Hi all! Hope everyone is well and enjoying the weather back home. The time has come for our final blog, and we´re writing it on our last day in Rio before we set off to catch our flight later this afternoon. The pictures will be up within the next two days…I know we have a lot of catching up to do with them so apologies.
In the last blog we finished in Buenos Aires. We spent a few more days there after our last update in a nice family B&B which did an amazing breakfast every morning basically of cakes and pastries…even chocolate brownies…had to try control myself with all that on the table! One of the main attractions in Buenos Aires is Recoleta cemetery, it sounds strange that a main attraction should be a cemetery but it is justified. The cemetery is the final resting place of many of Argentina's wealthiest and most famous people and families. It's not a standard graveyard but a rather whole city of large mausoleums linked by little streets, check the pictures!
It didn't take us long to get back on the steak and wine dining and we tried out La Cabrera - number 17 of Latin America´s best restaurants. It would usually be out of our budget but if you arrive at 7 and finish before 8 then you get 40% off the whole bill. Not bad ey. So we shared a huge 600g chunk of Ribeye, drank a bottle of malbec and got the bill at 5 to 8!
We were in Buenos Aires for the England vs. Uruguay match. We decided to watch it in the plaza were the city had a big screen set up. So we went there early and got a spot sitting on the grass. The place started filling up and by the time the match started the place was filled with Uruguay fans with about 5 other England fans that we could see. Uruguay scored before half time and the other England fans left. It started getting freezing and the atmosphere wasn´t great so we also left and went to a nearby TGIs to watch it in the bar. Anyway we all know how the match ended. That evening we´d bought tickets to a show that had been recommended by a fellow backpacker called Fuerza Bruta. She said it was a bit like Cirque du Soleil. So we turned up and showed are tickets and entered. It wasn´t what we had been expecting as we walked into a lively bar with dance music blaring, girls in top hats dancing and serving drinks and a car stuck upside down on the roof. When it started we were herded into a big room and everyone stood on the dance floor in darkness, the next hour and a half was the most random show I´d ever seen. It was like a club with people swinging around, girls swimming around in a pool above our heads, a guy running through boxes and general partying. It was pretty cool.
We left Buenos Aires on the 20th June, it has been one of our favourite cities of the trip. We got on a bus that would take us 20 hours south to Bariloche in the Argentinean Lake District. As usual it was a very comfy bus and we reclined our chairs and tried to get to sleep. However at about 2 or 3 in the morning the bus crashed into something. We don´t know what as we were the only English speaking people on the bus and our limited Spanish didn´t stretch to road accidents. But the front of the bus was pretty mashed up so must have been something reasonably big. We had to wait a few hours for a replacement bus to take us to the next town where we changed and got another bus, finally arriving Bariloche after a 26 hour eventful journey.
Bariloche was freezing cold and wet…we had expected that though so can´t complain. We didn´t do much here except explore the town as it rained for the whole time we were there. It was only on the last day as we were driving away that the clouds lifted and we could see the whole lake and snow capped mountains surrounding the town. We made a short journey a couple of hours north to Villa La Angostura, a small pretty town by the lake. The weather was nice here (though still freezing) and we managed to get out and do a bit of hiking. We were keen and set off walking at 8:30AM. The sun doesn´t rise till after 9 there though so had to walk in the dark for a good half hour. We walked to Los Arrayanes national park which is a peninsula on the Nahuel Huapi lake and then walked the length of it to see the famous Arrayane trees which only grow on the very end of the Peninsula. They were nice enough trees and we only saw two other people on the walk there. We´d walked 16km from our hotel to get here. From there most people catch the ferry that takes them back to the town, but that cost 13 dollars each, so we just walked back instead doing the full 32km…which we immediately regretted the next day. A nice walk nevertheless!
Our next destination was a couple more hours further north to San Martin de Los Andes, which was more like a village you´d find in the Swiss Alps….very beautiful. We arrived and found that whilst we had been on the bus Argentina had just scraped a win against Nigeria in the group stages. So naturally they all took to the streets chanting, waving flags and beeping their horns, even having a procession through the town like they had won the world cup…great fans! Here we found a nice cheap wooden lodge apartment, which allowed us to cook in at night and save money by having spag bol. Our time here was spent exploring the town and the nearby lake.
From San Martin de Los Andes we caught a night bus out of the cold lake district north to Cordoba - the second largest city in Argentina. The main thing we did here was catch a local bus to nearby Alta Gracia, which is the town where Che Guevara grew up. His old house is open as a museum which is small but interesting and worth the visit. We were also in Cordoba for Argentina´s last 16 match against Switzerland. We watched the match in our hostal on a big projecter screen. There was only us and another Swiss couple staying there but the owners had all their friends round so there was a good atmosphere. And when Messi provided the assist for the extra time goal they all went mental.
From Cordoba we went to Puerto Iguazu, the town next to Iguazu Falls, which we had heard nothing but great things for. We took another 20 hour night bus there….the night buses starting to break the bank as they aren´t cheap! We visited the falls the following day. We took a packed local bus to the entrance and payed our entrance fee which equated to about 18 pounds. Unfortunately a lot of the trail was closed due to flooding. We saw why when we saw the falls as there was a serious volume of water flowing through them! This made them even more impressive. We still got great views and got to walk pretty close to them. There was also a nature trail there that we planned on doing. We got there and it was deadly quiet and empty, we got about 2 minutes down the trail when we started to get attacked by mosquitoes that were as big as the ones we´d encountered in the Amazon (which is big). We had T-shirt and shorts on with no mozzy repellent and so were forced to make a U Turn and run out screaming. We made it back to town in time to watch the Brazil vs. Colombia match in a bar surrounded by both sets of fans which was good. As it was our last night in Argentina we of course had to mark it by having a steak and wine dinner, and we had maybe the best meal of the trip…we`ll definitely miss Argentinean dining!
The following day we caught a local bus a short way across the border into Brazil - our final country. We stopped at Foz do Iguacu and that day visited the Brazil side of the falls as both sides are supposed to offer different views. We payed to get in and and walked the trail that led us close to the falls offering spectacular view points along the way…we got lots of great pics which will be uploaded. The Brazil side offered a greater perspective of the whole falls, it was a truly impressive sight. At the end of the trail there is a path that walks out into the falls. We walked along that and got pretty wet from the spray coming from all around us. It was great to be in the middle of the thundering falls. It was a great two days and definitely deserves its status as one of the seven natural wonders of the world.
From Iguazu Falls we caught our last night bus of the trip to Sao Paulo which was just as expensive as in Argentina but nowhere near as nice. We arrived in Sao Paulo which is a huge city but not really a touristy place. We got off the bus and caught the metro to our hostal called 3Dogs…maybe called 3Dogs as three dogs could do a better job of running the place than the staff in charge. We had beds in a 10 bed dorm room booked. We would be spending most of our time in Brazil in dorms as it is so expensive. First thing was to get laundry done as we desperately needed it doing! So we set out to look for somewhere as the hostal were less than helpful in recommending a place. There weren´t any places that offered it by the kilo. We found one place and went in, and after she´d emptied all our dirty stinking clothes on the counter and counted every individual piece in front of the growing queue behind us, she quoted us the equivalent of 42 pounds. We made our excuses, hastily stuffed our dirty clothes back into the bag and left. We later found somewhere that did it for us for ten pounds…still expensive!
In Sao Paulo we didn´t do anything tourist related. On our first day it was the Brazil vs. Netherlands match…yes we all remember that one! We had decided to go to the Fifa Fan Fest in the city centre. The Fan Fests are basically cordoned off areas with big screens, food, beer and music etc to create a place where all the fans can go and watch the game in a good atmosphere. So we went through the security checks, got in, got some free inflatable hands and cracked on the beer! The match started and the place was filled with thousands of Brazilian fans. Netherlands scored first…no worries its only one goal. Then they scored again…and again…and again…and again…and again…and again. It was very hard to watch. There were children crying and women screaming like it was some sort of horror movie. Luckily the Brazilians seemed so stunned that none of them bothered reverting to violence.
The following day was the second semi-final, this time the match was being held in Sao Paolo. We caught the tube out to the stadium just to soak in the atmosphere and have a look. But we couldn't get anywhere near it as police blocks were in place so you needed tickets to get anywhere near the stadium. And so back to the fan fest it was. We were supporting Argentina as the fans make the atmosphere incredible. And after a pretty boring game the penalty shoot out provided some much needed excitement. Argentina won and there was dancing and singing in the streets.
From Sao Paulo we travelled five hours north to the small coastal town of Paraty. Paraty is a picturesque little town and the main draw is for the beautiful beaches around it. But it rained every day we were there and so we didn´t do very much. We had been pondering whether or not to go to Rio for the World Cup Final or not for a while as the accommodation prices were through the roof. So on the morning of the final we got up at half 4 and caught the 5:20AM bus to Rio, arriving at 9:30. We dumped our bags at our new hostal and straight away went down to the famous Copacabana beach where the official Fifa Fan Fest was. Unfortunately about 10,000 Argentina fans had beaten us to it and the queue to get in stretched about a mile down the beach. We got in line and bought a couple of beers to drink whilst we waited. We eventually got in and went to the cashier cabins where we swapped our money for beer and hot dog coupons….then went to the bar cabins and swapped our coupons for beer and hot dogs! We walked around and soaked up the atmosphere. We were supporting Argentina again but unfortunately it wasn´t their time and Germany won. We still had a great day enjoying the world cup final in the sun on the beach drinking beer.
And so we found ourselves at our final destination of the trip. We endured a couple more nights in dorms until the prices went back down abit before moving into a comfortable room in a different hostel near the Ipanema beach. The first attraction we visited was Sugarloaf Mountain. We took two cable cars up to the top and get spectacular views of the city and Copacabana Beach. We have also visited Christ the Redeemer which we thought offered even better views. The only downside is that the small viewing platform means you´re having to rub shoulders with every other tourist there and push your way through to get to the edge! We did the free walking tour which was good and showed us around central Rio. We visited Colombo Confeteria, one of the best coffee shops in the World…even the Queen stopped there once to try their tea! The Municipal Theatre in Rio is meant to be one of the nicest theatres in the World and a must see. So we bought tickets for the Opera and went one night. The theatre itself was a lovely building….and the show…well we left at the interval. Luckily the Theatre was nearby Rio`s most famous nightlife district. So we got two big Caipirinhas and enjoyed a night out. Finishing the night at the famous Rio Scenarium…renowned as one of the World´s top ten bars. Yesterday we enjoyed a day sitting on the beach drinking coconuts and beers, followed by a nice last meal out.
And now here we are…the ten months have come and gone and what a ten months they have been. A few calculations works out that we have visited 14 countries clocking up over 61,000 miles. We have travelled in buses, cars, planes, trains, boats, pickup trucks, dumpster trucks, and many more as we have travelled across, up and down the two continents. From 5,364 metres above sea level in the Himalayas to 20 metres below the sea in the Galapagos Islands. It was ten months and six days ago that we touched down in Kathmandu to start our adventure, unsure and nervous about what was to come. And it was only a matter of days till we were both ill and confined to our room as Helen had caught a stomach bug. It wasn´t a great start and we didn´t enjoy Kathmandu at all. But we moved on quickly and soon found ourselves stood at the base of the World´s tallest mountain. After that we were in at the deep end exploring all the cultural delights India had to offer or throw in our face…definitely the craziest country we have been to. Onto South East Asia as we looped around Cambodia, Vietnam, China, Laos, Thailand and Singapore, learning about the region's history, enjoying its amazing food and meeting all the smiling locals. We then flew to South America, landing in Ecuador and making our way to the Galapagos Islands - a wonderful and magical place. Through Peru with its unique cultures and scenery to the Inca Trail, which swept us away with its beauty and hidden history. Continuing through Bolivia where we explored the Amazon and the diverse wildlife it had to offer. Then into the more developed countries of Chile, Argentina, and finally Brazil.
We have come out of this with a wealth of great experience and memories…whether it's from the people we have met along the way, the amazing places we have been, or the many things that we have learnt. We would both like to thank everyone that encouraged us to make this trip and that have helped us make it happen, we have truly had the time of our lives.
We´re now looking forward to catching up with everyone back home before we plan our next trip.