A Travellerspoint blog

October 2009


Rio, Bangers and Mash

sunny 27 °C

After a horrendous 24 hour bus ride from Iguazu Falls we arrive in the Central Rio de Janeiro Bus station at night. Probably not the best situation to be in but you play with the hand you’ve been dealt right? What to do - we hone in on a German backpacker who spoke Spanish & Portuguese and offer to share a cab, we follow him like sheep baaaaa to the exit. Turns out he’s been here before and knows which bus to catch to Copacabana and where a sweet hostel is - Bingo we hit the jackpot!

We find ourselves showing up in Rio on the second biggest weekend to Carnival - Rio Independence Day. Our Copacabana hostel is fully booked the whole weekend so after 1 night we split to find a new home. We found a cheap place on the internet which seems to be one of the only places not full so we check it out. There’s a good reason why its not full - its THAT filthy/moldy/smelly/decrepit borderline condemmed it officially becomes the only hostel we have turned down the whole trip for health reasons…..and our standards have significantly lowered on this trip!
We finally find 1 vacant dorm bed in the suburb of Ipanema. WooHoooooo. Ipanema wave hostel is 1 of about 8 hostels in a lush side alley full of gardens. Drop the bags, time to check out Rio. Planted between lush, forest-covered mountains and breathtaking beaches, the Cidade Maravilhosa has many charms at her disposal. But it’s the Cariocas (Rio dwellers) who’ve made it their own - there’s no doubt about it, the Cariocas know how to party. Good times are seeked by anyone that can, be it a sun soaked beer hydrated day on Ipanema beach, a wok eyed booze fest party in Lapa or a vibrating explosion of human emotion at a soccer match at Stadium Maracana. But in no place have we travelled so far have the social inequalities been so apparent - starving child dying on the street out the front of a Louis Vouton store. And watch your back on the way to the ATM to try and lose the 2 guys that have been following you since you left the hostel.
All that said, the Brazillian people are the most outgoing and friendly of the South American countries we visited. We met some lovely girls from Sao Paulo in our hostel who came to Rio for their Independence Day Celebrations. They offered to drive us to a beach 40 mins south of Ipanema, through the favelas to reach Prainha surfing beach. All 5 of us, 2 surfboards and a body board all packed into a 3 door VW golf (these Brazilian girls have talent!) and off we went getting lost all through Rio until finally we find the beach after stopping and asking several bewildered locals and cab drivers.
We also frequented the nearby Ipanema Beach for our new favourite sport - Bang Watch (you can work it out). Rio is the best people watching place in the world it seems - there’s no shame here the motto seems to be “if you’ve got it - flaunt it”
We also caught up with a lovely Brazilian girl called Anna who we met in Hawaii back in Feb 09. She lived in an apartment in close by Leblon and hooked up for us to go to the Health Club with her for some work outs. Steve hit the weights and Jess did the Brazilian Bum class, that’s right folks they actually have classes devoted to getting muscular butts and thighs here to really flaunt that G String!!!

The football match we caught at the Maracana was electric. We watched the local side Flamenco wallop the opposition Club Recife Sport 3 -1. Lucky too as you could easily see how things could have got out of hand even if there is 7 foot of bullet proof Perspex between the club supporters.
In all good traditions we had a big one the eve of our flight to Europe. We hit the Lapa arches. We met some fellow Aussie bogans, Jared, and Chris (who was a dead ringer of Edward Norton out of American History X) from Sydney and also some crazy kiwis. Amongst them, another movie star, Mr Simon who was 99% ROSS from Friends! Time to Party with Norto and Rossatron, and frank the tank…. No photos though I’m afraid with our hands full of beers and mouths flapping with the locals we forgot! Not really a place to whip out your shiny arse white boy camera anyway.
But heres a few of Jess belting out a few vocals one night when we met up with the chaps...

So Brazil was about Rio, sunshine, good times, beautiful people - NEXT - time to split to Europe, first stop Amsterdam!

Posted by jessnsteve 03:35 Archived in Brazil Tagged backpacking Comments (0)


Wandering Santiago, skiboarding Valle Nevado and La Parva, surfing Pichilemu

snow 0 °C

Peru was THE BEST but we couldn’t stay there forever and after 2.5 months it was time to give the next South American country a visit, CHILE!
Santiago is one of South America’s largest cities with some 5.2 million inhabitants. The megacity is centered by a colonial core and grand Plaza de Armas. We decide on La Casa Roja from the list of hostels provided by our Lonely Planet guide - and it turns out it is owned by Aussies, it has a restaurant called the Platypus, and half the staff including the bar manager are AUSSIES!! It was good to share travel stories with fellow country persons and this hostel was pretty cool, at the beginning anyway. It was a HUGE mansion renovated into a HUGE party pad. It had a bar open until 4am, a pool that we didn’t swim in, too cold, but people were jumping in at 5am, an ultra large kitchen that let up to anywhere between 15-20 people cook at once, large dorm rooms with ultra high ceilings, an inhouse travel agency, wifi, bla bla bla the list goes on and on and on.
Our first mission here - locate an Olympus dealer and have our broken camera assessed ASAP. A disposable camera was also purchased and needed to take photos with a trip to the snow and also to the coast on the cards.
The parties continued when we met a bunch of chaps from Melbourne. Lively bunch of boys on tour. Things got pretty loose when we caught some live local music in a warehouse around the corner and stayed up till sunrise.
After 5 days of exploring the city and partying with the chaps our camera was finally diagnosed - $400 (Aus) to get prepared and the part had to be ordered in from Miami and this could take several weeks?!?!?!? OK. I don’t think so. We get a letter explaining this for travel insurance and head straight out to find a replacement. Nowhere had the water proof travellers camera in Santiago.
There are three major Chilean ski resorts within an hr of the capital and it is that easy, and cheap, to do day trips. We head to Valle Nevado for some ski boarding (Jess skiing and Steve snowboarding) with a disposable camera and a spare canon powershot one of the Melbourne chaps lent to us THANKS LUKE, YOU’RE A LEGEND MATE!
Jess had skied once, for 2 days, and that was 8 yrs ago. I had boarded once, for 3 days, and that was 13 years ago. AND HERE WE ARE BOOTING UP TO SKIBOARD IN THE CHILEAN ANDES!! If you ever find yourself in Chile - go to the snow. Its about a 1/3 of the price at home and from my only experience in Thredbo atleast 3 times as good.
Nursing our sore legs and bruised bodies we tossed and turned on what else we should do in Chile. Head south to Patagonia - middle of winter, ahhh to cold. Go to vineyards - ahh you can do that at home plus its pricey in Chile. Move onto Argentina?? Nope we head straight to a small fishing village called Pichilemu, 3hrs by bus SW of Santiago. We were meant to stay here for a few days, we stayed here for a 1 and half weeks. We met Marcel from Holland, Oliver from Switzerland, Martha from Chile, and Anton and Zinger from the states. Marcel owns Pichilemu beach hostel (the boat) and provides great hospitality and insight into the surrounding waves. Oliver was living in the boat and introduced us to Anton and Zinger who were staying at Los Dos Soles owned by Martha…..
We end up spending most of our time in a bargain brick villa next door to Anton in Martha’s place. Surfing the 3 lefts on offer - Pichilemu Pt, Infernillos, and Punta de Lobos. Between surfs walking (6km) between Punta de Lobos and Pichilemu. Taking shelter from wild storms in Anton’s place next to the fire drinking carrot and ginger fruit juice cocktails. And keeping warm.
The surf ranged from 3ft to 15-18ft. The water a chilly 12 degrees - Steve only had a 3/2 but hired hood, gloves and booties. The crowds - it was just you and the sea life - seals and birds and seals and birds….
Steve tried to paddle out on the 15-18ft day. He stood on the rocks waiting to be shouted out in a lull. A foam ball washes him across a few rocks. He emerges from the white water with a big smile but crapping himself. The hoot is given - WOOOOOO jump! Oops out of the mist a freak set appears and it drills Steve to the beach some 600m down from the jump off. ‘Far out was that the biggest set of the day what happened to sending me out in a lull? I nearly lost my hood and board duck diving and I think I was a wave or 2 from drowning!’ The 2 red bull tow in guys continued to get the sets, but with dings all over his board Steve was defeated as the side shore crept in. We walked home and giggled about making phase 1 - jumping off and paddling through the gap in rocks, but yeah phase 2 - making it out, nope not today. But he did the next day, the only one out and a little smaller at 8-10ft. And that was our time in Pichilemu. We said our goodbyes to everyone and hopped on a bus back to Santiago in time for a dump of powder. Looking back over our shoulders at Pichilemu township as the bus struggled to get up the hill we’d been to a very special place.

Back in Santiago, La Casa Roja, we book ourselves for one more day in the snow, this time it was powder, and too much powder as Valle Nevado resort was closed and we had to divert to La Parva. HA! Both of us had NEVER ski boarded powder and it took us several cartwheel stacks to get our powder feet - in which you end up ¾ buried sometimes upside down! Pulling yourself out of powder was hard work, then ‘snailing’ across to a slope to get moving again. TIP: don’t loose your speed on powder. TIP2: try not to fall off a T bar next to a black run.

WOOOHOOO Chile was great. One day ski boarding, the next surfing, then back to ski boarding. Again it was time to pack our lives into our packs and move onto Buenos Aires, Argentina where we had lined up some work in a hostel and made plans for Iguazu Falls.

Posted by jessnsteve 03:34 Archived in Chile Tagged backpacking Comments (0)


Land of many steaks and huge waterfalls

all seasons in one day 50 °C

We flew from Santiago into Buenos Aires and copped at $60US entry tax each! WTF! We already paid a $30US departure tax in Chile!!? SheeeSH! But then we found it in the duty free at BA airport - our replacement camera - the new Olympus Stylus 8000 - the upgrade from our broken one. SOLD! Shortly after we go into the city via bus.

After a brief walk from the bus terminal to our hostel we drop bags at 9pm. Hostel El Sol ownded by Paul. OLAH! Como estas, muy bien………….

We had t’d up to work for Paul in his hostel in exchange for free accomodation while we were in Chile. It was sweet. Paul was a champion, a genuinely nice guy that had moved to Argentina from the States. In no time he had all these cool small renovation jobs for us and we got stuck into it. When we finished our few hrs a day working we roamed this cool cat city. Wow BA was cool. The Argentinians don’t sleep. The city is crawling 24/7. Hostel El Sol is located in the fashionable Recoleta but you wouldn’t guess it from the prices Paul had his hostel rooms at. Here we visited the Cementerio de la Recoleta, funky Palermo, the colourful neighborhood of La Boca , and the markets and shops in San Telmo. We also pulled our fingers out POP and pumped out a few sessions in the nature reserve, Reserva Ecologica Costanera.
First photo with the new camera - the flash was sooo bright!P8210296.jpgP8230300.jpgP8230306.jpg
The antique market was pretty cool, relics from 1800's...people from all over the world were here to deal in cheap amazing antiques..
This cemetary was insane, never have you seen so much wealth poored into highly ornate graves and tombs.
La Boca
We spent 9 days in BA, and wanted to spend 9 more - by the way the meat is SO good and SO cheap here. Jess the vegetarian now turned flexaterian, even ate a few big steaks!! But before we would go to Iguazu Falls Paul had one last job for us - help throw a going home party for Yannick - a 19yr ol kid from Holland who had stayed in BA for 11 months since graduating high school. No problems. LETS GET THE PARTY STARTED!!
We couldn’t leave the next day - this time it was Steve who was too hungover to travel, and had a sore elbow from falling over cleaning up at 5am once the party finished. So we stayed another day/night before saying our hoorays to our boss turned great friend Paul. Thanks mate we had a cracking time in BA and Hostel El Sol.
An overnight bus and we arrived to Puerto Iguazu, a five minute walk and we arrive at ‘Hostel Sweet Hostel’. The weather was perfect the next day and we get the local bus (20mins) to Iguazu Falls. Guarani ledgend has it that Iguazu Falls were created when a jealous forest god went psycho when a warrior escaped down a river with a young girl in a canoe. The canoe wasn't fast enough and the enraged forest god caused the river bed to collapse in front of the young lovers, producing the great Iguazu Falls, in which the young girl plummeted screaming to her death turning into a rock and the warrior backed out at the option of going over the falls, survived and turned into a tree overlooking his fallen lover….Well whatever the legend and origins are, Iguazu Falls is something else. The power. The water. The beauty. THE POWER! We roamed around by foot (there is a train for the old people) for 18km. Running to this look out and that. Exploring the surrounding jungle and finally having an over priced ice cream to finish the day off.
Don't miss Iguazu Falls if you are in this part of the world. We cant say anything for the Brazilian side, apparently a grand overview of the falls, but the up n close viewing decks on the Argentine side will send anyone into a frenzy! We cross the border into Brazil the next day, then get the overnight, shockingly overpriced, bus that was THAT unorganised to Rio de Janeiro.

Posted by jessnsteve 03:34 Archived in Argentina Tagged backpacking Comments (0)

Peru - ONE MORE TIME....you know like the song...anyway

Chillin Arequipa - Party Lima - Lobitos Lefts


We were all on our way back up to Lima through northern Chile and now southern Peru. At 2300m above sea level beautiful Arequipa is surrounded by mountains and volcanoes, although we couldn’t see any of this at first as we arrived in the dark and settled for an ok room that slept all 4 of us. Next day we wondered around the white city - many of Arequipa’s buildings are made of sillar, a light coloured volcanic rock abundant in the area.
We all had plans to travel to the nearby Canyon del Colca, famous for being the deepest, or 2nd deepest, in the world depending on who you talk to. Instead we were absorbed by Arequipa’s religious buildings, museums, cafes, pubs and colonial houses. ‘Relax’ is what Arequipa whispered to us…..
After a few days Julie and Genine packed up and headed for Nazca lines and a visit to Pisco. Jess and I hung around in Arequipa a little while longer and we’d all meet up in Lima. But before we left it was time to venture out into Arequipa’s pubs - this ended up in a drunken wrestle at about 1am over who was going to cook the 2 minute noodles, and then at about 4am Steve hurled all over the bed in his sleep.
Back into Lima after an all night bus and straight to hostel El Reducto where Steve left his boards nearly a month ago…..THEY’RE HERE!!!! We settle back into our hostel Inkawasi - now feeling more like a home as we keep coming back and continue to do so for the rest of our time in Peru. We plan another surf trip north while we wait for our Brazilian visas to be processed. NOTE: we were advised by several sources that you absolutely need to submit your passports to a Brazilian embassy for visa application prior to arriving to the border - well if you are crossing the border at Iguazu falls they do it on the spot. They also give out FREE yellow fever vaccinations here - we paid $120 each for these at home, and we were never checked for immunisation throughout all the border crossings which you apparently absolutely need this or you will not be let into the country.

Mum and Genine arrived all bright eyed and bushy tailed after their little side excursion which apparently included a night in some exotic resort…..Ok....But before we could blink they were gone again, after 7 wks of travelling together Jess and I stuffed them into a taxi headed for the airport - see you when we get home!!! The next day passports were signed, stamped and back in hands and we had a HUGE night out with the owners of Hostel Inkawasi in the typical shed club. The girls dominated on the dance floor, the guys dominated the beer guzzling. But the girls must have had a few beers? We had to postpone our trip north the next day because Jess immobilised herself to the couch all day with what she later described as ’nothings going to beat that hangover back in Peru…'.
Time to go north. Depart Lima 5pm - connect through Talara 7am - Lobitos 8am WOOHOOO back at Lobitos!! Steve was frothing for more desert lefts. Jess was just happy to be back in the sun, this time actually in the sun and not in bed day after day with a stomach parasite.
We stay at Jose Antonio’s surf shack and meet a bunch a cool lads from all over the world. Esteban and Juan from Argentina, Edu from Spain, and Greg from the states. All keen as for waves we were getting up at dark and coming in at dark. Jose runs a pretty tight ship and comes highly recommended and he was totally booked out for the 4th and final night. We said our goodbyes to the boys as everyone was going there seperate ways and moved directly across the road to the coolest bamboo bungalows which had an impressive top deck where you could eat the locally made cuisine.
After 4 days of surfing and exploring this isolated and desolate part of the coast we take an overnight bus south for our 2nd visit to Pacasmayo. Arriving 4am we wait an hr or so then knock on Hostel El Duke’s door - Senor Otto answers OLAH OLAH yes we are back! He invites us in and we settle into one of the many rooms this awsome surf hostel has to offer. But before Jess could fall back to sleep Steve had his wetsuit on and was tearing out the door on his way to El Faro for some leg burning lefts.

Our water proof camera became not so water proof this very day and from here to Chile we have no photographic enhancements for our stories. Pacasmayo got to about 5ft and Steve road the longest wave of his life to date, several times apparently. We bumped into a fellow Ausie, Max, who shared with us some of our final sunny moments in Peru. Our adventures in Peru were closing to an end. Adios Senor Otto, and this time we weren’t coming back. And while we waited on the main street for our bus to Lima Mr Fabio (Inkawasi) and family pulled up - aw what a shock! We were coming back to Lima for one last hooray with those guys, another big night out! But we had to say our goodbyes there and then as they were finally taking some time out of their busy lives for a holiday in Pacasmayo.

Back in Lima, and yep back to our home Hostel Inkawasi. We bump into Greg who we met up north. We followed him to another Hostel - Hitchhikers, as Inkawasi wasn’t the same without Fabio taking us surfing and out to night clubs. But nonetheless it was Independence Day in Peru, so the three of us - Jess, myself and Greg went out and celebrated with the Peruvians, whow sunrise and we were still drinking king browns…..

Greg left home for the states the next day, slightly cross eyed, we left the day after bound for Santiago Chile. We said goodbye but also said see you somewhere sometime in the future - you meet a lot of different people as you travel. Some are great for a chat and to share experiences but you know that the chances of seeing them again are slim. Then there have been others like Greg, whom you are sure will meet again one day as you wave hooray.

Posted by jessnsteve 03:34 Archived in Peru Tagged backpacking Comments (0)

Northern Chile

Short visits through San Pedro de Atacama and Arica


After 3 days and nights in the Bolivian desert it was time to have a shower and wash some clothes phooooeeee! We cross the border into Northern Chile and head to the closest town, San Pedro de Atacama.
At 2440m above sea level and surrounded by volcanoes San Pedro’s town square and adobe houses preserve a colonial feeling despite the hoards of outa towners stopping by for a short visit before taking on the adventures available in the surrounding terrain. The town felt like a bit of a tourist trap as the fumes coming off the credit card thickened with the elevated prices…...
We enjoy an evening or two wondering around cobble stone streets, snacking lightly in cafes, but get the next bus to Arica, a coastal town 20km from the Peruvian border, a site where Chile and Peru battled in the war of the Pacific. There was a strong army presence in Arica.
Steve was chasing a nice swell but was boardless having left his boards in Lima for the whole Inca trail trip thing. ‘It’ll be right I’ll be able to rent a board and a wetty, could maybe even buy me a ¾ steamer cause I’ll need it when we get to Chile yeah!?’ he says. Well I’ll let him tell the story from now on in……
Yes not a good idea but anyway as you can see from the above pictures Arica was going off the day we arrived. Offshore!!! 6ft?? 4 guys out??????????. Was hard to tell how big it was and how many people were out but I think I could see 4 dots on the peak.....Get me a board and a wetty I AM OUT THERE!
8hrs later I was still boardless, and slightly psychotic would probably be an understatement. The search started by meeting the guru of Arica, a big wave charger, can’t remember his name, who hobbled around the house holding his back going ‘aw man yesterday was pumping’ and….’dude they’re my babies sorry I can’t lend 1 to you it might snap…’ Ok….I stormed off going ‘sheesh not even the old yellow one!’ ummmm, I get back to our hostel and am asked by the hostel manager, who spoke in Spanish of course, ‘Como estas?’ Well not so good today. I explained to him in my spanglish the current, very desperate situation and it turns out he was holding a 6’6 rounded pin for an AUSTRALIAN girl who was down the coast a few hrs - He calls her to see if I can borrow it - ALRIGHT put her on the dogs bone I’ll talk to her, fellow Ausie should be easy right! But not alright. She didn’t pick up.

I tried surfboard shops - they had boards to rent but without fins, I tried Mr ‘but they’re my babies’ big wave charger for fins - nope sorry. AND still no answer with the Australian girl after 4 attempts.

FOR 8HRS we searched for rent-a-board dudes on adjacent beaches, back and forth between surf shops and locals and our hostel and we must have covered about 12kms. What did I do to deserve this torture the surf was cranking!? What ever it was I was defeated. I could have bought a board but the arvo had gone onshore so we just sat and watched it……

Wow Steve was not in a good mood, and ended up putting me in an even worse mood with all his 'I didn't surf Arica' blues. The next day he went for a jog really early to blow off some steam and we didn’t sleep well. He returned as we woke up..... ‘3-4ft pumping and no one out, lets get the f&^k outa here’ he grumbled. And we did, we all got a ride in the coolest collectivo ever across the boarder and then caught the next bus to Arequipa - Peru’s second largest and possibly most beautiful city.

Anyone for some choco bum snacks or some freshly squeezed frog juice?

Posted by jessnsteve 03:33 Archived in Chile Tagged backpacking Comments (0)

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