Sunday, December 09, 2007

Comfort

Well, business class sure is nice! A little ostentatious maybe, but it sure is comfy. With a little creativity I'm sure we could improve the 'economy' seats to be more like that! Going to have to 'cause I'm not going to get another ride in there for a while!

So here we are back in Colombo, where Neela and Zarook have been really busy on their house, a new kitchen, Leah's bedroom's had a complete makeover and generally they're making such an effort for the place to be an amazing 'magul geththera' or wedding house! Here is where people will be coming and hanging out and buzzing with the excitement of our impending Big Day. Wooo Hooooo!!!!!

We're hoping that Sami and Mere will be over some time today, crazy to think they're somewhere in Colombo - trouble is we don't know where! Hopefully they'll call us and we can hook up....

Friday, December 07, 2007

"Going to Sri lanka and we're..."

"...gonna get maaaarrrieeed"

You know the song, now sing along. That's right; tomorrow we fly (Business Class) to Colombo for the final countdown to Mr and Mrs Bazalgette! We are getting pretty excited now, of course, even more so due to people like our good friends Sami and Mer already heading to Sri Lanka and indeed probably landing as I write this!

I've been super lame at blogging, but getting my feet back on the ground here in London coupled with getting a wedding organised in Sri Lanka has been taking up any spare minutes might have otherwise grabbed to write some words here. When I have sat down I've found myself largely wordless, maybe just down to mental melt down...who knows. Hopefully the sunshine and adventures in Sri Lanka will inspire some more interesting stories.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Baby Bela Bazalgette


We went to visit Robin, Claire and Bela last weekend. Here is a photo of the proud daddy and his beautiful baby. She's really very sweet indeed and it's great to see Rob and Claire so happy. Still amazing to think of my brother as a dad.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Madia Vale Floods!





Woke up this morning to a river running down Maida Vale!
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Friday, October 05, 2007

Rockin' out at Manu Chao

Went to see Manu Chao last night, was awesome. Moshed like I was 14 again!

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

I'm an Uncle!

My brother and his partner Claire had a baby today!

free bikes?



These bikes have been left chained to the railings for at least a week now, so I thought if no one wants them I'll rescue them - I really need a bike myself. The racer is missing a back wheel, but the rest of it looks OK, and the upright bike just needs a bit of TLC I reckon. I've put a notice on asking the owners to contact me if they don't want it, so I'll leave that a week and if it's still there, well I might just cut the chains!!
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Friday, September 07, 2007

Saturday, August 25, 2007

engaged!

Ok, I kept it from you last time as I wanted a moment to tell friends etc, but Leah and I got engaged on Los Roques! Yup, I popped the question on our first day there, after all the stress and agro of Mexicana we found ourselves alone in a beautiful place and I thought 'It's got to be here or Hackney...'!

So now Leah is away in Sri Lanka organising tons of stuff for the big day, which is scheduled to be the 29th December of this year! It's very very exciting, we're planning to try and have a beach wedding in Sri Lanka and it looks as though a good number of our friends will be able to make it along.

I'm currently down in Wales escaping the hustle of London, which I was finding way too much after the freedom of traveling. Don't have a job yet so being in London is doubly stressful, plus with Leah being away I was kinda lonesome! Here the weather has been amazing, wonderful blue skies and still warm weather - what a treat after the last week or so of miserable drizzle in the big shitty. My poor mum has broken her femur after being knocked down by an Alsatian in the park the other day whilst walking her dog. She's now laid up in hospital after having had a hip replacement operation, and I've bought little old Misty the dog down here with me. She's pretty blind and deaf so has been wandering around bumping into things the whole time, but I trimmed her fringe and that seems to have made a difference...

Today we went skinny dipping in the river! Been ages since I've done that and it's still loads of fun!

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Los Roques to London City

OK, it's a broad title, but then it's been quite a while and now we're back home in London after lots of adventures in Venezuela, and Mexico for that matter.

So after a prolonged period in Cumana we finally made our way West and ended up slap bang in the centre of Caracas, the city we'd vowed never to visit! However a reasonably swift taxi ride took us out of the city and through the mountains to the sprawling town of Caita la Mar where we stayed the night before heading out to Los Roques. We were booked to stay at La Parada hotel, but they are crafty and ship you off to some hotel right on the industrial docks when they are over-full - nice. Explore we did not, though I did manage to get a ride to a Bodega to pick up a couple of bottles of wine for our up and coming romantic dinners!

At 6am we were already at the airport as we had to pass by the Mexicana airlines office to pay for the first leg of our journey home before catching our 8.30 flight to Los Roques. After much arduous and painstaking investigation (while in Brazil) we thought that we had found the cheapest and basically the only way to get back home from Mexico without requiring further Visas for Leah, and the extra $1100 (US) cost to our budget would be painful but livable with. Unfortunately we were in for a nasty surprise as due to a communication breakdown on the behalf of Mexicana, the price quoted when we reserved the ticket was no longer available and instead we were slammed with over $2000 (US) worth of airfares and taxes! Of course our protests, tears, reasoning and pleading fell on deaf ears, "computa says no", and with no time left to try and explore a cheaper option we handed over my credit card and left to find our Los Roques flight feeling thoroughly cheated.

So with that rather nasty taste in our mouths we left the international terminal and headed to the domestic one to catch the short flight over to Los Roques, which, being described as Venezuela's most beautiful Caribbean destination, we hoped would cheer us up somewhat! And indeed as we began to spy the white sands, clear waters and sun soaked islands from the plane window the stresses of the morning ebbed away and our smiles returned.
From Los Roques
On Los Roques we spent our time either sitting by or paddling around in the beautiful water, snorkeling and generally taking it very very easy, conscious as we were that these would be our last few days on our wonderful adventure through Argentina, Brasil and Venezuela. We were looked after wonderfully by Dona Carmen and her crew, and the ever helpful Libia appeared as if by magic whenever we needed advice on a tour or had a boat to book. I think I'll let the photos do the talking for the time being...
From Los Roques
The journey home was long and pretty arduous, especially as Leah was basically taken to a secure area for 9 hours in Mexico, where she had to ask for an escort even to visit the bathroom! Fortunately I was both allowed to stay there with her and leave to go and find us food - I'm sure she'll be writing more on that when she gets around to blogging. Now we're back in London and feeling pretty shell shocked, but enjoying seeing our friends again and trying to decide which stories to bore them with first...

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Back in Cumaná

In the end we spent just about ten days in Rio Caribe, partly due to Leah being ill for some of them but mostly due to Posada Villa Antillana being so nice and our reluctance to be running around all over the place! Don't get me wrong though, we didn't spend all the time sitting around in the hostel watching films in the comfortable lounge area or hanging in the hammocks enjoying the peaceful shaded garden, no sir, trips R us...

Aside from the already mentioned boat trip and day at Playa Loero we also headed off to San Juan de las Galdonas to try and see some baby giant sea turtles being born. This town is about as far East as the coastal roads on the North will take you and the drive is a dramatic ride up and over the mountains that reach down to the sea all along the coast. We had arranged to stay as Posada Tres Caravlas through our friends at Villa Atillana, with the promise of a trip out to visit the biologists who man the Sea Turtle program.

The posada itself sits up above the beach and has fantastic views of the bay, however it's a bit run down and the heavy rains meant plenty of dripping ceilings! When I thought the sky had cleared a bit I persuaded Leah that we should take a walk along the beach, though she protested that it would rain again soon. "Nah", I assured her, "it's cleared up now..." We had been walking for half an hour or so when the clouds moved back in and the rain started to come down again. I didn't mind so much as it was a lovely walk none the less, but we arrived back at the Posada very bedraggled, with only a change of clothes each to last us the night. Oops.
From Rio Caribe an...
When we had dried up a bit and changed we headed out with Eduardo (the guy running the posada) to a beach where the sea turtle program is being run. Unfortunately for us there were no hatchlings to be seen at that time and the plan didn't appear to be to wait around until they popped their heads out of the sand, which was a great shame as we would have been happy to hang out for a while to catch a glimpse of the little things making for the sea...oh well. Instead we took a walk along the beach and back and then headed back towards San Juan. Before leaving though I bought a T-Shirt with a cool turtle print on it; been there, missed it, got the T Shirt.

On the way back to Rio Caribe the next day we stopped off at the Bucare chocolate factory and did a tour which involved plenty of chocolate tasting and a good bit of knowledge consuming also - long winded process, chocolate making, but worth it! If you're lucky when we get back there'll be some of the chocolate flavoured rum left to try...

Once back in Rio Caribe our plan was then to head inland to Caripe and visit the cave called Guacharo, Venezuelas largest, but timing conspired otherwise and we ended up back here in Cumanà - we're planning to visit the cave next week before we head off to the final and most exciting part of our time here; los Roques!

Yesterday we headed off for a day trip to the National Park Mochima, an hours journey from Cumanà. It's a beautiful area off clear waters and green islands and we spent the day on a tiny beach lounging and paddling as we so desired. Nice.
From Cumaná

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

beached again

We went to the beach again today, this time by "Por Puesto", a kind of local bus service, which is actually a pickup truck with wooden benches in the back. Yesterday we tried to go too but it started to piss down with rain just as we left Rio Caribe, and didn't stop for hours. We got as far as the path to the beach, hoping it would stop, and then told the driver to take us back! It cost 20,000 bolivars for the journey since we kind of hired the vehicle. But today we did it for 4,800 there and back...living and learning once again.

We saw a couple of curious things on the beach. The first was a pelican that kind of surfed into the beach and then sat on the shore. I didn't think it was very well, but we left it be. Then some kids came and started picking it up and taking photos with it, then they carted it off with them when they left, poor thing. Later though an older dude came waling past with a pelican in a sack, its heading poking out and looking around, seemingly not very alarmed by its situation. Maybe they were going to nurse it back to health. Or maybe they were off to make pelican stew.

The other thing we saw was a fishing boat anchor just beyond the surf, then the young sailors jumped out and swam ashore. They then proceeded to collect some eight or so huge barrels of fuel on the shore, they roped them together and swam them out through the surf to their boat... a pit stop with a difference!

Other than that we just lay soaking up the sun and playing the odd game of Frisbee,

Monday, July 09, 2007

boat trip

Today we hired a boat and headed out along the coast with another couple from San Sebastian in the Basque Country. The scenery is beautiful; ragged mountain hills, covered in thick jungle greenery reach straight down to the sea while flocks of pelicans fly overhead. The boat ride was quite exciting due to the small size of the boat and the seeminlgy large size of the caribbean rollers. The first beach we stopped at was Pui Pui, a beautiful stretch of palm backed sand with enough surf for a bit of body-surfing to pass the time. After a few hours we then back tracked to Medina, a more popular beach, again very beautiful with tall palms, mountain hills and a much more scerene sea. Nice.
From Rio Caribe an...

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Rio Caribe and a hot mud bath

We've ben in Rio Caribe for a few days now, but unfortunately Leah came down with a nasty fever, aches and a bad headache so we've been holed up in our posada. Thankfuly Villa Antilada is a fantastic place and the people running it have been great to us - taking us to the doctor, helping to get a blood test (we thought it might be Malaria...) and even sorting out food and stuff.

Today we went with Emillio (one of the managers) and his girlfriend Sarai to the Agua Sanas thermal springs and had a good dunking in mud and sulphorous pools. It was a cool experience and a realy nice place to relax, set at the base of a plain that spreads out after you pass the imediate hills that front the sea. It's a terrain of cocao and fruit plantations amongst a jungle set in the hills.
From Rio Caribe an...

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Crazy cheap

Get this, even the most premium of petrol over here costs just 90 bolivars a litre. Even at the official exchange rate of around 2000 bolivars to the dollar that's 22 litres to the dollar, or about 44 to the pound. I reckon that in my old Smart car you could probably go from one end of the country to the other for about two quid.

No wonder they're all driving mash up old V8 chevies!

Cumaná

After three days or so in Ciudad Bolivar relaxing and trying to get my back sorted we have travelled North to Cumaná, right up on the Caribbean sea! The sun is back out, the sky is blue and we're going to spend a few weeks chilling before we take the long fight home. Woo hoo!

The scenery around here is really nice, green mountains in the distance all around and the deep blue sea if you can get up above the houses to see it. We took a look around Cumaná this morning and it's pretty enough, another of these colonial style towns with small colourful houses, which look poky on the outside but open up inside to reveal an inner courtyard surrounded by cool dark rooms.
From Cumaná
There are plenty of restaurants and bars too, which is nice after Ciudad Bolivar where simply finding something to eat seemed like a real mission. One lunch time we ended up in a restaurant where a stack of speakers blasted music at us from only a few feet as though it were forever carnival, and the dilapidated air conditioning machines fired cold air at us from all sides from filthy vents. The food was ok though, Leah couldn't believe my enthusiasm for the carcas-soup I was served, leaving hers to go cold, but I figured it was probably pretty good and recently made judging by the number of happy (though possibly deaf) diners, it tasted good and in the end I didn't even get ill!
From Cumaná

So tomorrow we're going to head further East to Rio Caribe and the beaches around, which should be pretty nice from what we gather. We'll spend a little while in that area and then work our way slowly west, back to here to Cumanà to do a few trips around the islands and stuff. Apparently there are some hot springs, which I've never had an opportunity to try, and a large cave which I always enjoy!

Friday, June 29, 2007

Venezuela!

It's been a little while and it feels like we've done a lot, but I'll try and keep this brief.

After spending a couple more days in Manaus, in the pretty nice Anna Cassia Palace Hotel with a swimming pool on the roof and view over the docks (see photos), it was time to make the move towards Venezuela. We debated flying as far as Boa Vista, but ended up taking the bus due to the cost saving. Actually it was a total palaver due to miss-information but we eventually got the tickets and were set to go.

The road from Manaus to Boa Vista must have just about the worst Karma ever, much much worse than the Newbury Bypass. This is due to the fact that it passes through an Indian reserve, and when the indigenous people protested at the building of a tarmac strip straight through their land the government simply bought in the army and did away with anyone in their way. Picture Swampy being gassed out of the tunnels. However, flying is kinda bad Karma too since it is so polluting so we took maybe the lesser evil. And we were punished too since the road surface resembles corrugated iron with the odd chasm thrown in for luck, so sleep was out of the question and we arrived at Boa Vista sleepy and fed up. We then had to jump another bus for three hours or so that took us up to and across the border into Venezuela! Border formalities were thankfully very easy, the most chilled out looking bunch of immigration people you can imagine, even laughing and joking with each other...they were more concerned with our Yellow Fever vaccination certificates.

So then we arrived at Santa Elena a few kilometers over the border, a pretty small town but useful as the first stop and a place to change money. It's great to be back somewhere where Spanish is the language, they understand me and I understand them, fantastic. Didn't stop us from getting ripped off with our first street-side money exchange however...

Here in Venezuela there are many exchange rates. The official one is about 2000 bolivars to the dollar. But on the street you can get up to about 3800 if you´re lucky, and 3300 for travellers cheques. Kinda irritating that we got 2600...oh well, you live and learn. It´s funny to hand over a few hundred dollars and walk away with over a million bolivars. "one miiiiilllioon..."

We spent one night in Santa Elena before heading off on a tour of the Gran Savana. That area is home to the unique mountain formations known as Tepuis, which are formed when the rest of the land is washed away and only the harder stuff is left over. This means that on the top there are unique ecological regions, which strange fauna and flora adapted specifically to those environs.
From Gran Savana
You can take a trip and walk up one of them, Riorama, but we opted for a two day tour around with Adrenaline Tours instead - which involved lots of walking up rivers, jumping into pools and sliding down rapids. Unfortunately it´s rainy season and our second day was a bit of a wash out, however our guide was great and led us on a tour of the area explaining about the lives of the local Indian populations and the wildlife.
From Gran Savana
Last night we took yet another night bus for ten hours up to Ciudad Bolivar. Thankfully we only stopped at one of the dreaded military checkpoints, where they took a cursory glance at our day-packs and passports. After hearing so many stories of entire bags being searched through in the dead of night we were pretty grateful to get away so easily - no doubt it wont be long before we are party to the full blown affair.

My back has gone all stiff after riding around in the jeep the last two days so I´m planning on staying horizontal for the next day or two before we continue north to the Caribbean coast! We´re back in the Northern Hemisphere now, come on summer!

Told you I'd keep it brief.
Oh, and I bought a cheapo guitar too...

Sunday, June 24, 2007

The Amazon Jungle with 'Jungle Experience' tours

sDay 1: Wed 20th June
Our trip into the jungle started early at six in the morning, a ride through Manaus at Taxi speed Mach II and then a three hour bus ride 200km east to Lindõia. On the trip along with us was Marie, from Sweden, Merche and Iñigo from the Basque country and two guides Francisco and Leo. From Lindõia we hopped in a small boat and set off up the Urubu river to find the base camp. Since there was no wind the surface of the river formed a mirror reflecting the tops of the submerged trees and the clear blue sky. We had not gone more than half an hour when the guides spotted a rare pink dolphin crossing the river in front of us and brought the outboard motor to a stop. We drifted in awed silence as the peculiar looking animal surfaced to breath only a few meters in front. Another bum-numbing half an hour or maybe more and we arrived at what was to be the main camp during our trip; a collection of open, palm thatched shelters on the side of the river.

From Amazon jungle


After setting up our hammocks and a brief tour around the camp we chilled out and got to know each other before lunch was served. Marie was at Hostel Manaus with us so we´d already spoken to her quite a bit, but it was great to be speaking Spanish again with Merche and Iñigo after so many months of Portuguese. Good practise for our impending trip into Venezuela also!

After lunch Francisco took Leah and I out on a small canoe to explore the canopies of the submerged forest. We crossed the open river and then pushed through the branches in to a darker world of trees, spider webs, shadows and peculiar bird calls. Once again everything was mirrored buy the dark waters of the river.

From Amazon jungle


After a while of pushing through the branches and brushing off the cobwebs from our faces it was time to try piranha fishing for our dinner. We each had a simple rod with a length of fishing line and a hook with a lump of chicken for bait. Fransisco splashed at the water violently to imitate the sound of an animal in distress and then we lowered our hooks and waited. It took only minutes for the first bites and with a sudden jerk of his rod Fransisco had his catch and pulled aboard our first piranha. After taking it from the hook he demonstrated with a leaf it´s seemingly automatic biting reflex, which was very effective at taking large chunks out of the foliage, and no doubt would have done the same to our limbs had they gotten too close. Soon enough I felt the nibbles pull at my line and tried the same aggressive snatch I had just observed, and was rewarded with my own thrashing piranha fish, albeit a fair amount smaller that that of our guide. I think Leah was a little alarmed by the whole process, gnashing teeth and all, so we swapped places and she moved to the front of the boat to take some photos. We caught a couple mor each, moving the boats position once or twice once the fish got wise to our tricks, and then headed back to the camp with our haul...

From Amazon jungle


After dinner of more chicken, rice, and, you guessed it, Piranha (bony but very tasty) we headed out into the starlit night for some alligator hunting. Once again it was perfectly still which meant that the stars and the moon were also reflected in the now black water, adding a surreal depth to the scenery. This time we were all in the boat, occasionally shining our torches into the black forest edge to see if there was anything to see, which there never was! Our guides led the boat back into the the submerged trees from the open river, which was still, dark and exciting! I have to admit that I though we were looking for some two meter beast that could tip the boat and gobble us all for it´s dinner, but it turned out that the alligator we caught was pretty small, just over a foot I'd say and very scared looking. Never the less it was quite exciting to hold onto it and feel it's leathery skin in my hands.

After we got back to the camp it was time to sample our first night in a hammock, which turned out to be a lot less comfortable than I had imagined. I didn´t sleep very well at all, but poor Leah I think spent the whole night waiting to be eaten by some terrible jungle beast as she was awake every time I opened my eyes to try and find a comfortable, warmer position!

Day 2: Thursday 21st June

I got up before sunrise and left with Fransisco to watch the sun come up over the trees. I think Leah had finally managed to drift off so there was no way she was getting up to come along! We headed out onto the still waters and drifted in the silence as gradually the sky changed colour through the blues and reds and the sun rose up over the dark line of the trees. We spent a little while exploring the canopies again, eating a few more cobwebs, and then headed back to camp for breakfast. In the time we'd been out a thick mist descended and it was eerie and still back at camp.

From Amazon jungle



From Amazon jungle


After breakfast Leah and I headed out with Fransisco on a three hour jungle walk. As we went we were shown various trees and their medicinal qualities, which we got to smell, taste or simply look at. There was a lot of noise of birds and crickets, and we got to see some monkeys in the distance shaking the trees. I think my super jungle camouflage white shirt may have given us away though, and Leah and I were certainly not stealthy as we crashed through the trees, so we didn't really see them up close. Not that I minded, being there in the Amazon Jungle was enough for me! The scariest thing was when Fransisco poked into a hole and tempted out the tarantula that was asleep inside - Leah had run off to a safe distance, but I stayed to take to necessary tourist snaps. I wouldn't want one of those in my bed. After a few hours, tired and sweaty we headed back to the camp for lunch.

From Amazon jungle


After saying there was no way were were going to do it, we decided to spend a night out in the jungle after all - no point coming all that way a not doing so really. I felt very safe and in good hands with Fransisco anyway, so was sure that there would be nothing to worry about. Only the Amazon Jungle after all. So after lunch and a bit of a rest we packed our hammocks, some water and insect repellent and headed out once again into the trees, this time with Marie as well. We were lead back along paths we had come along that morning and then after a while Fransisco broke off and began cutting a new trail through the undergrowth. This was slow going and tiring even for us, and we didn't have to swing the machete or carry more than a small bag each. We reached a point near some waters edge and Fransisco decided that building a small bridge across would be better than going around due to the change in water level, so he set about cutting down some smaller trees to use as planks. At that point in time I think Leah had become a little anxious about the whole staying out a night in the jungle thing so we had a long talk about whether to head back to the safety of the camp. It was the no going back point, so a good time to decide if going on was what we wanted. Thankfully we decided that we would go through with it and made our way across the water and once again onto dry land and eventually back onto ta clear path. Soon enough we were at our camp for the night; a couple of lean-to shelters in a clearing in the trees.

Fransisco set about fetching some firewood and then headed off to a nearby stream to prepare the food. I helped Marie get the fire going and Leah busied herself inspecting for anything dangerous that might have been lurking in the camp waiting for us to arrive. Thankfully nothing was. It was great to watch our guide prepare the camp using only his machete and the green resources around us - spoons, plates and a table were made and the chicken and sausage skewered and hung above the fire. The only concession was a pan to boil water and make rice. We ate like kings under the forest canopy, with only glimpses of the moon and stars above to reassure us that it wasn't about to rain.

Leah and I shared our hammock that night and spent much of it awake listening to the sounds of the jungle around us and holding tightly to each other in case anything was sniffing us out for a tasty midnight snack...once again, we didn't get much sleep! The most scary thing was probably a howler monkey doing just what it's name would suggest and sounding a lot like someone in terrible pain.

Day 3: 22nd June

After breakfast was skillfully whipped up by Fransisco once again, coffee, boiled eggs, pineapple and bananas, we broke camp and headed back the way we had come to the main camp. It was a fantastic experience and I am very very glad we decided to go ahead with it! Getting back to the camp was like returning to a five star hotel and swimming in the river like a sauna and hot tub combined it felt so good. City slickers.

The rest of the day was spent relaxing and learning how to make rings and handicraft stuff ,with only a short trip up river to the site of the new Jungle Experience base which is being built by the owner Antonio. It is a great location, slightly elevated and open to the river, creating a great view and spot to watch the sun go down, so that's what we did before heading back for dinner.

From Amazon jungle

That night we all slept well.

Day 4: 23rd June.

After waking up early there was time to pack, have breakfast and go for a swim off a boat out in the wider river before we gathered our things and headed back downstream the way we had come. I spent the time reflecting on what a wonderful experience it had been and enjoying the last views of the sunken forest.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Flight over the Amazon

Yesterday we took a three stop flight from Sao Luis to Manaus via Belem and Santarem. Belem is at the mouth of the Amazon river and would have been the principle port of trade for the rubber heading out from Manaus. The river is massive. No joke, it's big. Taking the plane proved to be awesome since the route from Belem to Manaus follows the amazon almost exactly, offering amazing views of the river, its tributaries and the seemingly endless Amazon Rain Forest. It's like a childhood fantasy to see the Amazon and tomorrow at six AM we're heading off for a four day adventure somewhere in the jungle, 200km from Manaus and up the river Urugu.

Today we've been hanging out in Manaus trying to sort out a few last details for the jungle (such as a raincoat...) and having a look around. It's a pretty run down city in truth, with loads of buildings in need of some serious attention. Since the Brits smuggled rubber tree seeds out to India and undermined the honey pot that was, the government introduced a tax free trading zone to encourage industry into the area. Subsequently there are loads of electronic goods shops, cheap looking clothes and pirate / cloned MP3 players etc. I nearly bought a camera lens, but realised it would be cheaper in the UK anyway - so much for tax free.

On another note, I've been wondering whether Facebook.com proves the old 'seven-degrees-of-separation' adage about people knowing people knowing people....? Anyone care to find out?

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Lone dancer

This guy was well into the festivities...

Cant see it? click here

Chariot of Fire

Had to interject with this video we took back in Itacaré since we found it highly amusing. It's the town rubbish truck at about eight in the morning, you'll need sound to appreciate since it was blasting the Chariots of Fire theme tune as it cruised the streets. For the first few mornings we were completely baffled as to who would be playing that tune so proudly so early in the morning....

Cant see it? Click here

Saturday, June 16, 2007

São Luis

After a two day stopover in Olinda, in which we stayed in the dampest, most cavey room ever, we flew up so São Luis with GOL airlines - our first flight in Brazil, and possibly the newest plane I've ever been in. Took a load more photos of Olinda since the weather was a bit better...

From Maracaipe and...



From São Luis

The old town centre here is a Unesco World Heritage site due to the excellent examples of old colonial architecture, although much of it is in a pretty dire state. Everything is covered in "Azulejos" a type of tile brought over by the portuguese which helps to protect and decorate the outside of the buildings.


From São Luis

We have arrived right on time for the Bumba Meu Boi festivities, which means there has been fantastic dancing and music in the streets every night till the early hours. There is a strong Afro-Carribean influence here, and due to the promiscuous Portugues there is every colour, shape and size or person you can imagine.


Cant see it? Click here
Here is a photo of some of the dancers, seeing as the video seems a bit dark...

From São Luis

Less than ten days left in Brasil now, with the Amazon jungle still to come!

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Back in Olinda

This time we took the bus route, and it wasn't bad at all, and it cost almost three times less than the taxi...but then we did know the route, and that makes it much easier. In fact as we entered Recife I recogonised Olinda on it's hill and was able to ask the driver to stop and let us off, which meant no long metro ride or extra taxi costs.

Anyway, we're here for tomorrow and then the day after we fly up to São Luis. It's been raining a whole lot, which is a bit boring.

We never saw dolphins in Pipa in the end, mainly 'cause it was raining loads so we didn't go back to the beach. We did buy some art though.

There was a nasty incident last night though when one of our fellow guests at the pousada found that his room had been broken into and his camera and laptop had been stolen. Oddly enough the thieves took the time to go through his bag and empty it of his TAG watch, money and passports and just took the camera stuff. This lead us to believe that whoever it was knew what they were looking for, particularly as that morning he had taken the bag out and was showing me the photos on his laptop in the open communal area. Another reminder for Leah and myself about how important it is to keep your stuff as safe as possible, and assume nowhere is secure!

Monday, June 11, 2007

Bye bye board, bye bye

Well, we just sold the surfboard, bag leash an'all for 50 Reais - about GPB12.50! Kinda sad, but it served us well and it's going to make getting on buses much easier!

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Olinda and on to Pipa

OK, we know it was lazy but it felt good; we took a taxi from Olinda to Pipa yesterday to avoid the 5 hour bus ride. We have to go back to Olinda by bus anyway, so cheating on one leg of the journey isn't so bad...

Olinda is a very pretty town/suburb of Recife, which is an enormous imposing city of skyscrapers - we didn't go there. Olinda is made up of narrow winding cobbled streets and colourful little houses, which double as artist studios, cafes and pousadas (like hostels). We stayed in a rather nice, if very overpriced place called Cuatro Cantos, which was based in an old colonial holiday home. It had high ceilings, polished wooden floors and plenty of character, the only down side being that the rooms we could afford would have previously served as a store room or something similar! Clean and pleasant enough though. Olinda is a great place for just wandering and taking photos and stumbling upon things; music, art, whatever. We'll be back there on tuesday to take our flight to São Luis.
From Maracaipe and...

From Maracaipe and...

Pipa is also a lovely little town, cobble streets etc etc. It also has pretty good surf and the beaches are different to everywhere else we've been in that they are backed by cliffs, though not very high ones. I've been out on the board a couple of times, but we're going to sell it now (or have to give it away) as it's too much of a pain to carry it through the jungle and up to Venezuela - plus the airline will charge us more than it's worth just to stick it in the hold!

Tomorrow we're hoping to go and see some dolphins that are apparently in great numbers just round the headland.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Maracaipe

After a three hour wait in the bus station due to ticket confusion, we split from Maceió and headed further north on yet another long bus ride towards Recife. We got off at Ipojuca and jumped in a Combi van to Maracaipe, which is a lovely quiet beach village just south of Porto Galinhas.

We were in an over priced pousada at first but after dinner on the first night we stubled upon a bunch of lovley little apartments, where the owner and some friends invited us to join their little party. Many whiskies later we had arranged to come and stay for the rest of out time here - it's great as we have a little kitchen, living space and a veranda looking out to the sea. The party was made up of a couple of doctors, a physcologist, a journalist, a stylist and a couple of other people, who were acting like teenagers getting drunk and falling over and generally having a good time. We felt right at home.
From Maracaipe and...

I've been surfing quite a bit here on the beach break and had some great rides the first day - really felt I was getting somewhere again. Yesterday though I managed to put a hole in the board and have just picked it up from the repair shop. I'm going to head out again this afternoon and tomorrow before we head off to Olinda for a couple of nights. Only a week or so more and we'll be selling the board before we board a plane to São Luis. :(
From Maracaipe and...

Friday, June 01, 2007

Rainy day in Maceió

The incessant rain hasn't stopped since last night, it could be Wales here. We arrived yesterday morning at 7.30 after a nine hour overnight bus ride on which we didn't sleep much at all. It was a beautiful sunny day and very hot, but we crashed out in the hostel for a few hours trying to shake off the journey.

We made it out for a short walk to the sea, which is an amazing green / blue and very beautiful, especially in the sun. I have a feeling it wont look so nice today, but we've not been down to have a look. After some crap spaghetti we headed back to the hostel. A bit of a nothing day really.
From Maceió and jo...

I was hoping to head to a local surf beach called Praia Frances today, but the rain has stopped play. Instead we're just hanging out and staring into computer screens. There is another traveller at the hostel called Tim who's coming to the end of a nine month trip on which he's been to Africa, Australia and South America. He's looking forward to being back at home and going to Glastonbury...

Tomorrow we're going to continue North. There is a Marine park fairly near by where there is supposed to be excellent snorkeling, but if the rain continues like this it wont be great. May be better to head on further north to Porto Gallinhas (another surf spot) or Recife, we shall see.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Salvador da Bahia

We made it to Salvador at the beginning of a very wet weekend, which nearly managed to turn all the brightly coloured houses of the Pelourinho into a boring grey. Mmmm, flip flops and wet cobblestones; Slip slops.
From Salvador

The Pelourinho sits on a hill over looking what's known as Ciudad Baixa (lower city) and the bay upon whose borders Salvador lies. It's super cultural up here, which also means it's super touristy and you get hustled to buy stuff or give out money wherever you go. On the upside there is music and dancing all day long and we are always stumbling upon a group of kids bashing out rhythms on the streets outside their school.
From Salvador

We got taken in by a scam last night when a street kid came and asked Leah for some money. We've read that it's best not to give out money since more often than not they don't use it to buy food but instead for drugs, or even worse for someone elses drugs. So instead we offered to buy him some food and he lead us off to some cafe. We ordered him a burger and a drink, which we paid for upfront and then we waited while they went about making it. When the kid realised we wanted to stay and wait with him while he ate he threw a tantrum and began huffing about outside the cafe, and when asked why he didn't want to eat with us he said he wanted to take the food home. Meanwhile we still waited for them to make his burger. I realised that the guy in the cafe was in on this scam and actually they expected us to go before we received his food, at which point no doubt they would have split the money we had handed over and he would have been off to hustle someone else for money. When he realised we weren't going anywhere he reluctantly took the burger and drink and then left in a huff. But when we left after him he was waiting round the corner and promptly ran back around into the cafe and we overheard him arguing with the owner, no doubt expressing his disappointment about having food rather than cash. What to do?

Tomorrow we're splitting North again to Maceio and in the next two weeks we've to make it right up to the most Eastern shores of Brasil before we turn the corner and fly West toward the jungle. Incredible to think that we just past the four month marker on this trip! A little under a month left in Brasil now and then we shall be in Venezuela.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Itacaré

Itacaré is a super cool little surf town where we have been since Sunday. It has cobbled streets and loads of restaurants and bars much like Arrial d'Ajuda, the difference is that it feels less polished and touristy, which is down to the more hippy / surfery crowd that hang out there.

The beaches are lovely, though the bay closest to the town is a bit poluted and stinky, however a 10 minute walk brings you to fantastic waves and clean water. I spent the first two days playing on our board, which was frustrating at first but I had one or two quite good rides in the end. Some of the waves are really scarey - massive and steep and they form those tubes you see people riding through in surf videos and photos. The thing is, when you're lying on a board looking down one it all gets a bit hair raising - and if you dont stand up you get mashed; welcome to my world.
From Itacare

On the third day we got up early and took a bus a little way out of town with a Swiss girl called Ursula to find some other beach that had been recommended for snorkelling. The bus dropped us by a muddy track and we had a feeling that they had shot past the proper path to the beach. However, some helpful locals pointed us in the right direction so off we went and were soon following a path through an amazing jungle forest which we hoped would lead to the beach. After some interesting and rather painful encounters with ants, a few river crossings and a squelchy walk through a mangrove swamp we finally arrived at what was indeed a pretty nice beach. Not sure you'd write a book about it though. There was no snorkelling to be had since the sea was rough (out of season apparently) so we wiled away a nice day reading and throwing the occasional Frisbee.

Back in Itacaré that evening we went to watch a Capoiera demonstration, which was pretty cool. Not sure I understand it all that well yet but some of the dudes where obvisouly really good, even to my untrained eye. We actually prefered some of the stuff we've seen individuals do on beaches when they're just practicing since the sand allows them to do some amazing flips and stuff without too hard a landing.

I had hoped for one last day of surfing before we left but yesterday the sea was a right mess and the lifeguards were actually stopping people from going in. Nevermind, reading the Lonely Planet it seems as though there will be plenty more as we continue up the coast past Salvador and onto São Luis. We're currently sat in a bus station waiting for our bus to Salvador - we started at 6 this morning so we're both a bit bleary-eyed, only 8 hours to go though....

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Arrial d'Ajuda

We met a realy nice guy called David and his Brasilian step daughter Ueidi at our lovely pusada here in Arrial d'Ajuda (check the photos of the pool over looking the reefs and lovely blue sea!). They've left back to Salvador today but we've had a nice time hanging out with them for a couple of days -we'll hopefully be catching up with them in Salvador next week for a bit of local knowledge!
From Itaunas and A...

I've managed to upload a whole bunch of photos from Vitoria, Itaunas and here so take a look if you've a moment!

P.S Is Myspace dead in the face of Facebook?

Thursday, May 17, 2007

North north north - Porto Seguro

Arrrgh, my head is fizzing after one of the worse bus rides yet - from midnight till seven in the morning rumbling along in a dark smelly box. At one point the over enthusiastic child in the seat behind noisily slurrped down it's Guarana drink (smells a bit like Tizer) and then threw it up all over the isle - thankfully though, not over Leah who was in the seat directly in front trying to get some shuteye. The journey started at 16:30 from Itaunas after there were no seats left on the bus that would have arrived here in Porto Seguro right as we eventually began our journey described above. Blah blah blah, I cant think straight, think I need to hit the lovely pool or take a dip in the calm blue seas that are making up for the nasty journey! We're actually staying in a town just across the estuary from Porto Seguro, which is much nicer but has a much more complicated name that I cant remember right now - I'll ask Leah and get back to you! It's called Arrial d'Aujda.
From Itaunas and A...

First though, I've got to call the Mexican embassy in Venezuela to try and work out how we are going to get home without it costing an extra GBP1500 to buy a flight from Venezuela. BA have decided they can be of no help. Thanks guys.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Itaúnas

After five hours we arrived at the deadest town so far; Conceiçao De Barra and had to run around knocking at doors to find an open pousada (Hostel). We debated not going to Itaúnas (which is where we were aiming for all along) as the bus connections are terrible and to get out of here we have to back-track for miles (and hours) but in the end we're super glad we did. Itaúnas is great - sure it's outofseason sleepy, but it's got personality. Personality goes a long way.

No sooner had we stepped off the (rickety) bus than a dude approached us asking if we wanted a pousada. We're pretty cagey about being approached these days after a few dodgy experiences, but this guy is super cool and genuine and is really looking after us here! This place has 35 pousadas as it balloons in summer from 1000 fishermen to 25,000 party people! We're actually pretty happy to be here in the sleepy hour as we had the beach almost to ourselves today.
From Itaunas and A...

There were just two of us surfing the waves - me and a guy called Marcelo who we've been hanging with ever since! We got chatting and after the beach Leah, myself him and his wife went for a canoe trip up the river here....then they invited us to dinner at their pousada - he's been coming here for 15 years! Travelling is fun!
From Itaunas and A...

Tomorrow I'm going surfing again :)
From Itaunas and A...

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Vitoria

We splashed out for a day of luxury yesterday after leaving Guarapari and stayed in the Senac da Ilha do Boi in Vitoria...a place atop a hill with a Sauna, pool and cableTV. Last night we ventured into the happening 'Bermuda Triangle' of Vitoria and had the nicest Sushi of the trip!

This morning hasn't gone so well however....the bus we wanted was full so we have to wait around till 4 to leave. Then we walked into town to find this internet cafe so I could Skype Heddwyn for his birthday...the first computer crashed, on the second one the microfone didn't work and then to top it all the boss of this place seems to have sacked the guy who was trying really hard to help me out....what a w*nker. Got that wrong thankfully!

There's some nice architecture in this part of town though, I'll try and get some photos before we hop on the bus. I wont be sad to leave now, but it also seems as though a lot of the coastal places have shut down with the coming of winter...though it's still hot and sunny. We're trying to get up to a marine park for some snokelling....but currently it's hard to get in touch with anyone for advice on whether it's open. oh well!

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Sleepy outofseason Guarapari

After a tiring 9 hour bus journey we arrived in a windy and rainy Guarapari yesterday evening. Today the sun is out again but the wind is whipping what would usually be a calm and beautiful great-for-snorkelling bay into a sea of white horses. And 90% of everythig is closed. I guess our snorkel and masks will be staying in the bags for the time being....

I think tomorrow we will head to Vitoria.

P.S I think it's Ben Lambert's birthday, Happy Birthday Ben!

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Super Surf at Saquarema

We've escaped from Rio and come to Saquarema where we've been watching a leg of the Super Surf Brasilian surf championship. This beach is allegedly one of Brasil's best surf beaches and when we arrived the waves were massive! However, today the swell has dissapeared somewhat, which has made for a dissapointing final for the surfers. However, for me it was great as I got to spend hours on our board playing in the waves. I went in yesterday too, but it was pretty scary for a novice like me!

Last night the town was heaving as some famous band were playing, never really caught the name though - sorry. We went to join in and after a steak that could have fed ten (we actually shared a portion listed as a single) and a fantastic banana and chocolate pancake we joined the heaving crowds in front of the stage. There was a cool fireworks display before the music that went off in front of the very pretty church that overlooks the town and the bay. We only stayed for a couple of numbers in the end though as it turned out to be a sort of Ska band and it didn't really butter our muffin.

On a final note: if you want to stay regular, forget fibre; drink coffee.

Friday, May 04, 2007

One last look....

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Death of my Birks


It was with a tear in my eye that I had to say goodbye to my trusty Birkenstock sandals that have been travelling with me since the begining of this trip....Bye bye Birkies, bye bye.
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Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Football, Snot and video rush

Man, I'm all snotty. Had to happen eventually I guess - a little bit of rain over the weekend and suddenly my nose is running all over the place. Nice.

On Sunday we went to see a football final between two Rio teams; Flamengo and Botafogo. We went with a whole bunch from the Hostel and were bunched together as token Flamengo fans in the sea of serious Flamengo football nuts that went crazy all around us. The atmosphere and vibe were great, but at the end of the day it was just football, innt?
From Flamengo Vs. ...

The video below should illustrate some of the maddness that overcame everyone...The other videos are from the Redbull air race and the Christ statue that I tried to post before but they didn't seem to work...

We're now staying with some family friends of Leahs' called Munira and Dilshad and their three young daughters, Nafisa, Tahani and Zahara. It's great to be in a home, though we're are getting far too comfortable thanks to their wonderful hospitality! I've got this cold though, which I'm keen to shake off as my head feels like a damp sponge.

Flamengo fans going crazy

Redbull plane madness

Redbull Helicopter madness

Rio from Cristo

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Rain stops play

Aaawwwww, oh well, Sri Lanka lost to the Australians. What, as they say, to do?

Today we're working at half speed due to a few to many drinkies during the cricket yesterday and then the subsequent return to Lapa for a boogie. Ended up in an aweful club playing RandB at distortion levels with the clientele swaying in each others arms. However, we were with a really cool bunch from the Hostel so it was fun none the less.

Later today we're off to the footbal stadium en mass to see the regional final - should be fun as apparently the crowds go mental.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

World Cup Cricket Final

Right at this moment Sri Lanka are bowling against Australia in the final of the cricket world cup competition, and Leah is going crazy for Sri Lanka to win! We're in a Hostel in Rio owned by an Australian cricket nut and the atmosphere downstairs is tense!

Go Sri Lanka, Go!

Friday, April 27, 2007

Christ, St George and Visa trouble

On Monday we hooked up with some Irish friends, April and Dan, who we met in Barriloche and incredibly enough bumped into at the Paraty bus station! Here in Rio it was a holiday to celebrate St Geogre, or Jorge as he's known here, which meant there was a huge concert on Copacabana beach. Never has the name been so widely celebrated I'm sure - all the artists were called Jorge, all the songs were about Jorge (well nearly), Jorge was written in lights as big as a house....well, you get the drift. It was kinda cheesy music to be honest, though they threw in the odd classic to keep the crowds happy!

The next day we went up to the statue of Christ the Redeemer who overlooks the whole city. Our host Eric in Santa Teresa assured us we could walk down to the cog train that winds its way up to the statue. Thankfully it was all down hill but the people who live round there must have legs of steel - at one point we walked down the longest stairs in the world, at least it felt like it and by the time we got to the train our knees were tingling. Weak flatlanders. The train winds it way up the steep hillside and then you emerge to some truly incredible views of the city.
From Rio de Janeiro

On a slightly more annoying note it currently looks like our plans they are a changin' due to the difficulty in obtaining Visas for Leah. We optimistically thought that we'd apply for the central America visas here in Rio, but it appears as though there will be no way to do this so the chances are we'll be heading for home after Venezuela. We've not given up hope yet, but the embassy/consulate people are pretty unhelpful in most cases. The Mexican consulate explained very helpfully how we'd have to return to countryof residence to apply, i.e London. From Brasil to London to get into Mexico. At times like this I realise how great it is to have a UK passport.

And finallee, Sri Lanka play Australia tomorrow in the Cricket World Cup final - go Sri Lanka go!