A Travellerspoint blog

Potosi

The World's Highest City

sunny 5 °C

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I'm really excited to share this one with you... Potosi... the world's highest city coming in at just over 4080m! Not the easiest place to hike around let alone catch your breath. Trust me, just walking around the city leaves you breathless. It had been quite a long time since we had been that high (Tibet I believe) but luckily since leaving Santa Cruz the elevation was gradually getting higher so adapting to it wasn't all that bad (no headaches or nausea, just some trouble sleeping at night). And once again we were back to a cold, dry climate as Potosi dropped below freezing at night time (once again no such thing as indoor heating... all they have are propane heaters! Ya propane heaters indoors... what a great idea lol. Safety, safety). People we met that had travelled to Potosi didn't have all that much to rave about, but we both really liked the city and found it just as atmospheric as Sucre... but less oxygen.

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That's a quick snapshot of the bus station when we arrived (3hours from Sucre) which appeared to be almost brand-new. Pretty big place for such a small city.

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Can you see the mountain in the background? That's the infamous Cerro de Potosí—sometimes referred to as the Cerro Rico ("rich mountain")—a mountain popularly conceived of as being "made of" silver ore, which has always dominated the city. The Cerro Rico is the reason for Potosi's historical importance, since it was the major supply of silver for Spain during the period of the New World Spanish Empire. What I found most fascinating about Potosi was it's rich history. I mean they have this scared looming mountain that's worshipped as a God and then one day a local tells the Spanish a story about how he lit a fire on the mountainside and out beneath the fire flowed pure silver. The rest is history. The Spanish soon made Potosi one of the largest cities in the Americas (over 200,000) and one of the richest cities in the world. Who got rich and who got exploited however is fairly obvious.

Upon arriving in town we found yourselves a nice hostel that offered some reasonable tours, booked in and set off to explore the town.

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The first thing we did was pay a visit to one of the best museums on the continent - Casa de la Moneda de Bolivia (National Mint Of Bolivia).

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Admission came with a free english speaking guide and we were both blown away at how great the museum was. Since the discovery of silver by the Spanish Potosi has always featured some form of mint (first in 1572). To get all the equipment you will soon see to Potosi, the Spanish off loaded it in Brazil and then hauled it in peices by donkey across the continent!

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Picture of the first steam locomotive used to haul ore from the mountain.

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The Mint also featured several very impressive galleries featuring the works of some of South Americas best known artists during the 16-17 centuries. They mainly depicted various biblical themes (mostly of Jesus and Mary) in order to spread Christianity to the locals.

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A picture of the original floor. The footprint is from a worker that stood day after day pressing coins.

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Various coins on display produced mainly for Spain but for other countries as well.

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Various instruments and scales used in the Mint.

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I found this absolutely fascinating... a lock box used to transport and store the coins. Look at how intricate the locking system is. 18 different locks all controlled by one key.

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There was so much to see and we both couldn't believe how well maintained the museum was...

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Spanish mummified children...

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Only for the very wealthy. Later we took a tour of some of the various treasures and religious artifacts crafted during the Mint's operating days.

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I found this rather interesting... Bolivia's first printing press purchased from the US and used as a political tool for the country to gain it's independence from Spain.

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Working in the mint was a horrible job (use of Mercury to separate ores often lead to workers dying from poisoning) for both slaves and animals (those donkeys you seen before would only live on average for 3-4 months due to the altitude and relentless production). After the industrial revolution, steam boilers were introduced in the Mint until electricity eventually trumped that technology.

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Seeing how the coins were all made was pretty fascinating stuff... did you know that Canada actually makes Bolivia's currency now? Weird. Probably the best museum we've been to since Israel's National Museum in Jerusalem.

Some views of Potosi's Main Square...

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We had quite the action-packed day because following our morning tour of the Mint we had another tour booked for the afternoon which was bound to be WAY more intense. So we tried to get prepared and psyched up for what lied ahead... a little coca tea to help with nerves and altitude.

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Ok, so the tour was of the infamous co-operative silver mines in the heart of Cerro Rico. We had definitely heard a lot about it during our travels through Bolivia and kind of knew what to expect, but that being said, we really had no clue lol.

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The tour started from our hostel where we met up with our guide (3rd generation miner turned guide) and got geared up to tackle the mountain's underbelly.

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Our first stop was at a "miners market" where you are encouraged to buy gifts for the miners working underground. What kind of gifts you may be wondering? Well you know, the basics... coca leaves, 99% pure alcohol, cigarettes, dynamite.... yep dynamite not even joking. Our guide explained the significance of each item and even gave us a demo on the dynamite lol.

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1) Coca Leaves - have been used by the locals for centuries. The men in the mines chew up to a 1 kg of leaves per shift (6-8 hour shifts, 3 rotations equaling 24 hr coverage). The coca leaves are chewed and then pouched in your mouth. Afterwards you usually put a pinch of ash or baking soda in your mouth to help extract the alkaloid which is the main stimulant/numbing agent. Because the workers will not eat down in the mines (they believe its too harmful to ingest any silica that might contaminate their food) the coca leaves help to suppress hunger and to give them energy. The miners also believe that chewing the coca leaves helps to protect them from harmful dust such as asbestos and silica. Good science there lol. The average life expectancy of a miner in Potosi is 35 YEARS OLD!! Horrible.

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2) 99% Pure Cane Alcohol - still don't quite understand this one myself. Let's not eat all day, chew coca, drink the sickest of sick alcohol and then blast off dynamite in one of the most dangerous working environments of the world! Mainly it's used in offerings to the Mountain Devil God Thiel, who the miners believe watches over them and protects them. But it also gets consumed by the miners. We didn't experience any drunk miners ourselves but we heard lots of stories about it from other travellers.

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3) Coca & Tabacco mixed cigarettes - once again not too sure of the significance of this one. Not a hell of a lot of science behind it... our guide said the miners believe it helps to protect their lungs. Ever heard of a dust mask?

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4) Dynamite - pretty self explanatory. Used to blast hard rock to get at the ore deposits. Of course there is no way to really warn your fellow workers of the blasts going off so needless to say this results in numerous deaths per month. What blows my mind is that there are an upwards of 22 different co-operatives (family/village work groups) working Cerro Rico. That's essentially 22 different companies that all have a little piece of the mountain. But that's also 22 different companies blasting and tunnelling away with no engineering, no prints and no real idea if your above, below or right beside another co-operative. Efficiency?? Safety?? Nope never heard of that before lol.

So after the demos and gift buying (we purchased a few Happy Meals - coca leaves, cigs, booze and dynamite - for about $1.50 a piece) we were off to the mine.

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Before even entering the mine I knew it was going to feature some horrific conditions (working conditions aren't going to be good when you got an average life expectancy of 35 years old) but I really had no idea just how bad it would be.

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The dust is so thick that your literally choking... combine that with the fact that your at 4000m plus and breathing becomes very difficult. And look at the tunnels. No rhyme or reason to it at all... or signage... can't imagine getting lost.

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The miners hard at work (they earn between 60-80 Bolivianos per day... $9-12)

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We ended up venturing down about 6 levels or so all the way to where the silver ore is now being found. Both of us opted to wait while the others went down (way to cramped for my taste... the tunnels were about a metre tall by half a meter wide). Oh and did I mention that the entire time your down there you can hear and feel dynamite going off all around you! Definitely not a tour for the faint of heart. We stopped at the co-operatives offering site to the God Thiel...

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They have quite the ritual of offerings by pouring alcohol and coca leaves all over him (especially his penis lol... our guide stressed it over and over because it will help you have children I suppose... more kids for the mines I guess).

Probably one of the biggest eye-operners in the mine was when at this one point our guide goes "please don't touch the wall on your right", so we of course ask "why?" to which he replies "oh because there's asbestos all over it and it can irritate your skin". At this point I realized how little research we did about these mines. Who gives a shit about touching it! Breathing that crap in is what kills you!! At that moment we wanted nothing more then to get the hell out of there... and that's just what we did!

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We spent a total of three hours inside the mines and felt like even that took years off our lives. Honestly my stories and pictures don't even do it justice. It was a nightmare! I still can't believe people work inside there. You wanna know how they get the silver out? In potato sacks strapped to their backs (20 kgs at a time) and then they haul it up through the 6 levels of tunnel maze. All that work just to turn around and sell the ore to Chile for next to nothing. God do I ever have a new appreciation for Canadian Labour Standards!

And that sums up our time spent in Potosi. One of the most unique destinations of this trip yet! A complete eye opener and great cultural learning experience. The extreme altitude definitely made it a challenge though, but I would recommend this crazy Bolivian stop-over to anyone! Next up is our 3 day tour of the world's largest salt flats with a few volcanoes and flamingos sprinkled in for good measure. Ciao.

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Posted by ttbwarren 08:59 Archived in Bolivia Comments (0)

Bolivia

Santa Cruz to Sucre

sunny 13 °C

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Bolivia... my God it was a hell of a journey to reach you! After our night in Paraty the plan was to catch a bus back to Sao Paulo where we would then grab another onward to the Corumba which is basically on the Bolivian border. Well as luck would have it all the buses that day to Sao Paulo were sold out, so rather than spending another night in Paraty we opted to head back to Rio where we figured there would be plenty of buses that left for Bolivia. So we arrived in Rio already fatigued and quickly found out that there was only one bus company that left for Bolivia and the bus didn't leave until 10pm... or so we thought. You see we were so tired and upset at the fact that we had to kill roughly 6 hours in Rio's bus station (which is a complete overpriced shithole) that we didn't bother to even look at our bus tickets. The problem was that when we purchased our tickets the guy at the ticket counter told us the bus left at 10pm when in fact the bus really departed at 8pm. So because of our incompetence we waited in the bus station uncomfortably for 6 hours before finally realizing that we missed our bus! And the ticket wasn't cheap either (about $100 each). And good ol' Brazil tourism didn't disappoint again... the ticket counter was zero help to us as was the tourist counter (literally everyone we tried to talk to just shoed us away and wouldn't help us). We finally found out that the next available bus left at 10am in the morning so in order to punish ourselves for our brutal mistake we decided to spend the night in the bus station. There is no way for me to convey how terrible this experience was. Rio's bus station is in the sketchiest part of the city and the bus station itself isn't much better. Security won't let you sleep on the floor and the chairs were metal and hardly cut out for sleeping. Needless to say it was a horrific night. But we learned our lesson. The next morning we frantically tried to figure out how to exchange our tickets to no avail (everyone was so rude to us and completely un-helpful... this gave us a very bad impression of Brazilian people). Finally a American/Brazilian guy asked us if we needed help sensing how frustrated we were and actually lost it on the ticket counter people for us. After a minute or so of him yelling for us, yep, no problem... we had new tickets and were on our way. 30 hours later we arrived in Corumba, went through customs and started the next leg of our journey.

The plan was to take a train 15 hours from Corumba to Santa Cruz but unfortunately the day we arrived the train wasn't running (so we were told). We met the nicest Bolivia family though who told us to just take the bus again (said it was better then the train... which IT WAS NOT lol), so we agreed to another bus ride. But first we went in search of a hotel to take a quick shower. The Bolivian town on the other side of the border was quite the poor place... a big change from Brazil.

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I don't have any pictures of the showers (wish I did) because sometimes as tourist you just feel like such a wanker taking pictures of poverty. The shower... terrible and stinky... but after a 30 hour bus ride... much needed. Afterwards Stacey and I took our new friends out for dinner since they helped us out with the money changers in town and with the bus tickets (ya our Spanish is just as bad as our Portuguese).

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Then it was back on another bus for another 15 hour journey.... that's 3 days in a row without sleeping in a bed.

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Brutal, brutal, brutal bus ride! Terrible roads with dust pouring into the cabin all night long and to boot we were stuck right next to the bathroom so we had the pleasant smell of stinky piss all night long. Fun fun. But thankfully the following morning we arrived in Santa Cruz safe and sound, found a nice hotel and relaxed... we deserved it!

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That was our hotel (I think it was less then $20 a night). Santa Cruz isn't too exciting of a city but it is Bolivia's most populous (I think almost 2 million people). We both weren't really sure about what to expect from Bolivia but Santa Cruz surprised us both. It was a pretty nice clean city that had great restaurants and shopping (and CHEAP!! Finally.... screw you expensive ass Brazil lol).

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We stayed almost in the centre of Santa Cruz which featured a main plaza (like every Bolivian city) with a fantastic old church.

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Our first look at Bolivian women's traditional dress...

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Our second day in Santa Cruz we just tooled around taking it all in and indulged in a little shopping... my shoes got super wet hiking in Cape Town and I left them in my bag for over a week without airing them out lol. It goes without saying they smelt so bad that I had to throw them away (when I took them out of my bag the smell almost knocked me out... the whole hotel room reeked like rotten BO lol).

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Shoes were half the price that they were in Brazil so I was glad I waited. The city of Santa Cruz lays just west of the Pantamal (kind of a Amazon flood plain full of unique wildlife and terrain) and is a pretty tropical, hot place (much different from most of Bolivia). We throughly enjoyed the weather and after all our long days of travelling we decided to stay put an extra day and have some fun. That night we met up with some other foreigners and checked out Santa Cruz's nightlife scene. All in all a pretty fun night... Bolivian clubs are a good time!

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Buying hotdogs out of the back of a van... best hotdog of my life... no joke.

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The next morning we caught a cab to the bus station and bought tickets onward to Cochabamba which is 10 hours west of Santa Cruz.

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A tasty breakfast at the bus station...

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In Bolivia, much like in other countries, when your on the bus your constantly being bombarded by people boarding it and trying to sell you things. And anything is fair game: BBQ, popcorn, drinks, souvenirs, fruit... anything and everything. But in Bolivia we were introduced to a few new characters. For example... the mariachi.

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Lol not the best picture (I snapped it quick so I didn't have to pay him... cheap bastard lol), but he walked up and down the aisle playing and singing for a good 5 minutes. Classic. The character we were introduced to was the "snake oil salesman" lol. No joke, a guy would board the bus mid trip and go on and on, louder than shit with his sales pitch trying to sell lord knows what, but they were either back pills or something for your manhood. He literally goes on with his pitch for 45 minutes, then after no one buys anything he quickly gets off the bus and disappears back to wherever the hell he came from. Stacey and I couldn't help but just look at each other in amazement and laugh.

The jungle view from the long bus ride.

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One problem with buses in Bolivia is that there are usually no bathrooms on board. Normally this is not a problem if the bus stops often enough. THIS IS NOT THE CASE IN BOLIVIA. After 4 + hours on the bus we still hadn't made a bathroom stop and I was in extreme discomfort. With the thought of kidney stones all too fresh in my mind and remembering the doctors orders to never hold it for long periods of time, I had to act. I pretty much had to fight the bus driver and no lie, threaten to piss on him. As mad as he was he eventually conceded to stop so I could pee... I don't know what they expect people to do. Brutal. After 10 long hours we finally arrived in Cochabamaba (the city featuring the worlds largest Jesus statue) got a hotel (total dump lol) and got some rest.

The following morning we headed off to the airport (flights as it turned out were only $40 each for us to go to Sucre and travel time was only 30 minutes opposed to another 10 hour bus ride).

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Such a more civilized way of travel!!

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Views of Bolivia's diverse landscape from the air (the start of the Andes baby!!)

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We arrived in Sucre a half hour later super thankful we didn't take another bus (from the air it was easy to see why it would take 10 hours by bus... the roads twisted all through the mountains).

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Sucre... another beautiful South American example of a whitewashed colonial town. Narrow streets, old buildings, cafes galore.... the perfect place to just tool around and bask in the scenery.

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In Bolivia there are always lots of "cholas" (women in traditional dress... pleated skirts, shawls and bowler hats) selling there wears on the streets.

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We both really enjoyed just hanging out in the main plaza square. Great place to just sit and people watch. In Sucre there were lots of street kids offering up shoe shines and what not.

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Another beautiful old church in the centre of town...

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My favourite vehicle ever!! I still want one so bad...

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That afternoon we stumbled upon some little children's festival/street market... never a dull market anywhere in the world.

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BBQ alpaca... Mmmmm.

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The following day we decided to take in a little bit of culture and paid a visit to a local weaving museum. Both Bolivian and Peruvian cultures are renowned for their weavings. So we learnt a little bit about the history and also got to watch a woman work on a piece right in the museum. Fascinating.

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The handy work and intricate patterns were amazing. Even ancient technology is extremely impressive. Beautiful work.

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The museum also featured a musical instruments section. Did you know that traditional Bolivian guitars are made out of Armadillo skins and owning one is considered good luck. This is part of the reason why Armadillos are nearly extinct in South America.

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Typical offering bowl in Bolivia... Coca leaves and hand rolled cigarettes...

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For our final tourist outing in Sucre we decided to pay a visit to a local dinosaur park just outside of town where numerous footprint fossils were discovered. Along the way to the park however we encountered a roadblock and were forced to walk a good portion of the way. Still not sure what the protest was all about.

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The park itself was quite nice and it had a pretty good set of life-like models...

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Unfortunately as good as the park was there was no mention of how these footprint fossils were discovered, by whom or even when. Ya kind of important don't you think? The fossils were cool but you couldn't really get very close to them. It also appeared as though there was a fully operational mine right underneath them. Nice. Lol almost the equivalent to a company drilling for oil in Sea World.

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There kinda hard to spot but there are numerous different tracks (quite a few different species) running down the decline. Apparently they were running away from the debris of the gigantic meteor (the current theory) that struck the Gulf Of Mexico and caused the great extinction.

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Even though the museum/park was lacking in certain areas we still made sure we had a good time... we were the only two people there!! Not sure if the road block had anything to do with it.

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Well that's all I got for Sucre guys. We definitely did our share of traveling to get there but it was still well worth it. Already at this point it was hard to overlook the diversity in Bolivia. Within a day we went from tropical rainforest to cold dissolute mountain terrain. Even the two cities were really nothing alike. But that's what makes this whole trip worth while... the diversity. There's always something new around every corner. And we love it.

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Posted by ttbwarren 20:02 Archived in Bolivia Comments (0)

Paraty

Our Final Brazilian Stop

sunny 25 °C

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Well we finally made it to the Bolivian capital of La Paz (even though we already passed through it) and I gotta say I'm pretty impressed. The layout of the city is very cool (all in a river valley with the main highway running down the middle and surrounded by mountains), and it is the highest capital city in the world (also the highest skyscrapers too... based on the altitude). But more on this later.

This post will be a short one as we only spent one day in Paraty but I thought that it deserved to be shared since it was a really cool colonial town and very picturesque. From Ilha Grande we took a bus south about 3 hours to reach Paraty. The worst part was that there were only local buses and every time one stopped at the bus station it was full. We eventually had to say screw it and jump on with our packs and stand almost the entire way. Normally standing on a bus isn't too bad... for hours at a time though sucks... and even worse is when your ripping along the coast taking hard corners at fast speeds while trying to balance yourself and your 20kg pack.... ya horrific!! But we eventually made it and started off on our tour around town.

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Probably the roughest old cobble stone streets we have seen yet. After standing on that bus my ankles were killing me and the streets didn't help with that one bit.

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But a beautiful old town (apparently there are loads of great beaches near by too) with two pretty nice old churches...

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There's also a pretty canal/river running through the heart of old town which is a Unesco World Heritage Site.

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Of course there were loads of great whitewashed cafes and tourist shops but being is they were in Brazil they were too expensive for us lol.

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The scenery was quite enjoyable and we were glad we made a quick pitstop even though it's always a shame that you have to rush something... but in order to stay on budget we had to get out of Brazil and into Bolivia.

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That's it for Brazil guys! As much as it was expensive and fairly difficult to navigate around (without Portuguese) we did thoroughly enjoy our time there. For some reason it quite wasn't what we expected and not our favourite country by a long shot. Due to the cost I would probably not return but I wouldn't tell people to not go there because it does have it's fair share of sights and beauty... and besides we didn't even scratch the surface of the world's 5th largest country in both land and population. If I were to do it right I would come back armed with Portuguese, a big sack of money and heaps of time!

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Posted by ttbwarren 17:03 Archived in Brazil Comments (1)

Ilha Grande

Our Last Pitstop In Paradise Before The Big Day!

sunny 26 °C

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Back so soon... gotta play catch up.

Ilha Grande... what can I say? Brazilian paradise!! We read and heard about this little island just off the coast between Rio and Sao Paulo from travel literature and through word of mouth. What did we hear? That is was an isolated little place with no cars, no roads and no worries. Just a place to unwind and get alway from it all. The perfect place to enjoy our finally beach days of our world trip.

From Rio we caught a tourist bus 3 hours south along the coast to the city of Angra Dos Reis where we would catch our ferry to paradise.

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On board our ferry we made fast friends with a bunch of fellow vacationers all in search of the same thing and made plans to rondevu that evening after we found hotels to stay at.

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We booked ours ahead of time and figured it would be no problem, however there were two places in town with very similar names and combine that with the fact that our portuguese is shit and no one on the island speaks english and you got a problem lol. Long story short after finding the hotel, scaling a fence and waking the owner we got a room and got settled in. Actually we got our own private cabin which was quite alright with us after living above a gym for the better part of a week lol.

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On an interesting side note: Hot water showers... in many countries they are not available. Not a problem depending on where you are (Egypt=no problem... Tibet=problem...big problem). South America is the first place I've seen this rig...

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Ya... that actually exists lol. Live wires right above the water flow. I actually dared myself to touch it when I was showering (classic electrician lol) just to see what the "poke" felt like. It hurt good! Not my worst by a long shot but bad enough to scare someone into taking baths lol. I didn't touch the wires either people. Nope, I touched the shower head which has adjustment features on it inviting you to touch it while showering (heat adjustments). You can thank our electrical code and a little thing called Grounding back home in Canada lol. On another note for anyone who's interested, my MacBook, because it's aluminum, vibrates and sends current through my body like crazy pretty much everywhere I've plugged it in in the world (except Japan, Israel and Singapore) because there's no grounding. It's nothing major but enough to feel it going through your body.

Like I mentioned because Ilha Grande has no roads, accessing its pristine beaches can be a bit tricky (Jana/Mike - it actually reminded us so much of Ko Phi Phi. No roads or cars, cool little bars and restaurants and amazing jungle and beaches). To combat this problem we decided one of the best ways to see the island would be by boat, so the group hired our own private little boat for the day. She wasn't the fanciest vessel out there but we got her rocking' just the same lol.

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A view of the main and only real village on the island...Villa Do Abrao.

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This was the "ice & beer store" boat out in the harbour lol.

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After picking up ice and refreshments we were off for a day of adventure.

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Okay so we were a little concerned when our captain nearly smoked another boat when he was pulling into the harbour to pick us up... but we thought "oh well... roll with it". We slowly started to get the picture about 5 minutes after...

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Yep... our captain was SMASHED lol. What can you do? Hope there aren't too many other boats to crash into I guess. So again we said f@*k it and headed out on our journey. The scenery and the water didn't disappoint.

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Stacey with our Australian friend Red.

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We stopped and anchored after about a hour or so in a little bay to go snorkelling. The fish were pretty aggressive (bitting my feet like a Vietnamese fish foot massage lol) and we had a blast snorkelling.

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The beach wasn't to shabby either...

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After a few hours on the boat we all got pretty festive and joined in our captain's jolly ways lol...

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Stacey and Lisa (England) with their fake Dorian boobs...

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Love... awwggghhh lol

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Stacey with our new friends Lisa and Kat (England).

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If I can rewind for a minute... the guy who coordinated our tour (cause he spoke decent english) was a jeweller from Argentina who lived in Ilha Grande. He had never been out on the boat before but he knew the captain and first mate. What blew me away was how much he looked like Adam Sandler's caddy in Happy Gilmore lol

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Lol... it made me smile ever time I looked at him lol.

All and all a beautiful day out on the water!

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The following day we decided that it would be a good idea to explore one of the famous exquisite beaches that we had yet not seen. Seeing is how the previous day we took a boat, the plan for the day was to hike the jungle... yep thats a 3 hour hike in the heat hung over lol. You'll see... well worth it.

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Snap shot of the highest peak on the island... Parrots Peak... can you guess why it's called that??

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The humidity, incline and terrain reminded us both so much of Borneo (it's pretty crazy to be somewhere that reminds you of something that happened so long ago on our trip... yes we're starting to get pretty reflective and sad... the glass is definitely not half full anymore lol).

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Our first beach stop (not our finally destination.... the island's south/east side features the pristine beaches).

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This was our destination (Lord help me I can't remember the beaches name). I must say we have both been most definitely blessed with the beaches we have seen in our lifetime and especially on this trip. Don't ask me how they rate up, cause we played that game recently and it was hard... very hard. But I gotta say Ilha Grande rates right up there with the best of them. The water was just spectacular!

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Because this would be our last beach before we get married ( no more beach - :( wedding - :) ) we took the opportunity to do a little photo shoot.

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Group pics with our friends Kat and Stewart who actually were on their honeymoon after getting married in Greece!

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Most people leave the beach fairly early in the afternoon because of the long hike back to the village. We decided to risk it and stay a little longer on account that we heard there were regular water-taxis that left from a nearby beach every hour. So we made the short walk to the beach and found out that we were right.

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That gave us just enough time to have a drink on the floating bar/restaurant out in the bay.

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Caught the water-taxi shortly after...

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That night we all decided to meet up again and go for dinner. Unfortunately there was a special on Caipirinha's on the street and that's when things got a wee bit out of hand lol.

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We also ran into an ol' friend on the street...

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Yep... our drunkin' captain mixing drinks on the sidewalk lol.

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We also ran into our caddy again lol. You be the judge... I still can't get over how much they look alike.

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Am I right? lol. The night finished off with a impromptu pole dance competition. Not sure who won. We're all a bunch of winners I guess lol.

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So as it turned out this was our last tropical beach paradise of our world trip :( but we couldn't have been happier with the way it ended. It's really crazy for us to now start reflecting on the places we've been and how long we've been gone. It really hits home when we Skype with our siblings who have recently become parents. We have three nieces and nephews back home that we have never even met... and they're all so big and grow up now... crazy. But the one thing that keeps us smiling is that they will all be meeting us at our final destination in the Dominican Republic. It will surely be an interesting story to tell them for the rest of there lives that we first met them in another country. We are very much looking forward to the reunions, introductions and our big special day! Cheers.

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Posted by ttbwarren 04:59 Archived in Brazil Comments (0)

Rio De Janeiro

Drinking, Thongs & One Big Ass Jesus

sunny 26 °C

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Hello! We are fine and not dead... just been offline due to the fact that we were virtually in the middle of nowhere for quite some time. Roads, heating, plumbing/electricity, let alone Wifi, ALL DID NOT EXIST... so needless to say we are quite relieved to once again have a few comforts of home (Roads?? That's a comfort? Yep lol). I will share more with you all shortly once I get caught up so bare with me. Lol Brazil already feels like forever ago. Not so much in days but rather in kilometres/hours travelled (at least 82 hours of bus, 72 hours by land cruiser and 1 hour by plane... I couldn't even guess at how many km's but our jeep tour was around 1000 or so). So now I gotta rewind past all that and take you back to Rio...

We left Sao Paulo by bus and within 6 hours or so we reached Rio... the scenery was quite nice... lots of mountains, streams and pastures...

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The one thing we quickly discovered about Brazil is that it is EXPENSIVE. I know that we are both pretty used to living frugally but in Brazil what you pay for compared to what you get is a pretty big gap. For instance our hotel in Rio, which was in a decent area but a jaunt from the beaches, cost us around $45. Now that sounds pretty good BUT....

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...it was constructed rooms above a gym lol. Yep, paper walls, one bathroom, one shower and no amenities let alone an english speaking staff to help answer any questions about the city (hostel staff are usually the best source of info).

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We've definitely stayed in a lot worse but nothing ever cost $50. Hotel choices were pretty limited to backpackers in the city. Pretty much all you can find is dorm rooms and even those are usually $20 per person... and that's usually for rooms with 8 to 15 beds in them... not a great choice unless your in the city to just party (that's up to 15 people snoring drunkly together in the same stinky room lol)... and there was enough of that at our place as it was. But we did have a cool view from our street...

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Our first view of Christ The Redeemer (actually not the biggest Jesus statue in the world as that record goes to Cochabamba, Bolivia which we saw later on). Besides "The Big Jesus" Rio is really renowned for it's beaches, so for our first day out that's exactly what we tackled. The two most popular beaches in Rio are Copacabana and Ipanema. The later of the two is what we choose to see first.

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Those last two pictures are of the neighbourhood Ipanema after we got off the Metro. Pretty nice but not quite what I expected. I figured it would be a bit more posh. But who cares about the neighbourhood.... which way to the beach!

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Our first full day in Rio was a Saturday so you can just imagine how packed the beach was. I never experienced anything like it!

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The tide kept rising all day as well, stealing away precious real-estate from beach goers. The water and sand on Ipanema were both superb and we quickly started to realize what all the hype surrounding Rio's beaches was about.

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Yep... those were everywhere. But it's not as good as you probably imagine it. Ok, so Ipanema is basically divided into different "poles" which are markers that divide the beach into areas for families, gays and good-looking people. Interesting stuff lol. So we headed to the good-looking section and I got say... way too much cottage cheese bum thong action going on lol. NO I WILL NOT BE POSTING ANY OF THOSE PICS (yes I think we snapped a few lol). There was good don't get me wrong, but my stereotype of everyone from Rio/Brazil having a perfect 10 ass quickly faded lol.

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On the beach we met a fellow Canadian and aspiring dentist and a few of his American classmates. Drinks on the beach were surprisingly cheap (when in Brazil you gotta drank the famous Caipirinha which is like a Mojito).

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Our view back at the hostel at nightfall...

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That night we opted to check out the Rio party scene (when in Rio...). We didn't take any cameras with us for obvious reasons... well let me touch on that: Despite the fact that Rio is a fairly popular city for tourists and will be hosting the 2014 Olympics, it doesn't seem/feel to be a very safe place. I have never been one to place much weight on what I hear in media or read in guidebooks as I find they always tend to over-emphasize the bad. We've been to a lot of shady places on this trip and in Rio we both never really felt safe. Yes there is a large gap between rich and poor and in Rio both of those are blended together... falvelas and upscale urban neighbourhoods side by side. However... NOTHING BAD HAPPENED TO US... we just didn't feel very safe and I mainly attribute that to several locals warning us about certain city areas or from sharing stories with other backpackers. For example the party area we went to called Lapa...

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We went back to it the following day, only during the day time and snapped a few pics. At least two locals approached us and told us we were crazy to be walking around with a camera. And this is pretty much right downtown. However it's not like this is unheard of in any city. An example of such is Johannesburg's downtown at night... A DEFINITE NO GO... but at least that is common knowledge. Rio didn't really seem to have those defined boundaries. Crime happens in all areas tourist or not. But anyways Lapa at night was crazy!! Like nothing we've ever scene. Picture a whole neighbourhood basically blocked off to traffic and jammed packed with partygoers. Everywhere you look are bars and clubs and on every corner is a live act playing music. To add to the atmosphere you can drink openly on the streets and there are even guys walking around 40oz bottles of tequila, rum or whatever, selling shots up and down the streets. One of the best places in the world to people watch. And that's exactly what we did... and the cheap drinks and action was on the streets anyways... who needs a club.

So like I mentioned earlier the following day we went downtown to see what it was all about and to take some pictures... and not have our camera stolen lol.

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Downtown Rio actually has quite a large assortment of colonial buildings, theatres and museums... but it was Sunday and most were closed... and besides who wants to visit a museum hung-over lol.

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We also took a walk by the harbour and watched a few planes take off from the regional airport which is on a little island in the bay.

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Day 3 we chose to explore the main beach of Rio, Copacabana, and it's adjoining neighbourhood. But first here's another view from in front of our hotel. The area we stayed was called Botafogo and it also featured a beach with some pretty amazing views.

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As always lots of graffiti around...

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Can you spot the rock climbers?

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On the way to Copacabana we toured the neighbourhood of Urca which is where you can take a cable-car to the top of Sugar Loaf Mountain (which you will see shortly).

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And after that little detour, Copacabana.

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It seemed and looked quite a lot bigger then Ipanema (it's 4 km long!). Not as many people out on a Monday though (weather wasn't great too). But what an amazing beach to have in a city. One of the most famous in the world.

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This guy was just givin'r on the bench pushups lol... the speedos help to cut down on the resistance.

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It was kind of tricky planning our last few days in Rio because we really needed to have clear weather in order enjoy both Christ The Redeemer and Sugar Loaf Mountain. At Copacabana it was kinda cloudy but we decided anyways to go see CTR, so we hopped on a bus that took us right to the tram.

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It was a pretty steep climb to the top and to instill confidence in the passengers it broke down just as we got going up lol. Luckily they had a back up tram (I'm serious lol)... but we made to the top station and proceeded to walk up to the big ticket himself...

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Bigger in person then on TV lol... Ol' JC literally has a view of the entire city.

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Here's a few bird's eye view photos of Rio:

Ipanema/Leblon areas (wealthiest areas of the city)

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Botafogo (beach on the right and our hotel's area) and Flamengo (on left) with Sugar Loaf in the distance

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Downtown

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Rio's famous Maracana (currently undergoing renovations for the 2014 Olympic Games)

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As I mentioned before the falvelas are scattered all around the hills of the city...

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There was no shortage of tourists at the top and you were virtually wrestling with people just to get a decent picture of the "big guy".

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We decided to stay at the top until dusk to see the city and CTR light up....

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We eventually got cold and decided to catch one of the last trains down... and guess what... it broke down too and we were stuck on the tracks for a good 30 minutes lol. You got a lot of work to do before the Olympics Rio! I'm not stretching this one. I honestly don't think they'll be ready. The city itself is just not accommodating to tourists. Here's a plain example: the tourist information help desk at city's main bus terminal is only in Portuguese... this helps tourists from literally 2 countries - Portugal and Brazil lol. Sorry but english is the universal language... I don't make the rules I just play by 'em lol. We are very quickly learning however that this rule does not apply to South America. Seriously learn Spanish if you plan on travelling here (Brazilians can still understand it too).

The next morning we headed again to Copacabana. It was a super nice day and unfortunately it would be one of our last beach days of our trip :(

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Our afternoon activity of the day is what concluded our Rio visit... and it was the perfect way to cap off our stay...

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The cable car up to Sugar Loaf... and Stacey's favourite... heights lol...

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The cable car consisted of two separate cable car systems (one to one mountain where you then change cars and continue on to Sugar Loaf)... halfway...

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And finally the top. I gotta say it's pretty cool for a city to have two epic viewing points of the city. This one was the better of the two... but you be the judge.

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Once again we fought off hoards of tourists to get a good couple of pictures at sundown... but it was well worth it.

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And that's all for Rio! To be honest our first impression of the city was that it was kind of overrated. For a city that receives such a great international buzz I thought it would be a lot cleaner, cheaper, safer and not mention way more accommodating to tourists. The food (we found anyways) was overpriced and bland and the locals were less then friendly. On the positive side of things there is a lot to see and do and Rio is a fantastic place to meet people and just have fun. The night life was crazy, the beaches were pristine and the alcohol was cheaper then water. So what am I complaining about then? God I'm becoming an old man lol.

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Posted by ttbwarren 11:40 Archived in Brazil Comments (0)

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