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.