds in orange towelling with tassels round the edge, with flowery curtains and a shag pile carpet, it's straight out of the Good Life (Margot would be happy). It's already 10ish so I shower and head to bed. In the morning it's an early start and back to the bus station to catch an 18 hour bus to Ushuaia.

Tierra Del Fuego is vast and the sky is the biggest I´ve ever seen. I sit next to a nice french man in is late 60s heading to Antarctica! It sounds amazing and I decide to do it another time when I have more money try $4000!. We get to the Straights of Magellan and I reminisce about school, geography and Mr Pearce. I see some black and white dolphins swimming alongside the boat on the crossing. Its a long trip I realize how although I love to vastness of everything I'm not sure I could live in a place so remote. It really is the end of the earth.

I reach Ushuaia at about 3am and head to the Antarctica hostel. I get a bed in an 8 person dorm. Its the top bunk and the room is full of sleeping persons. I try to be as quiet as possible. Electric toothbrush will have to wait till morning. I spend the night on the most uncomfortable bed ever, its on a slant and whoever is below me starts snoring very loudly. I wake up feeling really groggy and wanting to murder the person below. When I finally get up, hes already moved out. Thank god. So I baggsy the bottom bunk from him. Ushuaia a pretty town on a slope overlooking the Beagle Channel, right at the end of Argentina. I'm exhausted after my trip and night so spend the day snoozing and reading my book.

The next day I decide that I want to head to Rio asap. Ive had this plan brewing for a week or so now. Ive decided to move to Rio for a month and stay with Thiago, whom I met there with M when we were in Rio in January. I'm going to see if I can do a Portuguese course and basically get to know Rio better. I cant stop thinking about it. I'm in love with Rio and am seriously contemplating moving there. So I decide book my bus to Punta Arenas early, change my flight, so that I can get Santiago and then Rio earlier. Booking the ticket takes three hours! Just as I'm about to get my turn with the travel agent, she goes to lunch!! Eventually I get to see her (I meet some cool people in the travel agents whilst waiting) and I book myself onto the early bus to Punta Arenas.

I spend the afternoon visiting sea lions, cormorants and penguins in the Beagle channel. I meet a 22 year old Mexican girl who's already pilot?! I decide I really need to visit Mexico too, it sounds great. Amazing sun set, cute penguins and smelly sea lions. We go out to a restaurant in the evening for some fuegan lamb. Delicious.

5am on a mini bus to Rio Turbio, all a blur and more vastness. I'm at the end of the world and really on my own. The bus is called Marianne but shes miles away in London and I miss her and everyone massively. The journey to Punta Arenas is silly as you have to go through Argentina, then Chile, then Argentina, then Chile. Every time getting off the bus and having your passport stamped. Punta Arenas is similar to Ushuaia and I head to a hostel recommended by Footprint, 'Hostel at the end of the world'. I book in and am shown to a large room with 4 very comfy looking beds with big eiderdowns. God I'm looking forward to bed. It's a really nice hostel and the people who run it are very accommodating. The next day I try to change my flight, but can't. I'm stuck in PA for four days!!! Bollocks. A very sweet American girl moves in called Jill. We hang out for the next fours days eating, sleeping, reading and watching tons of films on the hostel 40inch flat screen (i miss mine!)...Also I have a cold from trekking in the Torres.

Chilean School kids look like they're Japanese. Its spooky. They're really into Manga cartoons and everything Japanese. Their hair, clothes and they even look Oriental. Wish id gotten a photo. I meet up with Marianne's mums cousin John. He takes me for a delicious dinner to the smartest restaurant in PA. He's the father of lovely Angie and Maty in BA and tells me the fascinating story of how he managed to be living in South America and how he loves it. My heart strings are being pulled the whole while...Rio Rio Rio I'm thinking.
Finally after what seems and eternity at the end of the world, its the night before I fly toward Santiago. Although the landscapes are beautiful and space and clean air freely available, I'm glad to be leaving such a remote place. The romance of Chatwins 'In Patagonia' is in the back of my mind, but I realise how I crave life and people and colour and things!! Dare I say civilization?!

I get the the airport with a Spanish boy who shares my taxi. Once through check in and me taking my leatherman through the xray machine accidentally, I spot the Chilean President right in front of me! Chilean security is rather lax it seems. Finally I'm on the fight to Santiago. We fly up over Chile and along the geographical wall the Andes create separating Chile from the rest of the Continent. I see lakes, huge glaciers and mountains. We circle Santiago before we land and you can see the smog and pollution from the city as we do, it looks massive and dirty. Then its into a cab and straight to Barrio Brazil to see Jess. I met Jess with M in Trancoso two months ago. I arrive at her halls of residence, and It so nice to see her. She's very kindly let me stay in her hall of residence room. After a cup of Tescos Finest builders tea, we go out for afternoon ice cream (mmm), and a wander round a really nice arty area of Santiago. Then some beers and a dinner at a great restaurant. We collapse into Jess' bed around 2am rather worse for wear, but having had a really good laugh. I luv Jess and i look forward to seeing her again in June before I fly to Auckland. Jess has a class in the morning so has to leave early. She makes me yummy porridge with almonds and raisins. I pack up my stuff again and head to the airport. Flying is such a luxury on this trip. I feel very special and very lucky! I'm on my flight to Rio and to see Thiago...I cant wait...

The gringo beards in Patagonia, Mr Twit??
Smokey Antarctica Hostel, I hate smoking
The lost knickers
The Antarctica workers with smelly breath (dire)
The PA cemetery, spooky but beautiful
American Gangster (brilliant)
'Cumming' tube station in Santiago
Rio here I come!

xxxxx

Posted by spacebooth 11:00 Archived in Argentina Tagged backpacking Comments (0)

Chile

Puerto Natales and Torres del Paine

rain 15 °C
View Esther's Adventure on spacebooth's travel map.

Dear diary,

It's raining cats and dogs and we're on a packed bus heading to Puerto Natales in Chile. I'm sitting next to an Israeli called David and he's quite nice, but unfortunately snores rather loudly, and between snores I can hear his ipod playing unidentifiable, non the less irritating music. The bus is also full of older travellers (60+??). I mean not your average 20 something gringo. I'm sitting right at the back of the bus, right next to the loo. I had planned never to do this again, but I literally got the second last seat on the bus. David got the last one. Anyway the loo is being used every bloody 5 minutes (by the oldies mostly) and the door catch is very stiff. There is a lot of timid yanking. ie hard yanking, which you don't want to make obvious. There are some funny incidents with people flying down the centre isle, after a really hard pull...Danny lends me his ipod so I try to drown everything in the biggest selection of good house music ever on an ipod. I'm suitably impressed.

When we eventually get to the border there is a whole big kerfuffle about what we need to take through into the customs building. We're told that 'yes indeed', the backpacks have to come off, drat!. So we all queue and wait nearly 2 hours going though customs. It's interesting how Chile is immediately different to Argentina. The Argentinian passport stamp is a smudgy black, rather messy affair. While the Chilean one is a very neat click clack (you know the kind of stamp where the ink is attached to the stamp and the stampy bit does a 180 before it hits the page), anyway it's fascinating. I accidentally smuggle a jar of olives through.

Then back on the bus, we're in Chile! Oh but it's still raining. Puerto Natales looks like an outback town in the butt end of nowhere, or as Alesha (who we meet at the hostel) puts it, 'butt fuck nowhere'. Puerto Natales is on a grid with single story houses. It's wet, and cold, and grey. We get off the bus and find that our bags have been taken off the bus, and thrown onto the road or mini river, luckily they're waterproofish...we donne the wet packs and head in the direction of Kaweskar hostel which Danny has booked us into.
There are hundreds of stray dogs in Puerto Natales. There have been throughout Argentina. There were also ones in Brazil, but there seem to be more in Argentina. We wade up the street and wet dogs prowl the curbs, and look generally lost and forlorn (actually we also look a bit lost and forlorn). After about 6 blocks we find what looks like our hostel. We pile in through the door. It's warm and toasty in the hostel and we all remove our packs and drip in the lobby. We are greeted by a rather strange man, who is the hostel owner called Omar. He looks Russian (don't ask me why) and has a dog called Ajax. I wonder if he supports the Dutch team, so I ask and am told aggressively 'no'!! Alright then...We are shown to our room and chill. We decide that we will start the trek tomorrow. We all agree, then we look at the weather. Fuck...camping in this weather? No, we're determined were going to do it... We get ourselves together and head off into town to get supplies and go to the 3pm trek talk at Erratic Rock hostel round the corner. The talk is super useful and is given by a American who speaks so fast he does a 2 hour talk in 1 hour. Then off to the shops to buy food and supplies.

Our meal plan for 4 days...

Cupa soup breakfast (easier than oates and lighter?!).
Chewy oat bar x 2 (per day) for each person.
Biscuits 2 packs per day (between 4 people)
2 bags of fruit and nuts.
Pasta dinner (penne and bows)

Omar continues to behave in a strange way, He is really abrupt and gets really angry. Then changes, and is all nice as pie. We return from our errands and find the hostel has filled with gringos who've just returned from their trek. There is doom and gloom and smelly wet camping stuff everywhere. Our 6 bed dorm quickly changes into an 8 bed dorm. Because Omar has over booked. Erratic Rock hostel seemed to be run like clockwork and very efficient. Our hostel is just the opposite, erratic in fact. We remember to check that we are definitely booked in with Omar before we head off. The tales from the trek do nothing to inspire confidence on our mission. Everyone has hated it. It's snowed on the mountain and everyone was wet, cold and blistered (feet). I pop out to get something for dinner and see a dead dog lying on the pavement, eyes wide open. That's really about it for me, maybe it really did rain dogs... I cant get the vision of it out of my mind. Natales is a smelly, wet, dead dog town. In the chaos of our room we try to pack for the trek. This means everything is unpacked and then re packed. Erratic Rock has said to pack everything in bin liners to keep it from getting wet. There are about 100 black bin liners around the room with different piles of stuff in them. We are so disorganised that I think it takes about 2 hours to pack. Omar is now walking round trying to be helpful with a head torch on. Vikki and I are asked what our trek plan is. We explain, he really bollocks us. Gets really angry (in Spanish) and then tells us what we should be doing (exactly what we've just told him!). We're confused and decide Omar is completely mad or very stoned. We are four on the trek now as we have enlisted Alesha from Melbourne. I will be sharing the tent with her. I head to bed and lie in the darkness. Surrounded by strangers; dead dogs, snow and blisters fill my mind, the rain is pouring outside and think that quite possibly, doing this trek is the last thing on earth I want to do. Someone farts, there's a full on dorm giggle, and then somehow I fall asleep on the mattress which is plastic...in case of water bottle spillage i suppose?

I awake to various boys getting out of various girls dorm bunk beds. I make it to the shower which is in a lean to against the back of the hostel, and definitely fails all health and safety standards. The walls and the ceiling move while in the shower? The loo steams and there's no mirror. Great. On exiting the shower I run into a pretty blond girl whom I spoke to briefly the night before. Her face is smashed and bloody, and her front tooth is broken. She looks a mess. She's returned form the 5 day W trek in Torres unscathed, and then went out on a bender last night and was given a drunken piggy back in the rain. She was dropped on her face. Maybe its a good thing there's no mirror. I can feel her pain and I'm really upset about it.

The weather has actually improved and its only drizzling... We get on the bus at 7.30 after breakfast is served at 7.25 by crazy Omar with me using the new international symbol for an egg (me holding my thumb and forefinger apart as if i was holding an egg between them, he had no idea what I was talking about). . and after trying to pay all morning, Omar lets us pay at 7.29. We're all feeling quite excited but non of us say so...?? Incredibly the weather changes during the bus ride and Torres really does have a micro climate.

DAY 1
Pitch tents.
3.5 hour walk.
Glacier Grey.
Quick wee behind rock.
Rain and sun.
Biscuits and chewy bars.
Cook dinner in campsite kitchen (horrible)
Pisco sours and beers in the Refugio bar (nice)
First night in tent OK except for the spider.
I set alarm for 6am!?.

DAY 2
The alarm goes off and it's dark and cold and we're in a tent.
Why the fuck did we decide to set the alarm for 6am?! I ask Alesha...who knows???! What fools, what were we thinking? We go back to sleep. Vikki and Danny giggle to each other in the tent next door, having heard our conversation and agreeing with it...
Beautiful rainbow morning.
Cupa soup for breakfast and a cereal bar. Quite good.
Pack up tents at about 9ish and head off trekking by 10.
3 hours trekking to camp Italiano (which is in a damp dark wood).
Set up camp on least damp slope we can find.
3 hour trek up to see 'view'.
Meet James and Dan (Alesha met them in BA), half way up, who inform us that the Refugio 1.5 hours walk from Camp Italiano is open and serving food and beer.
Get back to camp, take down the tents and head to the refugio.
The Refugio campsite is much nicer, plus we don't have as far to walk on the last day.
The Refugio is very expensive and because we have an agreed budget we decide that its delicious pasta again.
After another delicious pasta dinner (?) we agree were allowed one beer each at the Refugio.
It's warm and cosy in the Refugio.
As we sit down we see the chefs pulling fresh loaves of bread out the oven, it's too much, we have to buy one. The most expensive bread ever ($5) ish...the best bread ever with loads of butter.
Lots of giggling with James, Dan, Dom and Ewan Nice wholesome English boys.
We head to bed.
My sleeping outfit: two pairs socks, thermal long johns, thermal long sleeved top, pyjama bottoms, merino wool top, thermal gloves, balaclava, silk sleep sheet, sleeping bag with drawstring pulled tight around my head.
In the middle of the night I'm awoken by a very loud rat outside the tent. It's making a really odd noise. I freak then think oh well I'm safe in the tent, there's no food outside, and I can't actually move anyway.

DAY 3
I wake up and it's a glorious day! The rat has eaten the plastic label on my water bottle, how strange?
Vikki makes our morning cupa soup out of plastic cups, yuk...
Then pack up the tents, only to discover that the rat has eaten through the tent!! It's eaten a hole about as big as a 50p piece right through the base layer of the tent AND it's eaten all our bloody fruit and nut, well all the nuts. Then discarded the nice chunks of mango and coconut. We're devastated. That was obviously the noise I could hear. Cheeky fucking monkey, sorry rat!
We set off and go in the wrong direction adding at least 30mins on the an already long day. Nice view of the lake though!
We all lose our senses of humour at least once in the next 7 hours...
We finally make it to Camp Torres. Ive never been so happy to get to a camp...I'm dead.
Everyone is famished so its decided to pool all the resources to make a feast!

The feast cooked on two gas stoves (until one runs out):

Bowl/cup of oats with about half a teaspoon of sugar.
Cup asparagus packet soup
Cup lentil and bacon soup (a bit of grit added in)
Small plate penne alla arrabiata (I kid you not)
Two fags.
Water from stream.
Choc biscuit.

We proceed to talk about about what our favorite foods are for two hours whilst cooking, it's like we're all possessed.

It's cold, there's no alcohol, I'm full, so decide to head to bed. God I'm exciting. Oh yeah and I'm exhausted AND we really do have to get up a 6am to catch the blasted sunrise.

DAY 4
The alarm goes off at 6am, but I'm already awake. Really excited!!
Everything is packed up and we get ready to climb up to the Torres.
Sleeping bag joins me.
We set off in a group of about 10 people.
We all get spilt up and I end up on my own scaling boulders bigger than me in the dark (I have my head torch on)...It's crazy and I don't know how no one got injured.
I finally make it and luckily its still dark.
We bed down for the morning, I get into my sleeping bag with my shoes on...(Sorry Omar!)
10 people on a sloping rock looking at some dark rocks, which get lighter and lighter as the sun rises.
Crazy Canadians cook porridge on the rock.
Stunning! Well worth the schlep!
On heading back down, I see what I climbed up in the dark, and realize that if id seen what I was doing earlier, I'd never have done it.
Back down, pack up tent, no food...
2.5 hours down to the bottom.
Vikki and I get left by the fast crew (ie they're hungrier than us, because we've eaten all the food last night)
Down we go.
Wet finally get to the bottom after about 4 false 'this has to be the last bit'...
All we can think about is fat coke and chocolate.
We drink the best coke ever and eat dairy milk and a dulche du leche sandwich.
Not one blister thanks to cool Merrel walking shoes!
We did it!!!

We all wait for the bus to collect us to take us back to Omar and the mad house. I dont think I've ever been so happy to see a hostel ever. I even give Omar a hello kiss on the cheek when we get there. Puerto Natales is sunny and actually quite pretty. Nice hot shower and some Easter eggs (it's Easter Sunday). The girls get tarted up for a night on the town, we remind ourselves that no one is to have any piggy backs at all. We head out for dinner and meet in a bar for some towers of beer first. Coincidentally the English boys are all staying with us at the hostel...a really really good night!

We're booked on a bus to Rio Gallegos in Argentina the following day. So the following morning Vikki, Danny and myself head there with rather sore heads, but luckily our faces intact.

The list:

The trek is called the 'W' because you walk in a w shape!
Danny's ripped waterproof trousers (crotch)
Vikki and I both falling in the river.
My outfit (thermal long johns, combat shorts, big white trekking socks, flip flops, fleece and hat).
James ate all his ration of biscuits on the first day.
The tightrope walking Refugio warden, who fell off legs either side of the rope, ow!
The late night Israeli argument, fisty cuffs.
Darth at the Torres.

Don't miss anyone she lied.

xxxxxx

Posted by spacebooth 11:05 Archived in Chile Tagged backpacking Comments (0)

Argentina

Bariloche - El Calafate - Puerto Natales

all seasons in one day 20 °C
View Esther's Adventure on spacebooth's travel map.

Here goes the proper lonesome blog, no sign of M or our Shenanigans.

So I leave BA on my own, tired but ok and get on a 22 hour bus to Bariloche. It's on the east side of Argentina next to the Andes. I'm starving hungry and assume that like the last bus I got in Argentina, there will be food served. After three hours though there is no sign of any food, so I give up hoping and settle into a desperately needed slumber (seat doesn't recline very much = uncomfy). Ipod, eye mask, neck pillow and jumper, lent from my neighbour. A very pleasant BA lawyer. I'm then nudged (11.30pm) to be told that there is some food being offered. The food is being served in a restaurant we've stopped at. This is very odd. We all file into the restaurant, which is empty except for us. There are long tables all set for us dining hall fashion. There's literally every age and type of person you can imagine. I sit on a table with the lawyer, some Peruvian looking men and a real Gaucho (in jodpur trouser things and long boots), two old ladies (who don't stop talking) and a young couple. Dinner is chicken and rice. Everyone is given a plate. It's not bad, but not good either. Then for desert there is Argentine equivalent of Angel Delight. I head back to the bus and slip into a delicious sleep (a lie of course, I'm on a f*cking bus for 22 hours for Christ's sake, on seats which don't recline, the air cons on max, so its about minus 10 degrees and the lawyer has taken his sweater back!)...

I arrive in Bariloche somewhat walking dead, but ok. I am wowed by the surroundings. It's beautiful, the lake is deep blue and looks like it has diamond encrusted ripples. I'm entranced. It's so bright and the air is so pure. I forget the past 24 hours and feel revived. I've checked into a hostel which is fine, but I quickly decide that don't really like. I'm feeling quite weird being without M and can't gel with anyone...I'm feeling weird, but everyone at the hostel really is weird. I book a days riding on an Argentinian Estancia for the following day and decide to check out at the same time. I actually end up meeting a sweet Canadian girl who sleeps in my dorm that evening, but too late I'm off the next day. In the morning I pack up my stuff and leave it in the reception of the hostel to collect after riding. The riding is great and I feel like John Wayne, and feel a bit like John Wayne for the next few days, Owe! We don't wear hats which feels a bit odd but good because it's so hot (sorry Roma!). There are some Aussie guys on the trek (which is all day with lunch in between). They are hilarious. They arrive in shorts. Then one gets on the horse the wrong side and then the horse starts walking around with the guy trying to look like he's in control. There are also some Aussie girls. One of whom says "are you doing that?, or is the horse taking you for a ride?" " Oz boy pipes up "no I'm doing it!", then he says: "They're pretty tame these horses, ay?" , "What do you mean?", she says, "Well they're really quiet, they're not naying or bucking or anything!". I wish I had a photo of him being 'in control' of the horse, it was fucking funny. So off we trot. The Aussie girls are actually with two Italian boys. I sort of keep myself to myself and just eavesdrop on all the conversations. The Italians really don't speak very good English. But there is some serious flirting going on, on horse back. I really have to try not to laugh my head off. It's painful. I end up hanging with the gaucho. Of course you do Esther! A nice Argentinian gaucho with olive skin who handles a horse like I imagine he would a woman (can I say that? well I just did!) Anyway he has me cantering and galloping all over the estancia, which is exhilarating! We stop for lunch at about 2pm. Parilla is served (basically meat off an open fire barbecue), with salad and potatoes. Delicious! We re-saddle after lunch and some lama petting.

The second hostel is much nicer. The people look normal and are my cup of matte. After a great day out asking people to take photos of me on my own in front of views and things (well two photos). I return to the hostel cook dinner, and meet some really cool Kiwi girls. We all sit at a big table and gas about travelling. The favorite traveller conversation. Two Dutch girls are spilling the beans about Columbia and how fantastic it is. I want to go. The next day I join the Kiwis on their mountain bike tour round the lake. We get up and I head off to book my bus to El Calafate. Then meet back at the hostel to head up to to bike hire place. A fab afternoon cycling round the lakes. It's drop dead beautiful here. Please check out Lao Lao Hotel. We cycle past this and I have to say I'd quite like to be staying there, oh dreams! But how nice to appreciate luxury again. Our hostel is perfect and I actually wouldn't want it any other way... (oh ok just one night!) What am i saying Ive just spent half a week in Brendan's luxury apartment??!

The next day I get the bus to El Calafate which is, wait for it...36 hours!!? On a dirt track road called Routa 40. What am i doing? I mooch about Bariloche and have a chilled lunch, and also find a Lan ticket office. I have decided that Im going back to Rio and need to move flights about. 'm plotting and have a plan up my sleeves. I then head to the bus station and wait for the bus. I spot two English couples who will be on the same bus. We soo get talking, being a bus for that long you cant help it! So we set off at 9pm on the Friday night. Saturday morning I wake up somewhere in Patagonia to a wonderful sunrise. I jump off the bus for a pee and to buy something to eat. Being in Argentina means there are a number of options on the buying of comestibles. Pastry with cheese, pastry with mince meat (empanadas) or crisps or biscuits. Aargh no fruit anywhere to be seen! Only sweetened fruit juice (no fresh) and bread, pastry things. Back on the bus. I have to say it goes quite quickly, I sort of drift in and out of consciousness and listening to ipod or reading means time goes quite quick. Its sunset again in no time, which means just one more night till we arrive in El Calafate. I have two seats to myself which is great...before you know it we arrive.

It's not my intention to follow the two English couples, but I storm off on my lonesome only to meet them further down the road at the cash point. We're all heading to the same place! I'm quite surprised that they're friendly with me because I'm wearing my skinnyish jeans with my walking boots and a north face waterproof. I'm a DORK. I mention this point to Danny a few weeks later and he agrees that he wasnt sure whay they talked to me! We check in and head off for some much needed food and drinks. We can't actually get in the rooms etc till after 2pm. Once fed and watered we head back to the hostel for some personal TLC, ie a shower and clean clothes. Oh the joy of clean things. I meet a very nice German boy in my dorm who takes me to a nature reserve in the afternoon and helps me sort out the trip to the glacier the next day. Accidentally I wear flip flops to walk round a really muddy reserve...I have a looming shoe crisis.

Up at the crack of dawn to visit the Perito Moreno glacier. Incredible. It's like a big blue lemon meringue pie floating on a blue milk lake. The colours are warped. I hope you like the photos. We also do a mini crampon trek on the glacier which is loads of fun. Especially when a french guy who's all kitted out with his own gear (all the gear no idea!) goes off on his own. Is then spotted by our guide and told off so badly that it feels like we're at school. He's marched off and told he has to stay behind the guide at all times. This guy is about 45! What a twat.

We all head out for Parilla in the evening, wine, steak and well that's it actually. We're served by a one eyed waiter in a ill fitting black suite, who looks like he should be from the Sopranos. Vikki, Danny, Paul and Nicki have asked me to join them doing the Torres trek in Chile. They are very cool! We take a bus in the morning to Puerto Natales in Chile. It's raining cats and dogs and the thought of doing a 5 day trek camping isnt really appealing...

Notes/memories:

Vikki's sea sick story (a woman being sick in her diving mask whilst scuba diving!)
Naked sky diving (the guys we met in Rio, one of whom did this professionally)
The mullet/friar tuck look also sported a medallion and black leather slip ones with white socks and shorts.
This blog is getting harder to write by the day, no crack of the whip by M.
The shoe situation. It's walking boots everywhere. I hate them (although they do me proud later...)
It's getting cold and sleeping under duvets again.

xxxxx

Posted by spacebooth 22:29 Archived in Argentina Tagged backpacking Comments (0)

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