BootsnAll Travel Network


August 31st, 2009

Twas with a heavy heart that I left Salvador, a fantastic town. Defo worth another look should I ever find myself in this neck of the woods again. We picked the town of Maceio as our next stop, its 12 hours north going by bus – I’ve said enough about buses already so I will fast forward to bus station Maceio where we decided that we had enough energy and will to jump on a more localesque type of transport to the tiny fishing village of Maragogi 100 or so miles north of Maceio, the reason being that Maceio is a rather sizeable town with merits aplenty I am sure but we wanted a few days of countriness, get down, get real with the local red necks (says the boy from County Cavan).

Anyways the bus journey up there was very enjoyable – we got to see alot of countryside go by. Lush green fields, coconut trees, people going about their daily business etc in the 4 hours or so we spent on that bus we saw more than all the night buses put together since I arrived in Buenos aires all the way back in may.

Maragogi is as tiny as we hoped, it has seen its fair share of tourists but even still it was just what we wanted. Just off the main highway that runs up the Brazilian coast its about 5 blocks wide and 20 long which stretch out on sandy dirt tracks adjacent to what seems like an endless beach. Dropped off in the centre of town I abandoned Marilyn and the bags at the edge of the beach and went in search for some digs. Not a town with hostels or hotels we had to make do with a pousada which is in essence a mix between a bnb and a motel. You get a room a meagre breakfast and not a whole lot more, still it more than did the trick for a couple of days.

On our second day there we took off on a bit of an adventure, the previous day I encountered an outspoken norweigan guy who was closer to 50 than he liked to let on, the conversation seemed to last about 10 seconds but when I met up with Marilyn later on I seemed to have garnered the entire history of the town along with places to eat and where to find the best beaches along with a hole host of facts about the strange norweigan guy. It strikes me now that maybe this guy is some sort of communicational genius, maybe he has cracked some sort of code where we can say so much by saying so little, anyways I better not think about this too much, beer to be drank blog to be erm, blogged?

Anyways with his golden nuggets of info safely planted somewhere within the recess of my cranium we took off north along the strand. We stopped every now and again for some snacks and beers, the endless beach it seems only interrupted by the odd river or rocky outcrop. The river we had to traverse was about knee deep so at that time it didn’t present much of an obstacle! Just before we got to this juncture actually I must recite an encounter I had with a funny little kid.

We were walking along taking in the sun, the sea, the sands – a light breeze ensured the temperature didn’t get too much for pasty mcpasty himself. It was pretty much perfect, families of fishermen were trawling in their catch which contained all kinds of fish, crustaceans and plain ole junk. After the second family of fishermen and women from a group of kids the smallest one noticed something about me and ran over at full pelt. ‘Corinthianos!! Corinthianos!! Usted jugador Corinthiano? Argentinos!!’ is the best of what I could make of what he was saying to me, Corinthians is a famous football team from sao Paulo, the legendary (and proper) Ronaldo now plays for them. I figured the kid thought I played for them – I dunno how to be honest, I ain’t in no shape to confuse even a blind person that I was a pro footballer but this lad seemed to be convinced. I tried my best to talk to him, he rattled on an unbelievable amount about soccer,  I told him I wasn’t argentinian, but irish – un poco pais en europa! At which point he proceeded to recite entire team lists of real Madrid, Barcelona, Ac Milan I had to stop him there… Esso Esso Esso he screamed with a laughter and summoned me to greet him with the traditional local ‘cool’ handshake, looking as far removed from a local than is possible I can only have looked like a bit of a plank but sure feck it isn’t it our differences which make this whole jaunt as enjoyable as it has been.

Anyways we crossed the unbridged river which sounds alot more dramatic and difficult than it actually was but casual arm chair followers of this adventure don’t know that so I will emphasise the sheer width depth and power of the emense torrent that was the river we somehow crossed, erm, okay enough of that. We walked onwards for 3 hours until it got to a stage where near 4pm twas only a matter of time before the sun would drop and all sorts of nasty creatures come out to play – some of them of the human variety you have to consider.

Off back we walked and the sun set quick, before we knew it twas dark and Marilyn was wary of crossing the river at such a time where you could make out the street lights of the distant maragogi and not an awful lot more so just before the river (we thought) we headed inland to find the road that ran to maragogi. We found ourselves on a Tuesday evening in a tiny village which does not get tourists walking around come 7 o’clock or so. Twas really nice to walk around a brazillian beached version of mountnugent, it really was a joy to see the utter puzzlement on the faces of the old ladies when they saw us traipse through the town no doubt during the ad break of the local coronation street. Anyways we walked out of that town and its illuminated streets into a fleet of fire flies and some rather large toads we walked for what seemed like a solid half an hour till we came to a cross roads and a sign that pointed to maragogi or at least what I thought was a sign to maragogi. We followed it along until it got us back to something resembling civilisation, back onto the beach we turned right to find the river, not just the river though, a deeper, stronger, wider version of the veritable trickle we encountered before.

Marilyn is not the most comfortable in water so she was a little more than wary when it comes to threading through a rushing gusht of a river a couple of hours too many after twilight. In an attempt to placate her fears, to show that crossing would be as facile as it was before I took a few steps in and to my own shock I was up to well past my waist in a torrent that was hammering my balance. I made it back to shore alot wetter and wiser about tidal rivers, we walked back to the road and to the sign and following the road out to the main highway which we followed for a mile or so until we saw the big ass sign which couldn’t be mistaken for anywhere but maragogi.

On our way we came across a peculiar and fairly grounding sight. Off in the distance as we walked we saw a pair of people silhouetted by the head lights of a passing car it seemed walking towards us. Again it was dark and we were in country brazil, any bandit worth their salt would have had their way with us no bother at all. We walked on, no other option! Closer we got we saw that the people were standing still and what more there were more across the road, crouched as if ready to pounce on any passing bounty (paranoid)(paranoid)(paranoid). Far too quickly, nervously we walked past them and they passed us no remarks. Behind them on either side were some crude make shift huts made out of scrap wood and bin liner black plastic, at least 50 homes gathered at close quarters with some women out front over tiny stoves cooking what I reckon, assume was rice. I guess they are migrant workers, the homes don’t look like they have been there that long. Onwards we walked and I have to say under a perfectly starry Brazilian night I felt sad, almost guilty that I can no problem at all check myself into a hostel or pousada to have a good nights kip having worked so little to earn such a right while people probably with 10 times more brains that I have to struggle so bad purely by the chance of where they were born.

We got to the welcoming lights of maragogi, out little detour afforded us the opportunity of exploring a side of the town which you don’t see when you stick to the sea front as I would imagine most visitors do. It had been quite a while since we had imbibed in something sustainable so the guts were rumbling something fierce. We traced along the streets searching for a brazillian mammy to answer her own maternal instinct and feed two stray cubs such as ourselves. In our quest we heard some shouting , some amplified shouting. It itched a curiousness in us, we could put of our hunger to go see what was making such a racket of a Tuesday night. So we followed the noise until we found ourselves on a street with some bored kids circling around on battered bicycles, some others just glumly looked into space not paying us any attention. We walked passed as if we were walking that road anyways, to the left was the source of the racket. A congregation of people sat rapt listening to a fulsome figure roar into a microphone ‘Jesus’, ‘Christo’…. Halleluiah they roared, some stood and raised their hands. Evangelical Christians! Up until recently Catholicism was the main religion in Brazilian society, that was the case until people started to question why being so devout as they were so many bad things were still happening to them. Its really boggling to imagine the amount of gun crime, drug and sex abuse that happens in brazil, anyways it happens and people looked for another answer to their questions and evangelicalism was a fit for many many people in brazil. To me these people are crazy to the point where it is entertaining but even still it gives you some idea of the mindset of people who’s lives are less than comfortable…

We walked on and into the welcoming (metaphorical) arms of our brazillian mammy. Some of the days finest catch cooked in coconut milk served with rice and lashings of the local brew….

We left the following day for the wonderfully titled Olinda.



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August 30th, 2009


When I started this jaunt around the rock commonly known as planet earth I made the pledge to try and do as much of it overland as was possible, so I racked up the miles on the subcontinent and south east asia using planes, trains, automobiles and the odd boat thrown in here and there. In south east asia and especially india this is a really good approach if you have the time because the journey as a wiser man than myself once said is a destination in itself, interacting with locals, seeing the country side drift by either by boat or a train is pure magic is what travelling is all about.

In south America though this is not so much the case, the distances between towns are massive, huge!! Unless you had 12 months where you could take local buses and spend 5 hours out of every 3 days on a bus of some description then its just not practical. You never sleep well on overnight buses so you end up spending most of the day when you arrived too knackered to do anything other than sleep or drink. So with this justification in mind it was with the clearest of consciousness that we booked a flight from rio to Salvador cutting what would have been a 20 hour bus trip down to a 2 hour flight and at 1/3rd the price it really was a bit of a no brainer. (Mathematical geniuses note the mistake in the last sentence – seriously libs hand back that phd if you don’t spot it) 😉

We arrived into salvador at 6 in the evening, it felt like a different world immediately, the warm air greets you like a big warm hug when you exit the arrivals hall door. The second thing that struck us about the place was a strike in itself. Some upheaval by the masses had cut off the regular bus service from the airport into the barrio (neighbourhood) where we had intended pitching ourselves for a few days. After a bit of messing, chasing tales getting translations from Portuguese to  French and from French to English we found ourselves in the back of a minivan crawling through chronic Thursday evening rush hour traffic. It took us 3 hours to get to the centre of town, it was awful. Gimme 6 hours, 12 hours going at full pelt – twould have been better than sitting in the middle of nowhere and going nowhere.

The bus dropped us off in an eerily quiet and quite daunting centre of Salvador, darkness seemed to shroud everything, I dunno whether it was just my imagination but shadows seemed to be lurking everywhere that wasn’t under the feeble street lighting. We got directions from the bus driver to a taxi rank where this auld fella summoned us into his taxi cab. I was glad to get inside the cab, so much so I didn’t take a whole lot of notice of what he was saying or the fact that he was saying anything. Marilyn was steering the ship at this stage. Eventually I tuned in and he yapped away, we showed him the address of our intended hostel and he tore around furiously looking for it.  We stopped to ask other taxi drivers, they pointed us on. A security guard pointed us back which in a one way street sent us around a block or two. Eventually Marilyn bailed out and up a street which matched our address to a number on a door which matched our scratching on notebook but attached next to it a For Sale sign. Bugger!

Our taxi driver was not to be beaten, like a true great he stood up against adversity and twice as quickly as before he tore around the streets, tearing up the rules of the road in the name of getting us a bed. Brakes screeched, rubber burned, curtains drawn fearing the inevitable shoot out. We pulled up outside a large yellow building with the lights on and the letters Albergue (Portuguese for hostel) etched into the side of the wall. We thanked our driver profusely to which he just nonchantly passed us his number and walked off in slow motion into the Salvadorian night safe in the knowledge than another two gringos have been safely housed – all in a nights work!

The hostel was nice, very nice. Situated less than 50 metres from the historical and lovely beach along with restaurants, bars and other historical stuff – Salvador was one of the first cities established by the portugese and also the landing spot for so many black slaves from Africa back in the day a fact that cannot be lost on even the most unobservant of travellers as 80% of the towns population have dark African skin. Our first port of call though was food, and lots off it. Hugo our friend from Rio gave us a few recommended dishes to check out while we were here. Due to the strong African influence the local cuisine also was rather unique compared to the rest of the country. First port of call was the moqueca which is a sumptuous feed of prawns, rice, beans and fish. Man it was superb, it more than fed the pair of us and sent us back to the hostel for a well earned kip.

The next day we took in the great breakfast that was on offer, lots of fruit and then took to the local area. We walked around and found our bearings amongst the most important of our discoveries was the local fish monger who sorted us out with a massive fish which we cooked much to the envy of the pasta and sauce brigade back in the hostel. We hung out with a couple of the guys there, many many of them were superbly cool people. So many hostels can be just full of people who drone on endlessly about DOING countries, seriously how do you DO a country!! I have been hangin around backpackers too long I think, they are on my list of pet peeves. Anyways these guys were cool, we discussed all things musical, alcoholic and onwards we found ourselves having a few beers with a couple of brazillian art students who promised to take us out for a few beers later that night a proposal I was never gonna say no to so we ended up in a barrio close by sitting in a town square drinking bottles of beer while the sea lapped up against the wall a couple of yards away.

We got up the next morning we thought was early enough to get the beach empty enough for a swim, alarm was set for 7 and we made the 50 yard mammoth journey that it was to find a been full to the bring with scantily clad brazillians making the most of the weekends sunshine. So we pitched up and went for a swim. In the afternoon we headed into the old town to stroll around and take in the atmosphere. It really is a lovely town to walk around, much more so than Rio and Sao Paulo. It just seems so much more relaxed and laid back. And there is plenty to see we wound the day down in a central square drinking coffee and walking the other tourists get hassled to buy all sorts of nick nacks.  

During a wander around Salvador it is impossible not to notice the large black women dressed entirely in white with small stalls selling just one make of a snack. The snack is called acaraje. It is basically very bad for you, some sort of bread that is deep fried, sliced then filled with spiciness shrimp onion, tomato, peppers and such things – you then eat it like a kebab. I thought it was okay but my lovely lady friend was not partial to it. Acquired taste me thinks.

The plan for the evening was to hit the local modern arts museum for what was described as a Jazz Jam. Not the biggest jazz fan in the world but we made it regardless. First off all the museum itself is fantastic. Set on the side of the oceans bank it incorporates several buildings and several mind boggling displays, we made our way after an impromptu game of hide and seek to the location of the jazz jam. It was perfect, set off the side of the main building open aired and open to the ocean we sat along the oceans wall, drank some sweaty beer and ate some dodgy food while the jazz played away in the background. We called it a night early enough

The next day we fled Salvador, headed north to the town of macaeio.


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August 10th, 2009

The typical route north out of BA is to follow on up to recoleta before heading to the falls of iguazu. Its a route I was interested in but one which Marilyn was not, I was happy enough to go along with her ideas as she spoke of a fishing village along the north eastern coast of Uruguay which sounded a little bit like paradise. So we took the ferry across from BA to Colonia. Now this is where the tourist conspiracies kick in, there were two ferries which we could have gotten,  the first would have gotten us to Montevideo in time for a bus that would drop us off in the town of Punta Del Diablo.

Of course we slept in and didn’t make it on time to catch the quick one, so we ended up on the slow one and were left with the prospect of a late night arrival in a strange town. Thinking caps on, I sat on the boat and the mind started to wander, I couldn’t help but be distracted by the number of soccer jerseys being sported around the place. Now I know that south America is a soccer mad place but this was disproportionate especially considering that most of the jerseys were the same. Finally it clicked, Copa Liberadetores!! The team that shocked Boca Juniors a couple of weeks back were from Montevideo, it figures that the team they were playing were juan Sebastian verons Estudiantes!!

I nudged Marilyn and suggested that a night in Montevideo might not be a bad idea after all. Montevideo is a run down city, there doesn’t seem to be alot to the place. Now to be honest we only spent 1 night there and that was spent exclusively between the area the governs the route from the football stadium that hosted the first ever world cup final to the hostel to the bus station. All tourist guides point to a completely separate part of town said to contain all manner of cultural attractions but given our timescale we did have the chance to visit the place properly. More important things were afoot. From the bus station the football stadium is about a 20 minute walk, set in the middle of a city park you don’t have to get too close to see that its a dilapidated wreck of a place. I attempted to make the process of ticket purchase as quick as possible as there were a few shady characters about asking for pesos and what not. As a result I ended up getting the cheapest tickets going which after a few minutes occurred to me that I had bought tickets right in with the ultras, i.e. the hard core set of fans. Oops, oh well. We ventured off, tickets in hand to find some accommodation before tucking into some chow and returning for the game itself.

We missed most of the preamble, well when I say most I mean we missed the entire thing. Arriving just in time for kick off the back of the goals was a flood of ticker tape and confetti, fireworks and chanting. The stand was grossly oversold so a view point took a while to find. While walking along looking for such a place a guy fell from the top of an exit tunnel to the ground below, a good 12 feet to concrete, it had to hurt. Eventually we got a spot to watch the game, the atmosphere was electric. The home team was up against it from the start and despite the phenomenal home support they succumbed to a 2-1 defeat. But even in defeat they sang louder than you could imagine, it truely felt like an amazing experience. Copa liberadetores right in the heart of south America.

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Rio de Janiero

August 10th, 2009

Now Rio is a place that has alot of fame, people think of brazil they think of Football at the Maracana, they think of Beaches – name one beach in the world more famous than the Copacobana! They think of samba, hedonism, poverty, beauty, squalor… All of this and so so so much more is encompassed by mighty Rio. A good deal smaller than Sao Paulo it stands in complete contrast to the hard working much larger neighbour, the local joke is that the famous statue of Christ the Redeemer which graces every second post card is infact a fully mechanical automatic structure that claps his hands every time some one in the city does a days work.

That little nugget comes courtesy of marilyns good friend from montreal Hugo who was researching his masters in anthropology in Rochina, which is the largest and arguably the most famous favella/slum in south America. More on Rochina in a bit.

We met hugo at our hostel early and he took us out to see the local sites, it was warm and sunny. The first day of sun since hugo had been there so we were lucky. We walked up some hills to get a view of the city before taking the city tram down to the central business district where we sat ourselves down and began the serious business of drinking lots of beer.

The evening quickly turned into the night and we found ourselves walking around the streets of lapa. It was a Friday night and in Rio lapa is not a bad place to find yourself. The place is crawling with backpackers (gringos) but we didn’t let that get in the way of a good night. We drank and ate on the streets before finding a street party with a large band playing samba to a very enthusiastic street audience. The hawkers were selling 500 ml cans of beer for less than a euro a piece so everyone was happy. Eventually the overnight bus from the night before caught up on us and we retired to our beds in nearby catete.

On Saturday we made our way out to rochina to meet hugo, he was keen to show us around. To get there we took a collective which is a small van/bus. After some confusion we finally caught up with the man himself, after the niceties of hellos we found ourselves walking up towards rochina. I cannot tell you what an awesome sight this place is, no picture can give it justice. It is incredibly intimidating. At the edge of the favella you encounter some police men who are essentially military in brazil. For years there has been fights between military and the people who run the favellas, so much blood has been shed over the years. Once you passby this threshold you are in favella, its a microculture in itself.

The streets are tight, shoulder width in places. The electric wire is literally haywire, everywhere people are getting on with life. Tvs and radios are blaring, kids are playing football or skip rope, adults are buying and selling – the place is fascinating and engrossing. We stopped in for some quality nosh before visiting hugos house, when i say house it is just 2 rooms and a toilet. No kitchen he has to eat out on the streets, space is at such a premium most people do the same so it makes for a thriving street life. Across the street (which is less than one step in width) is an NGO which teaches kids English and generally acts as a place for them to hang out safely, read or just muck about. We went in there and met a few people and played with some of the kids briefly. One of the guys suggested that hugo takes us up to the viewing point. We all agreed that was a good strategy and so we took to climbing the height of the favella.

Man this walk was fascinating, walking so close to peoples homes through paths you could almost eat of their plates. I think what makes it so different from other slums I have encountered is the sheer vertical nature of the place, it hangs over you like a tidal wave of ramshackle brick and mortor. Onwards we made it to the top and rested a while taking in the breath taking views of Rochina and further afield to the great Rio De Janiero metropolis. It was up here we encountered the rather more unsavoury element of Rochina, the drug dealers. A few of them hung out with us and were to be honest a little annoying, Hugo is fluent in portugese and with him living there he knew exactly what the score was, so before too long we headed back to his house.  While we waited on him to get changed we took some time to get some fruit juices from the vendors in the square near by. It being a Saturday night there was a stage being erected so it was obviously party time. 5 lads stood close to us as we waiting on hugo, each one of them had at least 1 assault rifle, huge guns and a pair of semi automatic pistols. Standing there joking around, I dunno if I will ever be able to not feel on edge when there is someone close by with a gun but I guess seeing as Rochina operate outside of common society and law this is how things work here. Its almost anarchic in a way but it works in a way.

Samba is the famous music of Rio, its world widely known as the music of the masses. In most major south American metropolises this is true  in BA they have tango and in each case the music sprung from the lowest of the working classes, from the slums. Its kinda ironic that as these get more popular they become more associated with the middle class. In Rio there is a new kind of music called Baile Funk (no dad its not funky town) which is causing a stir in the slums. Every now and again there is a gathering somewhere in the favella usually in a massive shed which a ridiculous soundsystem and a joke of a toilet the young ones gather and shake their thing. These gatherings are notorious, usually run by the local drug runners the one staged before we got there had 2 killings. This is serious stuff!! Anyways our curiosity got the better of us and with Hugos reassurance the one we were going to was run by the local community and was not in any way dangerous we found ourselves at it. The kids here loved it, as tolerant of music as I am this was pure rubbish, maybe I am getting old. The place itself resembled the one that appears in the Movie City of God, the dance that goes with the music is a rather explicit effort which is more amusing to be honest than sensual. Gimme tango any day of the week.

We made it out alive and got back to catete and at an ungodly hour we made it to sleep. All in all we spent 6 nights in rio. We went out in lapa some more, we did the typical tourist things of swimming on the copacobana, watching football at the magnificent Maracana and visiting the domineering Christ the Redeemer statue. I have to say that I didn’t warm that greatly to Rio, my regret is that we didn’t opt to stay in favella itself and away from the other tourist traps. The favella, even with its inherent dangers is where Rio is at, if you want to see this citys heart you have to go there and see this place for the magnificent squalor that it is.

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Sao Paulo

August 10th, 2009

Another overnight bus, another metrosystem to negotiate at the morning rush hour. We had a recommendation for a good hostel from a girl from the last hostel we were in in Floripa. The metro system in sao Paulo is excellent but it has to be said that it is pretty intimidating when you are trying to keep a track of all your stuff as well as each other and which stop we should get off at. Luckily enough it turned out to be a hassle free trip, before we knew it we emerged out of the Clinicas subway station into the welcoming warm air of Sao Paulo.

The hostel is about 5 minutes walking distance from the subway station so we got ourselves there fairly quickly, the only problem being that they couldn’t let us lie down to catch up on sleep until after the 1 pm. We got sorted eventually and then went out for a wander.

Sao Paulo is massive – 20 million people in the city alone and it is surrounded by several significantly sized cities such as Santos which in alot of places would be considered part of Sao Paolo. To be honest I knew very little about the place before I got there, I had heard it had the second largest fleet of helicopters in the world and that it was with new york probably the best place to see graffiti. After that I was an open book with what the city had in store.

Our first night there we tried to get in contact with our friend from SP who we met in Santiago. We tried to get thru on her phone but couldn’t get her, we were on our way out the door to a local bar when she called at the front door of the hostel with her boyfriend Fernando, her brother Daniel and his girlfriend Caroline. They had all just knocked off work and were hanging for after work beerage. RESULT!!!

They took us to a part of town I think it was villa madelena. I say think because earlier at dinner myself and Marilyn (mostly me I admit) consumed the best part of a bottle of cachassa, a strong brazillian beverage. So I was in fine fettle and was in my element with the two boys discussing all things soccer and beer related, they were good enough to educate me in the ways of beerage. If anyone goes to Sao Paulo, get into the Chopp Bramha escudo – its the business. So we sat in the bar until 3 in the morning and had a great time, the bars walls were covered in soccer paraphernalia so I was happy out with myself. We arranged to meet the following Thursday so Denise and Daniels Mammy could make us the traditional brazillian meal of Fejoiada.

Now this was Tuesday so that left us two days to ourselves. And we used them nicely, a well deserved sleep in the first day was followed by a trip to a fantastic record store which had everything!! We walked around till our legs hurt and then went to cook some lovely dinner. The next day we took to the streets to explore villa madelena, what a lovely neighbourhood it is. We stopped for some more chopp, the best chocolate cake in the world (the shop actually proclaimed this on the door) (and it was bloody good by the way) before settling into a piano bar where much to my frustration the comically hatted attendees were furiously discussing Xabi Alonsos projected move to Real Madrid. I could understand what they were saying and could understand that they were mixing him up with Xavi Hernandez of Barcelona but I didn’t have the skills to convey such a message. Speaking of which my portugese is woeful, poor Marilyn has to take the burden of translating though she is very good, it must be doubly frustrating when I can really understand everything when it comes to football but when it comes to something practical like directions, money or times of buses I am feckin useless. Oh well.

We met up with Denise and Fernando whose nickname is Bin Laden as he has more than a passing resemblance to the famous terrorist type. They took us around the city to some of the major tourist spots, we stopped for beer and coffee. Some mate was after we had negotiated the human ant hill that is the local street market it was manic, never seen so much unadulterated junk in my whole entire life. It was a bit annoying for Denise and Fernando as they were worried for our safety, pickpockets are notorious in this part but we had a great time taking it all in. We visited an indoor food market which seemed to contain every ingredient and condiment you could possibly want to create any dish in the world, there were free samples so I was happy. Beside this market is a massive block of flats which is completely destroyed and somehow still standing, its nickname is trembly or wobbly or something like that. Its a future sky news headline in the making and really remarkable to look at, its amazing people are in it but whats more remarkable still is the graffiti that marks the outside of it. Its not so much the artistic merit which marks the artwork apart from all else but the sheer dexterity of the artists to paint where they painted it really boggles the mind.  After negotiating a couple of street vendors, one monotoothed legend of a man tried to sell us the single most useless object conceived let alone constructed by mankind – this guy was amazing, his enthusiasm if nothing else would have sold it and I regret not buying the trinket, I probably would have only it was a bit wieldy, oh well… anyways after we successfully negotiated this lad we ascended the largest building in sao Paulo in time to get a view of a beautiful sunset over this humongous metropolis.

After all the sightseeing we were pooped so we went to denises house for dinner. We met her entire family before the meal which was lovely. Feijoada is famous all over brazil, it is basically a festival of beans and rice with some pork bits mixed in. Its super tasty especially when it is consumed with all the trimmings. After eating enough for 5 I retired to the couch to watch sao paolo take a hammering the football, life doesn’t get much better.

We had a bus that night so our time was running short but not short enough to deny us another round of drinks. With Daniel, Denise and Fernando we drank some more before very sadly bidding farewell to them and Sao Paulo at the bus station. In 4 days we covered alot and it has certainly made me eager to return to this awesome city….

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August 10th, 2009

The town of Chui sits on the border between brazil and Uruguay, its a weird feeling to be able to cross a street to use a bank link and actually traverse cultures, languages and international boundaries. A strange strange town we stayed long enough to catch the bus to Porto Alegre and from there onwards to Flori.

Flori connects the mainland to an idyllic island of the east coast of brazil. We got a tip to stay in a hostel in lagoa de conceicaio from one of the people in punta del diablo. It took a little finding but when we did it was worth the wait. The hostel – Toucan house is easily one of the best I have seen. Alot of places can have impressive buildings or settings but to marry both with really great staff its truely something very very special. The guys at Toucan were great, couldn’t do enough for you with help that wasn’t motivated by squeezing a few more shillings out of you.

The place itself is a pure tourist attraction, you just need to walk down the street to see the number of surf shops, restaurants catering to all manner of international tastes etc etc. We happened upon flori when a major international surfing competition was taking place so that was an interesting diversion for a couple of hours on our first day. The beach was perfect for surfing and just sitting there watching the surf. Other days we walked along paths to viewing points, taking water taxis back with the kids coming back from school, eating as much seafood as we could lay our hands on and some days just spend lazing around expending as little energy that would be much better spent on a dancefloor.

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Punta del Diablo

August 10th, 2009

The name conjures all sorts of fantastical images, what could make a port so diabolic. Luckily enough given the size of Uruguay we didn’t have too long to wait. A change of bus was necessary in a town I didn’t take time to note the name off but all in all the journey was quite simple. We did some research the night before on a hostel that was in the town, on its website was a map of the town which displayed a grid like formation for a town. So what I expected and what we were met by were two completely separate entities.

The town was a mesh of sand tracks and old ramshackle housing mixed in with some prodigious new development set wonderfully on a wild nub of the atlantic coast. Some Rocks turned into a sandbelt which joined again with the sea at a mass of of sand and grass dunes. We made our way via the aforementioned tracks following some friendly promptings from locals and weather weary wooden signs to the Diablo hostel. A hippy german and a young surfer American dude met us and got us into most wonderful room complete with ocean, sunrise views, fire place and balcony with hammocks rocking in the breeze. I really felt like I had found paradise.

Over the course of a couple of days we took to exploring the beaches to the north where we found a perfect crescent completely abandoned but for ourselves, we watched the sun drop over the hills before building a fire out of driftwood to keep us warm for another couple hours. Other days we picked up some fresh fish of the dope smoking fishermen that seemed to spend their days staring out to sea waiting for something that might never come. After a couple of days the weather turned and we were hostel bound. The guys in the hostel turned a little strange also, coupled with the fact that we needed to head on up the coast quick smart we had to make our way out of punta del diablo, make our way to brazil.


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Mendoza and Buenos Aires, AGAIN

August 10th, 2009

Mendoza and Buenos Aries

The weather had turned down south so a trip to Patagonia on a boat would have been next to madness. So in order so save time at the end we decided to cut straight across to Buenos Aries, at such short notice the flights were very dear so we decided to overland it on a bus.

The trip to Mendoza was quite pleasant and involved a wonderfully scenic jaunt thru the andes, the first half was new while the second half I covered in my previous post about Mendoza. We stayed there one night before taking a bus the following night to Buenos aries where we arrived the Friday morning. BA in time for the weekend, could be dodgy.

In BA we did alot of the things which I had left off my original visit intentionally so I was having the same sense of discovery as Marilyn. Such things as the graveyard in recoleta where the remains of evita lie to a walk through the streets of Palermo before sitting down to a steak which could easily contest a heavyweight prize fight such was its sheer mass and quality. The highlight of my second visit to BA was undoubtedly the Monday evening where we traversed the city from our san telmo hostel which was excellent, to somewhere close to Palermo where some school of percussion put on a weekly show for anyone that wants to hear. I heard about this event on my first trip but due to tooth problems I had to put if off until now and to be honest it was well worth the wait.

We grabbed a couple of beers and lost ourselves in a fantastic celebration of rythym. A few different conductors took turns in instructing all the 15 or so musicians, it changed it swooped and it devoured. Thoroughly high on rhythm we ventured back to san telmo and into the restaurant they call el desnivel. Set in the heart of san telmo its really impossible to miss and boy is it worth it.  Am amazing steak served with the house red which was to these lips the best I have ever tasted and at less than 4 euros for the bottle it really was a giggle to pay so less but know that I would have to pay so much more to get anything even remotely close to the quality.

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Santiago, Valparaiso + Vina de la Mar

August 10th, 2009

I met Marilyn in san Sebastian 2 years ago, I annoyed her at first due she knows now a misunderstanding or a misinterpretation of something I said while in the company of others. To cut a long story short we ended up getting on really well and along with my best mate dave and a travel buddy of hers we ended up having an amazing night out in san Sebastian before myself, dave and barry flew back to Dublin, to work. Before we parted I told her if she ever came to Ireland to look up phil gill, having already been there she did the next best thing which is to look me up on the pop culture phenomenon that is facebook.

Over the course of the next 2 years we kept in contact, mentioning from time to time maybe meeting up in south America before I finished my behemoth of a journey around the globe. Towards the start of this year our plans became more than just talk and we committed to seeing what travelling together is like for a couple of months. I reckoned it would be fun but to be honest having only really known her for 1 day in person it made for at least a little nerves while I sat in the arrivals hall in Santiago.

Eventually she arrived and we looked at each other and blinked and pinched to see if the other was real and if they were actually doing what was going on. Turns out it was and so we boarded a bus into town. Its funny how you can know alot about a person but not really know what they sound like. Its a fundamental feature of a person but I guess in the modern world where so much communication takes place through the miracle that is the internet it will become more and more the case where you can build up a relationship with someone without the basic fundamental that is the physical presence. Anyways it was time for us to see if we could turn the potential that one night promised into a 2 month jaunt across latin America.

Fun wasn’t far around the corner, infact it happened pretty much in the first step. Upon getting off the bus at the main bus terminal Marilyn noticed that the one remaining bag on the bus which resembling hers was not hers at all. I have been in this situation before, bags and buses and phil – its an old school relationship. Poor Marilyn though, she tried to put forth a calm persona but you could see it was a mini mare. It took a bit of panicking, a bit of clear thinking, a mixmash conversation with some airport bus officials and a wee bit of waiting before we finally got reacquainted with her luggage, having the other bag all along gave me confidence that it was simply a case of mistaken indentity rather than petty theft

Our first day or so together involved walking around some markets we randomly found, getting some food and chatting away with some of the other guys in the hostel, one of them Denise will feature again in the future as she is from Sao Paulo and totally sold us on the idea of meeting up with her and getting some proper brazillian mammy food into us.

It was our second day that we really took off… we walked until we found a park, took some silly pictures before venturing forth to the comfort of a big white couch where the staff silently stayed late while we chatted about things that mattered, well all things bar football I guess. Our evening turned into a night as we searched out a bar where a tipple was to be had. It has to be said that while I like Santiago alot, it stinks when it comes to getting yourself a drink. You really need to be in a certain part of the city or at least not be in the part where we were as it was more than a little morman for my likings. Our evening ended up with us on a 6th floor balcony overlooking Plaza de Aramas, the square where all signposts in chile measure their distance from.

Gustavo was the vertible friend of a friend. I say was because he now firmly is. I wasn’t sure what to make of him at first, a friend of a friend of marilyns so I guess I have already lied about our relative proximity he met us in plaza de aramas and whisked us away in his car off to see the sights of the city. Marilyns Spanish is pretty much spot on while mine is spot off, I can gauge a trend in a conversation, sometimes even the topic but beyond the hotel, money, restaurant and direction basics I am a bit of a disaster. Anyways for the first few hours I could only communicate with Gustavo thru Marilyn. He turned out to have pretty much perfect English, especially when he had a few drinks in him.

We visited a bar which his friend was the proprietor, they opened the bar especially for us. We guzzled a bottle of wine before heading off to a local bar which was just as dirty, dark, damp and grotty as I like them. I got us all a sweaty bottle of beer and we sat down and watched gustavos team succumb to a a defeat in a dead rubber Chilean FA cup semi final type thing. It was perfect, football in south America in a dank bar with the locals.

A party was mooted and before we knew it we were equipped with enough pisco to down a horse. A friend of a friend of gustavos birthday was on, twas a guy who was but a friend of a friend of his so we are up to 5 degrees of separation from me here, not to even mention the language barrier… anyways as we crossed the threshold of the house we were met with the warmest of welcomes imaginable. Before we knew it drinks were in our hands, food on the table in front of us and people doing their level best to chat to us in basic Spanish or really good English. It really was one of those nights which you have to pinch yourself to believe that you were a part of it.

We got back to the hostel and made arrangements to meet Gustavo once the following evening and travel with him to his house and place of work on the coast in the cities of Vina Del Mar and Valpariso.

These cities lie about 2 hours from Santiago, 2 hours to the west and to the pacific for the last time on this trip. The 2 towns are initially indistinguishable from the other, I guess you could say that one is old town and other is new town. Valpariso is where the fun is to be had, a 10 minute jaunt around this place and you see 10 times more nightlife than the countries capital. For a couple of days we stayed with Gustavo, in his home with a wonderful pacific view we dined in some really traditional Chilean restaurants, a steaming pile of stewed beef, friend eggs and a bed fit for a king of chips was one while the other was not a symphony but an orchestra of seafood something I have craved since leaving the ozzie short. Outside the restaurants we exchanged anecdotes, quips etc in various student bars where the music swung from the ridiculous to the sublime.

It was with a heavy heart that I left Gustavo, he’s one of those guys you want to have around all the time. His face seems to be permanently teetering on the brink of a smile – he would  be the perfect host for a willing couch surfer – he is a native of the capital and so is an alien in this town you could tell that he had a ball having us stay as much as we enjoyed it there.

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August 10th, 2009

There is an early morning bus to Pucon which was my alternative to the boat for traversing the international frontier, it was my only choice. At 6 am I boarded a bus in complete darkness. The Border crossing was funny enough. We arrived there right at the break of dawn which was perfect timing as the border itself is set in the shadow of a rather perfect and beautifully snow clad volcano. Like every border crossing there are forms to fill out, pretty much to see if you have either the ebola virus or a kilo of cocaine with you. I had neither on this occasion, but what I did have was a Tupperware container full to the brim of Yerba, which is the raw material for making Mate and looks for all intents and purposes like marijuana.I played with the idea of flushing it town the toilet, of just hiding it and hoping its not detected or just openingly declaring the weed doppelganger and hoping for the best. I chose for the latter and sheepishly carried my mochilla up to the border guard who was a rather jolly looking lady surrounded by more ominous individuals with some rather impressive weaponry. Immediately she asked about the mate. I took it out, handed it over all sweaty palmed I had all the look of a drug mule. She opened the lid and sniffed, the guys either side of her seemed to grip their weapons a little more firmly, she smiled and handed it back and pointed to my bag ‘solo ropas’ only clothes, I nodded and she gave me a welcome to chile gesture. PhewBack on the bus it was a relatively short spin down the road to Pucon. I got off the bus in what seemed like a nothing town,  first impressions on this occasion were bang on. The town is famous for its treks up the local volcano and other adventure related sporting type activities which normally I would be keen to check out but on this occasion I was more interested in getting over the pesky cold that I had picked up in Bariloche.The sickness peaked in pucon which made my stay there a thoroughly miserable one. Headaches, sore throat, shakes, blocked nose…. I was convinced i had the bloody swine flu. Come to think of it its highly possible that I did have the feckin thing. Anyways it meant that bar the odd excursion to find the makings of some barley soup and some medication to make life liveable I did sweet feck all in pucon except hangout with a couple of cool irish couples and a crazy german with an impressive catalogue of funny youtube videos.

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