A Travellerspoint blog

And now for something completely different

Heading south

sunny 25 °C

We arrived in Paraty (or Parati depending on who you ask and pronounced Para-chi) late afternoon and got a cab to Pousada Elicolonial by the beach. Oh my god - talk about a slice of heaven - such an oasis after the craziness of Rio. Our cabana looked like this....

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Our lovely host told us that tea and coffee and homemade cake was served at 5pm every day before the jacuzzi and steam room were turned on in the evenings next to the pool....you get my drift. He also was telling us about places to eat in the town when a lovely Brazilian couple offered to give us a lift into town when we were ready to eat. We ended up spending the evening with them, despite the fact that they spoke little English and we speak about three words of Portuguese - and it was really good fun. Food was great too.

We walked the 20 minutes into Parati old town the next morning after a breakfast with the seven cats, the soppy rottweiler and Kiao the parrot - talk about a food chain.

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Parachi old town is a charming collection of old colonial buildings - well preserved and with someone running the 'what colour are you painting your door' committee.

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The stores are full of local crafts and art galleries - it all felt very well to do and easy to deal with. I was particularly enamoured with the boat shop.

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Noush as you can imagine was particularly enamoured with the next photo. We were hanging out back in the cabana - it was unfortunately too cloudy for the beach - when I was disturbed by strange squeaking sounds at the back of the cabana. Turned out to be a couple of these little guys -

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After another lovely evening in Parachi we unfortunately has to head back to Rio (4 hours) to get a bus to Florianopolis (19 hours). That's right folks, we spent 23 of the next 24 hours on a bus......it was......OK...ish. Apart from Noush had a cold brewing and was starting to feel pretty rubbish - can always rely on buses, like planes to harbour untold numbers of germs. We arrived late but were greated by my cousin Chris who I last saw the day I moved to Brighton in 2001 and his son Marco who wasn't a twinkle then and is now approaching his third birthday. We headed to the apartment to see Caline, Chris' wife - and they directed us to a well needed shower before they would be seen with us!

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We had a quiet first day in Floripa as Noush tried to sleep off her cold. We then spent the weekend being taken all over Isla de Santa Caterina by our three hosts. We sunbathed for the first time since Australia on Praia Mole, we ate prawn and pumpkin stew served in a pumpkin, we ate splendid Portuguese tarts and coffees in a tiny cafe on the south of the island, we were made feijoida by Caline's mamae, Marta for Sunday lunch and we had a long Sunday afternoon walk on the rather ugly Praia Brava.

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And I played in the sea.

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We also took great pleasure in increasing our knowledge of Portuguese 100 fold thanks to Marco's increasing vocabulary....our knowledge of colours is pretty good, we can say that we are going to school to play with our friends...all the useful stuff. I have to say that bilingual kids are cool!

On our last day Chris took us into Floripa centro and we found Kiwi Cafe - the home of the best coffee we've had in South America and where Chris, Noush and I ate 6 (count 'em) different types of cakes. I need to get myself the Edmonds cookbook....yummy. We then spent a rather speedy 'caffeined and sugared up to the eye balls' hour in the post office trying to send a package to the UK....but for whom?

And then it was time to get on another bus - for a rather tame 14 hours this time and through the night so we were all set to sleep for most of it.

One last and massively gratuitous thing......it's a dreadful cliche but when we think of Brazil we will probably think of something like this.

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Ciao ciao!

Posted by Dani Parry 17:05 Archived in Brazil Comments (1)

Her name is Rio.......

Brazil part 1.

storm 31 °C

Where was I....yes, thongs and the Girl from Ipanema and all things Rio.

It started well - we caught a cab from the airport to our first hostel in Santa Teresa - an arty, bohemian part of the city - we always seem to stay in these areas and they are always up massive hills! We checked in - our room had an amazing view and we went to a small local restaurant called Espirito Santa to eat. It was Good Friday and we witnessed an Easter procession through the area after sun down. The food was gorgeous too which was a great relief after being disappointed by comida Chileno. We ate fish and prawns and salads full of brazil nuts with pomegrante dressing and I washed it down with a bottle of Bohemia local beer and Noush got a bit trollied on two super strong caiprinhas. We may have also eaten a rather splendid warm chocolate and brazil nut cake with a mango and bittersweet chocolate sauce.....so good! We walked back to the hostel and sat and looked at the view at night.

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The red triangle is the cathedral - a very modern building with an even more stark looking bell tower. Looks gorgeous at night though and changed colour every night we were there.

The next morning we sat having yet another ham/cheese/bread/nescafe combo overlooking the city and I had an attack of the vapours. Blame the fact that I was reading a novel about Victorian poets and women who fainted at the mere idea of panic but I was suddenly overcome with complete exhaustion as I looked out over the bohemoth of a city that we had to learn to navigate before we left again in 3 days. Changing location every 1-3 days for 4 months seemed to suddenly to take it's toll and then there was the fact that all that the guidebooks and your fellow travellers talk about it is how dangerous Rio is and I was spooked. Deciding to take each day in small chunks, the first thing we had to do was change hostel - our next room was only 15 minutes away though and all downhill so presented no problem. We then headed out to get a bus to Ipanema and that famous beach. It was 33 degrees by this point and the city felt like it was steaming - the sounds and smells were huge. I have no idea how it must be in the summer when the temperatures are over 40. This was our first of many bus trips in Rio - and we never ceased to be amazed by the sheer insanity of it. We will never moan about London bus drivers again - it was like formula 1 in ancient old buses.....hilarious but more than a bit scary!

I would have imagined that being a hot country that the beach thing is passe but apparently not - it was a holiday weekend and Brazilians love some beach action. Noush pointed out that it must be difficult to tan when the entire beach is covered in umbrellas. We had literally never seen anything like it.

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We wondered around and bought a pair of Havaianas (mine had broken in Australia). We also found a brilliant 'by the kilo' restaurant - like the best buffet in the world; meats, sushi, salads, cheeses, desserts - almost anything you can imagine - you fill your plate and then they weigh it and you pay your share of the kilo price. Needless to say our stomachs were sore before we entered back in to the sunlight to navigate our way back to Santa Teresa. We had every intention of heading out to a samba club in the evening and went to the hostel bar for some dutch courage. However I could tell that the darker it grew the more nervous Noush was about braving the streets and I was still in an unusually mousey mode - so mojitos in the hostel it was until we hit the sack at a respectable midnight.

We spent the next two days visiting the big sights. We headed to Sugarloaf Mountain (Pao de Acucar) on Sunday where we reinacted James Bond's fight with Jaws from Moonraker in the cable car (not really - but we talked about it). It was a bit cloudy but Rio looked beautiful and peaceful from 350m and the fresh air was .....refreshing!

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Is that what a sugarloaf looks like?

We also got caught in the most unbelievably torrential rain and lightning storm on our way back to the hostel. Drains were overflowing and we walked through things that no one should ever walk through in flipflops. It continued to rain until about 3am at the same rate - I think even Rio slowed down during it.

Once the easter madness was over - Monday isn't a holiday in Brazil - we headed to see Cristo Redentor or Christ the Redeemer. Hailed as one of the new seven wonders of the world, he was stunning actually. As tall as a 13 storey building and atop a 700m hill, you reach the statue by ancient old cog train.....which feels like it might topple backwards as it is so steep.

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About 10 minutes after this shot was taken you could no longer see the face of the statue and we watched all the poor buggers who had paid a fortune for 6 minute helicopter flights whizz around in vain trying to get a shot. We headed back to centro and found the street markets of Saara where we people watched and bought more Havaianas.....at 5 quid per pair it would be rude not to. Then headed back to the hostel for a few hours relaxing and planning our next day departure.

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We may have gone back to Espirito Santa for another one of those chocolate desserts too.

We left early the next day having been informed that we could get a bus at 9am to Parati. Well I have no idea where that bus went as we got to the bus station to be informed that the bus was at midday.....Rio bus station is not really where you want to spend 3 hours killing time but there was no option. I headed towards the Segafredo sign to get us a decent coffee and was most disgruntled when I watched the 'barrista' get all the ingredients for our cappucino from a packet to which she added some hot water......and then cover it in cinnamon. We're in South America in a country massively populated by Italians and this is apparently a cappucino.....

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WTF!!!!

A minor incident with getting on the wrong bus (thank god someone was already in seat 13 and 14 or god knows where we would have ended up) and then we were finally winging our way out of Rio. I have to say that I wasn't sad to say goodbye and we didn't even know what true delights lay ahead.

Posted by Dani Parry 16:51 Archived in Brazil Comments (0)

Rapa Nui

Some pre-Easter Easter Island fun.

sunny 25 °C

Iorana!
We spent 4 days on the polynesian/Chilean island of Rapa Nui. As I'm sure most of you know, the island is famous for the moai - giant stone statues that are believed to have been the totems of the original settlers who later vanished (slavery, starvation, war?). Therefore there is no passed down lore among the Rapa Nui and an awful lot of speculation on behalf of everyone about what really happened. We are still none the wiser but we did have some magical moments and loved the peace and quiet of this tiny Pacific island 4000kms from anywhere.
I'll let the photos speak for themselves.....maururu xx

The first sunset (and a fake moai on the balcony)
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Tahai - our local moai site
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A second sunset (a theme developing?)
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Rano Raraku - the quarry or 'nursery' from which all the moai are carved
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Tongariki
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An early start on day four
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The sunrise and the moon over Rano Raraku
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Saving the best sunset for last
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And that was that.....we bade farewell to our lovely adopted dogs Flor and Camila and flew back to Santiago the next day. We spent an oddly satisfying night in a soul-less airport hotel (hey, we hadn't seen any TV for weeks!) and got up at 5am to fly to Rio de Janeiro......home of samba and thong bikinis and caiprinhas.......

Posted by Dani Parry 13:50 Archived in Chile Comments (0)

A week in Chile

Why didn't we learn castellano (spanish)?

sunny 21 °C

Thursday 7th April lasted about 40 hours. We left Sydney in the early morning and arrived in Santiago about 2pm - despite having been travelling for 16 hours. We had gone back in time 14 hours and for the first time in three months are now 4 hours behind the UK in time. Confused? So were we - we literally didn't know what was going on. Add to that the fact that our hostel had moved from the address in the guide book and we had no idea where to and we were off to a great start!

Santiago is crazy - it's busy, smoggy, chaotic, old and modern, smokey and full of street dogs. A complete contrast to the anglophiled travelling we have done so far. Day 1 was spent doing little other than sleeping and taking a brief walk around Barrio Brasil where we were staying - a 24 hour party place, full of cafe culture and students, pubs and clubs. We also had a mix up at the hostel which meant that our double room with private bathroom had been changed for a room with 5 beds all to ourselves and a shared bathroom. We didn't care though - the beds were great, the staff were lovely and there was a pleasant hippy vibe going on which put us at ease. Course we didn't know that meant music until 3am but I digress.

We explored Santiago for several hours on our second day and then surprised ourselves by staying up until 3am with a French/English/Spanish/Chileno group and drinking too much Bolivian lager. Photos of Santiago later.

As our time in Chile was limited due to the trip to Easter Island, we decided not to travel too far in either direction. We wanted to see Chile not the inside of a bus and the famous vistas of the north (desert) and south (Patagonia) needed about 27 hours on a bus in each direction if you did it all in one crazy go. Instead we dragged our hungover selves to the bus station and took a 7 hour journey to La Serena. Firstly - these buses are brilliant. 15 pounds each buys you a bed on the bus, pillow and blanket and movies and headphones. So you can imagine what we did for 7 hours - yep, slept. We arrived in La Serena on a pretty cloudy afternoon and checked into Hostal El Punto - a really pretty place to stay right by the town and the famous Faro (lighthouse).

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We had a brief roam around and then followed our stomachs to dinner - unfortunately this comida Chileno was closed.....so we had to have the cheesiest pizza in the world.

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The next day we had booked on to a full day tour of the surrounding areas and the famous Valle de Elqui - a beautiful valley filled with vineyards, papyas, avocados and 'arty types'. The nobel prize winning Chilean poet Gabriela Mistral came from Vicuna in this area and is somewhat of a hero (just don't ask about Doris Dano and their cats!!).
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We had a great day on the bus from hell - including a wine tasting and papaya shop (who knew you could do so much), the dam, the river, lunch in a solar powered restaurant (goat with rice,and a pudding of rehydrated peaches and wheat kernels......) and a tour of a pisco factory. The Pisco sour is the drink of Chile (and Peru apprently but don't get them started) and it is made from Muscat grapes. It bears no resemblance to other grape drinks and reminds me of tequila - Noush had to drink mine and her own and then the second sample of mine......and her own. No complaints though. The best thing about the distillery tour was the history of the people who own it - there are stories of bachanallian piss ups, poetry and black magic. Like a crazed dead poets' society with way too much Pisco! The cellars of the distillary look like this.....

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A maze of tunnels filled with poetry, skeltons and 150 year old bottles of Pisco - and the bones of the dead grandfather in his grave. Madness!

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One of my personal highlights of the day was watching the local dogs walk in and out of church during Sunday service. That is how integrated they are into the culture - no one bears them any mind as they wander down the aisle, have a sniff around and then wander out again. Surreal.

La Serena is famous for having 29 churches and indeed they were everywhere. We wandered the streets in the sun the next day and then headed down to the coast for a further walk to lunch. It's not the prettiest coast in the world - there is a lot of neglect and that many stray dogs will cause their own problems but it was good to see what was going on in the surrounding area. Plus the recommended restaurant was great, the pisco sours (papaya in my case) really tasty and who says sushi isn't traditional?

We travelled to Observatorio Cerro Mamalluca by rally bus that evening for some stargazing. It was a bit cloudy and the driver kept stopping and making worried phone calls en route but we did get to go and learn about the southern skies, look through a few telescopes and gaze at the moon. As well as Saturn - which looked a bit like the set from an Ed Wood movie to me. Our guide was excellent and very patient with Mr. Knowitall who was also in our group (there is always one!). She even took a photo of the moon for us - so did Anouska - what do you reckon?

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Stunning stuff.

We jumped on another bus south this time to Valparaiso or Valpo. This bus stopped everywhere and anywhere and it took 7 hours again although we were still two hours north of Santiago. They gave us free food though - although I'm not sure that the stale salami and cream cheese sandwich was exactly what Noush was after. However we discovered we could try to improve our Spanish by watching Spanish subtitles on French movies about flying angel babies (it's a classic.....) and Clash of the Titans.

We waited until the next day to really explore Valpo - it's an UNESCO site, a higgledy piggledy mass of coloured houses and painted streets raising up steep hills from the old port. We walked the streets and admired the creativity, more extreme than Brighton or Barcelona, a total riot of colour.

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We met a couple of lovely Irish girls at breakfast and so all went out for a few drinks in the evening. I had the traditional bife pobre for dinner (chips, with a steak, two fried eggs and onions) and Noush went for the tabla (25 cubes of ham, 25 cubes of cheese, 25 olives and some cauliflower.......and we know what kind of 'ham' comes in 2cm cubes????). It is fair to say that Chile has not been wowing us with it's cuisine although we've had a few lovely glasses of wine. Every traveller you meet tells you how much weight they have gained - and quite frankly, that's just not the plan!!

The last two days we have been south of the capital in the stunning Andean valley of Cajon del Mapio. We journeyed by bus, 3 tubes and collectivo to reach our hostel.....which was actually a creaking, Germanic hunting lodge - and we were the only people in it. Not even any staff lived in - scary stuff! But we actually loved being out of towns and cities for a few days and booked ourselves on a little stroll yesterday with an English speaking tour guide Martin (pro. Mar-teen - I don't have the accents for over the i). Three hours in to the walk we had reached our highest point - 2000m high in the Andes - glutes burning - covered in dust - but the view was worth almost every second of it. We also had the great joy of being accompanied by some other guides. Cascada de las Animas (waterfall of the spirits) where we were staying is a family run business and the 9 families all live on site with 5 dogs a piece...we didn't know they would join us in what I suppose is their back garden.

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There are too many lovely photos of this day to show you - you'll just all have to come round when we're back and be bored to tears. Thankfully the restaurant at the Cascada was pretty creative and we managed to fill up on quinoa cake, goat, chicken, potatoes and pancakes and wine (yep - all of the above) when we had washed the dust off at the end of the day.

And there we have it - 9 days in Chile. We travelled back to Santiago today and returned to Hostel Princesse Insolente but we got our double room this time. We've been out to see more of the city and visit the Virgin on the Hill at Cerro San Cristobal. You travel to the summit by funicular....an ancient hillside cable car. I wish London had a hill like this in the centre of it - the views were marvellous.

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We fly to Easter Island tomorrow morning which we are both stupidly excited about. The sun is supposed to be shining and there's some big heads to take masses of photos of. Hasta luega!

Posted by Dani Parry 15:16 Archived in Chile Comments (0)

Anouska's Australia

Notes and scribbles from down under

Continuing the theme from New Zealand, here are a few favourites from Australia.

Tim Tams - life savings treats, particularly in bad weather. My favourite flavour: dark mint chocolate. Even tastier at $4 for two packets!!
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The Australian House Gecko - Little pink ceiling dwellers which make kissing noises before they pounce on unsuspecting insects. They come out at night in their hundreds, I found them a friendly foe whenever I visited the toilets in the middle of the night.
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Australian furry wildlife in general...

Kangaroos are a common sight at dusk and dawn, they hang out in 'mobs' and from what I can tell tend to be quite shy. The little ones in Northern Oz are called Wallaroos, very cute. They can get even smaller, Aboriginals have named one of the smallest and sacred Kangaroos the Mala; about the size of a rabbit unfortunately very rare to see today. I never tired of seeing a Kangaroo, I wish we had them back in the UK - beats the humble squirrel!

Dingoes were another favourite of mine, they are also fairly wary of humans, unless of course you're asleep in the outback. They have been known to steal shoes in the middle of the night.

Of course Koala's are on this list too, we saw a fair few on the south coast and they are cute as anything, they hang out in the trees no matter what the weather. Their slightly oversized bottoms are normally the first thing you spot followed by a slow turn of their heads to reveal big black eyes and huge gremlin like ears.

Emus! I would argue more fluffy than furry, but funny Jurassic-esque creatures that grunt and blink at you with big batting eye lashes. Also quite shy, however like to peck if you get into their personal space.

Australian bird life - So many colours, shapes, sizes and species to mention. My favourites were from the parrot and cockatoo families and of course the classic Ozzy bird the Kookaburra. Until you've heard and seen Kookaburras laughing and cackling you wouldn't believe this small bird was capable of making such a racket. It made me wonder what the first explorers to land in Oz would have made of them, I bet a few quid they were scared out of their wits!

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Ice creams and esplanades - Most seaside towns boasted an neatly manicured esplanade with outdoor gyms, filtered drinking water, skate board parks and a plethora of ice cream stalls (or Gelato, which is the more trendy version for the health conscious). What flavour did I pick I hear you ask? Always Pistachio, or Macadamia and honey if is wasn't available, yum.

Sushi - Great in most parts of the country. I hadn't seen nor tasted Salmon Skin Tempura Rolls before, and I probably shouldn't have tried one because this could be a contributing factor to why my stubborn waistline darn right refuses to get smaller!

Enormous skies - Everyone mentions the vast clear skies down under; that's no understatement. Photos just cannot do some of the awe inspiring views justice, they really are stunningly beautiful both in colour and in clarity, you can see for miles and miles which adds to the constant reminder that you are standing in a country that is larger than Europe.

Australia - Big and beautiful, I feel like there's so much more I could have seen and hope that I get the chance to come back and tick off a few more 'must do's' on my list.

To sum up, here a few more photos (and scribbles) I liked that didn't quite make 'the Director's' cut (Dani that is)...

Great Ocean Road (South side):
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West side:
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Magnetic Island (East side):
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Darwin (North side):
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Bear Grylls!
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Red Centre (Middle side?):
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My next installment will be from Chile and Easter Island, until next time - Adios amigos!

Posted by Dani Parry 13:23 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

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