More waterfalls?

Day 39 – Sat 16th March

Despite all Tracey’s hard efforts to sort out the Angel falls trip we admitted defeat & decided to catch an early bus to Ciudad Bolivar & try again when we got there. This was an all-day bus trip – fine for me with a good book, but Tracey was fidgety as ever.  Arrived, to be met by man who tries to sell us trip to Angel falls, no river trip but flight.  Agree a price & we get dropped off at our Posada – Amor Patrio – which was ok & on historic square, but with no locks.

All the restaurants appeared shut but Tracey managed to sweet talk a restaurant owner into opening up for us – great meal too; we tipped him heavily.

Since our attempts to book an Angel Falls tour are still proving unsuccessful, the latest being that we have to turn up to pay cash in Euros – er, you mention this now and think I brought Euros with me?!? The price seems to have doubled in Bolivares, thanks so much for your help Backpacker Tours! We decided to just GO to Ciudad Bolivar to try to arrange something, the dry season is not helping…

A man met us at the bus station trying to sell us a tour, have suspended cynical response to book, Keir really wants to go!

Day 40 – Sun 17th

Meant to be off to Angel falls early but cock up with their admin meant that we were now going Mon & the river was high enough to take a boat trip to falls – Hurrah & Huzzah!

Spent day looking around Cuidad Bolivar…saw the one horse!

Early rise for trip again, to be met with complete confusion, and attempts to charge us US$1300 for the trip we agreed for US$900 yesterday, suddenly all becomes clear when we realise the black market exchange rate for US$ is 3x the official rate – take note, my friends, bring dollars with you! Eventually agreed a bank transfer for less than either price for the trip sans boat (no water) with a flight over the falls – joy, I get to rise at 6am tomorrow too!

Early impressions of Ciudad Bolivar being a cute city are dashed within 20 minutes – there is a nice square, it is very small – we did check out the Orinoco though, it is sadly rather un-photogenic apart from the lightning (too) fast leap of the pink dolphin we spotted there.

I also learned from a local that the ‘universal’ hitchhiking gesture means something rather different in Venezuela, ha ha.

Day 41 – Mon 18th

Cool light aircraft flight to Canaima which is beautiful tannin stained lagoon fringed by numerous waterfalls.  We had a fun boat trip to falls, a swim & then a hike behind waterfalls – a fantastic experience. The highlight so far.

Angel Falls! And it has changed back to a 3 day tour with boat, I am made up as this is what I really wanted, am still slightly dubious about the company and expecting something to go awry, but all seems good – Keir and I get our own private plane, flown by the lovely Josan, out to Canaima, accompanied by several bottles of Coke, Lemonade and assorted packets of rice (no chickens). Some of the waterfalls are ex-waterfalls right now, but Jesus (our guide) took us to some others, we had a sort of swim, and walked behind Hacha Falls – pretty cool. Celebrated with an extremely expensive Cuba Libre in the only bar on the lake.

P1300545

Day 42 – Tue 19th

The trip up to the falls was very Apocolypse now – was hoping be able to do some pushing of the canoe up the rapids but the river level was slightly higher  & our boatman was unbelievably good… still not sure how he managed to drive the boat straight up some of those rapids…?!

The landscape was very stark &hugely impressive… the Tepui (rock plateau’s) just rose out of nowhere – very ‘Land that Time Forgot’.

Breakfast, then boat trip today, almost 6 hours, but no pushing! These guys are really good! Saw the falls, very high and not very strong – not a patch on Kaieteur really – but pretty, and there was a nice spot to hike to for a swim with a view.

Camp is very basic, no lights, no showers, no flushing toilets…. Had a moonlight bathe with Keir and our new friend Aron, the boys found it very romantic ;).

Amazingly managed to sleep in a hammock, despite Jesus’s lovely stories about tarantulas – happy to report that there were no spider incidents, just extreme cold.

Day 43 – Wed 20th

Boat trip back the next day was quicker, but equally as beautiful.  Very glad we did the trip – was definitely a great experience.  The Falls themselves were majestic, not a huge amount of water, but the beauty is in the trip itself.

Met some lovely people on the trip – Aron in particular gave us the low down on just about every country in Central & South America. Hopefully we’ll catch up with him in Mexico City where he lives.

Flight back was uneventful but gave as a great view over the country – much of which was very stark with thin green veins of tree lined streams ribboning the countryside.

Missed a picture of Aron wearing all his clothes for breakfast, including waterproof jacket with hood up, priceless.  I think he may have been even colder than me…

Pictures: Angel Falls & Canaima, Venezuela

Day 44 – Thu 21st

Early morning taxi to pick up the bus our Posada owner had assured us was leaving at 0930 to find that there weren’t any that day at the company she called the night before & confirmed with…. The next one didn’t have any going either…. Finally we found one going 45 mins later than planned.

This was easily the most uncomfortable journey to date – broken seats, no aircon, crammed in…. I knew my day was going to go any better when the biggest man in NATO sat next to me at the back of the coach & wallowed over me…. A hot, sweaty 6 hrs & not in a good way!

Arrived at Puerto la Cruz with no accommodation & scarce money, but quick bit of negotiation by Tracey sorted out a room & a quick illicit trade of dollars… cushtie!

I think it best to view the bus trip back to Puerto la Cruz as an experiment in weight-loss, I have never sweated that much in the sauna, an effect unfortunately negated by the $5 chocolate covered ice cream I was forced to eat in order to cool down.

 Day 45 – Fri 22nd

Tracey checked our flight again in the morning to find that it’d been moved back by nearly 12 hrs.  Taxi to the airport was booked so we checked in & spent the day wasting time in nearby Barcelona .  That really summed up Venezuala – nice people but poor organisation & indifference.  Not on my ‘To do again’ list.

Panama – now that’s a completely different story…

Avior airlines – I am far from happy! At least Keir agreed we could leave the airport and go into town this time, I don’t think he could face 11 hours of me being as bored and annoying as I was in Sao Paolo!

The fact that the flight was actually delayed beyond the ‘new’ time would only have exacerbated matters – fortunately a nice man in the airport shop responded to my cheeky request to use his wifi and this kept me mildly amused.

Nice new hostel in Panama City, at which we arrived EXTREMELY late. Got drunk on half a bottle of red wine to get over the trauma – where has my alcohol tolerance gone?

Pictures: Barcelona, Venezuela

Day 46 –Sat 23rd

Mamallena’s Hostel in Panama City felt like the first real hostel we’d stayed in – lots of backpackers & beers!

Went & got our onward bus tickets to Boquete near the Panama/ Costa Rica border and then  up to see the Miraflores lock on the Panama canal – impressive bit of engineering (Adam, Dave & Martin would have been dissecting it for hours…. No elevators though Ad!)

Saw a couple of yachts make their way through & then, as we were catching the bus back, saw an enormous liner squeezing its way through.

Late afternoon was spent walking through the old part of the city – Casco Viejo. It was a little bit like Havana in that beautifully pristine restored buildings were alongside crumbling slums.  A lot of time & effort is obviously going into restoring this quarter though to attract the tourist dollar.

Panama City is very different to my expectations, if I had any (?), skyscrapers combined with old colonial buildings, some newly restored, some crumbling ruins. Interesting.

Actually, interesting is a good word for the ease with which one might catch a bus – we wandered for around half an hour being directed from place to place to bus a bus card so that we could catch the bus, before yielding to the temptation of a cab -so it seems you have to take a taxi to get to the bus station to buy a ticket for the bus…. Then, of course, the bus we actually needed was one where you just paid the driver, for Christ’s sake!

Pictures: http://www.flickr.com/photos/74052983@N00/sets/72157633118605886/

Day 47 –Sun 24th

Arrived early in Boquete, after the overnight bus from Panama City.  Immediately felt very relaxed & chilled. Boquete is a beautiful highland town near the border with Costa Rica.  A backpacker centre for hiking, watersports, etc.

Birdsong fills the air 24/7 & it’s a perfect temperature.  We stayed in a different Hostel Mamallena again having liked its sister hostel in Panama City.  This one was even better – a converted wooden house right in the centre of the town.

Had an energetic walk up hill & down dale to see a beautiful garden – it was closed (doh!!) &  a nice meal out in the evening.

This may be one of the best hostels we stayed in, friendly staff, perfect location and fantastic room with private bathroom – hooray! (The need to convince ourselves we are slumming it sometimes means otherwise).

Had a fabulous, huge breakfast at Café del Encuentro. Yum.

Day 48 –Mon 25th

We had to re-organise our itinerary at this point as the ensuing Easter break meant that travel between countries was getting all booked up.  As ever, my Travel agent – the beautiful Miss Tracey Cox – came up trumps by getting us flights direct to Mexico city from San Jose, Costa Rica. So went into David to book our onward bus tickets to San Jose.  Timed it wrongly so we arrived as the ticket office shut for lunch – bum!  That meant the afternoon trip to the hot springs was out.

Met a very nice Englishman, Gary, who owns the laundry – amazing what talented people you meet in such remote places.  Boquete was full of Americans – either backpackers or retirees – who come here for the cheap cost of living & for the lovely climate.

Managed to see bugger all of Boquete again, apart from the inside of another very hot bus! This was a local one, so I guess aircon was out, however even the aircon buses don’t seem to actually use it??! Maybe there has been a successful backlash against the freezing temperatures I was led to expect by Lonely Planet et al…

Day 49 –Tue 26th

Last day in Boquete so we decided to do an organised tour to do all the things we hadn’t managed to do over the previous 3 days – hike to some waterfalls, canyoning & visit to the hot springs.

In light of our unsuccessful attempts to experience the beautiful scenery and multiple activities that Boquete has to offer, we decided to bite the bullet and pay for an all day tour, a quick hike to some bloody freeeezing waterfalls – Keir & I were the only two foolhardy enough to try it – followed by a slightly warmer river at the canyon, I was too chicken to jump in, and when I missed the photo opportunity of Keir mid-jump, he refused to do it again for some reason… Finally some super-hot hot springs and another monkey! This one an affectionate, yet impertinent, spider monkey called Cheetah, who decided to sneak up on us while bathing in an attempt to abscond with our water…

 

To Trinidad & Beyond…

Day 33 – Sun 10th

Kaieteur falls – We hey! Reputedly the highest single uninterrupted drop falls in the world (Angel falls is just the highest with a few bumps on the way down).

Flew out to the falls on a Cessna 820 ‘Caravan’ – saw the falls from the air then swooped down onto a mountain top runway – got front seats so I could see him fly… brought it all back to me… (Uncle Albert moment there!) .

This is impressive- Looks like a table where the table top of hard rock pours a mighty sheet of water down into the ether.  The rock has been worn away underneath so this projects out 20-30 foot enabling the water to drop, uninterrupted into the gaping chasm below.  Ignore the words – just look at the pictures.

Even managed to see the elusive Golden tree frog hiding in the water of the Bromeliad – cute little buggers.

Spent the afternoon chilling in a hammock on Baganara Island in the middle of the Essequibo river – this is the life!

Hooray, Kaieteur at last, even if the bloody tour company wouldn’t take me to Orinduik falls too. It was amazing and powerful, was torn between the urge to get closer and the fear of falling over the edge – totally worth doing. In contrast, Keir seemed strangely eager to hunt down poisonous frogs that might leap out at him from a giant bromeliad – a different idea of living dangerously, perhaps?

Baganara afterwards, great food, but the promised swimming not really possible in the 5ft by 15ft space they had roped off – despite my lifelong inability to swim more than a couple of short lengths – never mind, I contented myself with a gin and tonic instead  :)

Kaieteur

Day 34 – Mon 11th

Early flight to Trinidad & Tobago L. 

Pearl’s guesthouse was ok – rotten floorboards everywhere, covered in linoleum to cover the decrepitude. Friendly staff though & got all our washing done – almost like a ‘make & mend’ afternoon.

We were hoping to head to the Mangrove swamp trip that afternoon & then the Pitch Lake the next day, however admin slowed us down & we had to make a choice between the two – pretty birds won out…. As ever!

Another shockingly early start, 2:30am!!! Interestingly, the banging and generally awful music blaring out from the clubs opposite is still going, this reminds me of the ‘apres ski’ club we considered, and swiftly declined, in Sweden.

Got flight, to new (filthy) hostel – at least they had excellent wifi, washing machines we could make full use of, and helpful staff – more than I can say for the complete waste of space at the Ministry of Tourism, who seemed unable to even impart details of how to get around the city she lived in…

Post MoT, wasted an hour waiting for a distinctly absent bus before meeting some nice old ladies who directed us around the corner for the maxi-taxi, which came and took us to the ferry port in seconds -how bloody frustrating – must chat to more octogenarians, clearly

Day 35 – Tue 12th

Spent the morning rushing round the town to get the major sites in before heading off for a Mangrove swamp tour – just managed to see them all before hopping in a maxi taxi which dropped us off on the side of the dual carriageway. A quick vault over the central reservation,  a dash across the road & we made our pick up in ample time.

The tour around the mangroves was very chilled – highlight was watching scarlet Ibis’s heading home to roost at sunset on an isolated island. At a distance they looked like hundreds of ‘fluttering scarlet butterflies’ – beautiful.

Pearl’s has a kitchen – poached eggs, hooray! Though I was absolutely starving whilst haring around the few sights that Port of Spain has to offer, and may have been a bit snappy with Keir….oops. The birds were amazing – beautiful colour – if a little quick and distant to capture on camera. Similar difficulties with the sleepy silky anteater, you will have to take my word for it.

Trinidad

Day 36 – Wed 13th

Up early again to catch the ferry to Güiria in Venezuela – more sea time…but no pay.

Tracey befriended an old lady (Elsa) next to us & her grandson (Javier) who was in Trinidad training to be a professional footballer – didn’t get to teach him any of my silky skills… his loss obviously!

Fortunately our new friends looked after us when we got to Venezuela & helped us change money & get a coach to Puerto La Cruz.  All the info that Tracey had carefully gathered from a hundred & one different sources turned out to be incorrect- so a last minute call from a cheap telephone shop sorted out new accommodation for that night & cancelled the old one. Tracey’s Spanish was starting to pay dividends!

We bought Elsa & Javier lunch to thank them.

Arrived at 1 in the morning in Puerta la Cruz & quick taxi to our hotel – no wifi but a bed & shower… we both crashed out for what was left of the night.

In accordance with my new plan of befriending the locals, I met a lovely Venezolana lady called Elsa on the boat – amazingly kind and helped us massively, even lending us money to catch the bus – thanks Elsa & Javier!

Bloody bus got in 2 hours late though, and no internet at hotel :(, at least we didn’t have to break in…

Tracey, Keir & Elsa Keir, Tracey & Javier

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Day 37 – Thu 14th

Changed from this most basic of hotels to Hotel Neptuno on the waterfront – bit better quality with at least decent WIFI.  Nice breakfast & spent the day looking around & doing admin.

Fresh melon juice without added sugar? It seems that a rise type 2 diabetes is a common trend through South America and the Caribbean, I wonder why?

Day 38 – Fri 15th

Still trying to sort out trip to Angel Falls & accommodation but as this seems to be taking a while, we ended up doing a trip in the afternoon to Cumana & the Araya Peninsular in a Por Puesto (shared taxi – old 70’s Buick/ Chevy). Trip across & back was fun in a Tapaito – basically a long, thinboat with 4 ruddy great big engines strapped to the back – like a marine version of a rocket ship!

Saw the most expensive fort the Spanish built overlooking some salt flats –however, bit disappointing as we didn’t really have much time there due to the journey plus an overlong wait for lunch.

Looked quickly round Cumana & headed home.

Fun trip to Araya, Puerto la Cruz is not that interesting, involving small, multi-engined boats, jeep-style busetas, and a quick current dragged swim – these must count as new methods of transport !

Suriname to Guyana

Day 24 – Fri 1st Mar
Spent the day exploring Paramaribo – a nice Dutch fort (even Tracey liked it; which might explain how I actually got to see it this time!), beautiful wooden cathedral built in 1885 – apparently the biggest wooden structure in the world), plus lots of run down wooden houses… Tracey acted like a Japanese tourist – as Flickr will no doubt show!
At last we have found a place that’s cheap & has a large selection of different types of food due to the racial melting pot that Suriname is (Afro Caribbean/ Hindi/ Amerindians/ Maroons, etc).

Whilst relaxing by the pool later Tracey struck up a conversation with a lovely American lady (Phyllis) who was in Suriname on a Peace Corps job. It turns out we were all off the next day to see the turtles laying their eggs; we joked how funny it would be if our paths crossed on our tours…

I am still a little nervous about safety in Paramaribo, but risked taking the camera out for the gorgeous church, no incidents.

 

Day 25/ 26 – Sat 2nd / Sun 3rd
Hopped into the transport the next morning fresh for our tour to Galibi to see the turtles & who do we find ourselves sitting next to… Phyllis, with her two friends Kim & Talitha.

Had a great trip up country, a quick boat trip across into French Guiana to St Laurent du Maroni to see the deserted prison there & then up the coast in a motorised dug-out canoe. Felt very ‘Apocalypse now’ sliding past the dense vegetation.

There was a poor example of a zoo at the other end (lots of small wooden prisons) but the zoo keeper & our guide’s (Halley) enthusiasm with the animals was infectious. 3 hand reared monkeys stole the show as the jumped from shoulder, to tree to head constantly bickering & playing with each other out in the open. There were also some cute Ant Bears as well just running around, but you had to keep clear of their sharp claws.
It was fantastic getting so close up & personal with the animals & the village obviously needs the money to survive, but some of the animals were in piteously small cages. Supposedly the money we all donated as an entrance fee is going towards bigger & better facilities for the animals; but time will tell…

Darkness saw us head up river & we managed to see 2 Green (aka Soup or Kepi) turtles laying their eggs. Quite amazing when you consider that these huge (1.35m & 250 Kilos) animals drag themselves up the beach, dig a nest, lay their eggs, cover the nest then build a fake nest next to it before heading back out to sea; a process that can take over 3 hrs! They go into a trance when they start laying & you can go quite close without disturbing them – as long as you don’t use flashes or make a lot of noise. Halley was very protective of them & we spent a minimal amount of time around them.

Funnily enough, having spent all that time going up the estuary to find a turtle, when we got back there was one nesting literally right next to the village!

We’d recommend Halley as a guide to anyone.

I think Tracey loved the female company for the weekend – the girls were often lagging behind talking about things that would generally only get a grunted reply from me!

I know the trip was all about the turtles, but highlight of the trip for me was those pesky Minkeys!!! Even went back to say bye before we left.

Had great fun with the minkeys and our new friends, I even managed to squeeze in a small amount of shopping . The turtle laying it’s eggs was really amazing, I hope the pictures worked, hmm, dark and with no flash…

Day 27/ 28 – Mon 4th / Tue 5th
Highlight of Mon was going to the Paramaribo ‘Hash’ – Scooter boy & Wimpey would have been proud of me. Had a good run around in the heat with Dave (a friend of Talitha), whilst Tracey & Talitha gossiped their way around some way behind us. Whilst I got away without an initiation ceremony as an experienced Norfolk Hasher (Scooter Boy – back me up on this one), the Hash master wasn’t to miss out on his fun as Dave & I had made the unmitigated mistake of coming out in new trainers… so we both drank half a pint out of our sweaty trainers!

We rushed back from that to have a lovely meal with the entire crowd from the Galibi trip – some real friends made there.

Last bit of sight-seeing on Tue… in particular the mosque & the Synagogue sitting right next door to each other & sharing their car parks when required… if only other countries could take note…

In my own inimitable fashion I turned up at the hash in completely unsporty clothing having put everything else into the laundry this morning. Talitha told me we were walking the hash, she lied. Oh well, have now proved that I can run in a dress and sandals…

Day 29/ 30 – Wed 6th / Thu 7th
Trip to Brownsberg nature reserve & Stone Island – a hairy trip up slippery mountain tracks in a front wheel drive Toyota van… I thought that we were going to get stuck at times.

Nice hike, beautiful scenery, animals & waterfall (but no bathing); saw the rainforest in its natural element (i.e. the rain!) & narrowly avoided being bitten by a venomous snake whilst I looked at the frog it was hunting!

We had marked our 3rd anniversary together (even I can remember that one!) , after a bottle of wine in celebration, we went to bed early by the light of fireflies, to awake early the next morning to see sunrise over lake Brokopondo from our lodge steps.

Trip was slightly spoilt by a huge admin cock-up by the organiser which meant that the guide didn’t know we were on a 2 day trek with an overnight stay at Stone island… lots of unhappy calls finally sorted it; a refund when we got back… however the guide (Elton – who was disappointed to find out his namesake’s real name was Reginald Dwight) was really wonderful in helping to sort it.

Met a Canadian that was even higher maintenance than I am on the trip, good to know I am not the only one! Trip and guide was great, food at Stone Island was stone cold (presumably not an intentional comparison), but we made up for it with a bottle of wine . The place is really beautiful, lots of grass covered huts and a lake full of standing bare tree trunks, took a million pictures of the dawn.

An interesting ride back with the driver drinking Parbo beer and watching DVDs on the passenger sunvisor – clearly there are differing views on health & safety here.

Day 31 – Fri 8th
Finally left Paramaribo in Johnny’s taxi’s minibus at 4.30 in the morning. Sorry to see the back of it, the town was fairly run down but the people were friendly & the atmosphere was typically Dutch & relaxed.

I think Johnny is some ‘Hunter S Thompson’ character on a Fear & Loathing road trip… the country flies by in a 150 Km/hr blur, only pausing for occasional speed bumps. We finish the 4hr trip by screeching to a halt at the Ferry to Guyana only narrowly missing a rival minibus that he cut up in the last 15m to the Ferry! Lots of loud arguing & questioning of parenthood go on whilst we wait patiently for the slowest passport queue in Christendom… I’m sure I’ll rue those words later on…

Quick ferry across into Guyana & we pick up Champ taxis at the other side; aka ‘Fatman’ to everyone (HBJ boys – this is where he ran off to after managing the Blue Jays!).

After 5 minutes in the taxi it becomes apparent that Fatman can’t drive… he alternates aggressively between accelerator & brake, honking anything that moves… even imaginary pink elephants that appear before him…. Damn we are back in ‘Hunter S Thompson’ land again – it’s ‘Rum Diaries’ this time.

The man doesn’t seem to have any spatial awareness & seems to take an immense age for his fat cranium to calculate the rel. vel. between vehicles, so we are constantly arriving at the overtaking point as some huge juggernaut meets us coming from the opposite direction.

My suspicions are borne out at our first drop when he attempts a 3 point turn using a wooden bridge behind us (this is not a difficult manoeuvre – even Bignoseo could do it!); only for him to miss the bridge completely with one wheel & drop the minibus onto its shocks…. We are now suspended over a drainage ditch with one back tyre free-wheeling.

Obviously a fast exit ensued, followed by a complete farce as everyone came out to watch as we tried to release the minibus from its impending doom. The Fatman continued to be a complete buffoon ignoring our many explanations & attempts to release his vehicle.

Picture the Keystone Kops scene, another traveller & I are down in the bottom of the ditch using bit of wood to try & jack the minibus up & get wood underneath the back wheel for purchase whilst ‘Fatman’ defeats our every effort by sporadically putting his foot down & jetting this wood off into the small river/ sewer. Eventually, after much gesticulation & foul language from yours truly, he gets the idea that I don’t want him to touch the accelerator, let alone remain on this planet any longer, & I get everyone to push the vehicle back onto firm footing whilst we jack it up from below.

We finished the journey in the same madcap fashion & then the ‘Fatman’ has the audacity to give us his card…?!!! I’m about to explain to him about driving tests, glasses & where he can put his card when he mentions that he knows our new landlady…. Obviously discretion being the better part of valour, I offer him my heartfelt felicitations, suggest he gets the underside of his vehicle checked & assure him that if we need his services again we will call!

Another interesting drive, the highlight of which is my sitting in the middle front (extra high) seat of a minibus with nothing to hold onto while the driver assures me I don’t need the missing seat belt and then proceeds to driver at 120kmh by elbow whilst trying to light his fag, a couple of unprepared birds fall victim to his unrelenting quest for speed… I am fascinated to note the drive gets hairier with Fatman driving us at the other end, but at least the avian casualty rate was lower. Sadly I didn’t get a picture of Keir pushing the van.

Day 32 – Sat 9th
Spent the day seeing all of Georgetown’s sites… so what to do with the afternoon….!

Dragged Keir around the whole of Georgetown in an effort to see everything before it got dark, and rather more edgy. Saw another very nice wooden church, this one apparently the tallest wooden structure, there are some nice wooden houses too, but not much else to see. Went to the big hotel (Pegasus) thinking we could get some decent cocktails, sadly that did not appear to be the case – overpriced drinks with surly service – I think the barman took exception to my questioning the lack of real strawberry juice in the strawberry Margarita… where is Gabriel when you need him?

From Ilha Grande to Suriname

Day 19 – Sun 24

Bloody wifi is not working, arse, only one computer at the hotel and it moves at a snails pace as I had to apologetically explain to the queue after seeming to hog it for half an hour, and all I wanted to do was to check in for a flight and check my email for Kaieteur falls trips!

We found a beautiful walk involving forest trails, a bathing pool, a waterfall (more bathing and cooling opportunities) and 2 beaches, it reminded me of the lovely walk Helen took us on in Trinidad, Cuba. And we saw more sagui minkeys! There were 3 sitting on a branch right next to us – I wonder if I can fit one in my pocket …

Ate and then met our new friends for far too many caipirinhas, Jesus they are strong, I had 3 and a Spanish measure G&T and have only hazy (but good) memories of most of the evening.

Today was definitely the best day to date.  Trekking through forest, swimming in ice cold pools & waterfalls, finding beautiful beaches & then getting uproariously drunk with our new friends – splendid!

Ilha Grande

Day 20 – Mon 25

Woke up feeling terrible, am reminded of Withnail’s immortal comment;  ”I feel like a pig shat in my head”. I should definitely stop drinking.

We found another walk today, not as nice as yesterday’s, there were a distinct lack of cooling down spots for the first 2 hours, but then we found a little pool followed by the most beautiful beach at Dois Rios, freshwater rivers at either end of the beach feeding into the sea, definitely worth it. We saw a bigger monkey on the way too, too quick for the camera unfortunately.

The 2hr trek up a mountain in the midday sun with a hangover definitely wasn’t a highlight, but the beach definitely was beautiful & lovely with the mix of salt & fresh water from the rivers – be great to sail round here…

Day 21 – Tues 26

Off to Paraty today, another Easy transfer, much better this time, but what the last driver lacked in caution, was overcompensated by this one, arrived late to find that no-one would answer the door to the hostel. I had to break in through the window, I think I may have missed my vocation!

Found a nice place for a not very cheap dinner, how overbudget have we gone in Brazil, I wonder?

Transfers are definitely crap; sent us to the wrong place even though I pointed out on the map that it was the wrong address.  Wheeled rucksacks definitely passed their test as they bounced over heavy cobblestones.

Had fun boosting Tracey through a window I managed to lever open to get into the guest house – those formative years in East London are starting to provide dividends!

Beautiful town that gets washed through by the spring tides so the streets become mini rivers – they then have to sweep away all the mud.  We’ve just missed one but saw all the resulting silt.

Paraty

Day 22 – Wed 27th

Another bloody Easy transfer, at 11:30am, hardly worth going really. Managed to hare around town in 15 minutes, it is tiny, but beautiful, I am sad that we did not get to do a jeep or schooner tour, there are hundreds of little islands within an hour of Paraty apparently.

The lightening tour showed that we were right not to stay too long here, but would have been nice to sit & chill in the laid back atmosphere.  Historic centre house (not Hostel; as we were constantly redirected to that on!) left a little bit to be desired… rickety staircase upto a huge attic room with a roof that leaked… I was itching to get my tools out.

I am not recommending Easy transfers, we went via Ilha Grande where we had to get off that bus and hang around for about 40 minutes while an utterly disorganised rearrangement of transferees took place – it really shouldn’t have been difficult… at least we got to see all our Ilha Grande friends again and the driver did get us to the airport in plenty of time – sadly nowhere to eat a non-meat and gluten smack at Santos Dumont, have had a very healthy meal of crisps and ice cream again L

Easy transfer – easy money… idiots. Driver kindly ensured we got to the airport on time but their organisation was poor.

Day 22/23 – Wed 27th/Thu 28th

Arrived in Belem early in the morning, unfortunately could not find the hotel we had booked and when we started driving around the back of some dodgy garages with burnt out cars Keir took matters in hand and got the driver to take us to the Ibis – a relatively posh night for us with an extensive breakfast, eggs!!! Got the flight to Suriname and found every single ATM was temporarily out of order… we eventually managed to get a small shop to change enough dollars to get us to town, though we have no bloody way to check the exchange rate, oops, not very prepared…

I’m sure the Hostel would have been great had we found it… but outside the front door wouldn’t have been. To be fair we were due a dud; Tracey’s done a great job organising everything but it’s always a bit of a gamble until you get there.

We learnt a lesson to be better prepared when we arrived in Suriname having not sorted out a bit of currency & checked out the transport options from the airport.  No harm done- apart from to the wallet but we are now starting the country hopping.

Zin resort & Hotel looked to be another interesting choice when we pulled up – but how looks can be deceptive. Nice room with shower & aircon, very friendly staff (Marischa/ Sing) & owner, a bar & good food plus a pool to boot… think I’ll spend the rest of the year here!

Our pool seems to be a hang-out for all the Dutch interns who come over to Paramaribo… & often end up staying.  All I can say is BINGO, Ding Dong!

week 3 – the last of Brazil

Day 14 – Tue 19th
Caught the Ferry to Niteroi to add one more means of transport  – was hoping to catch the Hydrofoil but they didn’t appear to be running it. Then spent the rest of the day walking around Centro in Rio looking at the beautiful, faded grandeur of their architecture; had coffee & the obligatory ice cream in a beautiful coffee house (Confeitura).
Most unexpectedly walked into the Royal Portuguese library to find a room that could have jumped out of any of the Harry Potter’s – beautiful décor, rows of books in a vaulted room…. Just the type of library I see Tom & I sitting in… Leather backed chairs, open fire talking of Lions, Tigers & scary monsters & getting terribly, terribly drunk!

I have to say that Centro was a lot less scary in the week, we had accidentally ended up taking that route on Sunday to see homeless people wandering around and starting fires in the street… am feeling a lot more safe and at home in Rio now, it doesn’t feel any less safe than London, though we are still being wary…

Day 15 – Wed 20th
Sitting at breakfast when a fruit crashed to the floor next to us & then the trees were awash with these cute Sagui minkeys – Tracey obviously reached for the camera & photographed them to death. Sagui monkeys
Bit more touristy stuff in the day & then, bye bye Rio then as we headed off on our first overnight bus trip to Ouro Preto – a beautiful UNESCO protected town back up in the hills built during their gold rush.
Glad we saw Rio but can’t say that I was blown away by it.

Bit of an exaggeration there, actually made Keir photograph them due to me loading pics at the time , but they are the cutest animals I have ever seen – Kirsten, they are cuter than quokka, though probably naughtier too!

Day 16 – Thu 21th
Thumbs up on the overnight bus trip – nearly full reclining seats & fairly comfortable.
Ouro Preto- was built up hill & down dale; lots of cobbled streets, churches (can’t move for them) & beautiful buildings. Stayed in a converted school & we were about the only people in it.
Highlight for me was a tour around a small, disused gold mine by the campest Trannie you might meet (apart from Kirky of course!).

Stayed in a cool labyrinthine pousada called Vila Rica with a very nice host, due to my poor sense of direction I managed to get lost several times on the way to the room… I am a bit churched out now.

Ouro Preto Pictures

Day 17 – Fri 22nd
Up early & only just caught the Train to Mariana…. Story of our life… it’s obviously Tracey fault… I mean I’m always on time!
Meant to be a cho cho train, but a diesel – slight disappointment, but the trip was suitably rickety with spectacular views.
Mariana was pretty, with one spectacular looking church & a particularly nice square we had lunch around but the train was the real reason to come here.
Overnight bus back to Rio to pick up transport to Ihla Grande – a beautiful island just South of Rio.

The train was a beautiful old one with wooden carriages, though I too was disappointed at the lack of steam. Mariana is a pretty town, though not too much to do other than MORE churches, the journey is definitely worth doing 

Mariana Pictures

Day 18 – Sat 24th
Met a lovely lady at the Che Lagarto hostel where we picked up the transport to Ilha Grande who let us have breakfast there & use the free Wi Fi – restores your faith in humanity.
The last sentiment was rather spoilt by the late & lousy transport taking us to Island – an hour and a half late, drove like a maniac, no time for a lunch break & couldn’t pick up any money at the ATM before we got on the ferry… easytransfers.com – I don’t think so!
One good thing was we met some wonderful people in the minibus & now have some good new friend – Tobey, Mike & Cailey, Nadine & Kristoff, Harry & Bleunie.
For all Tracey’s girlfriend’s – Tobey (Welch) lives in London, will be appearing on my Facebook shortly & gets 4 stars…! Enough said, sure you can invite him out to some of the many events you are all organising now that Oberfuhrermeister Cox is on her travels…

Staying at the Overnativa in Ihla Grande, we have a room with a balcony and a fridge – hooray! Unexpectedly we get breakfast too! We had a lovely dinner on the beach after I persuaded Keir to share some Bahian shrimp moqueca with me, yum.