Salta (3 nights)
Arrived at Salta and walked around to find a hostel 2 hours later. Didn't book one as its normally easy to find one.In Salta it wasn't! Spent a few nights there rooming with Maggy,a really nice Spanish woman and Hugo a weird assbird spotter/ museum worker from Buenos Aires who like to open the door when I was stark bullock naked in the shower!! Had a few lazy days just exploring Salta which is a gorgeous place with a picturesque green plaza and church in the centre, and climbing the mountain to reach the viewpoint over the city. Had an average night out with a Irish and a NZ lad and Fernando the hostel barman and then a random night with Maggy and her friends taking crazy pics in the square!
Did a day trip to Cafayate to taste wines at a few wineriesstopping at various viewpoints along the way. Stunning scenery which reminded me of the Grand Canyon. Glorious sunny day chomping on goats cheesebought from the winery inthe square.
Mendoza(3 nights)- not sure where to start as the whole 3 days is somewhat a blur!! First night was free Pizza and free Tequila night which is never a good starting point! The problem was you only had 30 mins to get your free tequila and there were no shot glasses. You had to put your head on the bar and let the barman who it turned out has a fetish for screwing over gringos pour it into your mouth/all over your face and clothes whilst violently shaking you by your temple! And to make it worse they ran out of Tequila so outcame the Gin! After rocking infrom the club at 4am me,Matt,this English lad who hadn't changed his clothes for 6 days and Jake, an American lad (yes one of the 10%) thought it was a good idea to go out and look for an after party. 1 hour later wehave been taken by Alex, this local lad and his mates to this undergroundbar (behind closed shutters) and then onto his houseto carry then party on.
After getting back to the hostel at 10am someone (I´m blaming Jake or one of the girls who were fresh from 6 hoursin bed) decided the best plan was not to go to bed but to do a bicycle winery tour with Mr Hugo. Luckily when we reached the bus stop one of the girls baileddue to illness which gave me an hour to eat and prepare myself for the organized bike tour Id booked the day before.Needless to say although the day was a good one and the wine was pleasant, if you want details of Mendozaswineries your going to have to ask elsewhere! Getting back to the hostel I was challenged to another night out by 2 American girls Id met the night before (also part of the 10%) but after promising them Id be down in 2 hours after a power nap I awoke the next morning at 8am!Lol
Day trip to Aconcagua national park (10km form the Chile border) which has the highest mountain in Argentina stopping at various viewpoints along the way. Id recommend it. Back to the hostel and a free BBQ and tequila night (see what they have done there lol)Met a few coolpeople and went to a club but an average night.
Dragged my sorry ass out of bed to explore Mendoza. Nice place (but I prefer Salta),saw some massive meat barbecues in the plaza, a taxi/motor bike crash(surprised it was my only one seeing as there is no give way system in Argentina), and a few shops.
Buenos Airies(3 nights) - The 19 hour bus journey to Buenos Airies came as a well needed break!! Met up with John boy and his parents at the bus station and got treated to my first ever steak in a Kosher restaurant. Thanks Mr and Mrs Grant!
Went to the Boca game that night vs Colon. Although us Gringos get absolutely skanked (we pay 270 Pesos for a 40 Peso ticket,transport there and ´their security´ from the local Boca Gringo killers) I don't actually care!! The atmosphere was immense!About 1000 times better than any game Ive been to in England. The fans were going crazy; singing, dancing along the terraces,the flags were huge and the highlight was in the second half when about20 flares got set off around the ground (we couldn't see the pitch for 10 mins but nobody cared, they loved it). And to top it off security just watched on as one fan climbed the barb wire covered pole to taunt the opposition fans above. Boca 3 Colon 1
The only negatives were walking out through the stairwells flowing with urine and getting stared out by the bad ass looking riot police.
The next day I did a bike tour round Palermo and Recoleta in the afternoon with a local student a s a guide. Saw all the sites including Evita´s grave and learnt a lot about the history and their attitude to the English after the Falklandsbut the "highlight" came in the spare half an hour I had before the tour. Walking innocently through town I was approached by a respectable looking woman asking me if I was interested in a Tango show that night. As it happens I was so she asked me to follow her to get a stamp to give me a discount and her commission. It was only when I entered the bar, was given a ´free´coke and was introduced to a younger less respectable looking girl who started touching me all over, it became apparent that this was not the tango show I had in mind. Obviously I made my excuses at which point they tried to charge me a tenner for the drink so I legged it! Slight panic when the door jammed but I was away and free! In case you want to know that ten pound drink would have gotten me whatever I wantedwhich sounds like a good deal if your into that kind of thing. Obviously mum I´m not plus Id already paid for my bike tour which started in 20 minutes! Lol
That night I got to go to a proper tango show with Lucas and his mum Fabien(legend), the Swiss guys from Uyuni. First we had a lesson where the guy split up the sexes and taught us oursteps and how to do out tango face (not the same a s our sex face apparently). After each stage the guys would have to keep askinggirls to dance and then hed ´píck one couple to perform to the group to show that we had mastered the steps. Unfortunately he picked me for the final performance which was the full routine. Im sure none of you would be surprised after seeing me tear up the dance floor that I passed with flying colours! Then it was a gorgeous 3 course steak meal and the proper show witha band playing, guys singing and unbelievable tango dancing. Being sat next to the stage was a bad idea which me and Lucas regretted when we were dragged up on stageon several occassions! Lol Brilliant night!!!
Back to the hostel party and then onto theElectro club where we found out there are some crazy ass girls in BA!!
Next day was Boca and steak day. Explored Boca with a few guys from the hostel and enjoyed an awesome bife de lomo in a courtyard. Stuffed we promisedourselves we were done for the day but Marek had arranged to meet up with some friends fortea and persuaded me to come along for a ´salad´. Needless to say when I got there and saw the food it was steak round 2 followed by deserts!!! (Miranda restaurant in Palermo - tasty!!)
Rio (7 nights) - Flew to Rio and met up with the GAP group at their hotel. Slight issue at the airport when there was no sign with my name on for my free transfer. After hearing all the stories of Rio I was slightly dubious when a guy asked me my name and said "ah Gareth, called his friend and said I should go with him". After checking with the hostel it turns out he was kosher tho so call me racist.
Went to a Vasco vs Botofogo game at the Olympic stadium that night (the Maracanaclosed 2 weeks ago for 3 years for the world cup-gutted!). Slightly disappointing to be honest. Atmosphere wasn't a patch on the Boca game, the ground was only a third full and the standard was terrible and as a result the fans were more abusive thansupportive! Stopped off at a bar in Copacabana on the way back where we went upstairs to accidently crash a gay guys birthday party. Obviously we were treated to a drag queen and two male sailor strippers. Shelley and Charlotte loved it, me and Alan not so much!!!
Handgliding over Rio. No practice. Just "run…run faster..run faster!"Very pricey (welcome to Brazil) but worth the 104 quid. Great views and adrenalin rush when you hit the sea air and it get bumpy and then when you spiral into land on the beach. Spiral was so fast you were sure you were going to crash!
That night Marcelo, the GAP tour leadercooked us all a meal at his flat and thenwe went out to what can only be described as a prostitute bar when I was physically assaulted by one of them. Me and Lisawere innocently debating whether one of them was fit or not, which obviously requiresme to look at her. She raced over saying " you have girl..why you look at me?" and then proceeding to grab mypenis. Fair play to her..her Englishis better than my Portuguese!lol
The next morning was the last sunny day we got in Rio L. After that It was cloudy in the day and rained at night! Went to Copacabana beach, sunbathed and watched some of the Homeless World Cup tournament which is held in Rio this year. In the afternoon we got a taxi to Sugar loaf and paid the 15 quid to cable car it up. Ouch considering we couldn't see past our hands on the 2nd mountain and later found out we could have walked up to the first one for free! To be fair the view were decent from the first and we got to see them in daylight and after sunset but…15 quid!!
Lapa!! After a BBQ at Che la Garto we taxied it to Lapa. It was raining so us lot and a couple of guys from Sao Paulo we had just met paid to get into a Samba bar with live result. Right result as the 2 guys spent the night giving us all free samba lessons!! Apparently I´m a natural and would be an expert in a yearbut I think he just fancied me lol
It stopped raining so we explored the streets which are filled with food and drink stalls, people pushing speakers and people dancing. Good fun but don´t take photos with your Iphone or the locals will have it away!
Favela tour - mint tour!!Started by jumping on the back of a motorbike to literally race to the top of the favelas dodging through gaps and overtaking each other. Greatfun! I would have been happy if that was all we got!! We then entered the favela and were given a tour back to the bottom, various view points and explanations. 300,000 people in this favela.4m of Rios 12m population live in favelas. This one was ran by a 22 year old drug leader for the last 3 years but was probably beginning to watch his back. Police leave the favelas alone on the whole cos the favelas are mazes and they would probably be massacred if they raided them. Lookouts at the bottom who set off fireworks when they see someone they don't know. The streets were filthy with rubbish, running water/sewage but the houses were really clean and they all had TVs and there was even a Playstation café. Everyone was friendly as most of our tour money goes back into community projects to look after the kids whilst the parents are at work. Govn schemeto rehouse families in proper houses if they lose favela due to mudslide. Kids get free bus to school if they are wearing uniform. Companies have to pay for workers´ transport to work so favelas closer to Rio have an advantage. Great tour and saw a few dodgy looking guys and a guard post but no gun L so only 9/10.
Lapa night 2 -Me and Shelley randomly shared a taxi to Lapa with Josh and Tanaya, an Ozzy and Kiwi couple who we just me in the TV room which has turned into a long and fruitful relationship!lol Wasn't raining so we just stayed in the street all night. At one pointme and Josh disappeared to get some drinks to find the girls being chatted up by some Brazilian guys when we got back. The lads looked gutted lol but to their credit they hung around with us all night and took us to party in the back alleys where the proper locals were. They did make sure they got a picture of just them and the girls to show their mates when they got back though!
Chilled out the next day and explored Ipanema. Chicken and chips in a local café/stand then Favela funk party! Best night in Rio! 10pm -4am dancing/bump and grinding to funkwith the locals in a favela ran by ex bent cops. VIP area for Gringos upstairs if you wanted but we just stayed downstairs all night. Mint!! Locals were all friendly, didn't feel threatened at all and some of the girls ´dancing´ was out of this world. The only bad thing was that you were never ever going to take your top off in there cos all the local lads were ripped to hell!! Show on stage at the end which was basically show the Gringos how they do it and thenlaughat our attempts. Hilarious bit when local ripped black guy who obviously had small mans syndrome proceeded to smash girls all over the place on stage, much to the girls dismay!!Chicken skewers outside topped off a perfect night!
Chilled out the next day and then treated ourselves to an all you can eat Brasilain Rotissery meatplace. Food was lush! Wine was not!!!
Attempted to see Christ the next day. Climbed to the entrance bit to be told visibility was zeroso didn't bother. Oh well.Ill see it when I come back in 2014 for the World Cup J. Finished off the last night in Riowith a few Capriniasin the bar.
Isla Grande ( 3 nights)
After saying goodbye for the last and final time I headed to Isla Grandewith Josh and Tanaya in search of some sun…to no avail! Cloudy and rainy for 3 days. Trekked 8km through the forest to the LopezMendez national park beach which would be paradise if the sun was out. Long unspoilt white beach with palm trees and no boats. Unfortunately its not quite the same when thunder and lightning hits 30 minutes after you get there. Plussomebloody Ozzy guys persuaded us the night before that it was better to walk barefoot - revenge will be sweet if I se them again! The rest of our time was spentsocializing, enjoying a cool reggae party, drinking home made Caprinias and chilling out. Beats work even if the weather is the same!
Party ( 2night)
Again a beach resort which isn't quite the same when the weather is terrible! But this one has ahidden gem - Rocksliding championship!We trekked 8k see the local waterfalls and find this place where you could apparently slide down the rocks into the pool below. After finding it and sliding down a few times (20 seconds was the record) on our bums which was great fun we were feeling pretty proud of ourselves at how brave we were. Until that is Jackson this 22 year old local lad who had been doing it since he was in nappies turned up and proceeded to make us feel very very inferior indeed!He started off with just a simple sliding down on his feetwith a few turns thrown in and bombing into the pool at the bottom (6 seconds) (bear in mind we could barely walk across the top without slipping). Next trick - he nonchanantly walks back up the slippy rocks as if they weren't there. Followed by skipping with a bamboorope on the way down, followed by going down next to with a bamboo leaf covering his eyes followed by his best one yet. He got one of the Ozzy girls to sit on the rock half way down and jump over his head on his way down. Possibly the most impressive individual bits of skills I have ever seen!Apparently he was training for the finals of the local rock sliding championship the following Sunday which I was tempted to stay an extra 5 days to see!Managing to hitch hike back totown before the rain started marginally improved our battered self esteems!!
Bussed it to Sau Paulo and then straight to Foz as everyone I meet says SP isn't up to much. Met up withmates from work back home(Hutch, Jonny, Riggers, Sowers andthe rest of their party (Heather, Mary, Claire and Chris) at the hostel and enjoyed some well deserved sunshine around the pool. Happy hour on Caprinias went as expectedwith some sore heads in the morning and some tales to tell. Me and this other English lads were amongst the only 4 standing at which point the barman Diego and his mate suggested they take us to a club. After a 20 minutecar ride (so we cant come back) we arrive at the what we later we find out he calls the Church as its where you go to get blessed all night. Turns out its 70% brothel, 20% strip club, 10% club. Obviously I didn't get involved in the 70% and didn't enjoy a single minute of the 20% part but it's a lesson well learnt. Never believe a guy called Diego when hesays he´ll take you to a club.