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Carnaval Carnage!

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Finally our last internal flight, our last time moving hotels and the last destination of our honeymoon.

It got off to a bloody annoying start, we were up at 2.30am and when we got to the airport at 3.15am, we were then informed our flight had been delayed by 3 hours, so we had 5 hours sat in a tiny domestic airport with plastic seats and one cafe that sold only beige fried foods. Luckily we had the laptop loaded with movies so we kept ourselves amused, but the extra 3 hours in bed would have been nice!

Finally the flight took off and 2 hours later we were in Rio, as the plane came in to land we could see all the Carnaval bloccos (street parties) taking place below us (it was only 8.30am).

Luckily when we got to our hotel they let us check straight in and the first thing we did was sleep! Feeling refreshed we made plans with a new friend we had made when we were in Buenos Aires, who also lives in Perth and therefore of course has a mutual friend with Lynden.

The night started off civilised, but of course after a few drinks on a roof top hotel bar overlooking Copacabana, the party was on. We were a group of 5 - Lynden and I, Richie and 2 new friends he had made the day before - Cole and Nick from the USA.

Carnaval is basically a week-long fancy dress party in the streets. There are people everywhere in fluoro and glitter and very little clothing, you basically just have to follow the crowd or the music to find the nearest blocco. As you walk down the street there are locals selling beers from eskies, so everyone is street drinking. We found our first blocco, there was a samba band and everyone was dancing to the live music but we were only there about 30mins when it finished. From here we headed to Copacabana beach, bought some very large and alcoholic caprihina cocktails from a guy with a fold out table and an ice box and went on the hunt for a beach bar. It was at this time that Lynden decided he no longer needed his cast and had Richie cut it off with the fruit knife the guy had used to make our cocktails.

We found a bar, grabbed a table on the sand, hit up the dance floor and ordered another round of drinks. It all gets a bit blurry after that. There was definitely lots of dancing and drinks, and one point the boys were wrestling in the sand and then ended up in the ocean. We met more backpackers from UK and USA and we got home some time around 5am…we think.

Our second day in Rio we spent in bed sleeping off the hangovers! That night though we had tickets to go to the Sambadrome to watch the samba school parades - something we had both wanted to do for years. It had been lightly raining all afternoon, but when we came to leave, it was like Iguazu Falls all over again, I don’t think I have ever seen rain that heavy before! We luckily managed to find a taxi but the rain didn’t show any sign of stopping and as the Sambadrome is open air we were drenched, and we had also got there 2 hours early to make sure we got good seats. When we got to our block to find a seat (which were just concrete steps) it actually looked like a waterfall, you couldn’t sit down for all the rain that was pouring over the edges of each row of seats. Wet and cold we perched on the edge of the front row and prayed for the rain to stop. Slowly it eased off and just before 9pm the rain finally stopped and it meant the parade could begin. The samba parade was like nothing we had ever seen before. For 2 days the 14 main samba schools in Brazil compete at the Sambadrome. Each school has 60-85 minutes to complete their parade, they have 1 song, which is sung live for the entire hour and each parade has about 4000 participants and 4 or 5 floats. The costumes are incredible, the floats are insane and each parade tells a different story. What we didn’t realise when we arrived was that each school had an hour to perform and there were 7 schools that night, so the parade wasn’t going to finish until after 6am!

We stayed until 4am and watched 5 of the parades, my favourite was the second one which told the story of magic and had witches riding cauldrons, frogs, a giant golden raven, beauty & the beast, Jack Sparrow and about a million other crazy things. We absolutely loved being there and experiencing the parades, I wish we had had the energy to stay until the end but we just couldn’t keep our eyes open any longer.

Day 3 we slept all day again and really just had a lazy day. In the evening we met Richie for dinner and then we went home and had an early night #partyanimals

The next day we had set aside for doing all the classic touristy things. We had an incredible view of Christ the Redeemer from our hotel room and we were both desperate to see him up close. We took the bus up first thing in the morning and it was already crowded and hot, but it was so worth it! The views back over Rio were beautiful and the big guy himself was awesome. Another bucket list item ticked off the list! The day was disgustingly hot and we wanted to do Sugarloaf Mountain at sunset, so we went back to the hotel, did a gym work out and just chilled out. We then headed to see the Selaron Steps, which are around 200 steps covered in over 2000 tiles collected from over 60 countries around the world. However when we arrived, we discovered that the steps had been turned into a blocco and we couldn’t see any of them! BUT as we were at a blocco we figured we should get a drink and at least join in a little bit, but we quickly realised these people had been partying for way too long and everyone was just a hot drunk mess.

So it was onwards to Sugarloaf for sunset and that’s where we met up with Richie, Cole and Nick again. Sugarloaf did not disappoint (although it was a cloudy sunset) but watching the city lights all come on once the sun went down was another cool way to see the city. The highlight though was once it was dark we could see Christ the Redeemer in the distance peaking through the cloud looking down on the city. The photos just don’t do it justice!

Tourist items all ticked off, there was only one thing left to do, hit the town for Canavals final party night. First we had an epic sushi dinner and then we jumped on the metro and headed to Gloria as apparently that was where the party was at….but it was dead. We could hear music and see people all heading in the same direction, so we followed and eventually we walked into the biggest street party ever. It was insane, every bar was playing their music as loud as possible, the streets were packed, the floor was filthy and it smelt like stale beer and pee. We found a quieter bar to regroup and then we headed into the madness once more and into a club where we drank and danced and laughed and just had the best final night together. Lynden also decided at some time close to 4am that he should buy a bottle of vodka and some red bulls – probably the most expensive round ever and by that stage we had drunk so much that none of us really wanted to drink it, luckily the bar had no issue with us taking the half empty bottle home with us. We think we got home around 5am again, but in all honestly we have no clue.

Once again we slept all morning but at 1pm the boys all headed over to our hotel so we could have a pool and sauna afternoon, so for the next few hours we did very little other than chill in the water or sit in the sauna trying to sweat out the alcohol. It was then time to say goodbye for the last time and go our separate ways. We packed our bags for the final time, checked out of our hotel, grabbed a quick dinner and then was picked up by our chauffer and taken to the airport to fly home business class, which is the final highlight of our trip.

So this brings us to the end of our 8 week honeymoon, there has been so many amazing adventures and experiences that we will never forget. Our highlights though:

1 – Peru tour, where we met amazing new friends and conquered Machu Picchu
2 – Easter Island (inc the accidental upgrade to business class)
3 – Our private wine tour in Mendoza
4 – Iguazu Falls (minus the boat tour)
5 – Carnaval – Sambadrome, Christ the Redeemer, Sugarloaf Mountain and Bloccos
6 – The lifetime of memories this trip has given us and all the new friends we have made.

Now it’s time to head back home to Perth and back to reality.

Posted by sdyzart 12:10 Archived in Brazil Tagged parades honeymoon travel carnaval party carnival celebrations brazil brasil rio south_america copacabana christ_the_redeemer southamerica bloccos sugarloaf_mountain

100% wet

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So you would have thought we would be use to the early starts by now, but nope we still hated rolling out of bed in the early hours to catch our next flight. But a few hours later we had landed and the taxi driver was dropping us off at the Iguazu National Park and we were ready to see us some water!

First thing we wanted to do was book tickets to do the river tour and see the falls up close, but they saw Lynden with his cast coming from a mile away and said absolutely no way was he allowed on the boat. We were both gutted, because it was something we both really wanted to do. Lynden insisted I still do it and he would go and explore one of the hiking tracks, then grab us some lunch and meet me back at the tour desk.

So off I go, completely unprepared it turned out for what I had just signed myself up for. I took my rain jacket with me because I figured there was a good chance I could get wet, so given we were there all day the rain jacket would mean I wouldn’t have to walk around in potentially damp clothes. Well 5 minutes into the truck ride down there, where the guide not only tells us we may need to stop and help move giant low hanging poisonous spiders out of the way (?!?!) she says to us ‘You will get 100% wet on this tour’…sorry what? She then proceeds to tell us that after we take some photos of the falls the boat will drive us directly into them…are you fricking kidding me! So here I am, hair done, makeup on and wearing t-shirt and leggings and as I look around I see EVERYONE else is in their bathers. I’m screwed and then it is too late, I have a life jacket on and they are handing me a dry bag for cameras and I’m wondering how much of my body I can fit in there instead and how the hell am I going to avoid 100% wet. Well I can tell you, when you take the boat tour at Iguzu Falls you cannot avoid 100% wet.

Here I am, sat on a row by myself, fully dressed and wearing a rain poncho, with 25 other people in their swimwear. I looked like a bloody idiot and I know this because people kept turning around and actually looking at me. I had sensibly removed my shoes, socks and hat and locked them in the dry bag, I attempted to roll up my leggings and pull my rain jacket over my knees in a desperate attempt to stay somewhat dry and I had pulled tight the draw string on the hood, so I resembled Kenny from South Park. Well the effort was a big fat waste of time, because a rain jacket is not designed to be driven at speed through one of the worlds biggest waterfalls.

The tour delivered on exactly what it promised, I was indeed 100% wet. The water had gone straight through the top of the rain jacket but somehow not out the other side, so it was sat inside the jacket in pools of water, I only realised this once we were out of the falls and I attempted to move, only to tip the cold water in my sleeves all down the inside of my jacket and on to my lap. As you can imagine I was less than amused and people continued to look back at the idiot who thought she could stay dry on a waterfalls tour. Back on dry land, everyone else grabbed their towels, dried off and put on clothes…I on the other hand squelched all the way back up the 250 steeps to the truck and sat in a puddle waiting to leave.

The great thing about Argentina though is that it’s hot and sunny, so by the time I reached Lynden 30 minutes later I looked somewhat human again and was already drying off.

While I had been drowning, Lynden had made it all the way around one of the hiking tracks, taken nearly 100 photos of the falls, bought lunch and had been waiting for me to return for nearly 45 minutes.

Once I was back we only had 3 hours left at Iguazu before our taxi picked us up, so we jumped straight on the tram and took it up to see the top of the falls. I hate it say it, but I wasn’t overly impressed, yes the falls are big and the crashing water is loud but it just didn’t do anything for me. It was also insanely crowded, which definitely took away from the beauty of it. The map said we needed 2.5 hours to do the top of the falls, but we were done within an hour.

We decided to re do the hike Lynden had done in the morning, as he said it had some beautiful photo opportunities, the walk through the jungle was cool and it wasn’t too crowded. And he wasn’t wrong! The falls looked amazing from down below, the mist created a rainbow at every waterfall and the jungle surrounding them looked like something off of Indiana Jones. We went a little bit crazy with the selfies because we could, without someone pushing past us like at the top. We also just stood and enjoyed nature for a while.

One of the other things I forgot to mention is that Iguazu has coatis everywhere, which are similar to racoons. They look so cute but have massive teeth so we didn’t get too close, but they all run around together, so various times throughout the day as we were walking there would be a band of coati running along through the jungle beside us. They also had no qualms if they thought we had food just boldly walking right up to us.

All watered out, we met our taxi driver and drove to the border crossing. Given the nightmares and hours we have had at every single border crossing, we prepared ourselves for the chaos and queues. Well we were through border control within 15 minutes, we didn’t even have to get out of the car for our departure stamp from Argentina and they didn’t check any of our bags!

Now for an early dinner and a very early night as we have to get up at 2.30am to go to the airport to fly to Rio for CARNAVAL!

Posted by sdyzart 13:52 Archived in Argentina Tagged waterfalls water honeymoon travel argentina south_america iguazu_falls southamerica

Food Food and More Food

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The ferry to Uruguay only took 1.5 hours and then we were in Colonia, a small colonial town on the Rio de la Plata estuary. We had 4 hours there and as soon as we walked out of the terminal we saw a place to hire golf buggies, so of course that’s what we did. We were told there was a giant Colonia sign at he end of the town that was worth seeing…umm we would argue against that having driven there. What we came across was a small white sign, which we climbed all over and then took inappropriate photos with #colon. We drove all over Colonia checking out the sights, inc an old bull fighting ring and then returned the buggy and took to exploring by foot.

It is a very small town and the beautiful old part was only a few streets, but they were lined with giant trees and cobbled stones and randomly lots of old abandoned cars, which only added to its charm.

We had read that the best thing to eat in Uruguay was something called ‘asado’ which is a giant plate of mixed meat and ‘chivito’ which is a giant steak sandwich. We finally found a place that sold asado and it was a buffet – so we thought we were on to a winner. Turns out we don’t really like asado, it was weird cuts of meat, all a little bit burnt and it all tasted the same. In hindsight I think we made the error going to an all you can eat buffet place. The hunt will continue at dinnertime.

At 3pm we have seen every inch of Colonia and so jumped on to a local bus to drive to the capital, Montevideo through the lush green countryside. The drive should of taken 3 hours but the bus broke down and we were stuck at the side of the road for ages, so it was more like 4 hours.

So our first impressions of Montevideo was it was dirty, felt unsafe and we didn’t like it. It also didn’t help that we found a giant cockroach in our bathroom, so that had me questioning if spending 48 hours in Uruguay was really worth it just because I wanted another stamp in my passport and Lynden another shotglass??? Well after the appalling dinner we had I decided no it had not been worth it.

After a good night sleep we walked around Montevideo with fresh eyes and actually it wasn’t too bad. Definitely not our favourite place but the city has some beautiful parks and impressive architecture. We headed to the main square after breakfast and joined a free walking tour of the city. Once again we retained very little information about the history of Uruguay other than that Jose Artigas (a national hero in Uruguay) has his ashes buried under the Plaza de Independence and they are guarded by 2 soldiers at all times.

We finished the tour at a great foodie market, where we made our second attempt at trying a local delicacy and this time we had success!! Lynden managed to get a ridiculously large chivito, which he devoured. The restaurant also served ‘medio y medio’ which basically means half half – its sparkling wine mixed with white wine – it was super sweet – so we ordered a bottle! I don’t know why we then decided to order dessert, but it was another local dish that we NEEDED to try called ‘chaja’, which is sweet sponge cake, meringue and a ton of cream. It was definitely worth it!

After lunch we stupidly listened to our guide and went to see the ‘giant RAINBOW’ Montevideo sign, which was a 10 min taxi ride across the city. Well guess what, it was not giant and it was not rainbow! It was white and the same bloody size as the Colonia one. So after 1 photo we found ourselves searching around for something else to do in the area, but apart from walk along beach there was nothing else to do.

We eventually found our way back to the harbour to take the ferry back to Buenos Aires. We had business class tickets (as it was only $20 more) which really only bought us access to a lounge (which was packed - clearly everyone did the upgrade) and a glass of sparkling wine, everything else was the same as economy…so we got exactly what we paid for. Also all passengers had wear shoe protectors during the crossing, at first we thought maybe because the carpet was new, but it was filthy and old. Not a single person questioned this madness, everyone just put them on and we all walked around the ferry looking like idiots together!

Next stop an early morning flight to visit Iguazu Falls for the day and to travel into Brazil!

Posted by sdyzart 18:47 Archived in Uruguay Tagged water boat honeymoon travel south_america colonia montevideo asado southamerica food_porn uraguay chevito chaja


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Another silly early start as we headed to the airport to catch a flight to Buenos Aires and to be reunited with SO many awesome people from our Peru tour. Unfortunately we didn’t get the same welcome as our Mendoza hotel, our BA hotel said we could store our bags but to come back at 3pm to check-in. So bags stored we headed out to check out a market that runs every Sunday and this thing never seemed to end – it was easily 6 blocks long with stalls on both sides of the street and little side alley extensions jutting out along the way.

2 blocks in, our noses picked up the scent of something amazing and lead us astray into a colourful little food court with a giant bbq that was flame grilling huge cuts of steak and chorizo sausages – of course that was lunch sorted! Bellies full and back in the market we ended up bumping into Karolina and Brigitte from our Peru tour and made plans for pre-dinner drinks that night.

It was such a nice evening and felt just like the beginning of our tour, after pre-drinks we went for dinner at an Italian restaurant, where we were also joined by Viktoria, Holly, Shane and Niamh. After a ridiculously huge dinner and being 2 or 3 drinks in, most of us were ready for a night out on the town. In all honesty I don’t remember the finer details after that point, there was $2 bottles of champagne, card games, a live musician, vodka red bulls, maybe a few shots, a very long taxi ride to the other side of town, more drinks and then a 2 hour queue outside to get into a club which never moved and at around 3am we gave up and came home.

The next morning I woke up drunk so Lynden sent me back to bed and off he went out for lunch to say goodbye to Shane and Niamh who were flying home to Ireland the next day. Once I had slept off the alcohol we headed out to explore a place called La Boca, which was a colourful district across town. Walking around there was not a single normal coloured building, every one was multi-coloured and many decorated with weird looking mannequins (we never did work out why). Our evening was very low key – Lynden had a giant calzone, which was easily enough for 3 people and probably contained a 1kg of cheese.

For our final day in Buenos Aires we had a very lazy morning (which has been a rare treat this honeymoon) and then got ourselves all dressed up for a fancy lunch at a steak restaurant called Don Julio. We both ordered steak, but different ones and unfortunately (through no fault of my own), the waiter might have given me Lyndens steak by accident, but we have no way of proving that for sure. Anyway my meal was bloody beautiful and Lyndens was average. Luckily the chocolate mousse and a glass of port turned his frown upside down.

After lunch and a quick visit to the local market to stock up on dulce de leche with Brigitte and Viktoria, we freshened up and headed out to catch a tango show. We were driven just outside of the city to a place called Senor Tango and were taken into a giant theatre that looked like a cross between Moulin Rouge and The Greatest Showman. Dinner was average but the show was amazing, firstly it started with 2 white horses being ridden around the stage and then there were flames, an orchestra (which included a guy playing an accordion), lots and lots of tango dancing, a weird mannequin accordion player floating about the stage, a guy that we thought would never stop singing and a spanish version of ‘don’t cry for me Argentina’. It was such a fun way to finish our time in BA.

Next stop a ferry ride for 48 hours in Uruguay!

Posted by sdyzart 07:19 Archived in Argentina Tagged mountains parties markets honeymoon city party argentina tango buenos_aires south_america steak mrandmrs don_julio

Mountains, Wine and Mud

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Our bus from Santiago to Mendoza was going to take about 8 hours, so to save time and the cost of a nights accommodation I booked us on another night bus. In hindsight what I completely forgot was that we were changing countries so we would need to go through border control and wow what a joy that was at 2.30am!

We had tried to ask at the bus depot how long it took to get to the border and of course things got lost in translation, so at around 1am we gave up trying to stay awake and attempted to sleep, roll on 2.30am and on comes all the lights and we are told to get off the bus. Another queue (in the cold), another stamp and then we are sent around the corner (still outside) to queue for at least 45 minutes for our bags to be checked. Cold, tired and a little delusional at this point we finally see the queue start moving, only to get through to see our bags are not there, which was good news because the Argentinian border control only check a select few bags (security seems to be getting more blaize the more borders we cross) and we were told we could get back on the bus and onwards to Mendoza we went.

We arrived at the bus depot in the middle of nowhere at around 7am and realised we had entered Argentina without any local currency, there was no cash machine and taxis didn’t allow you to pay by card #rookymistake #weshouldknowbetterbynow. By pure luck as we were walking gormlessly around the station we heard a shady voice say ‘cambio’ (which means ‘exchange’) and we were saved.

As our stay in Mendoza was over my birthday we had decided to treat ourselves to a nice hotel and we certainly noticed the improvement on customer service compared to a hostel. Firstly they served bacon at breakfast (dream come true) and secondly even though check-in was meant to be at 3pm, they had us in our room by 9am. Of course the first thing we did was shower and rest after that awful night on the bus.

Once we were back in the land of the living we headed out to explore and were delighted to find a huge supermarket, which had a proper cheese aisle. There was only one thing to do, buy cheese, meats, crackers and wine to have for dinner that night. We haven’t had good cheese in SO long. Right next to our hotel we came across a little vegetarian Indian restaurant, so decided to stop there for lunch (again we can’t remember the last time we had a decent curry) and the food was to die for, I felt like I was right back in India again.

After a night of not doing much other than eating cheese and drinking wine, we were up early for day 1 of my birthday celebrations, which was a trip to the Andes. Obviously we booked this a while ago and in hindsight if we had known how long we would spend on buses while in South America, I don’t think we would have booked ourselves on to an 8 hour bus tour. Also after seeing Rainbow Mountain and Machu Picchu in Peru and the snow capped mountain ranges in Bolivia, the Andes would need to be something pretty spectacular to impress us. If we had taken this tour in winter when it was snowing I think we would have found them beautiful, unfortunately they were just big brown mountains with boarded up ski resorts around them.

To get into the Andes, we had to go through the pre-Andes and mid-Andes (spoiler alert – they all look the same) and along the way there is very little else to see. We stopped at the Mendoza dam, which took 6 years to fill when it was built (all the water being taken from the Mendoza river) and an Incan ruin sulphur town, which was a very weird yellow ice looking thing. From there we continued to drive the winding roads into the mountains and back to over 4000m above sea level.

At the top we were right between Argentina and Chile, represented by a small Christ of the Redeemer and each countries flags. Being so high up it was crazy windy and the dust partials whipped your skin, so we took a few quick photos and then sort shelter in the small souvenir shop there. We napped for most of the drive back and had a chilled evening in (eating more cheese and wine).

Birthday celebrations day 2 was one of things I had been looking most forward to, a private tour of the Mendoza wine region. Our guide Solly picked us up in a swanky salon car and off we headed to our first winery, Casarena, which had been producing wine since 1937. By 9.30am we were half way through our first glass of rose, sat in the gardens and learning all about the wine making process. We got to visit the fermentation room, sample some of the wines that were fermenting and then do a wine tasting of red wines from different years to compare how the flavours developed. I have never liked red wine, but I think Argentinian Malbec may convert me!

At 11am (and 6 wines down) we headed to the next winery, Dante Robino, which was even older and had been established in 1920. Here we were welcomed with a beautiful sweet sparkling wine and taken on a tour of their old and new cellars. After a history lesson on the process of making red, wine, sparkling and champagne, it was our turn to have a go at creating our own blend of red wine. This is where my inexperienced palate of drinking red let me down because I had no clue what I was doing and mine tasted disgusting. Lynden however nailed the blending and won hands down in the judging, which meant he got to make and name his own bottle of wine…which he called Aussie La Creacion (Aussie Creation) and while he was doing that I had the task of writing the label.

Onwards from here we visited a gorgeous winery called Renacer for a 5 course lunch and 5 more glasses of wine. The food, the setting, the wine; everything was divine!

Thank goodness for all the food because we had a 4th winery to visit before heading home, the last one was called Trez Wines and was owned by 3 friends and was a little more rustic and simple, here we did wine and chocolate pairing and really just sat around the table with our guide and the sommelier talking and drinking. It was here that we bought a 2015 Malbec (the year we met) and planned to cellar it until our 10-year wedding anniversary (I am hoping within the next 10 years I will become a red wine lover).

When we got home we had to have a little rest to let all the food and wine go down, but the day wasn’t finished there as we had a reservation at 1884, which is owned by celebrity chef Francis Mallman. The restaurant was beautiful, we sat outside in the garden, which was surrounded by purple flowering bushes and lime trees, with fairy lights above us and to the side was the outside kitchen where all the meat was being cooked. We started with a glass of sparkling wine (because it would have been rude not to) and shared a delicious octopus entrée and a pan-fried goats cheese salad. For mains we both had steak (obviously), mine came with crispy bacon, avocado and mascarpone cheese, Lyndens came with Patagonian potatoes and a tomato salad. Needless to say it took us a while to eat it all, but we weren’t going to let any go to waste. Absolutely stuffed we decided not to have dessert, totally forgetting that we had told them it was my birthday, so out came dessert anyway with a candle in it. It was 2 shortbread biscuits, filled with dulce de leche and dunked in chocolate with ice cream. It was of course delightful and we forced ourselves to eat it the entire thing.

Our last day in Mendoza was spent at Termas Cacheuta, which is a thermal spa in the pre-Andes. The day was as you expect we sat in the hot spring pools, gave ourselves a mud bath, had a massage and then a big bbq lunch, then got back into the hot spring pools again. It was a tough day. In the evening, we had sushi for dinner and rolled into bed before 10pm.

It has been a jam-packed 4 days in Mendoza, next we head over to Buenos Aires to be reunited with some of our new friends from our Peru tour.

Posted by sdyzart 18:26 Archived in Argentina Tagged mountains honeymoon argentina wine spa mendoza south_america andes thermal_baths mrandmrs

Colourful Valpo

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Returning back to Santiago we were excited to be able to meet up with Dries, who was on our 21 day tour through Peru. I convinced the boys that we should take the bus for 1.5 hours over to the town of Valparaiso for the day, which from the photos and what I had read, it was a beautiful and colourful UNESCO seaside town.

Well the morning didn’t quite go as planned, the taxi driver dropped us at the wrong station and then when we finally got to the right station, the bus ended up leaving 10 minutes late, which meant we arrived in Valpo 40 minutes after the walking tour we wanted to do started. We thought our luck had changed when the tourist information kiosk said they had a city tour that covered all of Valparaiso and also visited Vina del Mar, so we booked our tickets and waited for the bus…which didn’t come…so the guide sent us to get a coffee…30 minutes later we returned and still no bus. So an hour into our day at Valpo and we hadn’t seen much more than the bus depot, BUT finally the bus arrived and took us to the harbour where we would meet our guide. The harbour smelt terrible and wasn’t something we would consider worth looking at, yet our guide said we had 20 minutes to ‘explore’. We ended up being there for nearly 45 minutes while one family spent forever walking around. Eventually we were on the tour bus and ready to see Valpo…well we were the only English speaking people on the bus and every time the guide gave the explanation in English everyone else on the bus started talking, so we didn’t really get much of an explanation at what we were looking at.

In short there isn’t much to write about, we went and saw the colourful street art and drove around the town. We stopped for lunch with a view of the shipping harbour and the food was terrible. We took what felt like the worlds oldest cable car down the side of a mountain and questioned if it would really pass a health and safety check! Then was back on the bus to see Vina del Mar which had a clock made of flowers and an average looking beach - we were pretty disappointed.

We headed back to Santiago around 4pm and wished we had spent the day doing something else, but it was at least nice to catch up with Dries for the day.

Now its time to board our final night bus and head into Argentina and to celebrate my birthday in Mendoza.

Posted by sdyzart 12:43 Archived in Chile Tagged honeymoon chile santiago south_america valparaiso mrandmrs

MOAI MOAI MOAI MOAI aaaaaahahaha

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I don’t think I could contain my excitement as we started to descend on to Easter Island, I have my face pressed up against the window desperate to get my first glimpse of the island.

When we landed and got off the plane, it felt like we had arrived at a tropical holiday destination. It was boiling hot, bright blue skies and palm trees everywhere. You can drive around the entire of Easter Island within about 90 minutes, so we arrived at our hotel in less than 10 minutes after leaving the airport.

We were excited to hear that we had arrived during the middle of carnival, so we should head down to the main street to watch the parade at 5pm. What we learnt this day and as we experienced for the entire time we were on Easter Island is that the locals have no bloody clue when it comes to what time things happen. 5pm rolled around, then 5.30pm, then 6pm, then 6.30pm – but this point we were bored out of our minds sat on the side of the road waiting. There were plenty of people dressed up (well more like undressed) walking along the road to join the parade and we could hear a band but nothing much else happening. At 7.15pm we decided to go and find the parade ourselves, as it was just taking too long. At the other end of the street we finally found the band who were being lead by a truck, which was moving about 2 meters, stopping, letting the band play 2 or 3 songs while men (wearing nothing more than a modesty towel and body paint) performed a dance similar to the hakka, then they moved forward again and repeated the process. If we hadn’t of gone to find the parade I don’t think they would have passed our original spot until about 8pm.

Following the band were carnival floats depicting the islands history, more dancers, other bands and lots of tourists half naked dressed up and joining in the fun. It was certainly a sight to see!

The following day we had a private tour booked to explore all over the island and hear about the ‘Easter Island heads’ which we now know are called Moai. We were told so much, I don’t even know where to start…

1) The island was formed by 3 volcanoes erupting over 750,000 years ago.
2) The island was inhabited in around 400AD by people from (they believe) French Polynesia who’s island was sinking and they needed to find a new home.
3) The Rapa Nui people consisted of 15 clans and around 40 people per clan (so approx. 600 inhabited the island at the beginning). Each clan was ruled by a clan leader, they had their own territories, they were all ruled by 1 king and all lived in harmony for around 500 years.
4)The Moai were ordered by clans to be built in memory of their past clan leaders.
5) The clans paid the builders in food and water (it was considered an honour to build a Moai).
6) Each Moai took 9 months to carve then up to a year to transport to its platform on the island.
7) The Moai were carved directly out of the mountain side and then slid down to the bottom of the quarry using logs and rope, from there the detail was finished and then they were moved to the clans.
8) On average a Moai could weigh up to 75 tons.
9) The Moai you see on the postcards that look like heads, are all at the quarry where they were carved, these ones were still in production or about to be moved.
10) They have found 887 MOAI on the island to date, only 288 reached their final destination, 397 were at the quarry and 92 were in transit.
11) Moai that reached their platform were given eyes made of coral and obsidian, which they believed held the power of the dead clan leader it represented.
12) All Moai face inwards to the island to watch over the clan, except one platform of 7 Moai which face the sea, these represent the 7 explorers who found the island.
13) A number of the Moai have a red stone top knot (which looks like a hat) which was carved at a different quarry. It was created much bigger than required then rolled to the platform, by the time if arrived it had worn down enough to be the right size to fit on the head.
We learnt all of this just within the first hour of the tour, as you can imagine we had a million questions for our guide Hugo, who had been studying the Rapi Nui culture for 38 years.

Just before lunch we visited the quarry where the largest number of Moai are, here we learnt more about the demise of the people.

1) Those of importance (royals, clan leaders, sharmans) were forbidden to cut their nails or hair and were not allowed to work. They tired their hair in top knots and held it in place with red clay (hence why some Moai have the red stone top-knots)
2) As the population grew food became scarce (they over farmed and pretty much cut down all their trees for moving the Moai).
3) The last king was considered crazy, he ordered all the best food to be sent to the royal family and what was left was for the people to fight over.
4) He also wanted to have the biggest Moai, one was carved at 9 metres tall but he said it was too small and ordered it to be broken, the second was 15m, which was also too small. The third was 22m tall but was never completed as a civil war broke out, due to the lack of food and the last king’s wishes.
5) The civil war wiped out most of the population, ALL of the erected Moai were pushed over and their eyes removed and broken to remove the clans power from its past leaders.
6) All of the Moai that are now standing are due to various restoration projects over the years.
7) At the end of the war only 111 people remained and all were related or too old to have children, so many women slept with foreign visitors to the island in order to regrow the population.
8) The production of Moai did not continue after the war (due to the lack of people and skills) and the fallen Moai were left broken, in transit or at the quarry were nature grew over and around them (hence why they look like just heads). Some Moai at the quarry are now completely covered by vegetation.

Mind blown – we finished the day with a visit to Anekena (the believed landing place of the Rapi Nui people), which is now the islands beach resort. We kicked back in deck chairs with the best pina coladas we have ever tasted and then went into the ocean, which was like a warm bath.
The next day we were back out again to learn more about what happened after the civil war, we headed to Orongo on the south west end of the island, which is where to bird man competitions were held.

1) After the fall of the last king, the birdman competition was introduced. Which saw a warrior challenge take place each September to select a new ruler.
2) Each clan leader and a select delegation travelled to Orongo in Sept, here they each put forward a warrior representative for the competition.
3) The warriors had to climb down the cliff face, swim 1.5km to a small island and wait for the manutara birds to nest and lay their first egg of the season. They had to capture this egg, swim back to the mainland and climb back up the cliff. The first to do so won the competition and their clan leader then became the new king.
4) This competition ran until around 1867.

Our tour on day 2 finished around lunchtime and we were dropped at a local restaurant for the most amazing (and expensive) lunch. I had sweet potato gnocchi with shredded beef and Lynden had a beef linguine. The afternoon weather was heavy rain, so we didn’t do much else.
For our final day we had a lazy morning and then hired a car to explore more of the island, we revisited some of the Moai from the day before which we hadn’t been able to see well due to the rain, headed back up to the beach for another pina colada and then watched the sunset over the Aku Akapu Moai near the harbour.

Early the next morning we headed back to Aku Tongariki (home of 15 Moai which represented the 15 clans) to watch the sunset. The lady at the car hire place had told us the sun rose at 7am, which we should have checked given the experience we had with the carnival start time…but we didn’t. 90 minutes later we were still stood in front of the Moai waiting for the sun to rise. Around 8.45am we decided it had risen enough and we could go and get breakfast.

Sadly after breakfast it was time to head back to the hotel, check our and head to the airport. It was around this time that Lynden realised his boarding pass said ‘premium business class’, I checked mine and it also said the same! I knew this was an error (I knew I had booked discount economy) so was convinced that when we dropped our bags off they would realise and move us back into cattle class, but nothing was said. We held our breath as we boarded the plane and then they told us to turn left rather than right and then there we were in business class, being given a glass of champagne, big fluffy blankets and a seat that fully reclined into a bed!

It was an awesome way to wrap up our stay on Easter Island, now we head back to Santiago for 1 more day of exploring.

Posted by sdyzart 09:17 Archived in Chile Tagged landscapes sunsets_and_sunrises honeymoon chile south_america easter_island mrandmrs

It's getting hot in here!

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It’s so glorious to be back in the sun and warm! Although we arrived into Santiago at 9.30pm it was still humid, it felt so nice to not be wrapped up in layers.

We had a lazy morning in our apartment hotel with muesli and tea in bed, which was the best thing ever after so many hostels and early starts. We then headed out to explore the neighborhood and loved our first glimpse of Santiago. Lynden was able to get a hair cut and I found a proper nail salon to get a manicure (#firstworldproblems). From there we headed over to Plaza de Armas to join a free walking tour of the city. Our guide for the next 4 hours was Felipe and he was an actor and play writer, so as you can imagine he was full of energy and passion – within the first few minutes of our tour beginning I knew we were in for an entertaining afternoon.

Felipe took us all over the city from the main square to the cathedral, the old congress building, supreme court, government house and stock exchange and he gave us a LOT of information on the history and politics of Santiago…unfortunately we both retain history lessons about as well as a gold fish so can’t remember much at all about what he said, but it was a great story to hear! Every time he finished speaking and it was time to move on to the next location he would shout ‘lets go in dis direction!’

One of the things I do remember (mainly because Lynden asked Felipe about a million questions afterwards) was about the coffee scene in Santiago. Back in the 80’s business men would go down to certain coffee shops where waitresses in very short skirts would serve them and flirt a little. BUT the main reason they went down was for ‘happy minute’, which was when the coffee shops locked their doors and windows and the waitresses stripped while the men drank their coffee. These shops were referred to as ‘coffee with legs’ and there are still some places around Santiago that operate this way…which of course was where all Lyndens questions came from (and no we did not go).

After the historical part of the tour, we headed over to Barrio Lastarria which was a funky neighborhood with street art, artisan markets and trendy wine bars, where we stopped to drink wine and enjoy the afternoon sun. Onwards from here we headed to Barrio Bellavista, which was the foodie neighborhood and consisted of 3 main streets – food street, drink street and party street – all next to each other depending on what kind of night out you were after.

Once the tour was finished we walked back to Constitution Street (aka food street) to give some of the local delicates that Felipe had recommended a try. Our first stop was a restaurant called Galindo where we tried ‘pastel de choclo’ which was like a baked corn pie. It has beef, chicken, onion, a boiled egg and olives at the bottom, the mushed corn on top and then we think sprinkled with some kind of cheese. Whatever it was on top it got stuck in our teeth like super glue and made it an interesting dish to eat. From here we were to a local brewery for Lynden to taste a beer that a few locals had recommended…which turned out to be more of a beer cocktail – it was beer with lemon juice and then the rim of the glass had chunky pieces of salt on it and it was finished off with smoked paprika sprinkled on top. As you can imagine it tasted terrible (but yes of course Lynden drank it anyway).

Our last stop of the evening was to try ‘chorrillana’ and after the recommendations we had been given so far we weren’t sure what we would be getting, but we had foodie success when a giant plate of french fries came out, covered in pulled beef, bacon and nacho cheese – it was a heart attack on a plate but my-oh-my was it tasty!

We rolled ourselves back to the hotel and packed our bags, as it was already time to move on again and our next stop was for a bucket list item that I have had on my list since I was a kid.


Posted by sdyzart 16:54 Archived in Chile Tagged honeymoon travel chile south_america southamerica

Salty Goodness

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Our bus arrived into Uyuni earlier than expected…we had to get off the bus at 5.30am and it was bloody freezing! Luckily we were met from the bus and taken to a local restaurant for some breakfast. 2 hours later we were sent on our way to find the tour office (being solo now we were getting a very different experience compared to the comfort of our group tour, where everything was done for us).

We trekked over most of town looking for an ATM and probably went into every shop to kill some time, but finally 10.30am rolled around and it was time for the tour to depart! We were in a group 11 across two Toyota Landcruisers, the one we were in looked like it was on it last legs, but still in we piled and off we went.

The first stop was a train graveyard, where old trains had been dumped 50 years ago, now rusted and covered in graffiti they have become a popular tourist attraction for all tours heading out to the salt flats. The place was heaving – of course pretty much every other person was trying to get that perfect Insta photo. It actually became more entertaining to watch the Asian tourists decked out in Bolivian ponchos take a million photos of themselves in front of the rusty trains, than look at the trains themselves. What made it even more amusing was that it was raining pretty heavily, but that didn’t deter them.

From the trains we headed to a salt factory, where most of the houses are made from salt blocks that they have carved out from the salt flats. We learnt about the process of drying the salt, grinding it and adding iodine to purify it, so it could be bagged up and sold/used as table salt. Bolivia has 2 main seasons – wet and dry, we were visiting in the wet, so of course it had been raining all AM, to ensure the houses don’t dissolve the locals have to build much longer roofs to keep the salt blocks dry. We actually had our lunch in a salt hostel, which was surprisingly warm inside…although the food was pretty average.

After lunch it was finally time to head onto the salt flats. I don’t think we have seen anything like it before, it was an infinity of what looks like a marble floor. It felt like we were in heaven, as the salt flats had a 5cm layer of water on them, so the clouds above had a perfect mirror on the ground below. Our guide said we needed to put flip flops on when we got out of the cars, given how cold it was we expected the water to be freezing but it was actually like a warm bath! We spent ages taking the classic salt flat photos as the weather had cleared up finally. When we got back in the cars and the salt water dried our feet looked like they have been encased in a salt scrub, the salt was everywhere and when it dried on our clothes they turned hard and crusty. Just what we needed as we then had a 2 hour drive to get to our hostel for the night.

The next morning it was a 6.30am start as we headed through the Bolivian outback to explore the landscape. Our first stop was a quinoa field…which was actually just a distraction when our car broke down. Our driver managed to patch up whatever was wrong but shortly after we made another impromptu stop in a small village while he attempted to fix the car again. 30 minutes later and we were on our way, with what seemed to be a botch job repair, as for the rest of the day the car was filled with petrol fumes which made us all feel sick.

We were slowly making our way down to the border crossing to enter Chile, but had what felt like a million amazing landscape opportunities along the way. One of the first was Rock Valley, a 4100m above sea level valley of volcanic rock formations…which of course Lynden had to climb (even with his broken arm). Along the drive we saw wild ostriches and hundreds of flamingos at Laguna Colorada, we had a picnic lunch surrounded by snow-capped mountains and then the rain was back. Just as we were reaching the national park, rain turned to hail and then into an epic lightning storm, which we ended up get caught right in the middle of. We could see the lightening hit the ground around us and hear the thunder crack directly overhead…it was half exciting and half terrifying.

On the other side of the storm we stopped in a volcano crater (4900m above sea level) and got to see the geysers blowing steam and see sulfur mud pits bubble. It smelt like rotten eggs and even though there were danger signs, our guide reassured us it wasn’t that dangerous, as the sulfur was mixed with water…so we could walk around them and take photos!?!

We arrived at our hostel just before dinner where we discovered they had a bar and hot springs. Unfortunately they only had red wine, so Lynden had to drink mine and then he headed down to the hot springs (with his cast wrapped in a plastic bag) with some of the others in the group to relax. There was no way you were getting me back outside into the cold after I had warmed up, so I curled up in bed and got an early night.

On day 3 after a pancake breakfast (where we discovered the amazingness of Dolce de Leche aka caramel spread) we were back on the road again, driving through the empty desert and taking in the beautiful views of the mountains around us. We made one short stop at the Green Lagoon (which wasn’t green) to take a few final photos, before we headed to the Chilean border. Well the border crossing was certainly an experience! In the middle of the desert was a small brick building and nothing much else either side or around it. We queued up in the freezing cold for about 20 minutes where a man behind a desk stamped our passports (without looking to make sure they were ours). We then sat waiting in the car for over an hour for our bus to get into Bolivia from Chile. Once onboard we drove 10 minutes through no mans land and joined a queue of 12 mini buses, where we sat again for another hour. Eventually we reached the front and were signaled inside of what looked like a giant drive through garage, once inside the doors in front and behind us closed and we were in the dark. Off the bus we got and into a room for our Chile entry stamp, then to security where they patted down our bags, asked if we had ‘fruta’ and sent us back to the bus. The garage doors reopened and we were free to go and we had officially arrived in Chile.

Within 25 minutes we had gone from the icy cold of the Chilean border to the hot and sunny town of San Pedro de Atacama. We fell in love with the place instantly, but unfortunately we only had a few hours here (just enough time for a burger and to buy a shot glass) before it was time to get back on another bus and move on.

Next stop a quick flight over to Santiago.

Posted by sdyzart 18:01 Archived in Bolivia Tagged landscapes mountains skylines animals birds honeymoon travel bolivia south_america mrandmrs

Tragedy in La Paz

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We arrived into La Paz around 3pm and found the border crossing was suprisingly easy. The security check was blasé, they asked if we had fruit, patted our bags and then sent us on our way. Whilst on route to our our new hotel, we had to say goodbye to our Peruvian guide, Jesus, as he wasn't allowed to work in Bolivia (#country_conflict #war).

We got into our new hotel (which absolutely stunk of varnish, so bad we had to change rooms as we both could hardly breathe), dropped our bags off and headed into the "English" pub next door for a feed as we were starving. Whilst we were in the pub, our new tour guide, Ruben, described the optional activities - of course Lynden heard 'Bolivian Death Road' and signed straight up...which given his track record with injuries, it probably wasn't the best idea. I passed on the mountain biking, but signed us both up for the city tour the follow day.

The next part of the blog is written by Lynden...

Woke up at 5.30am, met the rest of the crew in the foyer at 6am. Our group had 6 in total (4 girls, 2 guys and 3 of those were Aussie). We made our way through the city and after collecting our protective gear and driving for an hour, we arrived at the top of the Death Road. After a quick briefing we were ready to start heading down the 63km road, where we would go from 4700m above sea level to 1200m. To start with we headed down a tarmac road (slowly at the beginning, while we got comfortable, but quickly picking up pace). The views were amazing and the adrenaline certainly got pumping. That high up, our hands were freezing and going at a fast speed was definitely intense. After 45 mins we got back in the van to take us up a steep hill (there was no way our lungs would have got us up there on the bikes at that altitude). 30 mins later at the next summit we moved on to the original Death Road, which consisted of loose rock, pot holes, winding roads, waterfalls, stream crossings, more amazing views and about a million photo opportunities. It was thrilling, scary, intense and definitely a ride to remember.

90 minutes later we stopped for a rest and snack and had the opportunity to zipline, obviously I did it. And me being me, I decided to do it 'superman' style (harness on my back, face first). Regretted it for a second, but as soon as I was over the edge, flying over the Bolivian rainforest, my inner superman kicked in and I loved it.

Back on the bikes we continued for another hour and a half and then tragedy struck...

Coming into the SECOND TO LAST corner, I was going a bit too fast, trying to keep up with the tour guide (he was showing off), I hit a pot hole as I went around the corner and lost control of my bike and accidentally put on both brakes, causing me to go flying over the handlebars with the bike crashing on top of me. Joey (the other Aussie guy with us) was a tad too close and crashed into me and also went flying. I knew I had broken my wrist and Joey knew he had broken his collarbone. We dusted ourselves off and all of us got back into the van and headed to hospital (an 1.5 hour drive), where doctors confirmed after X-rays we had in fact broken the bones we thought we had. Luckily for me, I was put into a cast (not my first time, but my fourth time) but unluckily for Joey he required surgery and a plate to be put in. The hardest thing was having to tell Stacey that I was in hospital and I had broken my wrist, but she took it well, met us at the hospital and was surprisingly sympathetic.

Back to Stacey now...

I refused to give Lynden a sponge bath and we both agreed we would not let this ruin our honeymoon. In true Lynden style, instead of taking the painkillers he had been given, he decided beer was a better option and that we should go clubbing with the others in our tour group, as it was our last night together. The evening started with a curry, then back to the English pub for a few drinks (Lynden ended up with quadruple whisky and cokes, as the Bolivians can't measure their spirits) and after a round of 'never have I ever', 11 of us were heading to a nearby hostel for a rave/disco/par-tay. Many shots and drinks later, we found ourselves all dancing on tables, until around 3am when Lynden fell off the table and hit our friend Dries in the face with his cast, as the party was wrapping up, we all agreed it was time to go home.

6 hours later we had to go on a city tour and good god did we regret signing up for it. It was agony, plus the tour was terrible too. We took a cable car up and down, went to the witches market where they sold all sorts of pills and potions inc llama fetuses and some weird aphrodisiac formulas and visited Valley of the Moon...which was a lot of natural limestone pillars and according to Neil Armstrong it looks very similar to the moon. We walked around like zombies and then 3/4 of the way through we called it quits and left - we didn't have the energy or patience for anymore. After a nap, some water and a couple of paracetamol, we finally felt like humans again and joined our group for a final farewell lunch.

A few hours later, it was time to say goodbye and part ways with everyone, after what felt like a bucket load of tears we grabbed our bags and headed out solo to the bus station.

Next stop Uyuni for 3 days exploring the Salt Flats.

Posted by sdyzart 12:35 Archived in Bolivia Tagged landscapes mountains honeymoon travel bolivia south_america mountain_biking death_road mrandmrs

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