Sucre – Bolivia

Hello!

We left Paraguay on a flight from Asuncion to Sucre. Sucre is a small city situated at 2750m above sea level. We’d initially intended to only stay for 2 days but ended up staying 6 due to me not being able to acclimatise and having bad altitude sickness. It affects people differently, if it all. Dave was more or less fine apart from the occasional headache. Whereas for me, it felt like my brain was going to explode out my head, I had pins and needles in my hands, feet, knee caps that lasted for hours, nausea, weeing more than a pregnant lady expecting quintuplets, a bloody nose making it even harder to breathe and mainly extreme shortness of breath after doing anything, like walking from the bed to the shower. Needless to say, I was charming to be around. We went to the pharmacy and got Punacap, an over the counter anti-altitude sickness medication as well as drinking the local coca leaf tea every day.

Anyway, enough of my whining, altitude sickness is the real deal. Sucre had some amazing food in the modern town. We had two favourite places, on opposite ends of the price scale. Firstly, Condor Cafe, a not for profit vegetarian place that did a full set menu for B$25 (£3) and also the biggest cheese empanada you’ve ever seen for B$9 (£1). The restaurant, that also offers trekking tours, runs many projects supporting the local community such as funding two preschools with food and basic necessities. A very cheap place to eat with a good cause! On the other end of the spectrum, there was a restaurant called La Taverne, where I had the best steak I had ever had in my entire life. The food was incredible, and even that was only £9 for the most extravagant steak and drink! Sucre is also infamous for its chocolate so it would have been rude not to stop in one of the many chocolate parlours. We chose our own selection from a shop called Para Ti and subsequently scoffed the lot in one go as soon as we got back! Carbs and sugar boosts actually help with altitude sickness, it’s science…

Our first excursion (other than food trips) was to Museo del Tesoro, the museum of treasure! Within the entrance price, you get a guided tour in English which we had with just one other bloke, so practically a private tour! We learned about the rocks and precious stones found in Bolivia and how they are used in both the past and present culture. They showed us how silver is smelted at the side of the mountain using a really small device. We saw traditional Inca jewellery made from gold and saw the differences between 18kt and 24kt gold malleability. The star of the show was Bolivianite, a unique gemstone whereby yellow citrine and purple amethyst fuse together to produce a beautiful gradient effect. It is found in the nearby town of Potosi, only 40km from Sucre!

When I was finally feeling up to it, we headed to Parque Cretacico; a dinosaur park on the outskirts of the town. Getting there was an absolute palava. You can catch a local bus from the town centre (4 or H) for B$1.50, which we managed to navigate. The problem was when after only a few kilometers, the bus driver said “everybody off, the road’s closed”. We walked on to see empty buses, trucks, lorries and cars. We still aren’t sure actually what happened and why all the drivers just left but fortunately for us, there were three other French people on the bus trying to get to the park too. We managed to find a taxi and barter to pile in the 5 of us for B$15; the most useful time speaking French has ever come in! The park is based around the Cretaceous period, the last age of the dinosaurs in South America. Included in the ticket price of B$25, is a free guided tour (in English!). We started off by watching a terrible 80’s graphics production about the Cretaceous period, funnily enough lots of people got up and walked out, though we persevered. We then went on to to see their collection of sculptures, including the largest dinosaur sculpture replica in the world of a Titanosaurus; 36×18 metres! It was actually really impressive and helped to visualise the absurdity of their size rather than just reading measurements.

The main attraction of the park however, is the dinosaur footprints: the largest collection of preserved footprints in any one place in the world! And what’s even more mental is that the foot prints go up a vertical face of a dug out cement quarry. Millions of years ago, South America was flat but then tectonic plates collided and turned the flat landscape into a mountainous one, I mean, look at the Andes. Hence why the footprints went from horizontal to vertical. Whilst you can still see the footprints in a panorama sort of way from the main area, you can actually go all the way down to see them up close at either 12:00 or 13:00. They give you a hard hat and goggles (if you don’t have sunglasses) and you go down with a different tour guide, ours was brilliant and so enthusiastic. Our guide held up his plastic dinosaur toys as he animatedly discussed the main two group of dinosaur footprints we saw; Sauropods, identified by the round shape and Teropods, identified by the three toes. They can’t identify the exact species, only the group. It was a great day out, apart from the near death experience of walking back up the quarry in the altitude.

Our final visit in Sucre was to the Church of San Felipe Neri. It’s a functioning school by day, but between 2.30 and 5pm, they allow tourists to enter for a small fee of B$15. We had only known about it because Dave stumbled upon it on Tripadvisor. We weren’t really sure what to expect and as it is only 2 flights of stairs, we sort of thought that the views couldn’t be that good but wow did we eat our words. The roof offered the most spectacular views of Sucre by afternoon. Dave said it was a ‘hidden gem’ without realising his Sucre gemstone pun, *rolls eyes*.

Join us next time as we head to the iconic salt flats of Uyuni!

Sophie & Dave

Rio de Janeiro – Brazil

Hello,

We left Ilha Grande with a private transfer company who dropped us to the door of our hotel in Rio. As we started to enter the city, we saw lots of armoured vehicles (including 4 tanks) rolling in the opposite direction along the highway which we suppose were due to the recent favela conflict. A lot of people visit the favalas on tours when they go to Rio but given the climate when we were there, we thought it was wise to stay away. Other than that, we were pleasantly surprised by how safe we felt in Rio. Perhaps due to the fact we stayed in Botafago, a notoriously safe area within close distance to the main attractions. We were also grateful to have the nearby shopping centre; Botafogo Praia Shopping, with it’s fast food court where we went for most meals.

We visited the two main attractions, Sugar Loaf Mountain & Christ the Redeemer. Sugar Loaf was only a short walk from where we were staying. The route to the base takes you past Botafago beach which was completely deserted apart from a few people doing outdoor exercise, but it has the perfect view of the mountain. We continued walking around the coast to the bottom of the cable car. It costs BR$80pp (£20) which is reasonable considering its a return on two cable cars & entrance to a top attraction. We were surprised by the fact that it wasn’t particularly busy at all. We went around midday and had some truly spectacular views over Rio with clear-ish weather whilst we were there. We were even more surprised at how developed the attraction was, there are cafes, ice cream parlours, even a watch shop at the top. It was also incredibly windy, so most of the photos have everyone’s hair blowing vertically in the air.

Our next visit was to the Christ the Redeemer statue. You get a train from Cosme Velho station which takes you up to the top. The station only serves the statue so it was straight forward buying tickets. It leaves every half an hour and costs $BR56 in low season which includes return and entrance. The train ride up was not as scenic as we thought it was going to be, even though we sat on the right hand side of the train as we’d read that had the best views, it was just lots of dense forest. We did think the forest, which is part of the national park, looked like a great place for wildlife spotting if you were brave enough to walk up the mountain. We were amazed you can get a lift up from the train and then even an escalator to basically right behind the giant statue! The statue of Jesus is 98 feet (30m) tall and his opening arms stretch to 92 feet (28m) wide. It was a little unfortunate that it was quite cloudy and muggy at the top. Though having said that, we were fascinated by the fact that it was nearly impossible to distinguish between where the sea ended and the sky began. It was a lot busier so we felt it was slightly less enjoyable than sugar loaf, but of course the views were still stunning and the statue itself is just so iconic.

Thanks for reading and join us next time as we jump on a plane and head to the border with Argentina for Iguacu falls!

Sophie & Dave

Paraty – Brazil

Hello,

From Sao Paolo, we headed to Paraty; a UNESCO world heritage town with cobbled streets and a river running through it with nearby pristine beaches of Trindade. It sits on the coast between Sao Paolo and Rio. There’s only one company that does the bus trip, Reunidas Paulista, for £20pp. The bus was meant to take 6 hours though annoyingly it was closer to 8! It’s been a while since we’ve done that long during the day rather than over night so we really struggled. Because the bus was late, it also meant we arrived in Paraty in the dark and we were wandering around trying to find our home stay. We had to ask a man sat on the street and he very kindly walked us there.

Despite the fact that the accommodation, Chales Pouso e Panela, was a little bit out of town, we loved it. We were the only guests and the woman who runs it cooked us the most extravagant breakfast for 2 each day. Also, because it was a bit out the way, we saw some amazing wildlife nearby. We walked back one day to find about 6 tiny marmoset monkeys scampering along the telephone wires and jumping in to the trees. We also saw a group of peacocks which seemed to be wild or at least with free range. Everywhere in Paraty there were huge black vultures too.

Paraty old town, reminded us a bit of Colonia, Uruguay though it was quite a bit bigger. We enjoyed meandering through the cobbled streets though it was hard to take in the surroundings because you had to constantly look where you were walking so as to avoid face-planting. The paving was as though someone had sought to deliberately make the most uneven footing.

Though we seemed to be chasing bad weather in Brazil, we still decided to walk to the beach, Praia de Jabaqurara to have a look around. It wasn’t far at all from the town but it was such a huge contrast in such a short distance. We left the cobbled pavings and ended up straight away with a view of the jungle before arriving at a sandy beach. We then had an amazing seafood lunch at Bar Balacobacco sat on wooden benches in the sand with a beautiful view and even a lovely soppy dog with huge ears for company.

We stayed an extra day than we’d intended in Paraty because it seemed we’d finally had a bit of luck with the weather; a whole day of sunshine! As the best beaches are not actually in Paraty, we decided we’d have a little day trip and catch the local bus one hour to Trindade. It was fairly straight forward getting the bus from the main bus station as Trindade was the last stop and they even have the ticket price on the front of the bus ($BR4.25pp). Trinidade is a little town complete with swimwear shops, cafes, restaurants and bars. There are numerous beaches in the area and so we spent the day moving between them. The first beach, with the most people, was Praia dos Ranchos. This beach had a couple of restaurants on it but we decided to go in to the town for lunch to get a break from the sun. In the afternoon, our next beach was Praia do Meio, this is a fairly flat walk about 15 minutes from the town. The final beach we went to was Praia do Cachadaco, to get there you had to clamber through the forest. It was quite steep and slippy at times but in the end, it takes you to the most deserted and peaceful beach though the waves were huge!

Thanks for reading, join us next time as we head to the tropical island, Ilha Grande!

Sophie & Dave