Beautiful Bolivia

Everything about La Paz gave me a headache – the sound of cars beeping, the colourfulness of the markets, the crazy traffic, the protesting, the drums & bells from all of the parades and of course the altitude… But I loved it! La Paz is one of the most interesting cities we’ve visited yet. There is so much culture, history and a unpredictableness that makes it such a diverse city.

After the change of arrival destination from bus station to middle of a street that we had no idea where we were, we arrived at our hostel in La Paz much later than planned. We walked around for a while in search for a restaurant/cafe/fast food place with no luck. The only place with food was a lonely elderly women cooking something at the side of the street. We asked for two of whatever she was making, without really knowing what it was, sat on a bench with her and ate our food with our fingers. It was amazing – beef with potatoes and some hot sauce. A bargain for less than £1. Street-food was the way forward.

We took another free walking tour to see the city which was starting just down the road from out hostel. I was still suffering from the altitude so we opted for the afternoon tour so I could have a rare lie in. Turns out our hostel is on the same road as the San Pedro Prison which is self ran by the inmates and only has a few guards outside (who every time we’ve seen them they’ve been on their phones or reading a paper!). The book Marching Powder is based on the prison and up until recently you could do a tour around the prison. Now there is just a guy who walks around the prison trying to con tourists into paying for him to take him round – he will either just run and take you round the prison and leave you in there! He actually came up to us to ‘chat’ – a nice guy!

The walking tour gave us a good insight into the culture here particularly around the Chaulita women who work at the markets and the people who still believe in witch craft.

We spent a lot of time walking around the markets, which have pretty much everything you’d need to buy and at the food stalls. Food at restaurants is cheap (£4-6 a meal generally) but you can spend £1 on just as good quality food from a street seller. We’ve just had to guess a little with what we’ve ordered and hope for the best but it’s working out well!

No matter what time of day it is, there is always something going on in La Paz. When we arrived it was a university dance parade that blocked the roads then for the other days there were very colourful parades in preparation for Bolivian Independence Day. We were woken at 8am by the sound of a parade going right past our hostel.

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Chilly in Chile

Our first stop in Chile was a quick pop over the border from Bariloche to Puerto Varas via Puerto Montt. We’ve now become accustomed to getting local buses (and not really knowing what’s going on) so we jumped on one of the local mini buses, handed over a few thousand Chilean pesos and headed to Puerto Varas. The buses were the most South American-like buses we’d been on and a sign of what’s to come in Bolivia and Peru. Every time they stopped a guy selling things would jump on and jump off again whilst it was moving in the middle if the street. Not something you’d see on the 640 in Bradford!

We arrived at our hostel, Margyouru 2 (one of the nicest homely ones so far), checked in and took a little hike up one of the recommended hills. Not the best view we’d seen so far but a nice warm up for our hike up the volcano the next day. The Volcano Osorno was the reason of our visit to Puerto Varas.

The weather wasn’t looking great but with just one full day here, we didn’t want to extend our visit to wait for better weather. How bad could it be right?! We set off (on a bus we had no idea where it was going or where to get off) and the weather looked okay. Started the hike and it still was okay… About 10 minutes in it started to rain and it didn’t stop for a full day after! We persevered thinking it may stop and we could maybe still get a good view of the volcano if we hiked high enough… Wrong! 4 hours of walking and we couldn’t see a bloody thing. Meeting a volcano would have to wait until our next stop, Pucon.

We hadn’t even heard of Pucon until a guy in our hostel in Buenos Aires mentioned it. We liked the sound of it so included it in our plans. These recommendations are working out well for us! We had two options to go to Volcano Villarrica – hike it or ski/board down it – It was an easy choice…

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Don’t Cry For Me Argentina

After our visit to Iguazu Falls, to both the Brazilian and Argentinian side. We popped over the border from where we were staying in Brazil to Paraguay, before later heading back across to Argentina that day to start our travels there.

Paraguay was a crazy experience. The city Ciduad del Este is the nearest one from the Brazilian border and is where Brazillians and probably Argentinians go to stock up on cheap goods.

We drew out half a million Paraguian currency which was about £10. We had a few things we wanted to try find and thought it would be quite fun trying to spend our little bit of currency in the markets…It wasn’t! As soon as we stepped off the bus we were harassed by about 10 guys shouting random places at us to buy a bus ticket to. Even when we went into the bus terminal to try get a cheaper bus ticket to Argentina the people behind the counters from each bus company were shouting to get us to buy from them – very uncomfortable! Safe to say we didn’t bother in the end and just stuck with our original plan of getting the bus straight from Brazil.

The harassment in the bus station was only the start and it got worse! Obviously I stand out as a foreigner anywhere in South America (Kyle just blends in anywhere!) so Paraguay was no different. They smelt money and every stall we walked past people would shout things at us (obviously we didn’t understand) and then they’d follow us down the street!

I made the mistake of taking interest in what a guy was selling and ended up buying a memory card for my GoPro thinking it was an absolute bargain… It was for a fake memory card! No wonder the guy and all his mates ran down the street trying to sell me all sorts of other stuff! Socks seemed to be the most popular thing people were selling. Never seen so many socks (apart from on the floor in Primark maybe)

We didn’t have any passport / police checks when we crossed the border, as they don’t want to turn people away who will be spending money. On the way back out, however, the police came onto the bus and checked how much people had bought. This guy got away though…

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An interesting few hours that we will definitely remember! After that it was back to the calm in Brazil and then to Argentina to start our travels there.

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A Month in Brazil

In the month we spent in Brazil, we stayed in the Amazon rainforest, visited 5 Brazilian cities, saw one of the 7 wonders of the world, arguably one of the ‘new’ natural wonders, watched all the Brazil games with the locals and yes (I’m not avoiding it) watched England get knocked out of the World Cup in the group stages… Our worst performance since the 1950s. Despite the disappointment, which had to be expected as an England fan, it didn’t put a downer on our trip, infact it allowed us to do some things we weren’t able to do had England progressed – silver lining there!

Manaus

After our stay in the Amazon rainforest, the following day was game day. Thank god it was a 6pm kick-off as midday humid temperatures would have been hard to bear for 90 minutes. The square in Manaus was filled with England fans, it felt like a home game.

This game was my first England game in a competition, we couldn’t get tickets for England games in South Africa so was very excited. We all know how the game ended (2-1 loss to the Italians), but the performance was one of the best in a long time. Hope still remained for the Uruguay game…

São Paulo

We flew into São Paulo from Manaus (a luxury for us as we had no choice than to fly due to lack of roads). We stayed there for 6 nights, which in hindsight we probably didn’t need that much time there, but with 3-4 football games a day we had plenty to keep us occupied!

Game day arrived and there were a lot more nerves this time, as we knew we need to get at least a point out of the game or we’d be pretty much out of the tournament. I’ve never seen England dominate so much and actually have a go against a good team like Uruguay. Though we never looked like winning and who would have guessed it would be Suarez to score the winner for Uruguay… if only he’d taken to cannabilism a match before!

We met up with a Brazilian friend who lives in São Paulo that we met in Whistler, who showed us a different side of São Paulo. Thanks Leo!

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Welcome to the Jungle!

Whilst in Manaus, Brazil we couldn’t miss the chance to visit the Amazon Rainforest. We have just got back from a 3 day and 2 night tour and it was absolutely incredible. What I write and the pictures I will show will not do it justice, you have to visit yourself to really appreciate it.

We had received an itinerary before we left and were very excited by it. Though the schedule didn’t run to plan (don’t expect anything to in Brazil), everything we did was a completely new and amazing experience.

Day 1
After a bus, boat, bus and another boat we arrived at our little village in the Amazon rainforest with lunch ready waiting for us. After a buffet lunch of rice, beans, fish, chicken, salad and lots of fruit (one of many to come!) we were given our rooms. Basic accommodation but surprisingly insect free and the mosquito net kept the damn mossies out.

The afternoons activity was Piranha fishing and pink river dolphin spotting. We unfortunately didn’t see any river dolphins so carried on to do some fishing! Within 5 minutes of setting off a thunderstorm started and I have literally never seen rain like it, let alone sit through it. We thought it might be time to head back but we carried on and I’m so glad we did. It never actually stopped raining for the few hours we were on the boat. After a while a guy in our boat caught a Piranha and then not too much longer I caught one too! Mine was just a little one so we let it back in. The competitive side in Kyle obviously came out then and he caught one too. A much bigger one that we would later eat for tea! Up close GoPro videos to come, once I’ve figured how to upload them!

Despite being p*ss wet through and very cold it was such a good experience. Catching Piranha in the Amazon river – tick!

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Goodbye USA, Hello Brazil!

After another dreaded 20+ hour bus journey from Denver, in which the guy next to us got arrested, we arrived in Chicago for a big McDonald reunion! It had been 5 months since last seeing my mum, dad and brother at Christmas in Whistler and 5 years since seeing my family who live in the states! It was great to be reunited with everyone and even better in an amazing city.

After Chicago and some emotional goodbyes it was time to head to New York via all over the place on the Greyhound bus. We were staying in the Bronx so it took us a while to get to the main site seeing places. We just had two days there so we had to pack a lot in so we could see all the main things we wanted to. We took the free (yes, free!) ferry to Staten Island which gives you a good view of the Statue of Liberty and Manhattan skyline – which didn’t disappoint.

In the two days we spent time at Times Square, walked around Central Park, saw the Friends building (disappointed Central Perk has now shut down), went to Grand Central Station, saw the Empire State (didn’t go up) and went to the 9/11 memorial – which was a very humbling and surreal experience.

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19 Days, 4900 Miles, 11 States, 8 National Parks & a Tornado Warning

And the USA road trip part of our travels is over… What an amazing few weeks it’s been! In the 19 days we had the car, we clocked up almost 5,000 miles and more impressively 0 speeding, parking fines or crashes – good job Kyle!

USA road trip

After California it was onto Vegas baby! I had been to Vegas about 8 years ago with my family so I was looking forward to visiting again and taking advantage of true Vegas now I’m of age. As much as we were excited, we were almost just as nervous…. about our gambling tendencies in the big city. Our gambling wins once paid for us to go on a ski holiday! As tempting as it would have been to blow our daily budget in a couple of hours minutes, we were well behaved. We actually came out about $100 on top. I say we, but it was Kyle that did the winning to cover my overall losses!

It was a flying visit in Vegas as we only had 2 nights there. The weather let us down and we didn’t get the ‘lazing by a pool’ hotness that there was before and after our stay (this seems to be a reoccurring theme with the weather – read on), but we had a great few days.

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