Sunday, May 31, 2009

Days 58 to 61 - Portugal

It's been pretty much lying around in the sun and helping out with a bit of DIY for me in Portugal so far.

I did go through all my Belle & Sebastian, Cat Empire and Hard Fi songs to create a playlist of my favourites.... good huh...

I went to watch the FA Cup final yesterday..... in fairness, Chelsea deserved to win but I was still disappointed... if only the game lasted for 1 minute...

Last night was a bit of a blur. I went to Lagos to catch up with some friends from Woking who own a bar there.... after the second Jagermeister the rest of the night passed without too much recollection for me... I met Mark who's a qualified yachtmaster... he spends his life sailing around the world. Lucky huh.

I'm now looking forward to my trip to UK and seeing my nephew Finn... He's moving around like a regular Usain Bolt now... very pacey.... obviously Kiera's genes and not my brothers heh heh...

Today we're having a BBQ.... nice... I can't wait... Food glorious food... Also, I cleaned the pool. It's sparkling.

Ouch my head... time to go for a lie down...

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Day 56 and 57 - The Portugal Days....

Life moves pretty slow, if you don't stop to look around once in a while... you wouldn't know what to do with yourself... A lesson learnt from ignoring Ferris Bueller and particularly relevant to the veritable banquet of r&r I'm enjoying in Portugal.... Roll on you slow and steady days... The liver is almost back up to 100%, food has reached a level of exceptional home cooking proportions only a Mum can achieve and i've spent 20 euros in four days... Get in...

So, What have I been up to the last couple of days.... Lots of interesting things.... honest.... I saw a bee today..... if flew into a window... shame... and this swallow actually landed on the table outside.... Mum exclaimed she hadn't seen that before... it was a real day of firsts..

Really though, I did very little yesterday and today apart from relax, speak to some of my favourite people on the tinternet.... you know who you are.. and sunbathe.. I've almost gone from blue to white... it's real progress.

So, I thought to myself.. "I have to think of something to keep the three of you who read this entertained." So, I came up with a few tips on what to do and not to do while travelling...

1. Accept that the Dr's I've seen in Sydney are profit mongerers....meerly the whores of capitalism.... Why you ask?

Well i'll bloody tell you... Checked my washbag yesterday... what did I find...
a) Altitute sickness tablets.... now I won't be needing those on my weekend trip to Amsterdam will I? Where did I need them? Peru, that's where. Did I use them? Did I buggery....

Me to my tour leader: "When should I take these altitude sickness tablets?"

Tour leader "err... you won't need those, they'll make you ill... have some cocoa tea and you'll be fine... Hope you didn't spend much on them."

b) Malaria tablets.... did I need them in South America.... our survey says... uh uuuuhhhh

c) Gastro salts.... again... a negative requirement.

All in all a great bunch of utter rubbish.

2. Don't eat yellow snow.... but in truth, if your going on a trek in South America the next day, don't listen to anyone who says... "But you've got to try the Guinea Pig... when else are you going to have some?"

I'll tell you when... every other day you're in Peru... except those days aren't the day before you go on a two day trek... The other days would have been fine to be sick... not the day before the trek. My advice.... stick to staple foods... bacon sarnies and spag bol... Can't go wrong.

3. Some advice to our male Scandinavian friends... if you go to a club in South America and everyone else in the club is wearing jeans, top and trainers.... the attractive, made up local ladies wearing little black dresses and high heals are prostitutes... To help you out.... i've devised a simple phrase for you to remember...

"If it looks like a prostitute and orders an expensive champagne like a prostitute when you offer her a drink... chances are, she's a prostitute..." Take heed friends....

Anyway, I have achieved a few things over the last couple of days... the washing's done and smells like a field of flowers... nice.... I checked some flights to Europe and it's looking pretty affordable... I also have a basic plan of what i'm going to do in UK... Things are looking up...

Tomorrow, I spend some time practicing the Spanish... Check me out...

Monday, May 25, 2009

Day 51 to 55 (21st May to 25th May)

21st May was my last full day in South America. It was a good day in Cusco as I had my last Spanish lesson as well as some salsa lessons which was fun.

We then went for dinner at a french restaurant where the set menu cost 7 Sols which is about £1.50... Bargain. I got a soup, Spaghetti Bolognaise and a crepe. Get in.

Went out with Lauren and Sarah (UK) from the hostel that night to Mama Africa's, Mythology, Roots and some other bar I've forgotten the name of. It was Sarah's birthday so made for an interesting night. We had a fair few Cuba Libre's and Sarah had a particularly potent cocktail at the first bar.... We got into Mythology and before I knew it, Sarah was dancing on the bar. The barman started spraying a Mango vodka in people's mouths and we passed the point of no return.

We got into Roots and all in all finished the night off well. It was good fun.

The next morning, I got up at 10.30am after getting back at about 6am... I had a flight to catch and my bags to pack... I remember having 100 sols in my pocket the night before and my bankcard.. Could I find them the next morning.... could I buggery... I couldn't believe it. My last night in South America and I've been so safe and careful. The one time I take my backcard out and I bloody lose it.... grrrr... I asked at reception if anyone had handed it in and knew what the response would be. Trouble was, I had to quickly head into town, get some money out with my other card, pay for and collect my laundry, pay for the room to check out, finish packing my back and get in a cab to the airport. I had brekky with Lauren and Sarah and then jumped in a cab to the airport.

I didn't have any time to call HSBC to cancel the card and it was playing on my mind. I got to Cusco airport and called anyone I knew in UK to get me the number for HSBC... Mobile phones are great aren't they.... They ring and ring and you don't have to answer them... Really handy... :) Finally got through and was saved. Thanks Phil you're a star. I flew to Lima, called HSBC and cancelled the card and then jumped on a plane to Madrid. It was an 11 hour flight and went pretty smoothly. I was so knackered it didn't take me long to get to sleep. Nice. Also, I'm loving the Cat Empire 'So many nights'album. It's been a good friend in South America.

Arrived in Madrid feeling surprisingly refreshed. Met Townley at the airport and, aside from a couple of minor directional hiccups on the train, got back to his place smoothly.

We went out for dinner and before I knew it, the time was 8pm. It was completely light out and I'd forgotten what that felt like. I'd forgotten that the nights are much lighter till later over this way. We went out to a fair few bars, I hijacked a hen do and acted as official photographer for about ten mins and then we adopted an Argentinian guy in one of Townley's local bars... There was an interesting exotic dancer at the club we went to which Townley claims "Never happens" and a good night was had by all.

Sunday 24th May was an interesting day travel wise.... I flew from Madrid to Faro.... via London. Why? I'll tell you why, it's cause I'm an idiot. 7 hours to do a 1 hour journey. Oops. Anyway, got to my mum's feeling a little dishevelled but happy to be in one place for more than four days.

Spent all day by the pool today (25th May) and went out for dinner. Going to be nice and quiet over the next week or so I suspect. Oh and I found my damn bankcard in my bag along with the cash.... Grrrrr....

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Day 50 - Cusco

Coming to the end of my time in South America. I´ve really had an amazing time. Each place i´ve been to has had something utterly unique about it and I will definitely return here someday.

Just winding down now really. Yesterday I had my Spanish lesson and then had dinner at a Mexican restaurant. I met two girls who are about to do the Lares Trail so I helped them out with some info and then took them to the shop I bought my fleece from. The fleece I now refer to as the fleece of life for if I didn´t have it on the trek I think I would have frozen to death.

Last night I met Evan (Ireland) and Adam and Loken (Israel). We just stayed in the Hostel bar and had a quiet one. Everyone seemed to be suffering from a big one the previous night. Accept for Ryan of course. He´s from Northern Ireland and I can´t say that i´ve ever seen him sobre. He´s hilarious. Last night he went out to a club carrying a metre long candle. An interesting accessory I thought. I could imagine the bouncers at the club really pondering whether a candle was something you shouldn´t bring in to the club. This morning he woke up in someone elses bed, they moved to his bed and he picked up the candle and said:

"Where did this come from?"

I said: "Life must be full of surprises for you Ryan, you must wake up each morning in amazement at the latest tacky souvenir purchase you made the night before..."

"It´s true" he said as he picked up a clown mask made of felt material and looked at it curiously.... "Where did this come from...." he said.

Classic. Two nights ago we had to carry him to the dorm because he was insistent the bar should stay open.... Four of us tried to lift him into bed... it was an interesting experience.

Today, I have my final Spanish lesson and then I go to some Salsa lessons. Tonight is my last official night in South America so I´ve got to go out I think. It´s only right.... we´ll see...

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Day 48 and 49 - Cusco (18th and 19th May)

It´s getting a tad parky in Cusco. Glad I bought that fleece for 15 pounds the other day. Wise purchase indeed. Temperature must be in single figures in the evenings. Brrrr

So, I´m really just biding my time in Cusco until I fly to Madrid on Friday. I´ve had 8 hours of spanish lessons so far and it´s starting to make more sense. It´s always difficult trying to learn a new language when you chat to English speaking people all of the time so I need to force myself to chat to only Spanish speaking people to help me practice.

I met Kate from UK at my hotel on Monday so we went out for dinner that evening. A quiet dinner turned into a few drinks at Paddy´s Irish Pub where we met Georgie and Arturo (from my trek group) as well as a few others. This then turned into yet more drinks at a club called Mama Africas and another club called Mythology... Another 3am finish..... Still it was good fun.

Tuesday I didn´t really do much... had a four hour Spanish lesson and then I changed hostels and am now staying in the Loki Hostel. It´s just a big party place essentially. Good fun though... We went out last night for a few drinks and ended up at Mama Africas and Mythology again. 5.30am finish this time. Am feeling a little worse for wear today but have done my Spanish homework so roll on another 4 hour lesson.

Hasta Leugo Amigos...

Monday, May 18, 2009

Day 47 - Machu Picchu (17th May)

Wow.... that´s all I can say.... wow...

I went out for dinner on the evening of the 16th with the gang from the trek... it was our tour leader Bobby´s birthday so we had a bit of a celebration. Early wake up call the next morning at 4.45am soon put paid to too late a night.

Still, we were based in Aguas Calientes about a 30min bus ride from Machu Picchu and I was nervous with anticipation of what I would feel and experience.... I only managed about four or five hours sleep which is kind of on a par for the last few weeks....

We got to the bus stop the next morning and the queue was huge... being English... I felt so much at home. Aahh the delights of the queue, so comforting. We got on the bus at 5.30am and started the journey up the mountain... About 20mins into it an explosive vision appeared to my right... the incredible sight of Machu Picchu (which means old mountain btw) Wow.... it was breathtaking.

You can´t help but feel something when you see this amazing sanctuary for the first time. I felt awe, it was magnificent.

We stopped at the entrance just next to the $800 a night hotel outside of the main entrance... oh well, I was always expecting some element of commercialism here (my Chicken sandwich at lunch was about 5 pounds, compared to 2 pounds in other places i´d visited).

When we got in we made a speedy trek to pick up tickets to climb Waynu Picchu (young mountain) which stands adjacent to Machu Picchu. Only 400 are available. Unfortunately, my blisters from my trekking exploits got the better of me so I decided not to climb. Taran very kindly took the camera up to share the experience.

We then headed up to the Guard House at the top of Machu Picchu to watch the sun rise above the mountain and illuminate the buildings below...

It was a real privilege to see the sun appear above the mountains. I have to admit that I pulled my iPod out and listened to Mascagni - Cavelleria Rusticana (from The Godfather), Pachelbel - Kanon in D minor and Albinoni - Adagio in Sol Minore. I don´t know why but it just felt right to see the sun lighting up Machu Picchu to the sound of inspirational classical music... I was totally lost in the scene. I was sat on a rock, my left elbow on my knee, left hand on my cheek gazing in absolute awe at what was unfolding below me...

The tour was excellent. Our guide talked with passion and authority about Machu Picchu, how it was a sanctuary and not a city, the theories behind why it wasn´t finished, the story behind the rediscovery of the place by Hiram Bingham and how years before a German guy made the same discovery... incredible.

The way the Inca´s set about building such masterpieces is also fascinating. The accuracy of how they cut the stones to create the buildings...

the perfection that they sought in the numerous terraces that adorn the main living areas to protect the mountain from erosion.

We spent six or seven hours at Machu Picchu with a good hour of that spent just soaking up the vision of the place.

We left at about 12.30pm to get the train back to Ollantaytampo and then the bus back to Cusco.

We arrived around 6pm last night and planned to go out for some drinks... exhaustion got the better of us around midnight and I was very pleased to be in my hotel bed in Cusco...

Today, I signed up for 15 hours of intensive Spanish lessons... Should be interesting... My time in South America is coming to an end but I already know that this beautiful and diverse continent and I will not be strangers for long.....

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Day 44 - 46 - The Lares Trail

So, we started the Lares Trail... three hours of walking mainly uphill climbing almost 800 metres...

I´m not going to lie to you.. the first two hours were absolute agony. I had nothing to eat apart from a bread roll all day.. I was living on no sleep and I was feeling terrible... I almost gave up.. I really did... I was so close to asking for the horse to take me to the camp.. It got to the stage where I could walk for maybe 20 paces and then I had to stop and take a break. Pathetic huh. But then thanks to the power of Gatorade and also Cynthia´s encouragement I got through it. The last hour, I had my ninth or tenth wind and walked at some pace to the camp... the feeling when I got there was one of amazement. I couldn´t believe it. I think it was the most difficult challenge i´ve ever had to overcome... It sounds dramatic but it was really tough. I went straight to my tent and collapsed for the night. Oh.... I saw a humming bird on the trek too and possibly a condor (it was far away).

The next morning (15th May)... after 12 hours of rest... we faced our biggest challenge. Four hours of hiking, climbing to a mind numbing 4,600 metres. I felt so much better.. I managed some breakfast, did my stretches... I did... honest... i´m 33after all... the knees aren´t what they used to be..., and then we set off.

The scenery was amazing.... we passed lots of local kids and I´d bought with me some pencils and notepads to give out.. It felt very special.. I walked at a decent pace and we were well ahead of schedule at our first stop... the trail was getting steeper and steeper but the end was in sight... I got to within 50 metres or so of the peak, breathing was a little difficult... I rested for about 5 mins and then ran the final bit...

I really wanted to do it to for no other reason than to satisfy my curiosity that I still could. It felt amazing. I got to the top and I felt like the only person in the world.

I have never been through anything like that before. I really thought I wouldn´t be able to do it. For me, it was such a special moment and an achievement I never thought i´d be able to make.

The trek down to the camp was a little treacherous with the loose stones and steep declines but well worth it.

We got to camp ahead of schedule all feeling pretty happy with ourselves and Rambo, a dog that belonged to one of the porters, even came up to me for a little pat... He´s usually stand off-ish. It was my second achievement of the day.

That night I had some dinner... we played the card game asshole... I avoided being the asshole and then I slept like a baby..

Today, we travelled by train to Aguas Calientes (Hot water) and I had a hot shower... hot shower... a blessing from the gods after three days on the road/trail.

Anyway, we´re going out for dinner tonight and then Machu Picchu tomorrow. Can´t wait.

Day 43 cont and 44 - Ollantaytambo (13th and 14th May)

So, after Chinchero we went to Ollantaytambo to see the Inca ruins on the mountain. What a picture postcard place... So beautiful.

That night.... oh dear... Don´t want to be too descriptive here guys but let´s just say that the night before my big trek starts... the absolute last thing I want to happen... the heavens opened in my bathroom.... yes.... I was spray painting the royal doulton for most of the night... I got no sleep and felt like crap.... food poisoning.

The next morning, 14th May, I was advised to have some black tea and lots of gatorade... I met my other tour group and got on the minibus, almost certain I was coming straight back as soon as the next wave of food poisoning came over me... The good thing about the trip from Ollantaytembo to Lares was that it was 3 hours in a minibus over a bumpy stoney road. Perfect... thanks God... we did stop in a couple of places with squat toilets... It was close to becoming my perfect day.

On the way we stopped off at a place with hot springs... I actually felt a little better and went for a dip. Got out and felt like someone was exploding fire crackers in my belly... bwwrrrrrerrr (don´t even know what sound that makes)

Cynthia, our wonderful tour guide suggested I drink some Oregano tea.... It will settle your stomach... our honest and very caring tour guide told me.. Really, It looks like Castor Oil... are you sure... I said.

Of course, said the honest and nurturing tour leader.... So, I got into it... Ummm this is quite nice, I said...

Then.... three quarters of the way through... I uttered the words... oh jesus... the feeling was like a volcano exploding in my stomach.... I ran to somewhere of relative quiet and promptly threw up four times.... right into the water source of the local community.. Nice one sunshine.. way to improve anglo-peruvian relations...

I made a hasty exit and felt incredibly much better but vowing never to trust Cynthia again..

Next stop.... the Lares Trail...

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Days 43 - Chinchero (13th May)

Forgive me blog but it has been 3 days or so since my last entry.... my excuse... I have been up on a mountain... or quite a few mountains actually since we last entertained each other...

So, Day 43 was 13th May... we went to the Sacred Valley and saw people making textiles, chocolate, ceramics etc...

(There's more dye making videos on my YouTube page. You can access them when you click through to the others.)

I also had my first taste of Guinea Pig.... I know, I know.... poor little fluffy guinea pigs but truth be told, I had one as a pet as a youngster and all the bugger did for me was piss on my leg and die of frost so while there was some guilt attached.... it passed pretty quickly.

Tasted like chicken.... doesn´t everything strange like that...

Person 1: "I had rabbit the other day..."
Person 2: "What did it taste like?"
Person 1: "A little bit like chicken."

Person 1: "I ate pigeon the other day.."
Person 2: "What did it taste like?
Person 1: "A little bit like chicken."

Andy: "I had Guinea Pig the other day."
Someone who is reading this (I know you´re out there): "Really, what did it taste like?"
Andy: "Err Chicken... the most common taste of meat on the planet."

We actually went to another town in the Sacred Valley to watch the chocolate and ceramics making... on the local bus there we heard the sound of cats coming out of a bag... honest...

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Day 41 and 42 - Lima to Cuzco (11th and 12th May)

Well, the tour to Machu Picchu has officially started.

Met Debrali our tour leader at the hotel on Monday. She was excellent. She took us around Lima and showed us the catacombs, the main square.

From Peru

From Peru

From Peru

From Peru

From Peru

From Peru

From Peru

The guys on the tour are pretty much all from Australia. Some from Sydney and some from Melbourne. To be honest, Lima was a bit of a blur. I was exhausted from my flights and still feeling it. We had the funniest tour guide of the catacombs though. It was more of a sprint than a tour... the conversation kind of went like this...

Guide "And this is where the catacombs were discovered...."

Us "So what about the....."

Tour guide disappears around corner....

Us "How old is the ....."

Tour guide shimmys down some steps...

Us "When was the first....."

Tour guide exits stage right...

Very entertaining.... We then got a mad woman taxi driver back from the centre of town to Miraflores (which is the area we´re staying in and a very nice area too). She kept banging on the side of her taxi everytime she wanted to merge into another lane. The Peruvians have the same driving etiquette as the rest of South America. Why stick to two official lanes when you can easily squeeze four lanes of traffic in there... After about 40 mins of a 20min journey, I turned to the taxi driver and asked in spanish, "Do you like the traffic in Lima then?" I thought she was going to kill me... ha ha.

From Peru

From Peru

From Peru

We had a quiet evening, went for dinner and then slept. Up at 4.30am this morning to get to the airport for our flight to Cusco (sometimes spelt Cuzco).

I´m kind of in a bit of a daze at the moment. We met our new guide for Cusco called Bobby. He´s great. Very keen... We went to the main square. Did the classic tourist stuff, this is a church, this is the traditional dress of the Andes etc.

From Peru

Really interesting though. He then took us to an indoor market which has everything for sale.... Including pigs heads and cows snouts... Lovely. It´s really interesting trying to acclimatise to Cusco.

From Peru

From Peru

From Peru

We´re about 3,300m high. Breathing can be a little challenging but Bobby helped to sort that out by taking us for some Coca tea... and coca chocolates.

From Peru

From Peru

From Peru

They don´t remove the cocaine element from the coca plant when they make the tea here.... I think I floated back to the hostel... It was kind of weird but you need to have this stuff to survive the trek. So I bought 100g of dark and 100g of green Coca chocolates.... bring on the mountains I say...

Tomorrow, we start trekking and on Friday, I climb to 4,600m.... Oh man... Should be interesting.. It takes 4 hours going up the same distance it takes 45mins to come down that day.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Day 40 - Rio to Lima (10th May)

I left Rio early this morning a little jaded after no sleep and feeling sorry to leave the place.... I will definitely be back.

My flight was at 4.10am so I arranged a taxi from the Walk on the beach hostel at 1.30am. The hostel, btw, is excellent. I would highly recommend it.

The taxi driver turned up at 1.20am and proceeded to give Jenson Button a run for his money on the way to the airport. We did the 30min journey in 17mins. I think we were on two wheels at one point.

Funny story, I went out with Tharcia to the movies and for dinner. We watched Man on Wire which is an excellent film.... even if part of it was in French and I was reading Portuguese subtitles. Anyway, I got the bus back from Botafogo to Copacabana, about a 15 to 20min journey (or 5 mins if you got the taxi driver who took me to the airport, actually, I think I got his brother.... traffic light... what traffic light). I decided to get the bus as I had no money left... The bus was errr... entertaining... this guy drove the bus as fast as the taxi driver.. it was crazy...

He went so quickly that by the time I asked errr.... are we at Copacabana, we pulled up at Leblon, two suburbs away...

It was 1am and I had 30mins to get back for my cab.... The bus driver and his colleague told me to hang around at the bus stop. It was pitch black, I was in Rio with my last 50reals on me for the taxi to the airport and I was miles away from my hostel.... great news....

The next thing I know, the two guys had a chat to their boss, jumped in one of the vacant buses and beckoned me over.... I try to muster up as much goodwill about the human spirit as I could and went for it.... I got on the bus and they drove me to my hostel like a taxi.... it was amazing, in 15mins also. I owe those guys a lot.. Just made it for my cab.... Perfecto...

Anyway... the flights from Rio to Sao Paulo and Sao Paulo to Lima were fortunately uneventful. Got to my hostel in Lima and had a snooze. The best thing in the world happened to me also today.... I had a hot shower... you may not realise this but that is like finding a pot of gold to a traveller.... hot shower. Like the nectar of the heavens... amazing.

Anyway, will get some dinner and go to bed early tonight. Big day tomorrow. Can´t wait.


Saturday, May 9, 2009

Day 38 and 39 - Rio de Janeiro (8th and 9th May)

So we went to the club Mariuzinn or something like that and they did the same thing with payment, you get a card and then pay at the end. Slightly dangerous but still..... Funny thing was the computer system broke so they had to come round to everyone in the club and swap the credit card for a paper one. We didn´t have to pay drinks up to that point because he system went down and lost all track of them... Nice one.

From Rio disposable camera

From Rio disposable camera

They were playing some of my favourite music, R´n´B, Brazilian Funk... just the sort of stuff I like to get down to and feel comfortable dancing to..... Yeah right. I have to admit, I´ve not seen as much arse shaking in all my life. The good thing about this club is that it is mainly locals who go... It was certainly an experience.... The girls do this kind or arse shaking dance getting lower to the floor with each bump and grind.... Quite entertaining actually. I have to admit I did try to give it a go.

From Rio disposable camera

I couldn´t have looked more out of place. I must have looked like a sweetcorn in a pod of peas.... Still a good night was had by all.. Got back about 6am.

Friday started pretty early. I woke up at 10.30am and am getting used to surviving on 4hours or so of sleep. I went to the beach for an hour and then Jay and I took the tour of the Favela. It was incredible. We went to a Favela called Rocinha which houses 200,000 people. Madness.

We took the minibus there and then jumped on the back of motorbikes to get to the top of the favela.

They are called motor taxis and they are used to get up and down the only street in the Favela. The next thing I knew we were shooting up the hill at about 70miles an hour screaming past buses and in between vans as well as other motorbikes taking gaps that should never have let us through. I could actually feel my knuckles turning white as I clung on for dear life.... It was slightly disconcerting when on approach to a hairpin corner my driver turns to me and says "Ok gringo"....... to which I replied ..... "road, road" pointing ahead of us...

I made it, looking about ten years older and white as a sheet (even more so than normal). When we got to the top, our guide told us that the Favela is illegal and the police can actually close it down at any time but with 200,000 people living there it´s a little tricky.

It´s run by drug barons and there is virtually no crime unless rival gangs come in for a gun battle.... We were told it was safe to take video cameras and digital cameras on the tour... the only place in Rio where we have been told it is ok to do this.

Crazy... Although there were certain places we can´t do this because of the drug barons privacy.... I decide to abide by these rules.. Safer, I thought.

I have to admit, throughout the tour, which was amazing by the way, I felt so safe.. Everyone was so friendly and I played football with some little kids around 10 or 12 years old. It was going so well until I decided to show them some true British grit and took one of them out with a horror two footed lunge just below the kneecap.. teach you to nutmeg me Ronaldo!!!! Just kidding, I didn´t really. I was playing head tennis with one of them.... Good fun..

We then went to an artist studio and looked at some amazing paintings...

so I bought one of them... Some local kids gave us a samba drumming show... they must have been about 5 or 6 years old.

The tour was an incredible experience and I would recommend it to anyone who visits Rio. PS the last gun battle happened four weeks ago.... phew...

From Rio

From Rio

From Rio

From Rio

From Rio

From Rio

From Rio

From Rio

Last night, we went out to Lapa. It was madness. There must have been about ten thousand people out on the streets. It´s incredible. I went there with Loreta and Ita (Ireland), Jay and Rich (UK), Jairu (Costa Rica) and my new roomies Emma, Nikki and Caz from Hampshire. We were joined by Tharcia and her friends (Brazil). Jairu and I decided to go with the Brazilian crew to experience a proper local night and arranged to meet the rest of the guys a bit later.

From Rio disposable camera

From Rio disposable camera

It was such a laugh. I was introduced to all of Tharcia´s friends and got a litre bottle of beer for one pound. Very dangerous. After downing a tequila courtesy of Jairu, we hit a Brazilian funk club. Tharcia taught me how to dance Brazilian Funk. I´m thinking of renaming this blog.... around the world in a thousand dances.... it seems to be a common theme for me. All in all, I had an amazing night.

I met the others and we headed back to the hostel where we feasted on Domino´s pizza at 5am.... Yes, I do feel guilty...

Today I´ve spent most of my time trying to get my ticket to fly from Rio to Sao Paulo at 4am tomorrow morning. Nightmare. No travel agents were open.... grrrr.

Got it sorted so roll on Lima and all that Peru has to offer. Can´t wait.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Day 37 - Rio de Janeiro

I caught a bus in Rio and didn´t make a complete idiot of myself. That´s one up for me. Get in.

We stayed in last night. Probably a wise move as I´ve been out so many times in a row. Needed a quiet one. Had a couple of drinks and Mark (UK) prepared a culinary masterpiece for the starving masses to feast on. Result. I also managed to make use of the kind gift from Michael at work of iTunes vouchers. Enjoyed listening to van Morrison - And it stoned me... love that song. Thanks Michael.

Today, I got up at a sprightly 10.00am.... delighted with that one.

From Andy´s Travel April to May

Jay (UK), Mark (UK)and I decided to go and rent some bikes to ride to Lago Rodriguez de Freitas. We finally got ourselves organised at about 11.30ish and went out to check out the prices. First place we got to wanted a credit card as security and Rio being obviously a very safe place with no corruption or crime whatsoever, we decided to seek rentals elsewhere. Essentially, none of us wanted to risk our plastic discovering it has a twin in Rio after we leave....

We headed down to Copacabana Beach to find an alternative option and met this really nice man dressed in a black suit a´la Miami Vice with lots of bling jewellery everywhere. He informed us that he knew of a bike shop and if we would follow him to a dark alley somewhere, he and his friends would help us rent bikes out of the kindness of their hearts. We said "Ok great, thanks kind man... perhaps you can look after our cameras and money while we go on our ride...". Actually, we waited for him to turn around and scarpered..... quick sharp.

We eventually found a place that rented us bikes for R20 for 3 hours. About 6 pounds. It was great to do a bit of exercise and the ride to the lake took about 30mins or so.

From Andy´s Travel April to May

From Andy´s Travel April to May

From Andy´s Travel April to May

From Andy´s Travel April to May

From Andy´s Travel April to May

From Andy´s Travel April to May

We headed to the Botanical Gardens and had some lunch. After looking at various species of plants and flowers we realised we had to get the bikes back to the shops.

From Andy´s Travel April to May

From Andy´s Travel April to May

From Andy´s Travel April to May

From Andy´s Travel April to May

From Andy´s Travel April to May

From Andy´s Travel April to May

From Andy´s Travel April to May

From Andy´s Travel April to May

Weaving in and out of traffic in Rio de Janeiro was probably not the cleverest thing i´ve done on this trip but it was certainly an experience.

From Andy´s Travel April to May

From Andy´s Travel April to May

From Andy´s Travel April to May

From Andy´s Travel April to May

Fortunately we didn´t meet our black suited blinged up friend Carlos again as we strolled along Copacabana back to our hostel. Had a Caipirinha overlooking the beach and i´ve spent the last couple of hours uploading photos.

Out tonight to a bar/club in Copacabana where the guys stay downstairs and the girls upstairs until midnight. The girls get free drinks and the club opens up at midnight for mingling. Could be entertaining.... Will see.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Day 36 - Rio de Janeiro

Last night was a laugh. It took a while to make a decision where to go but we finally got ourselves sorted and went to a place called The House. So called because it is in a house. They´re very clever these club owners...

We almost didn´t make it. The taxi driver was hell bent on veering into a car en route. He was a little surprised to see the car, a very obvious large white one, on a road in a city as busy as Rio... I can understand where he went wrong...

Anyway, we got in the club and it was an interesting place. You don´t actually pay until you leave so what happens is you have a card you take around... it´s more of a piece of paper.... you have to keep the card and the bar staff mark the card next to the drink you had. You then pay at the end. It´s dangerous because if you lose the card you have to pay a set fee... sketchy huh.

From Rio disposable camera

From Rio disposable camera

A swedish girl came up to me and was very drunk... she was convinced I was Swedish... I told her I knew one word of Swedish which was the number 7 but she didn´t believe me... A little bit weird actually. Other than that, it was a good night and all the guys enjoyed themselves. It was a bit weird dancing on the dance floor later in the night... the floor was so sticky it was almost like I was dancing in slow motion.....

From Rio disposable camera

Today we went to check out Copacabana and Ipanema beaches. There were a lot of arse cheeks on show. G-strings are pretty popular over this way i´ve noticed....

Tonight, we check out a sports bar down the road from here. Looking forward to that.