A Travellerspoint blog

Brasil, english and spanish versions

Brasil, mixed race does not mean mixed culture. It is a richer culture. Brasil, raza mixta no significa cultura mixta. Se trata de una cultura más rica.

sunny 30 °C

ENGLISH VERSION:

After our blast time in both sides to see Iguazu Falls, we headed up north towards a wonderful place called Ilha do Mel, an island close by the city of Curitiba where relaxing is a must.
It was low season so the island was practically empty, except for a few locals and some Brazilian visitors. The island is car-free and all the beaches are absolutely paradisiacal…white sand, clear water and no bars or houses that could spoilt the beachfront!
Henrik wanted to try surfing: waves were huge and all surfers were professionals, which scared Henrik a little bit. The first time
he tried was really hard for him, currents were really strong so it was difficult to get out. Also, he did not rent a wet suit and he got really scratched on the stomach and had to put on a t-shirt to try a second time. This time was better, he was less afraid and more confident to jump on the board. I managed to snap a photo:
Henrik, after a day of surfing

Henrik, after a day of surfing


Henrik made it!!!!

Henrik made it!!!!


We spend three days in the island, walking, swimming and eating…it felt really nice to be apart from normal civilization for a bit.
Beach in Ilha do Mel

Beach in Ilha do Mel


Pretty landscape, Ilha do Mel

Pretty landscape, Ilha do Mel


Sunset from our hostel in Ilha do Mel

Sunset from our hostel in Ilha do Mel

On the way back to Curitiba, there’s a nice train ride that starts in Morretes which used to be, back on the times, the only way to transport merchandise from inland to the coast. The ride is amazing; old steel bridges connecting the hills and, all the suddenly, an odd factory chimney sticking out from an artificial lake.
Absolutly crazy view of a chimney from an old factory sticking up from an artificial lake

Absolutly crazy view of a chimney from an old factory sticking up from an artificial lake


Train ride back from Ihla Do Mel

Train ride back from Ihla Do Mel


This railroad took 10 years to build 150 years ago or so and had something like 20 tunnels and 10 bridges

This railroad took 10 years to build 150 years ago or so and had something like 20 tunnels and 10 bridges


Stopover in a small town close to Paranagua

Stopover in a small town close to Paranagua


We were also quite lucky as although we paid for economy class (basically a shitty wagon with plastic made sits) we ended up in the tourist wagon, with comfy seats and even a guide who would tell us some history about the place. Apparently, the guy who checked the tickets when we got on, made a mistake and put us in the wrong place, wicked!

Our next destination was Paraty. Described as an architectonical gem of Brasil, the whole town was cobbled stone and the buildings were gorgeous and very well maintained. We were also very lucky as the International Photo Festival was held the very same weekend we were there and the town was very lively and busy.
We met a Brazilian guy, a photographer, who came mainly for the festival (and basically for the party). He was our roommate in the hostel and gave us some tips for our stay in Brasil. We sat and talk for a while.
The next day we decided to take a boat to the islands…we weren’t expecting so much from the boat trip but it ended up being a really nice day: the boat had live music, an excellent roof top area and fruit and coffee for free! Surprisingly, we run into Bruno, the Brazilian guy, in the boat and met other few people …it was a fantastic day! Swimming, diving and hoping and on and off the several islands. On the way back we said to all meet for drinks…That night, Henrik found another double of Sean Penn and they posed in a picture… Who looks more alike?
Where is Sean Penn?

Where is Sean Penn?


Night out in Paraty

Night out in Paraty


Bruno in the background taught us how to do cool portrait photos...check it out now

Bruno in the background taught us how to do cool portrait photos...check it out now


Henrik swiming to one of the island we stopped at

Henrik swiming to one of the island we stopped at


View of Parati from the boat

View of Parati from the boat


On the way back to Parati

On the way back to Parati


Some cute boat and a cute girl

Some cute boat and a cute girl


Cool 3D art/photo installation, part of the photo festival

Cool 3D art/photo installation, part of the photo festival


Laura in the chillout area on our luxury boat

Laura in the chillout area on our luxury boat


They had these cool statue things in the loads of windows

They had these cool statue things in the loads of windows


The church build by and for the freed slaves

The church build by and for the freed slaves


Pittoresque cobblestone street in Parati

Pittoresque cobblestone street in Parati


Colorful boats in Parati

Colorful boats in Parati

After Paraty we headed north towards Rio, via Sao Paulo. We decided to spend a week in Rio. However, it is worth it to spend longer time. The city is so varied that we would have needed another week to discover many other treasures…
Rio means nice beaches, splendid markets, good food and nice people.
We went surfing to one of the beaches. The waves were the most powerful we have ever experienced. We spent the day there and had one of the cheapest meals in Rio in a hole on the wall close by the surfing shop.
We also went to a Favela funky party with some people from the hostel. The best and most sensual moves could be seen in that discotheque. Brazilians have the rhythm inside their bodies and as soon as the music starts they become movement machines, shaking their bodies in the most amazing way I have ever seen in my life.
Also, since we were quite against of all the tours to the favelas, (offered to the “gringos”) we said we would try to find an alternative way to get to see the favelas. We thought that the fact of touring up everything that had to do with the favelas it created a strongest division between the rich and the less privileged. In our opinion, there had to be some other way to visit them, understand their reality without having the feeling that we were visiting a “zoo”.
We spoke to an Australian woman who worked in the hostel and told us that at the moment the majority of favelas in the city, except Rocinha (the biggest one) and Tavares Bastos (guarded by BOPE – police squad-), were police controlled and that going there should not be any problems.
We went to Tavares Bastos Favela, where part of the film of Hulk was shoot. It seemed the easier to access. We had to take mototaxis, scary drive, and got a bit lost (wrong hill) so we had to pay a bit extra to get dropped in the right place. We entered the favela and at the very first few seconds it felt weird, but soon we realized that it was completely safe.
Really narrow alleys, and tiny little shops along the way…
We had read about a place called The Maze in the book Viva South America. “The Maze” was a hostel owned by an Englishman, Bob, an ex BBC correspondent, who had opened it a few years ago. After his divorce, some time on the seventies, he decided to travel to Ecuador. Luckily, as he said, the plane had some technical problems and they were forced to land in Rio. That was the first contact with the city and he felt in love. He came back several times while he was working for BBC and he finally decided to settle in one of the favelas to open a hostel. He re-married twice during this period. At the same time, he got involved in all the issues concerning the safety in the favelas. The biggest achievement came when he challenged Anthony Garotinho, the governor at the time, to station a police squad in an old warehouse placed just behind his house. By the end of the year, the police had pushed the drug-runners out, and made the favela one of the safest districts in the city.
We met Bob in the guesthouse. It was really nice talking to him, he was so full of experiences and interesting stories, and all of them very well narrated in that inerasable cockney English accent. It was a pleasure being in his house. The roof top is outstanding, a piece of art: asymmetric and multicolored broken tiles arranged on the floor and the walls forming eccentric shapes; probably the most impressive one is the shape of a giant face … the more you look at it, the more you would start thinking about the artwork made in Parck Guell by Antoni Gaudi…
This might sound like a strong statement, since I do respect Gaudi’s masterpiece and find it incomparable so I shall rephrase and say: Bob’s art piece has been able to capture a few strokes of the brush of Gaudi’s art.
Our experience in Brazil has been unforgettable. Undoubtedly, a place to return. Enjoy the photos!

Rio, the coast

Rio, the coast


Modern Rio

Modern Rio


Difficult to believe but that happened some time....Brasil vs. Sweden

Difficult to believe but that happened some time....Brasil vs. Sweden


We made friends with some brasilian kids

We made friends with some brasilian kids


Waiting for the sunset

Waiting for the sunset


Ok this was sort of part of the Botanic garden, but it just looked so cool, like the jungle book or something

Ok this was sort of part of the Botanic garden, but it just looked so cool, like the jungle book or something


Christ and Laura

Christ and Laura


Just after climbing the hill for two hours the clouds came in, here Henrik and the shadow of the Christ

Just after climbing the hill for two hours the clouds came in, here Henrik and the shadow of the Christ


View from top of the hill where Christ is...just before the clouds came in

View from top of the hill where Christ is...just before the clouds came in


Laura giving some cookies to one of the brave monkeys that got close

Laura giving some cookies to one of the brave monkeys that got close


These cheeky little monkeys followed us for food at the start of the hike up to Christ

These cheeky little monkeys followed us for food at the start of the hike up to Christ


Roof top of the hostel

Roof top of the hostel


At Bob's guesthouse, The Maze

At Bob's guesthouse, The Maze


Alleys of the favela

Alleys of the favela


Football pitch at Tavares Bastos

Football pitch at Tavares Bastos


Street near Tavares Bastos favela

Street near Tavares Bastos favela


Best background!

Best background!


Rio at night

Rio at night

SPANISH VERSION:

Después de nuestro fantástico tiempo en ambos lados para ver las Cataratas del Iguazú, nos dirigimos hacia el norte y encontramos un lugar maravilloso, Ilha do Mel, una isla cerca de la ciudad de Curitiba, donde el descanso es obligado.
Era temporada baja por lo que la isla estaba prácticamente vacía, a excepción de algunos locales y algunos visitantes brasileños. La isla está libre de coches y todas las playas son absolutamente paradisíacas... arena blanca, aguas claras y el paisaje virgen...

Henrik quería probar hacer surf: las olas eran enormes y todos los surfistas eran profesionales, así que Henrik estaba un poco asustado. Primero intentó y parecía que era muy difícil para él, las corrientes eran muy fuertes por lo que se hacía imposible adentrarse. Además, no alquilar traje de baño, cosa que lamentó más tarde. La cera de la tabla de surf era muy fuerte y le provocó una reacción en el estómago, tuvo que ponerse una camiseta para intentarlo una vez más. Entonces le fue mejor, bueno al menos consiguió subirse a la tabla!

Pasamos tres días en la isla, caminando, nadando y comiendo rico... fue muy agradable estar lejos de la civilización por unos días…

De regreso a Curitiba, hay un viaje en tren agradable que comienza en Morretes; éste solía ser la única forma de transporte de mercancías desde el interior hasta la costa. El paseo es increíble, los puentes de acero de más de 100 años, conectando las colinas y, de repente, la chimenea de una antigua fábrica que sobresale de un lago artificial. Tuvimos suerte ya que pagamos por clase económica (básicamente un carro súper básico con asientos de plástico se encuentra donde uno va sentado en dirección contraria al sentido del tren) pero alguien que trabajaba allí no verificó correctamente el billete y nos puso en la clase turista, donde incluso vino un guía para explicarnos un poco de historia…
Nuestro siguiente destino fue Paraty, descrita como una joya arquitectónica de Brasil. Y así resultó ser, el pueblo entero con el suelo empedrado, los edificios eran magníficos y muy bien mantenidos y, además, tuvimos suerte ya que el Festival Internacional de Fotografía se estaba llevando a cabo el mismo fin de semana que estuvimos allí. Así que la ciudad estaba muy animada y concurrida.

Nos encontramos con un chico brasileño, un fotógrafo, que vino especialmente para el festival (y, básicamente, para la fiesta). Él era nuestro compañero de habitación en el albergue y nos dio algunos consejos para nuestra estancia en Brasil. Al día siguiente decidimos tomar un barco a las islas... la verdad es que no esperábamos demasiado de esa salida, pero terminó siendo un viaje en barco excelente: música en vivo, un piso superior para estirarse en las hamacas y tomar el sol y excelentes frutas y café gratis!
Ahí nos encontramos con Bruno, el chico brasileño, y conocimos otras pocas personas ... fue un día fantástico! Natación, buceo , paradas en las diversas islas vírgenes...
De regreso decidimos quedar para tomar unas copas ... Esa noche, Henrik encontró a otro doble de Sean Penn y posaron en una foto ... ¿A quién se parece más Sean Penn?

Después de Paraty nos dirigimos hacia Rio de Janeiro, pasando por Sao Paulo. Decidimos pasar una semana en Río, pero Rio merece mucho más.
Rio es absolutamente increíble: bonitas playas, mercados espléndidos, buena comida y buena gente. Fuimos una vez a una de las playas para hacer surf. Las olas eran las más poderosas que jamás hayamos experimentado. Pasamos el día allí y tomamos una de las más comidas más baratas en Río de Janeiro en un en un lugar encantadoramente auténtico.
También fuimos a una fiesta llamada Favela funky con algunas personas del albergue. Ahí vi los movimientos más sensuales que jamás he visto en mi vida. Los brasileños tienen el ritmo dentro de sus cuerpos y en cuanto empieza la música se conviertan en máquinas de movimiento, sus cuerpos sacudiendo en la forma más increíble que he visto en mi vida.

Por otro lado, y como estábamos bastante en contra de hacer un tour a las favelas, Henrik y yo dijimos que trataríamos de encontrar una forma alternativa para conocer la vida real en ellas.
En mi opinión, el hecho de hacer un negocio entorno al hecho de visitar un lugar “peligroso” ha creado una fuerte división entre los ricos y los menos privilegiados. Pensé que tenía que haber alguna otra manera de mirar, entender y, si era posible, compartir su realidad sin tener la sensación de que estábamos de visita en un "zoológico".

Hablamos con una mujer australiana que trabajaba en el albergue y nos dijo que por el momento la mayoría de las favelas de la ciudad, a excepción de Rocinha (la más grande) y Tavares Bastos (vigilada por el BOPE – policía armada), estaban ya controladas por policía, y que visitarlas no tenía porque ser un problema.

Guiados por esto, decidimos visitar Tavares Bastos, al parecer la más accesible. Tavares Bastos fue escenario de una de la película de Hulk.

Para llegar al lugar tuvimos que tomar unos mototaxis, que corrían de manera loca, pero llegamos a la colina equivocada así que tuvimos que pagar un poco más para llegar al lugar correcto.
Entrar a una favela fue extraño sólo los primeros dos segundos, antes de darnos cuenta de que era completamente seguro. Callejuelas realmente, pequeñas tiendas a lo largo del camino pero un ambiente embriagador.

Queríamos encontrar "El Laberinto" (The Maze), un albergue que el inglés Bob, un ex corresponsal de la BBC, había abierto hace unos años. Después de su divorcio, en algún momento en los años setenta, decidió viajar a Ecuador. Por suerte, como él mismo dijo, el avión presentó algunos problemas técnicos por lo que tuvo que aterrizar en Río de Janeiro. Ese fue el primer contacto con la ciudad y se enamoró. Volvió varias veces mientras trabajaba para la BBC y finalmente decidió instalarse en una de las favelas para abrir un hostal.
Volvió a casarse dos veces durante este período. Al mismo tiempo, se involucró en varias cuestiones que afectaban a la seguridad de las favelas. Su mayor logro fue retar a Anthony Garotinho, el gobernador en ese tiempo, para utilizar un antiguo almacén situado justo detrás de su casa para instalar una estación de escuadrón de la policía. A finales del año, la policía había llevado sacado a todos los traficantes de droga, e hizo de Tavares Bastos una de las favelas más seguras en los distritos de la ciudad.

Coincidimos con Bob en su hostel. Fue muy agradable hablar con él, un hombre tan lleno de experiencias e historias interesantes, y todas ellas muy bien narradas en ese acento londinense imborrable. Fue un auténtico placer estar en su casa.
Además, el lugar en el que vive es excepcional, una obra de arte: asimétrica s baldosas rotas y multicolores dispuestos en los suelos de las terrazas, cuyos muros forman formas excéntricas, probablemente la más impresionante es la forma de una cara gigante ... Cuanto más tiempo miraba este increíble lugar, más pensaba en la obra de arte hecha en el Parc Güell por Antoni Gaudí ... Creo que esto último ha sido demasiado exagerado, ya que respecto profundamente el legado de Gaudí y siempre lo declaré incomparable. Así que mejor reformulo mi frase para decir: la obra de Bob ha sido capaz de capturar unos pocos trazos del estilo de Gaudí.
Nuestra experiencia en Brasil ha sido inolvidable. Sin lugar a dudas, un lugar al que espero poder regresar. Difrutad las fotos!

Posted by hmontonen 16:41 Archived in Brazil Comments (2)

Iguazu falls...

sunny 27 °C

So glad that Laura was finally feeling better. Finally we could go and have fun. Still she was not feeling a 100% so we decided to sleep in and see the Ipatu dam instead. We decided to go to Paraguay as Brazil charge money to visit the dam (20 Reales per person for entry), but its free from the Paraguayen side. It was a complete mess to get there as you have to cross over two boarders. In theory you should get an exit and entry visa for each one which means stoping at four different places. The problem is that there is no info and the busses don´t stop at some boarders as e.g. the people from Paraguay does not need an exit stamp to leave there country.

After two busses, walking across the boarder between Brazil and Paraguay, taking a new bus only to hear that taking a buss by yourself to the dam in Cuidad del Oeste is too dangerous, we decided to give in and hire a taxi. It worked out a bit cheaper than going to Brazil anyway so it was ok and the taxi guy waited for us for over 2 hours.

The dam is absoluty enormous. We got blown away by figures of water mass, size of the dam (worlds second largest dam), electricity generated etc. However, the sad thing is that the dam ruined a waterfall much bigger than Iguazy...actually it probably was the largest waterfall in the world...now that I would rather have seen.

The next day Laura was feeling even better and we got up early to go to see the falls. You first take a bus to the entrance, then there is a train within the area. Basically the waterfall is a few kilometers wide so it take 30-40 min to go from one side to the other...crazy! We had heard that it gets really busy in the morning so we decided to go to the main attraction, the powerfull Garganta del Diablo, first. It seems that quite a few people had thought the same and gotten up early to beat the crowds. I mean the force of this part of Igazu where water falls in a sort of horseshoe shaped formation, is absolutily amazing. You can hear the sound from several hundred meters away and as you get closer its gets really loud. Its so much water coming down that it is impossible to take pictures. First because its just to big to get in a photo. However, also because there´s so much water in the air that it creats like a fog which covers the view of the bottom half of the fall. Think you need to take a helicopter to get a photp that can really show what it looks like.

Afterwards we went to see some of the smaller falls. We were not expecting that much, but this place was huge. I think there is 275 waterfalls in total with walkways that takes you close to most of them. We spent hours just walking around from waterfall to waterfall. You could see them from below, from the sides, from above. I must say that I actually prefered the view of some of the other waterfalls. The Garganta del Diablo is definately the most powerfull one, but like I said it was really difficult to see it due to the fog, not to mention the other 300 people that are crowding up with you. However, at the other waterfalls it was never more than a few people, and sometimes we were even by ourselves.

To top things off, we decide to spend a bit and go on a boat ride next to the waterfalls to really get close. The speedboats drive you right up to some of the falls giving you a so called "babtisim" which basically means that you get completely wet. We had seen a few boats before, but we were still in so suprised as the boat got closer and closer to the falls and finally entered a bit under the falls. In the end we were as wet as if we would have jumped in the river. It cost a 100 Argentinian pesos, but it was really worth it. Everyone was laughing like children that just came off a rollercoaster when we were drow back.

We had heard that 2 hours or so would be enough but in the end we had spent 7 hours in there. It was actually that great and we had seen so much of the waterfalls that we actually felt like not going to see the fall from the Brazilian side. However we had already booked a hostel and since we were here we might as well go. The Brazilian side does give you a nice overview of the falls, but it is nothing at all compared to the Argenitian side. My recommendation is to take a full day on the Argenitinian side and spend the money on taking a boattrip instead....

Damn that´s a big dam! Also managed to ask the guide if this was a god...dam!

Damn that´s a big dam! Also managed to ask the guide if this was a god...dam!


Garganta del diablo...see how small the house look in the background, and this is not even the biggest part of Garganta del Diablo

Garganta del diablo...see how small the house look in the background, and this is not even the biggest part of Garganta del Diablo

Trying to get part of the 2km long waterfall (widest in the world) in a picture is basically impossible, here is 500meters or so

Trying to get part of the 2km long waterfall (widest in the world) in a picture is basically impossible, here is 500meters or so

The water from the falls create amazing rainbows everywhere...

The water from the falls create amazing rainbows everywhere...

Waterfalls all around

Waterfalls all around

Posing up in front of some of the smaller falls on the Argentinian side

Posing up in front of some of the smaller falls on the Argentinian side

Another part of the Garganta del Diablo which is the biggest fall in Iguazu

Another part of the Garganta del Diablo which is the biggest fall in Iguazu

Laura posing around

Laura posing around

Water water and more water

Water water and more water

Its so damn much water that it doesn´t even feel real

Its so damn much water that it doesn´t even feel real

More waterfalls

More waterfalls

View of the smaller falls from the Brazilian side...

View of the smaller falls from the Brazilian side...

Nice view of some of the smaller falls.

Nice view of some of the smaller falls.

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Posted by hmontonen 15:27 Archived in Argentina Comments (0)

Rurrenabaque jungle and food poisoning

sunny 32 °C

After resting up it was time to take the long and uncomfortable bus to the jungle town of Rurrenabaque, the entry point to visit the jungle and pampas. The route started off being almost scarier than the “world’s most dangerous road” that we had just done. At times the road was only 4-5 m wide with crazy curves and 100 meter vertical drops on the side. There were a few close calls where the bus driver had to stomp on the break only to be 10cm away from a meeting vehicle. Also strange is that they drive on the left side of the road on this specific road, but nowhere else in Bolivia.

After a bumpy nearly sleepless night we arrived at 5am. We decided to take a day and rest up before jumping on a tour. The village is really nice, set next to a river and covered by real jungle, jungle on all sides of the village. We spent a day just researching travel agencies, as there as so many of them offering the same type of trips. In the end we could not really figure out what was the big difference between the offers so we simply went with the cheapest.

The next day we were off on the three day pampas tour that goes along a river into the wild. In the end the group we went with was a nice mix of people from all over the world. This is always ends up giving the best atmosphere. We met some groups that were all Israelians and we have to say that the bad reputation that they have for having complete lack of respect for nature, local customs and other people, was lived up to. They are probably better behaved when travelling solo, but when in a big group they behave like drunken Americans on Spring break party.

The first day started with a 3 hour bumpy ride in a 4x4 drive. Later we got on a type of motor driven canoe and started to travel up the river. We were all excited taking poor pictures of the first half covered caimans and alligators we saw. After half an hour we had probably seen 200 of them and relaxed with the camera a bit. In addition we saw loads of turtles sunbathing on trees that had fallen into the river. It was quite fun to see how many turtles the wave from the boat could knock off the trees. Also we saw loads of capybaras (big hamsters as I called them or dogs as our fellow travel companion David Hasselhof look-alike said).

The guide was not doing so much of guiding (e.g. stopping and explaining things), but we pushed him to go back a few times. We saw some of the pink dolphins but they were quite freighted from the boats and kept their distance. Apparently when its low water like now they are very shy (or afraid). We did however get some close contact with some cute small yellow monkeys. At first the guide was being very eco and correct, but after a while he started to through bananas to them and he even put some bananas on the head of one of the girls on our group. Really bad to do this type of things, but on the same time it was cool to get so close to the monkey.

The second day’s main activity was anaconda hunting. As it was low water (or should I say no water) we had to walk around 5-6 km to get to the hotspot. I think we left too late though as after two hours walking and searching, the sun started to get extremely hot. The area has practically no shade and most people were suffering pretty badly. Me and a French guy from our group were running around searching in the grass with the guides, but in the end we had to give up and go back. Such a shame we did not get to see one (well we saw a few ones that had died from the lack of water in the area) but the search was sort of exciting. After a long and warm walk back we all had to rest up in our jungle camp.

In the late afternoon we went piranha fishing. Our guide was cutting up a nice bloody steak which we used for bate. I managed to catch one after just a few throws and we all thought that we would be pulling them up every minute. However they are pretty sly fishes, biting off the meat without swallowing the hook. The trick is to pull hard and quickly when they are biting the meat so that the hook basically pierces them somewhere. Easier said than done, but our guide showed his skills in the end of the trip, pulling up a fish at nearly every try. That evening we showed those piranhas’ who´s top of the food chain. It was not much meat on them, but at least we can add them to weird things we´ve eaten on this trip.

Though the noisy Israeliens had left our camp, we both slept really bad. I was having stomach pain and feeling like vomiting. Laura had to visit the toilet a few times and when it was time to get up we it was pretty clear that we´ve gotten food poisoned. Some of the others were feeling a bit bad too, and we were all trying to figure out what it was, the piranhas, the dodgy artificial drinks we had, or the pasta sauce the night before. In the end it did not make sense, but Laura followed by me were definitely the worst. We had to return to camp during that day’s wildlife spotting tour to lie down in bed. Unfortunately we had no choice later on as we had to try to make it back to Rurre. Laura was lying down in the wet and dirty boat and we were both feeling like horrible the whole 2 hour boat and 3 hour car drive back.

Our initial plan was to go with bus to Trinidad that night, but we were obviously not in a state to travel on a 20 hour bumpy bus without toilet. Laura was actually not in a state to do anything but run from bed to toilet. I started to feel better the next day, but Laura was still really bad and we decided to stay yet another night. This turned into one more night, during this whole time Laura did not leave the bed for 3 days and I was running around playing nurse by buying different medicines, and trying to get something that she would eat.

After 3 days we decided that we had to take a flight if we wanted to move as Laura could still not get on a bus. We took a flight with TAM, the ex-military airline, back to La Paz for 40 Euro per person and saved 20 hours on some of the worst road known to man. The altitude chock in combination with Laura being sick was too much and she went with the Airport Doctor (the info desk called them after me only mentioning that my girlfriend was feeling a bit sick). She got some medicine for free and got to have an oxygen mask too. Quite good airport service, but I suppose they are very used of people feeling bad after landing on the world’s highest airport.

After this we took a bus to Cochabamba where we would take a plane two days later to Asuncion. Again, Laura did not leave the room during the whole stay and I was running around getting various medical advice and medicine from pharmacies. Even the flight to Asuncion was tough for Laura and we had to stop a night in Asuncion to rest up before continuing to Iguaçu falls. By now Laura had lost 4-5 kilos (which does not leave much meat on her). She had tried various medicine including antibiotics and she was still not getting better. After speaking to a doctor in a pharmacy we went to a private hospital to get a real check up. Funny was that you actually pay the doctor himself in cash (which he simply puts straight down his pocket). Even though it cost a bit we finally got something that started to work. When we got to Puerto Iguaçu Laura started to feel much better. The first thing we did after finding a hostel was to go out and eat the first real warm meal that Laura had had in over a week. Hurray we were finally able to start enjoy ourselves…. Tomorrow we´re seeing Iguaçu falls… can´t wait.

Our piggy fellow hanged out with us during lunch, like a pet

Our piggy fellow hanged out with us during lunch, like a pet

Turtles sunbathing...when the boat passed they got wet again though

Turtles sunbathing...when the boat passed they got wet again though

Capybara's stampida

Capybara's stampida

Pink river dolphin showing its head

Pink river dolphin showing its head

Resting up in the hammocks back in the camp

Resting up in the hammocks back in the camp

Yelow monkeys playing around

Yelow monkeys playing around

Yellow monkey screaming for our attention...he was hungry!

Yellow monkey screaming for our attention...he was hungry!

Beautiful aligator reflecting in the water

Beautiful aligator reflecting in the water

Staff meeting for the aligators

Staff meeting for the aligators

we didn't see any anaconda but Henrik got to touch an aligator

we didn't see any anaconda but Henrik got to touch an aligator

Cruising down the river in the sunset

Cruising down the river in the sunset

Posted by hmontonen 08:07 Archived in Bolivia Comments (0)

El Choro Trekk and Downhill the Worlds most dangerous road

sunny 14 °C

We traveled from La Paz to Coroico twice: once via the nice 3 days walk Choro Trek and the other one cycling the Death Road.

I shall not start this chapter without saying how much I love Bolivia and how much I miss my kids back in Santa Cruz. We have even been in touch via telephone... their voices asking "teacher when are you coming nack?" break my heart and makes me feel how special this experience is being for me and that I shall not ignore the feelings and come back whenever my heart asks for it.

I also have to say that staying in High Altitude was a good remedy and all the new landscapes in La Paz made me fall in love with the country again. This time it was different: after all climbs and treks in "las alturas", we decided to rent camping equipment and make our way to Coroico trough El Choro Trek. We took a ride up to La Cumbre (4,855 m) and walked down 3,600 meters in 3 days through this pre colombian path only inhabited by small communities wo hardly speak Spanish as Aymara is their language to communicate.
The walk was lovely: it was amazing to see how the landscape was changing: we walked so many hours...specially the second day when we walked 10 hours downhill, and made it to the camping area just before it was getting pitch dark. It was tiring but worth it! The last day was an easy 4 hours walk down and we decided to hitch hike the last 8 km till Yolosita where we took a shared cab to Coroico...Coroico is a lovely small town...but we only had time to have lunch and take a shared taxi back into la Paz....the next day we where cycling the Death Road, this time to stay in Coroico and chill for a few days...

The taxi back to La Paz was desperating: we paid extra for the taxi just because we wanted to have time to return the equipment and buy the bike tour with the agency: instead, we took longer that expected...we even got passed by the normal bus on our way back...the bus that we refused to take because it might be too slow! Incredible. Finaly back in La az we had to run take a taxi: again, stuck in a traffic jam, Henrik had to run off towards the shop where we rented the equipment from, and got there just few minutes before they were closing!

The next day we were off to Coroico again: we jumped on the bikes and cycled down what it used to be the world´s most dangerous road; it is not that scary anymore since it´s closed to normal cars. There is a new road and this old one is only used for cycling and occasional flat tracks that you might encounter on the way...
It was a great experience: we really enjoyed it! 4 hours downhill and at the end there was a nice hotel waiting for us with lunch buffet and swimming pool. Wicked!

After nearly a week of full on activities we Just wanted to chill out for a few days and Coroico tured out to be the perfect place for it. We stayed in this Nice hostel with swimmingpool and all for three days, not doing anything but relaxing by the pool, eating great food and strolling on the Nice cobbled streets of Coroico.

Laura posing up at the begining of the Choro trekk starting at 4800 meters altitude and going down to 1300

Laura posing up at the begining of the Choro trekk starting at 4800 meters altitude and going down to 1300

Henrik had to take the big load on the hike...at least he got a good workout

Henrik had to take the big load on the hike...at least he got a good workout

Lunchstop in begining of Choro trekk...already here the vegitation started to change

Lunchstop in begining of Choro trekk...already here the vegitation started to change

Laura entering a staring competiton with a llama along the way

Laura entering a staring competiton with a llama along the way

View along the Choro trekk

View along the Choro trekk

Hanging bridge along the way

Hanging bridge along the way

Further down the vegitation chaged a lot to more tropical

Further down the vegitation chaged a lot to more tropical

Imagen 798

Imagen 798

Steep and windy on Death Road

Steep and windy on Death Road

Taking it slow in the curves..its called death road for a reason

Taking it slow in the curves..its called death road for a reason

You had to cycle through a small waterfall too

You had to cycle through a small waterfall too

Well over 100 meters vertical drop

Well over 100 meters vertical drop

Posted by hmontonen 16:43 Archived in Bolivia Comments (0)

La Paz Bolivia

sunny 12 °C

A good way to describe La Paz is made in the book that I am reading. Basically the auther is writing how the city is really built in the wrong place. It lies in a valley or more like a gigant hole, 3,700meters about sealevel (making it the higest capital in the world). Almost nothing grows there, the fumes from cars and the dirty water that runs through the city has nowhere to go. He also writes that being in La Paz is like having a nagging hangover constantely. The last part was especially true and even though we spent over a week in La Paz we really never got fully aclimatised.

Still it’s an amazing city. The center and the richer areas are in the lowest part of the city. The further up in the valley you go the poorer it becomes. Once you come up to the altiplano at over 4000meters above the sealevel, the poor area El Alto starts. El Alto has grown so much that its nearly 1million people living there, almost all of them indinginuous.

We spent the first couple of days just wondering around town checking out markets (which are basically covering half of the city). Everything is hilly in La Paz so we tried to follow the rule of “walk little, eat little and sleep by your little self”. In addition I think we had 2 beers in 10 days and we set several new “go to sleep” records (most nights we were actually sleeping before 22pm) still the hangover feeling was not leaving us.

I read about a moutain peak called Huyana Potosi (6088m) which sounded climbable even for people without experience (with a guide off course). It is still extremly demanding and painful. To test if we were able to do it and to aclimatise more, we went up to another peak called Chacaltaya (5420m). This use to be the highest skiiresort in the world before all the snow (from the glacier) melted away. Thanks to that there is a road going up almost to the top. All we had to do was to walk the last 150 vertical meters. Still at that altitude it took us 40min or so to get to the top. Its just increadable how hard it is to walk on that altitude (think exercising while breading. One of the guys in our group (who was by far the fittest of all of us) had tried to climb Huyana Potosi twice and failed. He pointed out about 5 other peaks around it that he had done. Now we started to be really concerned if climbing Huyana Potosi would be possible for people like us.

Even so we had already booked a trekk/climb up to another peak the next day. Since we had paid for it and it was not possible to cancel up we went. The peak is part of the 3 day Cordillera trekk which most people do to practise for Huyana Potosi. This would be the final test if we would do it or not. We were actually feeling pretty good during the first part of the ascent up to 4900meters or so. However, after that both of us, but mainly Laura started to get really exhausted. With some encoragement from our guide, Laura still made it to the peak of Pico Austria. Hurray! 5250 meters about sealevel and I was feeling good (this is the high camp on Huyana Potosi). However, once we started to descend things went from being tired to feeling like we´ve been beaten up and thrown in a washing machine for an hour. Laura got really bad on the way down and could not even stand up some times. We both felt really bad even back in La Paz and a decision had to be made… Laura was obviously not doing the climb. Unfortunaly I felt that I just could not bear going through this pain for 24-48 hours that you would have to take when climbing Huyani Potosi. Being about 6000meters was a small goal that I had set out for SouthAmerica, but achieving it just cost a bit too much to be worth it.

We were not sad at all for the decision and still we were proud to had made a climb up to 5350 meters, which is pretty high after all. In the end there are many more fun things that we could do. We started fixing things for the famous El Choro trekk instead. A trekk that would take us from 4800 meters down to 1800 meters…too be honest we could not wait to get down to lower altitude. I think we have not had a deacent conversation in over a week thanks to our heads feeling like we´ve just came back from four days partying at a festival.

Before we left La Paz we went up to El Alto to see the crazy La Lucha, basically Boliviens version of WWF (wrestling). Obviously everything was extremly low budget in comparission, but it was actually really good and absolutely hillerious. Did not think that Bolivians, especially indinginous Bolivians would have this sense of humor. They really took the piss out of themselves. Traditionally dressed “cholitas” women were up in the ring fighing eachother, massive dressed up male wrestlers etc. They managed to put a lot of theater into it, classics such as the corrupted referee being on the evil fighters side against the good figher. All gringos in the audience were laughing so much., A gringo that must have been really drunk managed to enter the barrier and get a kiss from one of the fighting cholitas. However, quite a few of the Bolivian (all indingenous) adudience were getting into it for real, buhing and throwing vegetables at the "evil" fighter.

View down on La Paz from El Alto

View down on La Paz from El Alto

La Paz market with ordinary household stuff like dryed lama featus which you bury under your house before you build it

La Paz market with ordinary household stuff like dryed lama featus which you bury under your house before you build it

Lamas and Huyana Potosi in the background

Lamas and Huyana Potosi in the background

View of Huyana Potosi 6088m taken from Chacaltaya 5400meters, can´t imagine climbing another 688 vertical meters

View of Huyana Potosi 6088m taken from Chacaltaya 5400meters, can´t imagine climbing another 688 vertical meters

Laura resting up after getting to the top of Chacaltaya 5420 meters above sealevel

Laura resting up after getting to the top of Chacaltaya 5420 meters above sealevel

Valle de La Luna

Valle de La Luna

Moonlandscape in Valle de La Luna

Moonlandscape in Valle de La Luna

Posing up at this beutiful mountain lake on the Cordillera trekk

Posing up at this beutiful mountain lake on the Cordillera trekk

Laura managed to force a smile after an exhausting climb up to Pico Austria 5250 meters

Laura managed to force a smile after an exhausting climb up to Pico Austria 5250 meters

Some would call it a bit unfair when a beefy guy beats up a little woman...surprise surprise...she won

Some would call it a bit unfair when a beefy guy beats up a little woman...surprise surprise...she won

Catfight a la Bolivia style, Cholitas kicking eachothers ass

Catfight a la Bolivia style, Cholitas kicking eachothers ass

Jason was visiting Bolivia too

Jason was visiting Bolivia too

Posted by hmontonen 16:40 Archived in Bolivia Comments (6)

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