Tag Archives: backpacking in south america

Lollapalooza Festival 2014

As previously mentioned in our Buenos Aires blog we spent two of our wonderful days in the city at this festival in the district of San Isidro. With the Red Hot Chili Peppers headlining, booking the tickets before we’d even left UK soil was a no brainer.

At the age of 14 both Iain and I saw the Red Hot Chili Peppers on their 2004 tour: Iain in Manchester and me in Hyde Park. Needless to say in our first year of university we soon discovered our joint love for the band and played their Live At Hyde Park album endlessly. In our (nearly!) 7 years together we’ve never had the chance to see the band live together, so we knew this festival was a must for this trip.

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With a line up that would rival any major festival in the UK, Lollapalooza was sure to be a hit in Argentina. Lollapalooza was also held in various US destinations, as well as in Santiago and Rio de Janeiro but for Buenos Aires this was its debut.

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Despite some major transport issues getting away from the festival each evening (we walked over a mile to find a bust that wasn’t full) the two days were just as expected: a lot of fun, adrenaline and bad singing. Actually I take back bad singing…as certainly during RHCPs set the singing was mostly amusing. Naturally Iain and I knew the songs far too well, so our neighbours’ reinventions of the lyrics made the experience all the more memorable. I’m sure the local population are finding our attempts at Spanish just as funny, however I’m also sure even Antony Kiedis would find the new lyrics being sung at him hilarious. Probably funnier if you were there…

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Anyway everything was to be expected bar one thing…one minor thing that nevertheless took us by surprise and took some adjusting too. It took less than hour into the first band for us to look around and slowly realise we hadn’t seen any alcohol being consumed. Sadly at a British festival even at 1pm there is usually a group nearby already smashed or very nearly there. Clutching on to hope we put it down to 1pm being too early for a lot of people, plus we were on holiday and this is a festival so we headed to the bar and in our best Spanish ordered, “dos cerveza, por favour.” It took three attempts by the kind yet persistent lady behind the bar…but we soon learnt that this was an alcohol-free event.

We were however amazed at the Porteños ability to have a good time totally sober. Although the continuous waft of suspect smoke was certainly helping, the atmosphere was fantastic and despite the generally good weather we even got a little mud to revival any Glastonbury. We felt rather smug in our hiking boots as others struggled in their Converse. Certainly a highlight of the trip so far and we are seriously considering booking a ticket for next year if we can make the money last that long…

 

 

 

A Courgette and a Chandelier – San Telmo Market

Anyone heading to Buenos Aires is probably going to spend some time in San Telmo. Whether you’re coming for the antiques market on a Sunday, or just browsing the shops and cafes it’s a great place to hang out. When you’re there, make sure you don’t miss the permanent covered market in the middle of the Bario. Taking up nearly an entire block, with entrances on 3 streets around Calle Carlos Calvo and Bolivar, this massive market is capable of meeting all your foodie needs.

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Anyone spending time in Argentina will quickly notice that whilst the food is great, delicious and sizeable, you’re fruit and veg intake is falling far short of normal. Forget five a day, you’ll be struggling to get five a week. On top of this, the fruit and veg you’ll manage to scrape up at supermarkets, are overpriced and under-quality. A short holiday won’t be a problem, but anyone spending more than a couple of weeks out here will start to feel the loss. El Mercado de San Telmo to the rescue!

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Obviously this isn’t the only place to buy fruit and veg in the country, but out of everywhere in the previous month it had the freshest produce and the greatest selection (i didn’t even know there were five kinds of courgette). With five or six competing stalls keeping the price down, you can really save some money on some great produce. There wasn’t anything we wanted that we couldn’t get hold of and in most cases in multiple varieties. Whether you’re after cheese, meat, bread, pastries, herbs, grains or spices there’s somewhere to buy it at the market. There’s no need to rush and being a covered market the weather doesn’t matter, and there’s a great place to grab a coffee and an empanada right in the centre. Even if you’re not coming to San Telmo to scratch your vitamin itch, the market is still well worth a visit. Whilst the central area is mostly dominated by food the rest is in keeping with San Telmos staple product, antiques.

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I’m not going to pretend i know anything about antiques and i’m sure theres a good amount of junk/fakes here, but whether you’re looking for a bag of old snooker balls or massive ornate chandeliers the collection is extensive. Handbags, vinyls, old medical equipment or some really scary dolls, we found it very easy to just walk around and look at all the bits we couldn’t buy. That’s the problem with backpacking, if you buy something, something else is getting left behind…

 

Pretend Porteños: Things to do in Buenos Aires

We recently spent eleven days in Buenos Aires and found it very hard to leave. In fact we can safely say we wouldn’t have done, had it not been for winter fast approaching and our desire to travel south. We even found ourselves staring into estate agents windows toying with ideas of what we could or rather couldn’t afford.

We stayed in a beautiful apartment in San Telmo. With San Telmo market only a few minutes away and surrounds of charming cobbled streets and colonial buildings, we couldn’t of been happier in this district. Opinions differ on San Telmo particularly as to its likeability and safety and although we can see why some might prefer polished Palermo for example, we can safely say half our love for Buenos Aires was a love of San Telmo and would highly recommend staying here. We never felt unsafe even when coming home (very!) late at night and its rugged charm never got old as we explored the area.

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Like any backpacker we had a budget for this city and were determined not to overspend (well not too much) so here’s what we got up to as we explored BA on a budget…

San Telmo Markets/Plaza Dorrego – We were gutted that we weren’t heading back to the UK with an empty suitcase to fill. We could have furnished an entire house with finds on these market stalls. Sadly lugging a gorgeous wine decanter around for the foreseeable future was not practical.

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La Boca – Worth a visit for an afternoon if just to see the colourful paintwork. Charmingly touristy and you’ll be lucky to get away without having your picture taken with a look-a-like of Maradonna…not that we could have picked the real deal out in a line up.

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Recoleta Cemetery – don’t hesitate, just go there. Join the crowds and hunt for Evita and be amazed at the grandeur of the place. We took far too many photos but here are a few select ones…

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Lollapalooza Festival – more on that in a separate blog but we were amazed at the Porteños ability to have a good time totally sober. If you’re there when its on it is definitely worth booking a ticket as the line-up will revival any festival in the UK.

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Palermo – seemed like a lovely place to stay or visit for a meal, with its plethora of restaurants and shops. A bit lost on us however, as we preferred the rugged charm of San Telmo.

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Centro – all the sites are within walking distance of each other so it is worth a stroll around taking in Casa Rosa, Teatro Colon etc and perhaps finish up with some window-shopping Calle Florida.

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Museums & Galleries – we found a lot of the museums had a day where entrance was free. Most we stumbled across as we walked around the city so it is worth taking a stroll and seeing a few bits of art if you have some time to spare. For us MAMBA was definitely worth a look.

A few bits of extra budget friendly advice…

Sube Card – get one! Much like the UKs oyster card system it takes the hassle out of travel in the city. They can be obtained at most post offices and some newsagents, so look out for the logo, and can also be preloaded with funds at any subte station.

Cook – we were amazed at the fresh produce on offer at San Telmo’s market and along with the San Telmo Organic Fair every Tuesday and Friday on Peru (600 and something) so if you are a keen amateur cook like us, make the most of it and save some money.

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Exchange your money on Calle Florida – As we would never advocate black market activity…google this for more details! It will save you a huge amount of money…we were pretty taken aback at just how much…so look out for shouts of “Cambio” as you walk along browsing the shops.

Explore – walking is free! We spent a good portion of every day walking around the city and stumbled across charming architecture, endearing graffiti and endless Boutique stores, so…

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Bring an empty suitcase – if just coming for a short holiday it is definitely worth picking up a few bits. Especially make the most of the leather goods…retro satchels eat your heart out…they are ten times better than what you would find in the UK!

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So overall what kept us in BA so long? When we started writing this blog we found it a little difficult to narrow it down…when putting it into words it didn’t seem like we had done a lot in our eleven days. Truthfully we loved everything…the people, the architecture, the food, the lifestyle. Knowing enough basic Spanish to get by, we took great pleasure in blending in and pretending to be a local…that is until someone asked us a more complex question and our blank faces gave us away. We should probably note that we were predisposed to like the city from the outset having heard so many positive things but it certainly exceeded all our expectations. Just throw yourself into it, kick back and relax and start pretending to be a Porteño.

 

Drinking wine and walking the dog in Cafayate: Cafayate Bodegas

A two hour drive from Salta through the fantastically scenic landscape filled with cacti and IMG_3918wild animals bought us to Cafayate. With its plethora of bodegas and artisan craft markets, Cafayate is a lovely rustic town. It has decent restaurants and a laid back atmosphere, which makes it the perfect place to hold up for a few days. In all honesty we could have stayed for a few more days than the 3 we had planned but with onward buses booked our journey was short, sweet and wonderfully surreal.

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Having sampled one of the local wines at dinner shortly after disembarking the bus we new like so many others knew we would be touring a few of the local Bodegas during our stay. So on our first full day there we hired two bicycles with more road miles on them than we had travelled so far in South America and set off to cycle 7km to Domingo Molina.

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We had heard Domingo Molina was one of the best bodegas and after the purely uphill cycle (not for the fainthearted) we were not disappointed. The staff were IMG_6830welcoming, knowledgeable, fluent in English, and best of all the scenery was breath-taking. Sensing we and our companion were a little knackered after our cycle, we were offered some refreshments before our tour of the bodega. Tour complete, we were encouraged to spend as long as we liked sitting on the terrace sampling the wines, and were offered local cheeses which made the perfect accompaniment. To top it off the cost of the tasting is deducted from any bottles of wine purchased and with just enough room in our rucksacks for two bottles we had happily obliged.

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Prior to the 7km cycle, on the edge of town we had met our guide, Tannat. Tannat was energetic, inspiring, charming, and most of all loyal. Tannat worked purely for tips; tips of leftovers, a bit of water, some biscuits and a few escapee grapes for good measure. We thoroughly recommend everyone pick up one of these invaluable local guides if off on a cycle, as cycling through the dust and the cacti with a dog running at our heels made the experience truly unforgettable.

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It must have been more than just a simple canine desire to chase tourists on bikes that compelled Tannat to jog the 7km alongside us to the most remote of Bodegas. Some would say we adopted him but truth be told he adopted us. He sat loyally at our side through the wine tasting, charmed the Bodega’s staff (who gave him his name), made quick work of the escapee grapes during the cleaning process and happily bounded off after us as we headed off at speed down the 7km track back to town. When we reached the spot were we’d found him he trotted off without so much as a goodbye, clearly happy with his day’s adventure.

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Another bodega that we recommend visiting is Bodega Nanni. Accessible on foot as its located in the centre of town it would be high on our list of favourite wines, and it’s organic too. Only downside is they don’t ship internationally…yet. We are keeping our fingers crossed that business goes well for them and they can ship to the UK in time for our return…they’ve got a fair bit of time… Likewise we recommend the restaurant, which so far has been one of the best meals of the trip.

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On day two, as we approached Bodega Nanni, who should be sitting on the roadside but none other than trusty Tannat. The adorable pup proceeded to bound over to us like we were long lost friends and once again joined us on our days activities. We should probably note here that Cafayate is small town but not that small. It was wonderfully bizarre that Tannat had found us again and we allowed him to be our companion once again. Loyal and well behaved for a street dog he was as charming as ever. He only let himself down once: we had to pretend not to know him when we were browsing the market stalls and he peed on a stall full of alpaca rugs…

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Finally Cafayate has a local cheese factory and goat farm that is well worth a visit. About 1km from town it is a pleasant walk alongside the vineyards or would make for an easy cycle. Tours seem to be only in Spanish, but our basic knowledge got us through and we came back with a couple of delicious cheeses to show for it.

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Salta Sojourn

Nestled in the north west corner of Argentina, 20 hours from Buenos Aires and closer to the Bolivian border than it’s nearest Argentine city, Salta posses a wonderfully relaxed atmosphere. Upon entering the Lerma Valley with its Andean backdrop, Salta looked like a relaxed peaceful city. Famed for its excellently preserved colonial architecture and great wines, we had been looking forward to Salta for quite some time. Upon pulling into the bus station Salta earnt its first kudos as unlike most places the terminal was within walking distance of the center. This may not seem like a big deal, but trust me when you’ve just spent a night on a bus the last thing you want to do is jump straight on another. Upon picking up a local map we got our first encounter of an interesting phenomenon, the map was not orientated towards north. As we’ve been working on the “North Principle” for some years now, and it was only after getting lost 3 times, most likely made worse by the lack of sleep on the overnight bus, that we discovered the “Salta Principle”. Rather than north taking precedence for orientation, the westerly mountains did, so in effect, west became north. In a place where enormous mountains are never, ever out of sight i suppose it makes some sense. It would have been helpful if someone had told us though.

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The center of the city, Plaza 9 de Julio is as impressive as it was made out to be. Flanked by colonial buildings, or tastefully done replacements, it is a wonderful place to sit and wile away the hours. The north side of the square is dominated by Salta Cathedral. Painted pink and white the interior is one of the best we’ve come across in Argentina and pleasantly those praying far exceeded tourists with their cameras. If you’re really after some down time then the plaza is the place to go. At lunch time there’s plenty of inexpensive restaurants to grab a snack and some wine, or in the evening a quiet stroll with an ice cream (and some wine.) Whilst there are many excellent museums in Salta we’d highly recommend El Museo Arqueologia de Alta Montana (archaeological museum) The controversial centerpiece of this museum is the three preserved Inca children found buried at the top of mount Llullaillaco. There’s a good amount of english for those without spanish and subtitles on the videos.

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Salta gets even more enjoyable when you head off the main square; small streets, interesting shops and great restaurants abound. Heading east brings you to the impressive church of St. Francis followed by a monastery, one of the oldest buildings in the city. For a truly relaxing afternoon though we’d fully recommend the cable car. Located next to the bus terminal this 5 minute journey takes you over 200 meters to the top of a hill overlooking the city. From here you get a great view over the city up into the mountains beyond. Take a book, grab an ice cream (maybe some wine) and sit on one of the shaded benches in the quiet gardens. However if you’ve found Salta too relaxing you can run up the hill and then have a crack at the outdoor gym, i can’t say we gave it a go though.

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South America is famed for it coffee and in Salta i had my best of the trip so far. I’d been having some serious problems getting a black coffee as i either got an espresso, double espresso, or a rather small, lukewarm, watery drink. Lauren had experienced similar but hers came in the form of warm milk with a hint of coffee or coffee that had been teased by a cow, a latte seemed impossible to obtain. It wasn’t just my spanish, as i’d had waiters with perfect english still bringing me disappointments. Salta finally changed all of that. A large black coffee, steaming hot, fresh ground beans, i’d finally got that coffee hit i’d been craving for the last month. Never have i been so grateful to find a Mc.Donalds…

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Salta is a wonderful relaxing place to spend a few days, and that’s exactly what we used it for. It is however also an excellent base to head out and explore the rest of the north west or even book onwards trips to Bolivia. There are loads of travel agents to book trips to Cafayate, Puna or Cachi, as well as horse riding, rafting and cycling. If you’re heading to the north west then you’re going to end up in Salta at some point, but don’t just rush on through. A couple of days relaxing in the plaza or walking the streets is a great way to unwind before that next long bus journey.

How safe is Rio?

It may just be an impression us Brits have obtained of Rio de Janeiro but we were led to believe that our visit would undoubtedly be tainted by crime. It seemed impossible to us that, during our 9 days there, we would escape unhindered by pickpockets or some sort of corruption.

Truth be told we experienced nothing to substantiate Rio’s terrible reputation for crime. Any new city is intimidating when you first arrive…you have no idea what is social acceptable, where’s safe at night or even how to cross the road – in Rio most people just seemed to make a dash for it in a gap in traffic! I would never advise any backpacker to loose their initial sense of caution when arriving in a new city…its saved us from a few scams before now…but certainly Rio its not as intimidating as people might fear. I honestly think if you use the same caution and common sense you would in any major city across the world you’d be very unlucky to experience crime in Rio.

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Keep your belongings in sight, do as others do, wear your backpack on your front on busy transport, don’t flash your cash, or walk around with your Digital SLR swinging from your neck. When you get to a place of interest get your camera out and put it away after. At all the major tourist spots in Rio there will be plenty of others with the latest technologies on show to make it unlikely that you’ll be the victim of a crime.

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So how safe is Rio at night? About as safe as any other major city…everywhere has crime and areas that are best avoided. If you are off on a night out, leave your valuables at home and carry as little as possible. Ladies avoid handbags and invest in a “Cash Stash” which allows you to keep a few rolled up notes secure somewhere – I find attaching it to my bra strap works quite well.

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We travelled after dark quite a few times and escaped unscathed using the above advice. Ok…so there was one time when we felt a bit intimidated late at night. Having been to the Sambadrome, backpacks and DSLRs in tow, we travelled back at 4am on public transport. As the roads close around the Sambadrome when the Carnival is in full swing, the Metro was the quickest way to make an exit. Once off the Metro we decided a bus/taxi would be safer than the 15min walk to our apartment. No taxis in sight…surprise surprise…we stood at the bus stop and waited patiently.

After a few minutes a group of young guys turned up, obviously on their way home from a night out. Anyone who has stood waiting for a night bus in London in the early hours of the morning will have experienced similar and I think our feeling intimidated was purely down to the language barrier. True to form the boys were larking about, chattering away and standing just a little bit too close…one guy was so close, I was sure he was either trying to pickpocket Iain or fall asleep on his shoulder. Turns out said guy had just had a few too many like his friends and was absentmindedly waiting for the bus like any other. When the next bus arrived (not ours inevitably) he asked us (twice so we understood) very politely in his best Portuguese if this was our bus or if he could go ahead and get on in front of us…

Moral of the story…don’t believe the worst, don’t judge a book by its cover, use common sense and always form an orderly queue for the bus…

Christ The Redeemer or Sugar Loaf?

It occurred to us that despite being on a strict budget we were fortunate enough to be able to afford to visit both Christ The Redeemer and Sugar Loaf Mountain during our stay in Rio.

Being budget conscious we almost skipped visiting one in favour of having an extra bit of cash. If you find yourself thinking similar during your visit we would highly recommend choosing to visit the Sugar Loaf if forced to only visit one.

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The Sugar Loaf is best visited a few hours before sunset when you can see the city in all its glory. Like us, grab yourself a few (yes slightly overpriced) beers, relax and settle in to watch the sun set over the city. The city slowly begins to twinkle as the lights are switched on…yes we realise it’s the pollution that creates this effect but it is nevertheless rather pretty!

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Best of all, we think standing on Sugar Loaf Mountain gives you the best view of Christ poised high above the city, and at night lit up he is even more striking. We enjoyed a few more beers once the sun had set, and then when ready; we enjoyed another trip on the cable car. The cable car itself is worth the ticket up and gives you equally impressive views!

Elbows at the ready we had tackled Corcovado earlier that day. Christ the Redeemer itself can be appreciated from all over the city. Whilst it was impressive standing at his feet and appreciating him close up…we have to admit the thought did cross our minds that he was a lot smaller than we thought he’d be. Once at the top of Corcovado most feel obliged to elbow their way through the throngs of tourists, to try and get into a prime spot to take that all important classic tourist photo. We found a quick selfie sufficed.

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Like us you might instead amuse yourself by watching the families and couples straining on tiptoes to pull the classic pose, whilst perhaps the dad or perfect stranger photographer lies on the ground to try and get everyone in the shot. Photo obtained back on the train they go.

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It’s impressive and worth a visit if you have cash to burn but honestly for us Sugar Loaf stole the show and the view was breath taking…

A Day in Trinidad

We had a lovely day in Trinidad, walking beneath the palm trees, soaking up the sun, no one around to break the idyllic silence. Ok…so we weren’t living it up in the Caribbean, but Paraguay is almost as good, right?

This Trinidad is actually a small village about 30 minutes outside of Encarnacion on the Paraguayan border and we’d decided to take a day trip there to visit the ruined Jesuit capital of La Santisima Trinidad del Parana. At the time we were staying in Posadas, Argentina, a perfectly pleasant little city to rest in for a couple of days on your way to or from the Iguazu Falls. Posadas and Encarnacion face each other across a huge expanse or river spanned at this point by a single bridge. As with all the best border crossings you just have to hop on a bus with “Paraguay” on the front and 30 minutes later you’re deposited in your intended country with those all important stamps in your passport.

Encarnacion, Paraguay’s third largest city, has a very relaxed feel about it. Whilst it didn’t have the same level of refinement as Posadas, it is meant to be another pleasant place to spend a couple of days. Due to a lack of research on our part we weren’t 100% sure on how much our little expedition would cost us, so we got out around £40 of Guarani from the cash point and headed for the bus terminal.

We were kindly pointed to a rickety old bus by a lady selling ice cream and 40 minutes later to a shout of “Ruinas” we found ourselves dumped at the side of a road next to a dirt track. This seemed to fit the descriptions we’d read online and so we headed off. Within 10 minutes we were standing, alone, at the visitor center, tickets in hand, so we headed into the ruins.

IMG_6723 IMG_6296What attracted us most to the ruins of the Jesuit mission was the advice that we’d likely be the only people there and this was indeed the case. Trinidad and the nearby Jesus are some of the least visited UNESCO World Heritage sites there are and in our opinion that makes them all the better. The ruins are pretty extensive and it’s easy to imagine what they would have looked like in all their grandeur. The housing is set around a large square, with stone carvings set above the arches; it must have been impressive in its day. The priests houses were of course even larger and the well preserved floor tiles (different in each house) showed how much effort had gone into the construction of the town.

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The star attraction is the remains of the Iglesia Mayor. This once mighty cathedral is of course now down to a few walls, despite this the stone work is wonderful. The carved sections above the doors and around the altar have survived the elements extremely well and we found ourselves walking around, heads heavenwards, just like you’d be in any intact cathedral, trying to take it all in. A few of hours of walking around in the sun, just us and the ruins was a great day trip and we’d recommend anyone in the area to stop for a tranquil afternoon.

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Getting back to Encarnacion was as easy as we’d hoped, waving our arms at the first bus we saw back on the main road got us to Encarnation and an hour after that we were back in Argentina. A relaxing and cheap day out. Too cheap in fact as we still had about £33 of our Guarani left…

Long Term Backpacker Travel Insurance

If any of you have started looking at your options for long term travel insurance, you will have found that it’s a little trickier than you first think.

First of all its worth pointing out that annual travel insurance policies will not cover you for long term travel – most have a stipulation that any single trip can only be up to 90 days in length.

Secondly the insurance companies that you would usually turn to for your two-week holidays, in our experience will quote ridiculous figures for any trips over a few months in length. For example when budgeting for a year long trip we were quoted figures of £1000+ each! Needless to say this was not an option.

An additional problem some of you might also relate to is that we needed a policy we could extend. When purchasing insurance most companies need to know you start and end date for travel. Most also require you to begin and end your journey in your home country. If like us you do not know when or where you will finish your journey, or might perhaps have already started travelling then you might want to consider some of the options below.

*Please note these are only suggestions and should be used as a guide only. We would recommend you do your own additional research and always read the full policy before purchasing to ensure its right for your circumstances.

World Wide Insure

  •  This is the company we chose in the end. We paid £620 (£310 each) for a 10 month policy that can be extended during the policy period. They also insure those who have already commenced travel.

World Nomads

Navigator Travel

 True Traveller

*Planning on doing activities and sports…always check what’s covered first!! Each company above varies so read up on each policy.

If like us you found the options above lacked the required amount of gadget cover then this policy might also be worth considering.

Photoguard

  • A £400 item limit on our policy failed to cover our cameras or laptops so we paid this company an additional £100 approx. to ensure we were covered.

We have (thankfully!) never had to claim on any of the policies above so unfortunately we are unable to comment on this aspect. However we hope you find the information above useful.

Rio Carnival 2014

Where else can we start but to say that we were blown away by our night at the Sambadrome! The heart of the Carnival is quite simply the people. Yes the music, the drumming and the parade helped, but the locals made sure we too were jumping, clapping and cheering with the rest. Each samba school has its own song that the locals seem to know by heart and with a little encouragement we were singing along with the best of them. As most of the songs were on repeat for the length of each parade (a full 82 minutes each) we at least knew when to belt out the chorus…and the odd “la la la” never hurt anyone! ……………………………………………………………………………………………………

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For those of you that don’t know, the Sambadrome is essentially 700m of concrete lined with tiered stands. On the Sunday and Monday nights the twelve best samba schools perform and parade the length. The tiers are divided into sections, with sector 9 reserved as the tourist section. Our advice to any traveller is, throw yourself in with the locals! We’re sure sector 9 was having a fantastic time but trust us partying with the locals will heighten the experience. There were plenty of other foreigners along with us in sector 10 but who would want to miss out on the chance to share cake with the sweet old Brazilian lady next to us or to be taught dance moves by all those around you. ……………………………………………………………………………………………

IMG_6073The event starts at 9pm and continues until about 7am, for those of you that can stick it out. It seems it’s quite appropriate to see the first few schools, take a quick nap, then get back to partying…that’s if you can manage to get comfy on the concrete seats. Drinking is part of the fun but by no means compulsory. Many of the groups included young children, who out-partied the adults despite it being way past their usual bedtime! Like us, if you can’t quite stick it out to 7am, it seems it’s perfectly acceptable to make a dash for home any time after 3am. ……………………………………………………………………………………………

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All in all we would say the Sambadrome is well worth the expense but if you’re unlucky enough not to get a ticket or if your budget doesn’t quite stretch to it, this will by no means limit your carnival experience. Bloco parties are free, fun and all over the city during the entire week of carnival. In fact it’s hard to get around all of Rio’s sights without bumping into one of these street parties. Once again the people are at the heart. Our advice is to take full advantage of them – look out for large groups of nuns, brides, and pirates (this year these seemed to be the most common choice of costume) carrying a few beers and just follow them to the nearest festivity. ……………………………………………………………………………………………

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We’ve not been to Rio at any other time but to us it would seem Rio is at its best during Carnival. Yes the buses get caught in terrible traffic caused by revellers and the prices sky rocket but trust us its worth it. You only need to look at the pictures to be inspired. ……………………………………………………………………………………………

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On a different note, the Carnival is not without mishaps. It seems someone misjudged the height of this carnival float and one its figures was spectacularly decapitated…to much cheering from the crowd. ………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

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