Thursday, December 06, 2007


Today is the 4th death anniversary of my grandfather Reggie Candappa, but it feels like he was here with his sparkly smile just yesterday. I try not to think of the day he died, because that is not what its about though it is a day I believe I still haven't come to terms with. Maybe I never will and thats just how it is. But today is an important day because it reminds us all that he was the most amazing, fascinating and heartwarming person we'd have the pleasure of knowing.

Every time I hear a bellowing booming laugh, I think of him... or when I see a bald head. Or when I see a tree full of different coloured leaves, paintings, hear Mozart, see a homeless person (because he used to always give them money) and a trillion other things. My wonderful Seeya.

the time machine

holy moly. Today is last day of work for a month, and this is because Lee and I fly off to Sri Lanka on Saturday morning for our wedding! Whoooopppeeeee! Honestly I have no way to express how happy, excited, nervous and psyched I am.

Monday, November 19, 2007

the band band land

Saw my mates play a super gig last night - was at Fiddler's Elbow and they put on cool nights where they get up and coming bands on stage. This band has just a sort of come together at the last minute, they play with their own official bands but are friends and have rehearsed a few times but have super lyrics! And good stage presence. Unfortunately Alex, my friend, left to Sweden today and he's the drummer - London loses another!

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

and finally...

I couldn't think of a funny caption. the pressure was too much. Soharni and I having a discussion about something crucially important no doubt.

more photos

Roger More couldn't take the tube whipping pressure from Lauren. I was handcuffed to him for most of the night.

Katharine about to sing - and I think the sake was kicking in right about now.

more hen night humiliation

The gorgeous Kayla, Ella and Elsie - some of the stars of the show from the hen weekend!

Japanese Karaoke Bar:

Lots of sake and cheesy videos, this was the second stop of the night of debauchery!

Monday, November 12, 2007

A now fragile hen

My hen night was an absolute blast - Tasha and Aushi went to town with it, it was incredible. Plus the girls who came, they made the night! Starting at 1pm in the afternoon, we had a 2 hour pole dancing and burlesque strip lesson by a very nubile and hot teacher. Well she had a hot body and could grip the pole like none I have seen before!
Couple of bloody mary's later and I was flying around the pole in my high heels and lacey hold ups, but clearly Ella and Lauren were the stars of that show.

Afterwards, we had a delicious and fun 3 hours getting tanked up on champagne, yummy and spicy Lankan curry and some hilarious chat, just hanging out at Aushi's... it was super fun getting dressed up, because I was given my outfit for the evening - a drag queen tranny, complete with electric blue PVC high heels, trashy lingerie dress, heavy make up, blonde wig and well, you get the picture (or see it above). I was horrified at first but figured, one ought to get into it - after all how often does that happen? The rest of my buddies dressed up looking very foxy and we set out to mystery destinations that they had planned out for the rest of the evening - Japanese Karaoke bar (sake! sake!) where we sang to our hearts content, another cocktail bar, my old haunt - The Lux Bar in Hoxton Square, where I ended up on the stage alone with another random dude, and Helena passed me the whip and well the rest is a rather bad yet hilarious Madonna style performance. It was kick ass fun.

Thanks to Tasha - my lovely sister who made such a huge effort to make it such a special weekend, and it was more than I could have imagined! Also thanks to Aushi - you were so generous with your flat. And to the rest: Soharni, Emily, Kayla, Lauren, Helena, Elsie, Ella, Pam and Katharine - you guys are the best.

But not for the fact that you guys made me busk while we were on a packed central line tube platform on a Saturday night, for money. While being handcuffed to a male blow-up doll named Roger More.

Life's goings on

I have been so rubbish about blogging ever since I came back to the real world. Its not due to any particular reason except for the fact that time is flying before my very eyes and things are moving at an incredible speed.

I've got a job, its been fantastic and with a company I really like, respect and believe that my ideas have a fighting chance of making themselves heard. Its been super busy, they put their faith in me and that has been inspiring in itself - always makes you work harder knowing someone else is leaving you to do it the way you think best. Work took me to Madrid, Spain for a mind blowing week of heavy work, culture, beautiful weather, new friends (Rodrigo & Santi) and brushing up on my Spanish. It made me long for our days in Argentina just drifting through these sweet little plaza's and wining and dining.

The wedding - is going full steam ahead. The invitations are printed and on their way to us here in London courtesy of my cousin... my parents are being absolute champions running around getting everything done, its been so difficult to make decisions on things that just require you to see it to know and say yes or no. But we're working through it, and a lot of it you just have to let it go and know that in the long run, its going to be a beautiful day with my family and the man I love and that is what is most important. Its so easy to get lost in the detail and lose your mind over it, which just isn't what its about. My parents have been doing so much though and it makes me just want to get on a plane (which i am not so fond of) and go over there. Less than a month though! Yikes!!!!!

I feel really happy and lucky. Its all so very exciting, especially as we have so many wonderful people coming to Sri Lanka (you know who you are!).

Friday, November 09, 2007

ladies night

Its my hen weekend tomorrow - and i am so looking forward to it!

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Venezuela, London and now Lanka

So the wedding plans are underway - I flew to Sri Lanka for 2 weeks to attend to the essential stuff that needs to be done - there is so much to do! I have been living, breathing, eating and sleeping the wedding plans and I think it is finally coming together. We are so excited about it and my family will be in charge once I leave this week, so fingers crossed!


The fact that I was in Venezuela just a month ago is super surreal - one thing is for sure, the world didnt change much while we were away and for us, that is harder to take in. The real world will never have us!

The amazing proposal!

So that very same day (see post below), Friday the 20th of July, was to become a very special day in my life.

It was the day that Lee asked me to marry him! I never expected it and I think thats the best way for it to happen. I couldnt have asked for a more incredible, emotional or loving proposal - and it happened on a deserted beach, just the two of us, standing on the north side of Francisqui island facing the Caribbean sea. I wont delve into the details because I would rather tell you face to face, but I can say that he got down on both knees!

I dont remember being this happy! We have set the date for the 29th December 2007, not ones for long engagements - we're hoping for a beach wedding in Sri Lanka with parties before and after, plus a celebration in the UK when we get back mid January. Its all pretty exciting especially as we have some really special people flying down from UK to celebrate it all with us.

We spent the next 4 days on Los Roques celebrating with our new Spanish friends, telling everyone we could, snorkeling, wining, dining and seeing a number of the islands in the archipelago. Blissful paradise. Whoooo hoooo!

Los Roques - now this is paradise

So the time came to get on a very small propellor plane and fly to these magical islands off the coast of Venezuela. Destination Los Roques: it is an archipelago of islands, mostly uninhabited - no cars and each island accessible only by boat. It is too expensive for most Venezuelans so the pollution is fairly limited. Anyway, after an incredibly stressful morning at the Mexicana Airlines desk at the Caracas airport (they are thieving bandit bastards) and getting ripped off for an extra USD $1000 just so we could fly to Mexico to catch our flight back to London, we were fairly wound up and upset. Not the way to start what was meant to be a romantic splash out for the last few days of our 6 month South American journey.

So the plane was small. And old. And we could see the cockpit and everything which Lee found very exciting. I on the other hand, thanks to my recent development of fear of flying, wasnt too happy. Anyway a fairly smooth 30mins later - we landed by the most exquisitely blue ocean I have ever seen. White sand, the most turquoise blue ocean and water so clear you can see your feet from chin level!
Gran Roque was the main island - and the only inhabited one with a population of about 800 people. Filled with colourful one storey posadas and boutique styled bars, it was such a haven away from the chaotic Caracas suburbs. Our posada, Dona Carmen, was right on the beach front close to the airport runway and the pier where all the boats would depart to the other islands.
I could feel us slowly unwinding from the days stresses as we whiled away time at the pier waiting for our boat to arrive to take us to the island of Francisqui, about 10 mins away so that we could relax and snorkel. And thats exactly what we did - the water was so clear and the marine life we saw was incredible. Puffer fish, pink and green eels, squid, brightly coloured fish of all shapes and sizes, rainbow coloured barracuda... absolute paradise.
Little did I know what was about to happen.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Sign here for toilet paper

I just wanted to mention that though we have been on holiday for the past 6 months, its not to say that I havent been reading up on the world or following certain stories and conflicts with great interest. There has been a great deal of thinking going on. And this story I just found on the BBC News website is exactly the kind of thing I believe is happening all too often.

Fear mongering, manipulating scare tactics and red neck crazy talk is starting to be marketed by governments to their people, in the name of national security. Soon we wont be able to shit without getting prior clearance from the Defence Department. What the hell is wrong with people? Are we that gullible? The residents of Sydney, Australia have been told to ¨pack a survival kit to prepare for a terrorist attack or a natural disaster¨.

What a load of bollocks.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Back west!

So our time in Rio Caribe has ended though it filled us with really happy memories. What a lovely place and I would highly recommend Posada Villa Antillana as the most wonderful place to stay, not to mention the incredibly warm hospitality we were lucky enough to experience. Thanks Emilio!

While we were out there, we managed to find our way to another beautiful and completely deserted beach called Playa Loero - spent the day in the sun, playing frisbee and swimming in the clear ocean.

We also managed to get to another town called San Juan de los Galdonas a few days later to visit a turtle hatchery, the tour was a bit of a joke/farce though as the guy who ran it was more interested in showing off how known he was in the town. He ran a posada called Tres Calabresas and it seems he wanted us there more for the stay and the money than the actual tour. So we saw nothing as far as turtles were concerned, though we got to talk to the cool biologist there who said the turtles who lay the eggs from the wild measure over 1.7 metres in length!!!

On our way back the next day, we visited the Hacienda Bukare which is a cacao farm a.k.a. organic chocolate hacienda. Drool. It is very old, having been started in 1908, but currently owned by the same people who ran Villa Antillana where we were staying in Rio Caribe. It was an pretty yet old cottage, in the middle of a cacao farm and they gave us a really fascinating tour of how they make chocolate. Complete with tastings... yum yum yummmee. They make pure dark chocolate, ranging from 50% to 100% pure! We tasted so much, Lee and I got headaches later, but it was worth it. Mmm chocolate headaches.

Now we are back in Cumanà, doing day trips to the lovely Parque Nacional Mochima with its´secluded beaches only accessible by boat and hopefully going to visit some other beaches and a famous cave, before we hop on a flight to Los Roques this weekend - a paradise of islands off the coast of Venezuela!

Monday, July 09, 2007

Fever, mud baths and boat trips

We are in Rio Caribe, so far my most favourite place in Venezuela as its a small town, really friendly with loads of character and with so much to do around this region. Its also where I had my first illness of the trip, not bad for getting by 5 months and no scars. It was a bad fever with aches and a nasty cold, reminded me of the dreaded chikunguniya of our trip to Lanka in Dec. But the lovely people at the posada were are staying in (absolutely gorgeous place) took me to a doctor and she got me to test for malaria. Yikes! I was so out of it, but we were so worried, anyway luckily we had bought our own sterile needle kit courtesy of the Hospital for Tropical Diseases in London. If you´re going to travel, dont scoff - buy one, you just might need it!

Test results a nail biting 1 hour later, negative for malaria - phew. But I was out for a good couple of days and sweet Lee was running around being an awesome (and good looking) nurse. Also talk about picking the perfect place to fall ill... Villa Antillana has a garden courtyard, hammocks, airy living room with cable tv, delicious breakfast each morning and two happy dogs. Not to mention a friendly and helpful guy called Emilio who runs it for his architect/artist aunt from Caracas.

Finally felt well enough to leave the posada, though heavily armed with enough tissue to wrap a mummy with. We spent the day with Emilio and his girlfriend visiting natural hot springs called Aguasana where you can dip yourself in wonderful hot water pools, fresh from the earths core - plus cover yourself in some slightly sulphur smelling mud, wait for it to dry and then let it do its´wonders! The thing is, I was still feeling fairly achey and off, and after our day at the springs, I felt so much better. The locals believe that there are so many minerals and good elements in the water and mud that its possible it healed me extra! Hurray.

Today, we took a wonderful boat trip out on the Carribbean sea. The ocean colour is like nothing I have seen before, emerald sea green but also kind of blue. So clear and stunning against the backdrop of jagged mountains filled to the edges with lush green tropical forestry plus an immense number of pelicans! We took a hairy ride over some large waves which made our wooden fishing boat drop a couple of stomach cringing feet - only to arrive at a deserted beach called Pui Pui. The lovely thing is the complete lack of tourists - sure there are locals, but not many and it is just overwhelmingly clear and beautiful. After a couple of hours, our "boat captain" and his "second in command" who were two young chaps, returned to pick us up and seemed to have been indulging in some Sunday afternoon boozing. And they had brought a their girlfriend with them. So we carried on and on to another beach called Medina which is pretty popularbut with more people which made it a bit less enjoyable but all the same, it was beautiful. Plus it was amusing to witness our chaps getting pretty pissed on wine they shared with us and even one falling off the boat smack into the water when trying to get a lighter from one of our friends.

All in all, it was a super day and so wonderful to think we are by the Carribbean coast. Ah, life is sweet.

Saturday, June 30, 2007


We have made our way to the Carribbean coast - hurray! Yet another Ocean for me to dip my feet into. We havent yet, but we will tomorrow. The town is called Cumaná and it is the oldest town or settlement on the South American mainland, dating back to roughly 1500! And founded by the Spanish.

It has really colourful buildings, music blaring from every little corner and is fantastic for people watching. Which is what Lee and I did this afternoon. We sat in the sunshine, on a bench in yet another Plaza Bolivár - each town in Venezuela seems to have one, named after their freedom fighter Simón Bolivár, will explain later - with some sandwiches and watched all the people hang out, drink coffee, play music on their portable bombastic speakers and my favourite - watch the badass Chevy´s, Corvettes, Mustangs, Ford´s and other Duke´s of Hazard stunt double cars cruise by rumbling along. Man, these cars are cool. Plus, you get the most mis-shapen buses and trucks going by too, obvious results of welding torch crazed lunatics set free in a junkyard.

The other phenomenon about this country is the obvious presence of very, very cheap oil. Petrol is cheaper than water, and you get the smell of it everywhere - my theory is, its so cheap, people are bathing in it, cooking with it and even drinking it - definitely explains the fiesty stuff we get as coffee in the morning. Makes my head go off bang.

Money is an issue here. Only because there is the official rate of Bolivars that Chavez has pegged against the US dollar to 2150 Bolivars. But the black market rate is nearly double, so by bringing lots of US dollars you can make your time in Venezuela much cheaper. The issue is, you need to find someone who will exchange your TC´s and cash for you, and as we head to more remote towns along the coast, the chances get less.

And finally - the amusing live gameshow that I have recently become. Whenever I am out and about walking through cities or towns, I quite often get a call out by a random stranger on the street - shouting names of countries that they think I am from... for example - ´Good morning India!´is one such line. Or ´Colombia!´or ´Brasil!´or ´Mexicana!´and I have checked, there was no one else near me at the time. Except for Lee. Um. I wonder how many points I´m worth.

Venezuela - first impressions

With possibly the most amount of anticipation on our part for Venezuela, it is a fascinating country. The changes between Brasil and here were noticeable almost immediately - from the people who look mostly indigenous Indian, the different food to the wonderful Spanish language we are hearing! Plus the badass Cadillac`s and Fords growling along the roads, the music blaring out of cafes, shops and cars, the underlying passion for politics with Chavez`s face on walls and posters.... the list just goes on. It makes such a difference to be understood here too, in Brasil Lee and I were beginning to lose our patience with the constant blank looks and low levels of effort on trying to understand our limited Portugese.

The music here, is just divine. Already we are hearing so many different ranges, varieties and tastes... and so much Spanish music.

Another very noticeable comparison is that Brasil was very insulated. You very rarely bumped into other South American nationalities who lived in Brasil, whereas just 5 days in Venezuela and we can feel and see the Colombian influences (people to restaurants), we have met a guy from Trinidad and also oddly enough there are alot of Germans here. Eh?

The Copa America 2007 is on at the moment and is being held here too, it is the equivalent of the European Football Championship, though I have no idea what it is called. Anyway, it is for all the South American countries and with each series they invite two outside countries, this time it is Mexico and amusingly enough, the US. The fervour here is intense because the locals are really into it and very excited, plus it has created a big sense of coming together with all the South American countries.

The Gran Sabana

This part of Venezuela is often not heard about and sometimes overlooked. It is south of the country near the border with Brasil and has some of the most unique landscapes on the continent. It is called the Gran Sabana and is only inhabited by indigenous Venezuelan Indians, who mainly originate from neighbouring Guyana. We went on a 2 day tour of this region with a guy who owned his own expedition company and was a perfect English speaking Colombian wildman! He was incredibly knowledgable on these parts and had arranged for us to stay in an Indian village called San Francisco de Uarien. Unfortunately we were hindered by rain so alot of the adventure stuff Ricardo had planned involved waterfalls and so had to be put aside as it would have been too risky considering the amount of rainfall. We were in a group with a lovely couple from Colombia, they were young but really fun and the guy Cristiano was on strike with his university in protest against his government. Right on.

Instead we took a fairly leisurely approach to the Gran Sabana, visited some rivers and had loads of fun sliding down the rapids, though our bums were numb after. Plus we drove around and got to see some beautiful scenery and walks along some natural pools. Afterwards we went back to our rather rustic guesthouse whose bathrooms had a number of wasp nests, though these wasps were length across my four fingers and were massive! Plus they were very dangerous. Which made nature calls rather petrifying. So we drank copious amounts of rum instead and talked, ate and played guitar through the night.

The next day we went in search of the famous tepuis. These are large rock formations that are a result of the earths layers being eroded away over millions of years thanks to wind and rain, leaving odd looking flat topped mountains with massive valleys surrounding them. What makes these tepui´s so fascinating is that on the top of each one, there is an entire eco system that exists all the way up there and it is completely endemic to that particular tepui. So you will find plant life, animals, birds and insects all completely unique to that tepui thanks to the particular weather and environmental system it experiences. The great thing is you cannot access these tepuis unless you are rich and can rent a plane, even then it is hard to find a place to land. However there is one that humans have had access to and it is called Roraima. It takes a good 6 day hike to get up there and back and we were thinking of going but lacked the gear and it was raining heavily which would have made it much harder. It is also off one of these tepuis that the worlds tallest waterfall, Angel Falls, originates.

Tepuis in the distance.

Waterfalls in Gran Sabana, the red rock is unique to that area and is naturally that colour.

Monday, June 25, 2007

We´re moving on...

We are back from the jungle - 4 unbelievable, mind blowing, fascinating days deep in the Amazon rainforest. I am still letting it all sink in and therefore have not been able to pen it on the blog as yet. Lee has done a super one on his blog, so click here to check out some of the stuff we got up to.

But I wanted to quickly mark this very important day - 5 months of travelling in South America, and also the end of our time in Brasil. Tonight we take a 16 hour bus journey to Venezuela - on the only road that connects the two countries and its through the Amazon jungle.

I cant believe we have been here 3 months, and it has been an immensely wonderful experience though I am really excited about our upcoming adventure in Venezuela - they speak Spanish too - hurray! Its certainly time to move on.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Hot Sao Luis dancers

Mixed identities

One other interesting thing is that I have often been confused by locals as a descendant of indigenous Brasilian Indians, which has had its´amusing moments when they are shocked I dont speak Portugese. Nothing to do with the fact that at the time I was wearing a feather skirt, carrying a spear and had an arrow through my lip.

Also, Lee has been often mistaken for an Argentinian so we make quite the combo!

Sao Luis

Has been pretty great, as our last official town in Brasil before we head into the Amazon. The only difficulty with pre planned flights is, when you book in advance you cant really move on if you think you´ve had enough with a city for example, busing it through Brasil gave us that option. Not that Sao Luis is unbearable, we´ve been able to do loads to prepare for our Amazon trip plus its incredibly quaint and beautiful but 4 full days might have been a tad too much.

Saying that though we have had the luck to find ourselves in the big Festival of the patron Saint Sao Joao - at night there is loads of street music, lots of activity with 100´s of people, plus Carnaval style parades with girls wearing next to nothing and lots of feathers (videos and photos of this being uploaded as I write this) and great food and drink. During the day you can wander around the cobbled streets and the historical centre is now a UNESCO world heritage site thanks to the colonial architecture and intricate blue Portugese tiles that cover many of the buildings. It is incredibly hot here though, the temperature has changed immensely since Olinda and Recife, hot, humid and strong sun! Taste of whats to come I suppose!

The other interesting thing here is that there is alot of evidence of the Portugese slave trade (you really start to hate what their actions did to the millions of people they affected, but then the result is also oddly agreeable (visibly) - like the Afro Brasilian culture. From food to music to dress. Nearly 3 million Africans from Angola, Nigeria and west coast of Africa were brought here to the Northeast coast roughly 500 years ago, and they bred with the local Indians and their Portugese masters so the people now are so mixed they are both beautiful and yet rather tainted. Like they have the habits of what we believe the Portugese descended and then the culture of their tribal ancestors. Though my thoughts on this one will take too long to write down - will save for another time.

Monday, June 11, 2007

More of Olinda

Here are some more shots of the beautiful town Olinda - check Lee´s online album for more awesome pictures.

We are avid followers of graffiti - mainly amateur which makes it all the more fascinating. Argentina or Brasil, we have been lucky enough to find some kick ass work while on this trip so for more of this, click on the graffiti folder in Lee´s album.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Praia de Pipa

Pipa is a stunning cliff side beach town - we arrived last morning by taxi which some could consider lazy but the idea of negotiating transport systems with bags and board in a town the size of Rio, was not so attractive.

I am currently sunburnt after a day at the beach - our last day surfing on our board which we are trying to sell here before we head back to Recife where we then fly further west into Brasil. We are coming to an end of our trip in Brasil and its sad to think we are going to sell the board, but I suppose we need to do it and we still have over a month in Venezuela to look forward to. Ah then, the visa liberty ends!

Lee and I are beginning to think about our impending one week in the Amazon jungle which is going to be exciting, nerve wracking and adrenaline pumping! Holy monkey nuts. But just so we are fully prepared for it, we are flying into a town called Sao Luis before Manaus, where there is going to be a supposedly amazing Reggae Festival for 4 days. Perfect. Pipa´s beaches are a beautiful bright blue - its impossible to describe. The town is once again cobbled streets and boutique stores not to mention really funky and quaint bars and restaurants. The cooler thing still is that there are dolphins in the next bay which we are going to see tomorrow! Wild dolphins!


Olinda is an awesome city/town. Quaint, colourful and on a hilltop, a much more pleasant version of the Pelhourinho in Salvador. Minus the hustlers. We stayed in a pousada but it was definitely more of a boutique hotel - an old converted colonial mansion with tall windows, wooden floors and lots of light. Though we were put in what we think used to be the coal room, as it was small and tucked away at the back of a terrace - for an expensive price.

Still there was lots of music, street bars and great sights - not to mention a ridiculous number of churches - all connected by a series of ancient underground tunnels that historians are still unsure what they were used for. We went into one under Olinda´s most important church that was closed off, and I think these guys must have been smuggling dwarfs because it was incredibly low ceilinged. Even for me.

We spent a lovely day wandering up and down the cobbled streets looking at all the colourful buildings (check Lee´s album for pics of these) plus there were many fantastic and some weird art galleries, including art from recycled plastic items. Now that was a creative bunch of sculptures that I probably never would buy and display in my home, but commendable all the same - toothbrushes, roll on deoderant bottles, fabric softener bottles, coke bottles you name it.

We head back to Olinda from Pipa so that we can fly to our next destination. No more buses as we need to save time until we set off through the Amazon to Venezuela!

Tuesday, June 05, 2007


We finally made it out of the grey Maceio and found our way to a sleepy beach town called Maracaipe - 3km from the famous Porto de Galinhas and hot dog it was another hard journey. But 3 days on, it was definitely worth it.

We met a fantastic group of people who were here for the weekend, staying at a holiday home belonging to one of the older men in the group who was a hilarious character - quite drunk and yet armed with a quick wit. He is a famous doctor in this region as it turns out - specialises in pathology and research into haemoglobin parasitic something or the other - anyway he deals with tropical diseases as a speciality and as a result has spent much time in the Amazon with the remote tribes there. It was so fascinating to talk to him. We found they had lovely studio rooms to let so we checked in and now have the place to ourselves sinc they all headed back to the main city Recife which is an hour North of here.

They were incredibly hospitable to us, offered us drinks and food that night and then once again took us to another friends house for a late lunch. All in all, once again a wonderful opportunity to experience the Brasilian hospitality. Among the group were a journalist for the govt, a wedding stylist, another doctor and a psycologist/hypnotist!

Friday, June 01, 2007

1st of June, Maceio

It is quite unbelievable to think that we are already in June, halfway through 2007 and oh wow what a year it has been so far. Rather weird to think that in less than just 2 months we will be heading back to blighty! Am in a sort of reminscent mood today, missing London and Lanka and thinking of all the people I know and love. It might have something to do with the persistent rain outside and the fact that we are in a bland city called Maceio. Our week in Salvador, though wonderful, has worn me out with all its noise and hustling - though the music was super.

The one thing about Maceio is that it marks the last long journey in Brasil until we have to bus it to Venezuela from the Amazon at the end of this month. We have booked a few flights so we can zoom around the country and enjoy the few weeks left, actually seeing the sights and relaxing on the next few beaches. We have a few marine reserve parks which are offshore where we can go snorkeling, and then there are some supposedly gorgeous beaches further up the coast towards Natal where there are dolphin filled waters and nudist beaches (well, one must see the sights right?).

Maceio also has the most stunning emerald green/blue waters - and clear too. We managed to have a bit of the day by the beach yesterday since it was so sunny, and the sight of the water immediately made us smile. There is nothing like being by the sea.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007


What a place. One of my favourites. There is so much energy on the streets, music pouring out of the colourful colonial buildings on to the cobblestoned narrow streets. We are staying right in the heart of the historic city, called Pelorinho - its an ecclectic mix of stylish bars and restaurants, forro and samba venues, run down little reggae joints, funky hostels, beautiful old churches, 100´s of little arts and crafts shops and finally - an innumerable count of percussion and samba schools. So many that from the minute you wake up till the second you fall asleep there is a constant sound of drums, bass and more drums in the background. Sometimes its kids practicing their carnaval style smashing on the street corner or its the percussion school practicing their daily smattering. All in all, it is an experience that I will never forget.

We have been going out almost every night we have been here - regardless of what day it is, there is always something going on and it always involves music. We love it.

The problem however with Salvador - is that it is also the most hustly (is that a word?) place we have ever come across. I honestly want to throw something at the street vendors somtimes, because they constantly come up and offer you all sorts of things. Even their own mothers if it would get them some cash. Ok, I exaggerate. But still, I dont remember saying no this much. Except maybe the one rather intoxicated night when I went with some Lankans to the Hippodrome - there was a lot of ´no thanks´that night.

I digress.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Swamp thing

Shudder shudder. Ok this was one thing I didnt enjoy. In Itacare there is a rather large rainforest that sits further back from the beach and many of the supposed pristine and special beaches are found via trails along this rainforest. We met this Swiss girl at the hostel who had a map and said she was going to one of these beaches and asked if we wanted to come. So we thought why not? Ummm.

So the "trail" was through this rainforest and we were in beach gear including flipflops. First mistake. Second mistake was taking the trail. Basically we ended up getting rather negative advice from the two locals we asked when we tried to enter the forest, they said we should get a guide - and we were like ´nah´. Third mistake.

The rainforest was lovely, lots of cool trees and plants, running along a gushing river we could hear but barely see through all the foliage. Then there were monkey calls and weird bird calls and it was cool. And then, there were the bastard ants. Big black ones that were very busy transporting stuff and then we big humans stepped on their trail and boy did they let us know. I could feel the bites stinging for at least 5 minutes after. Bigger than kadi-yas. And then we lost the trail a bit, had to wade through the river and finally got back to it, and then lost it again. This was the difficult part, because we were the only ones there and we had to make guesses on the right trails, plus we had heard that there were occasional robberies in the forest on tourists carrying cameras etc. Hmm.
After picking up the trail, we got to an area covered in mangroves and a swampy looking stream that led towards the sound of the ocean that we had begun to hear.

So we had to trudge through this damn swampy water. And oh Lord it was gross. Yeck. In flipflops. And I saw little squirmy fish and a funny looking frog and oh man did i want to be somewhere else. Finally after getting out of that part, we got to the beach and it was nothing spectacular, deserted and pretty but not pristine.

We had a nice day though and had a nice walk around the rocks etc, and funnier still is we had no choice but to go back the way we came in. Luckily the tide had receded so the swamp was just puddles - but the ants still remembered!!

Itacare - capoiera, surfing and forro

Itacare was an awesome stop for us - ended up staying just under a week. It is much more of a surfy town, bit more down with the kids and rough around the edges. Still the beaches were cool and we got to do some more surfing - though I got smashed around a bit by the waves initially and then managed to catch a few little waves thanks to Lee´s tips!

We got to see some live local forro (pronounced foh-ho) and no it aint for ho´s. Its a sort of local dance like a sexier version of the waltz and its very popular and traditional to the north east of Brasil. It was fun initially as we were in a very local little bar by the bay but then the music didnt seem to change much as time went on - especially the cow bell instrument one of the band members were using...just kept clock clocking all night long. We could even hear it from our hostel balcony later that night.

Our hostel was cool too, owned by two older women who were sisters (judging by the photos on the wall, they were once very funky & wild) - they had loads of cats, little kittens and dogs and were super friendly. Though we were invaded by a bunch of very loud Israeli´s a few days later and it made the atmosphere a little less enjoyable as they seemed dead set on making sure everyone knew they were there. Plus one of them had a guitar and only knew two chords (both bad) and they were on either side of our room so you can just imagine.

We also got to see loads of capoiera - both on the beach while we chilled and live as a demo one night. We preferred watching on the beach because all the local guys like to practice on the sand cause its softer on the body if you fall. And you get to see some unbelievable flips and moves that we didnt get to see at the demo. It is really interesting to note that as we have moved north, so many things have changed in terms of more people doing capoiera, food styles have changed to more yummy fish stew and the music has got more drum beats and people are just generally a bit wilder. And there are alot more Afro Brasilian folk than anywhere else we have been.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Arrial D'Ajuda - bohemian paradise

After a horrendous night bus journey (nutty bus driver who took the corners way too fast and a 3 yr old who drank her soda too fast and threw up right behind us) from Itaunas heading north to Porto Seguro via a ferry - we arrived in a funky little town called Arrial D' Ajuda.

It is absolutely awesome here. Brasil really got their beach towns right - funky boutiques and bars that would put many in London to shame, cobblestoned streets leading to gorgeous beaches and we are staying a beautiful villa - this off season malarky has its advantages as the weather is perfect but the rates go down! So we have a lovely room in this lush villa that over looks the beaches from a cliff top, and a large pool with tropical gardens in between.

Whoo hoo. We are really happy as we have made our way a significant distance north as while we were in Rio we felt we had slowed down a bit too much. Click here for all the photos we have taken so far.

Lankan passport? Back of the queue.

So can you believe, that my visa trouble has created a rather interesting situation: we are not sure how we are going to get back to London. As hilariously crafty as that might seem to you - it is not some ploy to remain beach bums for the rest of our lives, what with all the shells and beads I continue to purchase and wear Lee will probably DHL me back anyway.

In the past month or so, we have discovered that it is going to be impossible for me to apply for visas to Central American countries from Rio or Salvador as the application process for a Sri Lankan Passport holder, will take up to 5 working weeks for example as the Panamanian consulate informed us. They need to send the application back to the country I am applying to and research me before they can allow approval. Plus the other consulates have been so unhelpful saying I need to go back to Sri Lanka or UK to apply. So we decided that instead of losing sleep over it, we would leave Central America for another time and adventure.

This in a way - is awesome because it means we would spend 6-7 solid months in South America seeing more of Brasil and more time in Venezuela and the surrounding islands. But what we didnt bargain for is that our flight out of Mexico to London would be jeopardized too. Turns out that the info I was given by the Mexican consulate in the UK was wrong and I cannot apply in other countries, only in the one I am resident in. Which means I cannot get a visa to visit Mexico. Damn. So how about just flying into Mex and taking our flight out? No, I need a transit visa. Why? because the diplomatic relations between Sri Lanka and Mexico are such that this is the rule. And can I apply for a Mexican transit visa while in Brasil or Venezuela? No, because I am a non resident and need to go back to the UK to apply. Uh hmm.

So either we spend roughly USD$2000 (that we do not have) and buy new tickets back home or we ask the embassies again. It has been one of the most frustrating and eye opening experiences in terms of being a 3rd world country passport holder, trying to see the world. I need visas for all these countries, and yet - they do not make it easy for me to get them. I suppose they rarely have people from Asia, especially our neck of the woods, visiting them. Anyway, we are in the middle of trying to work it all out...anyone got a private jet they are willing to lend us?

Tattoo marketing

While we were having that armadillo meat dinner with the locals in Itaunas (see post below), we chatted to the two guys who worked for the host at some bars by the beach. One was a tattoo artist who used to own a parlour in Vitoria - until he was robbed at gunpoint and they took everything. He then proceeded to tell us about a dude in Brasil who is currently offering his entire body as a canvas to any brands who want to advertise. He then tattoo´s (i kid you not) the brand logo on his body - each area has its own price and according to size... and then he walks around and makes sure that people notice him. Crazier still, is if the brand doesnt pay him, he marks a big red cross over that particular brand.


Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Our beach trail goes on

The beach towns we have been to have been varying in size, shape, level of activity, character and charm. After Saquarema, we were on a downward slope of level of activity as they are displaying the characteristics of very off season. The symptoms are closed restaurants, shops and any kind of communal areas - making it very difficult to get a meal or any kind of entertainment. The thing that is weird is that the weather is fine, still sunny and blue skies - only its chillier in the evenings and the sea is a little more churned up. Guarapari and Conceiçao de Barra were examples of this - talk about dead. So it was pretty frustrating - not to mention a pain in the royal bum to try and get from one town to another - its like you need a special code and eye scan to get any info on when the buses go and from where!

I will now stop moaning. Purely because we took a leap and came to a small town called Itaunas which is absolutely lovely and has restored our faith in traveling off the beaten track via the coast. This place is normally a packed party town - think Hikkaduwa on Feb 6th (Bob Marleys´birthday) some of my Lankan buddies know what I am talking about. But its fairly quiet cause the holiday season is over, though the weather and the town are perfect.
As is our pousada - especially the owner who found us right after we had got off the rickety old bus and were looking through the guide book for a decent place to stay - and he rode past on his bicycle and asked us if we wanted a place to stay. Bit weary at first but then realised the pousada he owned was mentioned in the guidebook. So off we went and it was a lovely place with hammocks and funky high ceiling rooms.

The owner - he is a funky dude, has an immense music collection, which he wakes us up with by blaring awesome Brasilian or your regular pop rock from the west tunes. One day its Blur, the next is Brasilian jazz and you get the picture. Plus freshly made mango or acerola juice in the morning. Yum.

We also got to know some other locals through a guy Lee got chatting to while surfing one morning, super friendly chap from Sao Paolo, we even got a free delicious home cooked meal from the dude´s pousada owner who he is friends with. The dinner included the hottest chillie sauce (which we confidently sprinkled on all over our food - yeouch!!), mussels, beans and what we believe to be illegal armadillo meat! Tastes just like chicken, but the shell gave it away to be something a bit unusual. We had to keep quiet about the ´tatu´because it is illegal to hunt them, I dont usually condone that kind of thing but we definitely would have insulted the owner if we refused. Anyway it was a real interesting experience.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Big waves

And lots of professional surfers was what we got in the lovely little beach town of Saquarema. Known to be the best surf spot in Brasil it was full of cool stands with young hip beach bums wandering around trying to get a glimpse of the pros kicking some ass on the waves. It was the Brasilian Surf Championship Circuit session and some of the stuff we saw was exhilerating and really impressive! The waves were huge on the first day but on the day of the final they just sapped out and were flat! Very disappointing - plus we were staying in the same pousada as the champion surfers, we got chatting to the manager who seemed to be doing everything but managing! Totally stoned and playing the bongos.

Saquarema was cool but besides the surf comp, there wasnt too much else going on. So after a bit of back and forthing trying to find bus tickets on borrowed rusty bikes, we got ourselves on the bus the next day back to Rio before heading north and leaving the state of Rio de Janeiro behind - been there a month!

Surf's up in Saquarema

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Football mania - Rio style

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Barra, Prainha and lovely Lankan hospitality

We were lucky to see a whole other side to Rio which not many travellers get to do - it was more of what its like to live and work in this big beautiful city. It has been a wonderful and welcoming time because I was fortunate enough through friend and cousin connections to get in touch with some family (thanks to Minha and Mariam!) - the awesome Dilshad and Munira! They have a beautiful home which they so graciously invited us into, and an even more gorgeous family - 3 super girls Nafisa, Tahani and Zahara - who entertained us no end during our stay. We were treated to wonderful care and hospitality not to mention a home life we had totally missed for the past 3 months. It was so nice to just have a kitchen table to sit around and talk, a comfy sofa, home cooked food and all the comforts of home! Plus a bonus Lankan curry which was delicious. We feel like we have made some solid friends - also we are certain we know the bus route from there to the dodgy Rio bus station which is about 1 hour across town by heart now!

We got to check out the nearby beaches for great surf in Recreio and Prainha which was right round the corner and is the best in Rio. All in all, a wonderful time. Thanks guys!

Thursday, May 03, 2007


It is a very cool place - though parts of it look just like any other big city, the charm of the crystal blue beaches, walkways, trendy little cafes and bars make it something very Rio. Plus, Ipanema had been formed in my imagination from as far back as when I was a little girl listening to my grandfather's Sinatra cd's - Garota de Ipanema (Girl from Ipanema) being one of his favourite numbers, and as a result - mine too. The restaurant of the same name where the song was written, is slap bang in the middle of the neighbourhood.

We stayed in a cool hostel, mainly because the crowd of people we got to know were suprisingly on our wave length - and not just one or two, but most of them - also it helped we were all in similar stages of our lives while travelling... we went to a huge Rio football match on Sunday (possibly equivalent of the F.A. Cup Final) - the two teams (famous Brasil over) called Botafogo vs. Flamengo are neighbourhoods in Rio - and holy Moses are they passionate. We were a group of obvious gringo's herded into the Flamengo side by our football guide who pretty much told us there was no better team on the bus ride up to the stadium - which was packed 60,000 strong! Flamengo was clearly the more supported side and we donned the red and black team colours - some bought the t-shirts before the game, others (me) sported the red and black bandanas. Check Lee's blog for some awesome videos we took.

Rest of our time in Ipanema was cool - we had another amazing night in Lapa with the hostel crew, went out for delicous sushi at a seemingly trendy restaurant that had queues outside (always a good sign of food quality in my book) and high street shopping - I found a Mango store!
The beaches are unbelievably clean for a city, bright blue waters and white floury sand plus lovely coconut palms lining the pebble stoned side walks. Ipanema is also famous for its' Hippie Fair which is rather obviously named, but wow it had some amazing jewelry and artesanal crafts. I did manage to not explode the budget though. Helped that Lee had a leash on me.


Ah so it was not meant to be. It was a fun day nonetheless - turns out that there were ALOT of Aussies at the hostel we were staying at and some of them were sweet enough to support Lanka. I also proceeded to consume a little too much beer and caiparinhas (courtesy of the Aussie owner who started to feel bad for me when we started to lose, so those were free...bad move). I discovered later that most of the people in the hostel were flocking into the TV lounge to check out the Sri Lankan chick who was shouting, whooping and chanting - hey, it added to the atmosphere and Lee was whooping too.

At least Lanka got that far. Good going boys. And I had a mother of a hangover the next day.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Go Lanka go!

Whoo hoo here it comes. No amount of theme music could build up to the final tomorrow. Very excited about the cricket - trying not to get too wound up and cocky considering Australia is a very good side but we have a chance and that is all we need! So here's to the Lankan team - congratulations for coming this far! Now go kick some Aussie ass.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

More stuff about the Brazilians

There is an abundance of VW camper vans, kombis and beetles, thats thanks to the fact that Brasil is one of the last places in the world where they still make them. So loads of people have them, and it is almost too much for Lee and I. They are so cool and we are definitely going to get another one. They are so common, the kombis, that they are used as an alternative to buses here in Santa Teresa and Rio almost like Hi-Ace vans in Lanka. Though much cooler.

Other thing is that Brasilians love their tattoos. They are covered in them and some are plain tacky and others quite insanely large and grotesque, few are very cool. On the subject of tattoos and body art, they also love covering their walls and buildings in art. There is an abundance of graffiti in Rio, and the difference is these guys are so very good. The colours, precision and creativity will put most to shame but it is very different to the stencil graffiti we saw so much of in Argentina. That too would put many to shame. Click here for photos of some graffiti we managed to capture.

The weather plus numerous coconut trees make Brasil reminiscent of Lanka, not to mention the many bird calls in the morning though slightly more exotic. The fruit is so varied and tropical, back to papau, mangoes, guava, passion fruit etc and then so many weird ones from the Amazon like acai, caca and tucupi to name a few. All very different and they use them in their cuisine as sauces for their meat. I also dicovered passion fruit caiparinhas last night. Mm. Thankfully there is no end of thambili here and whats funny is that on most main roads and in the financial district there are coco water stalls selling ice cold thambili, its cold cause they break open the coconut into a sort of cooler that then filters the water through a tap. Yummy on a hot day.

So the g-string legend is true, they are everywhere on both young tanned bodies of the lively girls and on the rather flabbier older wrinkly ladies too. But what is unfortunate is the fact that the men here - wear tight speedo like trunks! Yes they do! they are smaller than underwear but are not teeny - they are just absolutely gross. And should not be allowed, they even wear them while surfing. But supposedly you are weird if you do NOT wear them. Hah.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Rio de Janeiro & Santa Teresa

Here we are in Rio de Janeiro - and we stayed in its' most bohemian hood, complete with cobbled stoned streets, quaint little shops, restaurants and gorgeous little music venues which was just so perfect as it was right up our street, so to speak. Only problem is that it is not the safest of areas but then we are in Rio. However we managed to keep it together in the week we were there, so thankfully we were spared any run ins.

We found this cool bed and brekkie network that places you in houses owned by artistic/bohemian people of Santa Teresa, we got to choose which house and so we were in this fabulous old mansion house owned by a youngish artist and his family including two adorable dogs (one is a puppy!!) and two cats. The hood is on a hill overlooking the north side of Rio, and the view from our open air living room was breathtaking both at day and at night. It is incredibly quiet except for the planes roaring above us as they fly low into the domestic airport nearby, it is quite a sight and only happens while we have breakfast so it doesnt bother us!

It is also the only part of Rio still serviced by the tram car which is a fascinating little contraption, costs only R$0.60 for a ride down to the town or if you hang off the side of it (as we did when short of change) you ride for free - just have to make sure you keep the arms and legs in.
The amazing thing bout this area is that it houses two of Rio's most notorious drug trafficking gangs, in the favelas down below us. They are in extreme competiton with each other and weirdly do not bother or harm the general public. Last night we woke up to what sounded like incessant rifle gunfire and rushed out to see from our hill top view, only to find it was a crazy fireworks display.

Eric (our artist host) explained that each gang had decided to fire as many skyrockets into the sky to show their network of supporters and power, so red was for the Red Command and green for the Third Command. And sure enough as we watched, the two different colours exploded into the night sky all over Rio. The Red Command clearly had more supporters. And we found out later, that they use this fireworks system to tell their contacts that deliveries have come in and so on. Its incredibly fascinating since they obviously dont care about the law enforcement!

In Rio so far we have seen the awesome Red Bull Air Race which to be honest can only be explained if you click on the link and see for yourself - the coolest thing is that we were there! Go straight to Lee's blog to see the video we took of some cool stunts these daredevil pilots were doing.

We have visited the world famous statue of Christ the Redeemer - the view from up there was incredible and slightly vertigo inspiring. Kind of gave you a sense of warmth and amazement at the idea that Christ was watching over Rio with all its' colour, vibrancy and dark corners.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Parati - colonial paradise

On the way between islands while on boat, we managed to see some amazing wild dolphins just swimming along and playing in the water, it was such an overwhelming sight. After Ilha do Mel and Paranagua, we journeyed further north east to Sao Paolo - we stayed there for 3 days and let me just say that it is one crazy concrete jungle and as much as I am a city girl, it was too much for me. We met a lovely couple of Australians who we hung out with for most of the time that we were there, went out for some awesome Japanese / Korean food - one thing about the Brazilians is that they love their sushi, and they also love their by the kilo restaurants. So you go and serve yourself typical buffet style only to weigh it before scoffing it down, and thats how they charge you. So you can just keep an eye on it and save money!

Anyway, after a messy time in Sao Paolo which really isnt anything to write home about, we came to Parati, which is where we are now. This is one of the most beautiful places I have visited in our trip so far - it has amazing colourful buildings, all one storeyed, quaint cobblestoned streets, nostalgic old churches, a pier with brightly painted boats with names like Bucanero and finally, enough bars and restaurants to make your stomach rumble. We decided to stay here for more than the 2 days planned, so who knows! There are handicraft shops and artists painting on the streets and tiny boats that take you out snorkeling to hidden islands. Paradise. Check out the pictures here.

Island hopping

From Santa Catarina, we then arrived in this beautiful colonial gem of a town called Paranagua which looks like a place you´d imagine in Cuba. Colourful old buildings, cobbled streets and right by the water. We arrived here only to take a 2 hour boat to a car-less island called Ilha Do Mel, for Easter weekend. It was absolutely beautiful but totally packed with locals as it was a known Brazilian favourite for surfers. We spent a lovely 3 days on the island, partied like crazy with a group of these cool Paulista surfers (Paulista is a term for people from Sao Paolo, they were a bunch of insanely loud guys) and we got a chance to explore the hidden beaches and lovely little pathways of this tiny island. Most of it however was an ecological park, protected by the council and so you couldn´t go there as there were protected species of all sorts! We did see a red, black and white patterned snake on the beach we were on, and that was so frightening.

Still, islands rock!

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Have surfboard, will travel!

We have bought a surfboard and a hammock! Our lives as the beach bums we truly are, is about to begin... it was super exciting, while being on the Ilha de Santa Catarina we were driving around looking for another place to stay and while I drove, Lee was gleefully getting me to stop at all the little surf shops to enquire on the costs etc, though we were only doing it for fun. Well sort of. And then, we found an awesome board though it was more of a short board than the 7"4 that Lee has back home. And we figured, we`re on holiday! So we bought the board for a great price, it is a bit mashed up but it came with leash, wax and cover; while in the buying mood we then bought a hammock from across the road because we had heard that some beaches were so secluded that one can only stay on them if they had a hammock. Makes sense hurray! Click here for Lee´s online album where we have uploaded loads of Brazil island photos!