Location: Rio, Brazil
Well the Favella tour was really good. There are >750 in Rio, we started at the largest one Rocala. The houses were much better than I was expecting, but you see thousands of wires linking up to the power pylon electricity nicking electricity! The place was really lively, lots of music and people. Since the govenment officially recognised Favellas 15yrs agp they have had sewerage and water supplies installed and now people want to stay there because they are a close community and conditions are OK. The Favellas are mostly run by drug lords (the police will only go in if there is a drug gang gun battle) who pay towards the school and Samba clubs and administer 'law and order'. As tourists you are safe - nobody steals because if you the drug lords men will administer very harsh punishments, will not go in to too much detail here to spare the nippers!
We met some really cool people (mostly Welsh!) at the hostel and after the tour we went out for the night to the Friday night street party in the Lapa area of Rio with them. It was carnage, I'm glad we decided not to take a camera! There are hundreds and hundred of people in the street drinking strong cocktails from Ice cream cart things (Joe and Rich had some that were just neat rum, fancy buggers). I spent most of the night with Hannah trying to charm our way into pubs to use the toilets without buying a drink (the options on the street were just too vile!) and supplying kids with sweets. We got home about 5.30 I think.
So the next day we felt great and went up to the Christ The Redeemer statue. I don't think the hangover helped the old vertigo - it is HIGH! The views were stunning and we were there for sunset. Still feeling rough we went for one beer as it was my last night...but left when the bar closed. We had been pretty clean living until we got to Rio!
The next morning we went in the cable cars to Sugar loaf mountain with more impressive views and crazy people climbing up with hardly any safety equipment. Afterwards we went to Ipanema beach for a bit. There are loads of people there on a Sunday, the road is closed and there are people roller blading and running in barely anying, some of the REALLY SHOULDN'T let it all hang out!
Brilliantly, that afternoon it was off to the airport to fly home (boooo). Had a fab time in South America, we already have a list as long as your arm for what we want to see next time........
Location: Rio De Janerio, Brazil
So, we had our last night in Huacachina, met a couple from Bristawrl who were a good laugh, did pirate impressions with the parrots that live by the pool and then set on a mammouth journey to arrive in Rio! Was shocked and saddened to find that not only was it overcast, but it was....RAINING. Joe eventually managed to coax me out of my massive strop (I was also ill and first place we stayed at in Botafogo was minging) and we found somewhere better to stay in Ipanema. Today the sky is blue and the sun is shining, so we have decided to go on a tour of the Favellas (slums) nice! First we are going to check out the beach and then tonight we are going to go to a street party where people sell very strong cocktails on thr street, I may not make the flight back!
Location: Huacachina, Peru
[Congratualtions Louise and Steve - well chuffed for you!]
Gimme a p [P], gimme an e [E] gimme a r [R] gimme a u [U].
I love Peru and I am proud I am, to be the first McDevitt in living memory to visit our spiritual haven of Peru, origin of the mighty spud. Peru is home to >3000 varieties of potatoes (and that's not even including mash, chips, roasted, potchine etc http://www.cipotato.org/). I bear my charge like that lil' donkey what carried Mary safely on her way (aaah). So far I have had a lot of spud, my favourite to date being the Yuca (Jungle Potato).
We spent a few days in Cusco between other trips where we met up with Joe´s mate Andy for the next few weeks, only had a bit of time to look around, went up above the city to see some views which was very nice, a lot of mating dogs though! The people are stunning looking wearing really brightly coloured clothes and loads of children everywhere - it´s very poor and you see children looking after each other all the time. Cusco is an old Inca capital and some of the buildings and squares are really impressive, we are at 3400 meters so the altitude can be a killer, I keep waking up in the night gasping for breath, then Joe removes the pillow, arf arf. Then it was off for the 3 day 26 mile Inca trail to Machu Picchu - even more impressive than I´d imagined.
The drive through the sacred valley was really nice, you feel really dwarfed by the massive green mountains. The first thing our guide taught us was how to the chew the Cocoa Leaves (sorry mother), purely medicinal purposes, altitude and all that! The first day was mostly along the river, sunny and pretty easy, the second was STEEP and the air was really thin. Unfortunately it started raining when we got to the highest point of the trail and we missed the views (to be honest I was a bit too knackered to care!) but the third day was really sunny and we had some really pretty parts of the trail. Along the way we saw lots of ruins and temples to Inca gods with some very bizarre stories. Our guide was telling us that his mother has the skulls of her late husband and daughter looking out over the front gate of the house to protect them while the rest of the body is in the cemetery, and they still bury Llama foetuses at the corners of the house. Also, if you go to a Shamen in Cusco with an illness they may well rub you down with a black guinea pig then dissect it to find the black organ that is the problem in your own body, nice. People also still put the skeleton of a human hand under the vats of Corn Beer they sell as they believe it will draw you in, I suppose it´s not really all that different to Wilstone after all.
The final day of the trail was started in the dark to get to the Sun Gate to see the Sun Rise over Machu Picchu but unfortunately we just missed it as Joe was having a quick vomit (he was ill for pretty much the whole trail so it was pretty difficult, especially withe Glastonbury stylee toilets all along the way). Anyways, Machu Picchu was brilliant. We were there by 7am in the sunshine so there were hardly any other people there and there are some really clever things there like walls you can use as intercoms - won´t go in to it too much here, will let some pictures do the talking.
We camped along the way in our group of 5 (a couple from Norway as well who were a good laugh) plus 7 porters at various campsites. The porters were amazing, it didn't sit well with me being waited on but it has now become standard across all tours. They carry 20kgs and run along large sections of the trail to get ahead of the tour they are working on. By the time you get to a meeting point or campsite they have put up the tents including one with table and chairs and started cooking the 3 course lunch/dinner. The food we had was amazing, much more sophisticated than needed or that I would have thought possible when you have to carry the stoves and pans. If you ever do the trail I'd suggest bringing socks/gloves/hats as gifts for the porters as they don't always have them and they don't half deserve to at least have warm clothes!
After Machu Picchu it was back to Cusco to devour more Alpacas and Guinie Pigs before flying to Puerto Maldonaldo to start a jungle trip for 3 nights, unfortunately the lurgee had jumped to Andy so he had to cancel and spend 3 days in bed. First we stopped at a zoo type place and I stroked a Boa and Joe held a baby Anaconda [please insert your own joke here]. We went to the Sandoval Lake reserve on the Madre De Dios river, a tributary of the Amazon which is on a lake that is protected because they have rare Giant (>2m) Otters. We saw them quite a lot, very cute apart from when they are chewing on a baby Caimen. The lodge was good, lots of boat trips and walks in the jungle, saw some nice stuff like lots of monkeys (sorry Benjie, I couldn´t catch one for you - too quick), impressive flowers, huge trees, weird birds and massive butterflies. We also saw the stuff of nightmares. They took us out to find Tarantulas, I saddled up with water and sun cream....to walk 10 meters from our room to the Mummy, Daddy and Baby Tarantula family living in a tree just outside our room. They are fast. We also went on some night walks in the jungle, the place was teaming with all manner of poisonous spiders, bullet ants (bite feel like a bullet), a harmless but gnarly looking Tailess-Whip Scorpion and a Chicken Spider (like a Tarantula, but lives in a hole in the ground, right next to our path and eats birds). There was quite a big group of us, a group of blokes from Romania who were very good at drinking Tequila and two ladies from Ireland and Spain who had talent with Gin, which was fun.
After the jungle we endured some very long and vile bus journeys to go to Lake Titicaca. When I say vile I mean that each time the bus stopped a load of people woiuld get on and start selling things to you from fluffy toy dogs to food...including hot trout...and someone bought some...and they sat behind us. One of the roads was cool though, along a cliff edge (looks like the vertigo hypnosis worked!) over really nice blue sea and beaches with huge waves and Condors flying about. Lot of roadside memorials though - tried not to think about them too much while we were hurtling along...
We decided that for Lake Titicaca we may as well chip over to Bolivia as the islands are supposed to be nicer. We arrived in (down at the Copa...) CopacabANA which was a nice town with lots of smelly hippies and Joe negotiated us a lift in a boat to the Isla Del Sol which is where the Incas believed their Gods were created so there are lots of impressive ruins. This was probably the remotest place we have been to and the poorest but the people were the nicest and all the kids were really friendly and offering to act as tour guides (for a fee!). The scenery was beautiful and the climate wierd. Bright blue skies and water and boiling sun but as soon as you are in the shade and at night really REALLY cold, had to wear my hat in bed, did quite a lot of whingeing. We stayed 2 nights, walked around the Island (almost the same altitude as the Inca Trail so pretty breathless as well as breathtaking!), said goodbye to Andy until Rio then got up ay 5am to trek down a very steep slope with all our bags in the dark to meet a man with a boat - did quite a lot of whingeing.
Next we took more vile buses to Nasca and stayed a night to expand our cultural knowledge of Cerviche (raw fish marinaded in lime - sorry Lou) and Pisco Sours. In the morning we went to see the Nasca Lines, huge etches in the ground of spiders, monkeys, whales and figures made thousands of years ago but which you can only see from the air because they are so big (in contrast to the plane, a 6 seater). The flight was good fun, banking hard to the left and right so you you were almost parallel with the ground to see the drawings, fortunately nobody in our group was sick.
We then booked on to a posh bus (royal class all the way from now on!) to get to Ica and then a cab to where we are now - Huacachina. We decided to come and hang around here for a bit as we have been moving around so much. It´s a small resort built around an oasis in the desert, the sand dunes are really huge and impressive. There are some nice bars and lots of young tanned travellers much like myself ha ha ha haaaa. A very chilled out place and we have spent a bit of time hanging around the hotel pool and playing with the parrots that live there. Last night we went on a 2 hr trip in a buggy to do a bit of sandboarding.
I have never been so terrified in my life.
The sandboarding was fine, lost a bit of skin when I went down lying on the board head first but a really good laugh, but my god, the buggy...
It was essentially a roll cage with a huge engine and 12 people strapped in (TIED in). I remember there used to be a Land Rover advert with it driving up a near vertical mountain, that was not a million miles away from some of the sand dunes we were driven up at full pelt before jumping over the top, racing down the other side and slamming into the next ditch, bouncing as the front of the buggy slammed into the ground then the back to the tune of scraping metal. It actually felt like you were on a rollercoaster at times when you could just see flashes of sand then sky, sand then sky. A rollercoaster with no health and safety. All my photos are rubbish because my hands were shaking so much. Terrifying. Brilliant.
Going to do some more sand boarding this afternoon when it´s cooled down a bit, we leave Huacachina tomorrow to fly to Rio, can´t believe it´s all whipped past so fast and there´s only a week left.
Off to drag Joe on to a pedalo on the oasis now. Might have an ice cream too, life is good!