If you remember, we’d come home from our day trip Uruguay on the last update.
After sleeping off the Uruguayian in us the next day we woke up excited for the day we had planned. Our good friend Cristian was going to take us on a tour of the wonderful metropolis of Buenos Aires. What struck me about BA was the size of the city, I’m so used to London being a relatively small city and being able to walk round it within a day and this was nothing like that. BA is so big, even with a full day Cristian was only able to show us a few things. Our first stop was the Area of Boca home of famous football team Boca Juniors. Boca as an area is quite eccentric multi-coloured houses and many people dressed up in traditional tango outfits. After an empanada, we decided that we would tour the stadium, not before a local forced Cristian in to paying him to “watch” his car. Cristian later told us if he didn’t pay the guy probably would have just bashed up his car anyway, with that knowledge we decided to split the bill with Cristian then made our way to the stadium “the chocolate box” or to us Spanish speakers “La Bombonera”
I was excited it’s always been something I’ve wanted to do, it would have been better had there been a game on but nonetheless i wanted to see the ground and the museum and just take it all in. The football ground didn’t disappoint, as to be expected it was decked out with blue and yellow everywhere, very bold. The ground itself is old with a lot of the structure still wooden but we had a guide take us round, visited the home and away changing rooms the home one having all the modern conveniences fridges jacuzzi comfortable seats in vast contrast to the away changing room which would not be out of place down the brookdene. The visit to the stadium was playing havoc with one of our group. Cristian is a fan of a different (lesser known) BA team…..San Lorenzo. Anyone would have thought Cristian would burst in to flames if he touched anything in the stadium judging by the way he cautiously walked around. -footnote: Cristian asked me to make it clear to anyone reading this that he did NOT enjoy the tour he is still loyal to San Lorenzo.
After the tour we exited the stadium on to a street with a lovely restaurant where Leo Messi was their mascot so the boys all had a picture with the mascot pretending it was me….all very funny modern day comedians!
We returned to the car to find it in good condition not smashed windows or missing tyres, Cristian pointed out an area we shouldn’t go to, you know, just to fill you with confidence about the city he then took us to a busier more like the cities of Europe we know and love, we took in the sights palaces, parliament, nice buildings just checking boxes ensuring we really were tourists. Had some traditional Argentinian lunch then said our goodbyes to Cristian but it wasn’t the end of our budding friendship as him and his girlfriend at the time Sabrina were planning on taking us out that night and we couldn’t wait.
We went to a tango dance class in a bar, most of us were up for getting involved one person chose to sit out and look like a misery, however he had the last laugh by the end of the night. The first task was to learn the first seven steps of the tango, for me, the most coordinated person in the group this was easy for the others it was not between Alex and Jack there were 4 left feet. Due to poor performance no one else wanted to partner them so they ended up partnering each other and come to think of it that was probably all part of the plan. The dancing ceased and we sat down to have a drink with Sabrina, Cristian, Jon, Alex and Jack the tipple of choice was a fantastic Chilean red, so delicious that it would be sacrilege to spill but a drop…..the conversation turned to Marvel films and at this point most non fans would know to shut up but not Alex he voiced his dislike of the films and that was it, I’d had it. I picked up a glass and threw the red wine all over Alex, staining his white cotton shirt “take that back” I screamed, holding back tears. Alex bold as anything said “you ruined my shirt” like that matters in the grand scheme of things. Alex only looked like he’d been stabbed in the heart but his heinous opinions actually stabbed me in the heart. It was the only time on any of the trip I considered my friendships with any of my comrades unlike Jon who likely questions it every day.
The night was not finished after tango though and Jon Alex and I headed off to another bar, a very odd bar, so odd that I can’t remember why it was so odd but let it be known that there is an odd bar in recoleta and I think other people enjoyed it more than me and my friends.
The next morning it was time to bid farewell to Jon and to Alex which we did in a manly way.
We went to the airport got on our three hour flight down to Patagonia where Jack and I finally became backpackers…..for a while then went back to being holiday makers.
Due to my notes not being as thorough as I’d like I’m probably going to mention now that Alex and Jack both got the back pack back just in time wear clean clothes for the final night in Buenos Aires.
To sum up the holiday with the guys it was really good to have them there despite them tempting to spend much more money than I’d hoped for in the same time but it was still well worth it even though no one would come to see Harry Potter with me at the cinema and at the time of writing I still haven’t seen it, so I’ll forever hold a grudge about that.
The numbers of participants on the trip had largely reduced we’d started with five and now we were two, we’d been on three hour flight and arrived in calafate.
We took a taxi to our hostel and were shown to our room. At first it looked like good news, we were alone in a six person dorm, then all of a sudden a French woman walked in, not only was she dirty looking she smelt as bad as she looked. Jack and I were not impressed but as all good travellers do we got on with it. In calafate the main attraction is the “Perito Moreno” glacier the fastest moving glacier in the world. We booked our trip for the following day and decided we wouldn’t socialise with the other hostel dwellers. The main reason for this was we were off the “gringo trail” these people here were proper travellers think Ben from Inbetweeners 2, Jack and I would have been treated as second class citizens because we hadn’t spent a week in a tent with nothing but a bottle of water and a stick, in fact we were the opposite of these people we didn’t even have hiking boots. After a joint effort in the kitchen Jack and I put together a wonderful meal finished it off and went to bed. Frenchie was not in the room at this point deciding instead to party on downstairs at around one o clock in the morning she barged in the room, and in her defence didn’t turn the light on like some people do, she then proceeded to get naked and get in her bed completely oblivious to the fact that she just woke us up. We woke up in the morning and to our relief she was covered by her blanket but the blanket was not smell proof, the lady kept us up most the night with a chorus of snoring, burping and farting. She can do what she pleases in reality but I’m just doing these updates to tell you my experience, and this experience was the faint smell of a French person whilst eating my breakfast. Glad to be leaving for the day we got on the coach to go the glacier, not only do we have to pay for bus but also to get in to the national park. Perhaps my scepticism gets the better of me here but it felt like the people only stopped the coaches and cars were getting through no problem so my advice if anyone goes is get four of you together and rent a car and go up there I have a feeling that you might get in for free.
Taking the bad experience of Patagonia so far in to account, seeing this Glacier was worth it. I would have even shared the room with Frenchie for a week just to see it. I was always under the impression that glaciers would be cold, obviously the glacier itself is cold but We were pleasantly surprised when we were walking round in glorious 20 degree heat. The glacier is massive and we got a lot closer to it that I thought we would. We watching it on the balcony for ages joining in with the plethora of “oooohs” and “Ahhhh” and cheering when chunks of Ice bigger than buses were crashing in the water from 30-40 metres high sending a wave of icy water to the shore it was most impressive and definitely one of my favourite excursions of the trip. You can walk round kilometres of balcony taking in different angles of the lake and glacier and get loads of cool pictures, loved it.
Honestly I can’t do this glacier enough justice, if you find yourself in South America go to this place!
I went back to the hostel that night very content, and not even a unwashed French Lady could dampen my spirits. I’d like to put a bit of a disclaimer here – the French lady was nice and pleasant just had seemingly bad hygiene issues which in close quarters with people you don’t know isn’t a great way to behave in my opinion but someone from France might see it differently who knows.
The next day we went to the bus shelter and booked our ticket to El Chalten this is where would embark on our trek up Mount Fitzroy we had two nights planned there, at the bus station there was a man who was clearly Chinese but had learnt English with an American tutor he was also booking a ticket to El Chalten and was willing to tell anyone about it, it turns out his name was Robert…..this isn’t the last you’ll hear of Robert. Later that day whilst sitting in the hostel after booking our coach Jack decided his phone was broke, it wouldn’t charge it wouldn’t turn on so like a backpacker from the early 2000’s Jack took to hostels desktop and stayed there for the rest of the night, I thought he was pulling an all nighter on Msn, but in all honesty I would have been the same anything to get out of interacting with Frenchie!
Jumping all over the place with my posts just to keep all 8 of you guessing!! We are back to the sub-continent, back to India. In the last post, we got to Baga and experienced some horrible people. You’ll be pleased to know there are more horrible people in this post.
We need to cover off the southern part of our trip to Goa and then Mumbai. I’ll jump right in to it.
Our taxi journey from The north of Goa to the south of Goa, which took us nearly three hours, only cost about 30 quid, so cheap. As we got closer to our beach that we were staying on “Patnem” the taxi drivers vocabulary became very restricted it seemed he could only say the word “Patnem” he proceeded to drive round and stop at every person he saw wound down the window and he said “Patnem” we’d see another local 100 yards down the road and do the same again. It was quite amusing for us.
A particular highlight of the journey was a monkey which ran across the road, it went as quick as it came and we never got to take a picture.
In the south we were staying at a hostel/B&B called Namaste. It was idyllic, it was on the beach front and only about 20 venues on the whole beach. We each had a room and mine and Jacks over looked the ocean. We couldn’t wait to explore.
There is a clear difference in the “vibe” (please excuse my use of that word) between the north and south, I think the best way to describe it would be that the North is More like Benidorm in India and the south is chilled out and feels like one big yoga retreat, this is enforced by a bunch of people doing Yoga across the beach every morning. We even had a go ourselves
Our days followed a similar pattern, wake up have breakfast on the beach, get a taxi to another beach and then come back have 5 minutes in the room before getting ready and going out and not forgetting to speak to Gary before going out to make sure he left some beers in an ice bucket for when we returned the the hostel later that night.
One night when we were sitting on the beach at about 2 o clock in the morning we were approached by two girls and a boy, they started sitting with us and being the polite guys we are we offered them a beer. Not willing to open beers for strangers with my teeth I told them they’d need to find a way to open the beers themselves, so one of the girls rummaged around in her dreadlocks and had a bottle opener weaved in to her dreadlocks…..I hope that paints enough of a picture of the kind of people we were dealing with. Now that we are all drinking together I tried to progress the conversation when I hit a stumbling block, I was met with the response of “woah, why do you need to know that let’s not get political” to the question “what is your name”. The conversation was not fruitless however when they told us the story of a backpacker who was killed last night walking the streets. Sounded like a urban legend but to save confrontation we decided to let them have this. After a few more beers they went on their way and we went to bed.
It really was Hippy central, that’s not a bad thing but it is a bad thing when you’re made to feel like the odd ones out because you’re on a two week holiday and not some trust fund paid for hiatus from work. Anyway the next night the beaches all suffered a black out so we started to head home from the beach, we couldn’t see where we were walking but knew the terrain underfoot had changed it went from definite sand to a harder more “crunchy” surface. I reached for my phone to give some light and found to all of our disgust that we had been walking on a pathway of spider crabs and we must have sadly and completely unintentionally killed a few. It was a weird situation there were hundreds just on the beach so naturally we were all like “what are they doing that’s weird” when a bloke from behind us chimed in “they’re dying man” thanks Random dude it was rhetorical. Horrible experience. As we continued to walk much more cautiously now the lights came back all of a sudden which meant the night could continue.
We are clearly approachable guys, as we were summoned by a girl who said “can I follow you” so we let her. It turns out the waiter at the bar she was in was being a bit creepy so we let her join us. She came with us for a few drinks then back to our hostel. It got late so we tried getting her a Tuk Tuk to which there were none available so we walked her to her hostel, her hostel was guarded by security. We had no trouble getting through security….he was very sleeepy! We then managed to get a Tuk Tuk home.
A day or so later we were sitting on a beach minding our own business when an aging club promoter approached us offering tickets to a silent disco. Being the absolute lads that we quite clearly are we said yes and planned for a big night out. First big night out since garlic naans at 4am, we were ready. The party turned out to be decent and we stayed out as late as possible and headed home around 12 or 1. It was only when we were leaving that we realised the Grant was no where to be found, he’s a big boy so we decided to head home without him, sure that he’d find his way back to Patnem beach. Jack, Alex and I were sitting having a beer a few hours later when my phone began to vibrate, it was Grant, he was asking whether I could meet him at the entrance of the beach with money. Curiosity got the better of me and so I headed there with money in multiple pockets. The situation turned out to be a lot less exciting than I had hoped and he just needed me to pay for his taxi, it was the second thing I’d given him that night. Grant is very coy about that night and his location for much of it but nevertheless I am sure it was a night to remember. We were leaving Goa the following day.
Checkout at Namaste Hostel was a bit weird, we needed to pay for our accommodation and the beers that we had nightly! We stood at reception and told them we were checking out and they took our keys and were like “bye” and we were like excuse me but we need to pay and they were like “yeah yeah yes very good sir” and we continued to stand there and were trying to push them along to take our payment because our car to airport was waiting for us….still they were like “yessir good sir” so in the end we had had enough and started to walk out the moment we turned to walk away we had workers around us telling us we needed to pay, happy to give them our rupees we went on our way next stopped Mumbai……
We arrived in Mumbai and got a taxi to Hotel Apollo in the Colaba region of Mumbai. We had a couple of planned activities we wanted to do afternoon tea at the Taj Hotel, we wanted to go to a rooftop bar on the top of the Four Season hotel and visit the “slums” we had three of four days to do this we knew it would be ok.
A personal highlight from Mumbai was our hotel, this isn’t a glowing review and I’m not slating the place either it’s a highlight because it was funny. The staff out our hotel outnumbered the guests it seemed, it was a 24 hour hotel but if you returned late at night the staff would be asleep in the corridors and would make half an attempt to get up and open the doors for you, we would tell them all to go back to sleep it was just a bit surreal being surrounded by sleeping workers. We had one staff member join us in the room to watch the cricket for half an hour and another man who told us his shift in the elevator was 12 hours but because he needed the money he was going to pull a double shift! I’ll end the blog with us leaving this hotel.
The Taj Mahal Palace
The world famous 5 star hotel was splendid and surprisingly cheap, the afternoon tea was only 15 quid. We weren’t their usual clientele, probably a bit too loud and more active than the 70+ aged residents none the less the staff were more than amenable to us, even topping up our plates with dishes they thought we’d like, just ask Alex!
We didn’t know at the time but afternoon tea was not the last time we were going to visit the Taj Hotel. We had to go there after our evening/night at the the four seasons.
Aer – Four Seasons
Aer is the four seasons rooftop bar. It gives some amazing views of the city and is a always a recommendation of mine when speaking about this trip.
We went to the Four Seasons twice. On night one we turned up and found out it was a “Red Day” which meant some bars, including this one, would not be serving Alcohol. So on the first night we had a very expensive non alcoholic cocktail and left, the highlight of the night being Alex and Jack wearing shorts and being forced to swap their shorts for some of the staffs Ill-fitted trousers before they were allowed to enter the bar! The lack of alcohol was the reason we ended up back at the Taj, one of the only hotels allowed to sell alcohol on the anniversary of Gandhi’s death (I’ll circle back to this).
The second night, in the four seasons, we all came appropriately dressed, picture this four young guys sipping on a cocktail in a relatively empty bar, relatively empty apart from another group of what looked like work colleagues. Anyhow the sole female in this group approached us and asked us in her American accent, guys are you staying here for a few drinks? Amazed that a girl would approach us, between us we managed a timid “yes” she told us she’d go and get changed and come back and have a drink with us. We spent the next hour deciding who had the best chance to get to know this lady and we hadn’t really come to decision when she came back done up clearly ready for a night out, we on the other hand weren’t so instead of having a drink with this lady we basically all just ran out on her we finished our drinks and was like…..bye. Not sure why we didn’t that really as we didn’t head home we went to an Irish bar in a local shopping mall. The bar man mugged me off for nine pound when he gave me a fake Guinness, I drank it and swiftly moved on to a cheaper beer. After a few more drinks we decided it was home time and as walked through the shopping centre we heard a band playing and so decided to check it out. There was about 100 people watching this band and no one was dancing or clapping or anything they were just watching, so I took it upon myself to get the party started and went up and danced, eventually I was joined by my friends and we got a couple of others up on the dance floor as well. The people who didn’t dance were now at least smiling, we then headed. Back to our hotel filled with joy as we walked past our sleeping hosts.
Taj Mahal Palace – Night 2
After our unsuccessful night in the four seasons we Googled where we could get a beer and it turned out that proper posh restaurants were allowed to sell alcohol, so we headed to the poshest one we knew. We got there and had a few beers, not long in to the evening we detected some English accents sitting in some chairs near us. We decided to go and speak to the owners of the accents, which was 2 girls from Brighton or Bournemouth I cannot remember now. The girls were, let’s say forward, they were with a young local man who they told us was their “photographer”. At one point when the girls went to the toilet the man was showing us some of his star gazing shots on his camera, when the girls returned and saw us all looking at the camera they had clear looks of shock and worry on their faces and they immediately questioned us “what pictures did you see” we didn’t see any pictures of them but their reactions have always made me wonder what shots could have been on that camera. After a few drinks the conversation had become random and varied as it does under the influence of alcohol and so we were now talking about star signs. Grant, with no substantial proof to contrary, labelled star signs as “bullshit” to which one of the girls replied “that’s exactly what I expect a Gemini to say” Grants retort was “ok I am a Gemini but I didn’t say that because of where the stars were when I was born”. We let this clearly sexually driven conversation play out and there were tears and tantrums before we called it a night, not before planning another night out with the girls. This lead to the biggest tantrum, close to tears Grant banned us from seeing them again he said that if we go out with them he will not come up so the following night we pandered to his will. (And people say I bitch and moan when I don’t get my own way). In a running theme that was not the last time we saw one of the girls a few years later she showed up on Channel 4’s surreal programme “naked attraction”.
Cos it’s called “the slums” you think bad straight away, i think it doesn’t really draw an accurate picture. The slums is essentially a glorified industrial estate but on the industrial estate people also live there. The reason I say it’s no so bad is because there are shops, schools and all the houses we saw all had satellite dishes. What I will say is a lot of it smells, it’s very cramped, the jobs some people have ridiculous I.e. separating smashed glass in to separate colours, and according to our tour guide they earn next to nothing.
In one factory we went in our tour guide said “it’s messi” referring to me, they all stopped and looked and eventually one person said “you are not messi” he was right of course, he then proceeded to go upstairs and fetched a Messi Argentina top and gave it to me, I thought as a gift, it was not a gift, as then wanted me to buy it….I did not. I think the slums had a major effect on Grant he did not seem to enjoy the day.
Anyway we had a great time in India it was definitely one of my favourite places to visit and we got a great send off from our hotel staff. At the top of this part about Mumbai I mentioned Gary from the lift on his 24 hour shift and the sheer volume of sleepy staff members well, we checked out and a fight almost broke out about who could take our bags down the stairs as we were taking the lift. In the lift we decided to tip Gary and he started stuffing the money in his pockets before we reached the ground floor. At the ground floor the doors opened and there must have been 10-15 workers all with their hands outstretched we started giving money out like we were making it rain conscious that we would run out of money before we got to the last person, thankfully we didn’t but it needn’t have mattered if we did as we were waved off by the herd of staff we saw them dividing up the tips, it became clear to us why Gary from the lift was frantically stuffing his pockets full of our money…..he wasn’t going to share!!!!
Everything on the trip was running smoothly, a little too smoothly if you ask me. I was proven right on arrival in Buenos Aires. We went to collect our luggage, mine came through, Jons came through then after a while it was becoming quite clear that there was an issue. A large proportion of the plane didn’t have their luggage and to top it off there was a complete lack of staff at the airport, after about 10 minutes the baggage-less crowd started to become restless
So there we were, at the airport, Jack and Alex had joined the locals in a collective clapping, this it seems was some sort of protest. The bags hadn’t arrived and from the broken English explanation it seemed that they had stayed on the plane which was now on route to Costa Rica, return date unknown. I mean it was entertaining to see how the stereotypically quick to anger Latinos were in dealing with such a stressful situation and it turns out they were not very calm. I think it’s safe to say, we were all thankful it wasn’t Jon’s bag because if it was it would have been a call to the embassy and a bomb threat to ensure the plane turned around.
Jon and I went ahead and found the air Bnb on Calle Uruguay. Jon and I claimed what Jon described as “the good beds” (remember the hammock) and then Jack and Alex turned up with no clothes other than the clothes they were standing in. Jon and I did the polite thing and offered our clothes but there was some technical difficulties with that.
Buenos Aires out of all the places we visited was the most “European” of all destinations. It’s famed for its food so we decided to check out some fine dining, as we were assured it cheap. Listening to the unfounded claims of the English that South America is full of crime and con artists, we all left the house with nothing but the money we needed for the meal. This, it’s turns out, was a mistake. We sat down for a “steak meal” then the menus come round and we realised one by one that we definitely hadn’t brought enough money with us. It was at that point that Alex revealed his secret…..he was harbouring a debit card….. Our savour, this piece of plastic was the sole reason we are all back in England and not working off a bill in the kitchens of Argentinas top restaurants. So Alex paid the bill 35 pound each, and our most expensive meal of the trip, and we headed home bellys full and wallets empty, or at least Alex wallet was empty.
We were staying in the Recoleta region of Buenos Aires which is famous for a cemetery (see below for a lovely picture of Alex in the Cemetery) a massive cemetery. And like a place with nothing else to offer Recoleta sells this cemetery as a tourist destination. That being said it’s free to enter and frigging massive so worth the visit it’s even the death home to famous Argentinian singer Gloria Estefan. We spent a day paying our respects and exploring the cemetery, very weird.
We hadn’t been on a proper night out according to Jon in a long time. So naturally that night, to appease him, we planned a big night. We got some food, got some drinks and was just about to go out when we discovered we had a smart TV. This meant one thing, night cancelled and a big old Netflix and chill night. We watched a few classic episodes of fawlty towers and then found that the night had run away from us. Jon was most disappointed, but being the considerate one in the group I didn’t even want to watch Netflix but knew the guys had been wearing the same clothes for two days and so the last thing they wanted was a night out. Not only am I the considerate one but I’m also the scapegoat and I let Jon tell me off for putting Netflix on. We fell asleep and to make up for it, in the morning I made breakfast.
I was in the shower when the boys started talking about the best breakfast they’ve had in two weeks, they thought I didn’t hear and I was too humble to tell them at the time. I made em the breakfast because I knew we had a big day in front of us, we were going to leave Argentina, have a day out and then return to Argentina. The uber was ordered and we started our day trip to Uruguay….celebrities, alcohol and school kids all in one day….
It took us about 20 minutes to get to the port and it made me appreciate how big Buenos Aires is. We had only really explored one region, Recoleta. The boarding process was fun, stamped out of one country in to another then on board the ship. I thought it would be at this point that I fell ill with a bad case of seasickness but thanks to the relatively smooth journey I avoided it.
We arrived in Uruguay in to the colonial town of Colonia, it all looked very quant with the European style white buildings and very much like Paraty, for those avid readers who’ve read previous installments (shame on you for those that haven’t). After a short walk through the streets of Uruguay we hit the central hub of Colonia, despite being very picturesque (or selfie-esq for Alex and Jack) there wasn’t a great deal to actually do. When we are put in a situation like that we do what any self respecting traveller does, find the tallest building in the town and climb up it. It was Fero de Colonia Del Sacramento, or a lighthouse. We went to the top and naturally got some fantastic panoramic views of the town then left.
Now I’m going to mention that on our boat and on the walk in to the town we were being suspiciously followed by an Amy Winehouse lookalike and now my description won’t do her justice for how much she resembled the late singer but she even had the “I’ve just been an injected myself” look we all grew to love during the popstars glory years.
After the lighthouse we went for some lunch where I made a terrible choice in food and ended up with about 2 raviolis on my plate, but lunch became notable for two reasons aside from the lack of food on my plate. Jon started Drinking, footnote lunch is an acceptable time to start drinking only if your drinking with one or more others, Jon was drinking alone, and the notable situation we decided that Amy Winehouse plus one was definitely following us and it seemed as though she’d had more to drink that Jon even this early in the afternoon. She really was AW reincarnate.
We ditched AW in an attempt see if she truly was following us so we went to a bar and sure enough some way down pint numero uno (yeah one incorporates Spanish and what) and numero 5 or 6 for Jon, Amy turned up in the bar but by now she was starting to creep us all out with her “dead-behind-the-eyes” stare so we made another futile effort so lose her. We headed to the beach for a sunset, you could sense the excitement in Jack he positively bounced to the beach with Alex at his toes. Jon and I stayed in the bar but by now Jon was all but incomprehensible and he started acting peculiar and out of character. He got up and said “I’m going for a selfie” I was at a loss, I didn’t know what to do so I let him leave his corona at the table and go and make a selfie with the corona in the sky. Helios truly had taken Jon, when it came for time to leave Jon was nowhere to be found. The sun had set and we had 10 minutes to get back to the boat we searched the seafront and eventually found Jon clutching his camara at arms length taking selfies with the black sky as his back drop.
Once we dragged Jon out of the land of the pixels we made our way back to the boat and made it with just enough time before we set sail. Due to our late arrival we were seated separately Jack and Alex sitting next to a lovely German couple with who they discussed, at length, the war. Jon and I sat amongst a school trip of about 20 students, to my delight they were just about young enough and only had a basic understanding of English to appreciate my child like humour and I spent the hour on the journey home providing light entertainment for them all
I’ve succeeded in making this one a bit shorter ….that does mean there will be about 6 or 7 parts to this blog
The planned trip was Delhi, Goa and Mumbai. I’m going to split this in to two so it’s not well long…..it will be positively short in comparison to South America part two. I’ll do Delhi and Goa part 1 in part 1 and I’ll go Goa part 2 and Mumbai in part two after South America part 3 in Feb/March…..keeep up guys
I have to admit the trip did not start well. After sipping Bellinis at Heathrow airport for far to long we realised that it was final call for the flight heading to Delhi, we downed the final dregs and started running whilst simultaneously looking for our gate. It’d be a really short post if I said we missed our flight here, but we didn’t. We made it! I had booked my flight separately from Jack, Alex and Grant and so was sitting a few rows away from their luxury exit seats, their exit seats which would later become a lot less luxurious.
Half way through the flight, I felt woozy. Stuck in a middle seat I was conscious of how often I got up but the wooziness got the better of me and I had to make my way to the toilet! I was violently sick and felt a bit better so went back to my seat until another wave of sickness hit me and I had to rush back to the toilet. After the third time of this happening within an hour I decided I could no longer disturb the poor lady sitting next to me so with no where else to go and my three friends soundly asleep I decided to lie down in their extra leg room like a dog! It was cosy and it had much better access to the toilets, and the only inconvenience was that of my friends, who let it be felt by a few kicks to the ribs.
The sickness passed and we landed in Delhi. We’d been warned that Delhi was busy. When we landed we were pleasantly surprised that the airport was empty and even when we got to the subway, empty so we presumed the rumours were just that, rumours.
They were not just rumours.
We got of the train at Delhi station came outside and I literally laughed out loud! There were so many people it was absolutely ridic. What made it funnier was Alex had a suitcase rather than a back pack and when he was dragging it along there were three people between him and his suitcase at all times. Anyway Alex’s long arms aside picture the scene there were thousands of people outside this station and most of them were trying to get over a small walkway/bridge over the railway tracks and this is where the fun began 😂.
We joined the crowds trying to cross the bridge and were chased up the stairs by an official looking man who told us we needed to pay to cross the bridge, this seemed strange to us as no one else was paying. The man said casually that it because we are foreigners. He was only asking for about a pound each so we were going to pay until Jack pipes up and said “hmm come over here” we followed him and out of ear shot of the suit Jack told us he’d read about this and it was a scam, lonely planet done us a favour. Instead of confronting the man about this we decided to do what any polite young Englishmen would do and just walked in the opposite direction and decided to go round the railway rather than over it.
Walking round the busy part of Delhi was fun except it seemed every Indian was intent on sending us to Connaught place I am not exaggerating when I tell your hat every single person we spoke to sent us there it was ridiculous, before we knew why we eventually found out, the fact that everyone sent us there was encouraging. That encouragement soon turned to disappointment when we found Connaught place, it was just a hot bed of conmen. “Travel Agencies” everywhere. These travel agents were telling us that due to Barack Obama’s upcoming visit all tourists would need a security pass, we knew this was bullshit but the sheer amount of people telling us meant we were going to give in, after all all they wanted was a pound. So we picked out the most trustworthy looking conmen and entered their shop, to ensure minimal amount of conning two of us stayed outside and two of us went in. I stayed outside. A taxi driver approached me and said “these are bad men, where is your hotel” so I told him and he said I’ll take you there (for the equivalent of about 2 quid) so I rushed in the shop told the guys about the taxi driver and we jumped on the mans taxi and headed to our hotel.
We arrived at our hotel in Paharganj and despite the slight unnerving metal detector at the reception the hotel was very nice.
Delhi has some fantastic places to see and we only had 3 or 4 days, it was about 5 years ago I can’t remember exactly. Anyway, our main focuses were
Jama Masjid of Delhi
Delhi as a base for a trip to “Agra” home of the Taj Mahal
This is one of the biggest mosques in the whole of India. It’s located in the Old part of Delhi so we headed there on our first full day. The old town is I think authentic would be the best word to describe it …and we stuck out a sore thumb! Naturally a starey bunch of people anyway the locals were even more intrigued by the white 6 foot (not me or Grant) obvious tourists walking through the streets. Anyway we got to the mosque and went in, took our shoes off first obviously and went for a nose around. I mean it was big and I’m not really sure what else to say, there was some great views from some of the towers. Weirdly at the top of one of the towers a local man asked for a picture with me, something that become a bit of a running joke throughout the India trip, anyway not one to disappoint I obliged
After this, and still in old Delhi we hailed down a Tuk Tuk to drive us to Jaipur Gate. This driver quoted us 300 Rupees, about 3 quid I think and started to drive us. He then stopped at a checkpoint got out and asked someone for a cigarette right in front of us! Got back in the Tuk Tuk and told us he had been fined and we would have to give him 500 Rupees, Grant wasn’t having this and said we literally saw you ask that man for a cigarette, you didn’t get fined, and we aren’t paying you. This didn’t seem to bother our driver who carried on driving us to “Jaipur Gate”. After a while Jack said we were going in the wrong direction for Jaipur gate so we demanded the man let us off the Tuk Tuk, once he let us off he tried charging us more money, which we didn’t give him. I realise I’ve moaned about this journey a bit so to lighten the mood whilst in the Tuk Tuk to to wring place we did see a naked man escorted by Police with sticks so you know…..every cloud.
Long story short though, we never saw Jaipur Gate. Instead we got the subway back to Paharganj and found a reputable company to organise our trip to The Taj Mahal, once that was done we headed back to our hotel.
Our hotel was an odd place, pleasant, just odd. As we were walking back to our rooms a man started following Jack and Alex and they had to run back to their rooms, thankfully Grant and I were more lucky and no one followed us. We got in our room, which was freshly clean and prepared for a little nap when there was a tap on the door so I answered and it was one of the men who worked at the hotel. “Sir we have cleaned your room” he said. I replied “thank you”. He still stood there for an awkwardly long amount of time so I had to clarify and I just asked in way that came out much ruder than I intended “what do you want, money?” Thankfully the rudeness went straight over his head and said yes so Grant and I scraped some money together and paid him.
I was later told by Alex and Jack that the man who followed them also wanted money, scared to confront said man they shut the door before he caught up and then slid money underneath the door.
The next day was the planned trip to the Taj Mahal, we were half expecting no driver to turn up at 6am that morning. Our half expectations were not met when we saw a car outside our hotel, a car but no driver. We needed to investigate the lack of driver and so we approached the car when we saw a small man running towards us giggling, behind the giggling man were two dogs playfully running after him. It came as no relief as the man introduced himself as our driver, he later told us he’d been feeding the dogs but they scare him so as they got playful he ran off. Prem, our driver for the day became one of the highlights of The Delhi prt of the trip.
The drive to Agra, of the Taj Mahal is about 4 hours from Delhi so it was a long drive, we spoke to Prem about life in India to pass the time until about half an hour before we got to Agra where we stopped for breakfast, a breakfast where it seemed no matter what you ordered you came away with a Masala Omlette, so after four unordered masala omelettes we were ready to get going we walked back out to meet Prem who was standing with a younger more slender man. Prem told us he would like to introduce us to our guide for the day, we all shook hands. I think it was Alex who piped up with the obvious question of how was our guide going to get to the Taj Mahal as Prem’s Toyota Prius was already full with Alex, Jack, Grant and myself. Prem told us, as if it wasn’t a problem, that our guide would be joining us for the remaining 30 minutes. So after a painfully claustrophobic car journey we arrived at the world famous site and arranged to meet Prem in a couple of hours.
We annoyed the tour guide with stupid questions for the entirety of our tour so much so that he would walk off and then when we’d join him he would just be doing the tour but to no one. The bits we did hear though were interesting and it is a well cool building, I enjoyed it. In Agra there is also an old fort that we visited which was decent mainly because of all the Monkeys that were there.
Our journey back was the highlight, after we visited an obligatory gift shop Prem was ready drive us home.
The roads in India are “fun” for want of a better word and Prem managed to make them more fun as we were leaving a service station, he decided that a good time to take a selfie of him and his new found English friends was as he was pulling on the motorway. We all cried out Prem ‘no not now’ and instead Alex took the selfie! We survived thankfully.
Prem, it turns out had recently become a father, he told us about the Hindu tradition of naming the baby after 21 days, I often think about Prem’s nameless baby and hope she’s doing well.
Anyway Prem got us back to Delhi and all was good. We decided to have dinner in Old Delhi that night as Jack had read about a decent restaurant so we made our way over there and never actually ate in the famed restaurant. We were walking through the back streets of Old Delhi where there was no street lights and only a handful of people when the sounds of call to prayer started in the streets, lost, out of our comfort and signal zone and extremely hungry the sound was enough to send us searching for a Tuk Tuk to drive us back to the safe bustling cow ridden streets of Paharganj. Once there we ate in a local restaurant where we were given the choice of Meat or Vegetable, none of us felt brave enough to try the mystery meat so we all ended up with Vegetable curry and a prison style silver cup of water. The reason this noteworthy is because for all for of us this meal came to 3.30, absolute bargain. I wish I could point you all (Alex, Grant Jack or one of the five others reading this) in the direction of the restaurant but it was a very non descript place and the name was in Arabic sooo sorry about that.
The next day we were making our way to Goa for the first half of our beach holiday.
Our trip in Goa consisted of two parts a stay in the North of Goa and a trip for a few days in the South of Goa. There are a couple of highlights to the trip in North Goa one was a horrible Englishman abroad and one was a greedy Indian man. See a balance of horribleness. I’ll cover the greedy Indian man first, he was the owner of our Hotel in Goa. When we checked in he slowly counted our money about 4 times, that is no exaggeration, and we had to sit in reception and watch him. Once he was finally satisfied that we had paid the right amount he took us to our rooms, not before asking for our passports “to put in his safe” which was actually the seat of his moped. Anyway he showed us to our room, we walked in and he told us this two person room was for all of us and so some of us would have to stay on the floor on mattresses, we refused and showed him our booking which confirmed we had booked two rooms. The greedy landlord then knocked on our new neighbours door and told them that we were staying in their room, this time they refused, this lead to the man to take us to an empty room and let us stay in there, to this day I have no idea why he didn’t just give us that room straight away. The problems didn’t end there, Grant had bought WiFi with his room and complained when his dongle didn’t work so the greedy landlord came up and tried to connect his phone to Noones surprise this didn’t work. The owner opened a window and ordered Grant to “try now” Again this did not work. The problems with this accommodation continued when we struggled to get our passports back, eventually, after a day of them being his moped seat he returned them. On check out the man said to us “Good Review eh?” Needless to say we did not give him a good review.
The second story of The northern part of our trip is a quick shout out to the most obnoxious English man abroad. When wanting another drink at 1pm in the morning he just held out his empty bottle, in an outstretched hand, without breaking conversation with his mates the waiter came and got the drink, he kept his hand outstretched and waited for the waiter to put a drink back in his hand. The man did not say please or thank you once…..horrrible.
Finally one thing I remembered as I wrote this and it was a personal highlight…..we found a night club that served Garlic naans at 4am in the morning. Loved it.
Anyway I’ll finish off India another time as this one is getting longer and longer and I swore to myself I would shorten them.
We made our way from Rio de Janeiro to an island down the coast Ihla Grande. We assumed the scamming and general attempts to bleed us dry would be over once we left the city, we were wrong. We got off the coach and were frog marched to the “coach companies” water taxi. Conned in to believing it was the same company by some poorly made T-Shirts the pleasant worker assured us that there were only two options to get to the island, fast and slow. Being the impatient 5 guys that we are we opted for the fast ship and decided that the five extra reals was worth it. After greedily counting our cash the worker took us to the seafront and showed us where our ship would leave from (in one hour). We paid 75 (reals) for a return voyage on the fast ship (they called it the fast ship so often that I am fairly sure that was the name of the vessel) then on route to the seafront we were bombarded with the offers of return journeys for 40 reals almost half the price!!! Boy did we feel duped. We knew we’d been had but we’d just completed our first lengthy coach journey and no one, including Alex, could be bothered to complain so we just sat and waited in the glorious sunshine.
We docked in Abraão, the capital of Ihla Grande and made our way to our home for the next few nights. Hostal Biergarten. We were told that for the first night that one of us would need to sleep in a room with 5 South American girls, and that after the first night we could all bunk together. I’m not hear to point fingers, but after someone creepily volunteered to share with the girls we decided as a group to put the most sensible and least creepy person in their room, me. It turned out well for me as the others had to quietly, tip-toe around the room as there was a sleeping couple on the bed.
Ordinarily a hostel room by yourself is the ultimate goal of a backpacker but NOT when the Wifi range was about a foot away from the router, so instead, we all gathered in the common area to update social media to enhance our own self worth as we competed for number of likes on an Instagram picture.
Whilst sitting in the common area our hostal worker came around and gave us a few tips on the island and let us know that there was a party later that night and anyone who is anyone is going to be there. We explained that for now we just wanted to relax and so we headed to the beach. It was the first time on the trip that we could lie on the beach and not worry about our belongings or about being harassed by angry drunk men or people selling things no one needs, it was great and the weather was fantastic all in all it finally felt like the vacation had started.
We noticed that there was another group of boys on the beach who we decided were English, and even more specifically we decided they looked Jewish (there is relevance, it just comes later on in the story). We had something to eat and returned to our hostal and started getting ready for our night out . I introduced myself to the Peruvian ladies I was sharing with and I assume the others introduced themselves to the sleeping couple as later that evening we all become good friends. I delicately explained, to my friends, that one of the Peruvians had an obvious ailment and Grant had a horrific reaction and let’s just say the Peruvians didn’t speak a world of English but I’m fairly sure booming laughter is universal, needless to say the Peruvians tarred me with the same brush as Grant and for that reason I could not return to the room until they were all in bed. The night was upon us and we headed to the party.
At the party it was all a bit of a blur, Jon made friends with some Brummies, We all made friends with Cristian and Sabrina, Reginy and Thalu (if your reading this then apologies I was never going to be able to spell the names) then Jack spotted the boys from the beach earlier and shouted “hey you’re northwest London Jews” and they replied “no we are Essex Jews” but it turns out they all knew Jack and Jack knew them from the Jewish football league we all had discussions about who knew who. The night was Great and needless to say Jon was the first in and I was the last……standard. Alex was very drunk and shamelessly tried it on with the lady who worked in our hostal. How he didn’t feel the need to go and book in to somewhere different I will never know.
The next day we had planned to hike to the famous “Lopez Mendez” a gruelling 2 hour trek. I much prefer telling this story face to face because in words I am not going to be able to stress our mistrust in any of the locals. I didn’t realise the night before that our new friends Christian and Sabrina had agreed to come along but for me, the more the merrier. The boat taxi guys were telling us along the seafront “you going to lopes mendes, it’s a three hour trek” but we were adamant that this was just a ploy to get us all in their boat and for them to take us five minutes. Hungover (not Alex) and 20 minutes in to the trek we knew that we were not close. Thankfully we came to a beach selling chips. Doing England no favours in front of the argies (Cristian and Sabrina) Jack and I, in a hungover drunk frame of mind thought it would be best to buy these and save them for the journey ahead. Every 15 minutes for the next hour we insisted on chip breaks, and I’m fairly sure C and S (Cristian and Sabrina, I can’t keep typing their names and they do feature heavily) didn’t have a clue what was going on. 2 hours later we got to a beach and people on the beach told us that our desired beach was still 40 minutes away. Tired, hungover and with the hours of daylight slowly ticking away we believed the man and got in his boat. We arranged and price and time for him to bring us back to abraão later that day so that was all good. We finally made it too the beach and it was worth the trek, the beach although famous was practically empty and we enjoyed our first true “beach day” of the holiday. Later we walked back to the meeting point and after a quick drink on a floating bar our driver arrived and took us back.
The next day was our last full day on Ihla Grande and once of the many draws of the island is it’s clear waters and opportunity to dive. We went on a hunt for snorkels and found a trust worthy looking man to take us out. Alex decided not to join us and instead posed for a picture on a paddle board and spent the day in the room. Jon, Grant, Jack and myself got on the boat and went to the diving spot. The diving was uneventful but what happened next was a godly event. We saw the clouds closing in and the clouds gradually got darker working its way down the dulux colour chart. We knew it was time to head back, on route the heavens opened. It was a downpour on an almighty scale. We had towels wrapped round us and it was painful when the droplets hit our face. We made it back to the capital and it looked like New Orleans (the bad years). The road to our hostel was now a river. I have never experienced rain like it. Too skip ahead a bit, it rained harder than I’ve ever seen for 48 hours. This caused Alex to worry about the climate of the whole of South America and book an early flight from iguazu to Buenos Aires just I case the weather was the the same 1000’s of kilometres away.
Anyway back to the present, we finished the diving trip and waded through the typhoid filled river and got underneath the shelter of our hostel. That night we stayed in and had a few drinks with the girls from São Paulo and The boy from Bexley Heath and girl from Canada. We played spoons and other stereotypical hostel (the accommodation) games. A few of us went to bed and left some of the others awake for them to enjoy all the experiences Brazil has to offer.
Due to the unforeseen amount of time we spent in the hostel we got to know the staff and I was delighted to hear that the worker had been to an MK DONS game. Not many people know the team so I got more excited than I probably should have done. Anyway we spent the morning getting changed into our water resistant clothing and trudged down to the boats and took our boat back to the main land.
After the the delights of the first two days the island really disappointed on the final two days. One particular highlight of Ihla Grande was the argument between Grant and Jon, I wish I hade written more notes on the reason behind the argument but all I remember is that it culminated in Jon, err “uncharacteristically”, jumping to mild aggression and Grant, err “uncharacteristically” being patronising and condescending.
Our next destination was Paraty which was a journey consisting of two buses. We were queueing for the first bus when the others decided they were hungry and all went to get food, they decided to leave the toughest member of the group by themselves (me). What happened next would have driven one of the others to frantically and without care for the expense, make a phone call of help to the rest of the group that is not what I did when a young man approached me with clear menace in his eye, I stood my ground and did not let him near the bags despite his many attempts to grab them. The boys returned and my attacker sunk away, we got on the bus and as fate would have it sitting there with a smile on his face was the boy from the bus stop who has come to be affectionally known as “PARATYYYYY”.
The bus stopped in Paraty and we all got off, including “Paratyyyyy” but before we were leaving we had to collect our bags which were bundled in the corner of the bus. “Paraty” asked what we thought was, can I help you move your bags? To which we politely replied with a chorus of “no” (it’s at this point I probably should point out that he barely spoke one word of English) “paraty” still went for our bags and Jon lost his shit, many nos and fuck off and finger wagging was done and with hunched shoulders looking defeated “paraty” stood aside. We then all picked up our bags, and underneath them all was a small rucksack and “paraty” squeezed his way past us and picked it up. We all looked at Jon with a look of condemnation which was countered with a shrug of the shoulders and a flippant “I don’t fucking care, he shouldn’t have touched our bags”
We made it to our hotel, it was still raining, I am sure had we watched the weather there would have been severe weather warnings but needless to say our spirits were not dampened, not even after the taxi driver charged us a tenner to travel not even a mile.
Our hostel was big and I can’t for the life of me remember the name of it but on the face of things it was decent, but scratch through the surface and you will always find issues. The main concern was cleanliness they didn’t once clean our private bathroom which meant demand for the general public W.C was higher than normal, not ideal in a big hostel. We put our bags in our room which five of us were sharing with one other guy whose name also escapes me, I’m going ask you to utilise your imagination or YouTube which ever you prefer but we went through the standard “where you going, where you been, where you from” stuff and when he replied his voice was the same as pee wee Hermans, the nickname almost stuck, until we went down for dinner. It was pizza night, Alex bitched and moaned, of course. Grant last in the shower joined us down at the table later and talked us through his tormented shower. Pee Wee Herman spent a lot of time in the room and had positioned himself at a very weird angle. Whilst grant was in the shower he noticed a small crack in the door which allowed visual through to the most private of areas, and more conveniently in direct eye sight of pee wee Herman, so grant showered in his swimming trunks and convinced himself we had a peeping Tom in our room and thusly refused to shower in that room any more. So Pee Wee Herman quickly became Peeping Tom.
We went to buy some alcohol to pre-drink as we heard that Paraty has a lively night scene (turns out this scene consists of one, hard to find club) anyway we drunk in the social area and slowly the other guests migrated from the room we was in, to a smaller much more cramp room, it was becoming aparent that our antics were not welcome within their group….I think they were your more traditional traveller. Jon took personal insult to this. Unperturbed by the rudeness of the other guests, we continued our night despite clearly being excluded from the hostels night out. I thought there was only one way to save the night, duck duck goose, the mere suggestion sent Jon to his room, one man down we still played….I circled the group, you could feel the tension as the others waited with baited breath find out if they would be “goose” Alex muscled twitched as I stumbled over the word duck, grant sat still as I patted him on the head I had them in the palm of my hands, I circled them again and once more just to make sure they couldn’t predict when it was going to happen, duck, duck, duck, duck, goose. There it was jack rose, I leapt in to action I could feel the cold hard granite floor beneath my feet, Jack was nipping at my heels I managed the first circuit but jacks lengthy gait was benefiting him I could feel him closing the distance between us but then in desperate attempt to win I jumped in to my seat only moments from being caught, the guys erupted. The crowd pleased with what they saw were heard afterwards likening it to the great duck duck goose game of 93 in Greenfields playground, being so close to the event I wouldn’t like to pass judgement. The event brought the crowd back to us “was you guys just playing duck duck goose” we were in, we got invited out and Jon came down stairs and refused to believe that it was duck duck goose that made us cool.
A little while later were ready for out, about to walk the cold rainy streets of Paraty. We were heading to Paraty 33 where, according to all sources, it’s the place to be. We left mob handed led by a female Scot, she was adamant she knew the way. After walking round what is quite a small town for 15 it became clear that she had less clue than scooby doo at the beginning of an episode. Jack, Grant and I left the group with Alex and Jon choosing to chase tail. We found the club almost immediately when the other did turn up we found out that they had been bad mouthing us telling people that we probably went to sleep. We all had a good night and woke up fit and healthy ready for our trip down to Curitiba the next day.
Paraty was a quaint little town with a very colonial look, not much goes on but despite that I enjoyed our brea
We arrived in Curitiba which to me felt like the first “European” town we came across it had a really commercial feel. We had a very short time in Curitiba and we only had one mission, find some wild Capybaras. Easy. We got in a cab “donde esta la capybara senor” and within minutes we was in a field surrounded by massive tame marsupials. They are very odd looking and for much of the time done nothing but eat and sleep.
The next morning we woke up and went to the car hire joint. Most uneventful but we had a lovely white car that was more spacious than we could of hoped for. Jack took the first stint behind the wheel, we had 10 hours in front of us, one road to the famed Iguazu (the most dangerous town in Brazil)
Much shorter this time round and haven’t read back through so there is every chance of a grammatical area. Next time I’ll let you know how the car journey went, talk about the falls and the journey out of Brazil and in to Argentina.
After Jack drove, Jon took up the mantle not the person I was fearing the most. Until we came to a speed bump, I thought he’s was trying to make us fly home. We all took it in turns with me bringing the boys home on the final leg, they clearly wanted the professional driver to do the stint in the city at night, it made sense to me. By and large the road trip was uneventful, with the main entertainment being Jon reinventing himself as “urban Jon” when he pointed at a cow and said “look at that tonk cow” I haven’t heard him use the word tonk before or since (thank god) but to be honest if that was the worst we had to face in a 10 hour road trip across one of the most hostile countries on the planet then that’s all good with me.
Foz Du Iguazu, notorious for crime instigated by the Paraguayans coming over the bridge. The country is literally a stones throw away, unless, like me, you throw like a 10 year old girl. It feels as though, I concentrate to much on Jon (but Jon if you’re reading you have to admit it’s not that bad) but it was Jon who refused to believe us that “Foz” was a dangerous place to be. He wouldn’t believe us despite some houses adorning electric fences and despite being told by the restaurant not to hang around as it can get tasty, and I don’t think he meant the food. So of course heeding the advice of the locals we ran home, all except Jon who in what I can only imagine was a show of face walked home on the other side of the road.
The lady in our hostel, tried to sell us every trip possible, she was constantly rebuffed we had an agenda and we planned to stick to to it. She did however send us to the restaurant, and it was up until this point the nicest food we’d had, more meat than you could possibly ask for and a buffet to go with it…..all in all delicious.
The next day before we headed to the famed falls, we stopped to put some laundry in. Jon, Jack and I all did it. Jon and me sent Jack in first so that we could just say “same” . Thankfully the woman spoke perfect English so it almost went without a hitch that was until the woman threw a curveball and asked Jon “name” in English I don’t know what he heard because he panicked and cautiously yelled for help “jackkkkkk, what did she say” I haven’t seen someone so worried since grant went shopping Pepsi max and discovered they’d sold out.
Now we were finally on our way, was going to see what all this fuss was about. Now I think my diary entries have been quite funny (apologies if you don’t agree) but I’m going to be serious for a moment. When we got the falls I was amazed, I’ve seen waterfalls before but never had I seen some so big and so many you can look down an “alleyway” of waterfalls and it is some impressive, the amount of water, the noise, the infrastructure built in the falls it was truly amazing and would recommend anyone to go there. You can visit the falls from both the Argentinian side and Brazilian side, foz du iguazu is the Brazilian side.
When you are entering the park a man stops you, you need to buy a Mac and a water proof phone protector, aware that the Brazilians are all at it, we refused to give the man the time of day. Later we would come to regret not making the purchase, you can walk out on a broad walk at the bottom of one of the waterfalls and my god, you get soaked Jon was the only smart enough to buy the waterproof stuff.
Grant and I made friends with an English man who was cycling through Brazil, but around São Paulo he decided that cycling wasn’t for him so he sent his bike home and carried on like normal people on buses and planes (that’s all I have to say about that, but it is relevant)
After seeing the falls we went back to our hotel rooms, the day had come this was on our comrades last night, the next day, grant would leave us and fly home and the rest of us Alex, Jon, Jack and myself would continue on to Argentina to view the falls from the other side. Grant left in a taxi and there was an emotional embrace beforehand involving Grant and someone else who had rediscovered why they were friends in the first place. I think Brazil can do that to a friendship, it will make it stronger and really re-enforce once made bonds.
Grant left and we took the car back to the car hire place, passing grant who was stuck in traffic we stereotypically all swore at him as we drove past and I think in the rear view mirror I saw grant with a smile on his face and a tear in his eye.
After dropping the car off we went back to the hostel where Jon was the envy of the group as he booked himself on for a sky dive in the morning. We woke early the next morning to send Jon on his way and not know whether we would see him again. As it happens we did see him again just a few hours later. In a not so customer friendly move the receptionist said we could stay in our room until our friend arrived but then a few hours later changed her mind and rushed us our quicker than a blink much to our dismay. We then got in a cab and crossed our first border in to Argentina home of Lionel Messi, steak, tango, cheats, wine, steak, Lionel Messi and wine and steak.
It felt like it took an age to cross the border, in and out of taxis and whatnot then on the other side we had an absolute palava trying to find out hostel.
When we did finally find it, we had our second wifi issue of the trip. You need to understand that wifi issues are big problems and thusly play a large part in this informative review of the whole of South America. The wifi issues were resolved by the age old trick of turning the router off and on again. I sat on the balcony and enjoyed listening to the gunfire in neighbouring Paraguay. Whilst I was sitting there blissfully minding my own business I was interrupted by two fellow travellers. It was becoming apparent that it was acceptable to strike conversation with complete randomness based on them staying in the same accommodation as you which in my mind bares no reflection on whether you share any common ground with another person. The two travellers were, an odd couple in every sense. A boy and a girl who didn’t strike me as in a relationship (I’m not suggesting that boys and girls can’t be friends) but the girl was chatty and the boy stood there, mute, occasionally laughing at parts of the conversation he thought were funny but from my recollection was kinda weird. He name was jazz and his name was David, it seems appropriate to name them jazz and Dave and whilst it made me laugh it was only a small bit of entertainment in a conversation that lasted longer than was comfortable and I’m sure their motive was an invite to dinner, needless to say I didn’t oblige blaming lack of knowledge of plans for the overall group.
The wifi issues continued in to the night and the next day, the accomodation only got worse when Jon got in the pool only be told that he shouldn’t be in the pool and to get out. In my mind it seemed odd that they would even have a pool of it was unusable, anyway the attraction of the town isn’t the horrible hostels, it’s the access point to the Argentinian side of iguazu. That was the only thing on the itinerary then we could get the hell outta dodge.
We went to the falls and at risk of repeating myself I was amazed, in fact, the falls from this side are even more impressive. 9 kilometres of awesomeness I loved every minute of it despite seeing a spider of questionable intent. At the falls amongst all the thousands of people we could have bumped in to we bumped in to cycling man from the Brazilian side. I mean it’s a small coincidence but I was still shocked to see him.
We rounded off the short stay in Puerto iguazu with a good nights sleep then made our way to the airport to get on the flight to Buenos Aires. The capital of Argentina and what we later discovered to be the only place in South America that seems to function in a semi sensible manner.
So this one is more of a destination review, more so than a specific recount of events although there will be a smattering of my personal highlights and a couple of anecdotes 🙂
I’ve been to Florence twice for two different types of holidays and since the trips I’ve done loads of reading on the city, it’s so interesting. I mentioned in my first post that I’m surprised we don’t learn more about the city in history classes considering how important it has been over the years especially in the Middle ages.
The question “what is your favourite holiday” is a really tough question so when I ask my self I break it down to multiple questions….favourite beach holiday, favourite activity holiday and stuff like that and Florence is my favourite city holiday.
Florence is a fairly big city in Tuscany, it neighbours Siena and Pisa, home to Fiorentina and the old part of the city is home to some of the most iconic buildings in Italy along with some iconic and stars he events….I think I’ll describe some of the buildings/Places and some of the events, things to do then let you know some of my personal experiences of the City.
This building is arguably the most famous and most recognisable building in the medieval city of Florence. The Florence Catherdral nicknamed “Il Duomo” due its huge dome, is situated in the centre of the town with all the big roads seemingly leading to it. If you ignore the hundreds of tourists and gimmicky shops and just take in the building itself, it’s so impressive. This blog is supposed to be about fun trips and not about architecture plus I’ve linked the Wikipedia page if you want to know the rich history that goes on with this building. It is one of the reasons I love the city as I’ve. It been anywhere else where one building stands out so much in the city skyline, Florence has an abundance of mad buildings all entrenched in history but none quite so fun to look at as Santa Maria Del Fiore.
The Medici family are important to the history of Florence and these “gardens” were the residences of the Medici Family. On a nice afternoon there is so much interesting stuff to do here topped off by fantastic views of the city and surrounding country side. I think any trip to Florence needs to include an afternoon here. You can take a walk over the famous Ponte Vecchio bridge on your way too or from the gardens. It does tend to get a bit busy every now and again but it’s just volume of people and not really queues. Boboli Gardens is good for people seeking a bit of culture or history, someone who might be looking for some great photographs and there are also places you could just chill out and relax!
I chose this location as it’s one of the best places you can watch the sun going down. When I went the second time we were keen to watch the sunset and we asked our Air BNB host for a location and she sent us here, strangely we couldn’t find any good places online seems bizarre as in preparation for this blog I done some research (yes, might not seem that way) and this location is everywhere so I’m sure it won’t be my blog that sends you there regardless well worth a recommendation you can head up there have a beer get some quality photos and watch the sun go down!
Basing yourself in Florence will allow you to take the train the Pisa or the bus to Siena or for a longer journey you could even get the train to Rome and I think that staying in Florence gives you so many benefits. Compared to Rome Florence is much cheaper both to fly to and to live, it is very similar to Siena in terms of architecture and history but it is much bigger and there is a lot more to do then in Pisa other than the obvious (below)there really isn’t much to do.
Anytime of the year you could enjoy the Uffizi Gallery, Michelangelo’s David, walk over the world famous Ponte Vecchio for less culture concerned travellers there is some great shopping to be done in some very exclusive shops. There are plenty of parks to walk around and its not very well known but Florence has a vibrant nightlife. So there really is plenty to do!
If you go at the right time of year you can watch Calcio Fiorentino, this happens on the third week in June every year and four teams compete across three matches of some kind of like football / rugby except much more violent, other than kicking people on the floor and sucker punches pretty much anything is allowed. It’s a big festival in the city and should be attended if you’re there at the right time.
There is another event that’s held in the neighbouring city of Siena this one is a horse race through the city streets the Palio di Siena its developed over many years 10 riders race through the city streets on horse it started originally on Bulls. It’s held twice a year, Early July and Mid August and so if you’re staying Florence you could get the bus to Siena and have watch this event
So for a night out a lot of people head down to Piazza Santa Spirito where there are loads of bars and restaurants but what a lot of people do is sit on the steps of the church and have a beer there kind of like bring your own bottle. Whilst being Drunk in public is a bit of an issue this place has a bit of a chilled vibe and there are a lot of younger people there. If you want to do some pre drinking there and then head out there are a bunch of night clubs dotted around the place and many members clubs that are open even later than the night clubs.
When we last went there we stayed in an Air BNB right next to the Ponte Vecchio, it was me and 4 friends. We spent a day walking round the city and seeing the sites, then a day in Rome and our final day we spent exploring Boboli Gardens. After a particular heavy night where we got in at 5am (yeah, I’m double hard I know) we woke the following morning and headed out to see Michelangelo’s David when we got there we found out the queue was going to be two hours and the queue was so big it was outside…….it was raining. I’d seen David before so really wasn’t keen to queue and see it again, I think it’s the closest my friends have ever come to falling out it was queuers vs non-queuers and it seems like non-queuers were the biggest babies because we ended up not queuing and going for Lunch instead. 4 of us ordered and David (not the statue) didn’t order food, after the waiter left our table David decided he was hungry for a starter and the conversation went like this – David “I’ll get *insert starter here*” Alex/Wolfy “oh that sounds nice can you get me some” David “sure thing man, leave it with me you can count on me not to fuck things up” ……. 15 minutes later when the food arrives Alex/Wolfy “excuse me garson, where is my dish that I ordered I seem to only have this small appetiser” Friendly Italian Waiter “your friend he come up and cancel yours mains and said you only want the starter mamma Mia” then theme tune music came on and we all said in unison “thattttttts David” and the credits rolled.
I realise that this story is not a “reason” to go to Florence but just a nice little anecdote that brings a smile to my face for when I read this back to get my page visits above 10. Seriously though it’s a great location and whilst I see a bunch of people visiting Italy I feel like Florence does get somewhat overlooked despite being a popular destination…..anyway so yeah get yourself there.
Now for a post with a little more uummph. Some of you will have read this before but now there’s pictures and added extras so feel free to go through it again. Equally feel free to click like and leave
South Oxhey, England (Not technically South America)
So, the trip began and I was a lone “traveller”, actually let me rephrase, I was a lone prolonged holiday-maker. I’d left the comforts of South Oxhey to begin a South American adverture. Aside from the obvious emotions of excitement, anxiety I also was sad knowing that I’d miss everyone for a few months especially over the festive period. Or maybe I was just sad that I knew people’s life would go on completely normally without me being there.
My flight was leaving from Heathrow and arriving in Rome to catch a connecting flight on to Rio, all with Alitalia (the cheapest option of course). In homage to “Murphy’s law” , I arrived and was greeted with an hour delay and I knew this was going to cut things fine with the connecting flight but I’m a positive man and saw this as an opportunity to drink a few extra pints and when the time for boarding arrived I went to my gate as is customary, only for another 30 minute delay to be slapped on. By now I was resigned to the fact I was going to miss my flight in Rome. Towards the end of a largely uneventful flight to Italy a flight attendant lifted my spirits after approaching me and telling me there would be a man meeting me off my flight to rush me through to my connecting flight. This, it turns out, was just a ploy to lift me up to watch me come crumbling down. Me and three of my fellow passengers dashed to the gate, Alitalia employee leading the line of frantic Englishman desperate to catch another flight only to be refused entry, we were five minutes late. The airline were kind enough to seat us on the next flight which was the following evening and in compensation put us up in the Hilton (I felt ever so fancy). I took the shuttle bus to the hotel and enjoyed a warm buffet, compliments of Alitalia. Knowing that I’d be spending the day in Rome I planned my my unexpected European adventure.
Rome, Italy (still not South America)
I woke early the next day and took advantage of the free breakfast. On My two previous visits to Rome I have had some degree of misfortune with the “Trevi fountain” once we didn’t have time to see it and the second time it was enveloped in scaffolding. I got the bus in to Rome, and set off on foot towards Trevi. Marching through the back streets of Rome I felt like a young Christian being led to my death at the collesseum, it turns out my fortunes were worse, the crowds at the Trevi fountain were BIG, second only to those outside Delhi station (stay tuned for a post on that) anyway I got there and took two pictures and marched back to the bus stop. Despite having a number of hours to kill, I’d seen everything else Rome has to offer so I headed back to the airport. As an afterthought, I feel as though this may be the last time that I see Trevor and his fountain though. The first time I saw it I threw a coin in to the dried basin and I did indeed return, in line with many old wives tales, this time however I couldn’t get close enough to throw a coin and couldn’t dare risk it from far back in the crowd it’s been said that I throw like a girl.
Rio De Janeiro, Brazil
My first impression of Rio were “rundown”. The airport is nice enough but the buses weren’t great and the towns you drive through to get to to Copacabana, and other tourist hotspots, make Tottenham look friendly. I got off the bus, I kind of just guessed I was near where I needed to be, then navigated the mean streets of Rio to my hostel. I didn’t get mugged, threatened, conned or beaten up once so a large success as I fully expected to step off that bus and hand over my money, phone and passport to the local criminals and march back to the airport and fly home. This preconception of Rio was totally Mis-guided and mostly just paranoia of people saying “watch out for pickpockets” for six months leading up to the trip.
The hostel I decided to spend my first lonely nights in was called “el misti house“. I can definitely recommend it, it was a good choice for a decent price. Never having stayed in a hostel before I was a bit nervous about rules and etiquette and what not. Anyway Camillo showed me to my 9 person (triple bunks) room which was currently solely occupied by Alessandro “alé”. Thankfully one of the only person I could understand in the entire hostel. Over the next few days I met some great people my other roomates were Douglas and Alan, both of whom despite some real communication problems, were fun. There’s only so far a conversation can go with “si” and “yes” but we made it work. During the days I only ever ventured within running distance from my hostel. I would roam the beach front and people watch.
As you read my blogs I think you’ll discover than I’m an average writer and a worse photographer, but you can laugh with me.
These first nights were all a bit of a blur, but I know we went in to an area called Lapa twice. The staff were always organising the guests and making sure we all went out together, on the nights out I met loads of other people, nice people and loads of other people who I assume we’re nice but they couldn’t speak a word of English. I try not to let my ignorance get the better of me, but communication in Brazil was tough all round even those in the service/tourist industry have very little knowledge of the language it was all very inconvenient. Being the language sponge that I am meant that after 1 or 2 days I was fine! Obvs! (Drozzy, who sadly and detrimental to this blog, doesn’t feature, told a story of him and his dad once having to “cluck for chicken” at a restaurant.)
Jack, Alex, Grant and Jon arrived in Rio on the Sunday, I had arrived on the Wednesday. The plan was for me to meet them off the bus and show them to our Air BnB but due to some unforeseen circumstances, about 10 caipirinha’s, I woke up very late and they had already found and checked in to our accomodation. Now the trip really had begun.
Our first day out together was to go and see the colourful steps in Santa Teresa. This is the colourful neighbourhood you’ll have seen in anyone’s pictures whose been to Rio. It’s definitely worth seeing to grab a picture but other than that the surrounding area was pretty downtrodden so we scurried back to the safety of our Air BnB for five minutes of wifi, sleep, and from a break from any possibility of social interaction with the locals or each other. Here’s a candid picture of when we went to the steps, as a group we were discussing the unique artwork when a local took a picture of us, it was completely unplanned.
It’s worth mentioning, and it will become apparent why later, Jon was sleeping in a hammock.
Anyway our first night out lead us to Leblon, the upmarket part of Rio. We went out on a Monday night and it….was….dead and so, much like a night London, we spent the majority of the night wandering around aimlessly. Eventually we happened across a small off-licence type place. As the non-socially awkward member of the guys I approached the staff “donde esta la fiesta hoy” I announced, only to be answered not by the Spanish staff member but by his sole customer who I can only assume got the faintest sniff of my English accent, “you guys English” he assumptively questioned, the gig was up we’d been rumbled. We were now in the back streets of Rio and ousted as gringos. Thankfully the man was also English and kindly pointed us in the direction of some lively bars on a Monday night. (We blindly followed his instructions without asking how he knew this information). Thankfully our trust was well placed as we found find a bar and purchased our drinks silently thankful of our run in with our fellow Englishman. That silent thanks quickly disappeared when the next customer in the bar was said Englishman.
Chris, or as he is now affectionately known, English Chris turned out to be interesting. To this day we are unable to decipher the truth from the lies. We found out he’s been in Brazil for 12 years and works on “football philosophy”. Even after some questioning from a quite persistent Grant, we still couldn’t work out what he does. It has to be mentioned at this point that Grant had and probably still has a weird adoration for English Chris. English Chris’ job was to write a report on how to develop football players roles ( not specific players) but I.e. A playmaker. Then sell that report to professional football clubs. This man is an Englishman doing THIS job in Brazil (as a trustworthy man I am going to naively continue as if everything English Chris told us is true) I can only imagine when he presented his report to Corinthians, São Paulo and the like, their responses can only have been along the lines of *vague Brazilian accent* “Mr Chris, your findings in your report are very interesting, please could you tell us more on how you develop a no-nonsense centre half”. Chris took us to a number of bars where we found out a bit more about him, Rio and Leblon. He had a weird habit of talking about football then slapping his chest and saying this is a skill. Very weird, bit annoying but overall helpful and if what he does is real then quite interesting. For more information on English Chris speak to his pen pal Grant.
It’s at this point that days and nights merge into one so things get a bit haze-y but I will do my best to keep things in order.
The next day we went to Christ the redeemer, needs no explanation. Or does it? Christ the redeemer is a statue depicting Jesus’ first miracle, the feeding of the five thousand. The moment captured was just as he was telling the crowd how big the fish is that’s going to feed all of them.
It was a fun day out. When you get to Christ the Redeemer you go and pay for your ticket and are given a time slot when you can actually get the minibus further up the mountain and see the statue in all its glory.
Being the adventurers we are, we saw a small path leading in to the jungle which we thought would be a good place to explore. Especially with Jack dressed inappropriately, stereotypically “gringo”. Bad sunglasses, flip flops white t shirt and a back pack so what the Brazilians call (roughly translated) “ a muggers dream” Despite this we continued in to the jungle, 5 comrades, 5 red blooded males, 5 men, five boys that saw one insect they didn’t recognise and almost ran out of the jungle. This was day 2 of our trip round South America and we had been chased out the jungle within two minutes by a bug. Grant must have read a book, he thought EVERYTHING was a fire ant.
The jungle trip passed the time, and a few minutes later we were on the bus to see Christo. You get a good view of the city but the statue is so big and you are forced to stand so close to it that once your up there I don’t think you can appreciate the statue to the same degree you can when you’re on the beaches looking up. We took obligatory pictures and descended back down to the mini bus and moved on. Without sounding like a hipster, it’s not all that impressive, it’s just so crowded up there and you can’t get a decent picture of it I just feel as though there better pictures to be had from other points of view. The view you of the city though is nice and despite all my negativity it’s a must see/do attraction
After this we took sometime out of our day to go the beach, Jack obviously offended someone and a man started singing to him “You haven’t got a girlfriend” then laughed in his face. Jack seemed to reflect on this fact all night, because he stayed in. To give this some context though Rio during the day is filled with toothless old drunk/high men who walk around like the world pissed in their cornflakes, they are perennially angry and are an annoyance in an otherwise decent place.
Jon, Alex, Grant and I went out and that’s where Rio showed its true colours. Now I’m not writing this to name names or point fingers it’s more of a memoir for me to read back BUT Grant decided it would a good idea to meet someone from the Internet (Grindr or Tinder I can’t remember which) so as back up we tagged along. Despite numerous warnings from multiple sources “don’t go down streets with no bars” and despite our taxi driver refusing to drive down the street we needed to go to we still went there. Grant’s, for want of a better word, date, was a no show and none of us felt entirely comfortable in the bar we was in. Grant in a show of face, to pretend he wasn’t stood up, suffered a fake panic attack which caused him to believe he was in a 1950’s gangster film, and He had been set up. To paint the picture, his date told him to meet in a bar in a dodgy neighbourhood, didn’t show up, then a waiter who was carrying a tea towel over his hand (not an entirely strange thing to do for a man in that profession) walked past not once BUT TWICE, Grant was adamant he was harbouring a weapon under the tea towel so we paid the bill and made a swift exit.
We got in a taxi and went to Lapa and when we left the bar staff wanted us to pay our entry fee, on exit, it felt like a scam but we naively paid regardless. After paying, Grant and I both turned round and accidentally step on a man who cannot have been standing more than 30 centimetres behind us. I think his intentions were questionable at best he then followed us to our next bar shouting at us and being a nuisance. We entered bar number two and the angry man demanded money from us. For those that know me and my friends you’ll know we will do whatever to avoid confrontation (especially Jon, hence why he hid in the toilet) but A justified reaction would have been to argue with the man or even reciprocate his aggression but us no, we behaved in a typically British way and pretended like he wasn’t there until a waiter came over and we told him that the vagrant was making us feel uncomfortable. The waiter and security guard went outside and then the man threw the slowest punch in the world, so slow in fact the security guard didn’t even flinch. As the punch was thrown the security guard smoked a cigarette, checked his Facebook, put his phone in his pocket slowly raised his own hand and grabbed the mans fist and pushed him away. All very anticlimactic. It’s unclear when Jon rejoined the table but what is clear it was definitely after the security guard got involved Jon then preceded to tell us how he was prepared to “end him” referring to the drunk 70 year old man.
Needless to say we were keen for a quick exit once again so we jumped in a taxi back to Copacabana. We went in to a bar and was having a few drinks and Jon’s temper was still bubbling away. I can only imagine he misheard what I said because after a completely innocent comment I reached for my drink and Jon attacked me, grabbed my hand and put my in some vulcan death hold. Grant, sensing my panic, grabbed my drink as it almost spilled. I explained that Jon must have misheard me and he released me. It and been a dramatic night and more worrysome group Might think “that’s enough” not us, we found one final bar three doors down from our AirBnB. Intoxication made us all a bit brave and probably allowed us to take a leave of our senses as we followed a man up a derelict stair case to the bar. In hindsight, I think the derelict staircase is the factor that should have told us it was a bad idea. We entered the bar, which it turns out was a brothel, we decided to drink our drinks and leave. Alex, Jon and Grant went to the toilet and were followed by two men (not that kind of brothel) and I thought to myself we need to leave, this was confirmed when Alex poked his not so small head in the bar and shouted “Ross, we need to leave.” I took a final gulp of my drink and swiftly followed Alex’s head out of the door. It turns out after refusing to buy drugs in the toilet things turned ugly and the workers were getting boisterous we left the bar followed by three men now. Alex and I stood gallantly facing the men whilst Grant and Jon ran to our AirBnB to gather the help of our weedy security guard. The gates to our apartment opened and Alex and I scurried behind them. I don’t think the bar staff expected us to live so close and as soon as they realised this they went back to their bar.
Early the next morning, after an eventful night, Jack gave us the itinerary for the day. Climb a mountain, it’s as if he knew to stay in the night before but didn’t warn anyone. Pedra Bonita was an hour climb, thankfully a smaller climb than it’s mountainous neighbour “Pedro De Gavea”. The ascent was made more bearable by the appearance of Monkey’s. It’s at this point I’m obliged to mention that these Monkeys would not have appeared if the Monkey Whisperer (Jon) hadn’t have called for them. Jon to my knowledge has never shown an overly keen interest in wildlife, apart from in Thailand (see Grants secret blog), but he kept reminding us that the monkeys would not have appeared had he not shook the bamboo, yes that’s all he did shook some bamboo and the Monkeys came.
Once we reached the summit the impressive views immediately called for a selfie. To crave the attention of their peers the others started taking pictures increasingly close to edge…..fools. Anyway after a small disco at the top we left and went home. (This will make sense when you see South America part 2)
After the previous nights goings on, I took charge. Being the social butterfly that I am, I had a few friends from my old hostel. I got in contact and found out where it goes off in copacabana on a Wednesday night. It turns out it goes off in a cave underground. In the cave it’s not unheard of to pay £3 for a can of beer. After the cave party we returned home, hungry. Alex, Grant and I went back out at 2am (yeah I know, were hard) looking for a place to eat. Jack stayed in ….again) we thought our best bet was to walk to the main road and get a taxi, wrong! We walked on the main round and were immediately approached by three ladies of the night. My thoughts went straight to my phone and wallet, and I shoved my hands firmly in my pockets. Grant and Alex had other ideas though and ran off, Grant once again showing his really cowardly nature (I thought Grant had contracted Yellow Belly, he was that cowardly throughout the trip. At the time of writing there is no immunisation for yellow belly and as far as I’m aware of it Grant still suffers with it) I was surprised by their betrayal but then even more surprised when I discovered these ladies were not interested in my pockets. After suffering sexual harassment, I caught up with Alex and Grant only to look back to see the ladies (of the night) doing their final advertisement and raised their tops. Needless to say advertisement was unsuccessful we dived in a taxi, “drive” we demanded. He kindly drove us to a restaurant, our hearts dropped. He dropped us in the same road as last night and refused to drive any further but helpfully pointed us in the direction of an open restaurant. Hunger won over trepidation and we walked to the restaurant. The food was decent but the restaurant had an odd obsession with pineapple. I’m not exaggerating when I say this but every single dish of there’s on the menu was “con pineapple”. Thought this was very odd but again hunger won out and I had a pineapple sandwich.
We woke on our final day with two things left on our Rio bucket list, Sugarloaf mountain and visiting the favelas. The first thing to do was to find a guide to take us to the Favela. Alex, being manager, had accumulated a number of business cards and we used one of these to locate a driver. After about an hour of waiting our driver appeared. The politest way to put it, is, you would feel safe with this man taking you anywhere. He was BIG.
First stop he drove us to the favela. On route he explained that most the favelas are no longer dangerous as they are run by a special police force, which I believe is called the UPP. Lawson, our driver, lead us to believe that part of the job description of the UPP is to have no sense of humour because according to Lawson, who told us on at least five separate occasions “the UPP do NOT joke”. The UPP are a police force who live amongst the locals in the Favela and any sign of violence and they shoot apparently. In the early days of the UPP shoot outs between the gangs and UPP were not uncommon but despite myths they would not target non locals. In fact it’s said that the favela was more safe than the towns because drug dealers did not want Police to be called to the Favelas and so would send all the muggers and theifs to Copacabana and Ipanema.
Before we get to the Favela itself I need to describe Lawson. He was Big, from Togo and sweaty, you can’t see the sweat in the picture above. He confirmed what many people already believe that some football players from Africa lie about their age, he told us that even his brother had done it and more shockingly he is of the opinion that even the great Didier Drogba has lied about his age.
He told us that the scariest thing in the Favela for him, is the dogs, they were not the scariest thing in the Favela for us……
The scariest thing in the favela for us was when we first walked in a lady in police uniform run up the stairs gun in hand followed by a man in normal clothes with a non-standard weapon and running straight towards us with his finger on the trigger. Normally we are a group that will make light of all situations I think it’s safe to say, we didn’t make light of this situation, what we done in this situation was shut up and stay still and silent until Lawson convinced us this was normal and so we hesitantly continued our tour. I would liken the Favela to the slums in India, it really isn’t as bad as people make out. It’s a bit of a shit hole but everyone has a job and some of the houses inside look nice. They aren’t all criminals it’s just to expensive for them to live in the actual towns.
Lawson, employee turned friend, took us to the bus station to help us book tickets to Ihla Grande our next stop. We did that then he took us home and received a very generous tip. Jon then shook his hand and said “dobrigado, thanks for taking us to the Fravela” needless to say we all laughed Jon looking bemused asked us why were laughing.
After some food we headed for sugarloaf mountain one of Rio’s most famous landmarks/view points. You need to take a cable car to the top. I suffered a bout of anxiety on the cable car and resorted to taking a knee and covering my eyes whilst being laughed at by the locals. It was worth it once up there though the views once again were incredible and there is even a nature reserve bit and food/bars and shops at the summit. We planned to watch the sunset but our plans were scuppered by the clouds. Five minutes before the sunset was due the cloud come over, much to dismay of the dedicated Sunset photographer Jack. The clouds looked thunderous which sent astraphobic Alex in to a meltdown so we had to return to the room which we did with haste.
We had a big journey the next day and so it was this that ended our Rio arm of the journey.
If I’m entirely honest I wasn’t overly impressed with Rio. It gets labelled as a party capital and great beaches but from the time I spent there I would say there is better nightlife and nicer beaches closer to home. That being said I never felt anywhere near as intimidated as I was warned I would be and some of the excursions there provide you with some of the best views I have ever seen.
For an idea of what other trips I might cover check out my other post “30 before 30”
I was 28 and I had just come back from a Trip around South America, a trip I’d been keen to do for years and then after the trip I saw that I was close to visiting 30 countries so I decided that I wanted to get to reach that landmark before I turned 30. Now I’ve turned thirty I get to relive it all by writing it out and bore all four of you reading it.
I promise to make hardly any of it informative and I promise even less of it will be funny.
A big thing worth mentioning is, I was young for some of these trips and so if you’re expecting long detailed accounts of every trip you’re going to be disappointed, in fact, if you’re expecting anything more than a glorified diary with some personal anecdotes then you will likely be disappointed. In fact disappointment will be a running theme.
Now the low expectations have been set and I’ve mitigated any of the abuse I’ll get from my friends we can get started.
Here are the 30 countries that I visited before I was 30.
One final disclaimer, in order to record the countries I have been too I used the “been” app, some of the countries listed on there aren’t recognised UN nations, I’ll get over it I’m sure you will too.
Saint Martin (French side)
Sint Maarten (Dutch side)
This list started when I was about 6, my parents took me to Portugal, this is where my first ever clear memories came from, questionable parenting lead me to being taught how to swim at four in the morning in the hotel pool. I was really lucky because my parents took me to other places as well like Spain and Greece so I had loads of great holidays when I was a kid and though it was lost on me then I was crossing off countries. Then I got to 18 and the holidays with my friends started.
I think the most enjoyable thing for me to do is pick out a couple of highlights from certain places then I’ll answer some specific questions….that I asked my self.
My parents took us to Disneyland Paris when we were kids, it was a surprise, we knew we were going somewhere and then in the morning our parents told us to wake up as we had to go and get on the coach because we were going Disneyland, I probably cried with excitement. I remember loads about the trip. We stayed in a cowboy hotel, we watched a firework display, my parents watched the Disney parade whilst me and my brother went on Thunder mountain 7 times. It really was amazing, even if I was too small too go on Space Mountain!! (I probably cried at this point as well). We went on a coach with a load of my Dads mates and their kids just a quality long weekend away.
That’s the kind of insight in to locations you’re gonna get so if you’re looking for actual insight on hotels and shit…..you’ve definitely come to the wrong place (glorified diary, remember).
So this one was a school trip I think I was in year 9 or 10, it took forever to get there on the bus! The teachers made me sit down with them…..probably cos they knew I’d be the most entertaining over the rest of the kids, I’ll tell myself that’s the reason at least! I learnt how to Ski on this holiday …..well snow plough. Years later when I went skiing again with my girlfriend and her family I naturally thought you snow ploughed down every hill, FYI you don’t, my girlfriend and her family found my technique questionable! It was a trip that stuck out in my mind just cos it was something I’d never done before. Lovely place though! And skiing is quality.
More specifically Amsterdam, been a few times now.
It’s such a weird place, everything is so “in your face” the drugs, the sex, the drinking……i might sound like an actual pretentious writer here but the city has sooo much more to it. It’s so pretty. One time we woke up and my mate smoked with breakfast and I just took him out on a walk we walked so far out of the city, we walked for so long that my friend sobered up and got annoyed that we’d gone so far. I was pleased we did it though as I got to take in more of the city than I usually do on trips to Amsterdam, the architecture, the culture is so much more than just a decent stag do location. If you’re prepared to slum it you can get flights and hotel from London for a midweek stay for well under a hundred quid.
I think everyone should go there once despite it being expensive when you get there.
Me and my mates done a quality trip in India we went to Delhi, Goa and Mumbai. I need to split these out
It is the most crowded place I have ever been in…..my……life. We got on the underground and it was empty….we turned up at Delhi station and I laughed out loud. It was RIDIC!!! Picture the scene of kids trying to get on their school bus all that pushing and shoving, it was like that just out in the open.
It seemed like every man and his dog was telling us we needed a security pass and to go to “Connaught place” which it turns out is a hot bed of conmen and excursion outlets. Thankfully a cab driver took pity on us after our will had finally been worn down and we were about to hand over some money to the conmen just to get them off our backs. The taxi driver took us to our hotel which was still standing despite multiple accounts from the conmen saying that it was “burnt down”.
The Locals had an odd trait of asking for pictures with us but to take them with our own phones…..here is an example –
The picture was taken at the Jama Masjid mosque in Delhi, one of the largest mosques in India. Well worth a visit it’s a proper impressive building.
I will probably go in to more detail about India at a later date but key points are it is Cheap and it is busy!!!!!
This was probably the best beach holiday I have ever been on. We stayed a few nights in the north of Goa then went south for a few days. There are so many beaches there you can just go to a different beach every day some of which you’ll turn up to and be the only people on the beach…..the only people….surrounded by cows and dogs.
I didn’t actually realise how big Goa was before I went I naively believed we could just stay Central and get a cab north and south as necessary but that was not the case hence the split in the trip. The good news is the cabs were like 40 quid for a 2 hour drive so not bad at all.
The north has more bars and clubs and when you think “Englishman abroad” this is more their location I think a massive plus to the North is the ability to get naan breads in the nightclubs at 3am if you really want and tbh you really should!!!!
In the North we turned up at our “hotel”, for want of a better word and after the hotel manager painfully slowly counted our money four times he led us to our rooms. We’d paid for two twin rooms, a fact which was lost on Jabba the Hutt. (Pictured below)
This man was so greedy, the way he fingered our notes as his counted them still gives me the creeps to this day. I think it’s safe to say that Grant HATED this man, much of our holiday was made up of listening to Grant rant about how much he hated him.
Anyway Jabba opens the door to our room, and we find two beds and two mattresses and we were like “nah nah nah, not in this heat” we need two twins. So he proceeded to knock on the next door neighbours room and tell them they needed to get out the room as we needed it. Rightly so, the other guests were confused and refused, giving Jabba an even bigger headache. Then he opened a third door and there was an empty room, why didn’t give us this room before trying to kick the Russians out is a mystery I don’t think we will ever get to the bottom of.
The south was much more chilled out just days spent on the beach then nights in a beach bar, the more spiritual amongst us can partake in Yoga and there are a few activities you can do in land like visiting the elephants.
Watch out for Crabs (they nip, don’t they Grant).
There’s a funny anecdote in the South of Goa, and it’s a bit of an inside joke but it ended with me with egg on my face after paying for Grant’s taxi.
The most cosmopolitan city. It was busy but no way near as busy as Delhi.
There were a few stand out parts to the trip to Mumbai and the number one stand out part was the hotel staff, Hotel Apollo.
Sorry to skip right to the end of the trip but it was a highlight. When we left the hotel a fight almost broke out over who would take our bags, we didn’t really understand what was happening until we got downstairs when the entire staff on this hotels payroll were standing at the bottom of the stairs in a “give me a tips” arms outstretched position waiting for us to put notes and coins in their greedy hands. Running out of money made it harder to keep track of who I had and hadn’t given money too! Then when we got in our taxi they were all standing in the road waving us off. For us this was very odd behaviour!!
Shorts were banned at one of the bars we went to. Alex and Jack were wearing shorts and the workers made them borrow trousers from the hotel and they were the worse fitting trousers ever, why none of us have a picture I’ll never know so instead –
Here’s a lovely picture of us doubling our entire holiday spend by buying one cocktail at the Four Season Mumbai.
Grant is taking the picture
Famous for its beach by the airport runway and the colourful town Phillipsburg St Martin is a very nice island. I went last year with my girlfriend Carolina.
On the island You get around by “bus” or it’s more like a shuttle service-ish….these minibuses just pick you up on the side of the road. At the beginning it is very difficult to navigate these buses but once you get the hang of it you can get round the island for well cheap. The minibuses get very crowded with locals and the greedy drivers will fill their buses as if they’re trying to beat some sort of world record.
There is loads to do on the island and some of the beaches are ridiculously nice.
I would recommend staying on the Dutch side of the island as the French side was decimated by hurricane Katrina. There is a rebuild in progress but the people we spoke to have said there is not enough money to do it properly apparently the French government isn’t giving them any money……surprise suprise fucking French 😛
One town on the French side that didn’t get destroyed was Marigot, there is a really short (but steep) walk up to Fort Louie and you can get some great panoramic shots of the town. Instead of doing that I took a bang average photo as seen below.
On the walk up this Fort both Carolina and I were cat called by a bunch of community service workers. They were trying to be helpful but only came across sinister!
There is so much to say about South America. I wrote notes on the who trip so I’m gonna put that in a different blog so fully expect that.
Answers to questions that no one has ever asked me.
What’s your favourite ever city break?
What a convenient Segway to talk about my favourite city in the world……Florence. I first went there about 8 years ago, I thought it looked quality. Old school buildings, famous history, places to go out and small enough to walk around. It’s somewhere I think you could as a couple, alone or as a group of friends. I would happily go back again and again and I am sure I’d always discover something new.
Not only did the place look amazing I found myself intrigued by the history of the place, we grow up learning so much European history and I thought to myself that considering Florence had such an important part of that history we learn so little about it. So many famous people of history we know about today lived or visited Florence! I won’t bore you because you’re likely not as interested as me but research Florence when you have a chance.
Things to do there can be quite expensive but if your after cheap then it’s worth going and just looking round at all the buildings the big churches, the buildings that are now museums, you can go to neighbouring towns Sienna, Pisa which also have things to do and if you are there long enough you can easier do a train journey to Rome for the day.
At night there is plenty to do. My friends were skeptical when I suggested it as a venue for our holiday and were all pleasantly superprised by how good it was for food and drink at night.
It helped that our AirBnb was located in an amazing location right by the famous bridge ponte vecchio which made getting around so convenient.
I massively recommend this place.
Favourite “activity” holiday?
I was eleven we went to Florida, is that enough explanation?
Seriously though it was good of my parents to take us there I absolutely loved it and I am part of that creepy group of people that wants to go back there before I have kids…..then get moaned about by other adults on social media “ThE qUeUe WaS sO lOnG aNd It WaS aLl ChIlDlEsS aDuLtS”….yeah and what Monica? Just tell Tarquin and Erica they’ll have to wait, I wanna go on Thunder Mountain.
We stayed on International drive and had buffet for breakfast every day and steak every night. Hi America, the English have arrived.
So many of my most vivid early memories are from here, if you have kids (and there is two sad facts here 1) the people reading this are only ever gonna be my friends 2) I’m getting older so those friends have kids) then you have to go here start saving now!!!
What’s your favourite ever holiday?
So, I wanna say South America or India BUT for my 30th birthday we went to Vegas and it was the bollocks. I absolutely loved it people say “you’ll love it when you go there ” and “it’s amazing” and you go there with high hopes and think you can only be let down but you won’t be it was everything I wanted and more, if I was rich I’d go back again and again.
There was 11 of us 7 in a House 10 minutes away from the strip and 4 of us in hotels on the strip. The house was booked on air bnb and for how nice and how big it was it was so cheap I think we paid 300 each for five nights or something like. I loved staying in the house it was a highlight of the trip to spend so much time with my friends but I was envious of the guys staying in the hotels I suppose it felt like that we’re getting a more authentic Vegas holiday. Looking back though I don’t feel like I missed out at all maybe if I go back in a smaller group I’d stay in the hotels instead.
There is so much to do there for gamblers (obviously) non gamblers, drinkers and non drinkers, all types of musics, food entertainment just so much you won’t know until you go.
My favourite hotel/casino was probably New York New York on the inside but from the outside it was the Encore which is where my friends were staying.
One thing I hadn’t accounted for was how BIG the place was. It was so big! You go there thinking ahh we’ll spend the day walking up and down the strip popping in to hotels and casinos and such……you won’t you might be able to get to three maybe four a day if you whizz round them!
We took a day out of the trip to go to the Grand Canyon, it was probably the highlight of the trip. It’s mind blowing how big the place is. We went to the West ridge as it was a closer drive than the more popular South Ridge, I didn’t feel like we missed out though.
In England we would have fences up all over the place and you wouldn’t be allowed close to the edge, here though you can walk right up to the edge no barriers it was madness and sent my anxiety through the roof! All completely worthwhile. I loved it.
Get yourself to Vegas and to the Grand Canyon it’s a trip of a life time. Or perhaps I felt that way because of the company I keep, who knows.
I keep notes on most of my holidays so I think I am going to post this once or twice a month. Hope to keep myself entertained and hopefully not come across too cringey to the 8 people (it’s gone up four) that read this. My plan is too work my way down the list in a bit more detail probably break it up with the South America blog at some point as that’s already written 🙂
Other places you can see my ramblings are my twitter and facebook @dukeross and Ross Tunnicliffe