A long time ago, just before I went to India my mum told me “Remember that the Beatles never was the same after their trip to India”. I think this was a subtle way to say, don’t take drugs but general speaking she was right, you do change as a person when you travel. It was that trip to India which made me realize the enjoyment of living the life in a backpack.
You who know me knows that I’m a restless person, a person who doesn’t like the classic 8-5 office routine, instead I have much easier for improvisation and living the day as it comes. Therefore I must say thanks for my employee Oracle who let me chase my dreams, even if this will be the longest trip in my life (so far).
Right now I’m at the airport, aiming at a foreign country at a foreign continent. My plans for the upcoming months are very loose and just like the cliche, to travel is the goal. It is me, my backpack and with “Ehrling – I feel good” in the headphones I’m feeling more at home then ever.
You are supposed to see things positive so right now I can happy announce that i do not need to get any favela tours. But before that, lets start from the beginning.
The flight was just as it supposed to and it felt like we arrived in no time at all. With one of the fastest and most efficient custom/pass control I was suddenly in Brazil. Since I have no knowledge at all in Portuguese and I heard some bad rumors about taxi drivers that doesn’t find their way I had booked a airport shuttle and the driver was standing, waiting for me and within a few minutes we went off to what I thought would be my hostel in the outskirts of a favela, I was wrong.
My hostel is located in the middle of a favela, of course there is no roads to it so I had to walk the last hundreds of meter, up for narrow and steep stairs, through narrow alleys with what looks like half built houses surrounding it. I did however find it and it is a really nice hostel with an amazing view over Copacabana but every second here feels like a scene from Cidade de Deus. I do however not feel insecure here but I do think before I grab my camera and I am a bit more restricted of what and where I shoot.
Today I woke up a bit jet lagged but solved it by walking around the area. Started with Copacabana beach, moved over to Ipanema beach and finished with a stroll through the botanic garden before I headed back to my hostel, via the favela of course. Around 25 degrees and really cozy walk so I dont complain, however my feet does since they are not used to 40 000 steps per day.
I’ve got a feeling that wherever you are in Rio de Janeiro Jesus will look down at you. Is it an attempt to make the Brazilians to live a life with less sin? Maybe, but as long as its easy to ask for redemption the life continue as usual but I decided to visit Jesus.
After some Googling I decided to take a taxi to the statue, after a couple of attempts to pronounce the name of Cristo Redentor the cab driver finally understood where I wanted to go, however haggling about the price was out of the question but after some while we agrees to use the taximeter. I thought that the taxi would take me to the statue but I was wrong, instead I ended up and had to take a tram up the mountain. The tram was more like the start of a roller coaster, so steep but the view was totally magic and made it worth every second. Once up at the top I realized that Jesus is not big, he is just as huge as the number of people up there watching him. Even if there is so many people up there, this is a must if you are in Rio de Janeiro.
Also, then you are there I recommend that you on your way down jump off at the first station and head to the viewpoint Mirante Dona Marta. Its 1-2km from the tram station and you can easily walk it or do like me, take a mc-cab. The road is both up and downhill so I don’t regret it and it is something special to feel the wind of speed while you are in shorts and t-shirt, helmet was included in the price but if we crash I don’t want to think about the result but in my case all went good!
The rest of the day was spent in city center, its so fun to just stroll around, feel the atmosphere, look at it, smell it and of course, taste something from all the small stands in every street corner.
The last day in Rio I spent, in another favela. My plan was to do a lazy day on the beach however when the suggestion about taking a favela tour came up I simple joined. There is a high risk that I would only be bored at the beach.
We visited the Rocinha favela which is one of the bigger with its population of 160 000. Thank god we took the car to the top and then walked down, through the narrow streets, alleys and sometimes pretty weird streets while our local guide explained the history but most interesting, hows the life in a favela. It is always good to have a local guide and since I had plans of buying a house I could resist to ask for the price. For €10 000 you get a house and that means no involvement of estate brokers, banks or papers, you simple pay the previous owner and get the keys. If there will be any issues with the transaction you simple bring it up with the local drug lord and he will fix the issue.
Rocinha is probably one of the safest favelas and it doesn’t not meet the expectations that our press spreads. It even exists banks here and while I was visiting I saw armor car transporting money to/from the banks, this would not be possible in any of the more poor, mostly located in north favelas or here for 15-20 years ago. The architecture is still the same though, each house is a small block randomly places, also often on top of each other which creates these narrow streets and tiny staircases. The power grid would give any certified engineer nightmares but Im still most impressed that its actually work.
Before the tour I was a bit afraid that the tour would feel like exploiting poor people but it didn’t feel like that at all. Instead it was more any ordinary city tour in any given city, safe, secure and I must admit I feel a bit disappointed.
we finished the tour on a local bar and I just had to ask the guide about the favela I’m staying in. I didn’t really get any straight away answer, instead it was more like yea, its semi-safe and most likely there will be no shooting which means its just like back home in Sweden. Either way I will pack my bag and continue my trip west, next stop Peru.
If you look at the map it doesn’t look much for the world but I’ve learned the hard way that the distances are huge on this continent.
The day started at 04.00 with boarding my plane from Rio de Janeiro to Sao Paolo, after that I boarded a plane to Lima and finally, the last plane to Puerto Maldonado. The tickets were everything except cheap but since I have limited time here I don’t have much of choice if I want to see as much as possible.
Everything went super smooth though, from a simple and fast checkin to descent connections and pretty ok airplanes. The only thing that made a bt nervous was when we went in for landing in Puerto Maldonado and you could only see, trees. We did however land and the terminal building look more like a garage then anything else but as long as it works I am happy. From the airport I was able to take some shots before the sun went down and what a hostel I found, its so beautiful and calm and I even was greeted by a sloth who was chilling in a tree, now I am in south america for real!
Tomorrow I will head into the jungle so I will be quite for a few days but don’t feel bad, I will be back with a lot of pictures!
Back in the civilisation I’m now sitting and waiting for the night bus to take me to Cusco and hopefully I will see another of the modern wonders of the world.
The last days has been spent in Tambopata national park in amazons. Right now it’s dry season which means that the river Madre De dios which is around 100m wide is only 5m deep. During the rain season which starts in December the water level will rise around 5-6m, unbelievable but I can see clear traces of it at the shoreline.
I have stayed at two different lodges and got spoiled with both good, and a lot of food. Well needed indeed since it’s been long days starting around 4am And then off to watch birds, chasing tapirs and at one day, even took a paddle trip on Sandoval lake. It’s been quite tough and it started with some really bad weather which means no animals but it got better and I successfully spotted both macaws, parrots and many other birds, monkeys of all types, white and black Caymans, Agutis and even Capybara, however no tapir or jaguar.
But I am a bit disappointed that I didn’t saw more big mammals however that’s how seeing wild life is, you never really know. So today I went to Puerto Maldonado zoo and watched the boa constrictor, anaconda and both puma and jaguar, but that was on a zoo so it doesn’t count.
I add some pictures below taken with my cellphone.
Puerto Maldonado is roughly 185m above sea level, Cusco is 3400m. I may have arrived physical but oh my God what I’m feeling like I need a rest. Coca tea and chewing the leaves helps a little but far from enough.
I’m not sure if it’s the altitude, the 10 hour bus drive or that my stomach didn’t liked the Ceviche as much as my mouth, either way it’s been a really calm day for me. I took a 2 hour city tour through the historical part and it was really nice, feels like it covered most of what Cusco may offer.
The buses here are really amazing, kind a luxurious and I felt a sleep before we even left the city. The road however was very steep and went like a snake over the mountain. I did get a bit seasick which I normally don’t get but I guess it was the combo of the winding road and that it was pitch black so you had no idea where the horizon was.
Cusco as a city feels like a tourist trap with your agencies and hostels in every street corner. The historical center was nice though and it was really nice to get everything explained and some history of the Inca period. We did even find a statue of Jesus, located at an top so it’s visible from all of town. I do recognize this from Rio de Janeiro and for sure, theirs are greater.
After hours of googling and comparing prices and offers I finally decided for a really good compromise, a full day tour to the “Sacred Valley” but jump off in and take the train to Aguas Caliante. Another long day but now I’m so close I can be to Macchu Picchu.
The day started as I said early with jumping on a minivan towards sacred valley and the first stop was Pisac. Blue sky, shining sun and we almost beat all other tourists there made it even more fun to explore the ruins.
Next stop was a tourist trap, a market. It started with a lesson in how you see difference between real and fake silver and if course they tried to sell you a lot after that but no, not for me. On the market there was also a lot of mother’s with their small kids, all dressed up in peruan costume and with a alpacas which would pose with you for a coin or two. It felt just weird so instead I bought myself a bottle of water and added some more sun lotion.
Next stop was Ollantaytambo and even this time we arrived before the horses of tourists. Now it was really hot and the sun was so bright but that didn’t stop us from climbing higher and higher in the ruins. Our guide was really good and had a nice mixture of facts and jokes and overall I would say that sacred valley is a must if you are close by. Now I jumped of the tour a bit early but I think I covered the most of it.
The train trip wasn’t that impressive though. The was doing like 40km/h and the scenery was really nice for sure but it’s kind a the same for two hours. If you are hardcore you do the Inca trail instead but if you are like me and have no time, the train works really nice.
I finished the day walking around in Aguas Caliante and tried some delicious local dishes, this time I started with a guinea pig as a starter and alpaca as main dish. It may sound aweful but it was actually really, really good. Now let’s wait and see if my stomach thinks the same.
Some basic pictures from my phone since I can’t access my real camera for the moment.
Even if I already was in place at Aguas Calientes the day started really early, around 05.00 to stand in queue for the shuttle buses up to Macchu Picchu. When you buy your ticket to Macchu Picchu you will get a time slot when you can arrive and according to the rules you are only allowed to stay for 4h and you must have a guide. These rules are good to minimize the wear of the site but the rules are not checked. However you cant get on the bus before its your time according to the Macchu Picchu ticket.
I arrived to Macchu Picchu around 07.00 and the mountains where hidden in cloud which made it really mystical and beautiful. Once the sun arrived the clouds disappeared and it was blue sky and shining sun, cant beat it! My guide was really good explaining the different houses, temples, how it was built and used and how come the Spanish never found it and finally he gave some advice of what to do after his guiding was finished. I think it was roughly 3h with the guide and after that I spent another three hours so hike and see the inka.bridge and of course, the sun gate. The sun gate is a neat hike of 300 altitude meter from the citadel and is real inca-trail. The gate itself isn’t that impressive but the hike is really nice.
The whole place is magical and I cant put words on it. Is is defined as one of new wonders of the world and I do understand why. I think also its the only one who really impressed me and which I didn’t get bored at after 5 minutes. My pictures needs some editing but I give you some raw previews anyway.
A sprained ankle and a upcoming cold made me decide to skip rainbow mountain as planned and instead rest for two days. I mean I think I could do it but then you are not feeling alright a 10km hike (in total) up to 5000m above sea level is maybe not the best idea. I rather miss it and can enjoy the rest of my vacation instead.
So instead I spent two days on a new hostel. This time the money had to talk and to be honest, I live in a hovel. The staff is friendly, the other guests are super friendly and the location is in the middle of the city which made it worth every penny and to be honest, we are not talking about many pennies here.
Yesterday I spent most of my time walking around in Cusco while today it has been raining with thunderstorms and hails so I decided to stay at the hostel and socialize.
That is actually the best part of staying at hostels. You meet new people and even if most of the people here are Spanish speaking and my spanish is, not good you do meet new people, you talk and learn new stuff. We have discussed high as low and how about the language? Well its a nice mixture of all kind of languages that I guess only we, backpackers understand.
Another overnight bus and I woke up in a new city, this time Arequipa. It wasn’t in my rough original plan to go here but what can I say, plans are made are made to be changed and now I have the possibility to see a live, wild condor.
The day today I spent exploring Arequipa with it’s 1 million population feels really tiny, it’s a really cozy and beautiful city but feels small and one day is enough.
However I found a city in the city, Santa Catalina monastery. I’m not a religious person and I don’t use to enjoy exploring old churches but this was like finding Eldorado. I spent several hours exploring this huge monastery . It’s located in the middle of the city but still its so calm and quiet here. The atmosphere is relaxing and the buildings are beautiful in both their architecture and with all the wall paintings. To get a grip of the size this monastery has its own network of roads, named after Spanish cities.
Fun fact is that during one of the earthquakes here the outer wall collapsed and they found skeletons from babies and fetus. Apparently the priests made the nuns to pay for their sins in a very nontraditional way.
I’ve heard a lot of good stuff about one of the deepest canyons in the world and its quiet impressive with its 3191m depth. To compare it with something we can look at the pretty famous “Grand Canyon” which is only 1857m deep. Besides that the tour agency almost guarantee that I would see a condor, South Americas biggest land bird.
Of course I booked it and at 03.00 I got picked up at my hostel by a small minibus for a long drive towards the Colca Canyon. A few hours later, around 06.00 it was time for breakfast and our first stop, which was nice until it turned out to be a tourist trap. Suddenly two small kids join us, dressed in a Peru uniform and tried to do some sort of classic dance. I give them a capital a for trying, but the implementation wasn’t really that good and of course they demanded money afterwards.
Once we arrived to the Colca valley it was time for our second stop which means, second tourist trap. It was a small village with a market who sold the usual crappy things and of course a bunch of alpacas which you can get your photo with for a solel. The most weird thing was though a gentleman had dressed up as a condor and for “only” five solels you could get a hug by the condor. The dress was so terrifying though that I didn’t even dare to take a photo of it.
Lucky for us we soon jumped into the car again an headed for the climax of the day, the condor viewpoint. At more or less the top of the canyon they have built a viewpoint so you can literally look down, into the canyon and down at the birds who are majestic gliding around and looking for food. It was just one simple problem, there was no birds there. None, zero, zipp. After approx 40 minutes we finally saw three birds far far away in the horizon and we had to agree that we were beaten, such an anticlimax. However the luck changed and while driving down from the viewpoint suddenly the car hit the breaks really hard, we stormed out and yes, it was a youngster but still a free, wild, living condor. I did both get to see him in real life and took a picture, that saved the day!
The tour continued to stop number three, which means tourist trap number three. This time it was time to take a swim in hot springs. For you who know your geography knows that Peru has a lot of volcanoes and volcanoes are hot. That means that the hot springs was really, really hot and the people who paid for it could do it for five minutes before they had to go to the local river to cool down. Myself took a cold beer instead and just watched the spectacle, maybe laughing a bit for myself.
The last stop for the day was another viewpoint, this time to see all the volcanoes in the area. Around 5000m above sea level, a cold breeze and clouds so you actually didn’t see the volcanoes made sure that was a fiasco too. Sometimes you simply don’t have the luck with you and I guess that I could spent these 14 hours in a better way but hey, at least I saw a condor!
This will be a short post since I’ve been traveling for 23h in row now.
It all started with me checking out from my hostel and get the nightbus to Puno. As usual the bus hold a high standard but even so you don’t get a lot of sleep. Once I arrived I realized that my research was right and there is not much to do here.
A quick stroll through the city and then I jumped on a boat to the famous floating islands in Lake Titikaka, the highest navigable lake in the world. It was fun to see and we were even included inside their houses to see how they lived. Of course they wanted us to buy something from them in return but in this case I can accept it, after all they do something more than just trying to sell.
I am however sceptical to call it islands, it’s more like rafts but built by all natural which means they have to rebuild everything a couple of times per year. A bonus effect was the bouncing when you walked around on the island, that was cool.
After the tour I jumped on next bus, this time towards La Paz. This time it was not a tourist bus and let me just say that the 10 hour experience was not super fun. I did at least get some time to stretch my legs while I walked over the border to Bolivia and now, pretty exact 23h after I checked out I checked in on a new hostel, in a new city in a new country.
The city is located high up in the mountains and if that wouldn’t be enough its also hilly. You look at the map and think that’s not so far, I can walk but what you don’t see on the map is that is extremely steep, both up and down. From at have walked around 30 000 steps per day I am now down to only 14 000, still not bad for an old man like me.
The city is very beautiful in its own kind of way. Most of the houses are built with bricks and have no grout or color but then suddenly, just as someone has color bombed a specific area or house it change to bright colors.
The day was spent with trying to figure out how to find my way in the city since I will be here for some days. strolling around the small streets, checked out Witches market and hiked up to the viewpoint Mirador Killi Killi. With a almost 360 degree view over the city and surrounding mountains its an incredible view and well worth the hike.
I also visited a tour agency and attempt to re-schedule my trip. Apparently it is president election in Bolivia and both buses and flights are closed down. The days are running away and believe it or not, I actually have a time to suit.
Another day was spent strolling around in La Paz. This day was dedicated to try all kind of different street food and there is just as much as its good. Its really cozy with all the narrow streets and alleys here and suddenly you realize that the small shop you just entered is in reality a really huge one. Nothing here is built in the square and block architecture you are used to which makes it really cozy and nice to stroll around, but a pain to try to find your way.
A visit to the largest food market in the city, Rodriguez market almost ended up that I couldn’t find my way out. Its really huge and filled with everything from fruit and vegetables to clothes and cakes. A short comment from my side, I never seen as many different potatoes before in my life as here.
I took a lunch which in this country means a nice soap with bread, a large portion of rice and beef and a small ice cream for dessert on a restaurant I found on google. They recommended the food but warned that its expensive, it costed me around €6 including drinks.
After lunch I literally rolled over to the San Pedro prison. The prison is the largest in La Paz and has been nominated to the most dangerous prison in South America however for me its most known from the documentary/biography book El Choco. The book is really good and if you haven’t read it I can really recommend that you read it at once.
This prison is special and if you end up here the first thing you need to do is to buy yourself somewhere to live. If you are a drug lord you probably will buy a penthouse but if you don’t have any money you will end up in the sewer or on the streets. Previously there was unofficial tours into the prison and you could even spend a night there if you wanted to get the real prison feeling. The director of the prison was the replaced though and the new one effectively put this to an end. These days, if you wake up in the prison you know that you really fucked up.
The Yungas road was built by war prisoners during the 1930’s to connect La Paz with Coroico. The highest point is almost 4700 meter above sea level and it ends at only 330 m above sea level. It is a narrow, winding road built totally without any security in mind, the result is yearly between 200-300 deaths by year. This has given the road the nickname “The death road”.
These days there is a new, modern road which is both wider and safer you could take instead. This means that the old Yungas road is primarily used but tourist and cyclists like myself but Wikipedia is wrong. The old road is still open for traffic and it is still used by both cars and trucks, how they do if they meet another car or truck I have no idea about, the road is really, really narrow.
Myself decided to take and bike down the road. While getting shuttle to the top I should get a nice, cozy downhill trip with magical scenery, well that was the plan at least.
The first of the road is tarmac and to be honest quite boring, Its a a perfect opportunity to get to learn your bike though which I must say was way more modern and had a higher level of components than I thought. Somewhere around that we left the tarmac and went into the real Yungas road it started to rain, and what a rain. One of the main attractions on the road is that you actually drive through a waterfall, for us however it was no difference between the waterfall and the rain. The view which is supposed to be magical was, nothing since we were at the same altitude as the clouds. However you could look out, over the cliff and look down 3-400 meters.The surface of the road is hard packed gravel and stones/rocks, not really hard to bike on, it is really narrow though and on the right side you have a cliff wall and on the other it is just, nothing.
The death road lived up to its name and I think I did under under the worst conditions you can. As if the rain was not enough it switched to snow. Wet into the bones while the snow slowly fell down made me everything besides happy but I biked down and in the shuttle bus on the way back to La Paz I never felt more worthy of a beer.
President Election in Bolivia in not the same as in Sweden and if I knew about the election I would have rescheduled my trip.
Now it is like it is and I’m literally stranded here in La Paz. Every single bus, flight, tour, shop or restaurant is closed down and the besides the echo of boots of military and police in full riot gear the city is empty. Not even the doves who usually occupies the Plaza Murillo is here.
Everything is calm so far and the both candidates are so close that it will be another, second election. That means that I will get enough time to get out of here before all hell breaks loose.
The weather is at least good and my plan is to go to Uyuni for visiting the salt desert. It will be a long trip and probably without any internet but I will do a new post as soon as possible.
Since I’m already into visiting great things here in South America I thought I kind a had to visit the biggest salt desert on earth, Salar de Uyuni. However I am getting tired of travel around in minibuses so I decided to hire a motorbike instead and since all the backpackers are scrimp and counts every single cent it ends up that I was alone with the guide, perfect!
The desert is enormous, bigger than 10 000 km² and on my single day tour I only visited a small part of it of course. The most popular 3-day tour may be a bit to much but I think a 2-day tour would be perfect. With that you also have time to visit the surrounding volcanoes.
Desert is a strange word for this though, sure the surface is for sure a desert but below the 15-20 cm thick surface you actually got a 20m deep lake. The surface is really flat, containing salt and minerals and reminds me as a Swede a lot of ice. I must admit I did brake one or two times extra just because my brain thought I was driving on snowy ice roads which are slippery, but this time, no ice and no slippery surface but all the salt takes it tolls on the bikes for sure.
We drove around and checked out the classics though, the cemetery for trains for example. Normally you don’t use trains in South America however here they do since they need to transport all ore from close by mining’s and of course, salt to the ocean for further transport. We also visited the cactus island. This rocky island located pretty much in the middle of of the salt desert is an old volcano and its really cool to see both old lava, volcano rock and corals which clearly confirms that all this was once, many many years ago was under water, then global warming came. The whole island is covered in cacti and they grow roughly 1cm per year, that means that that 8m high cactus are close to 800 years old!
We finished the day doing some classic enduro riding. It so fun to just play around with the bike in deep sand, avoiding bushes and of course the wild lamas, guanacos. Using the railway embankment as a jump you could easily jump over the railroad tracks. In other words, this was a really, really good day!
Before I visited El Alto I took a detour to the biggest cemetery I ever seen. Here the culture is a bit different than back home and on the cemetery you celebrate and if you are sad or low there are shops available with both food and alcohol to make you happy. Every year there is a contest and the winner is allowed to do a mural on a wall, unfortunately I cant really capture the glow in these murals with my camera.
El Alto is a totally separate city with their own mayor for example but has grown so much that its actually bigger than La Paz now and the both cities are built into each other. Even if the city is big it still lack a lot of common infrastructure. For example, they are right now building the first shopping mall and it was just recently that they got their first cinema. They also have a very unique architecture and if they have money they love to build their houses to celebrate their idols, like Iron man.
You can also feel that there is a complete different feeling in this city, the street markets popup wherever and the “witches market” here is much bigger, more authentic and you can even find the witches here who will help you create a love potion or if you need to bless your house. However if you gonna bless your house it will be expensive and at least one whole, white lama will be sacrificed.
The easiest way to move between the cities are using the Teleferica (cable cars). For only 3 Bolivians you will silently swish through the air, over the cities with a beautiful view and with free WiFi. The other option is to use colectivos, a form of small minibus network which will be cheaper, only 2 Bolivians but it will take forever, the car honks, you got smog and you will get stuck in the traffic.
Even if I would love to see more of Bolivia I’m running out of days and there its now time to board the plane and head to Argentina.
Colonia del sacramento is a small town just beside Rio de la plata in Uruguay and apparently it is the oldest in the Country. The town was created by the Portuguese while they were colonizing south america and a few war later Spain took over, fast forwarding to today it is Uruguay.
The town is as I previously stated really small and to be honest, the modern part of the town is not much to see. According to Wikipedia the town has a population around 20 000 but it wasn’t these who dragged me to the town. Instead it was their historical part which according to rumors are supposed to be really good and they are even on UNESCO world heritage list.
Ok I haven’t been to Portugal yet but it do really feel like you arrived to a small, picturesque town close to the Mediterranean sea. Narrow streets, white and 1-floor only houses by stone, a lighthouse in the middle of the town and of course, packed with restaurants, bars and cafes. It is very touristic and you hear french, german and italian everywhere but I don’t really care, it is so nice to just stroll without a plan here.
But wasn’t my plan to go to Buenos Aires? Yes and that’s there I have my base for the moment however it is so good that you can take the express ferry and within 45 minutes you arrive in Colonia. With the town size in mind its perfect to go here as a day-project and the only negative thing i can recognize is that I now have 3 new stamps in my passport, that’s a whole side and Swedish passports do not have enough of pages, that’s for sure!
Wise from my experience from Bolivia me and Jonatan, a friend who I met in Buenos Aires took the night bus from Buenos Aires towards Posadas. A night later and we arrived, watched out over the parana river which is the border between Argentina and Paraguay. However our plans failed directly, the train that we were supposed to take to cross the border was of course shut down because of the election day. Instead we had to improvise and take a taxi. A bit more expensive than expected but still cheap and just a few minutes later we were on the safe side, in Encarnación.
Today is Sunday though and I have no idea why but every shop and almost all restaurants are closed here on Sundays. So yea, we got rid of the shut down but we have still nothing to do. Our plan to visit the old Jesuit ruins got spoiled by heavy winds and rain but at least we don’t have any stone throwing protesters or teargas shooting police here.
Encarnación is not a big city and even if most of the things are closed today we did find something to eat and a nice drink at Playa San Jose. In other words we had a very calm, relaxing day which mostly was strolling around in an empty city center. It was really like a ghost town with no other people around and when we entered the City Park it was almost creepy, more abounded feeling than I got of visiting Pripyat. Towards the afternoon the rain and wind slowed down and other people started to appear on the streets, feels better but almost everything is still closed.
Started the day really relaxing with breakfast and a walk toward the bus terminal to get some ticket for what I think would be an easy bus ride through Paraguay towards the border to Brazil, well…that didn’t happen.
To buy the ticket was no problem and we only had to wait one hour which were spend drinking Tereré, Paraguay’s national drink which has a strong taste of mint but is actually really tasty. Once the time closing in to departure one piece of shit bus rolled into the terminal and yes, that was mine.
Ive been spoiled with the buses in South America so this was a disaster, almost 39 degrees outside and I get a bus without air condition, rock hard seats and the toilet, well I didn’t even dared to visit it. I’ve never seen any time schedule in this country but according to wikitravel the bus ride should take about 4h, mine took 6h. Of course the shitty bus malfunction roughly half way and we had to wait for the next bus instead.
I have now crossed the country from south to north, started in Encarnación and ended in Ciudad del Este and even if i don’t regret the trip itself I cant really recommend anyone to do the same. Sure Paraguay is really beautiful with the green nature, huge farms and absolutely no tourists. The last thing may have a reason, there is nothing to do here. Sure the people are super friendly, the food is really, really good and its so cheap here bit still there is nothing to really do and you will get bored within a few hours.
That means I took my backpack and crossed the border to Brazil again. Tomorrow it will be to explore the Iguazu falls from the Brazilian side.
Mine and Jonatans hostel in Foz do Iguacu was not really a hostel, relative big room, private bathroom and we neither saw or heard any other guest made it felt like it was more a B&B than a hostel, but a really good one. The brazilian couple who run it was super nice and even if both the spanish and engling was struggling from both parts we made ourselves understood and I got a sweet breakfast and a hot water shower, I don’t demand more than that!
We spent the day checking out Iguazu Falls on the Brazilian side. The waterfall that actually is a system of 275 different waterfalls is classified as one of the wonder of nature and yes, its incredible beautiful at a must to visit. Still I cant resist feeling a bit meh about it. It is beautiful, the waterfalls are huge and impressive but I think I heard to much good things about this place and it simple cant live up to the hype
You can do a lot of research about the greatness of the falls but it is still only text, best if you can go over here and watch em yourself and get your own opinion like I did. The falls are big but not huge even if many many liters of water pass every second, the environment in amazing and if you are lucky you will spot a jaguar (I didn’t). However I did meet a few lizards and even a couple of friendly coat’s.
Tomorrow I will visit the falls from the Argentinean side, hopefully it will take my breath away but meanwhile I suggest that you go here yourself but try to keep the expectations down a bit.
As you might noticed I wasn’t really impressed by the waterfalls Iguazu Falls yesterday but since many recommends that you should start with Brazilian side and the move over to the more cool side, Argentina.
Of course I followed the recommendations and yesterday I once again crossed the border to Argentina. My passport is soon filled with stamps only from Argentina border crossings and at this morning after an descent breakfast I headed over to the falls again, this time on Argentina side.
The first thing to my mind is how much more exploited it is here, sure the bus from Puerto Iguazu to the falls is falling a part but once you get to the national park everything is really nice. Yes there is plenty of people but it still works really nice, even the queuing works. Once inside the area it is really tourist friendly and you have multiple options, there are trails for walking, trains to take you to the top and even boats you could join to get a really close experience from the falls (unfortunately it was fully booked) and well, in general everything is so much easier here.
We decided to start with “Devil’s throat“, the biggest fall and probably the main attraction of the park. To get here you will need to get the train since its pretty long to walk and there are no hiking paths. Well, once we were on the train we actually saw that you could walk just along side the railway but in 39 degrees I wouldn’t recommend it. Just take the train, its free anyway. Once you get to the top you still have to walk a bit but oh my god, yes its totally worth it! My skepticism towards the falls are gone and its finally feels like a true wonder of the world now. Yes there is plenty of people and you cant really catch it on camera but it is breathtaking
After we had visited what felt like the crown jewel we decided to hike the “lower walk“, a small hike for 2km which is fully prepared for disabled people (its an easy walk). To be honest I didn’t had any high expectations on this but to be honest this was almost even better. You get a really, really good overview of the falls and you also get close to some of them. The only thing I can possible complain on is the lack of animals, the coati are everywhere but besides that I didn’t saw much more than a few lizards and birds, a bonus though is that you actually saw the fishes through the crystal clear water
Argentina is a really good country to visit, the people are friendly, the food is really good even if I miss the street food culture. I mean when you just go up to a stand or a cabin on the street, buy something you really not sure what it is and get a true taste of the country. Argentina did however counter attacked with one of the hostels guests invited me to a Asado for my last night in Puerto Iguazu.
For you who don’t know what asado is and are to lazy to click the link I will briefly call it combined barbecue with a social event. It was a long time ago I had that amount of meat and to be honest, even the morcillas was really good, at least if you ate it together with some white bread to neutralize the blood taste a bit.
Argentina has its bad sides too though. Money is as many of you know a concern with their hyper inflation (53% in September, 2019) and the money you withdrawn one day may not be worth as much the next day. Another issue related to money is how to withdraw. After a lot of research I found out that in Argentina they use two different ATM systems, “link” and “banelco”. According to Internet banelco is best for foreign cards but my sources on site tells me to use link. Either way you never really know which ATM who will work and there is no guarantee that the machine who just worked will work again. As if that would not be enough of trouble all of the ATM’s I found has a withdrawn limit of 4000 pesos which is really not a lot and with a extra bonus, a withdrawal fee on 10-15%. In total that makes it actually harder and more expensive to withdraw money than to buy something.
Next problem is the reliability. Everything here is more or less 15-20 minutes late which includes the buses and flight. A few companies has corrected this by change their schedule to actually state departure time to 15 minutes before its actually depart, the problem is that you have no idea so you still have to go there and wait. Another issue that I found yesterday when my flight was delayed/canceled was the “mañana mentality”. I like the idea to not stress out but when you have a connecting flight it would be nice with some more information than “Im pretty sure another flight will be available in the future”. So annoying and my 4h flight ended up to be 16 hours instead before I finally ended up in Puerto Madryn.
Have only strolled around a bit today and its a cozy small town. Really beautiful with the beach and rocks/cliffs into the ocean. I was hoping to see a lot of animals but no luck so far. Hopefully it will be better tomorrow. Tonight the hostel is arranging a sea food evening with locally captured sea food, I doubt I ever want to leave this place!
Animals are fun and the more wild they are, the more fun it is. Because of that I decided to head out to the peninsula Valdés for some animals watching and I did not get disappointed.
The day started with a mini bus i heavy winds towards the peninsula, the possibilities for whale safari in the wind was very low so instead we aimed for the land-based animals. The nature reminds me of a desert with some smaller bushes and grass and it didn’t take many minutes before we spotted our first Guanaco, a form of wild camel. It appears that there are plenty of those here so it wasn’t that fun after a while. A little bit further ahead a nice armadillo welcomes us, he was a bit shy though and run of into the grass before I had time to take a picture of him. The maras did however pose properly and birds, yes there was plenty of birds but I have no idea what kind of birds.
Along the coastline we stopped by and said hi to a pack of magella penguins but the big enjoyment was the sea elephants who were laying on the beach. They are just as ugly as they are fat spend their days on the beach, burping and farting all day long and just simple enjoy life. They were quite noisy men incredible fun to watch and besides that they are the orcas favorite food. Glazing all over the sea to spot one but no, they must been somewhere else today.
After lunch the wind calmed down and the whale safari was on, happiness! Roughly 10 minutes into the safari we met our first mum with a new born. New born in this case is like three months old and both the mum and the kid was curious about our boat. Fun fact, the baby whale drinks roughly 200l of milk, everyday! Think about that next time you are breastfeeding your baby! A bit later we meet a bit older southern right whale, this one was approximately around 14m tall and the biggest challenge was how to capture it on photo.
The day after (in other words, today the next phase of my trip starts. However before that I had time to do what I think has to be the weekly highlight, snorkeling with sea lions. Sea lions are like the dogs of the sea, they are curious, playful and kind a brave in groups. Here they are completely wild and they do not use food or anything else to attract the sea lions, instead you just jump into the water and they will come out to you since they are curious of what and who you are. Unfortunately no pictures from this since my camera is not waterproof but it was so fun to swim around with them, play, pet and I even got a nice, wet kiss from one of the brave animals!
Now I will embark my ship towards Antarctica and that means it will be radio silence from me for a while but do not worry, I’m having a really, really good time!
Full of impressions after my trip to Antartica (which will get a own chapter) I am now back in Buenos Aires for a couple of days relaxing and exploring the city. I have spent some time here before and at that time I visited a couple of the tourist attractions you should do, like Cementerio de la Recoleta. A fancy graveyard, more like a necropolis where for example Evita is buried. Myself was more interested of seeing the necropolis though and one mausoleum is greater than the other one. Some of them even have glass or are open so you can see the coffins, a bit creepy but for sure real interesting to see and overall, very beautiful.
I also visited La boca before my trip to Antartica. Earlier this was a rough neighborhood probably mot famous for being the birthplace of tango but added some paint and KABOOM, now its a huge tourist magnet. No, I didn’t dance any tango and I didn’t pose on the balcony like all other tourists, instead I had a beer and looked on all the people of the streets, the houses, felt the atmosphere while chewing on a choripan, a sort of hot dog.
Today it instead was a tour to reserva ecologica, a marshy land which was built by the Argentinean military government a long time ago and today is a popular recreation area. You can bike, run, bird watch or just sit down at the shore to Rio de la Plata. Apparently there is supposed to be over 300 different species of birds here but I’m not a birder so I enjoyed the sun and the nature instead.
I also found ARA Uruguay today, the corvette which both saved the life and the expedition for Nordenskiöld. A story about a Antarctic expedition in the early twenty-century there most things went wrong but still has a happy ending, at least until a bus made sure that this is the end for Nordenskiölds adventures on a street back in Gothenburg.
The lunch today was meat buffet, no I’m not kidding. It was really a buffet with a big table of salad (who cares) and a barbecue with two or maybe three chefs there you simple handed over your plate and said which pieces you wanted. A problem for me who doesn’t speak Spanish but luckily they had pictures of both a cow and a pig with the name of the different parts, pretty clever and a real good deal for me! Maybe not a surprise I’m not back at the hostel, having meat-sweats and cant move but gosh it was worth it!
The idea of taking it calm and easy had to be held back in favor of exploring the river delta along Rio de la Plata. A bus trip later, changing to train which felt like taking forever but in reality was close to 1.5 hours only I arrived to the outskirts of Buenos Aires, in Tigre.
Of course it started to rain just as I arrived and my rain coat, yes that one I left at the hostel to minimize my luggage. It didnt stop me though from jumping on a catamaran to see the delta and luckily for me there was roof on the ship. The river/rivers had a brown, kind a nasty color but that didn’t stop the local from taking a swim and me who were expecting some sort of wilderness was a bit surprised that almost everything was exploited and there was housed everywhere. Piers and small summer houses everywhere and one was fancier than the other, I guess this is like what the archipelago is for people who live in Stockholm, a perfect getaway during the hot summer days. The other thing that makes me think is the amount of shipwrecks along the shore. At least from distance it looks like they are cleaned from everything that might have a value which would mean its not a environmental disaster but still a huge contrast toward the nice houses on the island on the opposite of the river. I like the mix but it is kind a odd for sure.
After checking Google Maps I decided to only take the train halfway back home and walk along the shoreline in some nice parks. A really good idea however these parks were not open for the public. Instead it was one park for the police, one for the navy and so on. Instead of a nice walk in the park I had to stroll between the highway and the barbed wire fence to the park, not what I had in mind but an experience for sure and I even met some local under a highway bridge. Homeless people is pretty usual to see here but these were just as happy and surprised to see me in their territory while they were making tea, wise from the story about the three billy goats gruff I however did not stop and had a chat with them, who knows how that would end!
Just as a coincidence I also reached Tierra Santa, a form of artificial Jerusalem in the middle of Buenons Aires. Everything here is plastic and made up, even the palm trees who actually grow wild in the city and yea, Im not really sure what this park is about. Unfortunately for me it is only open between Thursday and Sundays so I couldn’t enter and enjoy the spectacle but the small parts I saw while looking over the fences was really super tacky.
The end of my journey is getting close but first I have to visit the part of the city which everybody recommends me to go to, Palermo. Palermo is big and splitted up in several smallen districts like Hollywood and Soho where there is hipsters everywhere and the next bar if fancier than the other.
It feels a bit to come to a bigger version of Södermalm, Stockhom. Everybody compete about being different and unique without pushing the limits to far so you become weird. It just feels fake and very superficial but at the same time its nice to go from bar to bar and use one of the rooftops for a nice view and good beer. There are also a few really nice parks here like for example Parque Tres de Febrero which probably is one of the best parks ever to use for an date with its rose garden or the Japanese garden which in contrast to its cousin in Paraguay actually is a garden which makes me feel that I really like the area, just like Södermalm.
The evening was finished like an beer evening should be finished, with pizza. This time however it was different since I for the first time tried a vegan pizza. The bread and the tomato sauce was really good however the cheese substitute made of tofu was, different…to be nice.
To try to summarize my experience of Buenos Aires is hard, its a huge city which for sure has something for everybody. The Italian influence is strong but English works pretty good, it do however help if you speak Spanish. The security is good and I never felt unsafe anywhere in the city but at the same time, that is my experience of all of south america on this trip. I think the best way to describe the city is like a mix of New York and Barcelona, big, chaotic and totally, totally amazing
Whatever you want everything has an end and Im right now at the aiport for going back to the reality.
It has been some busy months here so in one kind of way it will be nice to go back to the ordinary routine with work – eat – sleep and then repeat but if it was possible I would grab my backpack and just continoue, but in a slower tempo since my brain is almost exploding of everything Ive seen and experienced.
In total I’ve seen two of the seven modern wonders of the world (Christ the Redeemer and Macchu Picchu) and two of the natural wonders of the world (Amazon and Iguazu Falls). It has plenty if nights at hostels, some luxury and top 3 of places I ever slept at while other has been real dump. I have been flying, rolling by train, I’ve been standing in the bow of the ferries and Ive been traveling by bus, a lot of time on buses. I knew before I left that the distances will be big but I couldn’t really imaging how big south america is and how long time all traveling actually take!
I have been eating like a king, even if that includes that I tried to eat both termites and guinea pig. I experienced a president election and the following riots, just as it is expected to be in a latin american country. I was introduced to the famous south american hospitality when I was invited to an Asado even if my Spanish is just as bad as their English was. I drank Caipirinha on the Copacabana beach, drove motorbike through the salt desert, hiking in the mountains and been eaten by mosquitoes in the jungle.
I have experienced pretty everything which I was hoping for plus more and met new friends from all around the world. It is a fact that people are more social and open here compared to us from northern Europe but that it should be so dangerous here, that’s just not true as long as you use your common sense!